The CodeWeavers CrossOver Plugin

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Surfing multimedia web sites under Linux has been a somewhat frustrating experience. We do have support for RealPlayer and Flash, and we have some other fine streaming-media clients such as XMMS, but for various reasons we have been barred from watching most QuickTime movies or any Shockwave Director animations. Barred until now, that is; thanks to the programmers at CodeWeavers now we can enjoy those same movies and animations using their native Windows players running on web browsers under Linux.

On August 27, 2001, CodeWeavers announced the availability of their CrossOver Plugin in its 1.0 release. This software provides a translation layer that lets you download and install native Windows plugins as though they were being installed to a real Windows partition, making it possible for Linux web browsers to run multimedia content created for Apple's QuickTime 5 and Macromedia Shockwave. The 1.0 package also supports Microsoft's WordView and XLView browser plugins for viewing content created in Word 97 and Excel 97, and CodeWeavers has announced their intention to support all Windows browser plugins via CrossOver eventually.

Getting It and Installing It

The CrossOver Plugin is available from the CodeWeavers web site. You can purchase and download the plugin by itself, or you can buy the CodeWeavers Wine CD. The disk includes the plugin and printable documentation along with CodeWeavers Wine 1.0. Note, however, that the CrossOver Plugin is a standalone program that requires neither Wine nor Windows.

Installation is simple and well documented, and a series of helpful wizards will guide you through the process. After displaying the CodeWeavers license agreement, the installer sets up CrossOver itself (Figure 1). This part of the installation requires little intervention from the user beyond specifying the target directory ($HOME/crossover by default). CrossOver first installs a fake_windows and a set of DLLs (derived from CodeWeavers' work on the Wine Project) needed by the players and viewers. The package does not provide the supported players and viewers: once CrossOver has installed itself, you will see the Plugin Setup window (Figure 2) where you actually connect to the Apple, Macromedia and Microsoft download areas to retrieve the plugins. From this point you follow the course of downloading, installing and setting up the plugins exactly as though you were working in Windows itself. You simply can accept the default values throughout the installation and configuration for each plugin. Remember, CrossOver deceives the native Windows plugins into believing that they are installing themselves in a real Windows environment, so the default installation paths are the same as those expected in Windows.

Figure 1. CrossOver Begins Installing Itself

Figure 2. The Plugin Setup Window

When you have finished setting up the plugins you want CrossOver to manage, restart your browser and head over to Apple's QuickTime movie trailers site and catch the latest previews (Figure 3), or check out Director Web for some impressive Shockwave sites (Figure 4). I spent an evening wandering through sites from a Google search for QuickTime movies and Shockwave pages, testing the plugin's ability to play the various file versions and formats. I'm happy to report that the plugin had no trouble playing anything the Web threw at it.

Figure 3. A QuickTime Movie Trailer in Linux Netscape

Figure 4. An Interactive Shockwave Game Running in Netscape

You also can choose to set up QuickTime as your default player and viewer for other media file types, including AVI and MPEG movies or JPEG and GIF images. The CrossOver documentation notes that you must disable your browser's existing file associations and manually reconfigure them for QuickTime.

The Plugin Setup window includes tabs for configuring your preferences in Netscape, Mozilla and Konqueror, the browsers currently supported by CrossOver. Netscape is the default browser, but the CrossOver package includes advice and instructions regarding setup for the other browsers. Incidentally, you don't have to install all your plugins at once. Running $HOME/crossover/bin/pluginsetup will bring up the Plugin Setup window for later addition or removal of CrossOver's supported plugins.

The only problem I had during the installation was resolved quickly with the help of the CodeWeavers team. My $HOME/.netscape/plugins directory was read-only, and the CrossOver Plugin could not install itself until I changed the directory's permissions to read/write for normal user. With that correction the installation proceeded smoothly.

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