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.
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