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Migrating Visual Basic Applications? 72

Posted by Cliff
from the from-dogs-to-penguins dept.
goose69 asks: "I was looking at the various options available to migrate Visual Basic applications on to GNU/Linux , as usual the choices were many from Free Solutions like wxWindows, Gambas, vb2py, to proprietary ones like Phoenix, and so on. Unfortunately, Mono was too much with its multiple licenses. I want to know if anyone out there has done a successful migrations from Visual Basic on Windows to any application framework on GNU/Linux."
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Migrating Visual Basic Applications?

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  • by numbski (515011) * <numbski@@@hksilver...net> on Monday April 04, 2005 @05:39PM (#12138194) Homepage Journal
    RealBasic 5.5+ [realbasic.com] does a large portion of the work involved for you. Simple applications port right over to Windows, Mac, and Linux (thus FreeBSD).

    Makes UI development easy, and I do all of the 'hard working' code in perl.
    • Funny, I can't seem to find their Linux version of RealBasic.
    • by lordDallan (685707) on Monday April 04, 2005 @08:12PM (#12139485)
      The about to be released version [realsoftware.com] of RealBasic does allow the IDE to run on Linux and is written in RealBasic.

      This implies that its Linux support will be more robust than the current version's.

      Also, if you have a VB 6 license, you can get a free RealBasic Standard for Windows license [realsoftware.com] through April 15th.

      One thing to look out for if your writing a RealBasic application for Linux is DB support. There are many database plugins for RB but I've had issues getting some of them to work properly on Linux (though it's been awhile since I've tried so things may have improved).

      Anyway, if you're a licensed VB6 user, you probably have a Windows machine, so why not get the free RB license and give it a whirl. It is a "better basic" than VB6, mostly because it's a real OOP environment and is actively being worked on by a company that lives or dies on it being a good product.

      HTH
      • by ikilledmidnight (872689) on Monday April 04, 2005 @09:45PM (#12140050)
        I personally prefer RB over VB for a number of reasons, including:
        • unlike VB you don't have to have certain DLLs installed etc, the apps are self contained
        • It's cross platform from the same code (Windows 98 and onwards), OS 9, OS X, Linux (Redhat SuSE, I dunno about any others)
        • I find the IDE, far more intuitive and less cluttered and not so 'Windows 95'
        • The help system is FAR better
        • theres way more default controls, for example theres a TCP socket in RB you don't have to import the winsock dll to add TCP capabilities


        to be fair I haven't used VB since VB 6, so I have no idea what .net is like, but thats the way I see things anyway...
      • I poked around the RealBasic site and didn't get too many leads on this.

        What does it take to write extension modules (either GUI or non-GUI) for RealBasic? Do you write them in RealBasic or is there a way to write them in C/C++?

        If you do a GUI extension module, does your application become dependent on Windows/OS-X/Linux or does it have some kind of abstraction of the GUI and abstraction of the graphics drawing surface accessible from C/C++?

        • you have to write them in C/C++ theres a realbasic plug in sdk avaliable to download here [realsoftware.com]

          theres a dated plug in writing example here [mactech.com] which'll give you a rough idea of how it all works, RB plug-ins are only platform specific if you use platform specific code, if you use active x for example, it becomes a windows specific plug-in.
    • I'd like to add that RealBasic announced [realsoftware.com] just today that they are offering a free RealBasic license to anyone who holds a VB6 license, up to 3 per physical address.

      There's a utility to convert a VB6 project to RealBasic as well as a migration guide.

      I've downloaded and installed, but haven't taken the time to review it yet.
  • Maturity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spudley (171066) on Monday April 04, 2005 @06:13PM (#12138501) Homepage Journal
    It comes down the maturity of the development environment. For all its many faults, VB is a mature platform. Gambas is not. If you're planning to release an application for use in the real world, Gambas is not a choice you should be considering. No matter how tempting it may be for a VB developer, if you're serious about using it, at least wait until v1.0 is ready.

    I think the closest match you're going to find for a serious project would probably be the QT designer. I know it's based around C++, but it is a stable and mature environment, and has a track record of producing real-world applications.

    If your VB app was well written, with a decent class structure, it shouldn't be too hard to convert to any OO language, so as long as you have a grasp of C++, the process wouldn't be too difficult.

    If the app *isn't* well written, converting it is probably the wrong approach - you should be thinking of re-implimenting it your chosen new language - in other words, take the opportunity of the change in language to improve your code structure; don't carry your old mistakes across into new code.

    • This might help... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by leonbrooks (8043)
      ...thanks, Naken [naken.cc]. I'd like to see VB2Ruby one day, please, if any of y'all have some free time.
    • Re:Maturity (Score:2, Interesting)

      On Linux, I use Java with the free NetBeans IDE as a VB 'replacement'. It has a drag-and-drop form designer that will automatically tie control-events to your functions (it writes an empty stub method for you). It uses Swing, and is a good bit slower than C++ (partly Swing's fault, largely Java's fault), but likely as fast as VB. This will be more like a re-write than a simple port, but it uses a more 'popular' platform than any of the Basic solutions that have been mentioned, and is probably easier and
    • For all its many faults, VB is a mature platform

      That's what I keep telling people about .Net
      They started over from scratch (at least on the VB part.) So you're starting out with a still maturing product.
    • Actually, Gambas 1.0 was released back in January; the current stable release is 1.0.4.

      In the unstable 1.9 tree there's working support for ODBC, Gtk (in addition to and code compatible with the Qt support), full screen and windowed SDL, perl-compatible regular expressions, a VB form importer (just the form, not the code yet), support for components which themselves are written in Gambas, and a bunch of other awesome stuff. I wouldn't use the unstable tree for production code yet, but the 1.0.x series is
  • Migrating (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04, 2005 @06:13PM (#12138502)
    If you want to migrate a single application from VB use Gambas. The languages are quite similar which will make the transistion much quicker and doesn't need as much new knowledge.
    OTOH if you want to migrate a business task from VB and are prepared to actually rewrite whole applications use wxWidgets (it's been called wxWidgets for some time already, read this document [wxwindows.org]) with whatever language you want, binding for many common (and not so common) languages exist. Use C or C++, use Ruby or Python or Perl or even use JavaScript ;)
  • by TsEA (109514) on Monday April 04, 2005 @06:14PM (#12138505)
    Excuse me, but I really can't understand the phrase: "Unfortunately, Mono was too much with its multiple licenses."
    Anybody read this? http://www.mono-project.com/FAQ:_Licensing [mono-project.com]
    Uses 3 common licences from the GNU/Linux world, GPL, LGPL and MIT/X11. Don't you use X? Don't you use the linux kernel? Does the licensing trouble you?
    I really didn't understand this, Mono is one of the clearest (and most convienient) in licensing terms....
  • by Joey Vegetables (686525) on Monday April 04, 2005 @06:30PM (#12138660) Journal

    A lot of VB code is mostly glue tying together COM components, such as UI elements, database libraries (ODBC/OLEDB), etc..

    There is nothing exactly like COM in the Linux/UNIX world, although large projects such as KDE, Gnome, and Mozilla do have rough equivalents if you are willing to rely on them for part of your functionality. Also, much of what Linux lacks in terms of COM is more than compensated by the existence of rich CLI tools that are designed to be tied together with a "glue" language such as shell, Python, Perl, etc.

    My approach has generally been to enforce separation between data, business logic, and presentation to the greatest extent possible. This way, any component can be replaced or migrated to another dev tool or platform if needed.

    Postgres is a great back-end database, and the only Free one I can recommend for most serious apps. Middle-tier / business logic components can be written in pretty much any language that can communicate with both the database and the front end. I like to prototype in Python and then possibly port to C++ later when/if there's a need.

    The front end is the biggest challenge. The Qt and wxWidgets libraries are extremely well regarded and mature, and there are form builder utilities for both, which approximate (but IMO don't exactly equal) the ease of the Windows forms designers. For reporting, numerous PDF generation tools exist although I don't have a lot of experience with any of them, and most will not have the "drag and drop" interface you may be used to from Crystal or Access, but once you get used to writing code that generates output, I find it's a lot more productive than "drag and drop" anyway.

    Most VB code isn't particularly object-oriented (especially since until .NET, VB did not support implementation inheritance). As such, a good multiparadigm language like Python, which supports but does not require OOP, seems like a very good choice.

    Packaging will be an issue. Not all of your target users will have identical operating systems, libraries, or locations for common files. You will need to use some combination of Ant, Make, Autoconf, and similar tools in order to distribute your software in such a way that it can be easily compiled and installed by end users (if appropriate) or whomever else your target market may be.

    Good luck!

    • I believe there are closed-source ports of COM for Linux. DCE was recently open-sourced as well, which arguably does everything COM does and more. If high performance is not an issue, CORBA is also a good bet, with the ACE ORB being one of the more frequently mentioned.

      For clusters, the optimal solution is to use OpenMOSIX and Distributed Shared Memory to provide some of the more useful features. DSM is vastly under-utilized in Linux applications and it might be a good idea if it made its way into the off

    • A lot of VB code is mostly glue tying together COM components, such as UI elements, database libraries (ODBC/OLEDB), etc... There is nothing exactly like COM in the Linux/UNIX world...

      VB had two different "modes": bound database connections and record-set-based connections. Bound connections (live cursors) simplified a lot of development, but tended to be hard-wired to a lot of MS-specific tools and were not as efficient over a trifficy network. It would probably be much easier to port non-bound VB code
    • Packaging will be an issue. Not all of your target users will have identical operating systems, libraries, or locations for common files. You will need to use some combination of Ant, Make, Autoconf, and similar tools in order to distribute your software in such a way that it can be easily compiled and installed by end users (if appropriate) or whomever else your target market may be.

      Just a minor complaint with your post.

      Packaging is not a issue if he/she chooses the correct runtime environment. POSIX/
      • I guess I'm assuming that portability is an issue: Linux users aren't all on x86 platforms, and there are other free *n*xes besides LSB-compliant distributions of Linux. If you care about supporting anything other than x86 Linux, then releasing anything other than source ends up being a LOT of work.

        Not to want to start a Gentoo flamefest here, but I'm impressed with how easy it is to work with Gentoo ebuilds (and *BSD ports). You really end up not having to do much packaging at all: the scripts are smart

        • What a intelligent response. Here I was giving up on slashdot due to the signal to noise ratio lately :)

          I guess I'm assuming that portability is an issue: Linux users aren't all on x86 platforms, and there are other free *n*xes besides LSB-compliant distributions of Linux. If you care about supporting anything other than x86 Linux, then releasing anything other than source ends up being a LOT of work.

          I deal with SCO/NCR/OS2/AIX/Windows/Linux binaries. No issues when your POSIX/ANSI compliant. Compiler
  • Yes (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I want to know if anyone out there has done a successful migrations from Visual Basic on Windows to any application framework on GNU/Linux."

    It's VBScript, rather than VB, but FogBugz [joelonsoftware.com] has been automatically translated from ASP/VBScript to PHP. IIRC, some of the trickier problems were resolved through a hack that relies on Hungarian notation.

  • by apgdev (873377) on Monday April 04, 2005 @07:08PM (#12138997)
    Consider using Appgen as an alternative to VB, offering a single set of developed code that can then run on a variety of OS platforms.

    Brief comparison:

    The Appgen 4GL Development System and Microsoft Visual Basic are both application generators.

    Visual Basic generates one executable file which runs strictly on the Windows operating system. Appgen creates parameter files which run within the Appgen Run Time engine (Appgen is more like Java in this area). The Appgen Run Time is available for multiple operating systems, such as Windows, Mac OSX, Linux (multiple distributions and UNIX (multiple vendors and versions).

    Appgen and Visual Basic both use a screen painter to layout the screen display, and both have screen properties and functions which tie with each screen field.

    Appgen 4GL development is fully integrated with the Appgen Database system; VB has no integrated database.

    With each screen field, Appgen also has a database property where the user can simply define the data field, type, format. The Appgen Run Time will take care of the file open and close, data fetch, update, and type checking. Visual Basic requires another database engine (ex. Oracle, MS SQL) to have the database ability. The user needs to write all functions to connect to the database, open or close files, and need to write SQL commands in all the fields to fetch and update data.

    Although Visual Basic can be fully integrated with MS Access to work in a manner similar to Appgen, the Access database limitation on handling large quantities of data significantly reduces the value of this feature.

    Appgen runs on multiple platforms with the same set of parameter files. VB applications run only on Windows. Appgen supports linking with C programs, which gives user the power to add-on or incorporate their own functions. http://www.appgen.com/ [appgen.com]
  • Visual Rails++

    Now we just need the programming to fit to the name.
  • rediculous anti-mono troll. use mono, it's better than Microsoft and free enough for a lot of people.
    • Actually, on Win32 Mono isn't as good as Microsoft .NET. Of course, on all other platforms, it is superior.
      • Re:anti-mono troll (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rnd() (118781)
        uh, give it time... the 1.16 release (current) includes sse optimization for math and even more optimizations.

        the Mono Project is an incredible benefit to the open source community. We don't need pointless trolling about its licensing on Slashdot.
  • by larry bagina (561269) on Monday April 04, 2005 @08:48PM (#12139716) Journal
    Someone out there has done a successful migrations from Visual Basic on Windows to any application framework on GNU/Linux.

  • Java (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mr. Shiny And New (525071) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:07PM (#12140167) Homepage Journal
    You could always consider Java. Java has lots of support in the Open Source world. The Eclipse IDE is pretty nice. JBuilder, while not Free, has a decent GUI editor (never looked for one for Eclipse, so I don't know if it has one) that can approximate the drag-and-drop approach of VB. Java can do pretty much anything you need it to do, and it's cross-platform. Performace with a modern VM is not a problem.
    The only real problem Java has is that there is no good Free JVM. But I expect that will change in the future. But in the meantime, the Sun JVM is available for most interesting platforms. Java code is pretty easy to write, and maintain, it's well understood by lots of people, it's proven to work well on large workloads, and it has good open-source and proprietary support.
    • Re:Java (Score:3, Interesting)

      The only real problem Java has is that there is no good Free JVM. But I expect that will change in the future.

      I too expect it will change, but the JVM and class libraries are very tightly coupled, meaning one can't really be complete without the other. Thus, I strongly encourage anyone who can to support Free (as in Freedom) Java efforts like GCJ [gnu.org], Kaffe [kaffe.org], Jikes [sourceforge.net], and probably most importantly GNU Classpath [gnu.org].

    • Re:Java (Score:3, Informative)

      by cybergrue (696844)
      Eclipse has the "Visual Editor" plugin too create GUI's. Its now part of the standard plugins, so you can download and install it from inside Eclipse using the add/update software menuitem in the help menu. The VE does takes a while to learn, and still needs a bit of polishing, but its definately useable. I just completed a small project for school using it, and after I learned how to use it, it was the easiest Java GUI that I had ever put together.
  • by aCapitalist (552761) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:57PM (#12140470)
    But the compiler being GPL, the runtime being LGPL, and the libraries being MIT/X11 are too much for this guy too handle.

    Seriously, they're an MS shop who is used to using Visual Studio. The most natural, non-painful migration is to write code using C# and Gtk# or possibly winforms (depending on the maturity of Mono's effort) in Visual Studio on Windows and just copy the binaries or re-compile on Unix until such time that MonoDevelop or some other IDE is mature enough to use.

    These are VB guys we're talking about. They're just going to laugh at you if you throw them in front of a Unix workstation and tell them to fire up Emacs or Vim.

  • Mono (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    If you can stand to wait until Mono has gotten the WinForms [mono-project.com] is done, then afaik, you will be able to write a single app that runs on both win32 and linux(using GTK/Gnome I assume).. Or so I've been lead to believe
  • Many people in this thread have come up with alternatives to VB.NET. Here is a very strong argument for VB.NET and for the .NET platform in general, whether you want to run on Mono or on MS:

    Since Java and C# are very similar, just about all the important open source Java libraries are being ported to C#. Once on C#, they are available for all CLR languages - also for VB.NET.

    Some examples:
    http://www.db4o.com/ [db4o.com]
    http://bbooprevalence.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]
    http://nhibernate.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]
    http://nant.sourcefo [sourceforge.net]
  • I've been searching for it for YEARS, but no, there's no Open Source RAD for Linux that is compatible with C++. Much less with Visual Basic.

    (Check out this link for Differences between Gambas and VB [binara.com] )

    My advise is to rewrite your app using C# and then move it to Mono. Sorry, can't think of anything else.

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