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A special prop to our friend in Canada Jon Watson for his decade long support of Linux and what we do here.

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Installing 2.0 for Debian Linux with Alien - Installing 2.0 for Debian
by Jon Watson, host of The Linux User Show podcast

In this introductory article, Jon Watson provides an easy guide to installing the new Open Office source on non-rpm Linux systems. The emphasis is on the use of alien to help convert rpm packages for quick installation to the latest Debian releases.

While the recent release of 2.0 (OOo) was eagerly anticipated by the open source community, it has been received with some chagrin. The OOo group released 2.0 in rpm format only. Needless to say, this has some non-rpm GNU/Linux users up in arms. What if you're a poor user like me who needs a non-rpm install? Will I ever get to run OOo 2.0?

Yes! Take heart, for what follows is a tale of how I installed OOo 2.0 on my Kanotix Debian box.

This was a great opportunity to install v2.0. I recently upgraded to the release candidate of Kanotix GNU/Linux and since it's only in release candidate stage, it's rather 'lite'. One of the sacrifices to make it 'lite' was the absence of OOo. Really. I'm writing this in KWord as I download and install OOo 2.0. I must say that like almost all KDE apps I've run across so far, KWord is pretty nice.

But I digress...

Let's start at the beginning. The system requirement for OOo 2.0 are fairly modest:

  • Linux Kernel version 2.2.13 or higher
  • glibc2 version 2.2.4 or higher
  • Pentium compatible PC
  • 64 MB RAM
  • 300 MB (CJK version: 350 MB) available hard disk space
  • X Server with 800x600 or higher resolution, with at least 256 colors
  • Gnome 2.0 or higher required for Assistive Technology Tools
  • Window Manager
I don't have Gnome, but had no problems installing it on KDE.

The download is a whopping 104MB, but when compared to MS Office's what...700MB CD? that's pretty reasonable.

When you download OOo, you are prompted for a language, a platform, and a download site. Don't be afraid to start over and select a new download site if you get a slow one. There are only two in Canada and the first one I selected was only giving me 50K down. I selected the other one and got 300K plus. It's important to note where you are going to download this file to.

You can pick a 'tarball' for many different platforms, but the only ones we're concerned with here are the two Linux ones, x86 (Intel) and PPC (PowerPC MacIntosh). I selected the x86 one and was soon the proud owner of a OOo_2.0.0_LinuxIntel_install.tar.gz file.

A quick note. There is an intermediate step between selecting your download options and the actual file download. There's a step where you can choose to donate a few Euros to the OOo project. I donated a couple of Euros which may not seem like much, but if everyone does it maybe the OOo team and their new Google counterparts can go out for lunch.

So, what am I going to do with this tar file? Well, I'm going to open a terminal window and untar it. Since it's a tar.gz file, I know that it's been GZipped and then TARred. The command to open up such a file is:

tar -zxvf OOo_2.0.0_LinuxIntel_install.tar.gz
If you're interested in the mechanics of this command, I've written a reasonable explanation of some of the more common archive types and how to open them up on my New Linux User site.

Anyhow, untarring my file created a rather ugly directory structure under a new directory named OOO680_m3_native_packed-2_en-US.8968. Eww... ugly!

NOTE: OOo 2.0 package is now included for the latest Debian under Sid (unstable) and can also be installed using apt.

Now that the archive is unpacked, I have to install it. Rooting around in the directory structure I quickly come up with two possibly useful files. A file name README_en-US and a directory named RPMS. In true Jon fashion, I immediately discarded the README file and plunged into the RPMS directory. The RPMS directory contained a frighteningly long list of files, all with the .rpm extension. Some cursory viewing reveals that although there are a lot of files, each of their functions seems clear. They're all named using the same convention:
The -base- part changes to -calc-, -draw- and other stuff. It appears that each of these files will need to be installed for OOo to be fully installed. Yuck.

Now, if you've been paying attention, you know that this is where the fun is about to begin. How am I going to install a bunch of rpms onto my Debian-based box?

Enter alien. Look up! An alien!

OK, ok...sigh. Take all the fun out of it. There's a very useful application named alien that takes non-Debian packages and converts them into Debian packages. Alien's magic doesn't stop there. It can also create many other package types including the RedHat Package Manager, Slackware, and Debian. Here is a nice summary from what alien can do for you. Now let's get started. I went into the RPMS directory and typed:

alien -i *.rpm
About 5 minutes later OOo was installed, but where??? I couldn't find it on any of my menus and typing speculative things like OOo into the terminal window wasn't working.

Aha! There's a directory inside the RPMS directory named desktop-integration and there's a .deb file in there. I used Debian's built-in dpkg application to install it:

dpkg -i *.deb
A couple of harddrive lights blinks later, and there it was. Under my Kicker menu, then Office, was the OpenOfficeOrg 2.0 Writer, Base, Calc, Drawm, and Impress.

That was easy, eh? Now go and enjoy the power of Open Office 2.

Author Bio: Jon Watson is a Canadian GNU/Linux enthusiast. Some of the projects he's involved with include writing the New Linux User site and hosting the weekly GNU/Linux User Show podcast, which is geared towards new users. In his spare time he blogs on his personal site, Tales from the Motherboard, and hangs out in Calgary, Alberta with his fiancee and GNU/Linux User Show co-host, Kelly Penguin Girl.

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