A local Windows 7 user asked about upgrading his laptop to Linux Mint, while wondering out loud if running certain Windows programs in Mint is possible, which he'd heard it was.

"Yes, using WINE you can run Windows apps right on the Mint desktop," I responded. He asked, "How does that work?" It seemed to him that very piece of Window's software he wanted to run, which he believed were written for the Win NT kernel, would have to be re-written for the Linux kernel. Otherwise how would they run in Linux?

I explained that wasn't the case at all. The Windows software ecosystem is made up of apps built using one of two technologies. First is 'Win32', old-school Microsoft and still widely used, literally it's the main format for application development on Windows. Every major piece of software for Windows (think MS Office or Adobe Photoshop) are Win32 applications;

Second is 'Modern/Metro'. Initially introduced with Windows 8 as part of MS's now failed desktop-mobile convergence project, Modern/Metro is a newer Microsoft format which 'might' someday take the place of Win32 -- with the emphasis on 'someday.' Personally I doubt that'll ever happen, but I've been wrong before and in this case I really don't care.

Windows apps don't depend on the NT kernel. Windows apps depend on 'Win32' and/or 'Modern/Metro' APIs. APIs are simply functions and procedures in code that allow the creation of software applications with the ability to access the features or data of an operating system, a separate application, or some other service. In order for Windows apps to run on Linux, all you need is to port 'Win32' and/or 'Modern/Metro' to Linux, and you're good to go.

In respect to Win32, that is exactly what the 'WINE' project has done -- they've created a 'Free Open-Source Software' (FOSS) re-implementation of relevant Win32 APIs, allowing a great many Win32 apps to run on Linux as though they were native to the system, including heavy hitters like Photoshop.

Running Win32 apps on your Linux desktop under 'WINE' can be as simple as running them in Windows, and it works without all the undesired bits and issues that drive people nuts with Windows itself.

This fellow was so intrigued that he stopped by and spent time with my Mint powered laptop just to see for himself what it was all about. He'll be here next week to have me upgrade his Win 7 laptop to Mint!..

The voyage of discovery that truly matters is not in seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes.