From: n...@usenix.org (Nicholas M. Stoughton)
Subject: An Update on Standards Relevant to Usenix Members
approved: s...@cygnus.com (Moderator, Sean Eric Fagan)
organization: USENIX Standards Report Editor
Submitted-by: n...@usenix.org (Nicholas M. Stoughton)
USENIX Standards Report Editor
Nicholas M. Stoughton < n...@usenix.org>, Report Editor
An Update on Standards Relevant to Usenix Members
I have on my bookshelf at home a copy of the first POSIX
standard, the 1986, trial use version of POSIX.1, also known
as ``IEEEIX''. Two years later, the first full use standard
was published. Two more years, and this was revised: the now
famous POSIX.1-1990, the standard that has been adopted by
ISO as International standard 9945-1:1990.
Five years have passed since then, and POSIX has not been
sleeping; a whole raft of standards have been published. But
after five years, the IEEE insists that every published
standard is checked, in case it has become obsolete in any
part. PASC, the Portable Applications Standards Committee of
the IEEE Computer Society, who are the sponsors of POSIX
standards, have decided that they do not have the resource
at present to revise POSIX.1. There is to be a ballot, which
I am responsible for coordinating, on either reaffirming
POSIX.1 as it stands, or withdrawing it completely.
If, like me, your copy of POSIX.1 is the book you read most;
the bible you follow for all your applications, then you
should be voting to reaffirm it. If you want it revised, the
best way is to join the working group, who are sure to
revise it before the next five years is up.
Of course, if you think its obsolete, and a complete waste
of everyone's time and effort, now is your opportunity to
drive a nail through the coffin and vote to withdraw the
standard (incidentally killing all the standards that have
been based on it, such as POSIX.1b-1993).
The Great Thing About Standards Is That There Are So Many To
We all know that maxim well, and to a great extent, it helps
us more than harms us if there are two overlapping
standards. Users can choose which is they one most relevant
to what they want to do. Of course, vendors hate having to
supply support for both, but there whole reason for
existence is to satisfy their customers (oh, and make some
money while they are at it).
What you don't do when you have competing standards is to
allow governments to legislate as to which is better. The
failure of the OSI protocols to dominate the Internet is a
- 2 -
good example; governments tried steering commerce into their
preferred direction, but the power of democracy won, and we
have IP and its related protocols.
In Europe, we have the mad bureaucrats of Brussels who have
now made it a criminal offence to use the wrong standards if
you sell fruit and vegetables (yes, pounds and ounces can
now get you at least a fine, if not a prison term). Anybody
from any government anywhere in the world reading this,
don't go making the same mistake with our standards!
Plus ca change ...
I am going through one of those periods everyone has from
time to time when its seems as if everything is changing. As
you are undoubtedly aware, back in April we voted to change
the structure of the Sponsor Executive Committee (SEC) of
the Portable Applications Standards Committee (PASC),
effectively halving it. This will affect every POSIX working
group still in existance. The change is designed to cause
only a minimal impact in what it is we are doing, being more
than anything an administrative device to simplify and
streamline the procedural aspects of the work.
That's a minor change in comparison with some of the
personal ones going on around me at present as I start my
own company, specialising in standards consultancy, and my
wife, as I write this is working on increasing the numbers
of our children by 50% (I did my bit nine months ago, now
its her turn ... ).
Volume-Number: Volume 35, Number 63