Now heres a thought: In all the debate over Longhorn versus Linux 2.6—or, as I like to pose it, vaporware vs. "Red Hat Fedora is running on my desktop right now"—has anyone ever considered that legacy Windows users might be better off running their applications on—drum roll, please—Linux?
No, seriously. Microsoft is clearly pushing the idea of the 64-bit desktop, with AMD and Intel cheering them on, but guess whats missing from this ultimate desktop of 2006? Well according to Brian Marr, Microsofts product manager for Windows 64-bit, you can kiss such client legacy subsystems as the OS/2 subsystem, the portable operating-system interface for Unix (POSIX), and oh yes, 16-bit Windows support goodbye.
Now, maybe no one will much miss the OS/2 subsystem, and if you want to run POSIX-compliant applications on Windows youre probably already doing it with Microsofts Services for Unix, but theres a surprising number of applications out there that still need 16-bit support. And, Ill bet you a dollar there are a lot of developers out there who rely on 16-bit support for their applications and arent even aware of this news… yet.
Programmers dont reinvent the wheel, especially when they have old wheel code thats run just fine for years. We saw the folly of that approach with the billions we spent rebuilding obsolete code to get ready for Y2K, and well see it again as programs and devices unexpectedly break on 64-bit Windows.
Even when you know its a problem and the vendor tries to help, as was the case with Apple and the jump from Mac OS 9 to OS X, you end up with hundreds of broken programs and legacy devices that wont work. Heck, my Mac-using friends tell me there are still dozens of older devices that still wont work with OS X, and its been a long time since OS X was new and shiny.
Now, this will keep developers busy, but what are Windows users to do in the meantime? My modest proposal is that they should look to Linux.
You want to run Windows applications, but you want better stability and reliability? You can run your applications on Windows 98SE or ME under Linux using NeTraverse Inc.s outstanding Win4Lin. I use this program myself to run Windows applications on Linux and it just flat out works. Better still, if an application runs amok in the Win4Lin Windows virtual machine, I can just virtually reboot and Im back up and running in a tenth of the time it would have taken me had the same error occurred in native Windows.
You want to run a Windows application, but you dont want to run Windows? Then, CodeWeavers Inc. has the program for you: CrossOver Office. This program, based on the open-source WINE project, enables you to run many of the most popular Windows programs, including Office 2000 and two of my personal favorites, Intuit Quicken and Macromedia Dreamweaver. Better still, the upcoming CrossOver Office 3.0 also supports Lotus Notes 6.51, Microsoft Outlook XP, Microsoft Project, and Adobe Framemaker.
Heck, why wait for Longhorn to make things "better" tomorrow? If you want to run Windows applications today on a new and improved system, why not just run them on Linux 2.6 today?
eWEEK.com Linux & Open Source Center Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.
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