Author Topic: Linux version of the BridgePal system  (Read 817 times)

Alaric

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Linux version of the BridgePal system
« on: March 08, 2017, 12:58:13 »
Just in case there are any like-minded 'nerds' out there:
I am an open-source computing fanatic, and 99% of the time I avoid Windows-based systems like the plague.  Unfortunately, for me, that residual 1% pretty much means 'when running Bridge scoring programs'.

1 I (still) have a working Linux-version of Jeff Smith's programs, though I no longer use them.  Strangely, it would only work with versions dated up to around October 2015 I think it was.  I couldn't get more modern versions - including EBUScore - to behave, but I don't now have any incentive to do so, so that is history.
2 Not that it is any use to anyone, but I have the ancient Ruth Edmondson 'Score' program working perfectly under Linux, but that program pre-dates P2P, yet alone Bridgewebs and NGS, so it is of even less use than last week's completed Times Crossword.
3 I failed miserably with ScoreBridge.
4 The Jannersten system, which includes Jeff Smith's programs as its scoring engine, sort of worked, but the Linux version couldn't cope with their convoluted licensing algorithm.  We used that system at Mountnessing for almost a year, and I freely exchanged event files, player databases, etc between my desktop Linux version and the XP laptop Windows Jannersten-embedded version.
5 I have 'dipped my toe' into getting John & Mirna's system working under Linux.  Just in case anyone else out there is interested, the topic is 'on my radar' but I haven't had time to work on it for a while.  It does look to me to be do-able.  Basically, the idea is to run the system through WINE, which, for the uninitiated, is a kind of front end for Windows applications that (in theory) enables them to run under other operating systems, such as Linux or Apple.  The recent changes that have been made to the BridgePals system appear to me to make success more, rather than less, likely, especially the issue about the port number used.

johng

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Re: Linux version of the BridgePal system
« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2017, 13:57:00 »
Alaric,

It's not quite what you have in mind, but a few weeks ago I experimented with running all the PC based BridgePal software (Apache, BridgePal Server, BridgeScore, bridgepalBroadcast.exe) within a Windows XP virtual machine. I ran the virtual machine under Windows 10, but presumably it would work equally well running the XP virtual machine under linux. I think I used Oracle VirtualBox, but I can't find the files now - must have deleted them.

Anyway, everything worked perfectly, including configuration of BridgePals via bridgepalBroadcast.exe. I had to set the virtual wireless adapter in the XP virtual machine to "bridged" mode, which means that the virtual machine becomes visible on the local network and can be accessed from the BridgePals.

This is certainly a viable approach if you want to run BridgePal on a linux based computer. Obviously it requires that you have an old Windows XP (or later) installation disk lying around, but it's a lot easier than trying to coax the software to run under WINE. I believe the tricky part of getting it to work with WINE may be the fact that BridgeScore reads/writes Access97 databases and there may be issues with using Access97 APIs from WINE. Having said that, I found this link (http://forums.fedoraforum.org/showthread.php?t=169661) which seems to indicate that someone succeeded in getting Access97 to work. Note that they are talking about running the Access97 product, rather than just the database engine, but presumably the latter should be easier if anything.

John

Alaric

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Re: Linux version of the BridgePal system
« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2017, 15:35:24 »
Thanks, John.  Apologies - I haven't been on the forum for a little while, so I have only just seen your response.  I have a legal version of Access 2000, which I have had running through WINE.  I know that the format of mdb files changed, but I thought that 97-2003 were all consistent with each other - or is that just for WORD and EXCEL?  I have a valid version of Windows 2000 SP4, and I'll check to see whether I can find a DVD for something later.  I might have the VISTA DVD that came with what is now my 'development' desktop, from which VISTA has been 'zapped', so I presume it wouldn't upset Microsoft if I were to try to reinstall that on the same machine in Virtualbox.

Alaric


johng

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Re: Linux version of the BridgePal system
« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2017, 17:05:15 »
You don't actually need Access installed on Windows in order to use BridgePal/BridgeScore, because the Access database engine is already part of Windows. Access 2000 is a product that utilises the Access database engine. I assume the Access 97 and Access 2000 database engines are different, and I don't know whether the Access 97 engine is supported under Wine (or the Access 2000 engine for that matter, though your reply seems to suggest that it is). BridgeScore uses the Access 97 engine.

I don't think you would have any problem installing a Vista DVD under Virtual Box as Microsoft's product activation allows you to install on a different system after a suitable time period has elapsed - probably something like 3 months. In any case, Vista is now so old that they may not even be applying these checks any more. I don't know whether there would be an issue if the disc that came with your system is an OEM version (meaning a version intended only to be installed on that particular system). The only way to find out is to try it and see if passes product activation.

John

Alaric

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Re: Linux version of the BridgePal system
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2017, 09:56:01 »
Thanks again, John.  The VISTA disc originally came with the machine I am currently using as the test-bed, so it may be OK, though possibly VirtualBox would make it look like a different machine.  However, for practical purposes, if / when these experiments bear fruit, I would need to transport it all to a laptop to be usable in a practical, club setting.  I will explore further.  Thanks for your tips.

As an aside, WINE appears to be able to support versions of Office from 2000 onwards - or at least, the feature I use does.  I do seem to recall back in the mists of time a need to 'convert' from Access 97 to Access 2000 format, so I suspect they are not the same.

johng

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Re: Linux version of the BridgePal system
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2017, 11:26:32 »
I've now repeated my earlier experiment, but this time running Windows XP and all the BridgePal software inside Virtual Box running on a small headless linux server. The linux server is very low powered and has an Intel Atom N270 CPU and 2 GBytes memory. I set the network adapter to "bridged mode" in Virtual Box settings. This means that the Virtual Box instance gets its own ip address in the same address range as the lan to which the linux server is connected. Started a BridgePal, configured it with the ip address of the Virtual Box instance, and all worked fine.

John

Alaric

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Re: Linux version of the BridgePal system
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2017, 11:05:28 »
Right....

I have installed Virtualbox on Dorothy's old Dell desktop computer, which dates back to 2007, and originally came with Vista, but is now - and has been since 2009 - running Linux / Ubuntu.  I found the original VISTA installation DVD that came with this machine, and I have installed it within the 'VirtualBox'.

It works.  Sort of.....  I am currently tinkering with the Vista installation to see if I can improve things.

The good news is that I have successfully installed all the PC components of the BridgePals system on it.  I haven't yet tried whether or not it will actually work with wireless scoring, pending sorting out some of the following problems with VISTA, but it looks as though it works perfectly with manual scoring.

Performance of the VISTA environment is utterly appalling - it serves well as a reminder as to why we lost patience with VISTA and Microsoft products in 2009. It's back to 'Click here - and put the kettle on while you are waiting....'

A very serious problem is that it won't recognise a USB stick - even though it says it will / should....   Even with the Virtualbox running, the USB stick is 'business as usual' from the Linux outer shell, but Vista just doesn't 'see' it.  Vista will recognise the DVD drive.

I did manage to install Firefox and the BridgePals system, but it stubbornly refuses to install some other programs, including CCleaner, which I use extensively with Windows systems to clean junk, clean the registry, etc.  It won't install Malwarebytes either, for some reason.

I am currently trying to improve performance of the VISTA virtualbox as much as I can before I try further with BridgePals - trying to limit start-up programs, and either disable or uninstall as many of the windows components as I can.  I don't have a lot of spare time, so this may take me a little while to achieve.

Overall, though, I think that this has been a very interesting and useful experience.  I have in the back of my mind to try XP instead of - or even as well as - this Vista experiment to see if that works better.  Thanks for your hints, John, that led me down this path.

johng

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Re: Linux version of the BridgePal system
« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2017, 11:16:28 »
Re. performance, did you allocate sufficient memory to the VirtualBox instance ? Not sure how much Vista requires to run well, maybe 1 GBbyte. You could probably get away with less using Windows XP.

You mention the USB stick is not recognised. I assume you have ticked the relevant entry in the "Devices" menu in VirtualBox ?

I can't see why some programs wouldn't install. From the installer's point of view it should be just as if they are running on a copy of Windows running natively. What error messages do you get ?

To make Apache visible to external apps you'll need to set the network adapter in Virtual Box settings to "Bridged" mode, as I mentioned earlier in this thread.

John

Alaric

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Re: Linux version of the BridgePal system
« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2017, 12:00:44 »
Thanks John
  • Originally it had allocated the default 512 Mb, but I have upped that to 1 Gb
  • The USB stick is truly weird.  The line of icons in the bottom right of the Virtualbox are all blue, which I think means 'active', including the USB one.  But if I hover over that icon, it says 'no device detected' even when there is one to detect.....  I'll look at this problem a bit more when activities below are complete
  • I may have an explanation re the programs that won't install.  In practice, all I got was the dreaded 'spinning wheel' for 30 - 60 seconds, then nothing.  No error message, nothing at all,  I discovered that - despite the fact that the system immediately installed masses and masses of 'Windows Updates', they didn't include SP1, yet alone SP2.  I suspect that some programs are fussy and will only run under SP2.  I have now installed SP1, and I am working towards SP2 - it's taking an age so I have just left it to get on with life!  Installing SP2 will almost certainly solve some of the issues, so I'll look again when that is complete.

Alaric

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Re: Linux version of the BridgePal system
« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2017, 11:32:33 »
Progress report for anyone interested:

I have solved, or found work-arounds for some of the issues:
  • Updating to SP2 solved the issue with programs that wouldn't install
  • I still can't get the USB stick to work - when I plug it in, the host Linux system sees it, but not the Vista VB.  However, I have a viable work-around.  By switching on 'Network & Sharing' on the Vista VB I can access shared folders on any other computer connected to the home network, including the host Linux environment and the Club's Windows 10 computer that we currently use for scoring.  That all means that I can import the player DB into the Vista VB - which was my original motive for getting concerned about this issue.  I can also access the network printer, which may prove to be handy.
  • I still need to try to improve the performance - if anything it is worse under SP2 than it was under the 'original' VISTA.  I have a plan - not yet executed - to disable or uninstall as much of the periphery Windows components as viable.  I could also further increase the RAM available to the Vista VB, though the VB is warning that I have already increased it beyond safe levels for the host Linux system.  Unperturbed, I observe that Linux with 0.96 residual Gb works 100 times faster than Vista with 1 GB, so I am not entirely put off the idea of taking the VB up further.
  • I have checked that the network setting is 'bridged'.

I am run out of time now, and probably won't return to these experiments until next Thursday.  Rome was not built in a day!