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Windows on Linux.
So while the open source world continues its steady march to get native applications to the masses, users still need stopgap solutions today. They want to run their old applications, their old Windows-based applications. Fortunately, there are a couple of options. The most publicized in the Linux world is WINE, a set of open source libraries that translates Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 (or, more technically, Windows 3.x and Win32) function calls into Linux calls. This is what allows applications like CorelDRAW to work on Linux systems. WINE provides both a porting library and a program loader so Windows applications can simply run right out of the box. WINE's primary advantage over other Windows-on-Linux solutions is that is doesn't require the Windows operating system. It is a replacement for Windows. WINE's limitation is that it isn't completely stable with all applications and with commercial packages such as CorelDRAW you often get a version of WINE specific to that application just to be sure it works.
One alternative to WINE is to provide virtual environments in which users can run the Windows OS of their choice directly on Linux. VMWare is one such solution. VMWare offers the ability to run Windows on Linux or to run Windows and Linux side by side without dual booting. VMWare's advantage is that it runs all Windows offerings from Windows 3.1 to Windows95/98/NT to Windows 2000. In fact, it can run Windows on Linux or Linux on Windows. VMWare is a proprietary product which retails for $299/$329 for the electronic or packaged distributions, respectively, of the side by side solution (referred to as the "Workstation" product) or $79/$99 for the Windows on Linux version (known as the "Express" product).
The downside to Win4Lin is that it currently only supports Windows 95 and 98. The package retails for $79 for the downloadable version, $89 for the boxed set and can be purchased through online retailers such as LinuxCentral or LinuxMall.com, or through brick and mortar locations of such retailers as Fry's, MicroCenter, and CompUSA.
Reviewing Win4Lin. In a strange case of déjà vu, LWN.net editor Michael J. Hammel stumbled upon Win4Lin when a press release noted the product's long forgotten history as Merge, a DOS emulator packaged with Dell's SVR4 Unix from many years back. Interested in finding if this product had evolved into something useful (which it really wasn't back then), we decided to sample Win4Lin here at LWN.net.
We contacted Netraverse and they provided a boxed set of the package in very short order. Installation starts by having the graphical installer, win4lin-installer, check for an updated installer at their web site. A new version was found, downloaded (though you can skip this step if you want), and started. Next, the updated installer checks for an updated Win4Lin runtime package and an updated, Win4Lin-enabled Linux kernel. Since the existing kernel was not modified (Red Hat 6.1) the installer was able to easily recognize the standard kernel and add the new Win4Lin-enabled kernel to the Lilo configuration. The new kernel became an optional boot kernel:
$ lilo Added linux * Added win4linAfter installing the Win4Lin-enabled kernel, the Linux system required a reboot. Lilo had been updated properly but the original kernel was left as the default boot kernel, so the new kernel had to be manually selected from the Lilo prompt at boot time.
Once back into the X session, the installer was manually restarted. It correctly identified that the Win4Lin installation was not complete and prompted for the install of the Windows98 operating system. Note that if you accidently run the installer as a normal user at this point it will catch this and ask you to rerun it as root to complete the installation.
The installer copies all of your Windows installation CD and boot floppy files to your hard disk and then ask you to restart the installer (/usr/bin/win4lin-install) as a normal (non-root) user. This final step installs the Windows for use by that user by opening a Win4Lin window which emulates the Windows environment and runs the usual Windows98 installation process. This goes amazingly well - except, of course, that the Windows98 install requires 4 reboots. Fortunately these are virtual reboots (not real hardware reboots) that Win4Lin handles without a problem. The Win98 install completes the Netraverse install. After you exit the installer it automatically boots a Win98 session.
The mouse works as you expect - in the Linux windows it does what you want under Linux. In the Win4Lin window it works in the Windows environment, opening menus and moving Win98 windows around within the Win4Lin window. Internet services work right out of the box. The default of using winsock (instead of VNET) worked fine with our cable-modem connected network. The box on which Win4Lin was installed also happened to be the gateway box, so we weren't able to test how things might work on a box behind the firewall. That said, the first time we booted there was no network configuration necessary under Windows in order to get the IE browser to cruise the Internet. The only other issue we ran into, which may be specific to the Red Hat 6.1 distribution we were running, is that in order to use the cdrom you need to set the permissions on the device (/dev/cdrom or whatever that may be linked to) to 555. The default directory mapped as your C: drive is $HOME/win, which is shown under Windows as "~/win".
Win4Lin and Windows Applications. We only tested a few applications because we simply don't have many Windows applications available. But the applications we did try seemed to work just fine.
SimCity 2000. This game Installed and ran just fine. It doesn't require DirectX so there was no problem on that end. The game ran a little sluggishly when the Win4Lin window did not have focus or was hidden behind other X windows. Sound worked out of the box again, using the existing sound set up from Linux and with no additional Win98 sound system configuration required.
Lotus Notes R5. Again, the Windows installation went smoothly. We had a few problems accessing email and calendar databases but that may have been from an improper installation of the application. All other functions seemed to work as expected.
Microsoft Encarta97. This is one of the few packages we might find useful, with its dictionary and research papers available. The installation process for Encarta even reported that MIDI sound support was not available, which it wasn't under Linux. Even so, all images, sound and video worked perfectly under Win4Lin.
You Don't Know Jack. An interesting game to say the least, this one worked nearly perfectly. No problems with installation (which was very quick) and the game and all animations and sound played without problems. The only minor issue we noticed was that the sound volume control under the game didn't seem to affect actual sound volume. For what it was worth, sound on the test machine was run through the ESD sound daemon.
Win4Lin suggests turning on backing store in your X server, something you can do after installation. Backing store is normally turned off in XFree86 and can slow performance if turned on. We tested with Xi Graphics' server without backing store turned on and there were no problems, even when bouncing around desktops under FVWM2 or overlaying XV and GIMP windows. If you experience problems with screen refreshes (the Win4Lin window doesn't get updated if you change desktops for example) you may want to turn on backing store for your X server. The manual explains how to do this using the XFree86 X server which comes standard with all desktop Linux distributions.
Another issue we noticed was that there didn't appear to be an option for specifying where files for win4lin or Windows98 would be installed. By default they all get installed under /opt (the Win4Lin files) or the users $HOME directory (the Windows OS files).
The only serious bug we encountered was being forced into capslock mode at one point during installation of a Windows application. This problem, which forced us to completely exit our X session in order to reset to non-capslock mode, only occurred once and we aren't sure exactly how we managed to get there.
There are various gotchas with the Win4Lin package - like the install time listed when installing an application under Windows may be incorrect. However, the manual seems to do a good job describing them and how to deal with each one as it arises. None of these would have been considered a major problem, just something worth keeping an eye out for. Read the manual for each step before proceeding to be prepared for them as they arise. More troublesome is that Win4Lin does not support DirectX or DirectDraw, which means many games won't work. RealPlayer is also reported not to work. Cut and paste between Win4Lin and Linux is not supported yet, something that does work with tools like WINE.
Even though many games may not be supported, the majority of applications seem to work fine under Win4Lin as long as they are Windows 95 or Windows 98 applications. This in itself opens up Linux users to a wide range of available applications. While you may find that running too many native applications (especially resource hungry applications like Web browsers) at the same time as Win4Lin may bog down your system, in general this is a very useful and easy to use product. If you've already made the investment in Windows and accompanying applications, but truly prefer to run them on the Linux platform, you would do well to make the additional investment for Netraverse's Win4Lin.
Lesser tools of the trade. Another set of Microsoft related tools that deserve mentioning before we move on are the Mtools, a collection of DOS floppy disk utilities. Each utility program carries the usual DOS command name prefixed with an "m", such as "mdir" and "mdel". This very useful set of tools is maintained by David Niemi and Alain Knaff, with the latest release, Mtools-3.9.8, having been released May 27th, 2001. There is even a GTK+ based front end to these tools called MtoolsFM, which is a sort of file manager for floppy disk files.
Spelling update. Last week we missed a rather interesting - and easy to use - programming interface for spell checking in GtkText widgets: GtkSpell. This LGPL library attaches to the GtkText widget and allows the programmer to provide simple spell checking facilities to any GtkText based application. The only question, of course, is will this library be updated to work with the more complex text widget of GTK+ 2.0?
Units update. Last week's note on units, the swiss army knife for unit conversions, included an obvious (to everyone but the editor) bug. Or so it appeared.
In this example, the conversion from degrees Farehnheit to degrees Celsius was noted as being wrong:
You have: 79 degF You want: degC 79 degF = 43.888889 degC 79 degF = (1 / 0.02278481) degCOne reader wrote in to say that the root of the problem was found to be related to a missing value of 32 in the C/F conversion. The version of units used was 1.55. The GNU FTP site for units shows a version of 1.74 is now available, though the previous release provided is 1.55.
According to units current maintainer, Adrian Mariano, version 1.55 is the most stable release. And the results shown last week were actually correct - the problem was that the question was interpreted incorrectly. What units shows isn't the conversion between 79 degrees Fahrenheit to degrees Celsius but the equivalent change in degrees Celsius for a change of 79 degrees Fahrenheit. Whew! This problem is actually explained in the man page:
The `units' program converts quantities expressed in various scales to their equivalents in other scales. The `units' program can only handle multiplicative scale changes. For example, it cannot convert Celsius to Fahrenheit but it can convert temperature differences between those temperature scales.
And as the author puts it:
I ask...: What should be the result of the conversion 17 joules degF^3 / kg m to calories kelvin degC degF / lb ftThe problem is more complex apparently than meets the eye of the casual user. The author also noted that version 1.77, which does support conversion between temperature scales (and not just temperature changes) is a radically new version that is in early development. The 1.74 version on GNU's site was news to him - he wasn't aware anyone had put a copy there.
KIllustrator update. The status of KIllustrator remains unclear this week. Last week's report of a lawsuit filed against the author of the web site for the package and the University he attends was not completely accurate. As it turns out, German law permits law firms and even consumer organizations to file what are known as Abmahnungs ("Warnings" in english) on behalf of companies if the firm or organization notes a possible trademark violation. The accused party can pay a fee (part of which goes to the lawyer and part to the trademark holder) and stop the abuse or risk being taken to court. Such warnings could, of course, be easily abused by less than honorable lawyers. We're not quite clear on whether Adobe was actually involved in this case or not.
Additionally, we noted that guilt by association was hardly a basis upon which this case could rest its merit. One reader replied that guilt by association is apparently enough, at least by German standards. We think this topic should rest a bit while those with actual experience in German trademark law examine it more thoroughly.
KDE 2.2beta1: Ready to Roll. The first official beta release of KDE 2.2 has been announced by the KDE Project. KDE 2.2 offers many new features and improvements over 2.1, including (but not limited to):
Kernel Cousin KDE #16. This week's Kernel Cousin KDE #16 includes discussions on gluing DCOP to SOAP, integration of the new printer management with the Konqueror browser and lots of talk about the possibilities of a Windows version of KDE.
GNOME Summary for June 24 - July 08, 2001. Here's this week's GNOME Summary featuring the new release of the Nautilus file manager.
Nautilus 1.0.4. A new release of Nautilus has been announced to the GNOME Announce mailing list. This minor release includes numerous speed enhancements and lots of bug fixes.
GNUstep Core/GUI 0.7.0 Release. A new release of GNUstep Core/GUI library, version 0.7.0, was announced this week.
Konqueror Gets Activ(eX)ated (KDE Dot News). Two developers have announced that they have added ActiveX controls to Konqueror. The new feature, called reaktivate, is based on the ActiveX features of WINE.
AbiWord Weekly News. The AbiWord Weekly News noted that GNOME printing integration has been fixed, numbered headings have been added and the license to ispell which caused some discussions on the mailing list has prompted Geoff Kuenning (ispell maintainer) to promise to change the license.
GnuCash 1.6.1 is released. GnuCash 1.6.1 has been released. It contains updated user documentation, updated French, German, Japanese,and Portuguese translations, improved startup time, and many bug fixes.
And in other news...
Slashdot talks with GnuCash developer Robert Merkel. The responses to questions submitted by Slashdot readers are actually a collection from the GnuCash team. "If your bank provides downloadable QIF files, as many do, you can import them into GnuCash easily right now. We are working on the ability to use GnuCash's built-in web browser to log on to the bank with SSL and download the QIF directly into GnuCash without having to save to a file."
Section Editor: Michael J. Hammel
July 12, 2001