Canadian developer wins .Net-Linux contest


A Canadian software developer has won an international programming competition aimed at changing perceptions about the challenge of porting .Net applications to Linux.

Mark Cafazzo, who works at NorthCore Technologies in Toronto, took the grand prize in a contest called “Race to Linux” that was jointly sponsored by San Jose, Calif.-based Mainsoft, IBM and Novell. More than 600 programmers from around the world entered the cross-platform race, which also awarded prizes to developers from Australia and Romania.

Cafazzo said he was an early adopter of .Net in 2001, when he used it to create an e-learning portal for Burlington, Ont.-based ITIL specialist Pink Elephant Inc. He also had another foot in the Linux camp, however, running Apache Web servers while working for the County of Oxford, Ont. He won the Race to Linux contest by using Mainsoft’s Grasshopper 2.0 Technology Preview and Visual Studio IDE to port an open source Blog Starter Kit to Java Enterprise Edition and run it on Linux.

Cafazzo said there were some initial problems using Suse Linux, but he had a breakthrough when he downloaded VMware Server virtual appliances, as well as a MySQL appliance, which he ran on a box with Windows Server 2003.

“I learned a lot about the .Net common runtime language and the internals of the C# language,” he said. “You also start to understand how Java thinks about these things . . .

It’s opened my eyes to a lot of similarities. There are problem spaces you encounter in the IT business over and over again. Java and Microsoft, although they might have different approaches, they’ve have had the same challenges to face.” Mainsoft chief executive Yaacov Cohen said the idea behind the content is to show how easy it is to develop Linux applications, and that it is something they can use with their existing skill set.

“If you look at the development market, there are a massive number of Visual Studio .Net developers. When you look at Unix or Linux and Java, you’re probably talking about a much smaller community,” he said. “Microsoft did to software development what McDonald’s did to hamburgers – they allowed for rapid development, making it very easy. Linux has been more for computer science people.”

The content offers some incentives, but Cohen said developers are willing to kick the tires of new platforms if given the proper encouragement.

“It’s key with the momentum of Linux in the enterprise and the growth it is experiencing that developers play a key part of that growth.”

Cafazzo said even .Net took some getting used to in the first few years.

“The pain from (version) 1.0 to 1.1 was pretty high because there were so many things that used to work that didn’t quite carry over,” he said.

Cafazzo’s prize includes some cash as well as a Nintendo Wii gaming console. “My kids are really looking forward to it,” he said.


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