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Linux Expo starts on Tuesday, May 18, with the real festivities beginning the following day. Linux Expo remains the original large Linux gathering, it is celebrating its fifth birthday this year. LWN's Jonathan Corbet will be there, trying to squeeze out some reports between the various events. See you there!

Red Hat 6.0 breaks StarOffice. It is not surprising that a major operating system upgrade will create some turbulence in its wake, but there are a couple of factors here which are worthy of note.

The cause of the problem, evidently, is that StarOffice made use of some undocumented calls in glibc-2.0 which went away in the 2.1 release. So if one wants to find a place to assign blame - not a very productive exercise, really - one would probably hand it to StarDivision for not following the rules. It is unfortunate that StarOffice fails to work against the "compatibility" 2.0 libraries provided by Red Hat.

(For the more adventurous among us, some rather scary instructions were posted on how to make StarOffice work with these libraries. They involve, however, a fair amount of binary editing of the StarOffice executables. Not for the faint of heart. Thanks to Frank Lepore for pointing this one out).

The really disappointing thing, though, is that, even though both Red Hat and StarDivision have known about this problem for a while, neither has made any effort to (1) make a fix available, or (2) even inform their users of the problem. Thus the StarOffice breakage remains a trap that will continue to bite users for a while.

How long have these companies known about the problem? Long enough, in any case, to put a working version on the Red Hat 6.0 application CD. Red Hat claims that they are not licensed to distribute this working version via the net. That may well be true, but there is nothing preventing StarDivision from making this version available. It already exists, it works, it was good enough for the Application CD. Why is StarDivision leaving its users in this bad situation? (A request for information from StarDivision went unanswered).

What we are really seeing here, of course, is another example of the type of risk that one runs with proprietary software. Any software can break in an upgrade, and one can only get so upset about that. But if StarOffice were free software, a version which fixes a show-stopper bug would not be withheld from users that need it. And, of course, if source were available, a fix would have been widely distributed in a very short time.

But StarOffice is proprietary, so its users will simply have to wait until StarDivision gets around to making the fixed version available. There is a place in the world for proprietary software, but businesses and individuals that depend on proprietary systems are placing themselves at a certain amount of risk.

Ken Thompson's criticisms revisited. Eric Raymond and Ken Thompson have had a talk about Ken's negative comments on Linux recently published in IEEE Computer. Here is Eric's summary of the conversation. As might be expected, Ken is not as anti-Linux as the interview made him out to be, though he is still not really convinced of Linux's capabilities.

Learn Linux in the mountains. Eklektix, Inc., producer of the Linux Weekly News, still has a few slots in its Linux System Administration course being taught in Boulder, CO the week of June 7-11, 1999. This hands-on course, which emphasises the integration of Linux systems into larger, heterogeneous networks, is suitable for most students seeking an in-depth understanding of how Linux systems work. And June is a wonderful time to be in the Rocky Mountains... See the Eklektix training pages for more information.

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May 13, 1999


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