Building Applications with the Linux Standard Base

Peter Kitson

ISBN : 0131456954

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Sample Chapter From Building Applications with the Linux Standard Base
     Copyright © Linux Standard Base Team

Understanding the LSB

This chapter describes the Linux Standard Base, giving an overview of its evolution from the concept to the Linux Standard Base 2.0 edition. It describes the benefits of the specification, provides a brief history of the work that led to its creation, and places the specification in context with other industry standards initiatives.

The Linux Standard Base (LSB) Written Specification is an application binary interface standard for shrink-wrapped applications. The LSB draws on the source standards of the IEEE POSIXTM standards and The Open Group\'s Single UNIX Specification for many of its behavioral interface definitions. Some interfaces are not included in the LSB, since they are outside the remit of a binary runtime environment; typically these are development interfaces or user-level tools. The LSB also extends the source standards in other areas (such as graphics) and includes the necessary details such as the binary execution file formats to support a high volume binary application platform.


Today, the cost of developing application software is considerably greater than the cost of the hardware on which the applications run. Preserving this investment in critical applications of an organization, while allowing the organization to freely mix and match platforms as hardware costs fall, has led to the idea of open systems. One of the cornerstones of open systems is portability—the ability to move the source code of an application to another platform and rebuild the application without changing the source.

Software portability problems do not just affect an organization directly through that organization\'s own applications. Hardware vendors often find their market limited by the applications that run on their platforms. Independent software vendors (ISVs) often limit themselves in the number of platforms on which they sell their products, due to the costs of maintaining ports of the application for multiple platforms. Consumers are caught, often choosing hardware platforms based on the applications they need to purchase, but without the ability to know what new applications will be available on these platforms in the future.

Whilst open systems have allowed source portability, source portability is not the solution for creating a large consumer market; for that, binary portability is a must. The LSB Written Specification provides an open consensus specification to support development of portable binary shrink-wrapped applications for the Linux platform. The stated goals of the LSB are \'to develop and promote a set of standards that will increase compatibility,\' the key differentiator being that LSB\'s approach is at the binary interface level.