The Linux Letter: GNU/Windows

Linux / Open Source
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

Last month, I discussed the wget utility--one of the many utilities available from the Free Software Foundation's GNU (GNU's Not Unix) project. Those of us who regularly use Linux (or other *nix-like operating systems) are accustomed to powerful tools such as wget. When we find ourselves on a Windows machine, their absence becomes an almost immediate aggravation. Although wget is available as a Windows binary, many of the GNU tools are not. That is, they aren't available unless you use the topic of this month's column: Cygwin. Cygwin is a UNIX-like environment for Windows that's similar in function to what PASE provides for the iSeries. With Cygwin, the Windows user can enjoy many of the same tools as those available to Linux users, including a replacement for the horribly crippled Windows command shell. Developers of *nix-based applications can use Cygwin to port their applications to a Windows platform. The list of packages available for your use includes the aforementioned wget and X server for Windows, as well as editors, compilers, and many other enticing *nix tools.

The Cygwin suite is built as a series of packages. There is the basic environment, which is required to run Cygwin, along with packages that represent the various GNU tools. These can be selected individually or in groups, such as the "development" or "Database" groups. Although this sounds complicated, installing Cygwin is a breeze. The authors have thoughtfully created a Windows-based package installer, which you can access via the home page of Cygwin. Once the installer has been downloaded, it is used to select and install the base package and desired tools. The Package files can be downloaded to the client PC and installed from the resulting local copy, or they can be installed directly via the 'net. Since the entire Cygwin suite can be quite sizeable, it may be to your advantage to download the individual packages if you don't have broadband Internet access, and you can use the local copies to install Cygwin to other machines on your network.

Let's Get Started

Point your Windows browser to the Cygwin homepage to retrieve the setup program and download it to your local machine. Once it's downloaded, double-click on it to get to the splash screen shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: The Cygwin network installation program splash screen starts you through the installation process. (Click images to enlarge.)


Click on the Next button, which will bring you to the screen shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Cygwin can be loaded from the Internet or from a local drive.


Here, you can choose to install directly from the Internet site, download the packages to a local directory (but not install), or install from a local directory. (Obviously, you would not choose the latter unless you have already completed a prior installation and have chosen to download the packages.) Make your choice and click Next to continue.

At this point, you'll be asked to select the directory into which you want to install the program, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3 caption: The preferred location for Cygwin is "Cygwin" on the drive containing your copy of Windows, in this case drive H.

If you read the FAQ for Cygwin, you'll note that the authors recommend that you choose something other than the root directory of a hard drive. The default given, Cygwin, works well. The default file type option (DOS or UNIX) , determines whether the end-of-line delimiter is the carriage-return plus line-feed combination used in DOS programs or the line-feed used in *nix programs. If you're going to do editing using one of the editors supplied with Cygwin, then you can leave the default to UNIX. If you'll be using Notepad or another Windows editor, choose DOS.

A click on the Next button brings you to the prompt shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: The packages will be downloaded to the location you specify.


Here, I've chosen to place the files into a directory on a networked drive so that other machines may have access to them via an FTP server. Select an appropriate place for your installation and then click on Next to continue.

Having defined the environment for the Cygwin installation, we now turn our attention to the network. The next screen (Figure 5) defines the type of Internet connection that you require (e.g., proxy or direct connection).

Figure 5: Specify any special Internet connection needs in this panel.


You'll have to determine which of the choices is appropriate for your situation. In my case, a direct connection was adequate. Click on Next, and you'll be given a list (Figure 6) of Cygwin mirrors from which you'll download the actual software. Pick one that you recognize as being relatively close (in Internet terms) to you. I chose a mirror hosted at Purdue University.

Figure 6: Specify the source location, preferably one close geographically to you.


Click on Next, and the setup program will retrieve a list of packages available to you. A status box will be displayed (Figure 7) while this takes place.

Figure 7: This progress display is for the setup package initialization.


Once that's complete, you'll be presented with a package selection screen, shown in Figure 8.

Figure 8: You can select specific packages in this panel. The default is to load the base installation of Cygwin.


By clicking Next at this point, you will select the base Cygwin installation, complete with a BASH shell and the most basic of *nix tools. Feel free to do this now. You can always rerun the Setup.exe program and add any packages that you need later.

The status screen shown in Figure 9 will display the current state of your installation.

Figure 9 caption: A progress display lets you know how the installation is going.


At this point, things will grind away for a while (depending upon your available bandwidth) and the only required actions on your part will be to make a choice about icon creation (Figure 10) and to click Okay to the Installation Complete prompt. That's it! You now have a functional *nix environment on your Windows PC.

Figure 10 caption: The installer will create icons for Cygwin in the locations you select here.


A Quick Orientation

Once the installation is complete, click on "start->cygwin->cygwin bash shell." You are now in a bona fide BASH shell for Windows. If you issue the command pwd (print working directory), you'll note that Cygwin has created a home directory for you and placed you in it. If you issue the commands cd / and ls -l, you'll see the same directories as you'd find on a *nix machine, as shown in Figure 11.

Figure 11: Cygwin's root directory as seen from the BASH command interpreter.


The directory structure of Cygwin requires some explanation, since it can be somewhat disconcerting if you are unable to locate your existing Windows files. Cygwin creates a *nix environment, directory structure included, within the Windows system. In *nix, the slash character (/) represents the root directory. All other directories and files are located under root. The iSeries does the same thing with the Integrated File System (IFS). The root file system is represented by a slash (/), the OS/400 file system is located in /QSYS.LIB, the original shared folders can be found under /QDLS, and so forth. Unlike the iSeries, Cygwin maps its root directory to the folder in which you installed the package (which, in my example, is H:cygwin).

What if you want to traverse the Windows directory tree on your machine? To do this, you'll need to use the special directory /cygdrive, in which you'll find a directory relating to every drive on your system. You'll typically have at least /cygdrive/c (which represents your C drive) and, if you have multiple drives or partitions, you'll find an associated directory under /cygdrive. This is a deviation from the normal way that *nix handles directories, done to completely separate the *nix environment from the Windows environment. It isn't obvious to someone familiar with *nix (or the iSeries IFS), so I mention it to lower your frustration level.

What Next?

Now that you have this wonderful environment, what do you do next? That's entirely up to you. You now have a plethora of new tools available to help you write scripts that are far more powerful than you could ever accomplish with cmd.exe or Future editions of this column will discuss other GNU tools, and now you can follow along even if you have only Windows at your disposal. Many of the scripts that you write for the Cygwin environment will also work without change in either the iSeries QSH or PASE environments, so now you can have an entirely separate environment in which to develop for your iSeries.

One other thing--don't delete the setup.exe program that you originally downloaded. This program can be used to install additional packages or delete or update existing ones.

Until next time, enjoy your GNU tools.

Barry L. Kline is a consultant and has been developing software on various DEC and IBM midrange platforms for over 20 years. Barry discovered Linux back in the days when it was necessary to download diskette images and source code from the Internet. Since then, he has installed Linux on hundreds of machines, where it functions as servers and workstations in iSeries and Windows networks. He recently co-authored the book Understanding Linux Web Hosting with Don Denoncourt. Barry can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Barry Kline

Barry L. Kline is a consultant and has been developing software on various DEC and IBM midrange platforms since the early 1980s. Barry discovered Linux back in the days when it was necessary to download diskette images and source code from the Internet. Since then, he has installed Linux on hundreds of machines, where it functions as servers and workstations in iSeries and Windows networks. He co-authored the book Understanding Web Hosting on Linux with Don Denoncourt. Barry can be reached at



Support MC Press Online





  • White Paper: Node.js for Enterprise IBM i Modernization

    SB Profound WP 5539

    If your business is thinking about modernizing your legacy IBM i (also known as AS/400 or iSeries) applications, you will want to read this white paper first!

    Download this paper and learn how Node.js can ensure that you:
    - Modernize on-time and budget - no more lengthy, costly, disruptive app rewrites!
    - Retain your IBM i systems of record
    - Find and hire new development talent
    - Integrate new Node.js applications with your existing RPG, Java, .Net, and PHP apps
    - Extend your IBM i capabilties to include Watson API, Cloud, and Internet of Things

    Read Node.js for Enterprise IBM i Modernization Now!


  • Profound Logic Solution Guide

    SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation.
    Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects.
    The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the companyare not aligned with the current IT environment.

    Get your copy of this important guide today!


  • 2022 IBM i Marketplace Survey Results

    Fortra2022 marks the eighth edition of the IBM i Marketplace Survey Results. Each year, Fortra captures data on how businesses use the IBM i platform and the IT and cybersecurity initiatives it supports.

    Over the years, this survey has become a true industry benchmark, revealing to readers the trends that are shaping and driving the market and providing insight into what the future may bring for this technology.

  • Brunswick bowls a perfect 300 with LANSA!

    FortraBrunswick is the leader in bowling products, services, and industry expertise for the development and renovation of new and existing bowling centers and mixed-use recreation facilities across the entertainment industry. However, the lifeblood of Brunswick’s capital equipment business was running on a 15-year-old software application written in Visual Basic 6 (VB6) with a SQL Server back-end. The application was at the end of its life and needed to be replaced.
    With the help of Visual LANSA, they found an easy-to-use, long-term platform that enabled their team to collaborate, innovate, and integrate with existing systems and databases within a single platform.
    Read the case study to learn how they achieved success and increased the speed of development by 30% with Visual LANSA.


  • The Power of Coding in a Low-Code Solution

    LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed.
    Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

    • Discover the benefits of Low-code's quick application creation
    • Understand the differences in model-based and language-based Low-Code platforms
    • Explore the strengths of LANSA's Low-Code Solution to Low-Code’s biggest drawbacks



  • Why Migrate When You Can Modernize?

    LANSABusiness users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.
    In this white paper, you’ll learn how to think of these issues as opportunities rather than problems. We’ll explore motivations to migrate or modernize, their risks and considerations you should be aware of before embarking on a (migration or modernization) project.
    Lastly, we’ll discuss how modernizing IBM i applications with optimized business workflows, integration with other technologies and new mobile and web user interfaces will enable IT – and the business – to experience time-added value and much more.


  • UPDATED: Developer Kit: Making a Business Case for Modernization and Beyond

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Having trouble getting management approval for modernization projects? The problem may be you're not speaking enough "business" to them.

    This Developer Kit provides you study-backed data and a ready-to-use business case template to help get your very next development project approved!

  • What to Do When Your AS/400 Talent Retires

    FortraIT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators is small.

    This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn:

    • Why IBM i skills depletion is a top concern
    • How leading organizations are coping
    • Where automation will make the biggest impact


  • Node.js on IBM i Webinar Series Pt. 2: Setting Up Your Development Tools

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using as a pre-built development environment



  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.



  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.



  • Encryption on IBM i Simplified

    SB PowerTech WC GenericDB2 Field Procedures (FieldProcs) were introduced in IBM i 7.1 and have greatly simplified encryption, often without requiring any application changes. Now you can quickly encrypt sensitive data on the IBM i including PII, PCI, PHI data in your physical files and tables.
    Watch this webinar to learn how you can quickly implement encryption on the IBM i. During the webinar, security expert Robin Tatam will show you how to:

    • Use Field Procedures to automate encryption and decryption
    • Restrict and mask field level access by user or group
    • Meet compliance requirements with effective key management and audit trails


  • Lessons Learned from IBM i Cyber Attacks

    SB PowerTech WC GenericDespite the many options IBM has provided to protect your systems and data, many organizations still struggle to apply appropriate security controls.
    In this webinar, you'll get insight into how the criminals accessed these systems, the fallout from these attacks, and how the incidents could have been avoided by following security best practices.

    • Learn which security gaps cyber criminals love most
    • Find out how other IBM i organizations have fallen victim
    • Get the details on policies and processes you can implement to protect your organization, even when staff works from home

    You will learn the steps you can take to avoid the mistakes made in these examples, as well as other inadequate and misconfigured settings that put businesses at risk.



  • The Power of Coding in a Low-Code Solution

    SB PowerTech WC GenericWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed.
    Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

    • Discover the benefits of Low-code's quick application creation
    • Understand the differences in model-based and language-based Low-Code platforms
    • Explore the strengths of LANSA's Low-Code Solution to Low-Code’s biggest drawbacks



  • The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security

    SB Profound WC Generic The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security
    Here’s the harsh reality: cybersecurity pros have to get their jobs right every single day, while an attacker only has to succeed once to do incredible damage.
    Whether that’s thousands of exposed records, millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, or diminished share value, it’s easy to judge organizations that fall victim. IBM i enjoys an enviable reputation for security, but no system is impervious to mistakes.
    Join this webinar to learn about the biggest errors made when securing a Power Systems server.
    This knowledge is critical for ensuring integrity of your application data and preventing you from becoming the next Equifax. It’s also essential for complying with all formal regulations, including SOX, PCI, GDPR, and HIPAA
    Watch Now.

  • Comply in 5! Well, actually UNDER 5 minutes!!

    SB CYBRA PPL 5382

    TRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms.

    Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product.

    Request your trial now!

  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    FortraRobot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    FortraRobot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.