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Jeremy White's Wine Answers 208

Posted by Roblimo
from the bridge-over-troubled-waters dept.
This almost turned into a "State of the Wine Project" discussion, but that's where your highest-moderated questions led, and Jeremy responded with his usual wit, wisdom, and candor.
1) Moving Target - by andrew_j_w

Do you ever get disheartened when Microsoft announces a new API, as that means you've suddenly got a whole load of new code to replicate? DirectX would seem to be a prime example of this. How do you see .Net/Mono in relation to Wine? Do you think they will ever become the prime method of running Windows applications under *nix?


Jeremy:

We really don't care what APIs Microsoft publishes - the only thing that matters to us is what APIs are used by the applications we want to support. In fact, Wine only implements about half of the Windows APIs. Now some (like my wife) might argue that's because we're just lazy, but the truth is that over half of the Windows APIs have never been used!

So we certainly do have a moving target, but it's a target that moves at a relatively slow pace. We'll begin to feel some serious pain when applications are released as 'Longhorn only', particularly if those applications are dependent on some form of DRM or on some technology that is locked up by patents.

But luckily for us ISVs move much more slowly than Microsoft, so we should have plenty of time to keep up.

In fact, we get more pain from Linux distributions, who work at break neck speed to break Wine.

2) Educational Software - by north.coaster

It seems like most of the effort so far has been to get office productivity software (ie. Microsoft Office) to work on Linux. However, there is a market for low cost home computers that Linix could help to fill if the educational software that kids use (such as the Reader Rabbit series) could run on Linux. Why is this potential market being ignored?

Jeremy:

Yes! I would dearly love to support schools and the use of Linux. Especially when you consider LTSP, Linux is just such a great fit for the educational environment.

Unfortunately, the reality of Wine and economics makes this hard. See, we do our best when we can focus in on a small number of applications (e.g. Microsoft Office) for which a lot of people are willing and able to pay money. Schools, unfortunately, have the reverse situation - they need support for tons and tons of applications, and they have no money .

Now the very first thing I'm going to do when I win the lottery is go buy a stack of kids games and pay some Wine hackers to get them to work (seriously; you can ask my co workers, they're sick of me talking about this pet project). Unfortunately, the last lottery ticket I bought was a bust.

But I am really encouraged in a variety of ways. First, we always hope that our paying customers will help us to do enough 'collateral damage' that more than just the applications we focus on will work; that seems to be really happening now. Second, there is a real growth in the games/DirectX support in the Wine project. There is a great group of games hackers on the Wine project - volunteers all - and their work is really helping Wine to run a lot of games (the fact that Half-Life now works in CrossOver has somehow made the proportion of QA time to development time go up around here *grin*).

Finally, we are starting to get some support for educational software; we have a very meaningful pledge for Acclerated Reader on our compatibility center (http://c4.codeweavers.com). We hope to get to that soon, and we're told that will help unblock a lot of educational organizations.

3) Isn't this effort endangered by software patents? - by rben

If the EU really does pass the software patent law under consideration and the U.S. adopts that treaty that Bush is pushing, won't MS just be able to sue any compatibility products out of business?


Jeremy:

Yes, I think that all xGPL software is seriously threatened by patents.

Wine, I think, is safer than a project like Mono, in large part because Microsoft has only really started an aggressive patent process recently. I am not aware of any patent that the Wine project infringes upon, and no such infringement has been brought to our attention in the 10 years of the projects history.

That doesn't mean that the patent laws cannot be used as a club against Free Software projects, particulary when you realize that volunteer projects and smaller companies like CodeWeavers generally cannot afford to even fight for a dismissal of a ridiculous claim.

With that said, I think that there is a large number of very determined people in our community, myself included, that will fight strenously to see that any such abuse of the patent system will be challenged.

Further, Microsoft making the choice to use patents as an offensive weapon will be a clear sign that they are becoming desperate. It is fairly rare for a large company to use patents offensively against a smaller entity; it is generally frowned upon by the courts, and would also play very poorly in PR circles.

So, yes, it's a worry, but there will be reasons to rejoice should Microsoft try to wield that hammer.

4) LGPL Licensing - by Stealth Dave

How has the switch to LGPL affected contributions to the project, both positively and negatively? When the switch happened, there was a lot of noise from groups like Transgaming who needed to license proprietary technology from third parties, and the formation of the ReWind project. Has there been a noticable effect on contributions to WINE from outside groups as result of the licensing change?


Jeremy:

Okay, I'm biased on this one. I am a strong advocate of the LGPL.

However, I think the effect has been extremely positive. For example, here is the historic count of lines of code added to Wine each year:

2003: +247,471
2002: +159,393
2001: +104,641
2000: +119,796
1999: +164,910
1998: +132,235
1997: +48,566
1996: +56,748
1995: +19,345
1994: +42,746
1993: +36,487

1998/1999 was when Corel's involvement in Wine was at its highest (and Wine owes Corel a debt of gratitude; they were great to Wine).

2003 was the first full year of the LGPL. You do the math.

Further, prior to the LGPL split, game development in the public Wine tree was pretty well dead. Everyone was waiting for Transgaming to return their changes, and nothing was happening.

After the split, it became clear that those changes weren't coming back to the public tree. This led to a number of volunteers taking up the challenge and improving Wine's DirectX and other game support. This has led to a resurgance in Wine's activity on games. Historically, Wine has always been focused on games, so I am personally gratified to see it return to those roots, since it's not an effort we've been able to help on much (because folks don't buy large corporate support contracts for games :-/).

Additionally, a number of people seem to prefer the LGPL; we seemed to get an influx of new blood to the project as a result of the change. Further, our cooperation with other xGPL projects like ReactOS improved, and so we got some further energy from there as well.

5) MS Security Updates Apply? - by PSaltyDS

I can see that security holes that come from Windows OS code shouldn't effect the CrossOver Office Win98-like implementation of the APIs. Security holes that come from the MS application's code may or may not be present in that environment, but how do I know? What types of MS security updates apply to my CrossOver environment, and which don't? Are any of the security houses (like e-Eye) testing for vulnerabilities in the Linux/CrossOver (or Linux/WINE) space?


Jeremy:

Actually, much to our great surprise, the Windows Update service runs fully and completely in CrossOver. Further, we go to great pains to make sure that Office service packs apply cleanly (and we mostly succeed :-/).

We also go to all kinds of interesting lengths to avoid problems with viruses and worms. 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 crash and burn, preventing many of the worms and such from running. We also have customers that have set up chroot environments, and since Wine runs in user space, that is a theoretically perfectly 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 issue. I think anyone using Outlook (anywhere, not just CrossOver) should use a strong server side scanning product. Further, I think that the use of IE in Wine should be constrained to only those cases where it absolutely has to be used. The real truth is that when you're running Linux, you're inevitably going to be less paranoid about updating and securing any Windows environment, and that sort of neglect can lead to trouble.
* Changes such as this hack to Wine are internally referred to as 'Proprietary advantages'. We are seeking patents on such methods of gaining a market advantage (grin).
6) Viral Licensing Question - by KlomDark

Aren't you worried that you'll corrupt Linux with the viral Windows licensing scheme?


Jeremy:

Now you've learned my dirty secret, and I'll have to kill you all. I've actually been hired by Microsoft to poison this little communist enclave you have going here. You'll note that since our introduction of CrossOver Office, OpenOffice has withered and died on the vine, clear proof that we do great harm to open source projects. The dissolution of Mozilla into Firefox was a clear gesture of despair on their part over our support for IE.

Further, our use of 'proprietary advantages' to create lock in has clearly emboldened companies such as Novell to preserve and extend their proprietary lock ins on products such as the Ximian Connector...

Bwahahahaha. You're all doomed!

[grin]

7) Source-level Compatibility? - by cgreuter

I hear a lot of talk about binary compatibility with Windows, but not so much about source-code-level compatibility. What sort of efforts, if any, are being made toward letting people trivially recompile existing Windows programs to run natively under Linux/X? Have any commercial software vendors considered taking this approach?


Jeremy:

My original passion for Wine had nothing to do with running existing code. I've always loved the source porting angle much better than binary compatibility (hence my ill fated affair with TWIN aka Twine).

The good news, is that after seeing the error of my ways, we put a lot of energy into making source compatibility work extremely well. Francois did a lot of work on this, and Dimi and a few others have picked it up and really made this process sing.

I understand that the Windows build of Abiword now compiles and runs cleanly in Wine. I know that simple applications, like all of the Petzold examples, build and run in Winelib.

What's interesting (to me, anyways, the rest of you can yawn and skip to the next question) is that I've come to realize that source compatibility really isn't that important. The difference to the end user between a gcc compiled Winelib app and a Visual C++ build Windows app running with Wine is...nothing, except maybe the Visi C compiler builds slightly better, faster code.

Corel realized this; they spent an enormous amount of energy working towards a source port, and eventually just shipped a binary solution. It wasn't popular, but it was wise, imho.

However, what Winelib does allow, that *is* wicked cool, is that you can port a Windows app to a non x86 platform quite easily. I don't really know of anyone that really values this (i.e. is willing to pay big bucks for it), but it's cool, nonetheless.

8) Microsoft Source? - by NinjaPablo

If Microsoft were to release more source code (legally, not the leaked source from a while back), or if Microsoft approached the Wine team and offered access to portions of the Windows source code, would you accept it? What if it involved an NDA or adding non-GPL portions to Wine?


Jeremy:

Well, I would refuse any kind of legal agreement that would jeapordize the ability of Wine to move forward openly and free of any MS license entanglements.

But that doesn't mean we couldn't use further help; there are certainly large areas of the Windows API that we struggle to understand, and we could certainly use some help. I, for one, would like to have seen the consent decree put in place an oversight board; while Microsoft has opened their documentation considerably since that decree, we have no one to turn to to ask for further clarifications and further information.

9) Tax Software? - by mengel

Every year I end up having to boot MSWindows in order to run Tax software. It's pretty much the only time I boot MSWindows anymore, and I end up doing a lot of work to keep that environment around and running just for that one, annual, task. And it's not just me, we have had several [slashdot.org] articles [slashdot.org] here at Slashdot discussing this topic at great length.

Are you guys working on a deal with any of the tax software publishers to ensure their software runs under Wine each year?

If not, would you consider it?


Jeremy:

Well, we're working very hard to encourage ISVs of all kinds to work with us to bring their products to the Linux market.

And we've had some very positive responses, but I can't really tell you much more than that just yet. However, I will tell you that we are not working with any of the Tax software providers.

Candidly, that's a pretty tricky one. Because each version of Tax Software is so ephmeral, and because we get such a short time window to test and work on it, they're really hard to nail. Further, it's not clear to me that we'd really make enough money to begin to cover the costs involved. If we could, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Feel free to assemble a possee of interested folks at http://c4.codeweavers.com; we will absolutely listen to customer demand.

10) Project David - by mfh

We've heard that Project David could be a CrossOver Office rip-off. To what extent is David a fraud and what are your options to combat those who would misrepresent themselves using your products for VC or even illegal/infringing sales revenue?


Jeremy:

Well, I don't know anything more about Project David than anyone else who reads Slashdot, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I always say. It's clear from Mike McCormack's research that it uses a version of Wine that we've released. Note that that's not necessarily fraud or a rip off of any kind - our Wine is LGPL, and it allows for just that sort of thing.

My opinion is much like others on Slashdot - they're clearly in the early stages, and don't really have a particularly impressive set of web pages. Further, they haven't really described their technology in any meaningful way.

However, this is one of the great things about the LGPL. It allows for us to have competitors spring up and try to build on our work. This is - heaven forbid - good for customers. We have to work harder and better to make sure that we continue to give our customers what they crave.

The only thing that bothers me when folks like the Project David guys come along is when they don't honor the work of those that have gone before.

I am only here today because I am able to use the hard work of many, many people who have generously given their work to us all to use. I think Alexandre has successfully eradicated the last line of my code in Wine (and he stubbornly rejects my patches, too), so nothing is Wine is anything I have built. And yet my entire livelihood and that of my family is built on Wine.

I am deeply grateful to the people that let me sell their work - even though I have paid them nothing - and the least I can do is respect and acknowledge their work.

So it bugs me when people like Project David (and others like it) come along touting their wonderful Windows compatibility without giving any props to the people that have worked so hard on Wine.

Ain't illegal, ain't fraud, but it just isn't cool in my book.

[/soapbox]

At any rate, I think that's it. Thanks for asking!

Cheers,

Jeremy
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Jeremy White's Wine Answers

Comments Filter:
  • by jargoone (166102) * on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:04PM (#9174023)
    I read "Jeremy White's Wine answers" as "Jeremy's White Wine answers".
  • Easy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SirChris (676927) on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:05PM (#9174034) Journal
    I wonder how long it will be before you won't question whether it will work with Wine. It will just be common place to say, "Hey if it works in windows, it will work with Wine.
    • by Rei (128717)
      If ever I can play my old copy of Dungeon Keeper, I'll be happy. ;)
      • Hell, I've been trying for 3 years to get Magic: The Gathering working! I'd be thrilled once that works under Linux!
  • by nightsweat (604367) on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:06PM (#9174044)
    So I guess Project David is then old WINE in new tarballs...
  • Wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FortKnox (169099) on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:07PM (#9174048) Homepage Journal
    but that's where your highest-moderated questions led

    No, that's where the highest-moderated questions you sent him led. There was a good variety of questions, some a little harsher than others, but I would have enjoyed reading his response to some of them. Granted, there is a lot of score:5's in the 'question' article, but I think you could have done a bit better on the variety of questions asked.
    • Re:Wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 17, 2004 @03:04PM (#9175827)
      I'd like to see moderation changed so that for questions and other "rate the question" type subjects that the cap be well above 5. Perhaps 15?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:08PM (#9174062)
    ...and not a single mention of Chateauneuf du Pape '87. Niles will be scandalized!" /Frasier
  • by Henrik S. Hansen (775975) <hsh@member.fsf.org> on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:10PM (#9174083) Homepage
    In fact, Wine only implements about half of the Windows APIs. [...] the truth is that over half of the Windows APIs have never been used!

    I find it a little hard to believe that many W32 API's are never used by apps. But if it is really true, talk about code bloat!

    • by Bobdoer (727516) on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:23PM (#9174193) Homepage Journal
      Perhaps it's those "unused" calls that are required for children's "educational" games to run.
    • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:28PM (#9174242) Homepage
      It's not so much that they are never used, the sheer number of apps out there pretty much guarantees somebody, somewhere will have used any given API.

      It's more that in all the apps we've tried to run on Wine, nothing has ever tried to use that feature (new features tend to be easier to add than fixing bugs in existing features). And yes, there are a whole ton of calls that simply aren't implemented because even large, complex apps like DreamWeaver, MS Office etc don't use them.

    • by rabtech (223758) on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:32PM (#9174270) Homepage
      One man's "code bloat" is another man's BACKWARDS COMPATIBILITY.

      There are many Windows APIs that only exist to be backwards-compatible; they are depreciated and are marked in the docs as such. This means some wierd app you use to control industrial machinery that was written for Windows 95 most likely still works on Windows XP.
      • Controlling industrial machinery in 95 or even XP? You have got to be kidding, unless of course it is a trivial bit of machinery that can't damage itself or anything/anyone else if it runs out of control. Controlling real machines with that load of excrement is legally, morally and economically highly questionable. Legally, because you will be sued when it BSODs and causes damage, morally because you are putting property and maybe lives at risk, and economically, because it will do your own business no good
        • I've worked in a company that has made software for industrial water/sewage treatment plants. They have made software from DOS, trough win3, win 95, win NT, win 2000, win XP and (embedded) linux
          We recently had a client complaining his WinXP laptop did not run our version 4 (win3.0) software properly (his win98 laptop did)
          His company had put his laptop in "win95 compatibility mode", which came out to be a win95 installed in VMware, quite a lot more as "compatibility mode".
          We told him we could not support win
      • There are many Windows APIs that [...] are depreciated

        How can Windows APIs depreciate? I thought they were worthless to start with.
      • by theantix (466036) on Monday May 17, 2004 @04:51PM (#9177020) Journal
        This means some wierd app you use to control industrial machinery that was written for Windows 95 most likely still works on Windows XP.

        Ha! Let me guess, you've never worked with implementing an application of any consequence across different versions of Windows before and you are talking out of your ass here. I'm right, aren't I? I have enough issues with upgrading relatively simple business applications from 2K or 98 to WinXP.

        If you assume that your industrial control code that you wrote for win95 will work in WinXP, please let me and others know first so we can evacuate ourselves from the building. Sheesh...
    • by ex_ottoyuhr (607701) <ex_ottoyuhr@NosPAm.hotmail.com> on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:32PM (#9174271)
      And it's the 5% that are used once in the history of Windows that have the most annoyance potential...

      I suspect that American development traditions just might not include about half of the API, but it might be useful if anyone ever bothers with it. I say "American" because My Favorite Program (tm), _Cossacks_, uses just enough relatively obscure system calls that Wine fails miserably to install it.

      This seems to me to be a trend in all software development these days: to give most users most of what they want, doing the easy 90% of the project (which consumes the first 90% of the time), and then leaving the difficult 10% of the project (which consumes the _next_ 90% of the time) unattempted.

      Granted, in WINE's case, they have a pair of really good excuses: they're aiming at a (rapidly!) moving target, and they have no employees, only volunteers. So, I don't blame them too much, although it annoys me that I'm currently dual-booting Windows 98 (for DOS games)and 2000 (for Visual Studio) when there's a Windows emulator (err, "compatibility layer") already under production in Linux-land.

      Of course, other groups don't have reasons for slipshod development. Microsoft is, or at least used to be, very bad about this (see: MSN Search, although I think they're learning). To some extent the commercial Linux developers are guilty of the same, and it was especially characteristic of Unix way back when it started...
      • When Unix began, it was a bit like that as you say, but the things that tended to get left unfinished, i.e. doing the easy 90% of the work, were tools, which were really intended only to do simple things. Even the Bourne shell was IMHO left half done, in early versions, but it was better to have a reduced-function but useable tool than no tool at all. The overall package was still way ahead of any possible competition.

        I saw no evidence, with one possible exception, that the kernel and file system were left

      • by jsebrech (525647) on Monday May 17, 2004 @01:48PM (#9174988)
        Microsoft is doing a pretty good job with backwards compatibility. I have windows 3.11 games written in 1994 that still run in windows xp, a decade later, without modification. There are few operating systems which can boost that level of backwards compatibility (IBM's stuff comes to mind though, but they use the virtualization trick to do it).

        Still, I believe the future lies in the aforementioned inclusion of full virtualization to run previous OS versions into the base operating system. Apple included an OS9 environment that way into OS X, and microsoft could include a version of virtual pc (which they own). That way you can ease ancient API's out of the codebase and still allow people to run their old stuff. And given how much spare cpu cycles modern PC's have, this shouldn't even be much of a slowdown.
        • by alexhmit01 (104757) on Monday May 17, 2004 @04:38PM (#9176893)
          Perhaps we can all take off our tinfoil hats and realize the REAL reason Microsoft bought VirtualPC...

          1. They've been trying to divorce themselves from Intel for the better part of a decade... The point of a monopoly is to extract monopoly rents... they currently split those...

          2. If they could virtualize all pre-Longhorn calls into a clean emulation layer, then they don't have to "maintain" them... i.e. they could leave Win32 sitting there in its happy emulation layer forever, simply maintaining that one layer that talks to the OS via the CLR... In that world, they can move everything to CLR, and legacy Win32 runs in the VM that gets recompiled all the time.

          3. Look at an old (pre NT 4) Win32 diagram... the Win32 subsystem was just a subsystem, with equal billing to POSIX and others... the idea was to be able to have the flexibility, but it didn't work out that way, as the Windows/DOS combination took 10 years to transition away from... moving the Win32 subsystem into a virtual layer underneath CLR (like WOW - Windows On Windows) would make maintenance easier...

          Remember, sales growth is pretty flat for Microsoft, but they need to keep increasing earnings. Lowering development costs could DRASTICALLY increase earnings, so Microsoft could see 15% earnings growth on flat sales... look at Phillip Morris, declining market (decreases around 1%/year IIRC), increasing earnings each year, happy owners.

          Alex
    • Let's say there's one thousand APIs out there, beyond the "core" interfaces, each of which are only used by a very few applications. Unfortunately, this still means that there's a heck of a lot of Windows applications that will never run under Wine because they use one of those rare APIs.
  • Breaking WINE (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@@@gmail...com> on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:11PM (#9174091) Homepage Journal
    In fact, we get more pain from Linux distributions, who work at break neck speed to break Wine.

    And all other software too. Am I the only one who's getting tired of trying to play matchup with GLIBC versions?

    • by Tet (2721) *
      Am I the only one who's getting tired of trying to play matchup with GLIBC versions?

      Yes...

    • Re:Breaking WINE (Score:5, Informative)

      by Joel Carr (693662) on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:36PM (#9174312)
      Am I the only one who's getting tired of trying to play matchup with GLIBC versions?

      No you're not, and since the artical is about Wine, you may be interested in knowing that Alexandre Julliard is also fed up with it.

      On Wine Devel he posted this:
      Also, frankly, I've spent the last year chasing glibc breakages, and I don't particularly feel like spending the next year chasing kernel breakages. I was kind of hoping someone else would pick that fight, so I could go back to writing some real Wine code for a change...

      http://www.winehq.org/hypermail/wine-devel/2003/12 /0384.html [winehq.org]

      ---
    • Re:Breaking WINE (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Apreche (239272)
      you only have to play matchup if you use a binary package based distribution. Actually I think debian makes sure this problem doesn't happen, so its mostly with the rpm based distros. Source based distros like gentoo, slackware or lunar linux don't have problems like this. You download the source to an app and build it against whatever glibc you are currently using. With binary distros you have to hope you have the same glibc as the guy who made the package.

      Yeah, offtopic, but I'm just helping this guy out
      • Re:Breaking WINE (Score:2, Informative)

        by zozie (165382)

        This problem has nothing to do with binary vs. source. In fact most applications will continue to work if you upgrade your glibc, though the other way around is trickier. Just link the app versus the lowest glibc version you want (possibly trading some new APIs).

        What we're having here are

        • fundamental (source+binary) changes such as NPTL support (introduced in RH 9)
        • source breakage -- successive glibc versions are stricter about the functions they supply when you #include .

        at least that's my expe

    • Re:Breaking WINE (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jlp2097 (223651)
      It's been over a year since the last offical release.

      But you probably haven't heard the news [redhat.com] ? There will be no more official glibc release. Ulrich Drepper has decided, that it is just a waste of time because "nobody tests it anyway" and because he does not see any big changes ahead. That's why distributions like Linux From Scratch and Rock Linux (and just about every big distribution) doesn't include 2.3.2 but some CVS snapshot deemed stable enough.
    • Am I the only one who's getting tired of trying to play matchup with GLIBC versions?

      Switch to FreeBSD and petition WINE to follow. If FreeBSD becomes their primary platform, vendors of the various distros will become responsible for porting WINE.

      As it stands, FreeBSD wine-port [freshports.org] end up having to untangle various hacks put in for Linux' sake.

  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:11PM (#9174096)
    Now the very first thing I'm going to do when I win the lottery is go buy a stack of kids games and pay some Wine hackers to get them to work (seriously; you can ask my co workers, they're sick of me talking about this pet project). Unfortunately, the last lottery ticket I bought was a bust.

    How about setting up something like the "WINE Foundation" (perhaps with a more creative name) and include a DONATE file in the distro, and a link off the WINE homepage? Ask for a)legal/tax/investing help and b)money. Seek more than one opinion about all matters under (a).

    Or, just ask people to "donate" by maintaining a wishlist of packages schools are looking to run. People buy a copy, get it to work, donate the patches back to the community and the copy of the software (which they no longer need) to the school in question. Whole lot easier than my first suggestion.

  • Bad markup! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Otter (3800) on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:19PM (#9174160) Journal
    The "<grin" at the end of question 5 seems to be breaking a closing blockquote tag...
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:20PM (#9174166) Homepage
    I have always wondered WHY there is no "open taxes" projects going.

    we could simply create a framework that run's say a python script thtat describs the rules and calculations of the tax form and simply print out the postscript from there...

    That way the only changes needed to be done to the program from year to year only need to be done to the form descriptor script.

    and if this was done right, the form printout plus the rules, etc were in the descriptor file, then the "open taxes" program could work for multiple countries...

    alas, I cant write a lick of C++ or C so there is no chance of me writing it or starting it. also there is that sticky issue of what happens if the softwear makes a mistake causing the users to have to pay $$$billions in fines??
    • Just do them online (Score:5, Informative)

      by b0bby (201198) on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:29PM (#9174252) Homepage
      Well, I don't know about that, but I do know that I did my taxes in Firefox with TurboTax online (under Windows, admittedly) and it worked fine, so I imagine that you could do that with Firefox under Linux. I've used the online service for 5 or so years now, it works well, I get a pdf of the whole form at the end and they remember my basic information from one year to the next. No need to get a boxed cd for something you'll use for a week or so, and certainly no need to maintain a windows box for that sole purpose.
    • by Tim Macinta (1052) * <twm@alum.mit.edu> on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:31PM (#9174264) Homepage
      I have always wondered WHY there is no "open taxes" projects going. we could simply create a framework that run's say a python script thtat describs the rules and calculations of the tax form and simply print out the postscript from there...
      You mean like this [sourceforge.net]?
    • by duffbeer703 (177751) on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:37PM (#9174317)
      I always wondered why the IRS didn't issue tax software. Why should I have to pay for the privilege of filling out & filing forms electronically instead of picking up paper forms at the post office.

      Electronic filing in particular saves the IRS tons of cash. But I prefer to pay $0.37 for a stamp than $20 to e-file.
      • There are some great rebates on tax software every year that might make it worthwhile. It's like a late Christmas present or something. Buy TurboTax and a $60GB hard drive, get full rebates for both! We use TurboTax, and always just print out the forms and mail them(and a hardcopy to keep). Why the heck should I pay that horrible amount for e-filing?
      • by jfruhlinger (470035) on Monday May 17, 2004 @01:09PM (#9174624) Homepage
        Believe it or not, the IRS has been pushing to do this for some time. However, the congressman whose district includes Intuit (I think it's in San Diego) has repeatedly stalled the proposal. Apparently there is a law saying that the government can't compete with a private business, and he claims that the IRS making a free electronic tax-filing service available would unfairly compete with Intuit.

        jf
        • by Grishnakh (216268) on Monday May 17, 2004 @02:02PM (#9175128)
          Maybe the IRS should start auditing this congressman aggressively...
        • I was pretty certain that the tax industry was getting congress to run interfernce over something like this so that they can maintain their "business model". What's next, lawsuits against the IRS for patent infringement?

          So instead of the government providing a service we basically pay for already that would essentially save the government millions and millions, we've got to prop up a bunch of execs at Intuit and get a much less efficient tax system as a result. That's just great.

          By this same logic, the
        • by Laxitive (10360) on Monday May 17, 2004 @02:56PM (#9175711) Journal
          Well, they don't have to publish tax _software_. They just have to publish tax rules in a form that is easily parsable by computer programs.

          So instead of picking up a tax form that describes stuff in english, you'd have some formal specification. You could probably find a set of basis combinators that can represent all possible tax rules down to the finest detail. Then the IRS just has to publish this rulebook in some electronic form.

          It's not competing with private business, since it isn't software - simply a specification. It also encourages competition in the private marketplace, since it lowers the barrier of entry for people trying to write tax software.

          -EB
        • Apparently there is a law saying that the government can't compete with a private business

          I'd be surprised if such a law exists, at least if it does it's well buried. If it did exist, then UPS and FedEx would have presumably sued the USPS out of existence. Also, things like the public defenders (private attorneys) and the police (security firms) would presumably be illegal. However, I have no doubt Intuit would actively lobby against free software from the IRS.
        • Actually, I think the 'right' approach is to require congress to produce the tax laws as valid pseudo-code in some high level script. That way the laws are well codified, and some hacker can translate the pseudo-code into 'real' executable code and then wrap it with a decent UI...

          Of course, the tax laws would _never_ actually compile :-)
        • >a law saying that the government can't compete with a private business

          I've heard that before too. It seems to me such a law is quite useless and stupid, because the government can, will, and does compete with private business on a regular basis.
          For example: There are public and private schools (esp at the secondary level). There are government-sponsored and private hospitals. There are public and private research facilities, security guards... the list goes on and on. I can't imagine how provding

      • Electronic filing in particular saves the IRS tons of cash. But I prefer to pay $0.37 for a stamp than $20 to e-file.


        So don't pay $20 to e-file.

        Here [irs.gov] is a list of IRS "Free File Alliance" partners. The law requires a certain percentage of US taxpayers have free access to e-file, and this is accomplished through these vendors. All of these vendors have different criteria as to who can file for free, but if you dig around you can find one to suit your needs.

        For example, when I filed my taxes back in Fe
    • by SquadBoy (167263) on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:38PM (#9174324) Homepage Journal
      Because it would be impossible.

      This is not a project where folks are going to put up with "good enough" or even "very good". This is a project that would have to be perfect. We are talking larga amounts of money in paticular if something goes wrong. Also it is not just a matter of rules and calculations from one form. Any tax app basically needs to know the entire US tax code.

      I for example have a house, 3 kids, a big chunk of charitable contribs and a bunch of other stuff. Any tax app needs to be able to do all that math for me and it needs to be up to date. It also needs to be able to efile. I don't know how hard or easy that is but it has to be able to do it. There is *much* more to it than the 1040 book. Oh and states, Oregon has had tax votes in January for the last 2 years. Who is going to update the code for state changes in anything resembling a timely matter and there are strict IRS rules on liablity for all of this.

      The best way to do this is to convince one of the vendors to try and make it work with wine.
      • "The best way to do this is to convince one of the vendors to try and make it work with wine."

        I'd say the best way to do this is to convince a vendor to do it in Java. Then, it could be really, reliably cross-platform.
    • by Tarantolato (760537) on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:48PM (#9174413) Journal
      The code part of tax software is fairly trivial. The problem is the data part: your code has to be working with good information about tax laws federally and in all fifty states.

      So even if you could code in C or C++, it wouldn't matter. You need tax lawyers and CPAs for this project rather than just coders. And they don't work for free.
      • The interesting thing would be to do a tax program where the code part and the data part were completely separate, and distribute each of them separately. The code part could be free software, and the data could be purchased in stores or online for the usual price of tax software. The free software project could even have paid developers funded by the makers of the tax law data packages, on the "give away the razors, sell the blades" model.
      • (I couldn't resist...)

        There once was a programmer who was attached to the court of the warlord of Wu. The warlord asked the programmer: "Which is easier to design: an accounting package or an operating system?"

        "An operating system", replied the programmer.

        The warlord uttered an exclamation of disbelief. "Surely an accounting package is trivial next to the complexity of an operating system", he said.

        "Not so", said the programmer, "when designing an accounting package, the programmer operates as a mediato
    • by mikehoskins (177074) on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:57PM (#9174482)
      If I'm not mistaken, it seems that the tax software companies primarily use the Government's PDF forms. They sure look like them.

      If you can open the PDF and make an FDF out of it, couldn't you do EXACTLY what the poster of this message asked?

      So, if you have an interactive FDF viewer that made calculations, etc., you should be able to do it easier than many think you might.

      Of course Python is the wrong language to do it in. Kidding. (Self-confessed Perl/PHP bigot.)
    • You could also use the online tax software (i.e. Intuit). You can do your taxes from their website, and if I recall I used mozilla under Linux just fine the last time I did them there. Luckily my credit is so horrible I am not too worried about my personal info on the web :-(
    • by theCat (36907) on Monday May 17, 2004 @01:33PM (#9174851) Journal
      Been using TurboTax online from my Mac running OSX (*BSD) for years now. It's a great service and I do not even think about buying tax software.

      Taxes are one of the few times where it makes sense to run an online application. They can keep tax data and rules up to date to the last minute without issuing and distributing patches, and retain my data even if I change PCs over the years.

      Not here to pitch their product, just trying to address the question of when it makes sense to have software on your harddrive vs software on an app server. As far as it goes, one can run any software from a remote app server and this might make more sense in the future, but right now tax software is a no-brainer.
  • Tax Software (Score:5, Interesting)

    by A. Pizmo Clam (779689) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <malc_omsipa>> on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:28PM (#9174249) Homepage
    Most of the larger/more reputable tax packages are already phasing in web-based clients alongside or in place of their shrinkwrap offerings. This will become a non-issue for the Wine team before very long.

    This is a good thing. It's nice to have more Windows apps that work under emulation, it's better to have more native Linux apps, but it's best to have more apps that are entirely platform-neutral. (We need to make sure they aren't IE-only though.)
    • by blunte (183182) on Monday May 17, 2004 @01:09PM (#9174629)
      I don't see what the fuss is. I hand a CPA a file full of junk, a $50 check, and come back a couple days later for my file + tax forms to sign.

      My method works regardless of what OS I use.

      To my favorite anti-blunte moderator, this post may start out at 2, but I'm sure it's worth you marking Overrated as usual. Thanks in advance.
    • Most of the larger/more reputable tax packages are already phasing in web-based clients alongside or in place of their shrinkwrap offerings. This will become a non-issue for the Wine team before very long.

      I agree that web-based clients are a good thing from a portability standpoint. But let me dawn my tinfoil hat and disagree with web applications for my financial data. Do you really want Some Random Webserver(tm) to have access to all your tax data? I don't care if they use SSL, some machine out of y

      • I'm pretty un-tinfoil hat on most issues, but the online-tax thing scares the shite out of me. It's not that I worry about my data getting stolen by l33t d00dz with m4d ski11z. What I worry about is it getting used/traded/sold for financial benefit of the tax company.

        I don't know if they would or would not do this, but I do know that "financial planning" (ie, high pressure marketing of crap grade securities) is a huge growth target for most tax prep companies.

        Besides, doing your taxes isn't all that har
  • ooh, i know, i know! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by torpor (458) <jayv.synth@net> on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:31PM (#9174269) Homepage Journal
    However, what Winelib does allow, that *is* wicked cool, is that you can port a Windows app to a non x86 platform quite easily. I don't really know of anyone that really values this (i.e. is willing to pay big bucks for it), but it's cool, nonetheless.

    Software Synthesizer Plugins!

    I've see, I think it is now, three different VST-plugin efforts that are going on, to get Linux up as a primo VST host ... but I can really see this going weird when linuxPPC folks can take a VST .DLL and run it ...)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:34PM (#9174292)
    They were mostly about politics and procedure. Nothing with any meat. There was one question where he slightly got into updating Office software but that's it.
    Since this seems to be the first high profile interview in a while why weren't there more technical questions? What's next for Wine? Is there some particular program that's about to work well?

    Finally, is there any future potential conflict of interest between codeweavers and Wine. Say Codeweavers reaches the point where it can run most Windows software easily. What is the incentive to get those features back into Wine so that its as good as Codeweavers? IMHO once mainline Wine becomes moron proof and works as well as the cross-over products there just won't be much use for Codeweavers products. Are you not worried or will someone make sure this doesn't happen? That may sound negative but its a real concern that this delicate balancing act may indeed hold back mainline Wine.
  • by SquadBoy (167263) on Monday May 17, 2004 @12:40PM (#9174342) Homepage Journal
    app like itunes?
  • Just curious (Score:3, Interesting)

    by edxwelch (600979) on Monday May 17, 2004 @01:07PM (#9174595)
    "there are certainly large areas of the Windows API that we struggle to understand, and we could certainly use some help"
    Does anyone know which APIs he's talking about?
    • Re:Just curious (Score:4, Informative)

      by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Monday May 17, 2004 @02:11PM (#9175195) Homepage
      most of NTDLL, parts of the shell interface, exactly what message orderings/sequences are generated by Windows in certain circumstances, the full TEB layout, that sort of thing ...

      Those are just the undocumented/poorly documented bits. Then there's a whole ton of extra APIs for which documentation exists, but the APIs are so complex or obscure that hardly anybody understands them. This is especially true of things like the RPC runtime which not many developers use directly, and the more intricate parts of DCOM (which you need to read several books to be completely au fait with).

  • We also go to all kinds of interesting lengths to avoid problems with viruses and worms. 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 crash and burn, preventing many of the worms and such from running.

    OK, how about Outlook express, Netscape Mail, Lotus notes or any other e-mail client where the user can recieve files such as self-extracting ZIP files?

    Pul
    • Lotus Notes is not sandboxed, but Notes uses its own rendering engine (not IE) for email which means it's less likely to suffer from random auto-execute holes than Outlook. Notes also has significantly less userbase than Outlook so it's less likely to be targetted by worms.

      Having said that, these sort of things are rather crude hacks. The correct solution to security/sandboxing in Wine is the same solution as for native Linux apps, namely locking down the program using the SELinux policy enforcement engine. Currently Wine doesn't integrate with SELinux at all, but it'd not be hard to do if somebody wished to make it a project of theirs.

  • Yes MFC sucks but I wounder how well MFC source will compile using the wine libs it will at all.
  • Kids games in Wine (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kludge (13653) on Monday May 17, 2004 @03:56PM (#9176399)
    I've found that the wonderful Humungous adventure games work well under wine.
    Also kutoka games also work well.
  • by bluGill (862) on Monday May 17, 2004 @09:27PM (#9179343)

    Next time you are tempted to buy a lottery ticket, instead send $.50 to the wine foundation, and $.50 to a foundation to end gamboling addiction. If everyone reading slashdot followed this strategy games would run perfectly under wine, and gamboling wouldn't be a solcal problem anymore.

    Your odds of winning the lottery about about equal to your ever collecting a social security check, and substantially less than you getting hit by lightning. (Specific to Jeremy White, I know his age close enough to know he won't get a check, someone reading this is old enough that they will get one)

    Keep your eyes open, your odds are finding the winning ticket on the sidewalk are about the same as buying the ticket, you never know when it will happen.

  • Tax software (Score:3, Informative)

    by ripcrd (31538) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @01:33PM (#9185745)
    You might just want to use ssl encrypted web-based tax software. I used www.taxact.com and it worked pretty good. Now granted, I used Win2K on my laptop, but the current browsers running on linux should be OK. In fact I think I used Firefox for most of the tax prep work. I much prefer this to loading more software on my PC. At the end I print stuff out and I'm done.

"But this one goes to eleven." -- Nigel Tufnel

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