Monday, February 23, 2009

Wine - Runnning Windows Apps Without Windows

There are so many great Open Source projects that it makes it difficult for us to contribute to them all on a regular basis. So for now, we are picking a different project each month to highlight and support. This month it is Wine.

Wine helps you run Windows Applications without having to run Windows. It works on Linux, Mac, BSD, Solaris and other platforms. For those of us who want to run Linux but would still like to use software and programs that require Windows, Wine is an essential tool.

I have already shared how Wine has helped me to install programs that would not initially run on Linux. From games for my kid such as Veggie Tales Dance, Dance, Dance, Bible Champions and Jumpstart Kindergarten, to desktop apps such as Clicktray Calendar, without the help of Wine these would not be up and running on my Linux OS right now.

Wine is also very simple to use. Most programs have an autorun script that pops up automatically when you place your cd in the drive. Since you are not running Windows this is usually not going to work. Do not worry, this does not mean the program will not run. You just have to start it manually. Go to your Home Folder (found under the Places heading in Gnome) and you will see a listing for the program that is in the drive. Click on it and then right click either on "autorun.exe" or "setup.exe" and then click on "Open with the Wine Windows Program Loader."

At this point it should start to install. Now some apps would install if I used the "setup.exe" and do nothing if I used the "autorun.exe" but in this case where I was installing Clifford Phonics, it was the opposite. Just try the other if one does not work. Once you click that the installation process continues just as it would on Windows. It really is that simple!

There is also a great program that we found after a comment was left on my last post by Dan Kegel, called winetricks. I will warn you that this is something I did not implement myself but my husband was able to use this to get a program to run that did not originally work after our initial installation with Wine! However, I did watch him and I am confident it is something that I can do as I learn to use the console more. What winetricks does is help you install some of the libraries that are required to run that particular program. It will find what library you are missing that is causing the program not to run and help you get it and install it. Then your program works.

As always, we must keep in mind that Wine is always in development so while it may not help you with all your needs, there are tools in place for you to report errors and submit your own findings. Hopefully that information will be grabbed by programmers who will fix those problems and get that app working one day. I will be addressing in my next post some of the programs that we have to live without or switch to Windows to use. Do note that I have an account at Wine and will be posting all the bugs that I come across and information on each app I try but fail to install with Wine. That is a great way to support the Wine project.

Of course another way is to financially support the work they do. Why not visit Wine at and click on Donate and give to a project that is working hard to make Linux work best for you.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Linux - It just works!

I have really been enjoying getting around in Linux and I am getting used to the Gnome desktop environment. I find it very simple and easy to use and I am learning my way around rather quickly I think. I was not only amazed at how easy the installation process was, I have been really impressed at how intuitive it is. I was also surprised to find how things just seemed to work when I needed them.

The first time I needed to print something I had my husband on standby. I was so afraid I was going to have to install drivers or figure out how to point Linux to my printer, however, I never needed my husband's help. When I went to print something my printer was already listed in the printer options. I selected my printer and clicked print and away it went!

I also tend to like to edit my printing options to save on ink. If the document I am printing is not very important I will often use the Draft option. While the menu is set up a bit differently than in Windows I was still able to find that option available when I clicked on the Advanced tab. From there I just clicked on the Printer Mode was given several options. I chose the Draft option I preferred and it printed my page for me! There was nothing to it!

Well, then I needed some photos off my camera and sure enough, when I plugged my camera in the same thing happened! It just worked! I did not need to install anything, it came with software that worked for me. When I plugged in my camera that following menu popped up!

I was really expecting Linux to be a bit more difficult, but so far it has not been. It works just great. I found that it also worked well for reading CDs and DVDs. When you insert the disk the menu pops up to choose what program you want to use to open it with. (For DVDs my install came with Totem by default but I would recommend you using the app Add/Remove programs and look for VLC Media and use it instead because I did have trouble getting Totem to work.)

I also had great success with many of the games that we had purchased for my daughter. For Christmas we had bought The Veggie Tales Dance, Dance, Dance game which also came with a dance pad. I know that many games that require Windows do not always work in Linux, and I figured that this game would be one of them. Well, it was not, it installed and worked flawlessly (thanks to Wine of course)! Other games that worked were Bible Champions, Jumpstart Kindergarten, and Jumpstart Animal Field Trip. I will be trying to install a few more in the weeks ahead and will let you know how that goes.

Getting familiar with Linux hasn't been that different from learning how to use a new version of Windows. I remember having to get used to XP when I left Win98 and I would have to learn Vista or Windows 7 if I chose to go to either of those. So if you decide that you are not interested in paying for the latest version of Windows or simply want a version that gives you more privacy and control, try Linux. If you are going to have upgrade and have to learn something new anyway, why not make it a "free" version? That is what I am doing, and so far I am extremely happy with my choice!