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WineVDM

20 July 2018

Thanks to neozeed's blog Virtually Fun for posting about this.

WineVDM uses the code from the Wine project (used for running Windows programs on Linux and Mac OS) to run 16-bit Windows programs on 64-bit Windows.

Prior to this, I only knew of a few ways that could achieve this goal - none work as well or as streamlined. The best way was to run Windows 3.1 in an emulator like DOSBox and emulate the whole environment. Compatibility is still pretty much 100%, so for programs and games that don't work with WineVDM, it's still the best way. Another way is to use (or emulate) Linux and execute the 16-bit programs with Wine.

I was (and still am, for curiosity if nothing else) waiting to see if Win3mu will be released, as it has been in limbo for over a year. The author has published a series of articles detailing the development of the emulator, and it does have some nice features like icon extraction from 16-bit new executables.

Getting It

You can download either neozeed's release on his blog, the official release on WineVDM's GitHub page (currently 0.3), or build it yourself with Visual Studio 2017 Community. Make sure you have a look at neozeed's build instructions as you will need to get mingw32's as.exe to successfully build it. There is a registry file in the official release (install.reg) - if you edit this to point to the location of otvdm.exe, and merge it into the registry, you can then run 16-bit Windows programs with a double-click.

My Experience

So there is only one game that I am really interested in. Indy's Desktop Adventures! To make this work, you need to put WAVEMIX.DLL (which the game's installer usually puts into the WINDOWS\SYSTEM directory) into WineVDM's WINDOWS\SYSTEM directory. Then run the game!

The game is fully playable! There are a few problems, though.

Desktop Adventures running under WineVDM on 64-bit Windows 7.

Highlighted area: missing scrollbar and buttons.

Speech bubbles are missing the scrollbars and buttons. But they can still be interacted with - use the arrow keys on the keyboard to scroll up or down the message. Press enter or esc to get out of the bubbles.

The options don't work, nor do they save. If you attempt to change the difficulty or size of the game world, the scrollbars do not budge. Modifying the deskadv.ini file changes nothing, as it seems the settings are ignored or overridden. But the default settings do generate a medium sized random map at normal difficulty.

Compatibility

Other programs work remarkably well, although they may exhibit quirks. And a few won't load at all. For example, every single game I have from Microsoft's Entertainment Pack for Windows works 100%.

If you end up in a sticky situation like an infinite loop of error message dialogs, you can close the command prompt window (i.e. WineVDM itself) to get out.

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