Linux for Windows users (literally)


I thought at first glance that Colinux was a new rival to Linus’ open-source behemoth, but written by someone called Colin; until I realized it’s camel-cased as coLinux (short for CooperativeLinux).

What it actually is, is an incredibly neat way to run Linux in a window on your Windows PC. (Pause to re-read that – yes, it really is possible). It’s a bit like getting a remote desktop on a Linux box, except it’s all happening on the one workstation.

The use cases for this kind of setup are many: developing and testing on multiple operating systems with a single PC; copying and pasting between applications in different operating systems; demoing multi-platform apps on a single laptop; luring tentative users for whom even trying out Linux on a bootable LiveCD would be too adventurous; and so on.

There’s a page describing how to get coLinux working with Gentoo.

Unfortunately, I encountered some problems with coLinux/Gentoo on my ancient-ish Windows 2000 machine. It mostly worked, but for the life of me I couldn’t work out how to get networking to behave. To be fair, coLinux is open source and is currently at version 0.6.3 (although as I’ve been reminded on these pages before, in the open source world, a low version number doesn’t necessarily mean an immature release).

As is often the case with open source, I was referred to a maze of Wiki pages and how-to’s, which basically didn’t have the answers I needed. coLinux does show promise though: I’ll be keeping an eye on its progress.

If you’re prepared to cough up a little dough (so to speak), an alternative solution is to use the commercial VMware. With VMWare Workstation 5.5, you can have a virtual PC on which to run Linux. The nice thing is, it simply works. I can now bring up Knoppix in a little window, with full X Windows/KDE etc. All very cool.

About the Author

Matt Stephens is a senior architect, programmer and project leader based in Central London. He co-wrote Agile Development with ICONIX Process, Extreme Programming Refactored, and Use Case Driven Object Modeling with UML - Theory and Practice.