Windows Wine and Virtual Machines

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 15, 2013

Almost every regular desktop Linux user I know keeps a virtual machine with an old version of Windows around. I'm included in this group, I still run Windows XP in a VM, and will until it no longer works or the need for it is gone. I expect that the need will be the first to go, as the Windows only applications that I use are migrating off to web apps, like the latest release of VMware's Vcenter server. This personal, anecdotal evidence is what I see as the final failure of the Wine project. Wine promised us the ability to run Windows applications on Linux, but in my experience very few actually do.

I ran across Jim Lynch's article in IT World titled Wine and Windows RT: What's the Point? where he argues that porting Windows RT applications to run natively on Linux is a waste of time:

Is it me or is this just a huge waste of developer time? Windows RT devices aren't selling well at all, it seems to be yet another gigantic bomb from Microsoft. So why waste the time and effort to support it in the first place?

I've never been a huge fan of Wine anyway. It has its uses, but I prefer native Linux apps to trying to run Windows applications. I recognize that your mileage may vary in that sense, I'm sure some folks find Wine useful.

All due respect to the Wine developers and community. What they have achieved is very technically impressive. Windows RT applications are compiled for ARM, so being able to run them on Linux on standard x86 Intel hardware is like translating twice. Once for the platform, an once for the architecture. However, my experience with running applications in Wine has always been a bit fragile.

I prefer native applications whenever possible, and if they are not available, my preference is to run them in their native environment. This is especially true at work, where I need the applications to perform exactly as expected at a moments notice. While Wine can and often does work flawlessly, in the back of my mind there is always the nagging feeling that this is all a hack that might just fall apart at any moment.

Over the years virtualization support has been built into the processor, and desktop virtualization has become faster and more reliable. Today, with even a moderately spec'd computer, there is almost no noticeable overhead with VirtualBox running Windows XP.

Perhaps I am having a hard time understanding why this project still has enough steam to warrant patches in the Linux kernel. That's what is great about open source though. What is important to me may not be what is important to another user, and since the Wine community is large and active the project keeps moving forward. We don't need to understand to be part of the community, we only need to accept our differing priorities and move on.

If you have a good story or experience using Wine, or would just like to support the project, drop me a line in the comments. I'd love to hear from you.