The Open Source: Petreley Admits Haste

SAN MATEO (04/18/2000) - Last week I mentioned that I was having some problems with the new WordPerfect Office 2000 suite for Linux. Just hours after that column went online, Gavriel State from Corel Corp. came to my rescue. (Gavriel is the engineering architect for Linux Development at Corel.) With Gavriel's tips in hand, I had WordPerfect behaving beautifully in no time. And although Corel still has some wrinkles to iron out, I'm happy as a clam.

To recap the problems I was having, WordPerfect crashed a few times for me, the Bitstream FontTastic font server didn't seem to work with XFree86 4.0, and I couldn't get WordPerfect to print on any Linux distribution except Corel's.

Gavriel sent me a patch that makes WordPerfect Office initialize correctly on Caldera OpenLinux. The patch prevents WordPerfect from crashing the first time you use it.

Although WordPerfect has been quite stable most of the time, I can't say that it hasn't crashed at all since I wrote last week's column. But at least it is predictable. For example, I can make WordPerfect crash every time I copy large amounts of text from StarOffice to WordPerfect and then exit StarOffice.

That may seem like an unusual condition, but consider this: I'd wager that if you're using Linux on the desktop, you are using StarOffice as your productivity suite. WordPerfect doesn't import StarOffice documents.

There are two ways you can move your existing documents from StarOffice to WordPerfect: You can save your StarOffice documents in a format that WordPerfect understands, or you can copy and paste the text from one application to the other.

Obviously you can avoid crashes by saving your StarOffice documents in a format WordPerfect understands. But here's another tip on how to avoid the crash. When you exit StarOffice after copying large amounts of text, it asks if you want to leave that text in the clipboard. If you select "no," then WordPerfect crashes.

If you tell it to leave the text in the clipboard, WordPerfect doesn't crash.

To my surprise, the font server and printing problems were related. Despite the fact that WordPerfect seems to run fine without the FontTastic font server, it needs the font server to print. This is the reason why WordPerfect could print on Corel but no other distribution. Corel was the only Linux distribution that was running the Bitstream FontTastic font server.

The reason is that I have upgraded all of my installations except Corel Linux to use XFree86 4.0. It seemed at first that XFree86 4.0 broke the Bitstream FontTastic font server, so I disabled it on all of my Linux installations except Corel's. It turns out I was wrong about FontTastic. It works just fine with XFree86 4.0.

Font servers communicate with XFree86 via a network port. My mistake was that I somehow got it stuck in my head that FontTastic uses port 7100 (probably because the default font server, xfs, uses 7100). So I set up XFree86 to listen for FontTastic on port 7100. But FontTastic actually uses port 7102 by default.

It even says so in the FontTastic configuration file, although I hadn't noticed that until I had it fixed.

Naturally the two could never connect because I had them talking and listening on different ports. Duh. Once I set up XFree86 4.0 to listen on port 7102, FontTastic worked fine. And then so did printing.

Corel isn't totally off the hook, though. Corel's mistake was failing to report the error condition correctly. When I couldn't print documents, WordPerfect didn't say anything about the font server. It complained that no printers were defined. So it never occurred to me that the printing problem was related to the font server.

I still owe Corel an apology for assuming its stability problems were related to its decision to adapt Wine for its suite. (Wine is the open-source project to bring most of the Win32 API to Linux.)I remain unconvinced that Wine was the right way to go, but Corel may yet make a convert out of me. In the meantime, as I said last week, I'll stop using WordPerfect Office 2000 for Linux only when you pry it out of my cold dead fingers.

Nicholas Petreley is the founding editor of LinuxWorld (www.linuxworld.com), contributing editor for InfoWorld, and works with the Linux Standard Base.

Reach him at nicholas_petreley@infoworld.com.

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