Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Windows gaming on Linux & Macs made easy

Sure, it's handy being able to run Internet Explorer or Microsoft Office on Linux or the Mac thanks to WINE and Crossover Linux and Mac, but you know what's even cooler? Running WoW (World of Warcraft) or Guild Wars on them.

That's why I'm really pleased to see that CrossOver, the company behind WINE, the programs that lets you run Windows programs on Linux and Mac OS, has just released new editions of CrossOver Games for Mac and Linux, version 7.2.0.

At first, you might think, "Are they kidding, you can't run -- seriously run -- a demanding Windows game on Linux or the Mac." You'd be wrong.

I'm not much of a game player, but I'm a hardcore player vs. player gamer in Guild Wars-look for level 7 gladiator characters in Team Arenas with 'Totten' as part of their name-and it works great. Let me put it this way, if I couldn't kick rump and take names just as well while running Guild Wars with CrossOver on Linux as I do on native Windows, I wouldn't be running it. I like winning more than I do operating systems.

The major new feature in this version is that it now supports Spore. Spore, I'm told, is a popular, single-player game where you evolve your species from one-cell organism to interstellar empire builder.

This edition comes with a lot of improvements. The overall effect is to improve speed and stability. That's especially true if you're running Steam-powered games. The most noticeable upgrades are in CrossOver Game's DirectX support. I see a lot fewer artifacts now than I used to.

If you're already a Crossover customer with an active subscription, you can just download the new version. You haven't tried it? You can get a full-featured trial version that will run for seven days. If you like it, you can buy a license for either Mac or Linux for $39.95. I think it's worth the cash, but, with a seven-day trial, you can decide for yourself.

Putty for Mac
Putty for Mac

Friday, February 20, 2009

uTorrent 1.8.2 on Linux with Wine

µTorrent, the BitTorrent client that is..

Micro-Sized Yet Feature Filled

Most of the features present in other BitTorrent clients are present in µTorrent, including bandwidth prioritization, scheduling, RSS auto-downloading and Mainline DHT (compatible with BitComet). Additionally, µTorrent supports the Protocol Encryption joint specification (compatible with Azureus and above, BitComet 0.63 and above) and peer exchange.


µTorrent was written with efficiency in mind. Unlike many torrent clients, it does not hog valuable system resources - typically using less than 6MB of memory, allowing you to use the computer as if it weren't there at all. Additionally, the program itself is contained within a single executable less than 220 KB in size.

Skinnable and Localized

Various icon, toolbar graphic and status icon replacements are available, and creating your own is very simple. µTorrent also has support for localization, and with a language file present, will automatically switch to your system language. If your language isn't available, you can easily add your own, or edit other existing translations to improve them!

Actively Developed and Improved

The developer puts in a lot of time working on features and making things more user-friendly. Releases only come out when they're ready, with no schedule pressures, so the few bugs that appear are quickly addressed and fixed.

Wine configuration
Linux Distribution: Ubuntu 8.04
Wine Version: 1.1.4
Windows version emulated: XP

Installing µTorrent

Download µTorrent 1.8.2 from here.

tom@tom-laptop:~$ wine utorrent.exe

uTorrent first run

uTorrent 1.8.2 runs out of the box with Wine 1.1.4, so no need for dll overrides and hacks as it just works!

tom@tom-laptop:~/.wine/drive_c/Program Files/uTorrent$ wine utorrent.exe

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

CrossOver Mac Professional 7 review

Virtualisation software such as Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion let Mac users run the Windows operating system and Windows-only programs on a Mac, but the install process is complex and time-consuming, and the programs can slow down even a speedy Mac. As an alternative, Codeweavers CrossOver Mac Professional 7.0.2 uses just the Windows application programming interface (API) to run Windows apps on your Mac, without the Windows OS.

CrossOver is a kind of ‘translator of a translator’ and relies on an open-source program called Wine. When you install and run Windows apps, Wine is actually translating the API calls that allow a Windows program to run, such as “pull up this dialog box” or “save this file”. CrossOver hides the clunky interface of the open-source Wine software behind a more Mac-like interface.
CrossOver is an ingenious idea for a program that can save time and costs less than buying a separate copy of Windows.
Performance issues

Still, before you dream of storming the beach in Call of Duty 4 or running the latest Windows version of Adobe Photoshop (maybe your company has a Windows-only site license), be aware that CrossOver really only supports a handful of commercial applications, many of them from Microsoft; otherwise, it’s hit or miss.

CrossOver supports several games, including Half-Life 2: Episode 2 and Counter-Strike. Both ran like they were on their native platform. Unfortunately, a vast majority of the latest PC games, such as Crysis and Call of Duty 4, are not fully supported yet. For productivity tools, CrossOver fully supports Microsoft Office 2000, and also supports more recent software – including Office 2003, Quicken, and Lotus Notes – but with known bugs.

The Pro version of CrossOver (£44.99) we used for testing includes two distinct versions of the program, one for productivity and one for games. The Standard version (£25.99) doesn’t support games. This is a little confusing – we would prefer one program that ran both applications and games in a Pro version instead of having two icons in the Dock.

For supported applications, installation works well. For example, if you insert the installation disc for Adobe Photoshop CS2, CrossOver launches automatically and prompts you to install it. The installation takes place using the Windows API. CrossOver also adds newly installed programs to the Mac Applications folder, and you can launch them from the Dock. When you print, CrossOver uses your Mac print driver. In daily use for fully supported apps, CrossOver worked like a charm: it rarely got in the way of running Windows software.
Supporting role

For unsupported apps, Codeweavers hosts a forum where users can report their experiences in testing software and award colour-coded badges to indicate the program’s level of support. For example, you can find out if Quicken 2008 runs well, has some minor or major issues, or won’t run at all. CodeWeavers oversees the forums, but doesn’t provide a standard testing methodology or distinguish test results by hardware specifications. It also provides some Wine testing scripts.
We would like to see CrossOver maintain a database of supported commercial software and when you attempt an install, it presents an alert box with information about whether the program will work. This would save you a trip to the website. For example, we tried to install Photoshop CS3 before checking the support forums. During the installation, CrossOver merely acted as if it were waiting for the installation to complete. It never did, so we had to quit CrossOver and, eventually, reboot entirely. A simple alert that CS3 applications will not work would have helped immensely. CodeWeavers says it is working on more alerts for the next release.

CodeWeavers does offer exceptional email and telephone-based tech support. For one problem – running the unsupported version of Adobe Photoshop CS3 for Windows – tech support responded in three hours and provided a concise answer: the application is not supported at all. For another problem – printing to a PDF file in Word – the support was much more helpful, providing a clear solution (use the CUPS-PDF driver and print to PDF) in the same time period.

Putty for Mac
Putty for Mac

Monday, February 16, 2009

Browser benchmarks 2 even Wine beats Linux Firefox

News article from Tux Radar:
We posted yesterday about Firefox having very different JavaScript performance on Windows and Linux, despite being the same version of the software.
Some people have said that we should have used a stock build from Mozilla. (We disagree, because we'd argue that most Linux users use software from their package manager rather than downloading bits and pieces from the web.) Others have said that Opera should be tested. And some people have said that it's Nvidia/AMD/Intel drivers that are slowing down Linux.
Anyway, we thought we would conduct a couple more quick benchmarks to see whether we can eliminate some of these variants. We don't have time to run the full benchmark suite and fiddle around from scratch, so we ran just a few quick tests to see what we could find.
This time the information you need to know is:
  • These benchmarks were run on the same computer as before, running the same Fedora 10 install.
  • We tried Mozilla Firefox for Linux as downloaded straight from Mozilla.
  • We also tried Mozilla Firefox for Windows as downloaded from Mozilla, but running it using Wine on Fedora.
  • We installed and tested Opera 9.63 for Fedora 10, as downloaded from Note: we were only able to find i386 builds on the Opera site; this isn't optimal so if someone can point us towards an i686 build for Fedora 10 we will happily update the article.
  • We ran the Google V8 Benchmark suite V3, as before.
To be absolutely clear: we took the Windows Firefox and ran it on Fedora Linux using Wine 1.1.12 as provided by Fedora:
  • "Firefox Windows" is Firefox running on Windows.
  • "Firefox Fedora" is Firefox running on Fedora using the Fedora package.
  • "Firefox Mozilla" is Firefox running on Fedora using the Mozilla build.
  • "Firefox Wine" is Firefox as compiled for Windows running on Fedora using Wine.
  • "Opera" is, well, Opera 9.63 running on Fedora.
With all that in mind, here's how the results look now:

The end result: Firefox from Mozilla or from Fedora has almost nil speed difference, and Firefox running on Wine is faster than native Firefox. Opera lags behind, but we're inclined to believe that number would increase if a better build was used.

Putty for Mac
Putty for Mac