The CodeWeavers CrossOver Plugin
The test system included a Sound Blaster Live! Value sound card driven by the ALSA 0.5.11 driver package and a Voodoo3 video card managed by XFree86 4.01, all running happily under a Linux 2.4.5 kernel patched for low latency. The internet hookup was a 768kbps DSL connection, and I used Netscape 4.76 for my browser. I was unable to compare performance with the same plugins employed in Windows itself, but I was quite satisfied with them running in Linux. Bear in mind that CrossOver is not an emulator; those are real native Windows plugins that believe they are working in Windows, so there should be little or no performance penalty usually associated with emulation environments.
Streaming QuickTime performance was generally excellent, though of course the reception speed depended on the transmission rate at the sending end. Video and audio synchronize well, and their quality is superb; my friends literally jumped back when they heard the sound from some of the movie trailers we watched, and they agreed that the streaming video in QuickTime was the best they've seen in a Linux browser.
Some Shockwave pages were problematic with fonts, and it seemed that any 3-D-enabled site failed to run. Fortunately, I can say that most Shockwave sites ran beautifully, including some very interesting interactive music and sound pages I found in the listings at Director Web. The CodeWeavers team is aware of the 3-D problem and may have a fix by the time you read this article.
I must use Word 97 occasionally, so I installed Microsoft's WordViewer plugin and clicked on some .doc files in my Windows Word directory (Figure 5). My files included not only standard text but also various notations and indicators added by the DOT template used by my editors. As you can see, apostrophes have been replaced by those boxes, but that was the only visual fault I found in the display.
The Excel Viewer installed and set up without a problem, but it would not view the Excel files found on some web pages (such as the Power Reporting site listed below). Thanks to CodeWeaver John Sturtz, I resolved the problem by adding this entry to my Netscape preferences:
Description: MS Excel Viewer MIMEType: application/xlsSuffixes: xlsApplication: /home/dlphilp/crossover/bin/wine.sh “C:/Program Files/XLView/xlview.exe” :switch:e “%s”
This entry is identical to the entry created by the Plugin Setup, except for the MIME type. After adding the entry to my preferences, I restarted Netscape, logged on to the Power Reporting site again, and voilà, I could view the sample spreadsheets while on-line (Figure 6).
The various plugins also can be run as standalone applications. For instance, this command
$HOME/crossover/bin/wine.sh "c:/Program Files/QuickTime/QuickTimePlayer.exe"
will start the QuickTime player from an xterm (Figure 7).
As of January 2002, the CrossOver Plugin has evolved to version 1.01. Notable additions and changes include support for Microsoft's PowerPoint viewer (completing the CodeWeavers' Microsoft viewers' collection), a simplified printing procedure (just select the viewer's Print menu item) and support for more browsers (including Galeon and Opera). This release also includes bug fixes for some 24bpp display problems and improved handling of QuickTime channels. Last but not least, a demo version of CrossOver is also now available (see the CodeWeavers web site for details).
Version 1.02 should be available by the time this review is published. Thanks to CodeWeaver François Gouget, I learned that we can expect the following improvements (and more): expanded browser support (the SkipStone browser will accommodate the plugin, and remaining problems with Opera and Konqueror should be fixed); enhanced multi-user support; simplified installation for the iPIX, MGI and Chime viewers; improved plugin retrieval, installation and setup; and the usual bug fixes.
The programmers at CodeWeavers have done the Linux community a great service with this product. The CrossOver Plugin is a well-designed package that installs easily and performs flawlessly. At long last I can enjoy QuickTime and Shockwave content from Netscape, and I don't have to boot into Windows just to look at Word or Excel files. I realize that some members of the community will object to paying for this software, but the price is reasonable, and the CodeWeavers truly deserve the support. They are major contributors to the Wine Project, and your purchase of the CrossOver Plugin helps fund that work. If you need browser support for QuickTime or Shockwave under Linux, or if you'd like to view your Excel and Word files without rebooting, then you need the CrossOver Plugin. There's just nothing else quite like it.
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