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LDN: an MSDN for Linux developers


One major advantage Microsoft developers have over their Linux counterparts is that they have access to MSDN (Microsoft Software Developer Network), a magnificent online developer resource. Linux has had nothing to compare. Until now.

The Free Standards Group (FSG), a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing and promoting open-source software standards, announced today that it has partnered with O’Reilly Media to offer similar services to Linux application developers as part of its LSB (Linux Standard Base) Developer Network.

The LSB Developer Network (LDN) is meant to serve as the central, community-based source of information for software developers writing portable Linux applications. The beta site is now open for business.

The newly-minted LDN website currently contains a custom library of Linux content via Safari Books Online, an online reference library that’s a joint venture of O’Reilly and the Pearson Technology Group. With this, Linux developers can go to one place for their programming information needs instead of cobbling it together from hither and yon.

The site also includes FSG-provided software tools, standards, forums, and content. By using the tools and information on the site, software developers can build their applications according to the LSB specification, and certify it using the FSG’s certification and testing services, receiving the ability for their application to run on multiple distributions of Linux.

Specifically, LDN offers these features:

  • A social networking bookmarker where users can import their existing bookmarks according to tag, and share them with other members of the community. This approach leverages, instead of replaces, existing bookmarking tools already used by the majority of the development community.
  • A directory of resources for building portable Linux applications; this includes tutorials on building applications with the LSB and other information needed by developers.
  • Software development kits where ISVs can build and test their applications against the LSB, including tools that query accepted interfaces already in the standard.
  • LSB roadmap tools that give software developers the insight needed to plan which versions of standards-compliant compilers, distributions and libraries to use in future versions of their software.
  • Certification services and an application directory for LSB-certified applications so end users can easily find portable Linux applications and certified distributions.

To make this happen, Linux Magazine editor Martin Streicher will serve as LDN’s editorial director. The LDN is also being supported by such leading Linux companies as IBM, HP, MySQL, Novell, Real Networks, and Red Hat.

FSG CTO and Debian Linux founder Ian Murdock noted that “In order for Linux to be a truly competitive platform, there must be a central information source for developers building portable Linux applications.”

“Microsoft has done a great job with [MSDN]; we aim to do the same for the Linux Standard Base using the “bottom up” community-based development model exemplified by open source and Linux.” The “main difference,” Murdock went on to say, “Is we’re doing this in a community-based, bottom-up style. The Free Standards Group provides a platform for collaboration on standards and interoperability. This will be no different. We’re providing a platform for collaboration on developer tools with the support of IBM, HP, Novell, Red Hat, and other members.”

“Partnering with the undisputed leader in developer content, O’Reilly, is the first step in this project. We urge the community to join and help build the network,” concluded Murdock.

Some of the community is already there. “Application developer support is critical to the continued growth of the Linux market,” said Chris Cooper, Novell‘s director of developer services. “While there are now more than 1000 applications certified on SUSE Linux Enterprise, we are committed to bringing even more applications to our platform. Working with the Linux Standard Base Developer Network will provide yet another avenue for application developers to write applications that work on multiple distributions, increasing broad market adoption of Linux.”

There’s no question that there’s a real and pressing need for such a service. Jeremy White, founder and CEO of CodeWeavers Inc., said, “I think that most Linux developers and advocates have a rose colored view of what the Linux development process and market really is, at least for a an ISV that wants to create a Desktop application for sale. It takes a lot of hard work to create a Desktop product for Linux.”

“Even worse, that market is highly fragmented. Yes, it really does matter to an ISV [independent software vendor] that there is Ubuntu, Red Hat, SuSE, and on and on; yes, they are ‘close’, but this isn’t horseshoes. The sooner we face that truth and get on with doing what we can to improve the situation (yay for xdg-utils!), the better,” White added.

Kathy Bennett, IBM Linux Technology Center director, commented that “This is yet another step by supporters of the open community to make Linux a better and more competitive computing platform.”

A version of this story first appeared in Linux-Watch.

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