Linux has gone a long way to making a good home desktop system. The
latest KDE and GNOME desktops provide professional-looking interfaces
and quite a few productivity applications. Word processors and office
applications are maturing, graphics applications are top notch, and a
number of financial applications have appeared.
Games still constitute the largest Linux-application hole, though.
While you can purchase Linux games commercially (for example, I've been
very happy with Civilization: Call to Power for Linux from Loki
Software (http://www.lokigames.com)), quite a few popular games have no
Linux version. Enter WINE; short for WINE is not an emulator. WINE
provides a software layer that allows you to run Windows applications.
Note that WINE only works on Intel-architecture systems, including
Linux and BSD UNIX. WINE does not work on PowerPC Linux or Linux on
other non-Intel architectures.
WINE creates open source versions of the many Windows DLLs (Dynamic-
Link Libraries) -- the Windows equivalent of Linux shared libraries
(.so files). With these DLLs, you can create a WINE installation that
fools Windows applications into thinking they are indeed running on
Windows. This works for quite a few applications, including many games
only available in Windows versions. WINE can run a lot more than
Windows games on Linux, too. In fact, games are some of the hardest
applications to run, because many games make coding shortcuts to
improve performance. These shortcuts tend to make running the
applications under Linux harder, since these games no longer follow the
rules for Windows applications. For a list of some popular games that
run on Linux under WINE, see the LinuxGames list at
http://www.linuxgames.com/wine. CodeWeavers also provides a database of
Windows applications that run under WINE at
Most Linux distributions include WINE but, if you are working with
games, then you probably want to download a more recent version from
the main WINE site at http://www.winehq.com. The main download page is
http://www.winehq.com/download.shtml. You can also access the absolute
latest versions of WINE through the Concurrent Versions System (CVS) --
a process also described on this page.