Saturday, March 20, 2010

CrossOver Linux 9 review

One of the most common reasons given for remaining wedded to Microsoft Windows is the absence of a key Windows program on alternative operating systems. But that needn't be the case when you can run Windows programs without the Windows OS.

Codeweavers CrossOver Linux 9 (codenamed Snow Mallard) and its Mac brother, CrossOver Mac 9, let you run many popular Windows applications on Linux or Mac OS X.
Supported Windows applications include Microsoft Office (from Office 97 to Office 2007), Internet Explorer 6 and 7, Outlook 2002 to 2007, all current versions of Quicken up to 2010 and QuickBooks up to 2004, along with some versions of Photoshop and Photoshop CS.
Based on our experience with CrossOver, which goes back more than a decade, we'd say this new version supports about 20% more applications (at a level that most users would find usable) than the last one.

Codeweavers CrossOver Linux 9 is based on the open-source Wine project, an implementation of the Windows API on top of the family of Unix/Linux operating system. Wine is a mature project involving almost 17 years of work to get Windows applications to run on Unix and Linux systems.
Actually, you don't need Codeweavers CrossOver Linux 9 to run Windows applications on Linux. You can do it with Wine alone, if you know exactly what you're doing.

What Codeweavers CrossOver Linux 9 brings to the table is automated installation of Windows applications, and technical support. And in this latest version, the CrossOver interface has been improved so it's easier than ever to install and manage Windows applications.

Installing CrossOver

To see how well Codeweavers CrossOver Linux 9 does its job, we tested it on two systems. The first was a Dell Inspiron 530S powered by a 2.2GHz Intel Pentium E2200 dual-core processor with an 800MHz front-side bus.
The machine had 4GB of RAM, a 500GB SATA drive and an integrated Intel GMA 3100 graphics chipset. It was running the Debian-based MEPIS 8 desktop Linux distribution.
We also tried Codeweavers CrossOver Linux 9 on an older Gateway 503GR with a 3GHz Pentium 4 CPU, 2GB of RAM, an ATI Radeon 250 graphics card and 300GB SATA drive. This machine was running Ubuntu 9.10.
Both systems had more than enough horsepower to run multiple Windows and Linux applications simultaneously. In fact, CodeWeavers claims that any 32-bit system that runs at 200MHz can run CrossOver.
(The program will run on a 64-bit system, but only if it has the 32-bit compatibility library installed. So even the 64-bit version is really a 32-bit application platform.)
Codeweavers CrossOver Linux 9 also requires that your Linux include Glibc 2.3.x or greater and X11R6 3.3 or greater. XFree86 4 with XRender and FreeType support is recommended.
In short, Codeweavers CrossOver Linux 9 will run on any modern Linux distro on almost any IBM-based PC.
There are several ways to install Codeweavers CrossOver Linux 9. CodeWeavers recommends that you use its installation shell script, but if you'd rather use your Linux OS's installation program, CrossOver also comes in RPM versions for Red Hat, Fedora and openSUSE; and DEB editions for Debian and the Ubuntu family. They both work just fine.
The one problem we found is that there's no upgrade path if you already have an earlier version of CrossOver Linux installed. We had to manually uninstall our older edition of CrossOver before we could put in the new program. Codeweavers CrossOver Linux 9 includes an uninstall option, so that wasn't a problem, but the instructions don't tell you that you'll need to zap your old version before installing the new one.

Putting CrossOver to the test

Once installed, Codeweavers CrossOver Linux 9 has a new GUI that works equally well with both KDE and GNOME. (There's a known bug that prevents CrossOver menus from appearing on KDE 4.4, the most recent version. Hopefully, that will be addressed soon.)
Installing Windows applications is a snap. From the CrossOver interface, you can easily choose which Windows applications you want to install from a supplied list of supported applications. You can also install applications that are not officially supported; for example, our favourite HTML editor, NoteTab, also runs well on Codeweavers CrossOver Linux 9, even though it's not on the list of supported applications.
In this latest version of Codeweavers CrossOver Linux 9, you also have the option of installing useful Windows components apart from the actual applications. For example, we were able to install the most common Windows fonts, such as Arial and Times Roman, as well as the .NET Framework 3.0 and Visual C++ 6.0 redistributable libraries.
For the most part, the Windows applications we installed ran without trouble. We could work with Word 2003 documents, Excel 2003 spreadsheets, IE 7 and complex Quicken 2009 financial statements quite comfortably. It wasn't perfect, though, as some of the icons appeared blotchy. It was never enough to make a program unusable, but it was enough to make them unattractive.
In addition, we would also occasionally need to force a screen refresh when one Windows application's window covered up another. When we'd brought focus to the lower application, the part of it that had been covered wouldn't render properly. After running a command with the new foreground application, however, Codeweavers CrossOver Linux 9's screen refreshed and it reappeared as it should.

Two versions of CrossOver Linux

You can download a free 30-day trial version of Codeweavers CrossOver Linux 9. The program costs $39.95. Also available is CrossOver Linux Professional for $69.95, which can be used for multiple users, and additionally comes with CrossOver Games.
CrossOver Games includes support for Microsoft's graphics APIs for games, DirectX, up to version 9. With this, many Windows games will run well on Linux. We had no problem blasting monsters in World of Warcraft and Guild Wars. CrossOver Games is also available separately.

System requirements

installed); tested on: Ubuntu 8.04/9.10; Red Hat Enterprise Linux Workstation 4 and 5; openSUSE 10.2, 11.x; Fedora Core 11 and 12 Debian Stable; Mint 7; CentOS 5.3; 100MB of free drive space; python >= 2.4; gtk2 >= 2.10; python-gtk2 >= 2.10

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