Adios Windows 9x

The upcoming release of Cygwin version 1.7 will be dropping support for Windows 9x (Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows Me). If you're lucky enough never to have to use Windows, Cygwin probably seems like a waste of effort. But, if you're not so lucky, Cygwin is what keeps you sane.

Cygwin is a Linux-like environment that runs on Windows. It provides you with a command-line environment with most of the tools you've come to know and love using Linux. It even provides a number of Linux dæmons that can run as Windows' services, most notably an SSH dæmon.

There also is a port of the X Window System called Cygwin/X, but it appears to have been without a maintainer for a few years. Given that most of the major open-source GUI toolkits now support Windows, lack of the X Window System may not be a huge stumbling block.

Cygwin was started in 1995 by Steve Chamberlain, an engineer working for Cygnus (later absorbed by Red Hat). The earliest mailing list references on the Web are in early 1997, by which time it appears to have been in a functional state.

If you understand programming on Windows and on Linux, and you need some mental exercise, try to figure how you'd implement fork() on Windows. If you want to cheat, check out cygwin/ in the Cygwin CVS.

We can all imagine a better world, one where our favorite operating system is ubiquitous, but imagine a world without Cygwin. If you have to use Windows now and then, that would be a scary world indeed.

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