One of the great advantages of UNIX has always been its portability. It runs on more hardware architectures than any other operating system - in fact, there is hardly a single architecture in common use that does not support some version of UNIX.
Unfortunately, that strength is also UNIX's greatest weakness. Because UNIX runs on so many competing hardware platforms, it isn't possible to go into a software store, buy a UNIX application, take it home, and load it onto your computer. The kind of "shrink-wrapped" software you find for MS Windows or Macintosh systems is hard to come by.
Free software for UNIX is typically distributed in source code form, which limits its use to programmers who know how to build the executable programs from source. Application software is sold on a platform-by-platform basis. You need to tell the software vendor what kind of machine you have, and they have to provide you with a tape loaded with the software compiled for that class of machine.
The vast storage capacity of CD-ROM changes all that. Because there are over 600 megabytes of storage on a single disc, we've been able to offer not just source code for each of the programs on the disc, but also pre-compiled binaries for seven of the most common UNIX platforms:
If you have one of these platforms, all you need to do is to mount the CD-ROM on your system, and run the installation program. The installation program is smart enough to figure out your platform and load the right version. See article 52.5 right for details.
If you don't have one of the supported platforms, it should still be possible to build the software from the source code, using the build scripts that we supply. See article 52.8 for details.