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Linux vs Windows: Another Great OS Leap Forward On the Way?

Linux vs Windows: Another Great OS Leap Forward On the Way?

A company based in The Philippines is claiming it has developed software that would allow Windows-based applications to run smoothly on Linux - paving the way for the production of more PCs preloaded with Linux instead of Windows.

Codenamed "David," Manila-based SpecOps Labs says it will unveil a working model of this middleware tomorrow and adds that it could be commercially available before the end of this year.

SpecOps Labs (formerly known as Softlabs) began the ambitious project last year knowing it would eventually put them directly against Microsoft (a.k.a. Goliath in case the reference was lost on you.)

"David will break the bonds of the giant Windows software and forever change the way the world computes," SpecOps Chief Executive Fredrick Lewis says defiantly.

Lewis believes that the cost of purchasing PC's will decline once "David" becomes widespread and OEMs begin preloading his company's software so that the free LinuxOS can seamlessly run Microsoft programs,

SpecOps projects revenues of around $35 million within two years, from OEMs and the so-called "white-box builders" - the small resellers or distributors that assemble and sell personal computers without major brand names.

According to SpecOps' Web site:

"The next generation (of David) will, in effect, incorporate the operating system into the Web browser, virtually eliminating the need for an operating system eventually, except to boot computer and launch the browser."
Just like its namesake, the biblical hero David, SpecOps Labs new David middleware "is expected to level the OS industries playing field worldwide and free all consumers from the bonds of MS Windows - giving them freedom to use OS of their choice."

Fighting talk. But it's early days yet, in spite of the fact that Victor Silvino, country manager of IBM Business Partners of IBM Philippines, has indicated that IBM is "keen on supporting [SpecOps] both from a hardware and software perspective."

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Most Recent Comments
Kevin Clancy 02/05/05 01:09:25 AM EST

It is all a big fat lie the web site has gone dead in august 2004

karthikeyan 07/08/04 09:35:29 AM EDT

sir , I am an computer engineering student studying in my final year. myself and my friends want to do project in co-operative LINUX . We want more details regarding the project and the basic concepts of it.

plz mention the basic thing that are needed to implement the project.

Mode1Bravo 04/27/04 05:51:40 AM EDT

All I can say is I'll believe it when I see it....

lee bogs 04/26/04 07:20:25 AM EDT

Finding the missing link in
Linux-Windows compatibility
Posted: 10:56 PM (Manila Time) | Apr. 25, 2004
By Erwin Lemuel G. Oliva

IN a small seminar room of the De La Salle University (DLSU), Caslon Chua, chief software architect of SpecOps (which stands for special operations laboratories), took members of the local and international media through a guided tour of a software program called "David."

Introducing what the company is touting as the next breakthrough in computing, Chua told the audience that the demonstration was about to begin.

"But before I start, I should tell you that the David bridge software has been running the Microsoft Powerpoint presentation on this computer," said Chua pointing to the computer running on Red Hat Linux distribution.

The audience seems unmoved.

Chua who is a Ph. D. holder in computer science and the current graduate school director of the College of Computer Studies in DLSU, was about to demonstrate the "bridge" software which SpecOps developed.

This software, the company claimed, would eventually link two different environments of computing: the free operating system Linux and the commercial Microsoft Windows operating system. Both operating systems are now very popular, and the former is slowly attracting new users due to its lower cost.

Linux is an operating system developed by programmer Linus Torvalds of Finland. It was eventually given to the computing world for free use. Unlike Windows, Linux is an operating system -- the computer program that runs a computer system -- that can be used without the need to pay costly software licenses.

Companies like Red Hat, however, have recently adopted Linux and developed so-called distribution copies, which are often modified or improved versions of the free operating system with additional components.

During Thursday's public demonstration, the bespectacled Chua began showing his audience that Microsoft applications such as Office 2000 would not run on a Linux system. He then instructed his aide to install the David bridge software. After a few minutes, he again asked the aide to install the Microsoft Word program--the installation dialogue box for Office 2000 popped out in the middle of the computer screen, asking the user what to do next.

The aide was then instructed to click on the "next" button, prompting the system to ask for a CD-Key (an alphanumeric password). A few more minutes passed, the aide accepted the end-user license agreement, then proceeded to the installation of Microsoft Word, Powerpoint and Excel applications on the computer running Red Hat Linux.

Chua subsequently opened each Microsoft Office application, and showed that the "look-and-feel" of the applications remained intact, only this time it was running on a Linux box.

By the time he ended the demo, the audience was applauding.

But what is David?

According to Peter Valdes, chief technology officer of SpecOps, David uses a "new approach" in simulating the Windows environment in a Linux-powered system. Not wanting to reveal the company's trade secrets, he nonetheless said that David was breakthrough technology for today's computing world.

According to the SpecOps Labs website, David is set "to provide a platform, which will serve as a viable alternative to the MS Windows Operating System."

The company's Version 1.0 of David "will be a middleware program that will sit on top of the free and open-source Linux operating system, and enable it to seamlessly run most Windows applications," the company said.

In the future, David will become part of an operating system that will be integrated into a web browser, "virtually eliminating the need for an operating system eventually, except to boot the computer and launch the browser."

Attempts to "bridge the gap" between Windows and Linux have been made before, according to Valdes.

These projects include SunSoft's WABI (Windows Application Binary Interface), the TWIN open source project, ODIN, and the WINE project. The first two projects were abandoned, while the third targeted OS/2, an operating system developed by IBM.

WINE was the most prominent of all open source efforts to bridge the Windows gap. It was begun in 1993 to allow Windows 3.1 applications to run on Linux. Eventually, support for Win32 applications was added. Currently, the project is working on support for Windows NT and 2000 applications.

As of 2002, SpecOps said that the WINE project remained in the hands of developers, and out of reach of Windows users. The project also inherited the flaws inherent in the Windows system so early adopters experienced system crashes and performance problems.

Lindows and Crossover Office are two commercial initiatives that adopted the WINE project approach. But none of these efforts have generated consumer acceptance that is comparable to what Microsoft has achieved with its Windows OS.

Lindows was nearer to the heart of Windows users. However, the company was slapped with a legal suit by Microsoft, after the software giant claimed that its company name infringed on the copyright of Microsoft's Windows brand. This has delayed the company's efforts, and subsequently changed its direction and vision.

According to SpecOps's technical executives, David used reverse engineering to create a "Windows Subsystem Simulation Environment" to allow Windows applications to run "natively" on the Linux operating system.

It also corrected design flaws in the Microsoft Windows system to make the simulation more efficient and avoid system crashes.

SpecOps said that David incorporated into its architecture the top features of the preceding Windows compatibility projects.

However, unlike other simulation applications that still requires the user to have a copy of Microsoft Windows to run the applications on the computers, the David bridge software only requires users to install the middleware into a Linux system before installing Microsoft applications.

One advantage offered by David is that it requires minimal hardware additions, according to SpecOps. There is no need for additional memory and disk storage to execute and store the middleware code and the need for a separate computer server to run a so-called "Virtual Terminal Software" for emulating Windows applications in a Linux environment has been done away with, the company said.

SpecOps also claimed that David supports 16-bit applications (DOS/Windows v3.x) and 32-bit applications (Windows 95 applications; Windows NT/2K/XP applications).

Gentoo Ken 04/25/04 11:28:54 PM EDT

It will be much more fun if...it is ..an open source s/w.:p

Roger Henderson 04/25/04 08:42:38 PM EDT

So where the hell is it?!? The article states:
Codenamed "David," Manila-based SpecOps Labs says it will unveil a working model of this middleware tomorrow and adds that it could be commercially available before the end of this year."
The article was written on 21st of April - it is the 26th now. I would have thought tech. like this would warrent a mention after release, not before, esp. if the reporter only needs to wait one day. Sounds like vapourware to me...

janka 04/24/04 02:40:25 PM EDT

Not a total waste of time if it will run say AutoCad and Timberline plus a few other speciality programs not available for Linux yet but the time spent would be better invested doing ports to Linux, M$ compatibility will with time become irrelevant, Bill "Crash" Who? :)

James Jones 04/23/04 10:07:17 PM EDT

We've been here before. Remember "a better Windows than Windows"? One of the ways MS killed off OS/2 was to put IBM in the position of perpetually playing catchup to keep those Windows apps running under OS/2. Finally they added a call to win32s.dll that had no purpose save to break an assumption built into DOS compatibility mode programs under OS/2 (that they ran in a 512 MB address space), and IBM gave up--they eventually removed that limitation, but it was years after it no longer made a difference. If David really works as advertised, how does SpecOps Labs plan to avoid this fate--and even if they do, won't that undercut any motivation for the producers of software for Windows to move to Linux?

Raven Morris 04/23/04 02:06:28 PM EDT

Re: zero

I am curious, what did you find unprofessional about their web site ?

I thought the design was excellent, however I thought the pictures chosen for many of the pages were quite comical, sort of like they were parodying other companies (which they sort of are when they talk about Microsoft).

My only real complaint about the web site was that they lied about the WINE project. They made claims that WINE inherits the instabilities of Microsoft Windows, and list "Blue Screens Of Death" and "system lockups when the apps crash", neither of which are possible. WINE is merely a user-level application, it can't crash the system. For many programs it runs equally as stable as Windows, for some, even more stable.

As an example the game Grand Theft Auto 1 runs much better in WINE than it ever did in Windows, which it would regularly crash the Win32 kernel after a bad memory leak that happens in certain situations. WINE on the other hand just crashes the process and lets you re-run the app immediately. It also crashes much less often to begin with in WINE than it did back when I played it on Windows 98. Incidentally, the DOS version of the game never crashed at all.

Anyhow, my point being that they blatantly lie about the WINE project ... which is quite odd considering that much of their code base is supposedly coming *from* the WINE project. They had better GPL their code when it is done, it's going to be quite annoying if they go and find some way to circumvent the license by separating integral parts of their code from it, or something similar.


zero 04/23/04 07:54:16 AM EDT

I was excited when I read the news but cooled down after I read their Website. The point is that with a properly run company, a proper Website is a must. Their Website (http://www.specopslabs.com/) really need some work. If it is not properly constructed it is better not to show it. If their attitute towards their Website is so unprofessional, what do you expect of their software?

E-Dan 04/23/04 04:31:08 AM EDT

The question is, if such a solution - like Wine - will not come to Microsoft's advantage at some point, in the long run. A lot of people have started putting together their own PCs. Purchasing Windows XP is quite the investment. Although Linux ships with a lot of goodies, there are some things that MS are good at, and perhaps it is not such a bad thing that they are able to sell their more useful products to Linux users - without actually making Linux versions.

PianoMan 04/22/04 01:00:41 PM EDT

Ah, read their web site, you are incorrect in your assumption. You will find the web site is in business plan format and contains very humorous observations. http://www.specopslabs.com/ Their product is a "better" WINE type technology.

My guess, this is the sssshhh method IBM is going to use to run M$Office on Linux.

K 04/22/04 09:23:45 AM EDT

Sounds like a browser based Terminal Server to me. It has been around for years. Nothing new here.

Raven Morris 04/22/04 04:25:33 AM EDT

This sounds a fair bit flakey to me. Integrating the operating system into the web browser is one of Microsofts biggest faults -- why try to emulate this with a fresh start ? And the likelihood that this company lets you run Windows apps better than WINE (which has had many years of development time) seems quite unlikely.

Still, the more publicity and mainstreaming of GNU/Linux systems means more hardware drivers, software and games being produced, so it's all good.

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