Ideas for running WhatsApp for Windows/Android on Zorin?

Zorin Lite 16.2 XFCE
My mum now needs WhatsApp voice calls on her laptop.
WhatsApp Web does not do voice calls. And therefore anything that's just a wrapper around WhatsApp Web, like all the Linux "desktop clients" WhatsDesk, WhatsApp-for-linux, Ferdi/Franz, Rambox etc cannot do voice calls either. (And 99.9% of what I find on the web about WhatsApp on Linux involves one of those web wrappers.)
So that leaves a few options that I'd like to get the forum users tips or experience on.

  1. WhatsApp for Windows in Wine.
    It seems this is very tricky to get working (and even trickier to get working voice calls). I've seen mention of multiple issues (e.g. wrong type of user account, Wine versions, wine prefixes, winetricks, wine staging) many with multiple variables (e.g. this version of winestaging vs that version of winestaging). A lot of it is over my head, and now every time I search WineHQ to try to understand better, I get a message saying I'm not allowed to search for x seconds. And that's just the Wine part, before even getting into anything like PlayOnLinux, Lutris, Bottles.
  2. Portapps version of WhatsApp for Windows in Wine.
    I've seen a few comments saying that this "portable" version is easier to get working in Wine than the official installer, but I've never heard of Portapps.io before today. Any idea if it's trustworthy?
    Portapps - WhatsApp™ portable
    Portapps - FAQ
  3. WhatsApp for Windows in a Windows Virtual Machine.
    It's been years since I've used a virtual machine. Also I wonder if this old laptop (~2012 HP Pavilion G4, AMD Radeon, 3.4gib RAM) has the power to run a VM at the same time as everything else and still stay "snappy". Is there a really lightweight way to do it? And a way I can make it easy for my non-tech-savvy mum to use (e.g. a single shortcut to start VM and WhatsApp)?
  4. WhatsApp for Android in an Android emulator.
    I know nothing about this option. (E.g. as it's pretending to be a phone, would it need a phone number, and would that interfere with WhatsApp on her real phone? Would it be easier for my mum than VM Windows option?)
  5. Other
    Are there any other possibilities I haven't mentioned here? Docker?

So before I attempt anything, any tips, experiences etc from y'all would be much appreciated, thanks.

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One of the android emulators I used to use is called Nox, though that's for Windows and Mac. You could try Anbox (Android in a box). https://anbox.io/

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Perhaps your mum needs enlightening:

I would advise using Jitsi over whatsapp as it is more secure. There is an Android app for mobile use, Jitsi Meet and for the desktop no software needed as it runs inside a browser such as Firefox. https://meet.jit.si

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I've used portable apps to create bootable toolkits. The applications offered are reputable, normally without a few extras to ensure lite fingerprints (low resource usage). This sometimes means less features, but for the most part it removes the requirement of installation and any integrated ad or reporting aspects of the application (not regarding support, but info gathering aspects of the app).

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Thanks, Anbox looks interesting, a sort of Wine but for Android.
The instructions on installing kernel modules are doing my head in, but hopefully I can get through them eventually.
I'll report back with how it goes.

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I'd love to get my mum using something FLOSS and secure like Jami, Jitsi etc... but that could be bad for the people she's communicating with. They're in China (the ones she's talking to in WeChat) and Hong Kong (where WhatsApp is still OK... for now).
Just having something like Jami on their phone (or Jitsi in their browser history) could get people into trouble there. And she doesn't want that, nor do I.

You may want to try waydroid, there is a tutorial in the tutorials and guides section of the forum on its installation. Similar to anbox, but it uses Linux system libraries to integrate Android applications into the system itself. While it is a solution, Android and windows are the two most targeted systems for ransomware and viruses. A good reason for her to suggest another software that can be found on Linux, even if her team remains on windows/android.

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In the tutorial video, it specifies running in Wayland but I'm in X11.
Also from Googling, Arch Wiki:

Waydroid only works in a Wayland session manager

I know nothing about switching from X11 to Wayland, what that would involve or how that would affect everything else on this system. (But I suspect it would be major.)
I see a few comments about something called "Weston" to allow a "nested Wayland session" within X11. Again, I know nothing about making that work and whether I could realistically expect my mum to do it whenever she needs to use WhatsApp.

As for alternatives to WhatsApp, it would need to be something that wouldn't get a Chinese person in Hong Kong (and who often travels back to mainland China) into trouble just for having on their phone. Things like WeChat, Skype and Zoom are acceptable to the mainland authorities, WhatsApp is excusable for someone working In HK, but things like Signal are out of the question. Just having it on their phone could make that person a target for investigation/punishment.

WhatsApp is built into Opera browser , but I've not used it myself.

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I wouldn't touch Opera browser these days as it has become a data miner.

Totally. And also, it's Chromium.

Thanks. Unfortunately it looks like it's WhatsApp Web, and if so that means no voice calls.

Lower down the page they claim you can make "phone calls" but all other info on (and experience with) WhatsApp Web is that you can't make voice calls. I'll try it anyways.
CONFIRMED: Opera uses ordinary WhatsApp Web, no way to make voice calls.

I had remembered seeing whatsapp on Opera and installed to check it out. I haven't used it in a while . Any browser can be a data miner depending on how it is used and set up. With the exception of Firefox most better known browsers are chromium based.

TLDR: Option 2 (WhatsApp for Windows Portable version from PortApps in Wine) did not work for me.

And now here's the long version, so anyone else who needs WhatsApp on Zorin can learn from my mistakes. :blush:

Summary
  1. After losing time trying to understand whether or not I have/should use/can use/can learn PlayOnLinux, winetricks, wineprefixes etc to install the whatsapp-portable.exe I've downloaded, I say "f#$k it" and just right click on the .exe and click "Open with Install Windows Application".

  2. A message pops up with the headline "You can use WhatsApp on the web".
    WTF??? The entire point of all this is precisely to avoid WhatsApp Web and get the real thing. What am I actually getting here?
    It also gives two buttons at bottom: "Run anyway" and "Launch" (highlighted). What is the difference between "running" and "launching"? No idea, no explanation, no help button.
    As my experience of installing .debs involves clicking "Run anyway", I choose that.

  3. Yay! A Windows installer wizard starts up. Looks like "Run anyway" was the right choice. I complete the installer's steps, and click "Finish" (leaving "Run Whatsapp Portable" unselected, as something I saw earlier in PlayOnLinux suggested avoiding launching app on finish).
    Entire screen goes black for a bit. Eventually screens returns to as before, including the installer again waiting for me to click Finish.
    I click it again, and the installer goes away, normal screen this time.

  4. In Zorin menu (well, whiskermenu), I go to "Wine" and Whatsapp is not there. (WeChat, which I installed the same way, is there.) Whatsapp is not in "Internet" either, and is not found by a menu search.

  5. In Nemo, I go to .wine/drive_c. I look in Program Files: not there. I look in Program Files (x86): not there either. Doh! I see portapps has created its own folder on drive_c top level, and inside that /whatsapp-portable.
    There's a readme.md (nothing useful in it), a "whatsapp-portable.exe", changelog, portapp.json and a folder called "app". Looking in /app, more folders and "WhatsApp.exe". And in one of those folders, another "WhatsApp.exe".
    OK, I'll try the whatsapp-portable.exe in /whatsapp-portable and see what happens.

  6. I double-click on whatsapp-portable.exe and again I get the message with the headline "You can use WhatsApp on the web" and the two buttons at bottom: "Run anyway" and highlighted "Launch WhatsApp". (Before it was just "Launch", this time "Launch WhatsApp".)
    I still don't know the difference between Run and Launch, but at least the Launch button this time mentions the name of the program I want to use. So I click "Launch WhatsApp".

  7. And it does not launch WhatsApp. Instead it opens a new tab in Chrome. Heart sinks. WhatsApp Web page, QR code to scan. The same process I've already tried re every other WhatsApp "client" on Linux, and which never allows voice calls. I scan the QR code anyway (who knows? maybe this is just an initial step to get the actual whatsapp-portable running.) The QR code is accepted... and I'm in the regular WhatsApp Web page in Chrome. That's it. No way to make voice calls. All these steps and all those folders and files just to open a web page??? That can't be right.

  8. I close the WhatsApp Web page in Chrome, and try double-clicking on the whatsapp-portable.exe but this time I choose "Run anyway".
    New folders are created (/data and /log) but no program visible yet. Then a very long (Wine?) error message, headlined "A JavaScript error occurred in the main process." Then long gibberish and just an "OK" button at bottom. I click OK, the error message disappears. No WhatsApp. I open the Task Manager which shows two processes both called "winedevice.exe", and one "wineserver". But no WhatsApp.

  9. I try again (double-click, "Run anyway"), this time keeping an eye on the task manager.
    Six WhatsApp.exe processes appear in the task manager, then the same (I believe) error message as before. I click OK again. But the WhatsApp processes do not disappear. I can't see any WhatsApp window anywhere but apparently it's running. But how to actually see it and use it? Or if not, shut it down?

  10. I google the difference between Stop, Terminate and Kill. I try Terminate in the task manager. I can't terminate the last two WhatsApp processes, they just keep respawning. Kill doesn't work either. I try Stop plus Terminate. I try Stop plus Kill.
    These last two WhatsApp.exe processes just won't go away.
    I look at the clock, see the semi-final between France and Morocco is about to start, say "F#$k it" and shut down the computer.

So it looks like WhatsApp-portable from portapps.io is not an easy-to-get-working option. (And it looks like Zorin will repeatedly try to divert me away from the program I'm trying to install & use and trick me into loading a web page instead!)

I think tomorrow I'll have another go at option 4, e.g. trying to understand the kernel module instructions for Anbox.

This article on Jitsi might interest you:

Your post spurred me to look again at Jitsi and other FLOSS options like Jami and Element (I even got my mum to install and try out Jami).

But the more I look at those options, and the more I speak with her about her usage of WhatsApp, the less likely it seems any option will satisfy all her needs short of having WhatsApp with voice calls on the laptop.

Either the problem is China (even Skype just got removed from the App Store there), or included features, or her contacts, or ease of use, or hardware, or something that never even occurred to me before, or all of the above. Every time I think I've got a workaround for one issue, I find out it conflicts with another or even creates a new one.

So while Jami or Jitsi may work for a few of her contacts and WhatsApp Web for a few others, it looks like, if I'm really to get my mum to accept Linux as an alternative/replacement for Windows, WhatsApp with voice calls is a must.

As I wrote in my original post, those are all just wrappers for WhatsApp Web, which cannot make voice calls.

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Oh, yes, sorry, now that I read again the original post I saw it, sorry. I checked more and found Ubuntu WhatsApp desktop app with call features, the last 2 messages there are quite interesting, they say about Signal and other ways to do voice calls (if you may like a similar application with voice calls in the meantime). It's better to try seeing if at least one of alternative apps/websites can do what you'd like rather than waiting for a certain feature to be added (if it's planned to be done or even considered at least), just to not wait and wait with no concrete results.

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