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Run Windows and Linux without virtualization

By Mayank Sharma on April 15, 2008 (9:00:00 AM)

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Linux does everything that many users want it to, but some people have tasks that require Windows applications. You can dual-boot both operating systems, or run Windows in a virtualized environment on Linux. Alas, virtualization makes the guest OS almost useless for processor- and RAM-intensive tasks like editing videos and playing games. Now, a Ubuntu-based distro called andLinux takes cooperation with Windows to a whole new level.

The miracle ingredient in andLinux is its coLinux kernel. The coLinux project takes a stable release of the Linux kernel and ports it to run on Windows. That means that, unlike virtualization software, andLinux installs on Windows like any other application.

But there's more to andLinux than just sticking the coLinux kernel in a stock Ubuntu. According to Joachim Gehweiler, one of the developers of andLinux, the project also had to roll in the Xming X server and PulseAudio sound server and make sure these components work together.

andLinux is available in two flavours -- a 665MB version that uses KDE and takes up 4.5GB of disk space, and a lightweight 143MB version with Xfce that uses 2.5GB on a hard drive. The developers recommend earmarking at least 192MB of RAM during installation for andLinux, but make sure you have enough memory left for Windows itself. andLinux will run only on 32-bit versions of Windows 2000, XP, 2003, and Vista, and your hard drive needs to be formatted using the NTFS filesystem.

Both versions of andLinux are distributed as Windows executable files, and launch the easy-to-use andLinux graphical installer. The installer asks questions to help it bridge the gap between Windows and Linux. For example, to access your Windows files from andLinux you have the option to either use Samba or COFS (coLinux File System). While COFS is easy to configure, the andLinux installer advises you to use Samba if you have filenames with special characters. To further enhance the co-existing experience, andLinux lets users configure file type associations, and decide which Linux applications to add to the Windows "Open With" menu.

The installer performs several behind-the-scenes configuration tasks, such as setting up the TAP-coLinux network adapter for sharing the network connection with Windows. Most of these tasks are performed by the Inno setup scripts on the Windows side, but some, such as Samba setup, have to be done from the Linux side, and are performed by bash and Perl scripts written by the andLinux developers.

The installer also creates an andLinux start menu entry and quick launch icon. andLinux installs as a Windows service and can start automatically when the computer boots, though depending on your hardware this could slow down your Windows boot process. You can also launch andLinux manually at a command prompt, but there's no shortcut on the desktop or a quick launch icon you can click to start andLinux.

I run andLinux on two dual-core boxes -- an E4400 2.0GHz machine with 2GB of RAM, and an E6300 1.8GHz with 1GB of RAM. On both machines starting andLinux as a service doesn't cause any visible stress, just disk activity after Windows boots, indicating andLinux starting up in the background. On a slower 1.7GHz Celeron laptop with 1GB RAM, I see a steep increase in application launch times while andLinux boots in the background, but things get back to normal once andLinux's up and running. That's an improvement on the laptop's performance when running a virtual machine, during which time it crawls to a halt.

The loaded Intel dual-core boxes are optimized to run virtualized software thanks to Intel Virtualization Technology, but andLinux doesn't have any hardware-specific optimizations. The developers say you will benefit from virtualization threads only when running one Linux application concurrently with at least one Windows application. But this advantage is negated when you run two (or more) Linux applications, as all such apps are treated as one Windows process.

andLinux creates a 4GB virtual partition out of a portion of the partition it's installed in in which it keeps its binaries, and shares a small part of the Windows file system via Samba or COFS depending on the method you chose during setup. You can keep files you create using andLinux applications on either the virtual partition or the Windows file system.

At first, you may feel andLinux is a bloated way of running Linux apps that have Windows versions as well, such as AbiWord, the GIMP, and Firefox. Since they run atop the Windows desktop, you don't see the Xfce or the KDE desktops. But as you continue exploring you'll notice Konqueror and its KIO slaves and a bunch of KDE utilities and games that have never run on a Windows desktop before.

When it comes to remote sharing, you can configure andLinux to let you SSH into it from another machine. You can also remote share your Windows desktop via VNC or rdesktop and implicitly remote share andLinux.

To further drive home the point that you are really running a Linux distro, there's the command-line apt-get and the graphical Synaptic utilities configured for installing additional applications from Ubuntu's repositories. I tried some applications from the repository (including OpenOffice.org, Pidgin, AbiWord, XChat, and Thunderbird) and they all worked. You can also install new apps by compiling them from source.

But you are not only running a Linux distro in Windows; you're running one alongside the other. To experience the cooperative nature of andLinux and Windows, you can right-click on a .txt document and open and edit it in Kate, read a .pdf in KPDF, and copy and paste text between a Windows app and a Linux one.

What you won't be able to do is play 3-D games, such as Alien Arena or Torcs. Nor will you be able to use your TV tuner card to watch videos on Linux with MythTV, or use your Bluetooth devices, even though some TV tuners and many USB bluetooth dongles work on all major natively-installed Linux distros.

On the plus side, you can share your printer between Windows and andLinux, thanks to recently acquired printing support. Printing support is expected to be included in the next release so you'll be saved the effort of setting it up manually.

Running atop Windows has one final disadvantage. andLinux lacks security support for multi-user environments and can be run by all Windows users that have access to the computer.

For a desktop user, andLinux is a productive method of running Linux and Windows together. It doesn't focus on segregating Windows and Linux as host and guest OS. Instead of merely coexisting it allows the two OSes to cooperate, resulting in the welcome ability to share files between the two OSes and open files using apps on either OS. It's still slower than a pure Linux installation, but it runs smoothly as compared to Linux running on an emulated PC, especially on older and slower hardware.

All said and done, andLinux's limitations aren't any greater than those of a virtualized environment, and in its current form, neither are its advantages. But I'd still recommend it to desktop users, due to its non-existent learning curve and for taking Linux-Windows interoperability to a whole new level.

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on Run Windows and Linux without virtualization

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Run Windows andLinux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 217.220.16.9] on April 15, 2008 09:30 AM
I tried andlinux just for having amarok running on Windows, but pulseaudio crash every time i launch it (Windows Vista, hp pavillion dv6000 and Conexand High definition audio card).
If someone got it working with similiar configuration please tell me.
Thanks!

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Re: Run Windows andLinux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.106.72.148] on April 15, 2008 08:01 PM
Try QEMU. It does the same thing, and it's probably more reliable.

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Re(1): Run Windows andLinux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 137.229.74.206] on April 16, 2008 02:17 AM
QEMU is not the same thing as andlinux dummy. The fact that i could use this to run stock linux programs in windows is great though.

While people would be thinking about the linux moralities of running linux in windows without virtualization. I'm thinking cool, i can run a ton of linux programs in windows that haven't been ported yet or can't be ported.

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Re(2): Run Windows andLinux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 98.20.25.245] on April 21, 2008 04:59 PM
dummy you dont run anything they dont know about--yea iam human

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Run Windows andLinux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 128.189.176.237] on April 15, 2008 10:05 AM
whole new level? At best it's a slightly higher level.....

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Run Windows andLinux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 85.233.228.239] on April 15, 2008 10:46 AM
I am so sick of the "I need Windows so bad!" people!

Rather than working on all of those stupid solution that will make Linux work with Windows, you should work on creating fresh and healthy alternatives to what ever "I must have that Windows application" so that people stop needing Windows once and for all.

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Re: Run Windows andLinux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 63.113.210.11] on April 15, 2008 05:51 PM
Then grab your compiler and get coding...

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Re: Run Windows andLinux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 121.116.168.100] on April 16, 2008 02:47 AM
I agree whole heartedly with you. if they need windows so bad, why not just stick with windows. i think they use linux because it makes them feel cool or something to that effect.

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Re: Run Windows andLinux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 84.217.241.244] on April 16, 2008 11:59 AM
I'd run Linux and Linux only on my home machine if it weren't for the fact that my kids want to play games. You'd have to convince game manufacturers to support Linux.

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Run Windows andLinux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 91.121.102.64] on April 15, 2008 10:48 AM
I totally agree!

Windows is just a bad system! There is no reason to help it work together with Linux - make Linux supreme instead!

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Run Windows andLinux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 10.11.143.164] on April 15, 2008 11:09 AM
While there aren't alternatives to some proprietary software, at most we shoud have a andWindows... not andLinux. The advantage is that it can bring more people to the right side :)

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Re: Run Windows andLinux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 121.45.68.233] on April 15, 2008 11:49 AM
The thought of running the Windows Kernel in the linux kernel is mildly disturbing

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Re: Run Windows andLinux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 80.100.64.40] on April 15, 2008 07:00 PM
>we shoud have a andWindows..

That's called Wine.

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Run Windows andLinux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 132.61.176.6] on April 15, 2008 12:18 PM
It shouldn't be "how can we run Linux apps on Windows." It should be getting the "need to have" Windows apps running on Linux, either from the same developers as native Linux apps or running through an implementation of MS APIs (i.e. WINE) or, better yet, writing programs that are good competiters with the Windows apps out there. Competition doesn't seem to be big in the computer world, for some reason, at least in the MS world. I LIKE having three word processors, two IDEs, 5 music players, etc... to choose from. I don't get why people are content with just MS Office or Nero, etc. It's like only being able to buy a Chevy and no one cares that there's no other alternatives. My point is, if Linux is about choice, why are we finding a way to run our secure, stable and freedom-affirming OS on an inferior OS written by a company that crushes freedom? Instead, I think our attention should be focused on writing good competiton for the "need to have."

I see no reason to run Linux apps in Windows. I use Linux for a reason, and it's because I like that OS. I don't want to run that OS in an OS I dislike. Having a port of the Linux kernel in Windows doesn't suddenly make Windows more secure and stable (the reason I use Linux). I just can't see the purpose behind this.

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Re: Run Windows andLinux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 204.184.192.55] on April 15, 2008 02:24 PM
I truly do not understand this line of thought. I use Linux as my primary operating system. I administer twelve Linux servers. I like Linux. But there is a difference between Linux as a piece of software and Linux as a philosophy.

To say that the Linux experience is about freedom of choice, and then to grouse when another choice is provided is ridiculous. This is a big world, and not everyone in it looks at their software as a medium of expression. To many, software is purely a tool. Those people now have an amazing array of choices that they never had before. And you know what? It didn't hurt you in the least....

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Run Windows andLinux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 130.113.103.254] on April 15, 2008 01:56 PM
Wow...that's back-asswards

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Run Windows andLinux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.224.73.163] on April 15, 2008 02:31 PM
Woohoo, the stability of Windows with the applications of Linux! What's not to like?

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Run Windows and Linux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 155.104.37.18] on April 15, 2008 04:33 PM
There's an error in the thinking of each commenter. I'm not a Windows zealot by any stretch of the imagination. Quite to the contrary, I'd rather have Linux as my native desktop any day of the week. But here's where the conundrum comes in: when you are forced to use Windows as your desktop, for instance at your workplace. Either you use Windows and you operate on the corporate network, or you use Linux in your own world with only a severely crippled Internet connectivity, and no connectivity to the rest of the corporate resources you need.

Things like VirtualBox and coLinux give us who want/need the Linux environment without (hopefully) the hassle of dealing with the admins who think that Firefox is unsecure (compared to IE) or that Linux is too open (compared to Windows XP) and that if engineers installed whatever they wanted then viruses would destroy their hobbled-together networks in a flash. I love and support these products/programs because it enables me to get my work done and still appease the admins.

Now before anyone starts the comments like "Wow! It must suck to work at your place." etc, most of major corporate America is falls under this blanket and its what we have to deal with.

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Run Windows and Linux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 194.75.171.33] on April 15, 2008 05:42 PM
Seems like a better option than Cygwin if you have to use Windows at work but want the unix-style goodies! However, at home I started switching to Linux a few years ago now. The only thing that seems lacking to me these days in Linux is 3d games but lets face it, consoles do that better now. K/ubuntu has come on leaps and bounds in the past year, there's nothing I cannot do as well as or better than on Windows, including complex tasks like dvd authoring from camcorder footage, plus its all free and I have few worries about malware etc. The system just cannot be compromised like a typical installation of Windows, since no-one uses the PC as administrator and I (and family members) cannot install anything without intending to (and knowing how to set execute permissions on a file). Most anything you want can be installed from the huge repository of maintained applications, instead of downloading dodgy executables from random places.

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Run Windows and Linux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 200.27.221.195] on April 15, 2008 05:46 PM
i think it's not a very good idea ... much better have linux (ubuntu in my case) + virtual box, or run specific apps using wine or crossover. About "I need windows so bad", unfortunately yes, i need it. Just because at work the ERP is Microsoft, so there is no way to run away. But is better have linux as OS than run linux on windows.

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Run Windows and Linux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 216.99.38.104] on April 15, 2008 06:20 PM
I use to be a windows xp user...then I made the jump to Linux and love it. Although I would not go back to windows, I still need some programs that are not available (yet) for linux, and need to run WINE or VMware to get them up and running. Right now, there seems a need to fill in the gaps that new Linux users are missing from the windows world and that is why such programs like wine & vmware exist. I guess that the goal of "andlinux" seems to be merging that gap. I like the idea a bit for everyday practices and running os (since Winxp is the "master" Os in this case), but for introducing Linux to a windows user is not a bad thing. The only issue I can see with this is that Windows users using andlinux would get comfortable with it and not make the full jump like I did.I think that Linux is becoming stronger and stronger in popularity, and software developpers, including ADBE etc, will eventually offer their products to respond to a growing demand of new linux users. Then, and only then, projects like andlinux etc will unfortunately die.

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Run Windows and Linux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 220.253.131.109] on April 15, 2008 06:22 PM
"Alas, virtualization makes the guest OS almost useless for processor- and RAM-intensive tasks like editing videos and playing games."
Obviously this helps to make using linux based video editing and gaming applications on windows easier, wait...

coLinux is a great idea particularly when used with something like openMosix to better utilise computer resources, using it in this way just doesn't make sense over something like virtualbox.

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Yes, yes yes but does it run under wine?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 80.6.172.219] on April 15, 2008 07:31 PM
Because if I can't run it a Windows program on Linux under wine I'm not interested....



...btw what does it do?

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Run Windows and Linux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 199.164.56.5] on April 15, 2008 07:58 PM
Run Linux on Windows? Why? Yet another solution looking for a problem. Er... I take that back; yet another problem looking for another problem. Can't see that it solves anything.

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Run Windows and Linux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.106.202.21] on April 15, 2008 08:20 PM
There are thousands of apps used in myriad professions that don't run on Linux and have no equivalent, and also don't run well virutalized. As a primary example I give you AutoCAD, which is pretty much required if you are in various engineering, architectural, landscape design, etc. professions. This is but one example. Ever hear of NED Graphics? Probably not. It's a graphic design program for fabric design and manufacturing, which is actually a big industry. Windows only. All the heavy duty video production and editing software. Tax software for professional accountants. Patient and account tracking software for doctors and dentists. Financial and trading programs for stockbrokers. Inventory tracking systems for supermarkets and retailers, much of it custom written by ISV's. If you look at industry and the world of work OUTSIDE of computers and IT, almost every office has some program, some of them extremely elaborate and expensive, that they've come to depend on. These people have to have at least some Windows machines around.

I run Ubuntu myself, but try as I might I cannot get my wife weaned off of Photoshop and Illustrator (she's a fabric designer.)

Yes, for a 'general' computer user who just needs the typical desktop programs, Linux is fantastic and has some amazing apps in many areas. But Linux blogs seemed to be filled with people who are ignorant of the prevalence - not of Windows - but of the Windows applications. It's not Windows that FOSS needs to battle; it's the apps that only run on Windows. When Linux can run the vast majority of them or has absolute equivalents, then it will take over the world. Until then . . . well.

Basically I think that anything like coLinux that allows Linux to get a foothold onto the desktops of these people is probably a good thing. Like Wubi, it simply allows some people who otherwise wouldn't ever bother to check out Linux to do so with less hassle.

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Run Windows and Linux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.156.159.10] on April 15, 2008 09:01 PM
So this is basically Linux virtualization running on Windows...?

I've been trying (unsuccessfully) to get Linux working on my old computer, but no luck yet. I *really* want to make the Linux jump, so this seemed tempting...seemed.

As much as I'd love to get a firm handle on how Linux works by running it under familiar XP environment, I don't think I'd get the full benefit as opposed to continuing to jump headfirst into this frustratingly intriguing OS. I can definitely see the advantages for this program, especially with all the "Windows only, or else" desktops out there, and especially with all the people out there that are curious about Linux and would like to "check it out" instead of making a total conversion.

I don't see how it's bad...if you don't want to use it, then don't. That's what the beauty of Linux is. For every level-headed Linux user I see, it seems I find one or two that follow the mindet of "You people suck for volunteering your time and effort to create a free program that anyone can use without charge, but isn't useful for me or doesn't measure up to my own personal impossibly high standards...go to hell and die!"

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Run Windows and Linux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 71.131.206.46] on April 15, 2008 09:15 PM
It's not "Linux virtualization" running in Windows. It's co-processing. The kernels share the same Ring level, which is very cool. No virtualization required. This is valuable for people who need to run Windows programs and Linux programs without the hassle of rebooting or the slowness of virtualization.

While I agree that the OSS industry - and the IT industry in general - needs to port its applications to Linux, that's not going to happen until the corporate world decides that making Bill Gates rich is not the most effective use of their IT budget. And that will depend on movement in the server world as much as the desktop application world. So in the meantime this sort of solution is very valuable, at least for those few corporations who want to move to Linux but can't entirely.

On the other hand, this solution does nothing to improve either the reliability or security of Windows, so the benefits are not as great as a direct move to Linux.

It's therefore a niche solution. But still a fairly good one. What we need to see now is the same solution applied to the other main Linux distros: Red Hat, openSUSE, Mandriva, etc., so those who need this solution aren't limited to Ubuntu.

By the way, somebody notice that on Firefox 2.0.0.13 running on openSUSE 10.3, the Preview/Post buttons below are being mostly covered up.

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It Most Definitely Has Its Uses

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 99.248.178.239] on April 16, 2008 03:53 AM
The SDK's required to build our software at my job are Windows only, otherwise I'd be using Linux exclusively there. I've used andLinux for a little over a month now so that I have a useful dev environment using tools available in Linux, but still build our software in a Windows cygwin term. Thanks for this good project.

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Run Windows and Linux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 190.31.53.88] on April 16, 2008 12:01 PM
i cant just believe it.... all this people wasting their time making things like these.
is it that hard to learn a new program?
i think it doesnt make any sense to mend windows users.

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Run Windows and Linux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 61.69.57.84] on April 16, 2008 12:43 PM
Most of the comments are plain stupid.... talking about linux vs windows at the end. Hats off to the developers in developing such a cool solution. Instead of appreciating the developers most of you guys are talking Windows VS linux... Big duh @ you all. One question to most of the people who are making comments... How many of you actually have given something to GNU/Open Source? Being a virtualization guy, I can only praise the developers for working on such ports and making other researchers realize the strength of open source.

This port speaks of the research strength attached to linux as a kernel... which to me is enough rather than to compare windows to linux....

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Run Windows and Linux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 12.150.2.208] on April 16, 2008 10:37 PM
Geez, not sure if I should puke or find a shotgun and shoot myself. This is horrible idea. It destroys what Linux is about.

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Re: Run Windows and Linux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 124.109.66.182] on April 28, 2008 05:56 AM
Shoot yourself, if your that much of a moron we'd all be better off.... And as for all of you jackasses that say it's a bad idea you obviously don't work in the real world. You remind me of some religious zealots that they're right and everyone else is wrong.

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Run Windows and Linux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 59.167.78.108] on April 17, 2008 04:05 AM
Absolutely stupid idea. Why take the stability of Linux and leave it open to the instability of windows. The whole reason 90% of businesses now run VMware for the windows installs is that a vm crashing (ie. Windows barfing) doesn't take down the whole machine.. This project takes all the advantages of Linux and throws them away for the sake of Windows. What a joke.

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Run Windows and Linux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 64.246.97.117] on April 17, 2008 08:50 PM
ITT: elitist pricks

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Run Windows and Linux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 190.173.212.105] on April 20, 2008 12:26 PM
Linux is the future........but not the present, the thing is that many programs are windows only softwares. It is a fact, we still need windows, so all you linux extremists who think that things are either black or white, get over it, we still need windows.

a proud windows user =)

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Run Windows and Linux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 203.161.85.233] on April 23, 2008 06:03 AM
I'm a bit saddened by some of the immaturity of the "OMG why not delete window$$$$z" crowd. Give it up dude, its that sort of elitist snobbery that puts so many people off. I'm a professional software engineer, and I adore linux. I use it exclusively at home, and I'm always agitating to use it at work. So far I've got our servers onto it. So far so good.

But heres the rub. Many of our customers won't even consider using linux on the desktop. To wit, I've been told that they'd rather change to another company, than let us move them to linux. Consequently, yes I have to use godamn vista on my laptop, and honestly I hate it.

But what do I do? I like being paid, and eating food and living in houses and stuff that all takes money. So I persevere.

I discovered andLinux a month ago, and its been liberating. Before it , I was using vmware, and it was slow, bunky, and it was trapped in a little box. No more. This andLinux runs *every* thing I've thrown at it, without fail (except tuxracer damnit. opengl aint so good on andLinux) and its running it as if it was a windows program. Bash shell muppetry on the C: drive? hell yeah.

And best of all, I can now develop linux apps for our customers, without worrying if they are trapped in windows world.

andLinux is a tool of world domination for linux. Don't you forget that.

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Run Windows and Linux without virtualization

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.11.70.33] on April 29, 2008 08:44 PM
This is actually a very big deal! Those of you who are dissing this software have no idea and are simply not picking up on some of the clues being discussed here. It is not an emulator which is nearly useless but uses the computer's hardware and works in cooperation with Windows.

It has opened up a whole new opportunity for some of us who need to use both Windows and Linux software and I'm not talking about desktop applications, I am talking about real engineering applications. These can cost an arm and a leg in the Windows world but are free in Linux! This is huge. I'm guessing it has saved me roughly $100,000 on just my machine alone, never mind all the other machines that can now be loaded with some first rate software and still be used in the normal windows mode.

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