Monday, March 10, 2008

Bad Wine

The continuing story of a penguin who's gone to the dogs. (Muppets "Pigs in Space" reference for the uninitiated).

Ok, so I got Ubuntu Linux on my desktop running without too much trouble - but I gotta say if they REALLY want the masses to move away from Windows they are going to have to step up their game regarding "ease of use." There is STILL far too much fiddling with configuration files and typing line commands into terminals for my liking - and I sort of have an idea what I'm doing (well, barely). I can't imagine your average "point and click" Windows user having a clue how to install most software on Linux, or even know how to mount a drive (or that you even HAVE mount drives for that matter).

But my venture wasn't to try and make Linux like Windows. That would be like putting sows ears in a silk purse, to twist a phrase. But I wanted to see if the much hallooed application "Wine" could actually run some of the Windows applications I unfortunately need, and which haven't been ported to Linux. I was further encouraged by a related project - "Wine-Doors" - which was supposed to ease the pain of installing applications into Wine.

Ok, quick explanation. "Wine" is a compatibility layer. It creates a fake "C:" drive structure in some folders and then runs the Windows programs inside the Wine program. The programs are tricked into thinking they're running on a Windows machine because they find DLL files and whatnot where they expect them, but there's not actually any Windows operating system present. Sounds neat huh? Well, when it works it actually IS pretty neat. The problem is that it doesn't work most of the time.

Getting some simple applications to run wasn't a problem - like Notepad. Yeah, fun, eh? Installed an older version of Firefox in it that works (though what the point of that is I don't know, since Firefox is available for Linux). I couldn't get the install of Winamp to work until I manually copied the files over form my Windows drive - THEN it worked. Quicktime sort of worked. I can set preferences, but not actually play any media files. Yay! Fun setting preferences. Tried to install iTunes and it crapped out. Tried to install Internet Explorer 6 through "Wine-Doors" and it wouldn't work. No errors, just wouldn't do anything. Windows Media Player gave me some cryptic "256" error during installation. DirectX gave me a similarly cryptic "512" error. A look at the Wine-Doors bug lists didn't clear those up at all.

I did manage to get IE 6 and IE 7 to run by using the IEs4Linux script (which isn't part of Wine or Wine-Doors), and it worked - the programs actually DID open! But the only way I got it to install was via "root" - and it even WARNS you that IE is too insecure to be granted root access. It was pretty crash-prone anyway, and it wouldn't render the "Internet Options" dialogue box.

But running Internet Explorer wasn't REALLY what I wanted anyway. I wanted to run Adobe applications. But if I can't even get stuff like Winamp or Quicktime to install or run properly, I was not optimistic about getting truly complicated programs to run in Wine.

For all the hype about it, I'm sorry, but it's just too dodgy to be useful right now. Maybe in the future, but Wine is a project that has been underway for ages (since 1993) and never seems to quite cross the finish line. One look at the software compatibility database and you can see just how hit-or-miss it is depending on what you're trying to install on it. It also seems that which distribution of Linux you're using is a factor as well. I only saw those error codes mentioned in reference to Debian/Ubuntu. And earlier versions of Ubuntu had to have a special version of Wine to run 64 bit or some such. I wasted an entire day trying to figure it out and get it to work - and basically decided it wasn't worth the effort. Of course I can't get my day back.

In the end, I downloaded Qemu and pointed it to my Windows 98 VM and it boots up just dandy - and Qemu's sound mapping in Linux is at least smooth (unlike the choppy, delayed sound Qemu was giving me in Windows XP). So, if I do make the switch to Linux, I guess I'll be running my Windows apps in an emulator, since that at least seems to work. Of course then you have to be willing to take a major performance hit.

As much as I hate to admit it, for now it would probably just be simpler to keep using Windows XP until Microsoft stops supporting it.


mal said...

I'm curious, what did you have to 'mount' ? Things like CDs and memory sticks just seem to open fine for me without any complicated persuasion. You then spent time that you are never going to see again installing things like IE6 and 7. That's like buying a Porche and trying to get it to run on diesel. Why didn't you just use the browsers that come with Linux? Likewise why didn't you use Linux apps for things like QT WMP etc.
If you only want to run Windows apps why are you installing Linux in the first place. I could equally write that Windows needs to do a lot better because it won't run all my Linux apps very well

lefty crupps said...

"But my venture wasn't to try and make Linux like Windows."

So don't use Windows apps. Its an insanely complicated thing to run these apps in Linux, and its not likely to work well 100% of the time, ever. FLOSS operating systems have a ton of FLOSS applications, which were written for that purpose -- to use on your FLOSS desktop.

The Adobe CS and CS2 were just certified to work with Wine, however, due to some payed support from Google to support those apps better.

Off World Girl said...

I have a lot of documents stored on my Windows slave drives. In order to access those NTFS volumes I have to manually click on them, select to mount them, and type in my root password. Same with my brother's computer - though I did find out how to get it to automatically mount his Windows drive with some sudo line commands in a terminal because it wasn't an option in any control panel. True, some Linux distros will identify and mount that stuff for you, but not all apparently do.

To be clear I DO NOT "only want to run Windows apps." There are only a handful I NEED to run - all Adobe software. If you check the Wine compatibility database you'll find that not all the apps that comprise Creative Suite (1 or 2) are "certified" to work with Wine.

"Creative Suite" is more than JUST Photoshop. Even Photoshop CS1 & CS2 have varying issues running in Wine - filters that don't work, ImageReady export fails, etc. InDesign CS1 has similar functionality issues, and the CS2 & CS3 versions are rated "garbage," as are Illustrator CS1 & 2. Just because something *might* install doesn't mean it will work.

I agree that using Linux native apps where possible is the better solution. However, anyone who actually USES Creative Suite will tell you that GIMP, Inkscape, and Scribus (while impressive efforts) are NOT replacements for Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign (especially if you need to actually share files with people who ARE using Creative Suite apps). If all I needed to do was PLAY Quicktime files, yeah that's easy. But I need some of the file creation and advanced editing features that are part of Quicktime Pro.

I "wasted" my time trying to install stuff like Internet Explorer and Winamp because those were *supposed* to work in Wine. They were part of the one-click "easy install" in Wine-Doors. So sue me, I tried what was supposed to be easy and already vetted to function first. And guess what? It didn't. As for WHY they didn't work as advertised? I haven't a clue, except that some of the error reports on the Wine-Doors site alluded to a bug in Wine itself - possibly specific to the Ubuntu "Gutsy." Wine has been in the works for 15 years and will probably never be ready for prime time. I'm just glad I didn't shell out any money for Crossover.

Don't misconstrue my posts as "I hate Linux." I actually LIKE a lot of things about Linux. More things than I like about Windows, in fact. If Adobe would just port all their applications to Linux I'd be SOOO done with Windows forever it would make your head spin. Failing that, I'd like to be able to run either the Mac or Windows versions of Adobe software on Linux. Failing that I'd like to have them running at a useable speed in an emulator (which is unlikely). Since my primary reason for even turning my computer ON each day is to use Adobe software of one sort or another, dual-booting doesn't make any sense because I'd find myself in Windows all the time anyway just to run those apps.

It looks like, for now at least, the only path for me to get away from Windows is to start scrimping and saving for a decent Mac and money for the Mac versions of my software suites. Say goodbye to thousands of dollars.

binary0digit said...

Then explain me why you wanna quit windows so bad...
Stop feeding the "M$ sux / Linux rulezzz lololol" fashion.

Microsoft makes very good products, despite what lots of people like to say.
Visual studio & .NET is such a great tool for developing and such is also Microsoft Expression, and most of their software...
The proof is that thousands of professionals use is daily and are pleased with that (and yes, a lot of them do know linux)

I am not a microsoft fanboy, in fact, i'm actually writing this running linux on my laptop.
But i use linux because it does fit all my needs a well as windows did plus the configurable side.

So, if linux doesn't meet your needs (yet) and if you don't like to configure (i mean configure the linux way and thus write command lines and stuff like that) then windows is your friend dear !

Dan Kegel said...

I just tried the latest winamp in
current wine, and it worked fine.

Perhaps the problem is Wine-Doors;
that tool is not part of the Wine
project, and I'm not quite sure what
to think of it yet. I've always used
just plain old up to date Wine.

But it's quite true that Wine does
not run most Adobe or Apple apps
properly yet. Wine is still for early
adopters and developers in general,
not for power users who need everything
working already.

Photoshop CS and CS2 are in very good
shape; if you want to help, try them
and report any actual bugs you find.
No fiddling (beyond two little hoops
you have to jump through at install
time) required. See

Dan Kegel
Wine 1.0 Release Manager

Off World Girl said...

If nothing else this exchange online about operating systems has helped me bring into focus what I really want. I want to go BACK to Mac OS. I'm a designer by profession, and Macs are the "industry standard" of my industry. I only ended up on the Windows side of the fence because I worked for a string of Internet/Web companies which were all Microsoft and it was just easier for me to be system compatible with the office (and the IT departments were always positively Applephobic because they didn't understand Macs).

Over my years in Windowsville I've learned how to fix a lot of Windows problems because I've run into just about every one you can have. Guess that's why all my friends and family call ME when their computer acts up on them.

But what I really want is a system that "just works." I'd rather spend my time doing what I enjoy on a computer - which is artwork - than troubleshooting OS issues.

I hadn't looked at Linux distros in a while and saw some press praising how far it had come - perhaps a bit too much in cheerleading about it being ready to supplant Windows, however. I found that Linux ran a lot more stable and faster on two older systems - which aren't used for much beyond web surfing, online chats, e-mail, and watching videos. Linux easily met those needs, so no complaints there.

It was only when I started looking at maybe moving to Linux on my main desktop system that I realized, in that particular arena, Linux won't suffice, and (unless I make a huge investment in new hardware and software) I'll have to keep using Windows to run my "must have" apps. Who wouldn't be disappointed accepting they're stuck using a slower, less-stable, less secure OS?

If, indeed, Photoshop CSx can run (with all its features intact) with Wine on Linux, that's great for some people who ONLY use that program. But the "CS" stands for Creative SUITE - and it unfortunately doesn't do me any good if I can't run the other applications in that suite of programs as well. So, no, right now Linux doesn't meet my professional needs (but it's just fine on my Laptop - which I don't do any design work on anyway). It's just too bad that right now I can't afford to switch to the OS I want.