Originally Published: Tuesday, 28 September 1999 Author: David Raufeisen
Published to: news_learn_firststep/Firststep News Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Linux equivalents

One of the biggest questions that nearly every new user wonders about is roughly: What am I going to do when I want to run (insert your favorite application here) And most new users who are installing Linux already know the simple answer to this ever-daunting question: keep an old 95 partition tucked away on your hard drive, and just dual boot the machine.

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One of the biggest questions that nearly every new user wonders about is roughly: What am I going to do when I want to run (insert your favorite application here)? And most new users who are installing Linux already know the simple answer to this ever-daunting question: keep an old 95 partition tucked away on your hard drive, and just dual boot the machine. Simple enough. I did it myself, and for a long while, it's what I recommended to all my friends thinking of converting to Linux. But things have changed, and I've learned three things about the Linux community that have made me change my mind. Here's why:

1) More and more applications are being developed today with cross platform portability in mind.

Word Perfect, Civilization-Call to Power, and Quake III Arena. Applications that rank among the most significant for the Linux community for one simple reason: you can run each native on a Linux box. These three applications represent a growing trend among software developers. Linux has moved on from being the latest IT fad. It is now a viable development platform. Its user base shows little signs of waning. In many cases, it's proving to be as stable, if not more so than any 'mainstream' alternative. Independently, these three facts are merely good signs for the OS. But when they begin to appear together, big name software houses begin to take a strong interest in developing for and porting to Linux.

2) While still in very early stages of development, projects like WINE and VMWare offer potential solutions for the future.

It is always a debate as to how much stock should be put into projects such as these. In discussing projects like WINE or VMWare, one must keep one important thing in mind. For all the promises and current results, none are at the point of final release yet. Indeed, VMWare is nearing completion, and currently delivers a relatively solid alternative to rebooting your machine every time you want to run a Win32 app, but nonetheless, it isn't final. And indeed, for many, WINE can stably run Win32's like StarCraft, it too isn't perfect yet. That said, these two programs offer a great level of hope for those who simply can't or won't fully give up their "Start" button.

In the case of WINE (Wine Is Not an Emulator), project developers are seeking to port the Win32 API's, which actually run Windows apps to the Linux platform. If it succeeds in this, you'd be able to run nearly any Win32 app natively within Linux. Currently, separating the hype from the results is still tough, but WINE does show great promise in terms of what it may deliver in the next few years.

Decidedly more promising, however, is VMWare. VMWare creates not simply a Windows partition on your pc, but a virtual pc within your pc. And it is on that PC, that you install and run Windows, thus freeing the multiple OS user from the annoyances of a reboot.

3) The Linux community is full of open source alternatives to whatever application you want to run.

While the first two points are exciting and promising for the Linux community, they don't represent the most significant reason to dive headlong into Linux. That reason, of course, is the open source community. If you're at all like I was when I first made my transition to Linux, I was really skeptical of the quality of open source applications. Sure, I had heard of some cool applications like Mozilla being produced under an open source model, but I figured that quality application developed in this style were as rare as a detailed error code from a Mac. Until, that is, I compiled GIMP.

The story is simple enough. I needed to do a quick edit to an image for a web page I was working on. I had used Adobe Photoshop for years, and didn't expect to find anything to replace it. I just needed to make a few cosmetic changes to some images for a corporate web server, and I thought I'd save myself the time of installing Photoshop on my NT box by trying out GIMP. I was blown away by its power and robustness.

Sure, it took me a few moments to learn the placement of the features I needed to use, but GIMP turned out to be almost as powerful as the Photoshop I'd grown used to, but came with no price tag. In truth, I'm sure that many Photoshop power users would contest that GIMP lacks several high end image editing features, but in all honesty, GIMP has proven to be a viable alternative for my typical editing needs.

This begs the question: How often is the success story of GIMP echoed throughout the Linux community. It's clear that GIMP is an example of a truly breakthrough open source application. But even many windows users are able to rattle off a list of truly revolutionary open source projects that include names like the earlier mentioned Mozilla, Apache, GNOME, and more. The elegance of the open source movement is that it fills voids. Rather then a marketing or R&D group deciding the needs of the end users, end users themselves create, contribute, and lead the development of the applications they want. And even the most vehement critic of open source alternatives can't argue with the vast libraries of applications found in directories like Freshmeat.net and Linuxberg.com.

In the end, it would be neat and probably beneficial for many of us to run Win32 apps or ports of those apps within Linux. But most promising is the fact that the Linux community has reached a sort of momentum of development that is offering sound alternative and solutions for the needs of nearly every Linux user. So the next time you feel the urge to boot back into DOS, take a second to find the Linux solution to your needs. You'll be surprised.

by: Chris "Bix" Marshall





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