Exploring Linux - Part 13
by Alan German
appropriate as we reach number thirteen (unlucky for
some!) in this series of articles that we take a
retrospective look at the "evil empire". Yes,
our current exploration will take us back, once more,
into the world of Windows and, in particular, we will
consider the process of running Windows' applications in
Now, why you ask, would anyone want to run a Windows' app
in Linux? Well, there can be several reasons. It may be
that a suitable alternative isn't available in the
operating system of our choice. I hardly ever use
Microsoft Office programs any more since I find that the
OpenOffice suite fills all of my needs but, as far as I
know, there is no Linux equivalent for Garmin's (GPS)
MapSource program that runs under Windows. This is also
mostly true for avid gamers since Windows-based games are
typically not available in Linux versions.
On the other hand, there may be lots of possible
alternatives to a given software package, but you just
want to continue running a tried and true favourite
Windows' program in Linux. For example, I have tried a
number of Linux-based HTML editors - such as Bluefish and
Quanta Plus - but, I am so used to the inner workings of
Homesite, an old Windows' program, that I would really
like to be able to run this package under Windows. So,
let's take a look at how we might be able to run Windows'
software in Linux.
It turns out that we need to do a little Wine tasting.
So, crack open a bottle of your favourite wine, pour a
little into a glass, sip... No, not that kind of wine
tasting (although it may well make a good accompaniment
to reading, and savouring, your personal copy of Ottawa
This "Wine" is one of those special things in
Linux - a recursive acronym - standing for WIne is Not an
Emulator). Well, it may not be an emulator in someone's
mind but, to me, it pretty well does the same thing. Wine
is a software package that runs in Linux, and has the job
of translating calls, from a Windows' program, to the
Windows' Application Program Interface (API), into the
equivalent system calls in POSIX, which is the basis of
how Linux runs programs. Now, that's a really brief
description of what Wine does. However, the important
thing is that its job is to run Windows' programs in
Linux. And, that is just what we need!
You will find lots of information about this software at
Wine HQ (http://www.winehq.org/), including a very interesting
historical perspective on its development, how to
download and install the package for various Linux
distros, and how to run Windows' applications with Wine.
useful resource provided by Wine HQ is AppDB, the Wine
Application Database. You can search the database for a
Windows' program and receive information on how likely it
will be that the program will run using Wine. In
particular, you will find ratings running from platinum,
for applications which install and run flawlessly,
through gold, silver and bronze for programs with various
levels of "issues", to a garbage rating for
apps that can't be installed, don't start, or start but
have so many errors that they are nearly impossible to
favourite Ubuntu distro, the installation process for
Wine couldn't be simpler. A purpose-built version of the
package is available for downloading and installation
directly from an Ubuntu repository. So, all that's
necessary is to call up the Synaptic Package Manager
(System - Administration - Synaptic Package Manager),
search for Wine, check the box (which will highlight both
wine and wine-gecko, to include the Gecko rendering
engine for displaying web pages in Wine's fake Internet
Explorer), and hit the Apply button.
result is an addition to Ubuntu's Applications' menu. The
Wine menu gives you options to run installed programs (a
special version of "Notepad" that runs in Wine
is installed by default), browse the "C: drive"
(actually a Linux folder), configure Wine, and uninstall
Note that on the Wine menu there
is no option to install Wine apps, so the first thing we
need to do is find out about this process. Wine HQ's FAQ
provides the information that we need in the topic
"I have lots of applications already installed in
Windows. How do I run them in Wine?" The answer is
you can't! Well, at least, you can't run an
already-installed Windows' app. You need to install the
same application in Wine. But, the process is (usually)
The first option is just
to double click on the Windows' installation file.
Unfortunately, my experience is that, since these are
generally EXE files, Ubuntu thinks that they are
self-extracting ZIP files that it can't unpack because
they are not in ZIP format. So, onto our second option -
right click on the installation file and select - Open
with "Wine Windows Program Loader". Now the
magic happens! Incredibly (to me at least) the program
installs just like it does under Windows. The same
prompts and dialogue boxes appear, including the option
to install the program in C:\Program Files\ (remember our
"C: drive"?), and the program is installed
If I install Homesite in this manner, the end result is
new entry in the Applications - Wine - Programs menu that
opens and runs my favourite Windows-based HTML editor.
Now this is not without its little problems. One thing
that doesn't work is Homesite's ability to display,
within the program's window, the current HTML page as if
it were being shown in Internet Explorer (IE). This is no
doubt because the program thinks it is running under
Windows, and expects to find IE installed as part of the
operating system which, of course, is not the case under
Linux. Furthermore, Homesite doesn't know about the fake
version of IE that comes as part of Wine, and doesn't
allow a specific location for the browser to be
Now this is a minor inconvenience, but not a show
stopper. One workaround is to open the HTML file in both
Homesite and Firefox, save any changes made in Homesite,
and refresh the Firefox browser window to see how the new
page is going to appear. An alternative approach is to
change the browser setting in Homesite's options,
selecting the browser that is built into the program to
display a web page that is being edited. Either way, you
get to see the result in a browser - just not in IE.
The good news is that all of the other functions that I
normally use in Homesite seem to work perfectly normally
when running this program in Wine with Linux. So, Wine
can be a valid option for running that Windows' software
that you just can't live without.
Once again, this is not always the case. One Windows'
game that I tried, installed without incident, rolled the
opening credits, and played normally for the first couple
of minutes. Then I noticed that the rain didn't display
in one of the scenes. This must have unnerved the main
character who insisted that the drizzle was going to get
worse, but soon afterwards became tongue-tied and kept
repeating lines of dialogue in an endless loop! At the
same point, the mouse cursor disappeared and I lost the
ability to control any further aspect of the game. Big
red switch time!
But, this negative experience gave me the opportunity to
try a couple of the other items on Wine's menu. Firstly,
I selected "Uninstall Wine Software" and was
presented with a list of installed applications. Click on
my game, click Uninstall, and - bingo - the program was
more-or-less uninstalled automatically. One little
glitch. The uninstaller couldn't deal with a directory of
saved games that had been created.
No problem. Select "Browse C:\ Drive" on the
Wine menu and find that the "C" drive is really
a hidden directory (/home/toaster/.wine/dosdevices/c:) in
the Linux file system. Navigate to the game program
directory (under Program Files on the Linux "C"
drive), right click on the folder, and "Move to
Trash". Uninstallation is now complete!
Another potential glitch is that uninstalling a program
may not remove the listing from Wine's Programs' menu.
This is easily (but not intuitively) fixed using System -
Preferences - Main Menu - Wine - Programs, right-clicking
on the redundant program entry, and selecting Delete.
Our final option on the Wine menu is labeled
"Configure Wine". This has multiple tabs and
settings for applications, libraries, graphics, desktop
integration, drives, and audio. Quite complex - but, the
good news is that Wine seems to work just fine without
tinkering with any of this stuff.
So, our foray into the world of Wine appreciation shows
mixed results. Some Windows' programs run just fine; some
do not. This parallels the experience of others as
exemplified by the reviews and rankings in AppDB for a
wide variety of software packages. But, take heart.
Whether a specific program runs or not seems to be a
function of the versions of the program, of Wine and of
the Linux distro. So, as times goes on, and Wine matures
(as good wine should), that favourite Windows' program
may yet run perfectly in Linux!
Wine (Open source)
Originally published: October, 2009
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The opinions expressed in these reviews
do not necessarily represent the views of the
Ottawa PC Users' Group or its members.