Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ways of getting a UNIX environment in Windows

If you're an old UNIX greybeard, and you want to have a UNIX environment in Windows, there are a few options:

Options for cheapskates

The following options allow one to have the UNIX experience in Windows for free:
  • Cygwin is the most well-known option. All of UNIX, including, yes, X-windows, is here. However, it’s a really big download; it’s essentially like having an entire Linux distribution in Windows.
  • MSYS is part of Mingw and has a core UNIX environment in a single tiny 3-megabyte file. This doesn't have some things people may expect with UNIX, such as Perl or Python (or, annoyingly enough, no ‘du’ either), but it does have the Bash shell and Awk, along with the usual ‘ls’, ‘rm’, and what not. It uses a port of the rxvt terminal which allows X-style copy and paste (highlighting anything in the window puts it in the clipboard; middle-clicking or clicking on the mouse wheel these days pastes whatever is in the Windows clipboard); Windows drives are accessed with the directories “/c”, “/d”, and so on.
  • Virtual box along with your favorite Linux distribution.
  • For something a little easier to configure that VirtualBox, there’s VMware player, along with an image of your favorite Linux distro or other free *NIX clone. I like the BagVApp repository of VMware images myself. It’s also possible to make your own VMware images, complete with tools for free; EasyVMX is a web interface for making VMware blank images; VMware’s tools can be obtained by downloading VMware’s free server download.
For-pay options