How To Be Stubborn

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Many people new to Ubuntu are somewhat put-off by how unfair the world of popular software is, in that they feel they must simply abandon many of the applications they were used to using on their Windows system. For some reason various companies simply refuse to help out the linux community. Luckily there are still several ways to get around that without having two computers (one Linux machine and one Windows Machine or Mac).

Wine

Wine is an emulation package that allows you to actually run windows software directly on your Ubuntu system. I'll say that again: Wine allows you to run windows software on linux. Yes it does. Over the last few years the success rate of running different programs on Linux has gone steeply upward. You probably will not have luck getting bleeding edge games to work, but you might be able to get that older game you can't live without, or that crappy database your company uses from the 90's, or publishing software to work.

Your first step to getting a program to work under wine is to install the wine package from the Software Centre. Step two is to check in at WineHQ ( http://www.winehq.org/ ) which is a huge database of windows software that people have tried to run under wine and their reports of success or failure. It will tell you which version of the software works best and whether or not there are any little tricks to get it to work. In many cases you will need to install additional windows library files (dlls) or other software like dot net, etc. To make this process of installing these missing components easier you will want to use "winetricks" which can be installed by following these instructions: http://wiki.winehq.org/winetricks

So once you have wine installed, your system will now fool windows software installers into thinking there is a "C drive", a "Program Files" folder, a windows registry, and so on.


VirtualBoxOSE

Virtualbox is a more complete emulation method which creates a "Virtual Machine" in software on your system. In essence, there is a software version of a computer's hardware, which itself doesn't know it is virtual. When you go this route there are two things to consider: first, all it does is emulate a computer, it does not already have an operating system on the virtual machine so you will have to install windows or even some other flavor of linux, on it before anything happens. Second you have to realize that a computer that exists in software on another computer is much slower than a computer that exists in hardware in reality, so don't expect this to be the fastest option: trying to run video software or games is mostly pointless.

Virtualbox is available from the Software Centre and I recommend installing the "guest additions" as well. Guest additions make the boundary between your actual system and the virtual one a little more transparent, such as automatically resizing the virtualbox's screen resolution to match the window size of virtualbox within your desktop. Trust me that will make sense once you try it without the guest additions for a while. If you try to install windows in your virtualbox do not expect to ever be able to Activate it with microsoft, because the virtualbox machine is not going to be recognized and your software has probably already been activated on and bonded to an actual hardware computer that you own (possibly even the one you are using).


Other Tips

Ubuntu ships with free knock-offs of various software plugins such as java and flash, but these are often not 100% compatible with the applet you are trying to run. Minecraft springs to mind as an example of a java applet that requires the actual Sun Java package. the procedures for getting actual flash and actual java on your ubuntu system keep changing (talk about being stubborn -- what is wrong with these companies).

Keep in mind that Ubuntu is in fact a sub-distribution of Debian Linux, so if you have found a site that claims to have a linux package for some software you can't find a replacement for and can't find in the software centre, and wine or virtualbox are not an option, see if there is a debian package available for it. These will be files with the extension, ".deb" and once downloaded can be installed by right-clicking on them and running gdebi on them.


Replacements rather than emulation

If there is no replacement for your beloved windows software, your best bet, in the long run, is to simply abandon that software for a free, cross-platform, or wine-compatible piece of software. This is your way to send a message or a vote to the publisher of the software, and will shorten the time that they accept the need to release linux versions of their products.

Games are always a tough one, so as a final tip, check out the site playdeb.net which is a site full of popular games and software that are not in the default ubuntu repositories. That means you will have to add another repository to the software centre before the games will show up there, and the instructions for that are on the site. So give up on your crysis and embrace the world of open arena or warsow.

And remember google. All you have to do is search for "Ubuntu replacement for BLANK" and you will be on your way.

There's also a very well-linked database of alternative applications (with many free and opensource suggestions for commercial products) at alternativeto.net