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"IE for Linux" hack offers one more reason not to boot Windows

First INQpressions Foolproof Wine installer script made in Brazil
Tue Sep 26 2006, 11:06
A BRAZILIAN web designer got tired of having to boot Windows to see how web pages looked in IE, so he coded a little script allowing anyone to download, install and run IE on Linux.

Six years ago, if you dared to ask how to run IE on Linux, you'd get replies like this one, telling you 'petition Microsoft for one' -and wait until Hell freezes over, I'd add. Well, one realistic person named S?rgio Lopes, a 21 years old web designer and Linux user from Brazil, decided to make it easy for non-techies to install and run the Windows version of the Vole's web browser effortlessly.

alt='ies4linux-demo2-about'
IE 6.0 SP1 running on Linux thanks to WINE and the IEs4Linux installer

That's how ' IEs4Linux' was born, a script that 'automagically' downloads and installs not one but the last three release versions of Internet Explorer -6.0, 5.5 SP2, and 5.0- on any 32-bit linux desktop with the wine core libraries in place. The installer program by Lopes -released under a GPL licence- relies on ' wine' and a third party utility dubbed 'cabextract' to decompress the windows archives downloaded from Microsoft's site. The IEs4Linux program is at version 2.0 after a long beta testing period that spanned from April to August.

With my WinXP partition completely FUBAR after two years of software installing and DLL / driver conflicts, I had a great reason to test it on my Gateway 7422GX: access the local revenue service web site, which is so dumbly designed as to require IE to do JScript pop-ups properly. I was a bit skeptical, having encountered dozens of problems the last time I tried to run Windows applications using 'wine', but as you'll see below I was proved wrong.

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The text mode yet friendly IEs4Linux installer

The ies4linux is a great example of user-friendly software: it checks for the presence of 'wine' on the system -down to the build level-, wget, unzip and it the tools it requires. After answering four questions -namely which versions do you want to install, and in which language, it starts to work fetching the required components and files -some of them from Microsoft- with the ubiquitous 'wget' utility built into almost every linux, and doing everything needed until its process is finished and IE icons pop up on the linux desktop -for the record: I tested it with my favourite one, Gnome, so your mileage might vary or not if you're running KDE.

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Four [ENTER] keys later, and after some downloading, it's done

I run the free UK distro BLAG, albeit not the latest build- but that posed no problem to find and install the latest wine version. Finding wine is usually a three mouse clicks affair if your distro has the friendly 'Synaptic package manager' included. After that, running IEs4Linux was as easy as hitting 'enter' four times and about ten minutes later, I ended with "Internet Explorer 6.0" and "Internet Explorer 5.5" icons on the desktop. I choose not to install the ancient 5.0 release as I thought two standards-breaking browsers are more than enough for me.

alt='ies4linux-ie6-desk'
IE6 and IE 5.5 icons on the Gnome linux desktop

Not only does this program achieve the feat of running several Internet Explorer versions side by side -something not possible on windows without some hacking of the Microsoft provided installers or running a whole virtual machine for each- S?rgio Lopes says that his program even isolates the IEs from your regular wine installation: "IEs4Linux installs everything on a different folder (~/.ies4linux). This approach has pros and cons, one pro is that we isolate everything from your working .wine folder".

alt='ies4linux-demo-1'
IE running on BLAG Linux

Apparently some wine developers are not big fans of the project, and a discussion about why can be found here.

Leaving aside any byzantine discussions of politics and software design philosophy, the "IEs4Linux" installer script has been already translated by contributors and users to over a dozen languages including Spanish, French, Dutch, Hebrew, Japanese, Italian, Russian, Finnish, Slovene, Serbian, Chinese, Swedish, Polish and Norwegian, showing its appeal for linux users worldwide.

The icing on the cake is Flash support: IEs4Linux automatically downloads and installs the ActiveX version of the Flash 9 player for IE and installs it at the end of its process. The program's author advises: "Please, don't use any of these IEs to navigate!! Get Firefox instead". And I agree, the last thing the web needs is for broken sites to remain broken and IE only. But while we bug forever the worst lazy webmasters to fix their web sites for cross-platform, web standards compliance, IEs4Linux is a beautiful way to avoid booting Windows or the bloat of dealing with a complete Windows virtual machine on something like VMWare. ?

 

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