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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

CrossOver Linux Review

by Mike Mansell

For about four months now, I have been using the Ubuntu Linux operating system full-time on both my desktop and notebook computer. A few weeks into this experience, I wrote an article sharing some of my findings about the Windows to Linux migration process. One of the main concepts that I addressed in this article was the concept of finding Linux-based alternatives to one’s current Windows software. However, I also covered the fact that there are some software applications that simply do not have worthy alternatives, and for this reason suggested that Linux newcomers look into the WINE package to run Windows software on Linux. However, there is no denying that WINE is “at best a bit sketchy” (as said by a commentator).

When I first started using Linux, I had heard about the CodeWeavers CrossOver software package that worked to run Windows applications in a Linux environment. However, I could not justify purchasing it (retail pricing starting at $40) because in my eyes, it did not offer any value. After all, it was based on the WINE project, and I saw it pointless to purchase something that was simply a re-branded version of something that was freely available. More recently, though, a few people have been telling me about the wonders of CrossOver and how it was so much more than the branded WINE package that I thought it was. For this reason, I decided to take the plunge and purchase CrossOver Linux Standard in order to run a few Windows applications in Linux.

Upon installing the pre-compiled package, I was intrigued by the “bottle” concept that was employed in CrossOver. You see, in order to maximize comparability and isolate instabilities, CrossOver allows you to create separate ”bottles” that have individualized WINE settings. For example, I currently have a “bottle” that contains the mIRC IRC client. When I install additional software packages down the road, I will install them in separate bottles. Then, if any Windows-based software opts to go haywire down the road, any errors or damage will be isolated to that bottle and will not effect other software. Simply put, this leads to optimum stability. Additionally, by allowing individual applications to reside within their own bottles, CrossOver allows for the best possible comparability by eliminating any software conflicts and allowing for optimal operating system environments to be used.

More importantly, however, is the level of control that the end-user has over the bottles. I say this because the bottle manager allows for bottles to be forced to shut-down in the event of error, and allows for applications and runtime to be installed and uninstalled. Moreover, the implementation of a task manager extends the end-users level of control.

In retrospect to installing software in WINE, installing Windows-based applications in CrossOver is amazingly simple. The easy-to-use installation wizard allows you to create a new bottle with the recommended settings for your applications and to go about the installation process. These pre-configured settings for supported (and non-officially community-supported) software reduces the need for “trial and error” when installing software.

One of the best things about CrossOver is the fact that it instantaneously updates the “Applications” menu under Gnome, giving the end-user easy access to their applications. While this seems somewhat basic of a feature, it is definitely something that I have yet to see implemented in WINE.

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