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Windows gaming on Linux desktops gets a boost
Feb. 15, 2006

If you want to play Windows games on your Linux desktop, you'll be glad to learn that Transgaming Technologies has enhanced its enabling software. Cedega version 5.1 adds support for three popular Windows games -- Civilization IV, FIFA 06, and Need for Speed -- among other enhancements.

Cedega, formerly called WineX, is a semi-proprietary program that sprang from the Wine project. Wine, in turn, is an open source program that enables some Windows programs to run on Linux. Unlike Wine, which supports general Windows programs, Cedega is designed expressly for running Windows games. In particular, it's meant to enable DirectX and other Windows graphics-heavy programs to run on Linux.

The result is a program that will let you run many popular Windows games straight out of the box on your Linux system.

Currently, in addition to the three new Windows titles mentioned above (Civilization IV, FIFA 06, and Need for Speed), Cedega supports Battlefield 2, Dungeon Siege II, City of Villains, Madden NFL 2006, World of WarCraft, Half-Life 2, Guild Wars, and others. Cedega 5.1 builds on this growing list of game titles and continues to improve the Linux gaming experience with new features that improve overall game play.

"Many of the improvements in Cedega 5.1 are a direct result of direct feedback from the gaming community. We aim to provide timely updates and regular new releases of Cedega as an example of our commitment to the very best in product support for our customers," said Gavriel State, Transgaming's founder and CTO, in a statement.

These enhancements and fixes include an updated Cedega user interface, installer, and copy protection improvements, support for wide-screen monitor resolutions, and better handling for international keyboard layouts.

While many players report that Cedega lives up to its promise of letting players enjoy their favorite games on a Linux desktop, the program can be picky about its installation and hardware.

For example, it will work with many -- but not all -- games on a system with an ATI Radeon 8500 or higher graphics hardware with ATI FireGL drivers. For example, neither of the last two versions of Madden NFL will run properly with this hardware. In addition, many games that will run with the ATI Radeon line have poor performance. The company is aware of these problems and is working on them.

Anyone considering subscribing to Cedega should look closely at the latest version's release notes before plunking any money down.

In addition, you are almost certain to run into tuning problems with each game that you try to play. Again, the release notes are invaluable for the basics of getting your favorite game to run. Another excellent source for information on individual games and initial setup are the TransGaming community forums and the Unofficial TransGaming Wiki.

Last, but by no means least, TransGaming has had an uncomfortable relationship with the open source community. While its code sprang from Wine, Cedega's license is not an open-source license.

On a practical level, Transgaming has strongly objected to at least one attempt to bundle Cedega -- then WineX -- into the Debian Linux distribution. Because of this, Cedega is not bundled with the Debian -- or any other, for that matter -- independent Linux distribution.

It is strictly available as a commercial add-on to Linux distributions. To be perfectly clear, it can run on almost any modern 32-bit Intel Linux. You simply won't find it already installed on any Linux that we're aware of here at

The bottom line is that if the licensing terms don't bother you -- and with the right equipment, distribution and setup -- you should be able to run your favorite Windows games on Linux and never know that it's not Windows running underneath it.

Cedega, which is available at a subscription rate of $5 per month, runs on most modern and many older versions of Linux.

Further details are on Transgaming's website.

-- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

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