03 September, 2009

Unix, but not as we know it.

Last night, I finally managed to install the last piece of a group of packages from the SUA Community, a site sponsored by Microsoft to provide further tools for the Services For UNIX (3.5) subsystem. The SFU (now known as Services for Unix Applications or simply SUA) is a Unix-like environment to lure other non-Windows developers over to the Windows platform without scrapping their existing skill-base altogether. It provides an execution environment running within Windows, including “more than 350 commonly used” utilities (grep, sed, awk, telnet, find being a few examples) seen on many Unix-like platforms, shells (ksh, tcsh, perl and rsh-based tools), a compiler (gcc-3.3) and binutils, full NFS server and client, ftpd server, POSIX threads and other things too. They omitted the X server, funnily enough, even though they added quite a few X utilities. Microsoft’s rationale behind this was that there were already enough publically available X servers for download without them reinventing the wheel. Personally, I think that if they had provided a kernel-level X-like server, it would have removed the requirement for other options. Only problem being, we wouldn’t see the source code. But then I’m used to that. Plenty of tools to use in the SFU.

However, the number of tools provided aren’t anywhere near the number provided on a modern (read: released in the past five years) FreeBSD or Linux (or for that matter, the granddaddy of OSes, Solaris) distribution of software. So, the SUA community (previously known simply as “/Tools”) set about remedying the perceived lack of tools by supplying additional ones. Bash—being my favourite, is in there, as is the not so well-known zsh. Then, there’s ncftp, the Xming X server (the last publically-available Xming-6-9-0-31 server), and even several updates to the SUA/SFU tools, most importantly a later version of gcc. Of course, there are a lot of other tools as well (too many for me to mention here) that make the SUA environment a much more useful and friendly place to non-Windows administrators.

Anyhow, to finish off, I finally managed to get Xming installed, merely by downloading the current version from the maintainer (funnily enough, the same version as supplied in the SUA community package collections), and clicking the executable from a normal Explorer. Given that trying to run Xming-setup from a ksh as administrator wasn’t working, I ought to be grateful it works now.

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