OpenOffice

Well as a product OO is not actually too bad, it’s just a nightmare to build the friggin’ thing. I mean would it be too hard to put together some coherent build documentation? The best that I have found so far is the page entitled “building open office under linux“. That page tells me I need the csh shell, but do I really? What is the –with-use-shell=bash option for then? It also tells me that I need to download and extract the “gpc” library in some directory, which also appears to be a lie as the build completed just fine without that. I pass the –disable-mozilla option to configure because I don’t want to have to deal with mozilla and it might reduce the size/duration of the build. I’m not sure what functionality I’ll miss out on; the documentation neglects to tell me that.

Upon running the “configure” script I am told that I need to either fetch a pre-built dll file and plonk it in some directory. Either that, or install mingw as a cross-compiler so that the dll can be built. WTF? This is linux I’m building on, why is a Windows dll needed? I can’t be stuffed installing mingw so I just grab the pre-built dll.

The build soon bombs out with link failures mentioning something about references to symbols in discarded sections. Eh? a quick web search unturns a few other software packages which experience this problem, apparently the culprit is binutils 2.17 (not sure exactly who is to blame, but the problem doesn’t occur with older binutils versions). So I downgrade to 2.16.1 temporarily. I’m also forced to download JDK 5.0 (rather than 6.0 as I was using) to avoid other build problems.

Ok, “dmake” again and a few years later the build finishes (yes this product is BIG. But alright, It really only takes a few hours). Now what? I configured with –with-package-format=portable because I don’t have rpm on my system, and it turns out there are some scripts dumped in a directory under the build tree called things like “openoffice.org-base.install” (Hmm, the directory they’re contained in is world-writable – great, guys; really secure).

I run one of the scripts and get told “this will install bla bla bla, do you want to continue?”. Well der, I answer yes. Then I’m forced to read the GPL (or is it the LGPL? Not sure, didn’t actually read it, ha ha) and say “yes” again to indicate that I agree to the terms.

Then I promptly get something which looks like:

Installing required openoffice.org-core01 software…
Copyright 1999-2006 by OpenOffice.org
Software license silently accepted via command-line option.
Installing required openoffice.org-core02 software…
Copyright 1999-2006 by OpenOffice.org
Software license silently accepted via command-line option.
Installing required openoffice.org-core01 software…
Copyright 1999-2006 by OpenOffice.org
Software license silently accepted via command-line option.
Installing required openoffice.org-core02 software…
Copyright 1999-2006 by OpenOffice.org
Software license silently accepted via command-line option.
Installing required openoffice.org-core01 software…
Copyright 1999-2006 by OpenOffice.org
Software license silently accepted via command-line option.
Installing required openoffice.org-core02 software…
Copyright 1999-2006 by OpenOffice.org
Software license silently accepted via command-line option.
Installing required openoffice.org-core01 software…
Copyright 1999-2006 by OpenOffice.org
Software license silently accepted via command-line option.

Oh joy, a circular dependency. What is the point of constructing these scripts if they can’t actually be used? Sheesh. Would it have been so hard to have a “make install” capability?

I hack the scripts by hand so they don’t go into an infinite loop and install them one by one. Surprisingly enough, this creates a working version of Open Office in /opt/openoffice.org2.1, though the binary is stupidly called “soffice” (a relic of Star Office days I suppose, but surely that can be changed?) and it prompts me to accept the license yet again when I run it.

On a positive note, I’ve now got an office suite that compares favorably with that behemoth of the Windows world, MS Office. But c’mon guys; it should NOT be this hard.

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