Product Reviews

Forget the Wimpy Windows Command Shell

MKS turbo-charges Windows with Unix scripting power.

The MKS Toolkit isn't a single product, but a range of products for interoperability between Windows and Unix environments. I looked at two of these products—MKS Toolkit for System Administrators and the MKS Toolkit for Interoperability—intended for system administrators.

The MKS Toolkit for System Administrators includes a C shell, a Korn shell, the Perl scripting language and many of the common Unix commands ported to run on Windows. If you have experience with Unix scripting, you'll know that even with WSH, Windows today lags far behind Unix in being able to produce useful and powerful scripts to automate tasks. In this case you can leverage those skills to automate your Windows NT/2000 implementations.

The MKS Toolkit for Interoperability adds support for running an X server on a Windows machine, and also includes a single-user license Telnet server. (Recall that in "X" terminology, the words server and client are used differently than we would expect; the X server shares the screen to display output from an X client application). More Telnet client licenses are available separately, although you're probably aware that Win2K also includes a two-user Telnet server free in the base product.

After installation, it became apparent that some toolkit components have been licensed from other vendors. On the Start menu, there will be up to three options added on the Programs menu, for the MKS Toolkit, SL Products (for the Seattle Labs Telnet server), and Vision (the SCO X server). I don't particularly care where the tools come from, and would have preferred that these products be installed under a single menu option, since the Start menu can grow very large and cumbersome.

My other concern was with the amount of hardcopy documentation. Perhaps I'm in the minority these days, but I like manuals with my products, since I like to actually read through them. MKS Toolkit comes with a great deal of online documentation, but the only coverage of topics of interest to me in the systems administration arena was about 50 or so pages in the Product Overview & Solutions Guide.

The Toolkit works as described in providing Unix-like functionality on the Windows platform. I was able to launch the shells, issue commands and invoke shell scripts on my Win2K Server just as I would in Unix. Those who work with both Windows and Unix will appreciate being able to use the same commands on both platforms. I find myself typing cat and ls commands in Windows when I should have used the type and dir commands! At the more advanced level, using tools like grep and sed to find and change strings in text files is very powerful, and not something that has an equivalent today in the regular Windows environment. Any experienced Unix user who feels cramped by the Windows command shell will get an immediate productivity boost from this product.

About the Author

Greg Neilson is a manager at a large IT services firm in Australia and has been a frequent contributor to MCPmag.com and CertCities.com.

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