Thursday, May 12, 2011

Thoughts on Wine Technology

If you have used a Unix operating system on a desktop computer for any extended period of time then odds are you have heard of Wine technology. In case you haven’t, Wine is an acronym that stands for “Wine Is Not an Emulator”. In actuality Wine is a “windows compatibility layer”. To put it in laymen’s terms it allows you to natively run Windows binaries in a Unix environment.

Wine is software I both love and hate. I love the fact that Wine exists. I hate the fact that it is necessary for Wine to exist. Lord knows there are a good number of (typically closed source) applications that only produce binaries for Windows. Some of these (such as games and office software) still lack true open source alternatives (Before anyone else says it: Yes LibreOffice is good but, as much as it pains me to say it, colleges teach Microsoft Office. It is difficult - if not impossible - to complete a class about using Microsoft Office, using LibreOffice). I dream of the day when enough developers pull their heads out of their asses and start developing software fully cross-platform.

That all being said, the Wine project is doing is truly remarkable job of accomplishing an immensely difficult task. They are reverse engineering all of the core binaries for an entire operating system. The Wine developers are doing their best to hit a moving target. The windows operating system is still evolving (albeit slower than Linux) and the Wine developers must be constantly coding to keep up with things.

Does Wine run all Windows applications perfectly? Hardly. It does a heck of a good job though! The number of “gold” and “platinum” rated applications continues to increase with each release. Are there bugs or regressions sometimes? Sure. But using a commercial product such as Crossover (which Bodhi Linux is now an official reseller for) catches most all regressions that occur between releases. The Crossover developers are also some of the lead contributers to the Wine project, meaning purchasing their software is a way to give back to the Wine project. If you want to easily keep track of Wine news Wine Reviews is a great resource for doing so.

Since I have taken all the Microsoft Office classes I’ll ever be required to sit through, I no longer use Wine for office software. I do however still use Wine for playing Starcraft 2 and several other Windows games.

What are your thoughts on the Wine project? Is it something you use? Does it work well for your needs?

~Jeff Hoogland


  1. I have always been fond of WINE. It could use better desktop integration, but it is vastly better today than it used to be.

    It isn't 100% compatible, and probably never will be but it is good enough for many of those last 10% of apps that you can't or don't want to live without.

  2. I use wine specifically for running programs from "portable apps". I am a GNU/Linux user, but I am forced from time to time to use a Windows machine. I carry a USB stick with a browser, email, and other software configured for my tastes. This way, I have access to my mail, mail account, bookmarks, and passwords no matter what I am on.
    I would like GNU/Linux to feature applications specifically for portability across systems. For instance, a portable Windows binary and GNU/Linux binary that can both access the same data in a same package. As it is now, I carry the Windows portable version on a stick, and install the Linux binary on my system.
    Just to get around that hassle, I boot into a USB Linux when I can. Many places do not like you booting a "strange" OS on their computers. For that, I use Puppy Linux that I've tweaked a lot. It is one of the truly portable USB distros out there in terms of usability. Most of the others are too old, too limited, not good, or just USB "live boots" with some semblance of permanence.
    And yes, there are some programs I use that do not have a good equivalent in GNU/Linux (sorry guys).

  3. I guess I'm one of the lucky people who can use linux without having to run or even install wine. I don't use any proprietary software that was made for windows. I just don't have that need or want. I'm perfectly happy with libreoffice. I am not a gamer so whatever "games" I find for linux suits me fine. I prefer games like spider solitaire to shoot-em-up games. :) I used to try to use wine back in 2002 when I first started using linux but as soon as I realized there were (usually) open source alternatives, I quickly dropped the idea of wine.

  4. I like Wine personally. I really only use two applications with it (there are a couple other Windows programs I still use occasionally that don't work in Wine or have open source equals). My main usage is Photoshop 5.5 mainly for the actions capability for batch sizing and editing with watermarks for my site. Also use a meta data editor with wine that allows bulk stamping from template files. I would prefer open source alternatives to wine, but it is very helpful to have it as an option.

  5. Like Jesse, there are only two applications used with some regularity: PswSafe and TreePad

    This because there are here and there, applications sequestered in the environment they born.
    And because they are what they are, no property of the environment but of their builders...

    Wine is a tool of Liberty, correcting addiction and allowing working relations (with software) to be kept as the right to choose.