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Ready? Set? Port an App From Windows to Linux!

Thanks to the Novell-sponsored open source Mono effort and its contributors, the idea of cross-platform ASP.NET development isn't a dream. It's a reality.

But how quickly can you go from being only conceptually possible to becoming a reality and then deployed? For the winner of the first round of the Race to Linux 2 contest, it is five hours and 26 minutes.

The Race to Linux 2 is the second iteration of the Race to Linux effort, which first took place in September 2005. The first round of this year's contest was Friday, March 23; the second round is today; and the last round will be April 6.

Race participants must take an ASP.NET application created for Windows and port it so it will run on a Linux server. Developers can use Mono, an open source implementation of the ASP.NET framework, and Mainsoft's Grasshopper application, which offers tools that enable Visual Studio users to build applications that run natively in the UNIX, J2EE and Linux environments.

"What is special this year is we now support ASP.NET 2.0 so people can now use Visual Studio 2005 to port the latest and greatest applications to Linux," Yaacov Cohen, CEO of Mainsoft, told internetnews.com.

Not every ASP.NET application is eligible to be ported as part of the Race to Linux, though. As was the case with the first Race to Linux, this one is very much a licensed affair, so that only code provided under a Microsoft Shared Source initiative license can be used.

Last week's first-round winner ported Microsoft's Small Business Starter kit to Linux, which is licensed under Microsoft Shared Source.

Cohen, who is trying to make Race to Linux an annual tradition, said that this year's race is more open than before.

"We're even proposing that people compose their own mashup so they will be able to develop a mashup using a Google API," Cohen said. "Really we want to be more open in terms of letting people compose their own app instead of just porting existing apps."

That the contest will allow for both newly created mashups, as well as ported Shared Source, will also likely make it harder for the judges of the Race to Linux 2 to make a decision. The judges for Race to Linux 2 are the DevX Web site where the Race to Linux 2 contest is being hosted. (DevX is owned and operated by Jupitermedia, the parent company as internetnews.com.

Ultimately the contest is about showing developers what actually is possible. "We want to make sure the app works the same on Windows or Linux," Cohen explained. "This is really about cross-platform .NET, and we want to show that developers have the freedom of choice in terms of platform deployment."

Though Mono is an open source project, not all Linux distributions include it. Red Hat in particular has decided against including it with its enterprise Linux efforts. There was some speculation that the recent Novell-Microsoft patent deal, under which Mono is covered and specifically mentioned, might be the reason some are avoiding it. The Mono Project has specifically noted that Mono is patent free and aspires to remain that way.

Cohen doesn't have a problem with the Microsoft-Novell deal, either.

"I see the same enthusiasm within the Mono community, and I don't see that the people who are integrating Mono are making any new licensing arrangements," Cohen said. "It's between Microsoft and Novell, and it hasn't impacted the rest of the ecosystem."