The Best Multiplatform Development Environment that Ever Lived on One Box

A wish list of capabilities for one environment included security, availability, lots of support for servers and platforms, and remote access. Here's how Linux saved the day and money, too.

VMware, from VMware, Inc., is one of the most powerful tools I use. It runs under both Linux and a number of flavors of Windows, and is a virtual Intel machine. When you run it, you see it counting up memory, like a normal machine would, and then boots up as a normal machine would. It can use virtual hard drives or actual physical drive partitions. You must allocate the physical space you intend to use for a virtual drive upfront, but you can add other virtual drives later on if you run out of space.

Most of the programming I do is in Java, so I don't ordinarily have platform concerns. But when I am delivering software that I know is going to be run on any of the Windows platforms, I like to make sure that it will work properly; so I run Windows NT 4 server under VMware. This alleviates the need for me to have to buy a separate box solely for NT. VMware uses the CD-ROM drive as if it belonged to the virtual machine. Therefore, installing NT is no different than it would be using real physical hardware.

VMware includes a number of choices for networking. The bridged networking option is what makes this really usable. Under Linux, kernel loadable modules are installed to support virtual networking. As far as NT is concerned, a valid hardware Ethernet adapter is present in the machine. This adapter has its own IP address on the internal network just like any other machine would.

After it is set up and running, it appears to all other machines on the network as well as itself, like a normal machine. I run a web server, database server and other services on this machine, and it is accessible to every other machine on the network.

In the case of the web server, I allow port 8080 through the firewall and have a proxy server (redir described above) that then connects to the NT box. To the outside world, content is received as it would be from any other web server.


VNC or Virtual Network Computing is available at: It is a freely available, very thin remote control package that includes a client and a server. It is available for Windows and a variety of UNIX flavors, including Linux. It even has a Java applet version of the client, as well as a client for Windows CE devices. The entire binary download (which includes the client and the server) is under 1MB. It can be installed as a service on Windows NT, and it can also be installed to start automatically at boot on other versions of Windows.

VNC is similar to programs such as pcAnywhere and Carbon Copy. Among its pluses are its abilities to work over secure tunnels, tune down the color depth for faster refreshes and, of course, it's free. The major downside is it is slower than other commercially available, remote-control software.

VNC has become a key enabling technology for me to overcome one of the few drawbacks of VMware. VMware runs as just another X client under Linux. This means that it must run against an X server under someone's regular user session. I wanted to ensure that the (virtual) NT server would be up all the time, like a real NT server machine. VNC allowed me to do this because the UNIX version also doubles as an X server. Here is how I set things up:

  1. Run the VNC server under Linux

  2. Run the VNC client and connect to the VNC server run in step 1

  3. Run VMware from the VNC session

  4. Start the virtual machine

After step 4, the VNC client can be killed, leaving VMware running in the background (because it is running within the context of the VNC server X server), without being bound to any user session.

I installed the NT version of VNC on the virtual machine. Once NT is running, I then remote control it using the VNC client.

VNC is not inherently secure, but because of our firewall arrangement and the use of tunnels with SSH, I can securely control the virtual NT box remotely. I set up a local tunnel that connects to the (virtual) NT box on the port that VNC server listens on (5900 by default):

LocalForward "5900:"

VNC, like X windows, has a notion of display tied to port numbers. Display 0 is 5900, display 1 is 5901 and so on. Once an SSH session is established, the VNC client (vncviewer) can be launched and can connect to localhost on port 5900. As with other tunnels, this will transparently connect to the NT machine on port 5900.

To better understand all these interactions, refer to the ASCII diagram below:

|-----------------------------------| |Linux
| |   |-----------------------------| | |   |VNC Server (Linux)
| | |   |   |-----------------------| | | |   |   |VMware (NT Server)
| | | |   |   |   |-----------------| | | | |   |   |   |VNC Server
(NT)  | | | | |   |   |   |                 | | | | |   |   |
|                 | | | | |   |   |   |                 | | | | |   |
|   |                 | | | | |   |   |   |                 | | | | |
|   |   |-----------------| | | | |   |   |-----------------------| | | |
|-----------------------------| | |-----------------------------------|


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Re: The Best Multiplatform Development Environment that Ever Liv

Anonymous's picture

Ever tested it when it crashed? You use ext2 fs, takes a long time to recover (hours i gues).

But otherwise nice.

Re: The Best Multiplatform Development Environment that Ever Liv

Anonymous's picture

Well, you should also try It really rocks, even under 28K modem.

Re: The Best Multiplatform Development Environment that Ever Liv

Anonymous's picture


will use


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