New Products Ease the Transition from Windows
The greatest problem in shifting an entire company from Windows to Linux is the desktop and its users. Capable IT personnel may already know or can learn the technical details necessary to run Linux in its strongest position, as a server product. Average desktop users will need a little more strategy.
Over the past month I have noted some new products that will help both the IT server crew and the average end-user adjust over a period. Here are two of them:
First, the server product:
LSP from DAS: GUI Server Administration and Conversion
LSP comes from a Taiwan company named DAS (http://www.das.com.tw/). The product is quite new. I first saw it at the LinuxWorld Expo in Taipei in early August, and was very pleased to find that it had traveled to San Francisco to exhibit at the LinuxWorld Expo there at the end of the month.
LSP provides a simple and powerful conversion facility to move computer systems from Windows NT over to Linux. It is currently aimed at Red Hat and Turbolinux systems (Turbolinux is especially strong in Asia). The technology is currently undergoing patenting in Taiwan and the U.S.
The difficulty for Windows persons who need to administer a Linux system is that they are generally used to GUI-based management tools to do the job. LSP provides those tools, and a migration facility as well. LSP Basic offers a GUI for administration similar to that of NT; for US $90 it does not automatically convert the NT system over to Linux, a time-consuming job that administrators need to do by hand.
LSP Pro, however, includes both the Basic administration tool and the conversion facility, for US $500. When you consider the cost of involving IT personnel in moving the system across, file by file, with the possibility of errors, the Pro product looks as if it should at least pay for itself. LSP Pro will move shared files--along with their sharing permissions--over to Linux; its GUI-based admin tool can be used to control the files and permissions after the conversion as well. It also handles moving over usernames and groupnames, along with their relationships, and will set up the necessary servers on Linux: mail, Web, and FTP, all configured like the NT ones you are currently running. The GUI-based admin tool can then be used to administer security on all these servers.
HancomLinux Office: More Choice for the Linux Desktop
Hansoft, the largest software company in Korea, has decided to enter the Linux office suite market under the name HancomLinux (http://www.hancom.com/en). They provide the suite in Korean, traditional and simplified Chinese, and English versions, but assure me that European users will be able to use it in their own languages (much as American users manage to write European languages on their own versions of Word.
In the United States, distribution is handled by theKompany.com (www.thekompany.com), who have been building desktop software on their own. To form a more-than-complete office suite, they decided to add some of their applications to the HancomOffice package (an embedded version is also available).
The real benefit of the HancomOffice package is that it runs not only on Linux, but also on Windows and the Macintosh. Like StarOffice, it represents a way to move users slowly over to Linux systems. Users can continue to use the Windows they are familiar with while learning the Hancom package (which looks a lot like Microsoft Office anyway). At some point they can be switched to a GUI-based Linux system, where their now-familiar HancomOffice awaits them. By working on Macintosh as well, Hancom provides a bridge to move the desktops in an entire company over to Linux.
Anyone can afford to experiment with this package. Its official list price is US $99 (far below Microsoft Office), and its current retail price is now US $45. The 1.5 version is available, and persons who buy it now will also receive the new 2.0 version of the suite when it appears (November?).
I have not yet installed HancomOffice to give it a real test (and the testing articles we can expect to appear in the computer periodicals will doubtless do a better job of it than I will), but I did try out the different applications in San Francisco. I found it to closely resemble Windows, and to have the functions I looked for.
Office suite users expect replacements for Word, Excel, a SQL database, and a presentation program. HancomOffice provides these, and more.
The word-processing program has features that you would expect, such as templates, tables, and drawing tools. There is simple charting as well, and a function for including mathematical formulae. Its file format exchange function claims to handle the needed Microsoft formats, an essential to moving users and their data over to the system.
Like HancomWord, the spreadsheet program resembles Excel in appearance and functionality. Its eztable claims it performs similar functions to Excel Pivot Tables, and it makes available over 180 statistical analysis methods.
Like PowerPoint, HancomPresenter is capable of multimedia slide presentations, and it can publish to the Web by saving the work as HTML files. It offers multiple transition effects and alpha blending in graphics.
This graphics program will be of less interest to Linux users (who can get The GIMP for free), but Windows users should be glad of the addition of a graphics program with many features. It has multiple layers (unlike, say, the free Microsoft Photo Editor). The user can make single change to multiple files at once, work with multiple frames, special effects, and can save items as Web images in order to control the color values.
The lightweight database supplied with the suite uses dBase format and has SQL support. It includes design tools for forms and reports (nested forms are possible). The Open Source origins of the product are shown by its inclusion of a Python script editor. Other pieces of the suite make use of Python as well.
This product is based on Kivio, the Visio-like product from thekompany.com. You can use it for flowcharts and maps, and for mindmapping. It has stencils (icons) which can be scripted in Python to do things such as crawl your Web site and generate a map of it; Python can also be used to modify and control HancomEnvision itself.
can be used to build PHP-oriented Web sites; the product includes a syntax editor, code compiler, keyboard mapping, and multiple DTD's.
HancomQuicksilver (think Mercury the messenger) is a full-featured e-mail application that handles attachments and HTML, etc. It also produces sticky notes that can be moved among the different applications and also work with KDE applications. This works because HancomOffice is built on the Qt toolkit, as are the KDE applications. The Qt toolkit is also what makes the suite work on Windows as well as on Linux. The program also has an address book with organizing features and an organizer and calendar. Optional plug-ins are available, including one that will synch your Palm Pilot with the HancomQuicksilver data, and another for Jabber instant messaging clients.
Intelligent, Extensible Objects
These are objects inside the applications that have had their behavior modified by Python scripting. In version 2.0, programmers will be able to add intelligence and pre-defined logic to these objects. The example given is that a network chart could have intelligent objects as the icons representing the servers on the system. Their Python scripts would cause each icon (or stencil, as HancomEnvision calls them) to probe and report on the servers and update the labels for the icons on the network chart.
The true power behind IEO is the extensibility. HancomOffice users will be able to add scripts to office suite objects to perform custom-built actions. The objects will be limited only by the scripting language and the skills of the programmer.
The ability to extend the functionality of the suite through Python scripting, and to give graphical representation to the results of that scripting are a definite selling point for Hancom Office. Office suite users have just had more power placed on their desks.
By the way, you might want to go to the very recently published "Linux as a Replacement for Windows 2000" (http://www.robval.com/linux/desktop/index.asp) for a comparison of features and costs.
Copyright © 2001 by Donald K. Rosenberg, Stromian Technologies (http://www.stromian.com)
Return to Rosenberg's Corner -- Topics
Don Rosenberg will be speaking on Open Source and Linux from a business point of view at the following events in Europe this fall:
Orbit/COMDEX Basel (26 Sep)
Wizards of OS2 Berlin (11-13 October)
LinuxWorld Expo Frankfurt/M (1 November)
Consequently, the next column will not appear until December.