I consider myself a Windows guy, but there are things I prefer doing on Linux mainly because of its advanced terminal. My unwillingness to pick a side has some inconvenient implications: rebooting into Linux every time takes too much time and virtualized Linux tends to be a little slow on most machines. Luckily, now there’s a third option that does away with both of those inconveniences: running Linux apps natively on Windows.
Using a combination of freely available tools, andLinux is capable of running Linux applications as if they were Windows applications. As you can see on the screenshot, Linux apps are nearly indistinguishable from Windows apps until you open a menu. So what’s the nifty piece of technology that powers this slightly awkward integration of Linux into Windows? It’s Xming, a Windows implementation of the X Window System, which is the software that powers the graphical interface in Linux.
andLinux comes in two flavors: a minimalistic version and a KDE bundle. Both are based on Ubuntu, which means that you install new applications using Synaptic or the old-fashioned sudo apt-get install command. It is possible to share files between Windows and Linux apps by using your computer’s shared folders.
To make Linux apps work, andLinux installs a service that starts whenever Windows boots. Fortunately, it’s not a memory hog of any sorts so I wouldn’t worry about performance. Which brings us to another important point: in my tests andLinux runs rather smoothly while, compared to virtual machines, maintaining a very small memory footprint. With the two windows pictured above open, it consumed an extraordinary 17 megabytes of RAM.
If there’s one thing you shouldn’t use andLinux for however, it’s gaming. I tested game performance with a free Linux game called Blobwars, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the frame rate fell below 5fps. I’ve had better luck with the playback of Flash video, but I wouldn’t say that the picture was as smooth as I would have liked it to be.
Still, andLinux is a welcome way to access Linux for the times when you need to use it for five minutes and don’t have the patience to sit through a reboot.