OPINIONS WANTED!: Which Linux and which Windows emulator

OK Guys; I realize I am about to bombarded with thousands of posts, but here goes...

I am an experienced UNIX admin (Solaris, HPUX, Alpha, ad nauseum) and after my seven millionth bi-annual, preventive maintenance Windows overhaul and re-install, I just can't manage to stomach any more!  BUT I am a software wh_re and need to keep my Windows software.  So the question is...

In your professional opinions...which Linux and which Windows emulator will return my sanity?

Thanks!
M
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Mike R.Asked:
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255x4Connect With a Mentor Commented:
Me-thinks a flame-war could errupt at any moment.  :)

For distros, the best questions, are what are you used to and/or what do you like?  Do you like graphical interfaces only, or does dropping to BASH and text-editing config files your thing?  If you like GUI's, do you have a preference to KDE or GNOME or any other Window Manager?  Do you have a package manager preference, RPM vs. DEB vs. compile from source only?  These will all affect your decision.

Now is the fun part, do you need a wide range of support, to the point of needing a full virtual machine (VM) to run windows apps, or do you have a limited set of programs that can be run by an emulator.  Full VM's will always run slower than native because you have your OS (GNU/Linux), then the VM, and then the OS running on it.  Now VM is really nice if you need to run multiple MS OS's because you can have a VM for each one, but you will needs LOTS OF HD SPACE for this.  Emulators are nice because they are native applications to GNU/Linux and just 'interpret' windows calls from applications to GNU/Linux and X-Window calls.  Their limitation is that they can not run all windows apps and some only run with limited support.

As for Distro links, I think the best is:

http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/linux/distributions/

This is not a review site, but mearly a list of many distributions.

For VM and emulator stuff:

BOCHS review:  http://www.linux-mag.com/cgi-bin/printer.pl?issue=2003-10&article=guru
BOCHS site:    http://bochs.sourceforge.net/

VMware review/intall:  http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/archives/LXF24.rev_vmw.pdf
VMware site:           http://www.vmware.com

Win4Lin review:  http://www.linux-mag.com/2001-01/pr_win4lin_01.html   (slightly older)
Win4Line site:   http://www.netraverse.com/products/index.php

I hope that helps,

255x4
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Mike R.Author Commented:
P.S. Points to be divided amongst the answers until they run out :-)
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jlevieConnect With a Mentor Commented:
RedHat Enterprise Linux 3.0 WS and VMware.

Since the VMware virtual disk is simply a set of Linux files your "bi-annual, preventive maintenance Windows overhaul and re-install" is simply a matter or copying the "saved set" over the current copy.
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Mike R.Author Commented:
Oh...as you ponder your responses...one of the big issues is performance within the Windows emulator.  High end I386 platform (of course :-)
M
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jlevieCommented:
Well, you aren't ever going to have the same performance under an emulator or virtual machine as you'd have when running windows natively, but on a reasonably fast CPU (say 1GHz or better) with sufficient memory (512Mb or better) the performance is usually acceptable.
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sciuriwareConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I experienced only some little performance problems with W98 in VMWARE on SuSE 9.
The only tasks that are really heavy (also for the host) are the hardware survey and disk defrag.
Running ECLIPSE on both the host and the guest doesn't differ too much.

Btw: some prominent Dutch institutes use VMWARE on REDHAT to quickly test new software
(upgrades and installations); users get a Windows 95-XP on demand from a server to play with.
What's good enough for the National Institute for Aviation and Space Research is surely good enough for you.
Another deployment is the widely notion of the HONEYPOT:
some virtual MSWindows systems lure hackers and can be refreshed at a wink.
;JOOP!
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sumpiConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I prefer debian Linux, as it allows me to configure my systems most easy.
For standard applications, e.g. Lotus Notes, I use wine. If I really need a "native windows", i use vmware. You could also use bochs, but I have no "real" experiences with it yet.
But you really need at least 512 MB RAM and cpu speed > 1 GHz otherwise it will be very slow!
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GnsConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Since you're an experienced Unix admin, any linux distro will do.

And since you want to run this in a more professional capacity, the "emulators" like wabi or wine go out the window.
So you're left with some virtual machine, of which Jim already pointed out the (probably:-) best there is. If nothing else from pure age/maturity and installed base.

-- Glenn
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GnsCommented:
Note that although vmware _will_ run on most distros, it actually have a limited set they deem "supported". Stay in that set.

-- Glenn
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pYraniaConnect With a Mentor Commented:
get a second box and a kvm switch, you'll have the best performance you can get with no loss for any virtual machine and with a qualitative kvm switch you can
switch between both within milliseconds.
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GnsCommented:
Hm... yes pYrania, and if you couple that with Jims suggestion you have.... Norton Ghost (or partimage (http://www.partimage.org/) if you'd like to "stay free":) and a KVM:-).

-- Glenn
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reverselogicConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Slackware is the most Unix like distro, I'd recommend avoiding Redhat, mandrake etc. they're not much better than windows
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GnsCommented:
You obviously haven't used a modern Unix lately reverselogic... They all have packaging systems resembling rpm, and indeed some (like AIX) also support the direct use of rpms.

And since that basically is the fundamental difference (aside from some more or less non-essential config tools) your basic implications is simply not true.

-- Glenn
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255x4Commented:
http://www.xandros.com/products/business/desktop/dsk_bus_intro.html

This is the Xandros Business Edition which includes Star Office with support, and more importantly, Crossover.  Crossover will allow you to run some applications.  The kids over at codeweavers (they make Crossover) focus on business applications, so not really any games, but many a business app has been tested on it.

Though Xandros is definately NOT like UNIX distros.  It is designed to be GUI-driven (think IRIX) rather than bash prompts.  I find that it works well for our desktop users.  We have a copy of this particular version because one of our people NEEDED MS Outlook with the contact database, and nothing else would work just right for them.

Outside of that, I would recommend Slackware with either Crossover or WINE intalled.

thanks,

255x4
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reverselogicCommented:
"You obviously haven't used a modern Unix lately reverselogic... They all have packaging systems resembling rpm, and indeed some (like AIX) also support the direct use of rpms.
And since that basically is the fundamental difference (aside from some more or less non-essential config tools) your basic implications is simply not true.
"

Slackware is described as the most unix-like distro because of it's policy of only incorporating Stable applications, and because of the absense of distribution specific configuration tools found in other varieties of linux

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GnsCommented:
And?

I'm not saying Slackware is bad, on the contrary....
What I'm saying is: You can make _any_ distro work for you and be as stable as you like. As to "prepackaging", this is just to get something on the system in the first place. You decide exactly what/how the rest is installed. This also include the kernel (of course).
Since rightmirem says s/he is an experienced UNIX admin, with knowledge of several dialects, the move to _any_ linux distro would be very comfortable ... and suffer none of the usual coniderations when giving advice to linux-newbies fresh from windoze (which would normally make me cry Mandrake at the top of my lungs:-):-).
I might have been a bit unclear, I hold this position towards almost all who have suggested diverse distros here, not just you;-).

Now, since at least I support Jim in that vmware is the way to go for "emulation", in which case you very limited in your choice of supported distributions and kernels... Have a look at http://www.vmware.com/products/desktop/ws_specs.html#hostos

-- Glenn
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pYraniaCommented:
Although not officially supported, Gentoo Linux runs perfectly within vmware.
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GnsCommented:
Oh and 255x4 if rightmirem is to use this for testing of windoze apps, would you recommend a Wine descendant?
I might, of coursem, very well be reading this wrong, so s/he's just saying "I need OL" or somesuch:-).

-- Glenn
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GnsCommented:
I know pYrania. So do most. BBut if you _pay_ for support, will you get it if not on a supported config?

-- Glenn
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pYraniaCommented:
When speaking in gerneral, probably not, speaking about vmware on the other hand, they are some very friendly and experienced people and are always willing to help.

Of course if you sound like someone who doesn't have a clue about anything, they most probably wont make the effort to help you with an unsupported piece of crappy software ;), would you?
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GnsCommented:
Probably not:-).

-- Glenn
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GnsCommented:
> Me-thinks a flame-war could errupt at any moment.  :)
Surely not! We're levelheaded, right:-).... And you guys (and gals?) are just too nice;-).

As I think I said, I might well be reading it wrong, so that wine (perhaps in CrossOver disguise) or somesuch (like the bochs:) would be OK. (Nice summary there, BTW)

I think rightmirem needs comment a bit on whether we're "answering the right question" here, to be able to go any further.

-- Glenn
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Mike R.Author Commented:
Hey Guys!

Actually, you're all on the right track!  Extra kudos to 255x4 for the reviews...they were very informative.  ULTIMATELY, I was looking for a way to leave Windows out of the overall OS setup, such that Linux was running the box (and making less vulnerable to inet threats) while still having the capability to run Windows apps for which I cannot find an appropriate Linux replacement.  It sounds like VMware and Win4Lin have the best reviews.

As for the Linux flavor, I was hoping for (perhaps the devil in me was hoping for) just what I got, which was some passionate debating about which Linux is better and why.  I have worked with Debian Linux, and just wanted to get some feedback on the other flavors as far as stability, ease of upgrade, ease of installation, compatibility, timely releases, ETC.

I think I really have enough to run with, so I think I'll eave this one open for another day or so, to let everyone get a final word in, and start looking into downloads!

Thanks again!
M
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255x4Commented:
Since you are already used to Debian distros, you might want to look at that Xandros one, it is a really tricked-out version with some cool control panels, that strike me as a mix between IRIX and OS X controls.

One note, all of the supported versions of GNU/Linux for VMware is RPM based.  Whereas Win4Lin supports all of the distros.  Also, Bochs comes in both RPM and source tarball (.tar.gz) formats.  I don't know if this means the VMware is distributed as an RPM package or what, but that does strike me as odd (could any VMware users out there pipe up on this one?).

Now remember, you will need a copy of windows to install under any of these.  Also, VMware lists support from DOS up to Windows 2003, Bochs lists DOS through NT 4.0, and Win4Lin lists Win9x and ME only.  So if you need the widest support, then VMware is your thing.  If you need a non-rpm system, then either Win4Lin or Bochs is there for you.  If you need the most number of installs (legally using the software for a mulitple of guest OS configurations) then you may need Bochs.

Since Bochs is free (speech/beer/et al) then you can install it along side your other vm and have multiple setups.  I have tried out Bochs in the past, and I would advise against betting the farm on it for now.  It works well, but there were too many buggy problems.

Also, no, I do not work for either Xandros or VMware.  :)

thanks,

255x4
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jlevieCommented:
Which distro to use is mostly a personal perference. I happen to prefer the commercial distro's (particulary RedHat) because I find then more reliable and easier to maintain. If you don't mind don't the bulk of the maintenance your self then Debian or Slackware might be okay choices. In a commercial environment I think it is probably better to go with a supported mainstream Linux (SuSE or RedHat). In part because they are well supported by the vendor and in part for compatibility with third party software (both Opensource and commercial).
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pYraniaCommented:
If you're going to switch to a linux only setup, why don't make the next step directly - replace your windows apps with the open source linux application?
i can't think of any single piece of software that hasn't an open source equivalent. Sure it takes time to convert from, let's say, Microsoft Office to Open Office, but you probably won't miss any features.
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sciuriwareCommented:
It sounds hard from a UNIX veteran (sincd 1977) but with Yamaha synthesizers you are bound to MSWindows
for voice editors, sequencers and midi processors ........
But the former comment is true for almost any Officing, audio editing, video editing and photo processing.
;JOOP!
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GnsCommented:
> ...and I would advise against betting the farm on it for now....
CC 255x4.
>  Which distro to use is mostly a personal perference...
CC Jim.
> ...why don't make the next step directly - replace your windows apps with the open source linux application?...
CC pYrania.

See, we're not even close to any dissagreement here;-).

I'll maintain (with a fools tenacity:-) that, since you are an experienced Unix user/admin, any distribution will fit you nicely if you go with a recent release... If you like Debian and have experience there, fine... use that. It has a very good update/install system, that most others mimic too... So it's not as big a deal as it used to be. Debian is perhaps the most politically correct choice though:).
One fun and rather easy way to get a quick install of a Debian system is to do a knoppix (http://www.knoppix.net) hd-install (perhaps via the knoppix-installer)...
Apart from installer/packaging differences, which aren't that big a deal anyway (... unless you count the build time for a gentoo:-) you'll be pleasd with everything from Mandrake, RedHat, SuSE, Slackware, Debian, Gentoo or ... whatever.

-- Glenn
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255x4Commented:
Although I agree with GNS on it's really shouldn't matter which distro you use, especially since you are experienced at GNU/Linux, but my concern is which vm or emulator you are interested in.  If it is VMware, then you should really stick to the RPM-based distros because they are the ones that are supported.  Win4Lin mentions just about every distro available, but it supports far fewer client OS versions.  If you like the emulators (wine, wabi, crossover) then they are available for just about any distro.

So I guess you first question to answer is which vm or emulator you want, which brings me to my question (and possibly pYrania's) is what programs do you need and are there alternatives to them?

thanks,

255x4
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Mike R.Author Commented:
Thanks again for all the great input.  I think I have enough to start making decisions!  I appreciate all the input and good advice!  (P.S. 255x4 got the extra Kudos for the great links :-)  Thanks again!
M
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