|Linux Standards Essay 2|
from the fun-never-stops dept.
Next up is Kyle Eli who was the first person to submit an essay on the whole linux standards hoopla. He wrote in with a piece called "A User's Realistic View of the LSA"
The following is a feature written by Slashdot reader Kyle Eli
A User's Realistic View of the LSAThe Linux Standards Association is a group created by few which will grow to many, despite the public outcry of those on the popular news site "Slashdot". In fact, many of those who have initially voiced against it will becoming paying, voting members of this organization. Despite what many of you may think, they are doing The Right Thing(tm). Linux has grown from nothing into something, a big, popular something that doesn't show any sign of slowing in growth. The problem is that random growth is not a good thing, a good analogy would be "cancer". You need a clearly defined specification which tells you how to grow so that past growth will not be destroyed by the new growth, ultimately causing an overall loss to the system. Now, I'm not saying that as it is presently defined, the LSA is the perfect idea. It is, however, a step in the right direction. First, I'm going to look at the bad points, and then I'll go on to try and bring to light some things that many of you appear blind to.
Let us begin with the Charter. In the first paragraph, it states, "Such a standard will allow members to develop their software, hardware, and/or installation routines with the expectation that they will operate properly in any Linux environment". My problem is with the statement "in any Linux environment". You simply cannot expect all of the distributions using Linux to conform to the standards put forth by the LSA, and the LSA cannot expect those distributions which do not to simply die and go away. Red Hat could easily decide not to conform, and the LSA is certainly not going to kill Red Hat. This statement should be amended to say "in any Standard Linux(tm) based environment". The "Standard Linux(tm)" is the distribution put forth by the LSA, and is what all LSA members would theoretically be using. However, they can't expect everyone to use it, and they can't /force/ anyone to use it. However, you can't use the LSA stamp if your product doesn't pass the LSA tests. Saying that your product won't sell without LSA approval is ludicrous, though. LSA approval MAY, however, enhance the worth of your product. The Charter states that it will "add significant value", this may or may not prove to be true.
Now, the first three proposals of the LSA are POSIX.1 certification, POSIX.2 certification, and a standard package management system that works on various platforms (including those which compete with Linux). Now /wait just one minute/, the Charter goes on to state the following:
"Such misuse includes, but is not limited to, use on a non- con-formant product, use on an untested product, or use on a product for a competing operating system."
If the Package Management system works on Windows, and carries the LSA seal, by these terms, it is "misusing" the seal. Aren't we being a bit hypocritical? Using the LSA seal on something that works with Standard Linux(tm) AS WELL AS a competing operating system should be fine and dandy.
The next thing I want to ask is--who is going to do all of the work? Making everything POSIX.1 as well as POSIX.2 compliant ALONG with developing a cross-platform package management system (that can't carry the LSA seal, by the way) is a great deal of effort. /WHO/ is going to do it?
Next is "Minimization of Vendor Specific components in a Linux distribution". Now wait a second, several distributions depend upon their vendor-specific components. I'm sure SOME people out there actually use Red Hat's administration programs. Is the LSA trying to say that Red Hat can't include these components any more? And any way, so long as the vendor specific components don't break other applications..then who cares? Some people DO find these things to be useful.
The next problem I see is that it states that Regular members may submit proposals, but doesn't say that Observers enjoy this right. It must be made clear that anyone can submit a proposal. Restricting voting to Regular members is a necessity though--but the membership fee /must/ be kept fair. In fact, there should be a clause stating that the membership fee cannot be raised above a certain amount by any member or group of members, including charter members.
Now for my favorite problem, the part about "Intellectual Property". I'm sorry, at most you should demand that submissions contain a clause stating that the LSA may incorporate, publish, and alter the submission--but claiming ownership is /not/ the Right Thing(tm). The author should retain ownership, and the LSA should have no rights above and beyond those of the author under any circumstances.
Next, voting. Voting should NOT be anonymous. A list of all voting members and their current vote on each issue should be available to the public /at all times/. There are an infinite number of bad things that can come from anonymous voting.
Now that I'm through with the bad things, I'll move on. Linux has evolved thus far without having to conform to any real standard. Many of you seem to think it will continue such growth without a standard of any kind, or an association to create and modify such standards. You are quite wrong. Real world corporations developing products need some sort of assurance that what they're developing is definitely going to work somewhere. The LSA gives these corporations a solid idea of where their product is going to work, where it might work, and where it definitely won't work. It's a foundation from which they can begin work. Without this foundation, they are unlikely to even try breaking ground. Linux needs clear standards to survive in the corporate world as a top contender.
Next, you people seem to think that the LSA is going to attempt to micro-manage every little detail about what you can and can't have on your Linux installation. This is not even close to truth. Linux and the GNU system is still GPL no matter what the LSA says. You can install and munge any little piece of your software you damn well please. The LSA is providing standards for people who want to use them, they aren't forcing them on anyone. If you want to be a part of the LSA, pay the fee and cast your vote, and use LSA-approved products. If you grab Debian, which happens to not conform, and install it, LSA agents are NOT going to show up on your doorstep ready with a boot to the neck with an LSA stamp on the heel. However, personally, I think it would be nice to have a system guided by clearly defined standards. I would also love the opportunity to pay my annual fee and cast my vote on this or that alteration, and actually see the standard make a difference. I want to see products coming to my Standard Linux(tm) desktop that are guaranteed to work right out of the box. I have no visions of not paying for every little piece of software I use, that just isn't fair to developers. They have to make a living too. Just because they want to devote their time to working on the product at hand and not trying to write books about it so they can actually eat a square meal doesn't bother me at all.
So people, don't get so angry, you're just looking the fool. No one is forcing you into doing anything. Take part in the LSA if you wish, and if you don't, just leave it be. If the companies that develop products /you/ want decide to go with the LSA, feel free to pay an annual fee and vote so that you'll have a say in it. Otherwise just pray that their product will run on your non-LSA conforming distribution.
Saying, "OH, YOU SUPPORT THE LSA, BOYCOTT BOYCOTT!!!" is a BAD, BAD, **BAD** IDEA. Throwing around language like that is one SURE way to drive companies away from the Linux/GNU platform. Just because they carry the LSA seal is NO reason to avoid their products like some kind of plague.
Give it some time folks, it may work out a whole lot better than you seem to think it will.
Slashdot has posted several stories covering the news from the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Here they are, in sequence:
World Trade Towers and Pentagon Attacked, 9:12 AM 2001-09-11 (all times EDT)
Update: 2001-09-13 12:00 by michael:
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You can't take damsel here now.