Running Windows apps under Linux

By Richard Sharpe, |  Operating Systems

I have a confession to make. I run Windows on my laptop. That is, I run Linux, and then use Windows under VMware. This month I want to explore the various alternatives for running Windows applications under Linux. While I had long been aware of Wine and VMware, I had only recently heard about another approach: Win4Lin. With that in mind, I fired up Google (another Linux success story), ran a search on Windows emulators, and found one additional lead, Bochs. So this month, we will look at those four alternatives for running Windows applications under Linux.

I run Windows because many of my customers use it along with Linux, and I need to test the same Windows-based applications that they run. However, the main reason surfaced when I got my new laptop about a year ago. I felt adamantly that I would run Linux on it because I had lots of work to do on Ethereal and was writing a book on Samba. Unfortunately, I had several years of mail locked up in Eudora that I needed to access. I also needed to run Word, PowerPoint, and Excel on many occasions, and the dual-boot blues did not appeal to me any longer. So, I got VMware and loaded Windows under it, and I've been much more productive ever since.

While Linux makes great strides in the server space, many desktop applications still only run on Windows at the moment. Thus, many people out there can't run Linux exclusively but need a second system to provide access to the few Windows applications they use.

That fact highlights the need for Linux, though an excellent OS for many businesses, to coexist with Windows for the time being. Of course, we all expect Linux to prevail in the long run but, at the moment, it is often overlooked by people who are not aware that software exists to run Windows applications under Linux.

Wine is not an emulator

Wine is one of the oldest examples of such software. It is an open source package that implements the Windows 3.1 and Win32 APIs directly on Linux and X. It also provides a program loader and allows unmodified Windows programs to run under Linux (and other Intel x86-based versions of Unix). As such, it is not an emulator, and it should provide speed comparable to running your Windows programs natively on the same hardware.

To check out Wine, I downloaded the 091900 RPM from the Wine site and installed it. Besides RPMs for Red Hat 6.x and 5.x systems, the download area contains packages for Debian and the Wine source code.

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