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Porting programs from HP-UX to Linux

We have developed ProC programs in our HP-UX environment and are trying to port the source to Linux. Do you have...

any tips for this process? Could you briefly describe what differences exist between administration and management of HP-UX and Linux? Is one easier to handle than the other? An understanding of the skills and tools that map from HP/UX to Linux will help you understand the differences between their approaches to system administration tasks. You will see that the basic knowledge and skills you have gained while working on HP/UX, such as the file systems and the user interfaces (KDE, Gnome), are transferrable. For instance, you will configure system hardware and disk partitions for Linux installation the same as you did on HP/UX. The tools that are included in commercially available distributions are more extensive and will help you do the port with less effort. One important step is to do a source archive for the code you are porting to ensure that you can restore to an old image. Also, you can configure the scripts to do the customization necessary to enable Linux parameters that are slightly different from HP/UX -- such as installation parameters like Links or Lynux that are now included with most of the standard distributions -- to be modified. When you establish this kind of skills-transfer environment and do the process once or twice you will find that porting source from ProC is not that complicated.

The most popular open-source compilers and development tools on Linux are the GNU family (gcc, gmake, etc.). These same tools are also available on HP-UX, so many sites install them and begin preparing their applications prior to any actual move to Linux. What you will find is that while GCC and Linux are reasonably solid in terms of support for the relevant ANSI and POSIX standards, items such as compile options and make files will probably need updating. Of course, if your applications rely on low-level HP-UX interfaces, contain assembler language or kernel code, or are otherwise non-portable, then your porting effort can grow substantially.

One area many people overlook in ports like this is the need to become familiar with some new debugging skills. In addition to basic source-level debugging capabilities provided by the GNU debugger (gdb), Linux also has a wide range of additional tools that can be a big help when diagnosing errors. Although HP-UX has similar capabilities in many areas, your port will be smoother if you take the time to learn some of the Linux equivalents.

Finally, you will also want to verify exactly what add-ons your HP-UX applications require so that you can ensure that the same functions are available on Linux. For instance, you may be using a database or cryptography library of some sort that may not be available at all on Linux. Generally, you will be able to find open-source equivalents, but you may find that the open-source equivalents require sometimes significant changes to your application before you can use them.

This was last published in March 2003

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