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 An Interview with Jeremy White, CodeWeavers

OrangeCrate is pleased to present an interview with Jeremy White, CEO of Codeweavers, developers extraordinaire of the bubbly WINE project. Jeremy and Chuck began this conversation shortly before the launch of CrossOver 3.0, but Chuck presents this now for your reading pleasure.

 (Submitted by Chuck Talk Fri May 21, 2004 )

  Chuck Talk:I have been using CrossOver since your first release, and I have always been impressed with your hard work. Since CrossOver is an important project, are you working with more Linux distributors these days to do OEM bundling of CrossOver?

Jeremy White: We're always trying to find ways to work with Linux distributions. After all, my personal goal is someday to have everyone know that they can buy any Windows program they want, bring it home to their Linux computer, and it will just work.

However, such arrangements are really hard to work out. The economics of it are just really hard to work out in a way that doesn't harm either us or the distribution.

Chuck Talk: One of the questions that I know a lot of people have about running CrossOver, is does the CrossOver subsystem introduce Windows vulnerabilities in applications into a Linux system, or does CrossOver provide a security layer for those applications?

Jeremy White: Well, Outlook is still going to have all of its vulnerabilities, including the main one - operator error. However, because of the way Wine works, we do have some interesting advantages.

For example, we have a hack in our flavor of Wine, in the CreateProcess call (the code to start an executable) that basically checks to see if the parent process is outlook.exe, and if it is, we stop right there, which prevent a lot of worms and such from getting traction.

As another example, we have customers that have set up chroot environments. Since Wine runs completely in user space, this creates a totally locked down and secure environment.

Finally, one advantage of Wine/CrossOver, is that any infection is cleaned quite quickly with rm -rf ~/.cxoffice (and easy backup/restore methods exist).

But, for all of that, I don't want to dismiss this. The truth is that if you use Linux primarily, you'll most likely be lax about locking down your 'Windows' environment; if you choose to use Outlook or IE within CrossOver, I think a little extra care is appropriate. (I actually think the risk is far worse with things like VMWare; imagine an unpatched Windows 2000 VM running with access to the network?)

Chuck Talk: What is on the roadmap for continuing CrossOver development?

Jeremy White: Right now we are really going to focus on our compatibility center. We've got a system where customers can vote for what application support they want next; we're going to try to follow that.

We do have some architectural issues we have to work on; for example, iTunes is going to require some COM and MSI work before we get it working, so we're starting in on those projects.

We do also have larger customers come to us and ask for special projects, and we'll turn on focus on those then (we are, after all, a small 'coin operated' company *grin*).

Chuck Talk: Do you see CrossOver as a bridge to transitioning users to Linux, or do you see it as a long-term solution for applications going forward on Linux?

Jeremy White: I see it as a bridge, but I think it's a bridge that will be needed for a long time. I eagerly look forward to the day that companies like Intuit see a Linux version as a minimum requirement, but I think that day is still a long ways off.

Chuck Talk: Does CrossOver supplant the need for companies to build native ports to Linux?

Jeremy White:Bluntly, I think that worry is overblown paranoia. Look, we supported MS Office on Linux 2 years ago - have you seen any evidence that OpenOffice is slowing down? Further, by helping make Linux a viable desktop choice, we can help to dramatically grow the user base of Linux. More users, more demand, more ISVs will port to Linux. To me, it's a very simple question.

Once there is real demand, ISVs will want to do true native Linux ports and not use Wine, because of its perceived flaws. And if Wine is absolutely perfect, then so what? Your app works perfectly. What do you care what it uses under the covers?

Heck, for that matter, Linux itself gained momentum as a clone of Unix. It's whole raison d'etre was to be a cheaper platform for running Unix applications; hence, Unix compatibility was a vital requirement. Why should Windows compatibility be any different?

Chuck Talk: There are some very interesting developments within the WINE project such as Transgaming's WINEX. How does CodeWeavers view these alternative implementations of WINE and their compatibility with CrossOver?

Jeremy White: That's a loaded question, if I ever saw one. *grin*

I always think its cool when I talk to someone that is using Wine in some interesting or different way; often, they are projects that could not exist if Wine was not Free software (if, say, it was our own 'proprietary' technology). I think that's cool, and so I'm always happy to see new projects start up around Wine.

It pains me when they appear to be competitive to CodeWeavers. But, candidly, competition is - heaven forbid - good for end users. So we have to do our work better and faster and provide better value; life is tough, I'll get over it.

I do think that the LGPL, though, goes a long way towards protecting the work that I and the Wine developers do. At the very least, it is clearly understood how our work can be used.

Chuck Talk: SpecOps, a new company that has currently has a lot of notice on the rumor mill scale, has supposedly come out with a product called Project David, using something called WinBridge as a middleware technology. Are you aware of this project, and do you believe it is a WINE implementation or is it a Merge implementation such as NeTraverse's Win4Lin product?

Jeremy White: To be honest, I don't know anything more about this project than what I've read on the various rumor mill sites.

They've said that it uses Wine; it's not clear if it's all Wine, or if they truly have a new technology (although analysis of their slides shows heavy dependency not only on Wine but on the version of Wine that comes with CrossOver).

Their web site, candidly, is quite rough right now, and quite low on details. It does appear that they intend to honor the LGPL (they at least have one blurb on that), which is good.

I do have to admit that projects like this do irk me in one way: I think it's gracious to honor the work of other people, particularly when you intend to base your business upon that work. It always annoys me when people attribute all kinds of wonderful benefits to their products without ever acknowledging the Free software that they depend on. Just a personal pet peeve.

Chuck Talk: Has CodeWeavers talked to any of the major distributors of Linux besides Xandros to add CrossOver into their desktop products (if you can say)? ;)

Jeremy White: We talk to a lot of Linux distributions; we're always trying to find better ways to work together. We've done some bundling work with SuSE, and we like those guys a lot. We like the relationship we have with Mandrake (they include a trial of CrossOver, and Mandrake Club members can get a special deal on a supported version). There are quite a few others.

Chuck Talk: Finally, is there anything that you would like to say to my readers?

Jeremy White: Hi Mom! *grin*

Okay, sorry, I just couldn't resist. I would invite anyone that hasn't tried Wine or hasn't tried it lately to give it another whirl; either via winehq, or via CodeWeavers.


Chuck Talk: Thanks Jeremy, I do appreciate the chance to interview you.

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