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I need to compile a C++ application to run on Red Hat 5.9, but I don't have access to a development server that runs Red Hat 5.9.

My current executable compiled on Ubuntu 10.04 produces the error message

/lib/libc.so.6: versionGLIBC_2.11' not found`

which probably means that RedHat is using an older libc. Which free Linux distribution should I use to compile for Read Hat 5.9 ?

I read that Red Hat is based on Fedora and RHEL 5.x is based on Fedora Core 6. Do I really have to use such an old system to compile for a rather recent RHEL 5.9?

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CentOS 5.9 is binary compatible with RHEL 5.9. You can even fire it up in a VM.

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You may try Scientific Linux 5.9, which has the advantage of being heavily tested among big academic communities of users (notably, CERN & Fermilab). If your application is of the scientific category, I suggest you check out this argument. Also, at least once in the past, CentOS did not want to collaborate with downloaded postgresql rpms, while SL worked for me. That was 5 years ago so maybe this argument is now irrelevant.

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