Linux migration. Part V. Windows Applications

We have learned how to setup a Dual-Boot System with both Windows™ and Linux on your PC, what the Linux applications could be used in replacement of the Windows’ ones, and how to move emails from Outlook™ into KMail Linux-application. Now we need to know how to run native Windows applications on a Linux system.

I have some Windows-only programs I can’t live without.
The first of them is a special banking program I use to access my bank account. It works like a local proxy-server to encrypt the traffic between the bank and my PC.
At the second I need Internet Explorer to test the sites I’m working on.
We also can try Windows version of Adobe Photoshop® as a complicated Windows application.

You can use various virtual machines (VirtualBox or VMware Workstation) and emulators to run non-native applications on Linux.


InnoTek VirtualBox is the only professional-quality virtualization solution that is freely available as Open Source Software.
VirtualBox requires at least 512 MB of RAM on your PC. While VirtualBox itself is very lean (a typical installation will only need about 30 MB of hard disk space), the virtual machines will require fairly huge files on disk to represent their own hard disk storage. So, to install Windows XP, for example, you will need a file that will easily grow to several GB in size.

1) Install VirtualBox
In order to install VirtualBox open the system menu and select the Add/Remove Programs option. Find and check on the InnoTek VirtualBox package, then click the “Apply Changes” button.

After the package downloaded and installed you need to start the VirtualBox driver. If you forget to do this you’ll get an error message with instructions.
Open the system menu and select the Run Command option. Enter “konsole” command in the window to open the command-line terminal. Start the driver with the command: sudo /etc/init.d/vboxdrv start
After the driver started you can see the vboxdrv name in the devices list: ls /dev/vboxdrv

2) Setup a Linux user to work with VirtualBox
The VirtualBox uses low-level system resources and works under its own permissions-group for security reason. So you need to add your user-account into the vboxusers group to be able to use the VirtualBox.
Open the system menu, select the System Settings option and click the User Management icon.

Click the Administrator Mode button and enter your password to get access to your account settings.

Select your user account and click the “Modify”. Click the “Select” button in the “Secondary Groups” line. Select the “vboxusers” option in the Groups list and click the “Add” button. Save all changes.

Now you’re ready to work with VirtualBox.

3) Create a Virtual Machine
Start the VirtualBox with the system menu System » InnoTek VirtualBox. You can have many various Virtual Machines with different Operating Systems and run them simultaneously.
In order to create a new Virtual Machines click the “New” menu-icon, enter a name of your machine and select the type of the Operating System you need. Lets use the “Windows XP” OS type.

Select the amount of memory for your machine.

Create a new virtual disk. This is a “sandbox” where your virtual system would work. Select dynamic type and disk size. Then use this new disk as “Primary Master”.

4) Install Windows XP
In order to install Windows from boot CD (my notebook was supplied with a bootable system CD) we need to adjust the virtual machine settings. Click the “Settings” menu-icon. Check on the “Mount CD drive” checkbox and select the drive “/dev/cdrom” to allow the virtual machine access to your CD-drive. Change the “Boot Order” list to be able to boot the virtual machine from CD.

Your virtual machine is ready. Insert your Windows bootable CD into the drive and click the “Show” menu-icon.
Install the Windows™ system as you were install it on a regular computer.

Remove the CD after the system installed and reboot the virtual machine.
You’re ready to test Windows™ applications. You can install your applications as you were install them in your regular Windows™ system.

5) Test Internet Explorer
The Internet Explorer browser works without any restrictions.

6) Test my Banking software
My banking program was installed smooth and works fine! Wow!

7) Test Adobe Photoshop®
Lets try to install Adobe Photoshop® to see how the VirtualBox works with complicated Windows™ applications. Thank Adobe®. They allow to play with Photoshop® for 30-day trial period.

To be honest, I didn’t try to edit huge images. Simple operations worked without decelerations.


VirtualBox works in virtual disk like in a “sandbox”. This prevents any application (or even a virus) working in your virtual machine from access to your files. At the same time you can setup a Shared Folder in VirtualBox to allow your machine access files in the specified folder. This Shared Folders play a role of files exchange buffer between your Host system (Linux) and Guest system (Windows™).

Wine HQ

Wine is an Open Source implementation of the Windows API on top of Linux. Think of Wine as a compatibility layer for running Windows programs. Wine does not require Microsoft Windows, as it is a completely free alternative implementation of the Windows API consisting of 100% non-Microsoft code, however Wine can optionally use native Windows DLLs if they are available.

1) Install Wine
In order to install Wine open the system menu and select the Add/Remove Programs option. Find and check on the Wine Windows Emulator package, then click the “Apply Changes” button.

After the package downloaded and installed you’ll be able to start Windows .exe files. The Wine would detect them and try to run under emulation. The Wine simulate a Windows file-system so the applications would work with a specified .wine/c_drive/ folder as the Windows C: drive.
The Wine uses the Linux system resources, fonts and window appearance. So menu and environment of applications may look different from what you accustomed with.

2) Test Photoshop
Lets try Adobe Photoshop® again. Note, Wine starts supporting Photoshop CS/CS2 since version 0.9.54 from January 25, 2008.
The Photoshop installer appears after I started the Setup.exe

After Windows application was installed you can start it with the system menu. Select the Wine » Programs » Adobe Photoshop option.


We can compare the resources used by VirtualBox and Wine with the top console command.

As a Result

All these tests demonstrate to me how Ubuntu / Kubuntu Linux can be used as my main system. So all I need now is to time the final migration and do it.


by Michel Komarov, © Copyright 2008.


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4 Responses to “Linux migration. Part V. Windows Applications”

  1. barney Says:

    You’ve just provided the best set of transfer instructions I’ve yet seen for moving from Windows to Linux.

    (Aside: is your name pronounced _miss-*shell*_ or _*miss*-shell_ or _*my*-call_?)

    I’ve been playing with Linux, various distros, since 2000-2001. Right now I have Ubuntu 7.x (Gnome interface) on a box (Gutsy Gibbon, I think, but I don’t really keep track of the names - version numbers are much more comfortable.) that’s only 800 mHz CPU and 256 MB RAM. It’s slow, but it works well.

    I started working with PCs using CP/M (briefly), then DOS, so I’m accustomed to the directory structure more or less inherent to that venue.

    The biggest single problem I have with Linux is that If I download a file from the Web, I don’t know where it goes . I can download it, but then I can’t find it .

    Oh, yeah … thanks for the mention of the open source VM. The thing that’s held me back from doing a total switch is Info Select. I have about fifteen years of email, notes, and history there that I am loathe to willingly lose. I’m eager to see if Info Select will run in that environment. If it does, that’ll just about confirm total conversion.

    Make a good day …
    … barn

  2. michel Says:

    Hi Barney,
    Thanks for your reply.

    I’ve just tried the Info Select with both Wine and VirtualBox. It seems working fine.


    (pronounce it like _mee-*shell*_)

  3. barney Says:


    Thanks. A Bunch! Methinks you’ve just eradicated the last [procrastinational] obstacle to my crossover .

    Two other questions, if you don’t mind and have the time to respond.

    First one is about Linux distros. As mentioned previously, I’m working with Ubuntu 7.10 on a spare box. Is there another distro that you would consider to be better? Prolly not _superior_, just, perhaps, more suitable? I do a lot of Web stuff, mostly WAMP development, and I’m starting to explore Ruby/Rails as an alternative. Is there, in your opinion, a better platform for that than Ubuntu? Yeah, I know it’s subjective, but I’d rather have a subjective opinion from someone knowledgeable than try to winnow through all the various claims (many unproven) for the various distros.

    Second one is about structure. As mentioned, I’m reasonably well-versed in DOS structure, but the Linux system seems a lot more free-form to me. Can you recommed any good treatise, preferably online, on the hows and whys of Linux structure? In particular, how to decide where a file - particularly a data file - should/could go and how to isolate such files from each other? I’ve kinda, sorta got an idea, but I’d really like to have a better conceptualization of the overall structure(s).

    Again, I really appreciate the work with Info Select … most folk don’t know what I’m talkin’ ’bout when I mention it . You’ve just about made me a onvert … I’ll be setting up a dual boot system tonight .

    Make a good day …
    … barn

  4. michel Says:

    Hi Barney,

    If you’d like to keep Ubuntu-family’s user-friendly interface take a look at Xubuntu

    Xubuntu is fast
    Xubuntu uses the Xfce desktop environment, meaning that it will run fast while still delivering a user-friendly interface. Older computers feel lively again, while newer ones will run faster than ever before!

    In other case you can try ZenWalk

    Zenwalk GNU/Linux is optimized for the i686 instruction set, but backward compatible with i486. These are the minimal hardware requirements to run Zenwalk in Xwindow mode, with correct performance (some lower configs work - ie : PII - , but might be slow) :
    Pentium III class processor
    128 Mb RAM
    2Gb HDD

    File-system structure
    /usr/bin – binaries for programs you run
    /usr/lib – libraries that many programs depend upon to run
    /dev – everything under here is a device like harddrive, cdrom etc…
    /etc – usually most of your configuration files for the whole system
    /var/log – this is the location of \\\”logs\\\”
    /tmp – just like it sounds this is the location for temporary files programs use
    /home – where your individual users are located
    /home/username – all files for your username


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