A new Star has welcomed us into the 21st century, and it is none other than Sun Microsystems’ StarOffice 5.1. Some people claim that StarOffice 5.1 is a contender for the Microsoft Windows market. What is the truth about this new Star? What is behind Sun’s relentless effort to make StarOffice 5.1 available to millions of users?
In this article, I’ll attempt to address these and other questions. I’ll discuss exactly what StarOffice 5.1 and StarPortal are, where to get the distributions, how to install the software, and the future of the products.
Exactly what are the motivations behind Sun’s actions? Is it truly giving away free software, or is there another reason the company is taking this approach? Of course, to arrive at the truth we have to back up a little, to about August 1999, when Sun purchased the company Star Division. Along with this acquisition came the StarOffice suite of Java-based productivity applications, which Sun added to its growing arsenal of Internet-related products for Internet service providers (ISP), enterprises, and application service providers (ASP).
Perhaps the most important aspect of the acquisition was the fact that the StarOffice suite would run on almost any operating system, including Solaris, UNIX, and Linux. The StarOffice suite was a true multiplatform, high-productivity application that would make Sun workstations more attractive to a power-hungry community looking for faster, more stable systems.
Many other doors were opened by the acquisition. Sun decided to release the software to its customers and clients, and to the general public. The company offered StarOffice as a free download on its Web site , and in just a few months, thousands of people had downloaded or purchased the Office suite from Sun’s site. Sun gave the users the option of downloading the software or purchasing it on CD.
Recently, Sun’s objective became more apparent when it announced its StarPortal initiative. StarPortal software provides word processing, presentation graphics, spreadsheet, and other software tools to any Web browser and other portable devices. This will enable enterprises and private or personal PC users to access network and applications remotely over the Internet. Using systems that are known for security, such as UNIX, Solaris, and Linux, the user will be able to use applications and store data on the server. This will save users the expense of purchasing and maintaining expensive drives and backup systems.
For many years, StarOffice has been given away free to the Linux community, but it wasn't made available to most other operating systems until a few months ago when Sun took over. StarOffice’s popularity increased once Sun started giving it away and promoting it.
StarOffice is a fully integrated application suite that is compatible with Microsoft Office products. This means that documents you create in Microsoft Word can be ported over to StarOffice. StarOffice is a powerful Web-enabled word processor, spreadsheet, database, e-mail, news, charting, and graphics applications package. You can use it to access documents, spreadsheets, databases, and other files created in Microsoft Office. This portability allows the StarOffice application to function in a number of environments. It runs on most platforms, as I mentioned earlier.
The StarOffice package
The StarOffice package includes the following:
- · StarOffice Writer word processor
- · StarOffice Calc spreadsheet
- · StarOffice Impress presentation manager
- · StarOffice Draw
- · StarOffice Image graphics software
- · StarOffice Schedule (Calendar)
- · StarOffice Mail and E-mail
- · StarOffice Database
- · StarOffice News reader
- · StarOffice Math software
- · Assorted other software and utilities
The user interface in this suite is very similar to the Microsoft Windows interface.
You might note that StarOffice 5.0 and earlier versions probably will require you to have a user number, registration number, or access number. There has been a lot of misunderstanding by end users about this. I want to clear this up so that people will be able to enjoy the product without developing any negativity against Sun concerning this issue.The solution is very simple. If you have a version of StarOffice that requires you to enter some kind of registration code, then all you have to do is download or purchase on CD StarOffice 5.1 and you won’t have to enter that information. When you download the product from Sun's Web site , you register the product. When you install the product on your computer, you don’t have to enter a registration number. This confused a lot of people, and I was one of them. I downloaded and installed the version for Windows 98 and for Linux, and the Windows version wouldn't install without a registration code. I checked out the situation on all of the newsgroups and found out that I wasn't the only one having the problem. Frustrated, I checked out the StarOffice Web site and found out that I didn't need the registration code if I downloaded the 5.1 software.
As of this writing, the following versions and distributions of StarOffice 5.1 were available:
- · The StarOffice 5.1 Personal Edition for Windows: This version is available as a download at Sun’s Web site and is available in multiple languages. The file is 62 MB or more, and it takes several hours to download. You can burn or copy this to a CD if you have a CD burner. You might note that this file is in .exe format and is installed in the usual way under Windows.
- · The StarOffice 5.1 Personal Edition Deluxe for Windows: This version provides a StarOffice CD, a printed installation manual, a users guide, more templates and fonts, and 30-day free installation support.
- · The StarOffice 5.1 Personal Edition for Linux: This version is downloadable as a .tar file, which is comparable to a DOS/Windows .zip file. You must understand the Linux/UNIX tar command in order to decompress and install this file. It is also available on most of the major Linux distribution disks, such as Red Hat 6.1. In the case of Red Hat, it is available as an .rpm file, which requires a different type of installation. See the install instructions on the distribution CD. Note: You can use the RPM program that Red Hat includes on the CD. It will be on your menu when you install the KDE or other Enlightenment menus.
During the installation process, the StarOffice icon may not be added to your menu or screen. Simply right-click on an empty part of the screen, select New/Launcher/Basic, and set up your directory properties so that the program can find StarOffice and run it. Please note where you installed your program, because you will need that information to fill in the requested information on the setup screen.
If you’re making a Linux installation and are new to Linux and StarOffice, I suggest that you purchase the Personal Edition with both CD and documentation. You also will get 30-day support for free. And you can find great support from the numerous newsgroups on Linux and StarOffice 5.1.
Sun has created an Internet portal, called StarPortal , that will allow users to use the software over the Internet. This system is bound to grow into an industry by itself as companies question the cost of upgrading every year. Sun has begun an aggressive campaign to distribute the software through its Web site, magazines, ISPs, and other sources. The software is generally given away free.
Although Sun has battled with standards groups over control of the Java platform, it is now in the forefront of open source products. With the release of Java and StarOffice, and the release and support of Linux and the StarPortal concept of software and applications access over the Internet, Sun has created for itself a niche in the open source community.
As the name implies, StarPortal is designed to provide a portal, or open door, for users to access hundreds of programs on a special server or servers. These servers probably will be running Linux and Apache. Right now in the computing community, we’re seeing the emergence of a new technology, a new way of making software available to the end user, and a new way to use software. We see a move away from the individual PC sitting on a desktop, to a workstation connected to a local server that is connected to the Internet. This machine will probably be an intelligent workstation that has, at a minimum, 128 MB of RAM, a 10-GB hard drive, and a modem or other method of connecting to the Internet. It will depend on how Sun and others intend to market the product. At first and for many years to come, PCs and workstations will be able to access the StarPortals to take advantage of the free software.
When you log into the portal to use the software, you’ll have access to both software and technical support. All you really need is a way to connect to the Internet and a browser. This will open the door to the use of such devices as palmtops and Web phones.
Businesses can capitalize on the portal, as they will be able to focus on using the software rather than buying, upgrading, and maintaining expensive software. Think about it. Would you rather have the expense of supplying hundreds of expensive PCs to your employees—a few hundred monitors, printers, and modems—and pay someone a fortune to run it, or would you rather have a simpler, less costly system? Remember, you don't even have to worry about backup tapes anymore since your backup data is safely stored on the Internet on another server.
The mainframe of the future?
I’ll never forget the security that I felt long ago when I sat in front of a computer terminal that ran a version of UNIX and the only software package that was on the machine was one that I wrote myself using a business basic language called BBx. It was the first language that I learned, and I pumped out thousands of programming lines that are still being used on that machine today. Someone once said that mainframes died an honorable death, but maybe they have just faded away to arise again. Maybe we will have a different concept of the mainframe in the future. Maybe Sun will never sell as many workstations as there are PCs, but you can bet that it will be in there trying.
Dallas G. Releford has worked in the computer field as a programmer, MIS manager, PC specialist, and in other related positions. In addition, he has written a novel, which was published on the Internet and led him to an interest in the electronic publishing field. He also writes articles, electronic books, and just about anything else that involves the written word. To learn more about Dallas’ business, visit his Web site, which is called The Editor’s Eye .The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein, but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.