Software tool ports Unix apps to NT

Testing by Paul Ferrill and Mark Fuller

As Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT makes inroads into the high-end workstation market, government users may need to port software written for Unix platforms to Windows NT. Softway Systems Inc.'s Interix attempts to make the process of porting Unix-based code as simple as recompiling.

The Interix name replaces the OpenNT product from the same company. The recently released Version 2.2 combines the functionality of OpenNT with bundled software from third-party vendors such as Hummingbird Communications Ltd., which offers the Exceed X for Windows server.

The Energy Department is one current Interix user, and the software is available on workstations sold to the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Bethesda, Md., as part of an agreement with Dell Computer Corp. Interix expects to be available on Softway Systems' General Services Administration schedule soon.

The basic Interix package brings all the standard Unix commands to Windows NT. New additions to this version include Hummingbird's Exceed X for Windows server; the Apache World Wide Web server; The Open Group's OSF/Motif 1.2.4 window manager; internetworking products for Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Network File System, Microsoft's Universal Naming Convention and network neighborhood integration; and full Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol support. The software development kit includes Open Database Connectivity database libraries, OpenGL graphics libraries, the OSF/Motif 1.2.4 libraries for compiling Motif applications, and the entire GNU suite of compilers and debuggers.

Overall, we were able to accomplish our task of porting a sample application from a Unix environment to a Windows NT platform with Interix. The task required a substantial amount of user intervention. This product will help users looking for a way to move an application hosted on a Unix platform to a Windows NT machine, but it will require a little work.

Installing and configuring Interix was a little confusing. For our tests, we used the basic Interix platform and the Professional Software Development Kit (ProSDK). The installation manual instructs users to install the Interix platform first, then the ProSDK. The confusing part involved the software licensing screen. After we answered some preliminary questions, a dialog box prompted us to enter the license key for Interix and for the Software Development Kit. We entered both keys, but the installation program insisted that we had an invalid SDK key. After a call to the company's technical support line, we were told that both keys should be entered on that screen only if we were using the regular SDK. Entering only the Interix key allowed us to complete the Interix installation. The ProSDK required a separate installation that was accomplished without incident.

If you want to port an application based on X Windows, you will have to load an X server for it to work. Hummingbird's Exceed is a separate product and, therefore, requires another installation procedure. The Exceed installation went smoothly, but configuration was more difficult. Depending on how the program that you are trying to port uses the features of a Unix X server, some configuration parameters may need to be changed. We had to change the color model to PseudoColor.

Once we got past installation problems, Interix performed pretty much as expected. We did have some difficulty getting a Unix Make File to work. We were, however, able to compile our application by hand, and it worked as expected. We also had a problem with the X server when we attempted to zoom our graphics program, and some of the graphic points were outside of the viewable area. This did not cause a problem on the Sun system on which the program was developed, but it caused the Exceed product to crash.

The documentation provided with the basic Interix product and the ProSDK was limited. A Getting Started manual provides minimal instructions on how to install the product. No screen shots are provided to help users through problems like we had with the license manager. The ProSDK documentation is equally as limited in the installation aspect. It does describe what to do if you want to use Microsoft Visual C++ instead of the supplied GNU development tools. A good portion of the book is devoted to the porting of applications.

Ferrill is a principal engineer at Avionics Test & Analysis Corp. He can be reached at [email protected] Fuller is a computer scientist with Computer Sciences Corp. He can be reached at [email protected]


Interix 2.2 and Interix Professional Software Development Kit

Reseller: Softway Systems Inc.

(415) 896-0708


Will be available on Softway Systems' General Services Administration schedule soon. Interix Workstation 2.2's expected GSA schedule price is $405, while the Interix Professional Software Development Kit is expected to cost $1,399. For more information, call Softway's federal office at (703) 904-4118.


Interix 2.2 brings Unix commands, including the shell scripting environment, to Windows NT. The addition of the Professional Software Development Kit adds the ability to port programs written for Unix to Windows NT. You will need the source code, along with a little perseverance, to get things to work.




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