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From the February, 2002 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

If you are looking for an alternative to the Windows Operating System, but feel like you are stuck because you need to keep your current Windows based applications due to economics, equipment, or training, have I got a deal for you. What if there were a way to keep popular Windows based applications, run them on existing hardware, require a minimal investment, and run it all under a far more stable platform? Buckle up and pay attention.

Unless you have been incommunicado for the last ten or so years, you have at least heard about an operating system called Linux. Briefly, it is less crash prone than Windows, far more efficient, faster, requires less system resources, is free, and includes the source code which allows the operating system to be custom tailored to your individual needs. If this is true, then why is Windows still the dominant desktop operating system? There is not enough space in this review to go into all the reasons, but I believe the biggest factor is the perceived belief that there is no software for Linux that is comparable to Windows. While it is true that there is a great deal more software written for Windows, there is a wealth of applications for Linux that are compiled specifically for Linux. Corelís WordPerfect suite for Linux is one of the better known examples. Sun Microsystems has the Star Office suite. There are other  known examples, but most would probably not be recognized outside the Linux world.. 

How about running your Windows applications under Linux? Shazam. Here are two applications that allow you to do exactly that. Both install on your existing computer under Linux, or Windows in one case, and both run common Windows applications at Windows speeds, or faster. The most important advantage in doing this is if there is an application crash, unlike under Windows, Linux will stay operating. Restart the application and continue. Since Linux is free, you can potentially save on purchase of Windows, and the ever increasing license fees.

Instead of just writing, I thought it would be more effective if I used a series of screen captures along with an explanation to present this review. Iíll start with Win4Lin, followed by VMWARE, and take you through a simple installation of these two products and then install some well known software. I chose the software specifically to demonstrate that both these products actually work with Windows based applications, and when you see the software, youíll become a believer! Be sure to notice the desktop screen captures. You will see multiple operations, including browsing the net with Netscape, searching with Google, watching a Spurs game with a tv tuner card, a weather bug, and installing and running the new software. Try that under Windows!

Win4Lin is by NeTraverse, and allows users to run Windows applications at native speeds without additional hardware or the need to dual boot. You will notice in the captures the ability to run Linux and Windows concurrently. You can browse Windows and Linux files, share memory for both, and have full networking support. Win4Lin uses the Linux IP stack, Virtual Network Card emulation (VNET) including Network Neighborhood and Microsoft Exchange with optional 2nd IP address. A short list of supported popular applications includes Microsoft Office Suite, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Intuit Quicken and TurboTax, Lotus SmartSuite, Adobe Photoshop and Acrobat, Netscape Navigator, Palm Desktop, Winamp, Windows Media Player, ACT!, and more. It also supports SMP or Symmetric multi processing. Win4Lin is a Linux application that installs the Windows operating system into your Linux environment. It uses the X Windows System to display the familiar Windows desktop in a window on your Linux desktop, or in a full screen mode. After installing Win4Lin, you simply install your Windows operating system just as in a non Linux computer. Once the Windows operating system is installed, you are ready to install Windows applications into the Linux environment. This is done in the same  way you normally install your Windows applications. Once installed, you run them just as if you were running only Windows, except your system is now more stable and faster. When the inevitable application crash occurs, simply restart the application, as the operating system is far less likely to go down with the application. 

You can run any Windows compatible application inside this window. You canít tell the difference between this and running them on your Windows machine. There isnít any, except you are doing it under Linux. If using your Windows application this way is a little confusing at first, simply run Windows full screen, just as if running only Windows. 

It really is simple to install Win4Lin, Windows, and your favorite Windows applications under Linux. By doing this, you can have the best of both Linux, and Windows. I like this product, and think it would be a good buy for anyone wanting a better operating system and better performing computer. Win4Lin has minimal requirements, is inexpensive, and is easy to install and use. It is ideal in the home for either a single machine, or a small network. Believe it or not, I had no problems with either installation, or using Win4Lin. It simply worked!

You can download a manual in pdf that covers everything you need to know about Win4Lin at www.netraverse.com. Select SUPPORT>DOCUMENTATION>and then choose the Userís Guide at 1.7MB.

System requirements are: a Pentium class CPU, 32MB RAM minimum, 64MB recommended, CD-ROM for installing Windows, and Windows software, 20MB disk space for Win4Lin, 40-135MB disk space for the Windows operating system whatever additional disk space individual Windows applications require, sound card that is OSS (Open Sound System) compatible for sound under Linux, Windows 95/98.

Win4Lin is available at CompUSA for $71.74, but may have to be ordered. You can buy it direct from NeTraverse for $89.99 for the full boxed version, or $79.99 for the downloadable version. There is no trial version, but NeTraverse offers a 30 day money back guarantee.

NeTraverse, Inc.
P.O. Box 162665
Austin, TX 78716-2665
The second application is VMWARE from VMWARE, Inc.. The VM stands for Virtual Machine, and is the key element here. VMware uses the virtual machine to allow running different operating systems simultaneously side by side on the same machine. This application is aimed at a more demanding user, and the requirements are equally demanding. While Win4Lin is for Windows 95/98, VMWARE supports NT 4.0, Windows 2000, and Windows XP. It also has two versions, one to install under Windows, and another to install under Linux. VMware uses the virtual machine in much the way that desktop systems use disk images, but unlike disk images, which are tied to specific hardware configurations, virtual machines operate between various hardware platforms. 

Installation was easy and uneventful. It is recommended you disable the autorun feature as it can interfere with a virtual operating system. You should also be sure to install the VMware Tools in the Guest operating system. The physical computer on which you install the VMware Workstation is called the Host, and the operating system is called the Host Operating System. The operating system running inside a virtual machine is called the Guest Operating System.

I used the following short procedure to install VMware under Linux:

  • Log into Linux with the user name you plan to use when running VM
  • Open a terminal window and become root
  • Mount the Workstation CD-ROM
  • Change to Linux directory on the CD
  • Run the rpm installer:  rpm -Uvh Vmware-<xxx>.rpm where VMware-<xxx>.rpm is the installation file on the CD
  • Run configuration script: vMware-config.pl
  • Press <ENTER> to read and accept EULA (End User License Agreement)
  • Follow prompts
  • Get message that it is installed, and if not, start over at number 1.
  • Exit from root

Once you have the Workstation installed and set up, you can install and use a complete operating system on it, just as on a physical computer. The Guest operating System operates in a secure virtual environment, isolated from other virtual machines, as well as the Host computer. As with Win4Lin, a malfunction in the VM will not affect the Host computer, or the other virtual machines. You can set up multiple virtual machines, and switch between them. Each VM can be run in a desktop windows, or full screen mode. You also have access to a virtual network, and can build complex networks within a single PC, allowing multiple virtual machines to communicate with each other, the Host computer, and other networks. No, I did not set  this up, as this is new to me, and I am very much in a learning mode. 

The newest release has support for DVD-ROM, USB, CD-ROM ISO image, generic SCSI devices, large virtual disk support - up to 128GB per IDE virtual disk and 256GB per SCSI virtual disk. It also has improved network support. A few of the uses are easier development and testing of software on multiple operating systems, and allowing developers to test new applications, tools, and operating systems within the virtual machine without damaging their development environment. 

I also like this program, just as I do Win4Lin, and I think both represent a good investment. I do think VMware is more suited to a larger system, like a network, as it has stringent requirements, and is substantially more costly. BTW, I did have a problem. When I shut down VM, it refused to release a networked machines address. I had to reset it manually. At this point, I am inclined to believe it is due to my inexperience with VM, and not a bug. 

You can download a trial version with a 30 day key to try it out. If you are interested, I encourage you to do this first. Be sure to download the manual in pdf and read it thoroughly, as it contains important information I was not able to cover in this short review. The file is about 3.8MB in size.

System requirements: 266MHz CPU minimum, 400MHz recommended, 128MB RAM minimum, 256MB recommended, greater than 256 color video, 20MB disk space for VMware
500MB for each Guest operating system, space for each application, IDE or SCSI drive.

I did not find VMWARE anywhere except at the company Web site. The cost is $299 for the downloadable version, and $329 for the full boxed version. 

3145 Porter Drive
Building F
Palo Alto, CA 94304
Phone: 877-4VMWARE

I recommend both, and for me, that is unusual. Remember. . . one good turn . . . gets all the blankets!
Russell Albach

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