CodeWeavers CrossOver Plug-In
$29.95 on CD-ROM / $19.95 download from CodeWeavers or via Ximian Red Carpet’s CodeWeavers channel
In a Nutshell
- Runs Windows browser plug-ins in a Linux environment as advertised
- Manufacturer limits its claims to what it can do, not what it wishes it could do
- Excellent free technical support
- Installation may freeze for several minutes; patience is a virtue
- May not work out of the box for nonstandard hardware setups
- 200 MHz x86 system (400 MHz recommended for QuickTime)
- 2 MB RAM
- 4 MB hard disk space
- Glibc 2.1
- X11R6 3.3
- Netscape, Mozilla, Konqueror, or Opera browser
How many times have you been surfing the Web using Linux and run into the message, “You Need the Shockwave Director Plug-In to View This Page: INSTALL/ CANCEL”? Until now, there was no option but to hit “CANCEL” and give up.
Fortunately, that no longer has to be the case. With CodeWeaver’s CrossOver plug-in, you will no longer get that message in Mozilla, Opera, Netscape, and Konqueror. That’s because CrossOver is itself a Linux-based plug-in that recognizes the desired file type and automatically runs the correct Windows-based plug-in within the browser window.
CodeWeavers, the maker of this gem, works magic by using WINE (WINdows Emulator or WINE Is Not an Emulator, depending on whom you ask), which is nothing less than a clean-room implementation of the Microsoft Windows API. While WINE itself is not ready for prime time, enough of it is ready to handle the heavy lifting involved in the restricted arena of browser plug-ins.
CodeWeavers has tested CrossOver on the Red Hat, SuSE, Mandrake, Debian, and Caldera distributions. The CodeWeavers Web site offers a refreshingly honest self-evaluation, noting that the product has not been tested for all possible Windows plug-ins and other limitations. That said, it worked out of the box for Macromedia Director and also for the Microsoft Office read-only plug-ins: Excel, Word, and PowerPoint.
We did run into an installation problem, interestingly enough, on the one plug-in that CodeWeavers provides with CrossOver — QuickTime. It simply wouldn’t load. A message to their support e-mail group drew a reply offering several pointers within hours. With one more exchange of e-mails, the problem, which involved a nonstandard configuration on a laptop computer, was solved. A minor glitch: be sure to use the Recommended installation setting for QuickTime, not the default Minimum setting. (This is documented in the manual.)
One other slight annoyance is that CrossOver conflicts with Plugger, the all-purpose plug-in that launches external applications for various audiovisual effects. While no workaround is offered, this isn’t a great loss, as Plugger and CrossOver have similar uses, and CrossOver does it better.
In addition to providing the ability to view Web sites that use Shockwave Director, QuickTime, and the like, CrossOver has a side bonus; the programs on which these plug-ins rely will appear on the Linux desktop, whether GNOME or KDE. So, for example, a “QuickTime Player” icon appears, and it works perfectly well on QuickTime videos.
The CodeWeavers folks point out that although their plug-in is closed source, they are using the profits from it to plow technology back into the open source world. Their support of the WINE Project, in particular, has been stellar. In addition, their work has even helped projects like reAktivate, an open source project that aims to provide ActiveX support for Konqueror (and by extension, support for Shockwave Director and QuickTime, potentially supplanting CrossOver).
In short, CrossOver is easily worth the $19.95 CodeWeavers is charging, and it’s nice to know that the money you spend is being put right back to work in the community.