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[P]
Linux Standardization Petition

By edibiase in MLP
Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 10:07:22 AM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)
Software

The time has come to ask Linux distributors to unite to help out the Linux community as a whole. This petition, "Creation and Adoption of a Standard Linux Filesystem and Package Management Specification," aims to indicate to the distributors that Linux users are tired of an inexcusable lack of standard adoption and want distributors to do something about it. If you agree, and want to worry more about what to install than how to install it, please sign the petition; every signature counts and will help further the goal of Linux standardization and increase its usefulness.


For more information and discussion regarding the thought behind the creation of this petition, please see "Developing a More Usable Linux." And although I wouldn't want to create too much discussion in a Mindless Link Propagation story, if you didn't sign the petition, consider responding and indicating why.

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Poll
Did you sign the petition?
o Yes 14%
o No, but I'm going to 5%
o No, I'm still not sure if I will or not 36%
o No, I disagree with it 43%

Votes: 88
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o This petition
o Developing a More Usable Linux
o Also by edibiase


Display: Sort:
Linux Standardization Petition | 49 comments (31 topical, 18 editorial, 0 hidden)
I'll Sign, on One Condition... (3.12 / 8) (#3)
by antizeus on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 05:13:39 PM EST

You can count on me as long as the standard is based on the Slackware model.
-- $SIGNATURE
Base the standard on my favorite ditro... (3.72 / 11) (#4)
by Luke Scharf on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 05:16:02 PM EST

Just so long as the standard is based on my favorite distro, it's good. All other options are inferior.

See the problem?



Precisely right, and thanks for not naming distro. (4.00 / 1) (#47)
by Paul Crowley on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 05:08:36 PM EST

This is exactly the problem in a nutshell. I'm going to name Debian here but on ly because it's the one I know best; I'm sure experts on other distributions will have similar experiences.

When I see the work that goes into tweaking packages so they fit nicely into the Debian system, I can see that the only way anyone's going to make a fully-functional .deb installer for another distribution is by making it a Debian variant. There are jobs some packages need to do that are done differently in different distributions, and any general such "standard" would have to decide which distribution was "right" and try and make the others conform. Ultimately it would exactly be an exercise in creating a new distribution: or giving an empty blessing of officialdom on an existing one.

FHS is good, and distributions have agreed to go along with it. But an all-encompassing "standard" can only be created when there's only one base distribution: ie never.

Note that I use "base distribution" here to distinguish the conventions and devices at the heart of a distribution from the trimming around it. I could take Debian and make a derivative distribution that was compatible with existing .debs, thus avoiding the need to create a new base distribution.
--
Paul Crowley aka ciphergoth. Crypto and sex politics. Diary.
[ Parent ]
The Linux Standard Base, anyone? (2.20 / 5) (#5)
by Crutcher on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 05:18:04 PM EST

You are agitating for something that the distros are already working toward.
Crutcher - "Elegant, Documented, On Time. Pick Two"
"Working toward?" OK... (2.00 / 1) (#16)
by edibiase on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 07:53:10 PM EST

If the distributions are honestly working toward this, why isn't there a combined package management format used by all of the major distributions with packages that can be installed across all of the major distributions?

I don't see the distributions working toward this very much. Yeah, RH 7.0 was more in-line with the LSB filesystem layout. That's good, but still isn't good enough, IMHO.

[ Parent ]

disagreements (3.00 / 1) (#30)
by amokscience on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 01:09:53 PM EST

From what I recall Slackware flat out stated that they would have no part of the LSB and Redhat ignored it as well. People had a good time of Redhat bashing on Slashdot that day. This comes back to the fundamental 'problem/benefit' of Linux - no one agrees on anything. Lots of choices, lots of confusion, little co-operation.

[ Parent ]
Red Hat is not ignoring LSB. (none / 0) (#50)
by Crutcher on Sat Jan 06, 2001 at 09:39:08 AM EST

Red Hat is not ignoring LSB. I know, I work for them. Every time a spec gets hard, we go with it. Remeber, LSB isn't finnished yet.
Crutcher - "Elegant, Documented, On Time. Pick Two"
[ Parent ]
wow (2.33 / 9) (#6)
by vsync on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 05:26:56 PM EST

Stop whining and pick a distro with the filesystem layout that you like.

--
"The problem I had with the story, before I even finished reading, was the copious attribution of thoughts and ideas to vsync. What made it worse was the ones attributed to him were the only ones that made any sense whatsoever."
Not the point (Or: Are you trying to be satiric?) (3.66 / 3) (#13)
by edibiase on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 07:41:33 PM EST

It doesn't matter if the distro has the filesystem layout that I like. What if it doesn't have the filesystem layout that the developer of the program I want to install likes? Or the package mangement system that the developer of the program I want to install likes?

[ Parent ]

developer dependence (5.00 / 1) (#44)
by YellowBook on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 12:45:07 PM EST

What if it doesn't have the filesystem layout that the developer of the program I want to install likes? Or the package mangement system that the developer of the program I want to install likes?

Then you compile from source and either install in /usr/local or build a package appropriate to the system you're running.

It seems to me that this issue is really only relevant to developers (and prospective users) of shrinkwrapped proprietary software. Since I don't see the need for proprietary software, I don't see the need for distribution standardization. (Okay, that's not actually true. I'd like to see more standardization in terms of fs layout and such -- things that are already being addressed by existing standards bodies. Calls for standardization of package systems and libraries from users who can't type "./configure; make; sudo make install" are what I dont' have sympathy for).



[ Parent ]
really not necessary (3.80 / 5) (#7)
by mikpos on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 05:47:40 PM EST

The LSB's filesystem is very useful, to a point. Given a prefix (usually /usr, but could be /home/kooldood or / or /usr/local), it says that certain things go in ${prefix}/bin, ${prefix}/lib, ${prefix}/etc, ${prefix}/share, etc. Beyond that, there's really nothing from a package author's point of view that's needed (or wanted).

I don't see what could possibly be gained by a standardised package format. Surely if packaging tools are up to snuff makerpm is just as easy to type as makedeb. You could even put makepackages() { makerpm $* ; makedeb $* ; makefoobaz $* } in your .bashrc to make life easier. As I understand it, most (if not all) package formats are about the same: list of dependencies, pre-install script, post-install script, files to install. With the exception of an autoconf/automake .tar.gz-style package (whose only problem would be automatically handling dependencies), it should not be difficult to make a standard interface for packaging tools, removing the need for a standardise package format.

So I like the standardised file system to a point (from a packager's point of view, you don't need or want anything beyond which subdirectories do what given a prefix), but I don't see the need for a standardised package format.

Related story (3.50 / 2) (#9)
by Dacta on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 06:39:41 PM EST

A somewhat related story was posted on K5 back in October: LSB testing out: SuSE top, although it is more about the results of LSB testing.



making new standards (4.00 / 4) (#11)
by jesterzog on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 07:24:39 PM EST

I don't know enough about the history of package management to comment in detail. I've never been much of a fan of petitions though because so often it's just a vigilante group trying to force a minority opinion onto everyone by screaming loudly and making lots of noise.

Instead of forcing opinion with a petition, wouldn't it make more sense for an independent person or group to design a distro-independent package management system? If necessary, provide distro-dependent versions of it for distributions that are unusual. Maybe also to keep existing databases updated for people running other package managers at the same time.

If it's good enough to get enough support from projects (who can easily say 'download this additional package manager if you don't have it already'), the distros will pick it up as part of their standard distributions anyway. In the long run they might even give it preference over rpm and deb and whetever else there is.

This is how so much of open source development has become standardised in the past - by settling on whatever does the job best. Is there a need to change? If we try to force a standard now and it doesn't do the job best, it's only going to fork again anyway.


jesterzog Fight the light


I Completely Agree (3.25 / 4) (#18)
by edibiase on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 08:06:39 PM EST

At the risk of sounding AOL-ish...

I agree. I completely agree.

The problem, for me, is that I have no idea how to start a viable open-source development effort. SourceForge looks like a good place to start, but even if I did figure out CVS, Makefiles, and the like, I'd still have to face the fact that I can't program.

Maybe this should be an Ask K5: "How can I stop being lazy and learn how to program?"

Any suggestions?

[ Parent ]

Justification for not signing the petition (3.58 / 17) (#21)
by res0 on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 08:35:15 PM EST

Warning: Rant ahead :)

You ask for a reason for not signing the petition... You have to remember that not everyone who reads K5 is a Linux user or is maybe even interested in things regarding Linux.

I use Windows. So sue me. If I wasn't running Windows right now, I'd be running FreeBSD. The only Linux I might consider running is Slackware, simply because I've used it the most on other machines and am more familiar with it.

I'm not a programmer in the normal sense. I'm a web developer, musician, and freelance Perl coder who is openly against blatant software propaganda like what most of the "Linux community" spreads. It makes me sick. You're proving yourselves no better than the "non-Free software world" that you speak so viciously against.

You people are the same ones who speak against organized religion but in the same hour will argue to no end about whether it's free as in beer, free as in speech, or what free is and why it is important. Yes, freedom is important. I agree with you there... but I don't think that the freedom of software deserves the level of attention it is given. Software is a tool, not a necessity of life. You watch it like the FDA examines new drugs. Like I said, a bit overblown.

Alright, I know that I'm ranting here. Maybe this should be a diary entry instead, or maybe a story... Or maybe I should just keep to myself like all the other subordinates here who don't say a word about what they really feel.

If there's one thing I want to leave you with, it's this: Linux advocacy scares people.

Believe it or not, people use the software that they choose themselves. Intrusive campaigning may work for miracle detergents and psychic-palm-reading-Tarot-card-flashing crazies, but not software. If someone's a programmer, they'll probably find an operating system that is appropriate to programming. If they're a musician, they'll find one that works well for creating or working with music. If they're an artist, they'll look for one with good graphics applications and software that is keen to their artistic nature. The world works in the way that it seems, not in the way you envision it... Linux is not the do-all, be-all operating system standard to which all other OSes should be compared. They each have their strong points and weak points.

So that's why I didn't sign the petition. Call me anti-Linux or anti-Open source or some other buzzwords that you usually spew, if you like. I don't mind one bit. I know what I know, and I know what I believe in. And I certainly don't believe in this form of intolerance and technology tunnelvision that you, the Linux advocates, are preaching to the masses.



It's a rant all right, but a bit out of place (3.80 / 5) (#23)
by zakalwe on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 10:00:39 PM EST

This doesn't really have anything to do with the story, which is in fact claiming that linux does have a problem, which the author wanyts to rectify. Hardly "blatant software propaganda", or at least not in favour of linux.

OK Linux has no shortage of moronic "advocates" with strong opinions on a lot of things, but how is this sny different from Windows or the Mac?

If there's one thing I want to leave you with, it's this: Linux advocacy scares people.
How? What you probably mean is the whole "linux rulez/Windows sux" mentality puts off people (It annoys me, and I like Linux.) But I've seen just as bad for virtually every OS in existance. To be honest, I can see very little actual advocacy being done, at least online.

And I certainly don't believe in this form of intolerance and technology tunnelvision that you, the Linux advocates, are preaching to the masses.
And this is an incredible overgeneralisation, if not outright trolling. What intolerance is being preached? What has this got to do with you not signing the petition?



[ Parent ]

Standards? Who wants 'em? (3.25 / 4) (#22)
by jdtux on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 09:26:34 PM EST

I totally disagree with standardizing Linux. The only thing I could see is maybe the FS layout. The whole thing about OSS, in my opinion, is the ability to have a choice in what you use. Debian, Mandrake, and Slackware, etc. each have their own unique qualities and down sides. If you don't like package management, use source if available.

The problem (3.00 / 6) (#24)
by darthaya on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 12:17:33 AM EST

Is that too many people take the whole software/OS/distributions way too seriously. It is just a goddamn computer that doesn't cost too much money and you dont have to be "take my **** over my dead body" attitude.

Compromise a little and the whole community gains a lot more. Or I guess geeks can never be diplomats.

Filesystem Hierarchy Standard (4.66 / 6) (#25)
by Friendless on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 01:32:40 AM EST

The FHS is half of what you want. apt has promise to be the other half.

I don't think signing petitions will help, I think supporting the standards by following them and providing tools to support them will. Don't get mad, get coding.

standardization may be harmful (3.25 / 4) (#27)
by daevt on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 07:55:30 AM EST

i don't think that standarization is what needs to be done. for one, package management, should not be standardized, it is one of the huge differences that we see between distros. a standard file system doesn't sound as bad, except that like everything else, there is a different filesystem suited to different situations. in addition to just these two things, other standards may force new ideas to be discarded as "non-compliant". people also seem to have the nasty tendancy to go with what has been around the longest, what is most firmiliar, or a choice that is politically motivated when picking any kind of standard. further how could a standards committee control distrobutions? how could such a committee deal with distros that are unable to meet with the standards by no fault of there own.
yo
standardization may be harmful (2.50 / 8) (#28)
by daevt on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 07:56:07 AM EST

i don't think that standarization is what needs to be done. for one, package management, should not be standardized, it is one of the huge differences that we see between distros. a standard file system doesn't sound as bad, except that like everything else, there is a different filesystem suited to different situations. in addition to just these two things, other standards may force new ideas to be discarded as "non-compliant". people also seem to have the nasty tendancy to go with what has been around the longest, what is most firmiliar, or a choice that is politically motivated when picking any kind of standard. further how could a standards committee control distrobutions? how could such a committee deal with distros that are unable to meet with the standards by no fault of there own.
yo
This Post Is A Duplicate (1.50 / 2) (#36)
by Parity on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 06:20:03 PM EST

#27 is the first instance of the same text.


[ Parent ]
think about the mod... +1 discussion needed (2.50 / 4) (#29)
by tacitus on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 10:08:57 AM EST

I see this story is having a tough time. Why? Do the majority of you disagree with standardization (as indicated by the poll)? Why not get this to the Front Page then? Open the discussion, get your point across. Posting this to the Front Page isn't a sign of support, its a way of allowing a discussion to begin.

I have been reading K5 for just over a month and I see this type of moderation way too much. "I disagree with you so I'll mod the story away." This place is for discussion... so discuss...


The ILLenium

Agree with the goal, but... (3.00 / 1) (#41)
by simmons75 on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 12:49:11 AM EST

I have to disagree with the pissy attitude.

Inexcusable? Huh? For a long time, there WAS no standard for Linux boxen. Different distros followed different paths. Get over it and try to talk them into standardizing. A petition is great, but telling them their actions are "inexcusable"...hell, I have nothing to do with the development of ANY distros, and it pissed ME off. :-)
poot!
So there.

[ Parent ]
What? (none / 0) (#46)
by edibiase on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 04:21:50 PM EST

I have to disagree with the pissy attitude.

My pissy attitude? I didn't realize I was exhibiting one.

Inexcusable? Huh? For a long time, there WAS no standard for Linux boxen. Different distros followed different paths.

There still isn't an implemented standard for Linux boxen. Different distros still follow different paths, which is OK. I wish they'd follow different paths with some standards thrown in for good measure.

Get over it and try to talk them into standardizing. A petition is great, but telling them their actions are "inexcusable"...hell, I have nothing to do with the development of ANY distros, and it pissed ME off. :-)

I am trying to talk them in to standardizing. Do you know of a better way to go about it? Should I try to put together a web site advocating Linux standards? Discuss and enlighten us, please, instead of attacking me ;-)

[ Parent ]

Why standardize? (4.36 / 11) (#31)
by ObeseWhale on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 01:54:39 PM EST

What is, really, the point of standardization? One of the greatest things about Linux is that users have so many distributions to choose from, offering them file systems and package management of choice. Indeed, adopting such "standards" would counter the whole point of having different distributions in the first place.

Furthermore, how is a lack of standards hurting Linux much? You may have a point with filesystems, but then again, if you want a whole network using the same file system, buy the same distribution! As for package formats, those can make or break a distro. Many people use Debian solely because of apt-get, and believe me they would NOT be happy to get that taken away because of standardization.

Maybe I'm missing the point, but to me the standardization you describe is an antithesis to the Linux philosophy itself. I value my freedom of choice.

---

"The hunger for liberty may he suppressed for a time; yet never exterminated. Man's natural instinct is for freedom, and no power on earth can succeed in crushing it for very long."
-Alexander Berkman
Standardization helps everyone. (4.50 / 2) (#34)
by edibiase on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 04:26:30 PM EST

What is, really, the point of standardization?

Standardization helps, mainly, to make things easier for users and developers. I see this as a noble goal. But, as you state, there are some important issues and concepts about standardization that need to be addressed.

  1. Choice is good
    1. Choice helps make better software
    2. Choice allows a "different strokes for different folks" ideology to reign
    3. Lack of choice would mean the end of distributions as we know them
  2. Things are good now; why change?

First, to address point 1 and its ancillary points: standardization does not mean the end of choice. I agree that choice is good, that it helps to make better software, and that it allows for more specialized tools to develop. That's why I'm not arguing against sane choice. Sure, it would be nice to have thousands of different package managers, because, in theory, that would create a whole lot of competition that would in turn lead to some really excellent package management tools being developed.

Unfortunately, as experience so often teaches, theory != practice. While four or five competing package management solutions would theoretically lead to great development and a myriad of other benefits, in practice all it does is cause headaches.

Let's say I'm Joe User. I could be Joe Poweruser or Joe Administrator; "Joe User" is not meant to signify a dumb newbie but rather an average user. I want to install this neat program I found on Freshmeat called galeon. Unfortunately, I'm using Slackware, and the galeon people don't provide Slackware packages. Either I compile my own, and install it without package management, or I create my own Slackware package, or I just say, "Fuck it," and go look for software provided in TGZ package format.

As frustrating as that is for the user, consider what it is like for the developer! Helix Code currently maintains seven different package "distributions" (not counting variations within distributions like RH 6.x vs. RH 7.x packages). Seven! Does that strike anyone else as pretty stupid? Helix has to spend time creating and maintaining these packages, or else they lose a prospective part of their userbase. Wouldn't it be easier for them to create one package instead of seven?

That's why I think standardization on this front is good. You'll notice that I'm not saying, "Standardize everything! twm and vi for everyone; hack the kernel to prevent fvwm and emacs from running!" Honestly, can you say that package management system really matters that much in choosing a distribution? It matters from the perspective of users who think, "More developers use RPM than DEB or TGZ or SLP, so I'm going to install an RPM-based distribution," like me, but there aren't many people I know of who embrace dpkg and shun rpm. They're pretty much the same, if we exclude apt (which has nothing to do with the packaging system, as the recent modification of an RPM-based apt shows).

As for filesystem layout, standardization can't hurt here, either. I don't like Debian because of its filesystem layout. Sure, documentation shows up in /usr/doc, and configuration stuff is almost always in /etc, but that's because that's where the LSB says things should go. Red Hat is also moving towards LSB-compliance.

There is no benefit in distributions having varied filesystem layout, and the major drawback of a lack of implemented standard is that a universal package management system is made almost impossible. Heck, if there was a standard filesystem hierarchy, makefiles would be made to use the standard. Is there any benefit to having packages/makefiles installing stuff in fairly arbitrary places? Wouldn't it be much better if you knew for sure that binaries went in /usr/bin, as opposed to having them possibly be in /usr/bin, /usr/local/bin, /usr/local/jimmyjoe/bin, and /opt/bin?

In short, your freedom of choice is only being marginally limited with this idea of standardization on the package management front. In my opinion, ease of creation, installation, and management of package far outweighs the freedom to choose virtually identical package managers.

[ Parent ]

There allready is a standard package format (4.66 / 3) (#35)
by ObeseWhale on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 06:17:55 PM EST

Source code.

Interesting that you mention a slackware user trying to install Galeon, as I am a slackware user, and am using Galeon to look at this web page. When I chose to use Slackware, I knew for a fact that I would have to deal with compiling practically everything instead of going the easy route and using package management. Frankly, the majority of Slackware users don't care much for package management, and thus compile most things from source. If they really did care, they would probably be using RedHat or Debian, don't you think? The point is that nobody forces you to use a certain Linux distribution, and many people select distributions based on a packaging system.

Even so, let's not forget that package management, in many cases, works across distributions. I've installed RPMs on my Slack system, and there are even tools for converting Debs, RPMs, and SLPs into the Slackware TGZ format.

True, that it is easier for the developer to have one unified package format, but on the other hand there are thousands of volunteers who are pleased to make software packages, which is why Debian is so successful in the first place. To me there remains no need for standardization on the package front.

---

"The hunger for liberty may he suppressed for a time; yet never exterminated. Man's natural instinct is for freedom, and no power on earth can succeed in crushing it for very long."
-Alexander Berkman
[ Parent ]
Show me how to uninstall a .tar.gz package. (none / 0) (#48)
by edibiase on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 09:20:50 PM EST

There allready [sic] is a standard package format ... Source code.

Come on, now, you can't be serious. Having the source is nice, but come back to me when you can show me a system like FreeBSD's ports implemented on a large scale.

And, yes, package management works across systems, but not well. If I install an RPM on a Slackware system, it's not integrating with the TGZ dependencies and database (if there is one). With alien, I've got dependency and file location problems, which would be somewhat mitigated by a standard filesystem layout alone.

[ Parent ]

Commercial Use? (none / 0) (#45)
by jose on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 03:25:09 PM EST

I would imagine the main reason there is a push for Standardization is for the benefit of Commercial Software Vendors. Any CSV looking to write software for Linux is in a bind right now, do the put forth the effort to write their software for the ~20 different distros out there now? (most of the effort would the testing, which would take forever) Or do they just write for one, and take the flak from people using the other distros?[1] As for Standardizing on a package manager, I don't think anyone would take away apt/dpkg, or for that matter, even rpm! Everyone has quite strong feelings about their package manager, or lack there of. Everyone just just use alien. [1]A lot of people hate Commercial Software (with good reason) though, which is why they will have a tough time getting it done.

[ Parent ]
Let "standards" evolve naturally... (4.00 / 2) (#43)
by ucblockhead on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 11:06:28 AM EST

I don't think getting putting a bunch of people in a virtual room to battle over a standard will help anyone. This will just serve as a rallying point for those who adopt the standard to yell at those who don't. Worse, the new standard will almost certainly not be an existing one, so the effect will simply be to throw another competing method into the mix.

Instead, better to let things compete naturally. Standards will evolve on their own if you just let them. All the commitees in the world couldn't produce a "standard" Unix, yet when people stopped worrying about unix fragmentation and standards, the various Unix flavors started moving together.


-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

Linux Standardization Petition | 49 comments (31 topical, 18 editorial, 0 hidden)
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