Product Reviews

Bringing Unix to Windows

Leverage the skills of Unix administrtors with these utilities brought to WinNT/2000.</span>

MKS Toolkit is aptly named, as it’s primarily an impressive collection of Unix command-line utilities or tools. The product brings to Windows NT or 2000 the same strong command-line and scripting capabilities that Unix administrators already know. Most of the product consists of native Win32 ports of approximately 250 common Unix utilities. These are designed to work exactly like their Unix counterparts. I was pleased to see that these are small, portable, and don’t require a supporting DLL to furnish a Unix-to-Win32 translation layer.

The array of Unix programs that MKS Toolkit brings to Windows is well documented, and already familiar to most administrators and programmers transitioning from Unix to Windows. Although the two Unix shells provided (sh and csh) are complete, I chose not to use them. After all, we’re discussing Windows NT/2000 here, and we might as well learn to rely on the system-user interfaces that Microsoft provides. The tools in the MKS Toolkit function well in NT/2000 batch files, although hard-core Unix users may prefer to write shell scripts that run under a Unix-like shell. Perl version 5.004 is packaged with MKS Toolkit and provides another powerful Win32 scripting language. With support for OLE/COM automation and the ISAPI IIS interface, Perl is right at home on Windows NT/2000.

Even though MKS Toolkit is primarily geared toward command-line use, it does contain a few Windows utilities. The two utilities used for scheduling tasks in Windows (ala cron) are nothing to be particularly excited about, but two other Windows programs in the Toolkit are absolute delights. One is Visual Pax, a tremendous tool for working with archives, whether they are stored in disk files or on tape media. The utility supports the creation of tar, cpio, and cpiob archives on multiple volumes (like a series of floppies), and can decompress archives that have been “gzipped.” The tree-view of the archive, with the ability to add and delete files by clicking and selecting, is of tremendous value. For die-hard Unix types, command-line versions of tar and cpio are still available as part of the Toolkit.

If you’re adept at using vi on Unix, you should definitely give Visual VI a try. It supports all the vi keystrokes and regular expressions I can think of. With only a 60K “price” to pay over the character version, you also get the benefits of the standard Windows menu bar (File->Open, etc.), and more important, the ability to highlight text and use the clipboard cut, copy, and paste operations.

The bottom line: Although pricey, the latest version of MKS Toolkit (version 6.2a) is excellent and worth the price for any company that wants to leverage the skills of Unix administrators. The product comes with a rich set of documentation, available as Windows Help files, traditional MAN pages (for you hard-core Unix types), and online HTML documentation. By combining ActiveState Perl and MKS Toolkit 6.2, you can tremendously extend the functionality of NT, not only at the command prompt, but also in script or batch files.

About the Author

Charles Aulds, MCSE, MCP+I, a programmer/analyst with Epic Data, Connectware Products Group, develops bar code data collection middleware.

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