Open source programming for beginners

Sometimes even experienced developers can be a bit overwhelmed by Linux’s extensive development capabilities. Sit back and soak up these tips to become a smarter and more productive Linux developer overnight…


Running commands from C
Sometimes it is very helpful to run a program or command that is already installed on the system, rather than developing your own solution to do the same job. You can run Linux commands (and programs) by using the ‘system()’ function. It is defined as ‘int system(char *string)’, where ‘string’ can be the name of a UNIX utility, an executable shell script or a user program.

[sourcecode language=”cpp”]#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>

void main()
printf (“Files in the Directory are :n”);
system(“ls -l”);

kunal@ubuntu-vm-kdeo:~$ tips/system
Files in the Directory are :
total 103028
drwxr-xr-x 2 kunal kunal      4096 2010-09-20 10:39 Desktop
drwxr-xr-x 2 kunal kunal      4096 2010-09-20 15:31 Documents
drwxr-xr-x 2 kunal kunal      4096 2010-09-20 08:09 Downloads
-rw-r–r– 1 kunal kunal       179 2010-08-26 16:13 examples.desktop
-rw-r–r– 1 kunal kunal       105 2010-09-20 17:37 main.c
drwxr-xr-x 2 kunal kunal      4096 2010-09-20 13:01 Music
drwxr-xr-x 2 kunal kunal      4096 2010-09-20 13:01 Pictures
drwxr-xr-x 2 kunal kunal      4096 2010-09-20 13:01 Public
drwxr-xr-x 2 kunal kunal      4096 2010-09-20 13:01 Templates
drwxr-xr-x 2 kunal kunal      4096 2010-09-21 10:12 tips
drwxr-xr-x 2 kunal kunal      4096 2010-09-20 13:01 Videos
-rw-r–r– 1 kunal kunal 105445445 2010-08-01 22:11 VMwareTools-8.4.3-282344.tar.gz
drwxr-xr-x 7 kunal kunal      4096 2010-08-01 22:11 vmware-tools-distrib
Creating and applying patches
A Patch is a piece of code which is used to fix problems in a program. Patches are very popular in the open source software world. Most open source projects accept patches from community members, and as they mature they become core members of the project. So in a way patches are tickets to becoming an open source developer. Patch files contain the line-by-line differences between the original and the modified document. These patch files can further be used by the patch utility to apply the changes to the original file.

To create a patch file:
[sourcecode language=”cpp”]$ diff -uE qt_hello_v1.cpp qt_hello_v2.cpp > patch.diff
Sample patch file contents:
[sourcecode language=”cpp”]— qt_hello_v1.cpp     2010-09-21 14:11:39.145133443 +0530
+++ qt_hello_v2.cpp     2010-09-22 07:18:17.064900182 +0530
@@ -6,6 +6,8 @@
QApplication app(argc, argv);
QPushButton hello(“Hello world!”);
hello.resize(100, 30);
+  hello.setFont(QFont(“Times”, 18, QFont::Bold));
+  QObject::connect(&hello, SIGNAL(clicked()), &app, SLOT(quit()));;
return app.exec();
To apply a patch:
[sourcecode language=”cpp”]$ patch -b < patch.diff
This command will also create a backup of the original file with the .orig extension.

Conditional compilation
One of the primary strengths of open source software is its cross-platform compatibility. By making your software cross-compatible, you are not only playing nice with the open source community but also expanding the market for your software. There are multiple ways by which you can achieve cross-platform compatibility, out of which one of the methods is called conditional compilation.

You can use conditional compilation to select particular sections of code to compile, while excluding other sections. The #if, #ifdef, #ifndef, #else, #elif and #endif directives can be used for conditional compilation.
In the following example we are placing platform-specific code which will be compiled differently on each platform.

For example:
@code: ifdef.c
[sourcecode language=”cpp”]#include<stdio.h>
int main()
#ifdef __APPLE__
printf (“Running on an Apple Platformn”);
#ifdef __GNUC__
printf (“Using the GNU compilern”);
#ifdef __WIN32
printf (“Running on a Microsoft Platformn”);
return 0;
On Linux:
Using the GNU compiler
On Mac:
Running on an Apple Platform
Using the GNU compiler
On Windows (With Visual C++):
Running on a Microsoft Platform
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