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Subject[OT] Solution to StarOffice problem, and general WinXX compatibility.
Someone recently posted privately to me wondering what other
solutions to the StarOffice problem were available, and more
specifically, how to maintain compatibility with Microsoft
Office.

More generally, a solution is available that is even better IMHO,
although not everyone will be able to take advantage of it. I
suspect that most people will however, so I am providing the info
below.

>I need an app or a suite of apps that
>
>- provides functionality equivalent to MS Works (nobody needs bloated huge
> apps, but basic word processor/spreadsheet/database/presentation should
> be there)
>- reads and writes _all_ DOC/XL?/PPT/?DB files
>- is stable
>- comparable to Staroffice (or Applix) in ease of use
>- makes switching from MS Office easy (comparable user interface paradigms)
>
>Suggestions, anyone?

Hmm. Need functionality of MS Works, MS Office, Microsoft file
formats, is stable...

Why not just USE those applications in Linux to start with? I'm
very serious here. If you have the apps, and need compatibility
with them - either for the office, or for personal use, for the
most part it is possible to run most Microsoft Windows
3.1/95/98/NT/2000 applications flawlessly in Linux.

No, it is definitely *NOT* WINE. WINE has maintained ALPHA
status for about 7 years now, and I highly doubt that we will
ever see a WINE version 1.0 that actually works. I do believe
that it will get more and more useful over time, but never 100%.

How then do I propose you maintain 100% compatibility with what
you want? By USING what you want, in Linux via VMware.

http://www.vmware.com

VMware is a "virtual machine" or in laymens speak - a program
that creates a full "artificial computer" with which you can run
other operating systems inside. The concept is similar to, but
not exactly "emulation".

Basically, you obtain VMware, install it, and run a configuration
wizard which asks you some VERY SIMPLE questions about how much
RAM, disk space, etc. you want this "Virtual Machine" to have,
and then when done, you click on the "virtual power switch" and
the machine comes up either in a window in X windows, or full
screen if you desire. The "virtual machine" looks EXACTLY like a
normal computer starting up, including its own BIOS messages,
etc..

At this point, you merely install an operating system into this
VM, just like you would install an OS on your own computer.
Throw in a Windows 95 boot floppy, or any bootable CDROM, and
install your OS as you normally would. When you're done, the
virtual machine will reboot just like a PC would ordinarily while
installing an OS, and then when it comes up, your inside Windows
95/98/NT/2000 *RUNNING IN LINUX*.

You can install virtually any popular operating system, including
Linux itself, any Windows varient, FreeBSD, Solaris, etc...

I've been testing VMware since its March release, and the product
is fairly rock solid right now. I never experience any lockups
or problems with it at all. It is definitely "production
quality".

VMware allows you to have a trial licence for 30 days, at which
time you can either purchase a copy, or get a new trial licence.
Since they don't mind if you get monthly trial licences, you can
effectively use it forever if you can't afford to purchase it, or
are a cheapo.

Once it is installed, and a "guest operating system" installed,
you can fire up the Virtual machine, and begin installing the
*EXACT* Windows software that you *NEED* to use, or need
compatibility with. You can't get better compatibility than
using the actual software you want itself.

Thus, why settle for something other than exactly what you want?
I have Windows NT server installed in Linux, and it runs all of
the software from windows land that I could ever want. It runs
with networking, sound, and most things that you would expect.

The only real limitation is that Windows (or whatever OS you've
installed in Vmware) can *ONLY* use hardware on your computer
that _WORKS_IN_LINUX_. The reason is that VMware traps
everything done in Windows and converts it to the Linux
equivalent. If there is no Linux equivalent, then there is no
access. VMware NEVER has direct access to your hardware at all,
so this is the only small limitation (IMHO).

Not being able to afford it - is a lame excuse. If you require
compatibility with MS in Linux for work, or for any business
related thing, then purchasing VMware will pay off - don't be a
cheapo! Or, if you ARE a cheapo, and have a million excuses why
you can't afford it - like I said - they allow repeat trial
licences. Also, perhaps your employer would spring for a copy...

VMware also requires some decent hardware. The minimum system
requirements are something like a 266Mhz CPU and 32M of RAM or
so. I've got a 200Mhz CPU and 64Mb of RAM, and it runs good
enough. Again - even if you had to do a slight system upgrade,
it is worth it if getting your work done is important to you.

Thus if using Linux is important to you, and having Microsoft
compatibility is also - lets not brain damage Linux for stupid
backwards compatibility kludges. Those type of KLUDGES will come
back to hurt us later. Kludges like that are one of the reasons
why Microsoft's own OS's are so damned buggy.

If we keep a bug like that in, then someone else likely will
unknowingly use it too. At some point in time the thing will
have to be fixed, or kept forever for compatibility. If it is
kept around, then a vendor will not fix their software. Why?
Because if we keep the bug, and they fix it in their software,
then their software might not run on the buggy Linux. They'll
eventually have to fix it if we fix it, so it might as well be
NOW.

If this hurts compatibility for anyone they are "not getting it".
It is all too easy to remove a patch in the kernel, Linux is not
closed source. If a bug fix breaks your software, and your
vendor doesn't fix their program - REVERSE the bug fix, and/or
bug your vendor.

The Linux developers have their OWN agendas, and commercial
software - generally is not part of that. Technical perfection
of Linux certainly is. If someone stops using Linux because of
this - NOBODY REALLY CARES. Linux becomes more stable, and more
OTHERS will use it.

Anyways... that is my blurb on VMware, and linux development
mentality. I think the Linux developers could pretty much do
whatever drastic changes to the kernel that they want, if it was
for the good - and Linux would benefit from it greatly, and gain
more people using it - despite how it might effect a small few.

Once again, head over to http://www.vmware.com - and while you're
at it, check out http://www.freemware.com. FreeMware is an open
source project which aims to duplicate the functionality of
VMware, while being open-source GPL, and of course free.

Enjoy.

--
Mike A. Harris Linux advocate
Computer Consultant GNU advocate
Capslock Consulting Open Source advocate

Join the FreeMWare project - the goal to produce a FREE program in
which you can run Windows 95/98/NT, and other operating systems.

http://www.freemware.org



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