Open Source

Virtualization p0wns emulation

Jack Wallen has used just about every possible technology when it comes to Linux - even those that help run Windows applications. Recently he has been on a quest to discover which is superior, virtualization or emulation. He's found his answer. Do you agree?

I have been writing a lengthy series that attempts to help new Linux users figure out the best way to cover their Windows application needs. The series starts off by showing how well the Linux community has all of their needs covered by showing the open source equivalents to the most popular Windows applications. The series then goes on to highlight the different ways a user can run full-blown Windows applications. The choices? Virtualization or emulation.

Many years ago I worked with WINE quite a bit. Yes, I know..Wine Is Not an Emulator. But it was the best means to emulate a Windows environment on a Linux operating system in order to run the applications. I was able to run a few applications back then. That was then, this is now. Now WINE alone seems to have just as much trouble as it did back then. This is mostly because Windows applications seemed to constantly be "evolving" (or are the de-evolving?), so the WINE developers are always having to "fix" issues. But WINE is not the only player in town.

If you've never heard of it, Crossover is an outstanding pre-packed WINE product that makes for installing and running many of the more popular Windows applications much easier. But even with packaged system as user-friendly as Crossover is, there are still problems. Many of the newer Windows applications (Office 2007) can be fussy to install. I have managed to install it and use it, but it doesn't always want to work on the first try. On top of that, installation is a timely process that requires a LOT of user interaction.

But even with the problems, I have to say that WINE and Crossover should be applauded for what they have achieved. Not only does Crossover do office tools well, they (Codeweavers) also have a tool specially packaged for games. Crossover Games is a tool that allows you to install quite a large number of games on Linux with the help of a pre-packaged WINE system similar to what was once referred to as Crossover Office. Such titles as World Of Warcraft, EVE Online, Half Life, Counterstrike, Guild Wars, and more are supported. This, of course, brings me around to that age-old argument that Linux doesn't support games. Well, it does. And just because you have to drop an extra $39.99 to purchase Crossover Games shouldn't stop you from giving it a try. You pay that much for World of Warcraft in how many months?

But...

Compared to virtualization, emulation is child's play. Of course this isn't exactly a fair comparison because one attempts to emulate an environment and the other virtualizes the real environment. So it would only make sense that virtualization is superior to emulation.

But...

Virtualization has its costs. Quite literally. Not only do you have to pay for the software to virtualize the environment (unless you are using VirtualBox - and why shouldn't you), you also have to pay for the software you want to run as well as the operating system you want to virtualize (if you are virtualizing Windows). And beyond the cost there is that ever-present guilt that accompanies giving cash to Microsoft that many of us suffer from.

But...

When your job depends upon it, there really is only one choice - virtualization.

Which do you prefer? And why?

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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