You might think that a company sending out review copies of their latest product would try to get everything right. Simple things like making it easy to install for instance, so that reviewers could get straight to what they should be looking at with the minimum of fuss. You might think that, but you'd be wrong.
A few weeks ago, under strict embargo and via FedEx from New York, I received a review release of StarOffice 9 -- the corporate incarnation of OpenOffice 3. Being Linux, Mac and Windows compatible, I foolishly anticipated an easy installation. But I was wrong. The Windows bit worked all right. I haven't tried the Mac. But where the wheels came off was under Linux -- all the more galling when you consider that StarOffice is the offspring of Sun Microsystems who are about as venerable as you can get in the Unix/Linux world.
Target Linux System 1: Ubuntu 8.10 64-bit (freshly installed)
After inserting the DVD I received a nice prompt asking if I was prepared to let the disc run automatically. I agreed. This was followed by a message saying "Cannot find the autorun program."
Instead I browsed to the Linux installation folder and clicked setup. A command prompt window opened to inform me "Error: Failed to extract Java Runtime Environment."
So I browsed the documentation and read about manual installation using alien (more about that in a moment). First I had to sudo apt-get install alien. Then I tried the command. Another howling failure. "Error: Current host architecture 'amd64' does not appear in package architecture's list (i386)."
No 64-bit version, huh? Game over.
Target Linux System 2: Kubuntu 8.04
As supplied, SO9 came only in RPM format -- ideal for Fedora and Mandriva and other RPM-based systems, but not so for my Debian-based ones. No worries, the accompanying README advised;
1. Change to the directory that contains the rpm packages for StarOffice.
2. Type the following command: sudo alien -i -k *.i586.rpm
which I duly did, foolishly failing to check the contents of that directory first.
Alien is a useful tool. It converts the incoming package into binary format and, with the addition of the -i switch, installs it.
Forty minutes later it was still chewing through packages. Strange. I investigated and discovered that the RPM directory contained copies of StarOffice in English, German, Spanish, French, Hungarian, Italian, Dutch, Russian, Swedish, Polish and Portugese. 253 files, nearly half a gig in compressed package format, and, thanks to the command thoughfully provided by Sun, I was merrily installing the lot!
Fuming, I let it finish, which it eventually did, before presenting me with this message;
Clicking the Details button provided a mass of installation and error messages. I copied them into working word processor. They totalled a mere 43 pages!
After uninstalling everything I did briefly consider trying to isolate just the English language files, copy them to hard disk and install from there, but who wants to have to work that hard? Especially when you can download OpenOffice 3 -- in the language and package format of your choice -- in a matter of minutes?
Target System 3: Windows XP
It installed! It worked! I might even have considered reviewing it but by this time I was so pissed off with StarOffice that objectivity had gone out the window. So I uninstalled it again. Oh-oh...
It did uninstall. Eventually... And via using a curious mix of German and English dialog boxes...
The principal difference between SO9 and OOo3 is that in paying for the former you get 60 days technical support. I suspect many Linux users will need that just to get the damn thing installed!