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143. Ubuntu and Wine

By Andrew D. Wright

Are you a Windows user? If you're sick of worrying about keeping up to date antivirus and anti-spyware programs yet still having your computer seemingly always vulnerable and targetted for attack by endless hordes of hackers and identity thieves, then this column is for you.

Ubuntu Linux is completely free, as opposed to the $100 - $200 a new copy of Windows costs, and all those viruses, exploits, trojans and malware programs Windows users have to protect themselves from are no danger to an Ubuntu user.

You can download an Ubuntu CD image from their website and use your favorite CD burning program to turn that into a bootable Ubuntu CD. You can also ask them to mail you a CD (also free) but this will take weeks to deliver.

With your Ubuntu CD you can boot up directly into Ubuntu Linux without making any changes at all to your computer. This is perfect for trying Ubuntu out and seeing how everything works. The Ubuntu interface is very easy to use and Ubuntu comes with a wide variety of software ready to run, everything from games, office software and the Firefox web browser to graphics editing programs and memory testing utilities. All free, no tricks or limited time trial offers like in the Windows world.

You can also install Ubuntu permanently from the CD to an empty hard drive or use it to repartition an existing hard drive so you can boot into Windows or Ubuntu with each having its own separate parts of the hard drive. Ubuntu is able to read and write to the Windows partition so copying files over from Windows is easy.

Right out of the box Ubuntu has all the software most people could want already installed but there are thousands more programs freely available from the Ubuntu software package manager. Type what you're looking for and the package manager will find the software and download it and any files it needs, all free. It will even let you know when there are updates to any of your installed programs.

As if this were not enough, when you add Wine to Ubuntu, you get a computer that can run pretty much any program you could ever want.

Wine is free software that enables programs written for Windows to run on Linux. Wine imitates a Windows environment so Windows programs think they are running on Windows. Wine sets up a folder like a Windows C: drive, complete with a Program Files folder and Windows folder.

Wine doesn't use any Windows files by default. Wine programmers have made new Open Source files that try and duplicate all the functions (many undocumented) of Microsoft's proprietary Windows system files while running in a Linux environment. Since the programmers do not have access to the details of the Windows files, Wine is a work in progress but many Windows programs will work without any problems right from the start.

When you want to run a Windows program in Ubuntu using Wine you just right click on the program and select the Wine program launcher to open it. In future the Wine program launcher will automatically be the default choice to open the file so simply double clicking the program will run it, just like in Windows.

Anyone looking for an upgrade path from earlier versions of Windows without the cost or all the security problems should give Ubuntu Linux and Wine a good hard look. You can get a more attractive, better functioning desktop than Windows Vista offers, still use your favorite Windows programs and save yourself hundreds of dollars in software costs.


Ubuntu Linux (free):


Wine (free):


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Originally published 21 November 2008


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