NeTraverse Win4Lin Desktop 1.0
$49.95 with CD/$39.95 download
In a Nutshell
- Fast Windows installation
- Great interaction with Linux
- Transparent TCP/IP network support
- Stable and solid
- Requires kernel modification or replacement
- Documentation only available online and occasionally wrong
- No support for Microsoft networking
- Customer support is slow but eventually responsive
- Pentium or equivalent processor
- 16 MB RAM per Windows session
Hard Drive Space
Even the most hard-core Linux bigots know that they will eventually receive and be expected to work with proprietary, Windows-formatted files. While Linux tools such as Sun’s StarOffice and Corel’s WordPerfect Office suites enable you to import, work with, and export such files, formatting or layout nuances are almost always lost in translation and conversion.
Typically, most people solve this problem by keeping a Windows machine around solely for the purpose of dealing with Wintel-specific files and related applications. A more attractive solution is that provided by Win4Lin, which enables Windows to be run as a Linux process. Once Win4Lin is installed, Windows 95 or 98 is installed next and then run as a Linux process under the X Window system, combined with your preferred Linux desktop environment. Finally, install the Windows applications you wish to use, and get your work done without sacrificing a machine to Redmond. Neat!
Win4Lin is the latest in a growing number of tools that allow you to run Windows applications under Linux. Its most notable competitor is VMware’s VMware 2.0 for Linux. Both Win4Lin and VMWare are emulators, providing simulated Intel hardware on top of which other operating systems may be installed and run.
Win4Lin vs. VMware
The most important differences between Win4Lin and VMware relate to the way in which each interacts with Linux. When you install Windows under Win4Lin, the files and directories that make up your DOS and Windows installation are actually stored in the Linux filesystem. VMware stores Windows as part of a relatively large Windows filesystem image. Win4Lin incorporates Windows into the Linux environment and thus requires that you patch and rebuild the Linux kernel or obtain a functional kernel from the folks at NeTraverse. VMware is purely an application — a significant plus if you don’t want to have to rebuild your kernel.
When it comes to networking, Win4Lin automatically uses your Linux’s system’s network configuration for TCP/IP communication. When first run, Win4Lin quite impressively connected to another system using FTP from within Win4Lin and “the right thing” happened. However, you can’t use network protocols such as NetBIOS or SMB from within Win4Lin. This is a definite hassle, preventing network share mounts located on other Windows machines from becoming available. To enable this functionality, the fileshares must use applications under Linux and then use Win4Lin’s winsetup application to associate them with Win4Lin drive letters. On a related note, you also can’t access your Win4Lin Windows system from other systems on the network because it’s just a Linux application that piggybacks on Linux’s networking capabilities.
We had some hassles patching the kernel and getting Win4Lin installed. However, once it and Windows were installed, it is impressively fast and very stable. In today’s multi-platform computing environment, it’s good to have as many native tools available as possible. Win4Lin is a fast and capable addition to any Linux computing toolkit, giving you the best of both worlds.
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