A free *NIX environment in Windows

I’ve been having a few problems with my Linux development box lately. First, networking is messed up, probably due to poor support for my Netgear Ethernet card. Second, the fan has stopped working on the box’s GeForce2 vdeo card. So I decided to try doing some programming on my brand new Windows XP box.

Well, needless to say the DOS (err…sorry, CMD) window is terrible and Microsoft’s command-line utilities have never progressed beyond the terrible stage. Time for Plan B – UNIX in Windows.

I used to be a big fan of the MKS toolkit back in the days when I was a PC device driver programmer (wow – 11 years ago). The toolkit gave you just about every UNIX tool you’d need. It was slow, incomplete, but for the most part did its job. It was also expensive. And still is. I just checked and it’s almost $500. Yikes.

Microsoft, believe it or not, also sells a product called Windows Services for UNIX that gives you many UNIX tools. At $150, it’s better priced, but not half as good as MKS.

So, on to the freebies. 🙂

RedHat had purchased a company named Cygnus awhile back. Cygnus started off as one of the first companies to provide technical support for free software. So, for example, if you were an IT shop that used GNU gcc for your C compiler, you could pay Cygnus to provide support.

Cygnus also sponsored a software project where they were writing a DLL for Windows that would provide many of the standard UNIX library calls. They also created a set of UNIX tools that used this DLL. RedHat bought them out, and spun off the Cygwin project. For a cost of – well, nothing – you get a very complete UNIX-like environment for Windows. This includes the Bash shell, compilers, X11, CVS, grep, sort, ssh, rsync, and the list goes on and on.

I installed Cygwin the other day and have been blown away by it. Very complete, very solid, and I don’t have to type “DIR”. 🙂

Grab it from http://www.cygwin.com/ and see for yourself.

[Added 4/12/2002]
Tim Daneliuk has reminded me about djgpp, which has been around for quite some time. Its web site states:

DJGPP is a complete 32-bit C/C++ development system for Intel 80386 (and higher) PCs running DOS. It includes ports of many GNU development utilities. The development tools require a 80386 or newer computer to run, as do the programs they produce. In most cases, the programs it produces can be sold commercially without license or royalties.

Check it out at http://www.delorie.com/djgpp/

About Kevin

Kevin Jarnot is a technologist who lives just South of Boston, MA. He is currently employed as Chief Technology Officer at DebtX, a financial services technology company based in Boston.
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