I feel like a Mac owner

Whenever I give talk, I am glad about having a laptop with Windows OS and MS applications. Setting up my laptop for projecting is a breeze compared to the kind of problems Mac owners face. Well, I am going to give a talk on Friday. The organizers wanted to know the type of computer and software I would be using, and balked when they heard that I use StarOffice.

I know technically it does not matter what software I am running. The issue is the hardware/OS. But its making the organizer nervous. So here is my solution: I will create my talk with StarOffice presentation, will take it to another computer that has MS Office and save it as a pack and go presentation. Hopefully I will be able to play that on my computer easily. (this has been the first real hurdle that I have faced)

Some rules for the MS Office vs. StarOffice contest

Since this is a contest (StarOffice has to compete against 8 years hegemony of MS Office), so we need some ground rules.

Tutorials: I Will not use any tutorials. I never use any tutorials anyway, so this rule is born out of conveniece.
Help: I will look for help within the StarOffice application. I will not look on newsgroups etc.
Usage of MS Products: I will use MS Office only if I absolutely have to during this period (I do have MS Office on an old desktop for dire situations.)

I cannot figure out FTP on StarOffice

I think StarOffice allows you to ftp documents. However, I cannot figure out how. I checked the menu options and all the icons. When I went to the the help system, it gave me an option to search. Search does describe how to ftp. It tells you to drag and drop documents from your ftp server, and to use the “beamer”. All these actions, presuppose that one has an opened an ftp connection within StarOffice which I cannot do. I did learn something: that “beamer” is a dockable window in the main StarOffice window. Wish they would have more intuitive names.

Oh well, back to Absolute FTP. This is not really a strike against StarOffice since I was not able to ftp within MSOffice as well.

Making the transition from MSOffice to Star Office: A month long experiment

Now that I am working independently, I no longer have access to software through UC Berkeley. This has interesting repurcussions for one’s work life: I bounght my own laptop, an IBM T30 which I already love. Alas, it did not come bundled with any software. After a few hours spent searching online vendors for MS Office at a reasonable price, I decided to take the plunge and try to wean myself off Microsoft. It helped that I have been earlier involved in a usability study where we compared MS Office and Star Office, and found them to be pretty similar in terms of the user experience. For shelving out $75.95, you get the complete Star Office (Word Processor, Spreadsheet, Presentation Software etc.).

For the next month, I am going to track my transition to StarOffice. At the end of the month, I will wither decide that I can put up with StarOffice or I will admit to being trapped within the Microsoft world. (Note, I do use other MS products, e.g., Win2k Pro and quite like it). An Office Suite is important enough to me that ultimately I am not willing to loose productivity, even if it means paying the exorbitant fees charged by Microsoft. The specific issues that concenr me are: Will I be able to collaborate with colleagues who use Microsoft Office? Will I be able to use the StarCalc to do some basic statistics? I have been a power user for many office applications for many years. Can I make this transition and not loose productivity significantly?

Or will I at the end of the month be yearning for the familiarity of Microsoft and be willing to put the dollars down to remain an MS Office user?

We will know on 10/19/02.

DAY ONE: Installation and getting it to work:

9/19/02 1.00 p.m. Downloaded and installed StarOffice. Installation was a breeze. The total folder is about 180 MB’s. I believe that’s a lot smaller than the MS Office folder I had on my previous machine. It did give me one error. Claimed it was not able to install the Adabas D database engine. Did not give me the reason why. Suggested I try again. A visit to the StarOffice website did not give me any clues how to rectify this situation. Maybe I will need to install the application again if I actually need this Adabas.

2.00 p.m. The first thing I noticed was that StarOffice is more integrated than MS Office. When you create a document in StarOffice, then you have the choice of a text file/ spreadsheet/ html document etc. Also seems like StarOffice provides telnet and ftp functionality. Will try to use this next time I need it. Another observation about StarOffice is that does not seem as bloated an application as MS Office. Does not take five seconds to open a word file that it. (I should mention that my new computer has a faster chip and more ram than the old one, so this observation might be biased.