Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Cameron Van Orman, Amit Gupta

Related Topics: Linux Containers, Open Source Cloud

Linux Containers: Article

Product Review — Running Windows on Linux

Bridging the gap

Regardless of how fast, stable, and geek-chic desktop GNU/Linux has become, we still live in a Windows world. Many vendors, either through lack of vision or funding, will produce only a Windows version of their software or drivers. If you're a gadget geek like me, you likely end up in the same old quandary of "I want that gadget, but it only has Windows drivers." If you're even more like me, you'll elect not to take the high road and search for ways to run that bad boy on your desktop GNU/Linux box.

There are a handful of products that will enable Windows applications to run on GNU/Linux, all with varying degrees of success. Regardless of which products are on the market, they'll fall into two categories: those that require you to have a licensed copy of Windows, and those that don't. Win4Lin and VMware fit into the first category, which I affectionately call "virtual machine-type" applications. The second category is where products like Wine, CrossOver Office, and Cedega fall. These products don't require Windows, rather they attempt to fool Windows applications into thinking they're running on Windows by performing varying types of tricks at the binary level. I call this class of application "windows emulators" (quite wrongly, I admit).

It only seems fair to compare apples to apples and so this article is a comparison of the two virtual machine-type applications Win4Lin 2.7 and VMware Workstation 5.5.1. The test emphasizes desktop GNU/Linux and the test platform is a suitably powerful Dell Inspiron 1000 laptop with 512MB of RAM, a 30GB hard drive, a 2.2GHz processor running Kubuntu "Breezy Badger" 5.10 with kernel 2.6.12-10-386.

Overview
While it's important to note that both Win4Lin and VMware are both virtual machine-type applications capable of running Windows on a GNU/Linux box, they differ in the extent of their functionality. Win4Lin Pro is specifically designed to run a single copy of Windows whereas VMware Workstation is designed to provide many virtual machines, each of which can run a single copy of Windows, Linux, NetWare, or Solaris x86. This extended functionality is reflected in the price and download size.

Pre-Installation
Due perhaps to the fact that I've been writing a new Linux user blog for so long, I put a great deal of emphasis on the stuff that happens before I get down to the business of installing applications. How is the Web site laid out? Is the product easy to find and download? How is the documentation and support?

The Win4Lin Web site is well laid out and I found the download page for my preferred product in a few intuitive clicks. Once on the right page, I knew that I wanted the Win4Lin Pro product, and I found both Debian and RPM packages for the latest version, but no tarball. I downloaded and installed the 3.6MB Win4Lin Pro version 2.7 file named win4linpro_6.2.7-02_i386.deb, and went about reading the online documentation to figure out how to configure it.

I had to register to get a demonstration license key, but that's to be expected.

Win4Lin requires the KQEMU accelerator module for acceptable performance. Win4Lin Pro automatically builds this module as a kernel-compatible device driver every time Win4Lin is installed or upgraded. For KQEMU to be built correctly, however, the local system has to have the kernel source on it. The Win4Lin documentation contains instructions on how to install the kernel source for Fedora, Red Hat, Debian stable, Mandriva, SuSE and, thankfully, Ubuntu 5.10. The Ubuntu 5.10 instructions walked me through activating the "Universe" repositories and gave me the commands to get the packages KQEMU needed.

The VMware site was a little tricker to navigate, but still completely usable. I had to register even to download an evaluation version, but again there's nothing wrong with a company tracking its potential customers. I was surprised to see that an enterprise-ready application like VMware only offered an RPM and tar.gz package. I guess that's indicative of the inroads that companies like Red Hat are making into the enterprise space. However, running a Debian-based distro, I had to make do with the tarball. Like Win4Lin, I needed the toolchain and kernel source to build and install VMware.

I downloaded the 95MB VMware-workstation-5.5.1-19175.tar.gz file, untarred it and ran the intuitively named VMware-install.pl file in my newly created VMware-distrib directory. The VMware installation script asks a lot of questions, but also offers a lot of common sense defaults. With the exception of having to correct its selection of network interface to bridge to, the defaults worked on my system.

Company Support
As is my custom, I generally contact a company before reviewing their product to give them the opportunity to ensure that I get the right product and have access to some support while I am doing the review.

Win4Lin completely blew VMware away in this respect. As soon as I asked for a review copy, Dan Perlman of Win4Lin was at my beck and call for the duration of my testing. I got my evaluation copy of Win4Lin within 24 hours of asking for it and follow up e-mails as time went on. I rarely waited more than a few hours to get answers to my questions. VMware, on the other hand, barely gave me the time of day.

I told VMware that I would be evaluating its product for a magazine article at the same time I told Win4Lin. VMware returned my e-mail six days later and then told me that they were going to snail mail me a copy of the application. Fifteen days later, I still didn't have it, but an e-mail with a VMware license key popped up in my inbox four days ago without any preamble or explanation of what it was for. Unfortunately, the e-mail wasn't useful because the download instructions with it didn't reflect the actual layout of the VMware Web site. As I write this it's been 21 days since I asked for a review copy and support from VMware and I've gotten neither. I can't help but wonder what would happen if I was a regular user who needed support.

Installation
Both products took the same time to install. There are really two installs with these virtual machine-type applications. The first being the installation of the application itself and the second the Windows installation in the newly minted virtual machine.

The VMware installation took 15 minutes to install once I had the toolchain. Then I installed my Dell recovery Windows XP SP1 CD in my new virtual machine, which took an hour and six minutes.

Win4Lin took 25 minutes to install, and another 60 minutes to get my trusty Windows SP1 CD installed and running.

Win4Lin put a launch icon on my desktop while VMware put itself under my Kicker -> System menu.

Performance
I put both products through their paces, but first I wanted to see how they performed out-of-the-box with simple startups and shutdowns. Table 1 shows these rudimentary metrics and how they compare against a native Windows XP Home SP2 install.

Win4Lin has a quicker launch and comparable shutdown time than VMware. When you take into consideration that Win4Lin has terminated at this point while VMware is still running - the shutdown times come even closer together.

During the test I had to reinstall both products at least once because of network interface problems. At one point VMware failed to launch complaining that it had been installed but not configured despite running fine for several days. A quick system survey showed that all of my network interfaces, including VMware's vmnet interfaces had gone AWOL. I had to re-run the VMware configuration script to get back up and running.

On another occasion, my local loopback interface (lo) failed to come up and that stopped Win4Lin dead in its tracks. Bringing it up manually restored Win4Lin for me.

I'm not convinced that either of these incidences were the fault of the products since it's not unheard of for my testing platform to exhibit unusual behavior with Linux apps from time to time. Thankfully, in both cases, my precious Windows XP images, which I had painstakingly upgraded to SP2, were still intact.

Show Time
When I'm not writing magazine articles or blogging, I produce a weekly podcast named The JaK Attack!. I use the wonderful and free Audacity audio editor to record, edit, and encode my shows. I decided to use the Windows version of Audacity to put Win4Lin and VMware through their paces. This process is a good benchmark because it's practical in a number of ways:

  1. It tests the USB connectivity because I use a thumb drive to move the raw audio files around
  2. It tests the sound card functionality because I need to listen to the audio to edit it
  3. It tests the video responsiveness because I have to grab and drag chunks of audio around during editing, and
  4. It tests CPU usage because crunching a big WAV file into a small OGG Vorbis file takes a considerable amount of memory and CPU cycles.
I thought that it might be interesting to compare not only how the two products did against each other, but also against a native Windows XP Home install. On all platforms I took a 34MB WAV file, did some rudimentary editing, and then told Audacity to encode it into an OGG Vorbis file at three different quality levels: 0, 5, and 10. The encoding process is really the only solid measurement that spans all systems, so that's what we'll look at. Table 2 shows how the three products fared.

Clearly, VMware Takes the Cake for Speed Here
Comparing products such as VMware and Win4Lin can be difficult. While most users would likely be looking at these products to host more run-of-the-mill applications than my Audacity, there's no real concrete way to measure how much faster an office product or Web browser performs one over the other. I didn't want to run a boring old benchmark application on both platforms. I wanted a real practical test that had some CPU intensity to it. Crunching audio fit the bill nicely.

The CPU metrics are only part of the evaluation; there are other areas to take into consideration.

Functionality
I was surprised to find out that neither product supported the two USB memory sticks that I regularly use on both my Windows and Linux machines. Neither my 256MB Sony MicroVault nor my Kasercorp 2.2GB Jumbo Drive were recognized by either VMware or Win4Lin despite the fact that both devices are USB 2.0-compliant. I tried hotplugging the drives while the Windows guest was running as well as inserting the drives before launching the guest systems. The drives remained silent.

Win4Lin automatically creates a "HOME on host" share folder on the guest Windows' desktop that represents the current user's home directory. This is a great little extra that VMware doesn't offer. You can certainly gain access to the host's file system in VMware, but you have to add it as a share using the VM -> Settings menu. Not hard, but not obvious, either.

Interface
Both applications provide a nearly seamless interface for mouse movement. I was able to glide my mouse around my entire desktop and manipulate objects regardless of which desktop they resided on. I was surprised by this functionality in VMware because other versions I've used required me to press control-alt to release the mouse cursor from the virtual machine back onto the host desktop.

VMware sports a tabbed interface at launch to select a guest operating system. It's well laid out but not required in Win4Lin since Win4Lin is designed to run a single instance of Windows. (See Figure 1)


More Stories By Jon Watson

Jon Watson is a Canadian GNU/Linux enthusiast. After producing 30 episodes of the GNU/Linux User show, Jon and Kelly Penguin Girl now produce the weekly JaK Attack! podcast (http://www.thepurplepodcaster.com/thejakattack). Jon has had articles on podcasting with FLOSS tools published in The Linux Journal (April '06), Linux Magazine (May '06), and Sitepoint (May '06). When not podcasting, he can be found blogging on b5 Media's New Linux User blog (http://www.newlinuxuser.com) or his own personal blog, Tales from the Motherboard (http://www.jonwatson.ca).

Comments (15) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
sn8kman 10/23/06 10:59:14 PM EDT

Just wanted to add that I also use Parallels Workstation for Linux regularly for those few (and I mean there's about 2 obscure applications) that I cannot run on Linux or find a reasonable alternative native to Linux.

hazpaz 07/01/06 06:09:41 PM EDT

i agree with the earlier comment that your host linux OS must be optimally configured with usb, video, audio, *, before running a virtual machine on it. your virtualization software comparisions, and your virtual machines will thank you.

Jon 05/23/06 12:22:00 PM EDT

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for the comment. As a desktop guy, I don't really have a good appreciation for what all those networking options means. I do acknowledge that VMWare might be the better option for the server room, however. It's definitely got more features :)

Jeff 05/23/06 12:17:23 PM EDT

Nice review, I'm big into the flexibility that virtualization offers, both on the desktop and in the server room.

I haven't used Win4Lin, but have been using VMware for about 7 years now, one thing that sets VMware apart from virtualpc, at least, is the networking piece. VMware's networking can be configured in so many different ways. Bridge, NAT, host-only. If you have the hardware you can setup and test not only entire networks but interconnecting those networks.

I know this comment is a little out of the scope of your article, but the network piece is what makes vmware stand out in my mind.

Thanks,

Jeff

Jon 05/18/06 12:45:53 PM EDT

Hi Ken,

You're the second person to bring that up. I was really surprised to hear about Parallels because I thought I knew everyone working in the desktop/home virtualization space.

The price point is definitely comparable with Win4Lin (OK, it's better) and it's on my list to try within the next little while.

Thanks!

Ken George 05/18/06 12:36:00 PM EDT

Interesting article, but there is a piece of software that outperfoms Win4Lin, is cheaper, and is VERY similar to VMWare called Parallels (www.parallels.com). I use it ALL the time, and is screams on my dual-core box (though, it does NOT support SMP at the time). I have not found anything as of yet that it won't run AND it supports MacOSX as well.

You should definately check it out...

Jon 05/17/06 06:04:53 PM EDT

Hey Jamie,

VMPlayer is certainly cool, but it's not able to create images and is therefore not useful to me for the purposes of this article.

VMPlayer can only 'play' existing images created in VMWare Workstation, GSX Server, or ESX Server.

http://www.vmware.com/products/player/

Jamie 05/17/06 05:58:01 PM EDT

I'm sure someone has probably mentioned this already but VMware has been and still is offering its VMware player now for free. Now even if you aren't a journalist complaining about not getting your free copy of VMware you can still use it.

Jon 05/16/06 12:35:02 PM EDT

Spoken like a true anonymous commenter. Some of us take the time to contribute to the community, some of us just bog it down.

anonymous 05/16/06 12:29:20 PM EDT

You are an idiot. You really didn't do much research did you? *sigh* Oh well...

Jon 05/16/06 10:04:08 AM EDT

Thanks Jose,

I'll give that a try when I get home. I thought it was weird that something as standard as a USB drive didn't work in either application.

Jose R 05/16/06 09:18:30 AM EDT

for USB to work in VMware, first the host (Kubuntu in your case) has to be able to recognize the USB you are plugging into. next, in VMware you have a menu. When the virtual machine is on (in your case Windows XP), go to the menu VM---Removable Devices---USB --- Connect.... and voilà!!!! see what happens

best regards from Mexico

Jose R

Jon 05/16/06 08:45:27 AM EDT

Hey guys,

Thanks for the tips. Someone also mentioned Parallels to me today which I hadn't heard of before.

Lots of options out there, for sure. This article only deals with two of them.

Steve Landherr 05/15/06 10:01:13 PM EDT

If inexpensive and functional is your goal, try VMware Server. It's free and uses the same virtualization engine as Workstation 5.5.1. http://www.vmware.com/products/server/

Sergei Steshenko 05/15/06 07:14:22 PM EDT

If you wanted to write an article, that's OK.

If you want to run Windows under Linux, try QEMU
- you can run win98, win2k, winPX - I tried the latter
two.

QEMU is free, it's at www.qemu.org .

@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ryobi Systems will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ryobi Systems Co., Ltd., as an information service company, specialized in business support for local governments and medical industry. We are challenging to achive the precision farming with AI. For more information, visit http:...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SIGMA Corporation will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. uLaser flow inspection device from the Japanese top share to Global Standard! Then, make the best use of data to flip to next page. For more information, visit http://www.sigma-k.co.jp/en/.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Daiya Industry will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Daiya Industry specializes in orthotic support systems and assistive devices with pneumatic artificial muscles in order to contribute to an extended healthy life expectancy. For more information, please visit https://www.daiyak...
SYS-CON Events announced today that B2Cloud will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. B2Cloud specializes in IoT devices for preventive and predictive maintenance in any kind of equipment retrieving data like Energy consumption, working time, temperature, humidity, pressure, etc.
SYS-CON Events announced today that NetApp has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. NetApp is the data authority for hybrid cloud. NetApp provides a full range of hybrid cloud data services that simplify management of applications and data across cloud and on-premises environments to accelerate digital transformation. Together with their partners, NetApp em...
What is the best strategy for selecting the right offshore company for your business? In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, will discuss the things to look for - positive and negative - in evaluating your options. He will also discuss how to maximize productivity with your offshore developers. Before you start your search, clearly understand your business needs and how that impacts software choices.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interface Corporation will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Interface Corporation is a company developing, manufacturing and marketing high quality and wide variety of industrial computers and interface modules such as PCIs and PCI express. For more information, visit http://www.i...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MIRAI Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MIRAI Inc. are IT consultants from the public sector whose mission is to solve social issues by technology and innovation and to create a meaningful future for people.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Keisoku Research Consultant Co. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Keisoku Research Consultant, Co. offers research and consulting in a wide range of civil engineering-related fields from information construction to preservation of cultural properties. For more information, vi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Fusic will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Fusic Co. provides mocks as virtual IoT devices. You can customize mocks, and get any amount of data at any time in your test. For more information, visit https://fusic.co.jp/english/.
SYS-CON Events announced today that N3N will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. N3N’s solutions increase the effectiveness of operations and control centers, increase the value of IoT investments, and facilitate real-time operational decision making. N3N enables operations teams with a four dimensional digital “big board” that consolidates real-time live video feeds alongside IoT sensor data a...
Mobile device usage has increased exponentially during the past several years, as consumers rely on handhelds for everything from news and weather to banking and purchases. What can we expect in the next few years? The way in which we interact with our devices will fundamentally change, as businesses leverage Artificial Intelligence. We already see this taking shape as businesses leverage AI for cost savings and customer responsiveness. This trend will continue, as AI is used for more sophistica...
Real IoT production deployments running at scale are collecting sensor data from hundreds / thousands / millions of devices. The goal is to take business-critical actions on the real-time data and find insights from stored datasets. In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Walicki, Watson IoT Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud, will provide a fast-paced developer journey that follows the IoT sensor data from generation, to edge gateway, to edge analytics, to encryption, to the IBM Bluemix cloud, to Wa...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks, that helps your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. As a premier telecommunications provider, Massive Networks is headquartered out of Louisville, Colorado. With years of experience under their belt, their team of...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enroute Lab will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enroute Lab is an industrial design, research and development company of unmanned robotic vehicle system. For more information, please visit http://elab.co.jp/.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Mobile Create USA will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Mobile Create USA Inc. is an MVNO-based business model that uses portable communication devices and cellular-based infrastructure in the development, sales, operation and mobile communications systems incorporating GPS capabi...
There is huge complexity in implementing a successful digital business that requires efficient on-premise and cloud back-end infrastructure, IT and Internet of Things (IoT) data, analytics, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Digital Applications. In the data center alone, there are physical and virtual infrastructures, multiple operating systems, multiple applications and new and emerging business and technological paradigms such as cloud computing and XaaS. And then there are pe...
Agile has finally jumped the technology shark, expanding outside the software world. Enterprises are now increasingly adopting Agile practices across their organizations in order to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them. In our quest for establishing change as a core competency in our organizations, this business-centric notion of Agile is an essential component of Agile Digital Transformation. In the years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the conn...
While some developers care passionately about how data centers and clouds are architected, for most, it is only the end result that matters. To the majority of companies, technology exists to solve a business problem, and only delivers value when it is solving that problem. 2017 brings the mainstream adoption of containers for production workloads. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben McCormack, VP of Operations at Evernote, will discuss how data centers of the future will be managed, how th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Nihon Micron will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Nihon Micron Co., Ltd. strives for technological innovation to establish high-density, high-precision processing technology for providing printed circuit board and metal mount RFID tags used for communication devices. For more inf...