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Netraverse Win4Lin

Several of my co-workers are on a quest to remove Windows from their desktops. Unfortunately, we are locked into several Windows-only applications. Aside from the usual Outlook/Word/Excel crap (which you can mostly use other things for, except in certain cases), our bread-and-butter app is a Customer Relationship Management program that is Windows-only, basically in maintenance mode as far as the software vendor is concerned, and not getting replaced anytime soon. In addition to the CRM app, I have another Windows-only app that won’t run under Crossover Office for some reason, or at least won’t run more than once. I can limp along with the CRM application okay in Crossover Office, but it seems like it takes about 5 times longer to do things in this mode. One of my co-workers can’t even limp with it, so he was looking at alternatives — ones that emulate an OS.

There are basically two realistic options right now (prices in US Dollars)

  • VMWare, which is about $300 a pop
    • Win4Lin, which is about $80 a pop

    VMWare is nice because it will run just about any x86-type OS. Various people complain about the slowness and priciness of VMWare. I’ve experienced this. Win4Lin, on the other hand, is geared at Windows — specifically Win95/98/ME. While no longer officially a “standard” on my employer’s network, Win98 will run not only Office 2000 apps, but the CRM app and my other Windows-only app.

    Win4Lin, aside from being limited to Win98-flavoured Bill Gates OSes, also requires some direct kernel patches to run. Since our companies Linux distribution is somewhat custom, it meant downloading source, installing patches, recompiling, and praying everything worked once it was done. I eventually got it working. I also wanted to get this running on my Gentoo box, which ended up requiring me to upgrade to the 2.6 Linux kernel (emerge development-sources) in order to get a kernel that compiled with the correct patches installed.

    I have to say this: Windows 98 in the Win4Lin environment is fast. Even the installation, which usually takes a half hour or so of reboots and loading, took about 5-6 minutes under the Win4Lin environment. It’s very snappy, the “Windows” environment has direct access to a subset of my Linux filesystem, I can run the apps I need to run (as well as Internet Exploder, of course). Can’t ask for much more than that.


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