January 29, 2007

A peek behind CrossOver Linux with CodeWeavers' CEO

Author: Mayank Sharma

With CrossOver Linux 6, CodeWeavers now supports running several popular Windows applications and games under Linux. In this interview Jeremy White, CEO of CodeWeavers, discusses how his company contributes to the freely available Wine project and its decision to foray into the gaming
segment.

NewsForge: How do you pick which applications to support? Are there more factors at play than pledges and votes?

Jeremy White: We first look at bugs that are pending tickets; i.e., points of pain first. Next comes votes, and then come pledges. There are exceptions; sometimes a customer will pay for support. We supported Photoshop because the studios paid us to do so. We also look at things like level of difficulty, so sometimes we'll pick an easier application over a more highly desired application, but that's hard to quantify. And, of course, sometimes we look at opening up whole new opportunities, like supporting games.

NF: What kind of relation do you have with third-party software vendors? Do you actively collaborate?

JW: That varies widely. We love to collaborate, and with some vendors we do, and the results are great. Picasa for Linux is a beautiful thing.

NF: What steps do you take to help or assist the Wine project?

JW: Well, first and foremost, all of our work is given to Wine, generally before it ever sees the light of day in any CrossOver product. Secondly, we host the Winehq.org Web site. We do a lot of work to help the Wine project. This includes things like organizing Wineconf, working with the Software Freedom Law Center to arrange legal infrastructure, fun stuff like that. We also pay the salaries of the maintainer of Wine, along with many of the best Wine developers.

NF: How do you see Windows Vista affecting the application support in CrossOver Linux?

JW: Vista won't really affect us, per se. What will affect us are applications that are Vista-only. When that happens, we'll have to provide whatever features those applications require.

NF: With 6.0 you have branched off into supporting Mac users and games. Why games, when people still knock on your doors for more applications?

JW: Historically, the main interest for volunteer Wine developers was games; that was the primary focus for most of Wine's early years (~1993-2000).

When Transgaming started in 2001, they promised that they would release their DirectX improvements back to Wine. That cast a chill over games in Wine -- why work on DirectX if all these improvements would "soon" be coming back? Of course, no meaningful improvements have ever come back, which had the effect of creating a huge hole in what had been Wine's very best facility.

It's taken years, but Wine's game support has finally recovered, and now Wine runs games as well, or better than, Cedega does. I wish I could take credit, but that wouldn't be right; instead, credit goes to the many volunteer developers who worked hard to make that true. So today we're trying our best to support those developers -- hiring those that we can, buying beers, Wine, or other beverages of preference for those that we can't.

Now, for years, we focused strictly on productivity applications, and everyone just assumed that you went to Transgaming for games. We want to change that image; we know that applications like World of Warcraft are as highly demanded, if not more highly demanded, than Microsoft Office, so we want to respond to that demand. We believe that now that our customers know we're serious about games, they'll start pledging and voting for their favorite games, and we can help to bring them some gaming joy.

We think that a purchase of CrossOver to play your favorite game is a better use of your money. That money goes to support an open source project directly -- again, everything we do on games goes into WineHQ first -- and, we think, the power of open source has made Wine a far better technology for running games that Cedega. That is reflected in the fact that Cedega relies on a lot of LGPL components from Wine; even they are recognizing that the power of the community is better than trying to take Wine proprietary.

NF: Apart from the change of name, and support for Mac users and gamers, what improvements are in the back end?

JW: We implemented huge swaths of COM, MSI (Microsoft Installer), had bazillions of bug fixes, improved DirectX support enormously, and even made some Julienne fries. This means more and more applications install and work properly in Wine than ever before.

NF: Any innovative CrossOver Linux uses that users have reported to you and you'd like to share?

JW: My very favorite story came from a guy in the Pacific, who was one of the few people who still had power when the last round of tsunamis went through. However, his Citrix connection to Visio was down, and he needed Visio to do network diagrams, which were required in his work in repairing the networks. He snagged CrossOver, installed Visio, and used it feverishly for four days, with little sleep, at the end of which he wrote to thank us for helping get the infrastructure back up.

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