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Linux Ports

By Ross Linder

I am writing in response to Dave Blondell's letter, where he says "The sad truth of the matter is that Bently, and for that matter most other software companies don't get enough requests for Linux ports to justify the production costs."

Well perhaps it's true for ports from non-Unix environments, but it surely is not true otherwise. A look at page 84 "Linux Makes The Big Leagues" and "A place for Linux" is exactly the how I persuaded our company to start using Linux. For only $250 we could have Linux with Metrolink Motif, what's more we could use a cheap PC clone that put our HP715 to shame in the performance stakes.

As we started to use Linux seriously, we bought more tools like Insure++, CodeWizard, and INT Edittable Widgets. Soon the HP was gathering dust, and only used for porting to HP-UX and testing. Ironically the HP715 has just been paid off this year, its still a nice machine, but its no match for a high end Linux PC.

Since we associate closely with some of our clients, they often visit and get to see some of the new enhancements that are under development. Often they noticed how fast Linux was compared to other platforms, so natural evolution took place, and a lot of our clients have switched to Linux.

And the best part of all is that I never need to change a line of code when compiling across platforms, I use simple shell scripts that are used as CC and LN. An example would be..

------------------------------------- mcc --------------------------------
#! /bin/sh

name=`uname -m`

if [ $name = "i386" ]
    cc -DSCO $*
elif [ $name = "i486" ] || [ $name = "i586" ] || [ $name = "i686" ]
    cc -O2 -m486 -fomit-frame-pointer -malign-loops=2 -malign-jumps=2 \
	-malign-functions=2 -DLinux $*
    c89 +w2 -z +FPD -DHPUX -D_HPUX_SOURCE -I/usr/include/X11R5 \
	-I/usr/include/Motif1.2 -I/mnt/INT -I/mnt/700_LIBS/xpm-3.4e $*
The combination of Linux[Intel] with its LITTLE ENDIAN architecture and HP-PA Risc with its BIG ENDIAN (Same as networking) provides a really nice combination of test beds to ensure both byte swapping and 64/32 bit compatibility is tested.

At the end of the day it is no extra effort to provide a Linux solution. Probably the biggest deterrent is the _loud_ anti-commercial voices. Some folk who don't mind paying for software should be more vocal.

Recently a really nice guy called Jay, explained to me why the GNU philosophy was so good, he said someone pays you once to do the work then the rest of the community should be able to get the benefit of your work for free, as you have already been paid.

When I pointed out that most commercial applications take many man years to write, so we have two options, to get one poor soul to pay millions of $'s or we can try to market our product to ten thousand people who would each only pay $100 I got no response.

And while not every one may appreciate or use any of the free software that I have contributed to the Linux community, some of the credit must go to my employer (Who does not provide free software as a rule) for the skills and resources I used to create my free S/W were gained from them, in return they use some of my free S/W.

Copyright © 1998, Ross Linder
Published in Issue 25 of Linux Gazette, February 1998