Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Running MS-Windows "virtually" in Linux? WMWare may save the day.


You know me well enough by now to know that once in a while I have to talk about my favorite operating system, Linux. In short, though I love Linux for its stability and its price (FREE!), and Ubuntu Linux as my current preferred "flavor," I also end up running Windows far too much of the time. The main reason? I use Windows-related programs which do not function under Linux. At least... not usually.

There are ways to get Windows programs to run on the Linux Desktop. First, there is the freeware but also unreliable "wine" (WINdow Emulator), which does run my old Quickverse Bible program under most Linux releases. But it does not run MS-Office, and it also will not run DreamWeaver UltraDev or Photoshop. There are alternatives to the freeware version, most notably Codeweavers' Crossover (currently version 6.1). I tried an earlier version and it did in fact (based on the wine project's code) run MS-Office. But I also experienced some anomalies. The newer version promises better stability. The price tag of $39 seems reasonable -- quite so.

But even more reasonable is the price tag on what has long been the Cadillac of Windows on Linux software solutions. VMWare's "virtual machine" solution actually allows a complete Windows installation to be created within Linux (actually it also allows for the reverse, but who wants to do that?!). And this software, once quite expensive, is currently available for FREE download.

Caveats... you need a newer, faster machine to run this all on. After all, you have a Linux box running a complete windows 95, NT, 2000, or XP install -- you choose at installation time which -- inside the Linux desktop. You'll also have to make sure you created enough free space in your Linux partition that you have room for the size of Windows installation you'll need. And of course, as one might expect in Linux, I ran into a snag during my Ubuntu install I hadn't expected. That was easily fixed by doing a web search on the newest Ubuntu kernel and update, which I had just installed previous to downloading VMWare Server. Once I typed in "VMWare" and "Ubuntu 7.04" (the current version) I found a few descriptions of a fairly simple fix having to do with a needed set of Linux library files. I urge you to look up your exact Linux distro and version in regard to VMware before attempting an installation.

There are sometimes issues as well with video drivers, depending upon what you are using. Installing an added set of files from within the Windows virtual system called VMWARE Tools should solve those problems in many cases.

I long ago installed a version of VMWare on my computer, and it was a bear to install the Windows virtual machine. But that process has been made so simple with VMWare Server's current edition that anyone can do it in an intuitive manner. And, as I hoped, Windows has no idea Linux is even there. It literally "reboots" the computer (but only inside its little virtual window) and can run anything run on normal, non-virtual, Windows desktops.

If you love Linux, and want to run some Windows programs, this is the program for you. I should note also that those who love their 3d games and such may not be as happy with WMWare. I have no idea, as computer games, no matter how clever, bore me to tears. Give me a solitaire or hangman game and I'm happy.

Perhaps in the future I'll actually post some desktop photos of my own with VMWare running on top of Linux. But for now, the above photo of someone else's Winduhs on Ubuntu Linux desktop will have to do. Geek on, you fellow Linux Loons. Er, that would be Penguins, actually...

A final note... VMWare allows the installation of many different OS's, including all Windows versions, MS-Dos, Linux (within a Windows desktop), or I suspect even a different version of Linux within a Linux desktop. My question, which I haven't looked into yet... can OS/2 be installed within either Windows or Linux? If you don't know what OS/2 is... never mind.

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