[lsb-discuss] Thoughts on LSB ISO standard

Keld Simonsen keld at keldix.com
Fri Jul 27 18:15:52 UTC 2012

On Thu, Jul 26, 2012 at 06:45:04PM -0400, Theodore Ts'o wrote:
> So I can't speak for the Linux Foundation, but I was CTO (on loan from
> IBM) during the time period when we made the decision to let the PAS
> status lapse.

Excuse me, I am not fully familiar with the lingo here. So you were Chief
Technical Officer from the Linux Foundation on the ISO LSB project?
And then what would that mean?

> Essentially, the corporate sponsors were no longer
> interested; what originaly drove their interest was that there were
> various governmental customers who for whatever silly reason, required
> an ISO standard "stamp of approval" to get past their purchasing
> regulations.  With the widespread success of Linux as a de-facto
> standard in the server world, that issue is mostly gone at this point.
> So that pretty much took care of the "benefits" side of the equation
> from the perspective of the ultimate source of the cash funds
> necessary to drive the ISO standards work.
> On the "costs" side of the equation, just simply getting the document
> into the right shape so that it met all of the ISO requirements would
> have required a lot of editorial work.  The people who have the skills
> to do that editorial work were at the time, fairly few and far
> between, and they all wanted to paid significant sums of money per
> hour to do that work.  (Hey, they were consultants with a relatively
> rare skill set; I don't begrudge that, but it was still a cost.)

that is understood.

> In addition, merely engaging with ISO would have taken a lot of time,
> going to various ANSI/INCITS meetings beforehand, and needing to play
> politics with (for example) the Sun representative, who had no love of
> Linux, and who was distressed that Linux wasn't fully compliant with
> POSIX.  There were other all sorts of other silly things; such as
> strategizing at the ISO level to have the meetings in the Far East, to
> prevent certain known troublemakers from being able to attend (because
> they might derail the proceedings) because the travel expenses would
> be too expensive for them --- but that also meant that those of us who
> had to actually *attend* the ISO meeting had to pay $$$ to travel long
> distnaces to far off lands (and if you were employed in by company
> with niggardly travel policies, you either suffered in economy class
> or upgraded to business class on your own nickle).

So you would favour a scheme that would not introduce this overhead on
travelling and meetings?

I do understand that there may be requirements on change of wordings 
for ISO text, but at least some of that has already been done. 
I don't know how much is left but I am willing to help having a look into that.

> All of this pre-meeting politicking and meetings was to make sure
> there wouldn't be people trying to make the LSB standard diverge from
> reality --- which is one of those things that is always a risk when
> you engage with a standards bodies.  Witness what happened with OATH
> 2.0[1] (which got horribly complicated and declared a failure by one of
> the original OATH 1.0 developers) or the XHTML 2.0 vs. HTML 5 fiasco.
> [1] http://hueniverse.com/2012/07/oauth-2-0-and-the-road-to-hell/

Yes, we can risk that. But then, if we have a POSIX Austin Group
like organisation, having all experts in one group would counteract
such a tendency. It has not happened in the Austin Group yet, and they have
been functioning for more than 10 years. And the Austin group was formed
because we have had similar troubles as you report for the LSB at ISO work.
So there already were people and politics and other sharks in the water for
the POSIX ship. We got away with those troubles by more adequate organisation.

> Basically, after living through the original LSB at ISO process, and
> weighing the costs ands benefits, it left me feeling extremely cynical
> about the whole ISO process, and all of this was before the OOXML
> fiasco.  After all, TCP/IP was hugely success dispite the attempts by
> the proponents of the ISO-blassed OSI networking standard.  (And OSI
> had all of the benefits of purchasing requirements by silly goverment
> agencies; look how much good it did it.)

I was there too, both in the OOXML case, and the old TCP/OSI battle,
and I agree with you.

> So for those people who want to push for getting the ISO imprimatur
> --- I'd advise you think very carefully about why you want it, and
> what benefits you think it will bring.

I would like an ISO standard that is exactly the same as the LSB standard,
and I think I see ways to do this. The ways I foresee have been played
out a handful of times before with good results (IMHO).

> Also consider the very strong negatives that could occur if people in
> the standards world decide that they want to "fix" or "improve" the
> standard, like the standard busybodies tried to do with XHTML 2.0 ---
> it can turn into a monstrous timesync just to prevent the standards
> goeers from doing active damage to a technology.  If there is a
> divergence between an international standard and real-life
> implementation sanity, the Linux world has very clearly not been shy
> to give the big middle finger to the standard (cf the history of

Yes, and that is the reason that it is important to have a good
plan for syncronization of the ballotting and maintenance processes of the
organizations involved. The Austin group processes scheme is fairly good,
but I think it should be fitted to our two organizations.

> After all, df still prints its output in units of kilobytes by default
> despite the POSIX requirement of 512 byte sectors, and if you look at
> the success of Linux versus the legacy Unix systems, the blatent
> violation of the International Standard hasn't hurt Linux or slowed
> its adoption.  Heck, AIX and Solaris ended up adding a Linux
> compatibility layer; they changed to meet Linux, not the other way
> around.

I have also allways thought that the 512 b blocks were cumbersome
for reporting.  Anyway, thanks for your insights into some LF
rationale for the state of the play.

I think somebody promised in the teleconference to approach 
LF to hear what they may have to say and their attitude to a revised
ISO standard, and the future mode of cooperation with ISO on LSB. 
Am I right?

Best regards

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