Running Sound Applications under Wine
Open any of the popular music trade magazines such as Keyboard or Sound On Sound, and you can't miss the plethora of colorful advertisements for sound and music software, all of it for Windows and Mac. Much of this software is of truly outstanding quality; some of it has set industry standards for features and performance, and not a bit of it is available for any platform other than Windows and Mac.
The open-source audio development community has made great strides toward providing musicians with a freely available alternative to the Win/Mac hegemony, and they deserve great praise. Nevertheless, it also must be admitted that our community is still relatively small. Potential converts to Linux often ask whether they can run their familiar programs successfully under Linux, and that criterion alone can determine whether they make the change to Linux. For all of Linux's vaunted technical superiority, it's a no-show if you need an application that simply doesn't exist for it.
This article describes how to set up and use the Wine Windows emulation environment for sound and music applications. I test a few programs, and I indicate the quality of performance you can reasonably expect from running Windows music and sound software under Wine.
System emulators come in two basic flavors, machine architecture emulators and operating system emulators. Wine is a complete package that emulates the Windows operating system. Windows itself is not required. Wine includes its own versions of the Windows system DLLs, but you can use the native Windows versions if you prefer. Depending on the intended use, the system may require other native support software expected by your applications.
Wine's sound capabilities have developed largely in response to users who want to play their favorite games without leaving their favorite operating system. As a result, Wine has become a good candidate for running Windows audio and MIDI applications. However, before installing the emulator, you should check its documentation for the most current sound system status reports. If you intend to run a particular sound or MIDI application under emulation, your success will depend on a variety of factors, including support for the original file formats, audio sampling rates and required drivers.
The tests in this article were performed on an 800MHz machine with an M-Audio Delta 66 digital audio I/O system and an SBLive Value sound card. The software base included ALSA 1.0.4, JACK 0.99 and a rock-solid 2.4.26 Linux kernel patched for low latency. As always, your mileage may vary.
Wine is an acronym for either WINdows Emulator or Wine Is Not an Emulator. Curiously, both interpretations are correct. Wine is the wine executable, a Linux program that runs Windows programs, and it is equally libwine, a library designed to assist Windows/Linux cross-platform development.
After 12 years at the alpha-release level, Wine is now officially a beta-stage project. Hopefully, this event signals a more consistently stable environment, but some programs still may behave erratically. The Wine documentation gives detailed instructions for submitting useful bug reports, so if you find that your favorite Windows program doesn't work well (or at all) under Wine, you can help yourself and the project by submitting a report.
Wine's support for basic sound and MIDI is good, and support for audio extensions such as Microsoft's DirectX is improving, but you won't be able to use Wine to run large, integrated multimedia applications, such as Cubase or SONAR. However, Wine can run a variety of sound and music programs, even some fairly big packages. Check the Wine Web site (see the on-line Resources) for links to lists that rate the compatibility of various Windows applications.
The WineHQ Web site provides Wine in a variety of package formats, including the common RPM and DEB formats and full source tarball. Use your package manager of choice to install the latest version. If you decide to build Wine from the source package, simply open an xterm, enter your new wine-x.x.x directory and run ./tools/wineinstall (as a normal user). Answer the prompts, then relax and let the Wine installer do its stuff.
After installation, run the notepad.exe file included with the distribution:
If the familiar editor appears, Wine is ready for use. Now you can try to run some Windows music and sound applications.
System requirements and build procedures may change from version to version, so if you decide to build Wine yourself, be sure to read the README and follow the recommended installation instructions included with the package. The version used in this article is Wine 0.9.6, released on January 20, 2006.
Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.