Linux Distros Unite on Standard for Desktops
Free Standards Group releases latest desktop standard set of components.
-- In a move to make the freely distributed Linux
operating system a stronger alternative to Microsoft Corp.'s Windows, a
group of major Linux distributors announced they have united
on a standard set of components for desktop versions of Linux.
standard created by the Free Standards Group should make it easier for
developers to write applications that will work on Linux versions from
Linux has a firm foothold as
an operating system for servers -- it's popular for hosting Web sites,
for instance -- but has only a few percent of the desktop market.
partly because, Linux, created in the early 90s by Finnish programmer
Linus Torvalds, is really just the kernel, or core of an operating
system. For a Linux computer to perform meaningful tasks, more software
needs to be added that does things like presenting a graphical user
Unfortunately, those added software
libraries differ among Linux distributors, making it hard to know if an
application like a word processor will function on a particular Linux
"One of the big things that's difficult is
consistency, and that's Window's biggest strength," said Jim Zemlin,
executive director of the Free Standards Group.
you buy a Windows program, you know it will run on a Windows computer,
and Linux needs to work the same way, Zemlin said.
you really want to become a broadly adopted and used technology, you
have to have that degree of standardization," he said.
FSG, which counts among its members IBM Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc.,
Dell Inc. and Red Hat Inc., has previously certified server versions,
or distributions, as conforming to its Linux Standards Base. The latest
version of the LSB, 3.1, will be the first one to include a standard
for desktop distributions.
The first desktop
distribution to be certified will be from Xandros Inc. and will ship on
May 1. It will be followed by certified distributions from Novell Inc.,
Red Hat, the Debian Project, Ubuntu and others.
are two popular, competing graphical user interfaces for Linux, KDE and
GNOME. The LSB doesn't choose between them, but mandates compatibility
at a lower level of the system. That makes it possible to develop
applications that should run on a system regardless of which user
interface is installed, the FSG said.
author of Linux
Annoyances for Geeks (O'Reilly Media)," said the
desktop standard is a step in the right direction.
more choice on the Linux desktop than most IT managers can stand, and
that's led to problems," he said.
however, to widespread Linux adoption. It's still not clear, Jang said,
if developers will create Linux versions of the applications people
need. For example, tax preparation software, which changes every year,
is not available for Linux (though tax preparation Web sites provide an
alternative for less complex filings).
computer manufacturers install Windows by default, and only a few offer
to install Linux. Installation by the user is easy, but it's still a
step that daunts many, Jang said.