Pipsqueaks #5: Trading Without Windows


This week’s article will be a little bit of a departure from the norm as I’m intentionally not going much into any technical Forex details but would like to focus instead on the computers upon which our work is accomplished. I’ve always been something of a geek at heart. Gimmicky gadgets have always had an intrinsic appeal to me, and, having grown to riper years, sentimentality has exerted its influence over me in the form of massaging my gadget fondness into an enthusiasm for retro tech. One of my favorite desktop tools is my trusty TI–58 LED calculator (vintage 1978). I was the first kid on the block to get one, and I wouldn’t be without it. One day after the end of a rather dull staff meeting (at which I mentioned the use of something as archaic as a rolodex), one of my fellow colleagues approached me and said, “I suppose you still have an LED calculator?” My response, “As a matter of fact I do!”  Nowadays I am definitely not an early adopter when it comes to operating systems. Oh I was once upon a time, in fact, I’m one of the few people who actually bought and used Windows version 1! Yes indeed, tiled windows in all their glory! Still, having the ability to have more than one program open at one time was quite a neat trick, even if it was only a clock and a simple word processor.


Thank heavens for Windows version 2, which introduced the miracle of cascading windows. Then came Windows 3, which allowed you to use all that wonderful “extended” and “expanded” memory in your new 386 PC. Then Windows 3.1 was released, which basically fixed all that was lacking in Windows 3.0. And then Windows 95. I actually was one of the first people in my area to get a copy of Windows 95 when the stores opened at midnight to sell them (not too difficult as I was working nights at the time). And with time, the experience did get better. Not that there wasn’t a snag here and there – let’s not forget about this wonderful product called Microsoft Bob. I think the less said about that the better. Then came Windows 98 (Yea!). Then Windows ME (yawn). Then Windows 2000, Windows XP (eXtremely Problematic at first, then worked great), Windows Vista (which I fondly referred to as broken windows, happy to pass on that one), Windows 7 (with which I am well pleased and currently use), Windows 8, then 8.1 (which I have to put up with on those rare occasions I use my wife’s laptop), and now cometh Windows 10. All this reminiscing conjures up memories of the friendly rivalry I experienced with a good friend of mine who was a dyed-in-the-wool Macintosh fan. He rarely refrained from reminding me that Windows was the best solitaire game you could get for $120 or how computers are like air-conditioners – they stop working when you open windows. I would remind him that Apple’s market share was so small largely due to the difficulty for most people to find replacement vacuum tubes to maintain them.


Microsoft is still looking for a landfill large enough to dump the ten million unsold copies of this disaster

It’s been an interesting journey watching the development of all this since those early days of my very first computer, an LNW–80 (TRS 80 clone) upon which I ran Vernon Hester’s wonderful MultiDOS (an operating system that could read and write disks from other operating systems – a big deal at the time). As someone who likes to tinker, I often had toyed whenever possible with other operating systems as they became available – OS 2, various flavors of Linux, and so on. As fond as I became of fringe operating systems, they were always lacking the same thing, which was mainstream software support, the very thing that made me gravitate to the original IBM PC in the first place. So my exposure to these operating systems has been a sort of oddity or hobby, with little to no practical use. The purpose of this article, as I am heavily reliant on my Windows-based trading software (primarily mt4), is to demonstrate how easy or difficult it would be for a Linux novice to install an alternative operating system from scratch and get going with some trading activity. The results were not what I expected.


For this experiment I chose Zorin OS core 64 bit (free from the zorinos.com website). I picked this flavor of Linux for two reasons: first, I’ve installed it before so it was a known quantity, and second, it’s a good choice for novice Linux users as the default interface has a very distinctive windows look and feel. My hardware for the test was my trusty number two trading laptop, a Dell precision M 4600 (basically a 2.5 GHz quad core processor with 16 gigs of RAM). I downloaded the software, made myself and install disk, and then swapped out the hard drive on the laptop with a scratch hard drive that I use for testing, a 250 GB SSD. I personally don’t like mixing operating systems on a single hard disk, especially on a machine I need for work. This way I can mess up as much as I want and I’ll never harm anything essential. I placed the bootable disc in the machine, and pressed the magic button and, several minutes later, and without any intervention from me, I had a Zorin OS desktop running with Internet and a bunch of apps.


One of the desktop apps is an installer to permanently install Zorin OS onto your machine. Double clicking the icon runs the installer, which ran flawlessly the first time. For the purpose of my testing, I chose to encrypt the hard drive, and create an account with a password. During the install the software introduced the user to many aspects of the operating system function and features. I didn’t really pay attention to these as I thought I would be a good time to go watch a movie (my wife and I watched IP Man 2, for those of who are curious). When I came back the installation was complete and a quick reboot (with an emphasis on quick) had me up and running in no time. I swear it took me longer to enter the password for the encrypted disk than it took to get to the login prompt. So, the need for speed is met, at least for boot up time. One of the reasons I chose Zorin OS was that it came with an application called “Wine” already installed. Wine is a Windows platform emulator that allows you to run Windows applications on Linux, so this was one less step I had to deal with after installing the OS.


Okay, the operating system is up and running, and I’m connected to my network with little to no effort on my part. Now we come to the critical issue – the installation of MT4. Unfortunately there is no native Linux version of MT 4 available so it becomes necessary to run this under emulation, which is okay; I wanted to experiment with this at some point so here was my chance. Well, it would’ve been my chance if I was able to install it, which I wasn’t. After launching the mt4 installer I got to a point where the software was looking for a proxy server. Huh? I never remember encountering that before. Oh well, time for research. I came to learn that I needed to add some modules to Wine. Now bear in mind I want to keep this simple, so solutions that get too deep or too technical I was just going to avoid. I tried and adding the modules to Wine but no luck. I did discover that I could install a flavor of MT4 from freshforex.com and get it to run. Unfortunately, I don’t have an account with them so I couldn’t actually do much in the way of testing the software once it was installed. I tried to repeat this process with other web mt4 downloads from other brokers, with no luck. Grrrr! I was hoping that this was going to be easier than it turned out to be. Previously, I had experimented with Zorin OS 10 and Think or Swim, for which there actually is a native Linux version. Sadly I never got that to run either. It needed some Java runtime that I could not make work, and so I gave up on that for the time being.


So my Linux activities for this year are now 0-2; failed to run Think or Swim (although I did succeed is installing it), and technically failed to install MT 4, at least a version that I could connect to my broker. To be fair I could have easily started trading on my Linux machine using the web interface the brokers are currently use; however, if one is serious about trading then the custom charts and indicators required dictate the need of something beyond a simple web interface. Of course, I could have pursued my MT4 installation activity deeper and longer, and I think I would’ve been successful (others after all are using it), but the object of this exercise was to see if it can be done with a reasonable amount of difficulty or from the perspective of someone who is minimally tech savvy. I have to rule on this activity is not yet ready for prime time. I will keep trying, but for now this is obviously not going mainstream anytime soon.


Of course, this begs the question why? Why bother with this? For me personally, I have a vested interest in finding a working solution because at some point I’ll have to stop relying on Windows 7 to run my trading machines and find an alternative. Time is still on my side as extended support for Windows 7 will continue until Jan 2020. I’m not going to detail here, but that alternative will not be a Windows product. If anyone wants more information regarding my reasons for this, they can send me a PM the chat room and I’ll be happy to explain. Let it suffice to say that as long as I have a modicum of choice I desire to do something different. Hmmm..MultiDos was last revised in 2005…maybe…that might…naaaahhh! All well, to each his own. And as a software engineer buddy of mine once pointed out, various platforms have their strengths and weaknesses: Apple has graphics, Android has mobility, Linux has servers, and Windows is useful for solitaire 🙂


At the end of the day, regardless of our platform of choice, there are always things that we as Forex traders can identify with and agree upon, one of them being, I think, my favorite definition of a Forex trader: a person who will know tomorrow that the price movement he predicted yesterday didn’t happen today. Another thing I’m sure we can all agree on is that membership in Slick Trade does have many advantages, including the introduction of new strategies like the Capt. America and the Wick Hunter, just to name a few. So if you’re new to the website, or want to learn more about Forex trading, by not become a member? You’ll be glad you did!


That’s all for today, next time I’ll stick to Forex subject matter; I will discuss strong versus weak currency pairs. Until then, have a good week, and, as always, thanks for reading.




Miss out on last week’s Pipsqueaks article?  ACCESS HERE!


mac windows forex trading
Zorin OS 11: Very Windows-like right out of the box

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