Mucking about with WINE

It was the prospect of having Photoshop Elements going on Linux that got me thinking about working with WINE. The cause of that was Elements’ inability to edit, create and save files to a VMware shared folder. As it turned out, there was more to my WINE adventures than getting Elements working. Because I was in learning mode, those adventures turned out to be messy ones with WINE getting uninstalled and reinstalled a number of times. For the last of these, I forced matters by installing from a DEB package rather than going through Ubuntu’s normal channels. The openSUSE journey was a bit more orderly and that VM option remains if I want to go experimenting more.

Along the way, I got the Windows version of Opera going as a test. When trying out WINE in former times, I never tried installing applications into it like I do now. I don’t know if this was because I hadn’t made an important connection or that wasn’t the way that things used to be. Flushed with the success of Opera, I went further and discovered that Dreamweaver 8 and Altova’s XMLSpy 2007 Professional work without my breaking a sweat. Photoshop Elements was another story and one that I have told before. Apple’s iTunes was another thing that I tried but without success, even with a useful guide on Wine Review; for some reason, I’m having trouble getting the installation to complete successfully. I think that I’ll leave my tinkering at that for now but my general impression is that WINE works well these days, even if there is the odd crash or inexplicable disappearance of an application window. The latter happened with Dreamweaver and XMLSpy and I needed to log off and back on again to clear the slate for further progress.

iPod, identified

Plug in an iPod to a PC running Ubuntu and it will recognise what it has got. That act mounts the player as a hard drive and fires up the Rhythmbox Music Player. The usual file transfer capabilities are available and it does something that was thwarted partially by iTunes when I last tried it: transferring files from your iPod to your PC. Only music bought from the iTunes store can copied from the player back to the PC. Unsurprisingly, you cannot update the iPod’s firmware or anything like that. To do such things, you need the iTunes player and that means having either Windows or OS X. While I do wonder if it can’t be that hard to port the OS X version to Linux since they both share UNIX roots, it’s over to the Windows VM for me on this one for now.

Connecting to Host USB Devices from VMware

However, while VMware on Windows will happily pick up USB devices as they are connected so long as the VM is in focus, the behaviour on Linux seems to be different. As shown above, you have to go to the VM menu and potter down the chain (Removable Devices > USB Devices) to make the device of interest accessible. Dialogue boxes asking you if you want to disconnect the device from the host operating system will appear and the process may be unsubtle as you progress with it. In fact, Ubuntu was delivering warning messages about how its iPod connection got lost; it would have been wise to unmount the thing in the first place. Accessing USB devices like this opens up other possibilities: using Windows for scanning and for printing digital images.

Returning to the iPod story, Windows will see it once it has been made available and iTunes can access it accordingly. Then, you are free to update the gadget’s firmware or manage the music stored on it, if you prefer.

Why I’ll be keeping Windows close to hand for a while to come

Even though I have moved to Linux and it has been fulfilling nearly all of my home computing needs, I do and plan to continue to retain access to Windows courtesy of virtualisation technology. Keeping current with the world of the ever pervasive Windows is one motivation but there are others. In fact, now that Windows is more of a sideline, I may even get my hands on Vista at some point to take a further in-depth look at it, hopefully without having to suffer the consequences of my curiosity.

Talking of other reasons for hanging onto Windows, listening to music secured by DRM does come to mind. DRM is seen in a negative light by many in the open source world so Linux remains unencumbered by the beast. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing and the whole furore about Vista and DRM earlier this year had me wondering about a Linux future. However, I have been known to buy music from iTunes and would like to continue doing so. WINE might be one way to achieve this but retaining Windows seems a sounder option. That way, I am saved from having to convert my protected music files into either Ogg Vorbis or FLAC; the latter involves a lossless compression unlike the former so the files are bigger with the additional quality that an audiophile would seek. MP3 is another option but there are those in the Linux world who frown upon anything patented. That makes getting MP3 support an additional task for those of us wanting it.

In my wisdom, I have succumbed to the delights of expensive web development tools like Altova’s XMLSpy and Adobe’s Dreamweaver. While I have found a way to get Quanta Plus to edit files on the web server directly and code hacking is my main way to improve my websites, I still will be having a bimble into Dreamweaver from time to time. I have yet to see XMLSpy’s grid view replicated in the open source world so that should remain a key tool in my arsenal. While I haven’t been looking too hard at open source XML editors recently, there remains unexplored functionality in XMLSpy that I should really explore to see if it could be harnessed.

I have included implicit references to this already but keeping Windows around also allows you to continue using familiar software. For some, this might be Microsoft Office but OpenOffice and Evolution have usurped this in my case. Photoshop Elements is a better example for me. Digitial transfers from scanners and DSLR’s will stay in the world of Linux but virtualisation allows me to process the images whatever way i want and I might just stick with the familiar for now before jumping ship to GIMP at some point in the future. With all that is written on Photoshop, having it there for learning new things seems a very sensible idea.

While open source software can conceivably address every possible, there are bound to be niches that remain outside of its reach. I use mapping software from Anquet when planning hillwalking excursions. It seems very much to be a Windows only offering and I have already downloaded a good amount of mapping so Windows has to stay if I need to use this and the routes that I have plotted out before now. Another piece of software that find its way into this bracket is my copy of SAS Learning Edition; there are times when a spot of learning at home goes a long way at work.

So, in summary, my reasons for keeping Windows around are as follows:

  • Learning new things about the thing since I am unlikely to escape its influence in the world of work
  • Using iTunes to download new music and to continue to listen to what I have already
  • Using and learning about industry standard web development tools like Dreamweaver and XMLSpy
  • Easing the transition, by continuing to use Photoshop Elements for example
  • Using niche software like Anquet mapping

I suppose that many will relate to the above but Linux still has plenty to take over some of the above. In time, DRM may disappear from the music scene and not before time; accountants and shareholders may need to learn to trust customers. NVu and Quanta Plus could yet usurp Dreamweaver and there may be an open source alternative to XMLSpy like there is for so many other areas. The Photoshop versus GIMP choice will continue to prevent itself and all that is written about the former makes it seem silly to throw it away, however good the latter is. Even with changing over Linux equivalents of applications fulfilling standard needs, it still leaves niche applications like hillwalking mapping  and that, together with the need to know what Windows might offer in the enterprise space, could be the enduring reasons for keeping it near to hand. That said, I can now go through whole days without firing a Windows VM up and that is a big change from how it was a few months ago. I suppose that it’s all too easy to stick with using one operating system at a time and that is Linux for me these days.

Is Apple ditching Windows 2000?

Having had a brainwave of using my Windows 2000 VM to play music without impacting the rest of my PC’s working, I made the discovery that a bit of digging was required to find a version of iTunes and Quicktime that work with Win2K. Google delivered the good so here are the links:

iTunes for Win2K

Quicktime for Win2K

It all reminds me of a post that I wrote a few months back but iTunes is now working and, thanks to VMware’s Shared Folders functionality, using the host PC’s digital music collection. I’ll be seeing how the ring fencing goes…

iTunes: a resource hog?

When I first started to use iTunes, it very much played well with other software applications running. Then, a few versions later, the playback began to suffer with iTunes running in any way other than on its own. A solution that I have is to fire up the Windows Task Manager, go to the Processes tab and find iTunes.exe in the list. The next thing is to right-click on this, select the Set Priority and change the setting to Above Normal. Windows will warn you about what you are doing but it usually doesn’t cause any other problem. Yes, it sounds a bit extreme but it always solves the playback problem.

So long as iTunes is merely playing music, all is well. However, when it starts ripping CD’s, it’s a wholly different matter. That is a CPU intensive operation and setting the process priority to Low is a very good idea. I recently got caught out by a default setting of ripping any music CD inserted into the PC and, at Above Normal priority, the PC got locked up. Eventually, I got things back under control and lowered the priority. Needless to say, iTunes will just list the contents of an inserted CD from now on. I have learnt my lesson; keeping the command line open to get at command line process tools would be a very good idea for the future, especially as I know where to find these on the web.