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Kylix 3: Borland's Linux Delphi and C++ RAD is a Winner - page 2

Test Drives Are Available

  • September 9, 2002
  • By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

As for me, a few days with Kylix Enterprise Edition running on SuSE 8, with all the latest patches, was enough to make me a believer. Red Hat 7.3 users might disagree. There are reports that Kylix won't run on that platform. The officially supported packages are Red Hat 7.2, Mandrake 8.2, and SuSE 7.3. Kylix is windows manager agnostic and will run with both KDE and Gnome.

Looking ahead, given Red Hat's market domination and the facts that Borland has supported the UnitedLinux effort since day one, future official support seems a certainty for Red Hat and the UnitedLinux Linuxes. In addition, IBM and Borland have gotten cozy, so Borland will be shipping a copy of IBM's DB2 Universal Developer's Edition with Kylix Enterprise Edition in the near future.

For practical purposes, you can run any version of Kylix on a 500MHz Pentium II or higher with 128 MB of RAM and otherwise generic equipment. If I were going to do serious development work with Kylix, though, I'd run the RAM up to at least 256 MB. In my case, I ran Kylix 3 on a 1-GHz Pentium III HP Pavilion 7855 system with 256 MB of RAM.

Once in place, the IDE gives you all the tools that Windows developers have taken for granted for years. These include context-sensitive help, forms designers, component palettes, project managers and the like. Of course, you don't have to use all that. You can continue to use build tools such as make or Ant and your old text based editor if you like.

Of course, it's not all that simple. For example, if you still integrate lex and yacc into Kylix, you'll need to dig up Tempest Software's (http://www.tempest-sw.com) wizard to handle the matter on the companion disk. This program, by the by, is not available at Tempest's Website.

I suspect most programmers will find Kylix's cross-platform application framework, Component Library for Cross-platform (CLX) the most useful in their daily programming jobs. With CLX you can write a Linux CLX application using C++ or Delphi and then compile it, with either Borland's Windows development packages C++Builder or Delphi to make a Windows application-and vice versa. With this, and by avoiding Windows specific application programming interfaces (API)s and the like you can use a single code base for both your Linux and Windows applications.

Of course, in theory, you can do this with Java too, but it's harder to pull off in practice. With Kylix, so long as you stick to the Borland family of development tools and avoid such non-standard C++ compiler constructs as '__fastcall,' you really will be able to use the same codebase. And that, for developers who must program for Windows but prefer to use Linux, could just be the feature they wanted.

Both the C++ and Delphi compilers showed good speed. While totally unscientific, my Kylix compile times on sample C++ programs tended to be 20 to 30% faster than gcc. The binaries also tended to be about 10 to 20% smaller when compiled with Borland's own libraries rather than GPLed libraries.

The enterprise edition, with its support for multiple database management servers (DBMS)s, XML, and Web Services, is what will catch the attention of middleware developers. While its ability to code for .NET may attract little attention from Linux programmers--with the notable exception of the Project Mono crew--the many DataSnap components will make it easy to turn Apache into a Web Services server as well as a Web server.

Unfortunately, there's one wee bit of a problem here. Kylix only works with Apache 1.x. Kylix's code was frozen before Apache 2.x was released. And, as many developers know to their sorrow, Apache 2.x brought many, many changes to that workhorse Web server. Borland will be releasing a patch to enable Kylix 3 users to deploy their middleware programs to Apache 2.x, but, at the earliest, that will need to wait until the Apache codebase settles down. In the meantime, if you're planning on running Web services with Apache, stick to version 1.3.26.

So, is Kylix the perfect programming environment? No, of course not. But, it is a major step forward and, based on my own experiences and those of programmers in the Kylix newsgroups, it's remarkably bug-free for a dot zero release. But again, don't take my word for it, download the trial version of Kylix 3 Enterprise yourself--it's approximately 95 MB--and make up your own mind. Chances are you'll be glad you did.

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