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Slashback: StarOffice, Antennae, Handiness 143

Slashback with more on paying royalties for Web standards, Sun's newest office suite, securing your 802.11 network starting with the antenna(e), and another glove.

Fewer excuses for the "memos and shopping lists" crowd. Sean Lamb writes: "Now that everyone's done slashdotting Sun's servers, I've posted an Out-Of-Box-Experience review of StarOffice 6.0 beta over at Linux Orbit."

Some things just want to be Free. Bruce Perens writes: "HP has made a public statement supporting royalty-free web standards and urging the community to write W3C with their opinion. "

A document on Perens' web site outlines Hewlett-Packard's response to the ongoing discussion of allowing technologies into W3C standards which could require patents on the so-called Reasonable and Non-Discrimatory (RAND) basis. That document reads in part:

"Agreement on royalty-free standards does not end this discussion. The licensing of patents embedded in standards must be compatible with the GPL license that is applied to the Linux operating system kernel, the MIT-derived license that is applied to the Apache web server, and a number of other software licenses. Because of the many thousands of copyright holders who have already contributed to existing products under those licenses, those software licenses can not be changed - the patent licensing mandated by W3C standards must accommodate them."
I hope other companies benefiting from software like Apache, Linux, and any other software which could be hurt by royalty-based standards make similar statements.

Wardrivers, begone. Moshe Barr may have laid out how to share a network connection with the neighborhood, but what about when you don't want to or can't afford to? trevmar writes: "BYTE.com has just published an article I wrote about WLAN antennas -- how they work and how to choose them. Hopefully I have put in all the stuff you will need to know whether you are setting up a community freenet, or just want to make your own home network harder to hack. If you are hardware inclined, I also describe some low cost hardware, and an access point that can be pulled apart very easily and resoldered at will ..."

Need an integrated keyboard here ... Adrian writes "Forget the guys with the glove from Berkeley, check out these guys -- they have a great product that interfaces with 3D Max for realtime animation generation that is on the market and won best of SIGGRAPH a couple of years back -http://www.didjiglove.com.au" While that's nice, I'd rather not forget the Berkeley guys just yet, since their seems like a more generalized concept.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Slashback: StarOffice, Antennae, Handiness

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  • by Spootnik ( 518145 ) on Thursday October 04, 2001 @08:16PM (#2390478)
    Now the major problem is the FCC Certs that we must acquire for our antennas. Most of the manufactures will help get the FCC Cert for the Linksys AP, but, when they do it raises the cost by 75-125%. This Cert is mandatory for installation by the end users, due to the current FCC Part 15B rules. As a professional you may have forgotten about this effect. We and several other manufactures are working on getting the FCC to expand the "Certified Components" rule that was made for computer to cover the wLAN antennas. Till they do, the cost isn't going down much.

    The antennas you are thinking about are Directional. The antennas needed for access points are omni-directional. We have tried to use small yagis and other semi-directional antennas to only moderate success. The only true good results have been from using GOOD omni-directional antennas. Also, the RP-SMA wont fit on most APs, but, I'm sure we can get the RP-TNC on them cheaper, its a matter of demand. The omni antenna set for the Linksys is a new product, if demand goes up, we can lower prices, if demand stays where it is, the prices stay where they are.

    That cute little yagi that Telex makes will make a great client antenna for indoors...

    Now, we have been able to acquire a contract with MaxRad to make antennas for us with RP-TNC connectors, FCC Cert, up to 5dbi that will screw onto the back of the access point. This will make a nicer and **cheaper** antenna, but it will not be as good as the dual 6 and 8 sets, but it will make an acceptable "consumer" grade antenna. Don't think we don't evolve, the main reason we started making the Linksys config is due to consumer demand. The Linksys specials are only about 3 weeks old, it takes a little time to get the certs shoved through the FCC! For now, whoever needs a legal antenna set for end user install, we have the commercial grade Linksys antenna sets.

    We have been making commercial grade antenna kits and wLAN hardware for some time now. Soon, the 802.11 standard for 5.8ghz will hit the streets, This is going to put most of the consumer gear @ 2.4ghz and the commercial gear @ 5.8ghz, which will have the effect of causing the 2.4ghz antenna prices to go way down.

    Another problem is that no matter how cheep we get these antennas, they are always going to be a niche market. Economy of scale isn't going to hit till over 100/week antennas are made, which is an amount almost = to the production of the linksys WAP11.

    As a professional, you posted links to antenna sites with antennas ment only for instlation by professionals. You really need to warn people about the FCC issues with this, as most dont even know the diffrence. Big fines await the unknowledgeable...

    • Re:Wireless Antennas (Score:4, Interesting)

      by trevmar ( 188523 ) on Friday October 05, 2001 @06:14AM (#2391339) Homepage
      My tutorial was meant as just that - a tutorial. I did not resort to scare-mongering, and I did explain FCC issues.

      You are talking about the licensing situation facing a manufacturer, and the regulations apply differently to those marketing and selling WLAN antennas and those installing them.

      There are thousands of people out there buying WLAN antennas, even on Ebay, without any knowledge of what they are doing. I am trying to increase that knowledge-base so that their actions can be based on real information, rather than merely a raw specification.

      My aim was to let people know what the technical issues are, and what advantages WLAN antennas can bring.

      I did not cover only directional antennas. In addition to theoretical discussions on omnis, I linked to a high gain, non directional, horizontally polarized slotted waveguide omni antenna.

      Please tell me more about the "big fines" which await the unwary public. My research did not uncover any such problems. I would love some pointers to case histories that would allow me to decide whether or not I need to issue corrections and disclaimers to correct what I have written.

      Trevor G Marshall, PhD
      Contributing Editor, BYTE.com
      • Re:Wireless Antennas (Score:3, Informative)

        by sigwinch ( 115375 )
        Please tell me more about the "big fines" which await the unwary public. My research did not uncover any such problems.
        If you transmit radiation in violation of goverment regulations, you can be fined, and if the radiation interferes with other equipment you can be liable for all losses suffered as well as punitive damages. If you interfere with something like a telephone microwave link or a radar, the losses can easily run into the millions of dollars *per hour*. If the interference is willful or reckless, you can even be sent to prison. If the interference is to medical equipment, you stand a good chance of being charged with murder (a lot of medical equipment is RF sensitive, and hospitals use a lot of wireless telemetry which might not be life critical but you won't be able to convince a jury of that).

        Your advice regarding disassembling a piece of equipment, removing its integral antenna, and soldering on an SMA connector is poor. The engineer who designs such a piece of equipment is free to choose any impedance for the antenna and RF power amplifier. (Note for Slashdot audience: When the antenna is removable, it is conventional to use the standard 50 ohm impedance. There are numerous catalogs full of 50 ohm connectors, cables, filters, pads, amplifiers, detectors, etc. There's nothing magic about 50 ohms, it's a pure convenience issue. Like using RJ45s for Ethernet.) The design process is often easier, and the resulting circuit cheaper, if the engineer uses an electrically-convenient impedance instead of being a slave to 50 ohms. Your 50 ohm cable stands a good chance of creating an unacceptable VSWR (voltage standing wave ratio, a measure of the power being reflected back into the amplifier). This can destroy the amplifier or cause distortion, and distortion will get the FCC chasing you. At the very least, I'd cut the RF section off of one and hook it up to a good RF network analyzer and make sure the impedance is 50 ohms. (Network analyzers cost on the order of $1,000/month to rent, or $20k+ to buy, so this isn't a casual thing.)

        It gets worse: when integral antennas are used, the engineer may design the amplifier to only work correctly when that antenna is connected. Since the antenna is permanently soldered to the amplifier, the engineer doesn't need to make the amplifier as robust, which saves money and design time. When a load with the wrong impedance is connected, such an amplifier can oscillate wildly at pretty much any frequency. A 2.4GHz amplifier could easily oscillate at any frequency from a few megahertz to 10GHz. In fact it is eminently possible for the oscillation to occur only during key up/down and quiet down at full power, so it might seem to work while spewing all sorts of RF garbage before and after the transmission slot. This sort of thing makes the FCC *very unhappy* and will earn you a visit from some rather humorless government inspectors.

        It gets even worse: you are soldering a cable to a board that was not intended to have such a cable. The board may very well (in fact, probably does for cheap commodity equipment) have an electronic noise problem. The board itself is only a few inches wide, and thus is an inefficient antenna, but several feet of extra cable can make a good dipole and cause the noise to radiate. If I was building a couple of these for my personal use I wouldn't worry too much, but if I was doing it for commercial purposes I'd definitely recertify the board + new cable combination (which costs thousands of dollars).

        I would recommend a course of study in practical radio circuit design, and a thorough review of government RF regulations, before you give further advice about soldering random cables to random undocumented wideband amplifiers.

        • Sir,
          Anybody using equipment operating in the 2.4 GHz ISM band, even a hospital, has to be prepared to accept any interference that comes along. Its the law.

          (This information is in the second paragraph of my article)

          Have a great weekend,
          Trevor Marshall
    • Re:Wireless Antennas (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Spootnik, interested to hear your comments about the FCC certification needed for antennae. Would be interested to see more about that. We have also been making commercial grade antennae (see http://www.aerialscience.com ). There haven't been any such regulatory problems in Australasia.

      Regarding access points, you can use sectorial antennae for access points, not just omnis. That way you can connect more clients. We're getting 10dB (12 dBi) from our omni and 16dB from a 120 sectorial and 25dB from a 450mm solid dish. The thing to watch out for with many yagi or co-linear omnis is that they aren't actually omni-directional. We don't use that technology so the omnis are omni-directional.

      Cheers, Don Anderson
  • Where can I find good information and specs on 802.11?
  • There are several on the market now. Check here for some:

    Motion Capture Hardware [metamotion.com]

    Or how about a whole bodysuit:

    Body Suit [metamotion.com]

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Thursday October 04, 2001 @08:33PM (#2390519) Homepage Journal
    The guys over at lwn.net were talking out and out rebellion in this weeks issue and cited Xfree86 as historical precidence. We have several open web servers. We have several open web browsers. That's all we need. Just keep the pressure on the sites you browse to support open standards and vote with your feet if they don't, no matter how easy it is to just dual boot back to Windows or fire up Wine. We don't have to be dragged along if the W3C people sell out.
  • Fewer excuses for the "memos and shopping lists" crowd. Sean Lamb writes: "Now that everyone's done slashdotting Sun's servers, I've posted an of StarOffice 6.0 beta over at Linux Orbit."

    hahaha... allow me to translate...

    Now that everyone's done slashdotting [verb] Sun's servers, now go slashdot these other servers.

    What was this guy thinking of?!?!?

    • Slashdotting is not the verb there, the verb is "to be" contracted with "everyone"

      "Slashdotting" is a participle or gerund or something.

      I am so smart.
  • StarOffice features (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JoshuaDFranklin ( 147726 ) <joshuadfranklin,NOSPAM&yahoo,com> on Thursday October 04, 2001 @08:50PM (#2390553) Homepage
    I think not all features are available in all the platforms. I downloaded the Windows version and the Toolbar Configuration that he mentioned doesn't function.

    Also, for those asking about the difference between StarOffice and OpenOffice, the former comes with a big clip-art gallery, for example. But, it's also 30% of that 100MB download...that's why OpenOffice downloads are so much smaller.
    • I"m about to evaluate this myself at work. While I don't use -much- of Orfice, I use Excel and there's a -lot- of Outlock going on where I w*rk. So I was very excited to see a review of the new Staroffice beta...

      Since I don't use the Microsoft suite all that often, if at all these days, I really don't know what features are included there that are missing from StarOffice. However, I have found one feature in StarOffice that I have never seen in any Microsoft Office version (it may be there now, but I haven't seen it yet; remember, I don't use MS-Office).

      Ugh. I was hoping to find out if it had any sort of CRM (contact relatoinship mgmt) so I can quit diagnosing lookOut! problems and go back to completeing tasks...

      I'll carve out some time this weekend (I do want a good spreadsheet/data format). Any reports of integrated email/contact databases? I'm about at my wits end with MicroSoft TCO.

  • by John Miles ( 108215 ) on Thursday October 04, 2001 @09:05PM (#2390588) Homepage Journal
    So a vertical monopole antenna with an omnidirectional planar radiation pattern is now considered a dipole, huh?
    • KE5FX de N6MOD...

      Yeah, calling that antenna design a "Coaxial Dipole" seems to be common in "wireless" (as opposed to "radio") circles.

      On the other hand, you can make them simply by partially stripping the coax and pulling the braid back over the jacket. ;)

      73
      • N6MOD,
        Yes, I did get my training decades ago, when "wireless" was all the rage :)

        The interesting thing is that the coaxial "Balun", "Sleeve", "Dipole" (whatever) is shorter than a free space quarter wave. It has been trimmed 30% to account for the velocity factor in the teflon coax. But it is also air-spaced from the coax sheath, by about 1 coax radius. I am guessing that some engineer didn't quite get his/her calculations right on that one, but haven't bothered to chase it up yet...

        At least when you peel back the braid you have it close to the sheath dielectric. Which is what? Polyethylene? Velocity factor? Goodness, nothing is simple these days...

        Trevor Marshall
        ex VK5ZTM
        • Yes, I did get my training decades ago, when "wireless" was all the rage :) Sorry OM, that's not quite what I meant. I was referring to the last 5-10 years or so, "wireless" suddenly became a buzzword for really new radio stuff, like Wireless LANs and Wireless Phones (as opposed to cordless phones). The interesting thing is that the coaxial "Balun", "Sleeve", "Dipole" (whatever) is shorter than a free space quarter wave. It has been trimmed 30% to account for the velocity factor in the teflon coax. But it is also air-spaced from the coax sheath, by about 1 coax radius. I am guessing that some engineer didn't quite get his/her calculations right on that one, but haven't bothered to chase it up yet... I've noticed that, and they are indeed shorter than a quarter wave in practice. When I made them out of coax, I'd always just hook it up to a network analyser, and trim it until the dip in the SWR curve was at the right frequency. 73 de N6MOD
    • Agreed. Applying lots of fancy stuff like NEC output of Smith charts to cover up the calling a end fed vertical a dipole.


      If you don't know it yourself, make it too complex for anyone else to understand.

    • ke5fx de do1kju / kg6icx... :-)

      Yepp, the vertical mistaken as a dipole was the first thing i was to wonder about too. Doesn't gives that much impression about the accuracy of the rest of the article.
    • It's hard to be certain from just the picture, but it looks like the antenna has a 1/4 wave coaxial sleeve. The terminology may not be technically accurate (since IIRC the sleeve is for decoupling rather than radiation), but I've often heard of such antennas referred to as "vertical dipoles."

      So, he may not be too far off the mark in using the "dipole" shorthand.
      • (I already left a message in the thread above, describing the construction of the sleeve)

        There is no dispute that a vertical monopole over a horizontal infinite ground should be described as a monopole. The radiation pattern consists of that from the monopole added to that from the reflection of the monopole in the ground plane.

        If the ground plane is reduced to several 1/4 wave radials then it is still a ground plane, although the current distribution in the radials will be different from that in the infinite ground. We still have a monopole

        As the radials are folded downwards to become a sleeve, additional currents flow in the coax sheath. When the radials are flush with the sheath the velocity factor of the sheath comes into play in deciding the distribution of those currents.

        So, do we have a dipole with a novel feed, or do we have a monopole with a coaxial balun, but without a groundplane?

        Hmmm...

        Trevor
        ex VK5ZTM
  • SVG not patent free (Score:3, Informative)

    by Tachys ( 445363 ) on Thursday October 04, 2001 @09:31PM (#2390630)
    From this page [w3.org] it seems both Apple and Kodak claim to have patents covering SVG.
    • The Apple patent in question is arguably stupid, but it's not required to write a standard-compliant implementation of SVG 1.0.
    • From this page [w3.org] it seems both Apple and Kodak claim to have patents covering SVG.


      If two companies claim to have a pantent on the same technology, I see no better reason for it to be pantent-free.
    • Anyone knows what they are actually patenting here? I cannot understand what it could be. OK, I don't know the SVG standard, but how to describe vector graphics on a 2D surface has been well understood for a very long time know, hasn't it? And to simply agree on a standard for putting these technologies into an XML format should not require any fancy patentable stuff, one would think?

    • From this page [w3.org] it seems both Apple and Kodak claim to have patents covering SVG.

      See my analysis of these patents [jasmine.org.uk]. Quick summary: both these patents are bare-faced attempts to claim techniques which were at the time of their filing long established and well understood techniques in broad general use. If W3C had had the courage to face down these patent claims in court, they would have collapsed.

  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday October 04, 2001 @09:34PM (#2390634) Homepage Journal
    The author of the StarOffice article is a bit off base about how the XML works. Basically, the document consists of SEVERAL XML documents, images, and fonts all packed into a JAR file (a ZIP file with a maifest file). After you extract these files, you then find that each of these XML documents contains so much info that it makes them nearly impossible to be read by humans! (No VI or EMACS, sorry)

    The upshot of this is that KOffice or some other suite could support these documents very easily. On top of that, the compression makes these files tremendously small. I took a 700K Word document (500 pages!) and converted it to a 100K StarOffice file. Now if that isn't cool, I dunno what is!

    You can find more info at http://xml.openoffice.org/ [openoffice.org].
    • <i>I took a 700K Word document (500 pages!) and
      converted it to a 100K StarOffice file. Now if that isn't cool, I dunno what is!</i>

      MS products, take your 10 word sentance and add an extra 50 lines with crap like this (From 1 sentance email sent to me today!):

      @font-face { font-family: Tahoma; } P.MsoNormal { FONT-SIZE: 12pt; MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt; FONT-FAMILY: "Times New Roman"; mso-style-parent:
      FONT-FAMILY: "Times New Roman"; mso-style-parent: ""; mso-pagination: widow-orphan; mso-fareast-font-family: "Times New Roman" } DIV.MsoNormal { FONT-SIZE: 12pt; MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt; FONT-FAMILY: "Times New Roman"; mso-style-parent: ""; mso-pagination: widow-orphan;
      (... I'm hiding the extra 47 lines hidden from your virgin eyes :)
      • Don't forget the random memory dumps that MS Word just *adds*. If the user was using win9x then you can read previous revisions, passwords, what they were browsing at the time, etc...

        If they are on an NT base, it just pads with 0's.
    • I also wrote an article on the XML format for XML.com which you can find here [xml.com].

      It was written before they did the whole Zip thing (though I do mention the zipping in the article), but some of the pointers should still be valid for anyone looking to be able to read the format.
    • I took a 700K Word document (500 pages!) and converted it to a 100K StarOffice file. Now if that isn't cool, I dunno what is!

      How about taking a 2M Windows .bmp file and converting it to a >100k .jpg file? And people wonder why they need 40G of space nowadays to install 2k and XP. ;)

      • Well, that's because JPG is a compression format, while BMPs are exact data, with a color specified for each pixel. (There are multiple color depths for bitmaps, so one could make it much larger or mush smaller, and with correspondingly many shades and tints.)
        • that's because JPG is a compression format, while BMPs are exact data

          Jpeg is a lossy format. Macintosh PICTs take a lot less space, but don't loose anything. Undoubtedly this can be said of other formats. Doesn't PNG have a lossless compressed format? Why can't MS use a lossless compressed format as Apple has done for many years now? I think the original MS criticism stands.
  • No more ``Start'' button!

    Seriously, it really killed me to finally get rid of all of the MS software in the house, only to load an otherwise excellent office suite (SO 5.2) and get that whole Start thing back...
  • So, is it legal to war drive and sniff packets off of a network?

    I ask because up here in Alberta, it's common for oil and petrochemical companies to hire spies to take pictures of competitors facilities from public roads, to get an idea of what technology they may be deploying and what strategies they may be using. I wonder if it's legal to have people sniff corporate wireless LAN's from the road too, and report back to their client.
  • I purchased Star Office 5.0 for Windows and removed it from my sustyem two weeks after I installed it. I have never before seen such a badly thought out environment in which to attempt to get any work done.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      As of the 6.0 beta, StarOffice no longer sucks. Officially. There *is* one nitpick I have with StarOffice: e-mail support (as in Outlook). There is no *StarMail* application for e-mail (or, better yet, Usenet newsgroup support, which Outlook sorely lacks). If StarOffice can add e-mail and newsgroup support without breaking the rest of the suite, even die-hard Office users like me could switch with little pain.
  • by Dominic_Mazzoni ( 125164 ) on Friday October 05, 2001 @01:50AM (#2391053) Homepage
    I tried to install StarOffice as root on my RedHat 7.1 system, and all hell broke loose. I couldn't launch StarOffice from any user account at all. I uninstalled it and installed it in my user account, and this time it worked fine. But now only I can use it.

    * Anyone know why it failed as root?
    * Anyone know how I could make it run the user configuration part of the setup, so other users on my computer can use StarOffice?

    I'd love to hear other StarOffice tips and tricks, too...
    • If its anything like SO 5.2 (sorry, I haven't had a chance to play with 6.0beta yet), if you run the installer as root with the /net option, then you can do a "network install". This install will be available to all users on the machine, you do the /net install first, and then re-run the installer as the user in question.


    • Install it with the -net option. This installs the program in a central place and allows for multiuser use (even across a network) (~200MB).

      Then run setup as each user you want to be able to use SO (see install guide). This will install a local SO directory in the user's $HOME, with config filers, etc. (~2 MB)

      Now each user can run SO with their own settings, without installing all ~200MB in each user's $HOME

  • by nyet ( 19118 ) on Friday October 05, 2001 @02:01AM (#2391068) Homepage
    From this [w3.org], i see:

    This Version:
    http://www.w3.org/TR/2001/WD-patent-policy-20010 81 6/
    Latest Version:
    http://www.w3.org/TR/patent-policy/
    Editor:
    Daniel J. Weitzner, W3C/MIT, djweitzner@w3.org
    Authors:
    Michele Herman, Microsoft, micheleh@microsoft.com
    Scott Peterson, Hewlett-Packard, scott_k_peterson@hp.com
    Tony Piotrowski, Philips, tony.piotrowski@philips.com
    Barry Rein, Pennie & Edmonds (for W3C), barry@pennie.com
    Daniel Weitzner, W3C/MIT, djweitzner@w3.org
    Helene Plotka Workman, Apple Computer, plotka@apple.com

    What gives?
    • Read the Perens article mentioned in the story.

      To summarise, the names of the committee are on the report. It doesn't, HP/Perens say, that the individual committee members agree with the report. The take is that Peterson was opposed to the idea....

      • HP's policy regarding RAND may have been mis-interpreted by the public and the press, because the name of an HP attorney appears on the Patent Policy Framework draft. Of the participants in the W3C Patent Policy Working Group, HP has been the most vigorous proponent of the importance of avoiding patent encumbrances on W3C Recommendations.

        EEEP sorry. My bad :) You are, of course, correct.

        Feel free to moderate me down, I jumped the gun.. don't worry I have karma to burn.
  • Responding to the RAND proposal I drew up this analysis and proposal [jasmine.org.uk] in which I suggest we prepare to launch an alternative standards body; since I circulated it I've learned that Bernhard Rosenkraenzer (Bero) was working on a similar proposal. Linux Weekly News has a front page editorial making the same suggestion. [linuxweeklynews.com]

    This is possible and practical and we should prepare to do it. However, to have three Internet standards bodies would be a bad thing. What we should really seek to achieve is a situation where:

    • Either
      • W3C commits to not incorporating any proprietary technologies into standards, and
      • W3C opens up its membership to ordinary peoplr, with a subscription for individual members of not more than US $50 per annum
    • or
      • W3C winds up and IETF [ietf.org] resumes the role of setting Web standards, and
      • IETF commits to not incorporating any proprietary technologies into standards.

    So long as W3C remains a rich corporations club [w3.org] this sort of proposal will come bach again and again. It is, after all, in the rich corporations' interest.

  • star office (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jilles ( 20976 ) on Friday October 05, 2001 @05:23AM (#2391279) Homepage
    I have been reading very positive reviews about SO during the past few days. So, I decided to give it a try myself. Here's an overview of my experiences.

    Let me start by saying that it looks promising, despite some obvious flaws which I will detail below.

    Installation

    I installed it on windows 2000. The installer looks pretty and userfriendly and seems to be doing what it is supposed to be doing in a straightforward way. I haven't tried the uninstall yet (duh) but I trust that will be equally good.

    Compatibility with office

    I normally use framemaker to write my papers but occasionally I have to deliver word documents. Star office certainly supports word better than framemaker. However, I found that it had some trouble with the word documents I had. All of these documents are rather complex and they use tables, crossreferences, images and paragraph styles. I was impressed that the document was successfully imported. However, there were a few errors that though easy to correct would have lead to visible errors if I had just printed them without looking at them. I had a similar experience with my powerpoint documents. Near perfect but not entirely perfect. Conclusion: you will need to revise imported non trivial office documents to make sure everything is the way as intended.

    User interface

    From the point of view of features most of it seems to be there and functioning. However, it is far from pretty. One of the key features of office is that it offers a polished userinterface. Obviously MS has a few graphical designers who know what they are doing. I can't say the same about SO it all looks rather primitive when compared to office (far better than framemaker though :-).

    In addition to the look and feel I found some of the dialogs a bit confusing. Some buttons don't have tooltips and there are slight inconsistencies, especially in the more advanced dialogs.

    Features

    After having played with star writer a bit I would say that I would actually prefer it over word and may even consider to use it as a replacement for framemaker in the future. As mentioned before, I use stuff like crossreferences and paragraph styles quite heavily. The prime reason I am using framemaker rather than word is because word is designed for stupid users and tends to "improve" the deisgn of your document on the fly which is a PITA if you do know what you are doing. Aside from that it's handling of graphics is really bad and you are at a constant risk of seriously messing up the layout of your document. Star office doesn't seem to suffer from these flaws and in addition has a build in literature references database!!!! That last feature (once I figure out how to use it because the GUI is a mess) might pull me over. Also I like the fact that everything is stored as XML and I am looking forward to any add on utilities that rely on this.

    So in conclusion, star office looks very promising. I have only looked at star writer and compared it to word 2000. Word 2000 arguably is more polished and user friendly. In terms of features the two suits can compete even though star writer is lacking some of the popular word features (e.g. grammar checking). However, it also has features that either work better than or are not even present in word (e.g. the bibliography tool).

    It looks like I am going to give it a try but it also looks like I won't be recommending as an alternative to office to less advanced users. If you know what you are doing and are equally annoyed with word as I am you might actually like it (otherwise I recommend you take a look at framemaker). It is not the office killer it is advertised to be but it certainly looks like you could use it for most of the stuff you would MS office for, especially when handling more complex documents. It's biggest problem is the user interface which just doesn't have the same quality as MS office.
    • Screenshots (Score:2, Informative)

      by Jim Hall ( 2985 )

      It's only slightly offtopic... OpenOffice 638c (latest build) is probably pretty close to StarOffice 6beta.

      The other day, I downloaded OpenOffice [openoffice.org] build 638C for Linux and for Windows. I use Red Hat Linux [redhat.com] (7.1) at home, and I already use StarOffice [sun.com] (5.2) for my regular office needs. It works great. I think my main complaint with OpenOffice is the silly desktop. Other than that, I consider it a fully functional office suite that can replace my MS Office needs anytime.

      I didn't see any cool OpenOffice screenshots, so I made my own of the text document program. I didn't do any (yet?) of the spreadsheet program, or presentation software. These were really captured for the benefit of my brother, but I'm posting them here [freedos.org] so that others can see them.

    • I used Soffice 5.2 for quite some time and was pretty happy with it. Although, like you, I feel that it is hella-ugly. At any rate, the best thing about 5.2 was how EASILY it synced with my palm. Actually, ALL the PIM features of 5.2 were excellent, and IMHO, exceeded microslop in every regard. So I downloaded 6.0 last night, and where the hell is all the PIM stuff? I don't want just a damn text editor, that's why God made emacs (or vi or pico or whatever). I Want An Office Suite. Where is the "Suite" part?
    • Wow this is the first comparison I have seen between StarOffice and FrameMaker, thanks. FrameMaker is being pushed where I work and I am still resisting. This mainly due to the need to do a lot of DSP flowcharts and FrameMaker doesn't even have connector objects (even PowerPoint has them). I end up using PowerPoint with embedded Visio objects and doing the rest in Word and
      Excel. I've been playing with OpenOffice at home for a while now and what I'm really impressed with, which no one has mentioned that I've seen so far, is the drawing tools are WAY better than Office or FrameMaker. Multiple glue points per object side, zoom to 3000%, lots of control, but reasonably easy to use.

      Another big plus for StarOffice if I understand correctly is that it can link objects with relative links and not just absolute links (as with Office 97 anyway). I want to have a directory with links from drawing and spreadsheet files to text files (I'm sick of embedding) and then copy it to a shared server where someone else may look at it. Office 97 forces all links to be absolute so unless you copy your files to the same directory path on a different computer, you can't do it. I read somewhere that StarOffice can do this, but I haven't tried it yet.

      As far as all the smaller faster office programs people have been comparing to StarOffice (Koffice, Abiword, Gnumeric, Hancom Office, etc.), I've tried a lot of them and I'd much rather wait a few more seconds on startup and actually find the tool I need than discover it hasn't been implemented yet. I also wouldn't consider investing any more time in an office programs that wasn't at least cross-platform with Windows and Linux (StarOffice, Abiword, Hancom Office yes, Koffice, Gnumeric no). Then there is the likelihood that StarOffice is more likely to be accepted at a company than any other Office alternative (save for FrameMaker which is quite expensive btw).

      Submit those bug reports!
      • I simply use visio to do drawings in framemaker. Works fairly well. I actually like framemaker a lot. It's a complex application with a lot of features which at the very least are non-trivial. However, once you get into it it seems like the people who built it anticipated what you really need.

        Object linking and embedding supports both types of links you are talking about (even though it defaults to embed rather than link). On windows star office just uses the windows infrastructure so it is not different from ms office in that respect.
    • >I normally use framemaker to write my papers but
      >occasionally I have to deliver word documents.
      >Star office certainly supports word better than
      >framemaker. However, I found that it had some
      >trouble with the word documents I had. All of
      >these documents are rather complex and they use
      >tables, crossreferences, images and paragraph
      >styles. I was impressed that the document was
      >successfully imported. However, there were a few
      >errors that though easy to correct would have
      >lead to visible errors if I had just printed
      >them without looking at them. I had a similar
      >experience with my powerpoint documents.
      >Near perfect but not entirely perfect.
      >Conclusion: you will need to revise imported non
      >trivial office documents to make sure
      >everything is the way as intended.

      Have you thought about submitting a copy of your documents (if possible) to the StarOffice folks so they can see and correct the errors you found? With better examples of errors I'm sure they can find and fix more of the import/export bugs.

"Mr. Spock succumbs to a powerful mating urge and nearly kills Captain Kirk." -- TV Guide, describing the Star Trek episode _Amok_Time_

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