Wine is Not an Emulator, nor is it a panacea

If you’re still running Windows, you probably have at least one critical application that doesn’t run anywhere but Windows. There are still a few pieces of proprietary software whose function can’t quite be duplicated yet under LInux, after all.

You could just throw your hands up in the air and yell, "I’m stuck with Windows!" Or, you could try Wine, "a compatibility layer for running Windows programs." Wine is not a Windows emulator, though: it doesn’t reverse engineer Windows, but rather acts as a compatibility layer that implements the Windows API so software written to run on Windows can (sometimes) also run on Wine.

My one success with Wine is, oddly, not really about Wine: Google’s Picasa photo organizer was made available for Linux not by porting all the code, but rather by encapsulating the Windows version inside a sort of run-time verion of Wine. The whole thing installs just like any other Linux application, but it’s actually running inside Wine–without the user having to do anything special.

Now, Wine has been around practically forever (since 1993), but even Wine developers still the most recent release (0.9.40) "not yet suitable for general use", which is unfortunate if the Windows application you want to run doesn’t cooperate with Wine.

You can get more information from the WineHQ website, including
downloads and a database of applications that work with Wine. There’s
also Frank’s Corner, an independent website with pointers and tips for running Wine successfully. Also, there are two commercial versions of Wine:

  • CrossOver Linux from CodeWeavers for running office productivity apps including Microsoft Office and Intuit Quicken/Quickbooks.
  • Cedega from Transgaming, for running popular Windows-based games under Linux.

Personally, the only Windows-only software that I ever need to run are programs for my kids: things like iTunes, or software to load updates onto my kids’ gaming consoles. So far, I haven’t had any luck with those programs in Wine, but I live in hope that someday either the vendors will take a page from Google’s playbook and ante up to encapsulate their code a la Picasa–or that Wine will eventually be able to execute that code more easily.

This entry was posted in Free/Open Source Projects to Watch. Bookmark the permalink.