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Product Review — Running Windows on Linux

Bridging the gap

I prefer to run my virtual machines in full screen mode and both products support this. VMware has a full screen button on the toolbar and a Crtl-Alt to return. Win4Lin relies on the built-in capabilities of either KDE or GNOME (and presumably other window managers) to make any window go full screen without borders. In KDE this is achieved by setting your guest Windows screen resolution to the same resolution as your host desktop, and then right-clicking on the Win4Lin window title bar and selecting Advanced -> Full Screen. A quick Alt-F3 will bring up the same window menu to shut off Full Screen mode.

Both products work noticeably faster and smoother when running in full screen mode.

Final Words
While both products behaved as advertised, I had a better feeling about Win4Lin at the end of test. The lukewarm reception I got from VMware left me feeling that if I ever needed support, I might be left hanging. Despite the fact that VMware performed faster, Win4Lin certainly performed fast enough for me. Also, through no fault of its own, VMware is probably overkill for your average desktop GNU/Linux user. If we desktop users need to use Windows at all, likely a single instance will do. Lastly, money talks. Since it's likely that a single Windows instance will do, the $89 Win4Lin Pro price tag is a lot easier to swallow than the $189 tag on VMware.

I'm fascinated by the potential that virtualization unleashes and I'll be watching these two products carefully in the future.

Products/Mentions

Win4Lin Pro version 2.7
URL: www.win4lin.com
Cost: $89US downloadable

VMware Workstation 5.5.1
URL: www.VMware.com
Cost: $189US downloadable

Transgaming's Cedega
URL: www.transgaming.com
Cost: Subscription-based starting at $5US/month

CrossOver Office Standard
URL: www.codeweavers.com
Cost: $39.95US

Audacity Audio Editor
URL: www.audacity.sourceforge.net

The JaK Attack! Podcast
URL: www.thepurplepodcaster.com/thejakattack

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).

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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 .

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