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Stephen Shankland

Staff Writer, CNET

Top Linux seller Red Hat has begun public testing of software to make it easier for programmers to write software for the company’s various versions of the open-source operating system.

The Raleigh, N.C.-based company introduced the new Application Build Environment, or ABE, Friday on a mailing list for its Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The tool lets developers more easily create different programs that work on various versions of Red Hat’s Linux.

Assuring that higher-level software works smoothly with operating systems has a direct business effect, helping reduce customer troubles and technical-support calls. Red Hat is competing with Novell, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems and others for the attention of programmers and software companies.

Operating systems change over time as new features are added and as supporting software programs–called libraries–are updated. Producing software that works on older operating-system versions can be easier if the programmer is working on that system. Re-creating that environment on a newer machine is one purpose of the new programming tool.

In addition, the software will let programmers test whether their software will work on older versions of Red Hat’s Linux.

The Application Build Environment is initially available for versions of Red Hat Linux running on 32-bit and 64-bit computers using x86 processors, such as Intel’s Pentium and Advanced Micro Devices’ Opteron, the company said.