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Running Windows Apps on Linux: Put Away the WINE - page 2

Looking at corporate and home solutions

  • March 12, 2001
  • By Brian Proffitt

The origin of the Win4Lin product are a checkered history of mergers and acquisitions. Derived from a DOS application named Merge that was developed by Locus, this application saw a lot of owners and changes before ending up in the corporate hands of Netraverse and its President and CEO Jim Curtin.

What makes this product so prized by so many companies?

Win4Lin, now in its 2.0 release, allows you to run Windows applications right on your Linux machine, without the need for a server.

Getting an evaluation copy of Win4Lin is simplicity itself, thanks to the nifty little installation script on the Netraverse Web site. Win4Lin attaches some extra modules to your kernel as it installs, so if you are one of the brave few running kernel 2.4, be forewarned: Win4Lin won't recognize it.

Win4Lin supports a good number of distributions, including: Red Hat Linux 6.x, 7.0; Caldera OpenLinux 2.2, 2.3 and eDesktop 2.4; SuSE Linux 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4; and Linux-Mandrake 6.1, 7.0, 7.1. But it's the kernel that makes most of the difference, since I was able to install it on SuSE 7.1 running a 2.2 kernel.

After running through the installation, each user has to install a copy of Windows on the machine, except for root, which cannot run Windows at all. Win4Lin maps the needed C:\ drive to your $HOME/win directory using the Win4Lin Setup Utility. This process was pretty painless, though be sure you have enough room (up to 195 Mb for Windows 98 2E) on your hard drive to handle it.

Once running, using Windows on your Linux box is much the same as running it on a native machine. Performance was good, and connecting to my printer went well. I installed a copy of Quicken 2001 on this Windows instance without any difficulties.

What really helped during the entire process was the very complete documentation available on the Netraverse site. It steps users through the entire installation and use process so its easy to adjust to the new things you have to do to start and run Windows.

Curtin is very pleased with the Win4Lin product his company has released, but he has no intentions of stopping with just a client that runs Windows on Linux. Curtin's vision is farther reaching than that.

Curtin sees this technology as the beginning of a new era of virtual desktop computing, where all of the states from the current desktop are captured and pushed out onto the network. Thus, if you log into a PC across the office or across the world, all the information from your home PC will appear at your new location--right down to the interface.

Along the way, Netraverse's technology will fill in some more areas. One upcoming product will be the Win4Lin Server, now in beta, that will enter the market currently populated by Citrix servers. After that, perhaps by the beginning of next year, Curtain hopes to see his vision of virtual desktop computing being implemented.

Curtain is pinning this dream on two key assumptions: the continued rapid adoption of broadband Internet access and the success of Linux, which will make moving to a central distribution model much easier.

"We're banking on Linux to be the heir apparent to UNIX," Curtain said.

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