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By James T. Dennis, tag@lists.linuxgazette.net
LinuxCare, http://www.linuxcare.com/

(?) UNIX Emulation Under Linux? iBCS

From antonio on Fri, 15 Oct 1999

Hi James,

i read an answer of your's in Linux Gazzette regarding Unix emulators.

I seem to understand that Lucent's Inferno is a Unix emulator for Linux??

I have a problem. There is a program for Pharmacy's here in Italy (very widely used) which has the function of registering medical codes etc. but which runs only under Unix. But Unix OS's are not free so Pharmacies are forced to buy Unix OS (Open Server) only for the sake of letting the computer run for that specific prog i mentioned above. Linux instead is free so pharmacies would not have to afford the price of the OS. Though the company that wrote the prog is not willing to port it under linux ... for obvious reasons of economical interest as they handle the licence of the OS and thus have a share on that too. With linux they would have to give up the that share. Can you help me??

(!) First Lucent's Inferno operating system is not a form of UNIX. It can run as a "standalone" (traditional) operating system, and it can apparently run as a "rehosted" OS (that is an operating system which runs under another system's kernel, and accesses the system hardware through the host OS' system calls). So, Inferno can run under Linux.
Now onto your core question. When you say that this proprietary software runs "only under Unix" what do you really mean? UNIX is not a single product or operating system. UNIX is a family of operating systems and related utilities, and a philosophy or paradigm for system design. In that sense Linux is UNIX.
It is meaningless to say that UNIX is not a free OS. FreeBSD, 386BSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, all have as much historical claim to "being UNIX" as any AT&T SVR4 system. Those are all free operating systems. Linux was independently developed. So it can't claim to be UNIX on historical or "familial" grounds.
What I think you were saying is that this proprietary pharmaceutical management product is written to run under one of SCO's UNIX products (Open Server, or Open Desktop).
If that is the case than you might be able to run the package under iBCS.
iBCS is the "Intel Binary Compatibility Specification" --- an old (pre-Linux) standard binary format for executables on x86 forms of SVR4 UNIX. At one time there were over 20 different commercial competitors to SCO on x86 hardware. There was a lackluster effort among these vendors to share a common executable file format and suite of libraries so that "shrinkwrapped shelfware" could be developed for "any" version of UNIX on the x86.
SCO OSVR and ODT programs are iBCS by default (if I understand it correctly).
Linux does support iBCS through a set of optional libraries. (Ironically SCO and Solaris now support Linux binaries through their lxrun packages. FreeBSD has been able to run Linux binaries for years).
So, it might be technical possible for you to run this proprietary application. Then again the app. might be linked against some SCO proprietary libraries --- which you might not be licensed to copy to your Linux systems.
Aside from the technical issues you must consider the legalities. It might be a violation of your license to run this software under a different OS. Of course it might also be an illegal and unenforcable contract in your jurisdiction. If this company requires that you buy a given product with theirs (bundling), you might have legal recourse.
I don't know. I'm not a lawyer.
So, I'll just get back to the technical issue. You can probably get this to run under Linux by using iBCS.
The iBCS libraries ship with most Linux distributions. You can also find them on line with a simple Yahoo! or Google search.

Copyright © 1999, James T. Dennis
Published in The Linux Gazette Issue 48 December 1999
HTML transformation by Heather Stern of Starshine Technical Services, http://www.starshine.org/

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