12 September 2010

How to use Dropbox to run PortableApps.com Portable Apps from Windows under WINE (Also known as how to run PortableApps.com Portable Apps from Windows under WINE in Ubuntu 10.04 to run Utorrent for Windows now while you wait for the Linux/Ubuntu version to finally come out)


If you are reading this title with a puzzled expression on your face, I do apologise. I'm not much of a blog writer and I think half of this post will be more of a ramble/rant than a traditional blog!

So you have been warned!! :o)

I recently did some tinkering with my laptop (which I also dual boot Ubuntu 10.04.1 and Windows Vista SP2 off of) and while mucking around I discovered something interesting that I don't think has been covered elsewhere, so I hope OMG! Ubuntu will post this as a guest blog for me.

Until recently, my employer and I had a good system setup. That being that my work computer was strangely still an unmodified desktop compared to the others in the building, that had been totally turned into Linux Kernel Loading Dumb Terminals (with hard drives etc removed) that then connected to Citrix direct, while mine hadn't been fully modified and so still had access to the Internet on it's Windows XP Pro hard drive that was still fitted to the machine. That allowed me access to Gmail and Facebook etc.

But to do work, I had and still have to dial into a Citrix Server which is based in another part of New Zealand (Auckland) to where I work (Wellington) in order to get access to Microsoft Office 2007 and my other work programs/files for me to do my job etc. The Internet on the Citrix log-in is filtered and I can understand why as I know how much bandwidth streaming radio and You-Tube etc can use if left unchecked like the old setup was.

Citrix does also allow the IT department based off site to add and remove users and programs etc easier (I don't like it from my point of view as New Zealand's Broadband Infrastructure is a laughing stock in my view compared to other parts of the world).

But what this all meant for little old me was that I was able to check my personal emails and other things and also share that access I was fortunate to have with workmates (as all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy in my view) and also run the fantastic PortableApps.com suite of programs off my handy 8GB flash drive and not break a Golden IT rule that I read on company Intranet which forbids the installation of programs without their written permission.

The PortableApps.com suite comes with Portable versions of Google Chrome and Firefox Browser, along with Portable Thunderbird, Portable Open Office and Portable Utorrent for example. There are many other programs, some of which are listed on their website and others that aren't (Portable KeePass and Portable Dropbox for example – I haven't tried these out yet so can't guarantee that they do work).

But as they are portable and can run off a flash drive, I understand and have checked to be sure, that they make no changes to the system registry and once you remove the USB stick from the machine, you remove all trace of that program having ever been run.

That to me was the work around for the IT rule at work as it meant I could check my personal emails in my preferred email client (as I don't like Gmail's web-interface myself) and also sync my bookmarks from home and view them at work on Portable Firefox and not affect Citrix (like when I run Virtual Box in Ubuntu I don't affect that Virtual session with what I'm doing in Ubuntu for those who don't understand the mysterious Citrix).

But recently, this all changed and my system and the few remaining that were still true desktops were patched by a software update from IT. It wasn't because I abused this lucky setup I had (I think others did though, but I proclaim I'm innocent), but because the IT people realised that they hadn't finished the conversion job on these desktop computers and so sent a patch down and patched them up.

Now I'm not a hacker and I wouldn't want to even try getting around patch that at work for the problems it could cause me and my job, so I said a quiet “thank you” to them under my breath when I found out they had done the patching and just got on with my work while my colleagues bemoaned the loss of the access that computer of mine and the others gave (as the computers that allow unrestricted and not connected to the Citrix system for Internet access in our lunchroom have been broken and virus riddled etc for over a year and not repaired!!)

So I took the flash drive that I had been using home that evening and I was going to move the contents of it to my Dropbox using Ubuntu that evening so I could find another use for the flash drive after it's useful service to me at work and guess what I learned?!


Now you must understand the background to me and why I hadn't realised this earlier. I am still a recent Linux convert in my eyes. A max of 18 months using Linux after I found for NZD $2.00 a couple of CD's of Ubuntu 8.04 LTS at my local Dick Smith Electronics Store and decided on a whim to see what exactly Linux was like (and also as I had NZD $2.00 burning a hole in my pocket!!)

After growing up tinkering with an old Commodore XT machine running a very early version of MS-DOS as an eight year old around 1994 (when my father brought it home from work); Linux was interesting!

Up until 1994 I had no interest in computers as we didn't have one at home, but the hours of fun I had on that old Commodore with it's broken 5 ½ inch floppy drive and working 3 ¼ inch floppy disk drive was some of the best fun I think I ever had as a child as I learned how to program in BASIC (not that I remember now) some simple things and I also used “Turtle Draw” to move that little turtle around; and amaze my friends and family with the different shapes I could make it draw for me. That is what Ubuntu was like all over again for me when I first used it. (I won't talk about the years in between 1994 and 2009 in this post I promise!)

So anyway, back to my post: So I had now discovered that I had a use for WINE as I hadn't had much luck with it earlier in my Ubuntu tinkering I had done and read (as I hadn't bothered to research and read up on how exactly it worked) so I had just left it and sort of forgotten I had installed it on the Ubuntu partition of my hard drive. But sticking in that flash drive with it's PortableApps.com auto launcher program that evening while logged on into Ubuntu caused WINE to spring into life and ask me if I wanted to load it. Of course I clicked yes as I was shocked I could run it!

But run it I did and I started to open some of the applications . I was amazed to find that Google Chrome, Firefox and Thunderbird (which I thought would never run in Ubuntu as they are Window's versions of programs that are available in Ubuntu) worked out of the box, so next I tried Utorrent, and was amazed to find that loaded too.

So I decided to download a torrent (I think it was Fedora 13 as I was also at this time several months ago tinkering with other Linux Distro's like Fedora, Linux Mint and Peppermint Ice to see what they were like); and after first checking the settings for Utorrent, I managed to get it to do the download and save it to my Ubuntu Home Folder, where I later loaded that ISO file into VirtualBox and checked out Fedora, but that's another story altogether)

So anyway, please excuse all the earlier ranting and raving that I've put on this blog post (I tend to do that when I'm passionate about something I'm told!); but the point of this posting here is to share the news (as I don't think it's common knowledge) for all those who want to run Utorrent under Ubuntu (or other distro's but I haven't tried, so do so at your own risk) now and can't wait for it to be released by it's developers.

This post is also for all those who have had no luck getting Utorrent to work in earlier OMG! Ubuntu or other Ubuntu forums or blog postings (I was one of them) to try instead downloading a version of PortableApps.com from www.portableapps.com and download the installer and then adding the extra software you need. You may want to use Windows to download and install it, but if you try in Ubuntu and it works, please share with us all as I haven't tried!

Then you should be all set to go and if you install it on a flash drive, you can take that drive anywhere and use it under Ubuntu (you must have WINE installed) or Windows to access your things. The big plus also if you do use it say in an Internet cafe running a version of Windows, is that you can avoid having to use Microsoft's terrible Internet Explorer and instead support the good people who make free and open source software instead! This is why I first got into PortableApps.com as I couldn't take my laptop on holiday with me to Australia, but I could take a flash drive instead to save on not having to pay for excess baggage charges that the airlines can charge the unaware and unprepared and I didn't want to be parted from my data!

Now as for me, my next experiment with this PortableApps suite will be seeing me finally upload it to my Dropbox and sync with my Window's partition and also attempt to move my Mozilla Firefox, Sunbird and Thunderbird profiles (for example) over to it too and then sync the profiles into one with my Ubuntu/Windows installs of Firefox and Thunderbird (as I can't get Sunbird to install in Ubuntu but have read this profile move is possible to do for your Window's/Ubuntu version's of Sunbird and other Mozilla programs).

By doing this sync/merge with the PortableApps.com profiles that I have, I should also be able to in future copy all the PortableApps.com folder over from my Dropbox to another flash drive and take that on the road with me if I again find that I cannot take my laptop wit me for some reason.

Of course, I first have to also find out how to password protect a flash drive as I don't want someone else accessing my data, but I'm sure I'll find that out when I put my mind to trawling through the “Almighty Google” to find the information! :o)

I hope this post wasn't too long and ranty for your liking and I also hope it gets many hits on my personal blog and on the OMG! Ubuntu site once submitted and approved by the good people there.

Thanks for reading and remember to support Open Source and Free Software!! :o)

Tags: Ubuntu, Windows, Dropbox, PortableApps.com, Portable Apps, Utorrent, Open Office, Firefox, Thunderbird, Sunbird, Linux, Fedora, Linux Mint, Peppermint Ice

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