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IBM offers free tool for writing Linux software

"Sash Weblications" allows Web developers who don't have extensive programming experience to write software that runs on the increasingly popular Linux operating system.

    A team of IBM summer interns has created a free, new tool that eases the task of writing Linux-based software.

    The tool, called "Sash Weblications," allows Web developers who don't have extensive programming experience to write software that runs on the increasingly popular Linux operating system.

    IBM engineers had previously released the same technology for Windows, allowing Web developers to write programs that have the same look and feel as the operating system.

    Big Blue has taken a keen interest in Linux in recent months. The company is attempting to position itself as a leader in the Linux market, should it develop into a sizable business, by offering the operating system on all of its computer systems. Last month, IBM sweetened pricing for Linux on its mainframe systems in an effort to remove some of the obstacles of running the operating system on large computers.

    With Sash Weblications, Web developers who know Web programming languages such as JavaScript and DHTML can write simple software, such as for expense and sales reports, as well as games, without knowing Visual Basic, C++ or other complicated languages, said Dave Grossman, an IBM Distinguished Engineer.

    Once the new software is written, people can download it from their browsers and install it on their PCs. The Sash Weblications tool allows the newly written software to run on the operating system by integrating the two together.

    The product, Sash Weblications for Linux, was written by seven IBM summer interns and will be available for download to the open-source community within the next few weeks, Grossman said. "We think this will help attract more developers to Linux."

    The Sash technology works with two popular Linux graphical user interfaces (GUIs), KDE and Gnome, both of which can be configured to look almost exactly like Windows.

    Software written with the Sash tool can run whether or not the PC is connected to the Internet, Grossman said. For example, an employee filling out an expense report while disconnected can simply log on and synch the data up to the corporate network, he said.

    Grossman said IBM engineers are also working on versions of the Sash tool for the Palm and Windows CE operating systems. A new version for Windows will ship in August. The products are developed for IBM's AlphaWorks developer Web site, an area where the company shows off and makes available prototypes of its technology.