Question about Linux.

Stephen R. Besch sbesch at
Fri Nov 20 11:36:50 EST 2009

BPG wrote:
> What advantage would it be for me to change from XP to Linux?
> Will it run all of my Windows programs?
> Can I keep XP on my machine and change back and forth between Linux and XP?
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For what it's worth, here's my 0.02. I gave up on windows 3 years ago - 
almost totally. I won't get into all the reasons, but, after about 3-4 
weeks of withdrawal symptoms, I have never looked back. In fact every 
once in a while someone asks me to install/repair something on Windows 
and I really feel the pain of  entering serial numbers, fighting with 
"authenticating" updates, locating years worth of old media to prove 
that the program was actually paid for, dealing with programs that stop 
working because the "license has expired - pay up please", etc., etc., 
etc. It all make me wonder why it took me so long to switch. In Ubuntu 
(and I suspect in most - if not all - modern linux distributions), I 
open the package manager, search for the program I want and click 
install. Done! That's it: no questions, no SN, no CD key, no threats, 
no... well you get the idea.

Regarding windows apps, since all of the various operating system 
services - those things which read the keyboard, handle the disk, work 
the display, etc. are all completely different, in a really fundamental 
way, linux cannot directly run any windows application.  Products like 
Wine provide a partial emulation of the windows services so it will run 
windows programs that don't need services that are not being emulated 
yet. To run virtually all windows apps, you really need something like 
VirtualBox, which actually emulates the CPU instead of the massive 
windows API. As a resutl, it will run virtually everything. Here's how 
far you can take this:

    I have 2 separate installs of Windows 2000.

        1) One of them is to run a proprietary "lock management" program 
that requires a USB dongle. Virtualbox seamlessly handles the 
authentication through the dongle.  This machine "lives" in a file in 
one of my linux folders. I can back up this entire machine to a secure 
location simply by copying this file.

       2) The other I use to run several CAD/CAM programs that don't 
have linux equivalents. This machine lives on it's own disk drive. One 
of the apps is AutoDesk Inventor (for 3D modeling) coupled to a 
proprietary VB program that drives a 3D rapid prototyping machine. The 
other app is a set of programs that drive a circuit board milling 
machine over a USB serial port (Note that if you want USB support, you 
have to get the full version of VirtualBox from Sun Microsystems - it's 
still FREE!)

   I also have a Window's XP install (and my colleague has Vista too) 
for testing cross platform applications.  All of these run with 
remarkable performance and the setup enables me to instantly switch back 
and forth from Windows to Linux with a click of the mouse. In fact, I 
can run all 3 copies of Windows at the same time, each doing something 
different and still run applications in Linux.

Finally, if you want, VirtualBox is also available for Windows, in which 
case you can install Linux as a virtual machine and run things the other 
way around - maybe the better solution for your mom. Nevertheless, you 
really should seriously look into some kind of a linux solution.

Stephen R. Besch

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