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Star-Calc VS Excel (Star Calc loads like a dog!)

I spent some time last week looking a Star Calc. There is a client that I am being sub-contracted to help with up grading some software. We are considering using Star-Calc in place or Excel for this client. Right now, the client does not use either spreadsheet. Hence, it seems possible that Star-Calc might work well for these people, since they are not yet “hooked” on any particular desktop/pc based spread sheet.

Heck, might as well use a free one in place of product with a price, since it don’t really matter? (or does it???).

The company right now uses “dumb” green screen character based terminals. We are of course gong to keep the application, but the old terminals are going to be dumped in place of nice new pc clients (those nice little dell desktop guys). This should be a fun project!

In addition, the database server is also going to be upgraded. Currently the database server is a old 486 box running a native version of Pick. That box is running version R83 of pick right now (that is more than 15 years old if you are wondering!). It performs very well with even 6 users on the system. However, the version of Pick they are running is very old. Hence, we are going to upgrade the server to a nice new FAST box running Linux (7.2 I believe). The database system and server code will remain as is. Thus, we will run new D3 database system on the Linux box. (at least we are using some open source here!).

While all the old code and data will work fine with the new D3 database engine (http://www.rainingdata.com), the integrated spreadsheet that was being used is no longer available. (it required R83 to run).

Hence, my job will be to integrate and replace the spreadsheet stuff that ran on the server to now run on the pc’s. These spread sheets were tightly integrated with the application, and of course the old spread sheet could read, and manipulate data directly in the database with NO data transfer. (the spreadsheet being used is Compu-Sheet if you are wondering).

Thus, I am going down the road of considering Star-Calc in place of Excel. The company likes this idea also...since it is cheap.

Ok, off to open office.org to download a copy of Star-Calc.

What did find out about Star-Calc, and what did I like:

    * It supports both com, and cobra (that is impressive).
    * It has a nice scripting language, very much like VB
    * The initial look and feel of the product looks much like Excel out of the box. (this would be a lawsuit 10 years ago!).

What I did not like:

    * Scripting is nice, but NOT VB. Gosh...lean another language? Who will pay for my time to learn this! Just how many languages do I have to learn to accomplish a simple task?
    * Books, Cd’s, Video Professor etc. cannot be used for training of users. This includes people who have a spouse, or friends that already uses Excel. They can go home, and learn from their other half. By choosing Star-Calc, we loose all these types of these training benefits. Not to mention that new staff would most likely use Excel anyway

(of course walking around here..it don’t look like staff have ever changed here...wow!).

    * Software load time. This is a big surprise. I have integrated software from these types of systems in the past, and a big portion of this relies on the client pc “shelling out” to the word processor, or in this case the spreadsheet. This means that the application will be constantly loaded, and un-loaded.

Time to load Star Calc from disk:  38 seconds
After cached in memory, 2nd attempt: 4 seconds

Wow...is this thing slow to load or what. Why have I not heard this complaint from anyone? This is utterly disappointing.

Here is the times for Excel, and on the EXACT same pc:

Time to load Excel from disk: 4 seconds
After cached  in memory, 2nd attempt:    less than 1 second (it is instant, like a camera flash!).

I need a application that loads fast. Especially one that will be launched from a terminal emulator (in other words, the users will be launching Star-Calc from a shell command that gets executed by the terminal eumlation software).

That old 486 with a bunch of users (sharing the same 486 processor) could/would load the spreadsheet in about 1 second. They fork out a bunch of money to me to help them, and the load times will INCREASE to the above numbers? They will run me out of town if I do this.

This load time is nuts. I suppose if you are a bunch of kids in a school, then who cares about this long delay. I am trying to deliver quality software to my client. They have a business to run.

At this point, due to the issues of training, and compatibility (and the fact  that I know VB, which is used by Excel), then am going to do one of two things:

    Warn them about the slow load times, and issues of training with Star-Calc. Warn them that for me to integrate Star-Calc is going to require me to spend a few extra days on the project. (Which they will have to pay for). After we do this...it still will load slowly.

    Or simply not take any chances here, and tell them they must use Excel.


What you folks do? Any of you telling your clients to try open office? And how do you deal with these load times? What kind of feed back are you getting? (or is open office just being forced on people by the manager who does not use this stuff, and the staff just have to go along?).

I am open to suggestions here.

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
Kallal@msn.com

Albert D. Kallal
Tuesday, September 03, 2002

This does not sound like a firm that wants to be the guinypig just in order to (maybe) save a few bucks. In fact from what it sounds like (not a 1000+ seat affair) it does not seem very likely they would save anything.
Do these poor people a favor and go with Excel.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, September 03, 2002

I'm just going through the process of not using Office and using OpenOffice instead.  I haven't looked at the spreadsheet much at all as yet but one thing occurs to me.

Why would the application need to be loaded and unloaded?  Once its loaded leave it alone, of course if you do that with Excel it tends to chomp memory with leaks, whether the OpenOffice spreadsheet does is moot.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Do they need to send their work to other businesses, or receive things from partners that include things like vb macros? That is generally the hook. Unless this is seamless they end up having to learn both and have both. You could also just let a few key people use both for a week, and let them decide. Theres nothing like real world use to test these things...

When the west was settled the first wave of people spent their lives clearing stumps getting land ready to farm. Most of them ended up bankrupt with sore backs. The second wave came and bought good cheap clean farmland from them, and did very well.

You don't want to be the one clearing stumps, imo.

Robin Debreuil
Tuesday, September 03, 2002

"This includes people who have a spouse, or friends that already uses Excel. They can go home, and learn from their other half."

If this is true Albert, you have better users than I. 

One note, I believe putting pc's at every users feet is a huge mistake.  Find a way to keep dumb terminals.  Pc's + user = huge support headache.  Use Citrix if you have, to with Wyse terminals but keep pc's away from users.

ryan ware
Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Thanks guys...good comments.

A few points:
    It was mentioned the number of seats. Yes, we are only talking about 6 users here. Hence, I think I will recommend Excel, since right now that would be the only *real* application that runs on the desktop (in Addition to the terminal emulation software called Via-Duct http://www.via.com).

Load Time:  it may not be so bad if we keep star-calc loaded. I have not done enough testing here to see how well it works when we keep star-calc in memory.

This is probably a 6 or more year investment for them, and thus I don’t really think the small savings with star-calc is really worth the extra effort here (a few days of my time, and any additional training etc...and we save zero). However, the Linux guy on our team is is a big fan of Star-Calc.

Of course this company is the kind of client that upgrades once every 10 years or so!

As for Ryan’s suggestion of Wyse/Citrix. I do agree with this. (funny, they are using wyse50 and wyse30 terminals right now!). Yes, I agree with this, but that entails an additional server box. We are going to run a Linux Server, and windows clients. (we will also use samba...thus we only need one server right now...just how many servers are we going to need for 6-8  users?.....two servers for that many users??? Nuts!)

Moving people from a system that requires support once every 3 or 4 years to one that requires weekly, or monthly support is a no win situation. Those old pick boxes run for several years at a time, and maintenance is once every two years (of course that maintenance every two years is a re-boot.  (folks, I am NOT kidding here!. ...again...I am not kidding!)).

This means a company that is used to zero support will now need a bunch of hand holding. If we have the best, and most trouble free and reliable install in Canada, we will still be a huge failure in the company’s eyes. This is due to their existing ultra-cheap and ultra high reliable system that they have now. (it is maintenance free, and the last time some one was there to help with some system stuff was at least 5 or more years ago...probably to remove some dust).

Hence, I do agree with the suggestion to use Terminal Server. This would at least remove the client configuration problems.

I went through this last year with another company (also a Pick migration/upgrade job). They used to run Pick and green screens. They now run Linix, and samba, and pc’s for clients. While the pc’s and setup there is VERY clean, and probably the most reliable setup in town, in the eyes of the company, the system is crap. This is due to constant problems cropping up with the window clients. Not to mention printer problems.  With about 10-12 users, 1 problem in a month means in 12 months they have 12 times as many problems that they had before (they actually have VERY few problems there right now). Hence, they have a excellent system, with little support, but it simply is much worse then what they used to have. They don’t like having to bring in support people all the time, and it is not a issue of money (they are a Medical center with lots of money).

Hence, I am going to suggest that perhaps we run the software on a NT/win2k box, and consider Windows Terminal server. I guess the question here is if the win2k box is going to be as reliable as the Linux box for the server (this approach would get us Terminal Server, but I don’t know how well Terminal Server and the Pick database will run on windows NT at the same time – we can’t find this out on clients time!).  The other problem is that the other sub-contractors involved have not run win2k with pick right now. Hence, we don’t have the expertise to run Pick/d3 on a NT/w2k box. Since we have not setup and maintained a win2k box this way, then again we would be brining in a 4th party (3 sub contractors are now involved on the software side (Linux guy, pick guy, and me...pick+windows software guy...now we need a 4th win2k guy!??).

I have worked with these contractors before, and we know exactly what we are up against from a support point of view. We probably can’t burn a new bridge here by introducing win2k for a server. However, I am going to suggest that we consider this for the future.

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
Kallal@msn.com

Albert D. Kallal
Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Doesn't office preload excel and word from the startup group? I distinctly remember removing these from my starup folder and experiencing slower load times. That was OK at the time because most of my time was spent developing, not using word, and the extra memory and faster time to reboot the PC was more worthwhile.

Gerald
Tuesday, September 03, 2002

can you use dumb terminals with w2k terminal services ?

cj
Tuesday, September 03, 2002

can you use new dumb terminals and a xserver on the backend

cj
Tuesday, September 03, 2002

"I went through this last year with another company (also a Pick migration/upgrade job). They used to run Pick and green screens. They now run Linix, and samba, and pc’s for clients. While the pc’s and setup there is VERY clean, and probably the most reliable setup in town, in the eyes of the company, the system is crap. This is due to constant problems cropping up with the window clients. Not to mention printer problems"

This is one thing I mean by don't give users pc's.  It isn't just from users shooting themselves in the foot and requiring help.  My company has done the same thing.  They went from an HP3000 system to a Windows network.  Support goes up, and the users perceive the system as slower and less functional.  Before they could not do a million and one things with their computer, but the 50 things they did need were rock solid and required no thought.  Print printed, they didn't have to find a network printer or find their pc has lost its brains and no longer sees the network.

As I suggested before Citrix is good.  We run it atop NT Terminal Servers that run our ERP software.  Reliability wise, if you can get your apps on Linux or Unix, run Citrix on that and you will be much better off.  I wish our ERP software ran on Unix.

I think another reason that keeps some of these companies from being happy with there new systems is frame of mind.  My company is a company with a mainframe mentality that chose Windows.  The problem is they thought Windows would just work for 10 - 15 years like the mainframe, now the old P100's with 95 and Office are puking and they don't understand that they need to rebuy Windows hardware and software every 5 to 7 years.  When you compare the cost of Windows to any technology project out as long as the company thinks they will use a particular system.  My guess is that Windows will not win on price.

If you can stay with a server/thin client and by thin client I mean NO pc at the users feet, do it. 

ryan ware
Tuesday, September 03, 2002

i just called a wyse terminal reseller and they dont have a thin client that runs xwindows terminal.

uness there is vt100 or whatever that supports full color and xserver stuff. i dont know what to ask him.

cj
Tuesday, September 03, 2002

CJ, am I missing something here, or wouldn't Sun have what your looking for.

ryan ware
Tuesday, September 03, 2002

just wondering if there is a pure linux solution here. that way intel can be kept far away.

like he said the old stuff ran for ten years. is there a terminal that can xwindows into a linux xserver ?

if so that may be a solution, xwindow in and run kde and any office suite that will run on it.


no pc to cuase harm.

cj
Tuesday, September 03, 2002

is ther such a thing as a sun terminal  ? Without buying a sun blade ?

cj
Tuesday, September 03, 2002

i saw a sun thin terminal

http://store.sun.com/catalog/doc/BrowsePage.jhtml?catid=40767

I guesse this may work. Xwindow in and run kde and whatever office pcakage you want.

cj
Tuesday, September 03, 2002

>>i just called a wyse terminal reseller and they dont have a thin client that runs xwindows terminal.

Well, no, Wyse does not make a X-windows thin client terminal. However, they do make Windows Thin Client Terminals. (big diffeance!...check my link down below).

Wyse to day is by far the worlds #1 seller of windows clients. We are talking Microsoft windows here, not X-windows (x-windows is a Unix thing). There are companies that use X-windows, but the real market today is thin client terminals for Windows. Hence, we are talking about Citrix Metaframe (or simply Windows Terminal server...they are the SAME thing..microsfot bought the technology from Citrix...there is no difference.). Of course what is interesting is that the thin client stuff is now built into windows XP, and is built into every desktop now (remote desktop support). That means I can use one of those dumb Wyse Thin client terminals to connect to any windowsXP desktop!

Anyway, In this regards, virtually 50% of the world market is owned by Wyse. They are the major player when it comes to windows terminals. In fact, this is all Wyse really does today (sans the old Wyse terminal stuff)

Hence, this is not to be confused with x-windows. That sales person from Wyse should be shot, but then again, if you asked for x-windows....they don’t have it!!

There was a few people to mentioned to use Citrx with Unix. This is confusing to me. With Unix...you just run x-windows, and you are thin client. That is the way Unix/Linix works right out of the box. However, we are talking about running Windows applications here. (and yes..the idea of using x-windows for Linux based clients did cross my mind (ie: don’t run any windows software at all...just the Unix version of Star-office.)).

I am aware that Citrix clients can run on Linux/Unix/Mac/whatever, but I am not aware that Citrix actually runs on Linux, and with x-windows built into Unix/Linix...I see no reason why???

I just don’t think we should run two servers here, but then again we are going to wind up with 1 server, and 6-10 windows clients. That is much worse then using Wyse Windows thin clients. 6-10 windows clients is really like running 6-10 servers. In fact, it is worse, since the server does not have users on it...where the 6-10 pc’s will, and users do mess them up!

I am still going to suggest that we consider thin client..and use Wyse Thin Terminals for our Microsoft stuff.

However, PC’s are so cheap right now...the cost of Terminal Server + Wyse Thin clients is more than the cost of cheap pc’s on the desktop (sans the long term support issue). (but not much...).

Thin clients from Wyse start at 299 $US. Check out:

http://www.wyse.com/products/winterm/1200le/1200le.htm

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
Kallal@msn.com

Albert D. Kallal
Tuesday, September 03, 2002

I'm curious, what is the client's reason for upgrading at all?  The only reason that I noticed from your post was that the version of Pick they are running is very old.  Hardly seems like a good reason to upgrade.

Anthony Rubin
Tuesday, September 03, 2002

"However, PC’s are so cheap right now...the cost of Terminal Server + Wyse Thin clients is more than the cost of cheap pc’s on the desktop (sans the long term support issue). (but not much...)."

Factor in the time spent updating and patching the clients and the fact that the winterminals don't get viruses.  If you only have to patch one or two machines versus 10 life is simpler.  Plus if you install Citrix the admin can shadow any user (just like pc anywhere) and see the user and help them remotely, easily.

The Citrix on the Unix??? - yes I need to lay of the crack pipe, the whole x-windows thing slipped right by me.

ryan ware
Tuesday, September 03, 2002

"the cost of Terminal Server "

Isn't this already standard included in Windows Server from 2000 onward? You might need CAL's though.

"Factor in the time spent updating and patching the clients and the fact that the winterminals don't get viruses. "

I might be getting the completely wrong idea here, but aren't we talking about a system that only runs vt100 + Excel opening only files generated through the D3 server, all running on a closed dedicated network?
Once set-up, why ever patch or upgrade? Where would viruses come from (side question: why would a system based on Terminal server be virus proof in a general setting)? Seems to me you set up this LAN, then seal it and that's it. You don't touch it for the next 15 years.
We are talking dedicated system here, right, not general computing platform (which they might want, but that is a completely different issue).

Just me (Sir to you)
Wednesday, September 04, 2002

BTW, as far as the hardware goes:
If their DB server was a 486, and you are moving towards a P4, then don't bother with a separate server for the DB. just trow it in with wathever else your are running on the "second" server.

Just me (Sir to you)
Wednesday, September 04, 2002

"I might be getting the completely wrong idea here, but aren't we talking about a system that only runs vt100 + Excel opening only files generated through the D3 server, all running on a closed dedicated network"

If that is the case, there are very few virus issues.  Will they ever want or require email to do their jobs?  If so there would be a huge exposure to virii.

"(side question: why would a system based on Terminal server be virus proof in a general setting)?"

It wouldn't at all, but you would only have one or two computers to keep updated and users wouldn't have physical access with floppies from home (assuming they don't let users log onto the console.) 

ryan ware
Wednesday, September 04, 2002

"I just don’t think we should run two servers here, but then again we are going to wind up with 1 server, and 6-10 windows clients. That is much worse then using Wyse Windows thin clients. 6-10 windows clients is really like running 6-10 servers. In fact, it is worse, since the server does not have users on it...where the 6-10 pc’s will, and users do mess them up!"

My point was since you have linux on the back , 1 server ,
run 6 thin clients and xserver/client in. Six terminals and one server. Not two servers.



"IBM N2800 - This thin client system boots from a server and installs RedHat Linux 7.1 locally. Users on these systems run Linux on their desktop as if they had installed it locally themselves. The applications available are those that are normally available on Linux CUE level 1 install systems. The Computer Center recommends that these systems be purchased with an additional 256MB of RAM. This system is available from IBM Direct under a special quote for $650, excluding monitor"

"http://www.neoware.com/docs/specs/4000.pdf"

cj
Wednesday, September 04, 2002

This feels like a dumm remark, but have you installed QuickStart in the Startup group? On my AMD Duron 1200 MHz, medium speed hard disk, OpenOffice Calc starts in 15 seconds (OpenOffice 1.0 is the open source base of StarOffice 6).  When I close it and start it again, so that it is still in the disk cache, it launches in 4 seconds. When I have QuickStart loaded ("C:\Program Files\OpenOffice.org1.0\program\quickstart.exe"), Calc starts instantly, within a second. I think this behaviour is comparable to MS Office.

For the future, Gobe Productive will be released as open source in a few months. This office suite is innovative, especially regarding integration of the different applications, and much more light-weight than StarOffice.

Kaj de Vos
Wednesday, September 04, 2002

2 questions.

As one reader pointed out, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"!! IF everything is running fine, and there is no need to change... then why do it?

But let's suppose you _do_ have to change / upgrade...
I think you're missing the "neat" answer. Your users _are_ used to thin clients, no setup, no maintenance. So for goodness sake, whatever you do, _don't_ give them more work to do. Keep the terminals.

So you need a server. For DB. Fine. So you're going to pick up a linux box. Fine. Good choice :). So the app currently runs on the server, and from what you say, it's going to remain there (do you have to rewrite, or not even that?)... what do you need an spreadsheet for??

I could understand it, if you _had_ to have client logic and data processing. But from your post, I seem to infer that you only want the PC for display...

This looks to me as a possible example of "when you only have a hammer all problems look like nails"... I think the idea of a PC on each table came to your mind (it's a normal assumption nowadays) and you're trying to make it fit.

If you "insert" a spreadsheet, you'll have to rewrite the app to display / communicate with it, instead of displaying itself "green on black". So that means tweaking the app, and the spreadsheet, of course... not a good idea if reliability is so paramount.

What I'd do, is to get thin clients and run them off the server. Use X-Windows remote display ability. If you need a spreasheet or other fancy data / graphical doodad, run them on the server and have them show on the terminal. You might need a (slighly) bigger server, but from what you say, you're vastly overpowered now :)

A few links you might find interesting, of different case studies where the thin client model was adopted / rejected / considered. They're very detailed (costs, parts) and very well written, to the point of being quite engaging:

Paul Murphy:

A strategic comparison of Windows vs. Unix
The real question is not 'which is cheaper' but 'which is smarter?'
Oct 18, 2001
http://www.linuxworld.com/site-stories/2001/1018.tco.html

Readers react to 'A strategic comparison of Windows vs. Unix'
http://www.linuxworld.com/site-stories/2001/1026.tcofeedback.html

Virtual case study: Cutting IT costs with Unix - Nov 16, 2001
http://www.linuxworld.com/site-stories/2001/1116.tco.case1.html

Virtual case study: Saving a small software developer with Linux - Dec 4, 2001
http://www.linuxworld.com/site-stories/2001/1204.tco2.html

Virtual case study: How an airline can find efficiency with Unix - Jan 4, 2002
http://www.linuxworld.com/site-stories/2001/0102.tco3a.html

Virtual case study: How an airline can find efficiency with Unix (Part 2) - Jan 4, 2002
http://www.linuxworld.com/site-stories/2001/0102.tco3b.html

Virtual case study: When Unix is a four-letter word - Jan 21, 2002
http://www.linuxworld.com/site-stories/2002/0121.tco4.html
(Not all of them are going to be "success" stories!)

Virtual case study: Betting on Linux at Andersen Printing - Feb 1, 2002
http://www.linuxworld.com/site-stories/2002/0201.tco5.html

Virtual case study: Systems decisions at Cutter Mills - Feb 19, 2002
http://www.linuxworld.com/site-stories/2002/0219.tco6.html

Total cost of ownership series revisited - Apr 03, 2002
http://www.linuxworld.com/site-stories/2002/0403.tco.html

And a little "pure linux" piece:

Joe Barr:
Why your organization needs Linux
Technology and costs matter, but the real reason for Linux is freedom.
Oct 26, 2001
http://www.linuxworld.com/site-stories/2001/1026.whylinux.html


I hope you find the links interesting (I sure did; that's why I have them all referenced together :) At least, they'll quite likely keep you entertained

My ##

  Javier

Javier Jarava
Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Gee, some terrific comments and stuff here...Thank you to all.

A few notes:

    Why upgrade:?

Well, the old version does not support the newer Pentium processor. The old version does not support any of the newer tape backup units (a old qic 60 meg streaming tape....we can’t find replacement backup units anymore...I would have to bet we can’t even find blank tapes anymore). In addition, all kinds of hard ware such as the mult-port rs232 serial cards, and even the disk drives cannot be found to day that work in the old box. I suppose we could rummage around and try and stock pile some parts. (that would give them them another 5 years). Hence, if parts, and tape backup units etc where available, then perhaps we would just upgrade the sever box and be done with this. Of course, I want all the posters in this group to raise their hand as to who is using a 486 to run their business on?  Why did anyone here bother to upgrade from dos 5.0? (this system goes back to least the early days of dos).

Thus, it is time for them to upgrade. Hardware parts are hard to come by. (heck, install media is 5/25 floppies...and one of the disks has a laser hole burned into it...we cannot copy it!...that copy protection was un-broken even in the old days). The old pick version is long out of support, thus things like serial boards, and drivers for new tape backup units are not available. In addition, R83 is a very closed and propriety system. We need to move to a open system. (windows is much more open then is r83)

Hence, moving to Linux means that drivers, tape backups etc. becomes the problem of Linux, and not pick. This alone is enough reason to upgrade to a Linux box. We can use a network in place of dumb rs232 terminals. Truth be known, it would probably not hurt to start implementing some things like fax sever etc (we are testing the excellent open source Hyala Fax server at another site on a pick/linix box, and it works well with windows clients).

Hence, we can upgrade to a new version of the database engine, and all our code and data will run fine on the new D3 database engine that runs on Linix.

*** EXECPT FOR THE SPREADSHEET

Hence the comments:

>>>If you "insert" a spreadsheet, you'll have to rewrite the app to display / communicate with it, instead of displaying itself "green on black". So that means tweaking the app, and the spreadsheet, of course... not a good idea if reliability is so paramount.

Reliability is paramount, and as for tweaking the spreadsheet. The problem here is that is one thing the new system does not have is a spreadsheet! This spreadsheet must integrate with the database.

Ok, so that part of the system that uses the spreadsheet(s) must be re-written. (but only that part..the rest does NOT have to be touched), the new data engine is 100% code compatible...(except the spreadsheet).

Since pc’s are cheaper than a terminal today, we might as well use windows clients.  However, a good many have pointed out that thin client might be the way to go also. By the way, the D3 (pick) database engine and software can run either on Linux, or run on a NT/win2k box.

Thus, the real thing is that we need some spreadsheet. Using windows clients will give us a spreadsheet. It will also give a few other things like word processing, and the fact that they can use new things like laser printers will also be nice here. So, with windows we get more than just a spreadsheet (and the headache problems too!)

Thus, the users do not really need a windows environment, but only a spreadsheet, and one that can be integrated into the database.

This means that the pc’s will be acting as dumb terminals, but the terminal emulation program does have the ability to send commands to the pc (thus, we can send a small file, and launch Excel to work on this file). It is also possible that the Pick side will create files for the spreadsheet (and write data out to a share via Samba). We also can use ODBC with the spreadsheets to connect to the database. (we have quite a few possibilities here, and the final solution for this does not exist right now).

The solution they use will be what ever I come up with. In other words I am the solution!

As mentioned, last year, we did the exactly same thing with another client, and in their case the Pick Word Processor is not available any more, so we used ms-word (and that system was a medical system with the word processor tightly integrated.)

I don’t want to make this post too long (I am over my stay here already!), but we dumped ODBC in favor of a small CSV file transfer to work with ms-word.

So, right now, I am either going to use ODBC, a small CSV, or even launch Excel to work on a samba share.  The approach used will depend on how the existing spreadsheets work (they are really cool, since pick spreadsheets can work on the data *direclity* and not have to “transfer” to a spreadsheet....Iguess I should *was* cool..)

The final solution here might prove to be larger challenge then I expect.

Gee, perhaps I should use a open source Linux spread sheet?. There is some advantage to coming up with a windows based solution, since other clients can benefit from whatever work and solution we come with. (that means both NT users, and Linux uses of Pick can benefit from whatever “scheme” I come up with).

In fact, I am leaning to towards the same type of soltuon I used with ms-word last year...since that is what worked!


Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
Kallal@msn.com

Albert D. Kallal
Thursday, September 05, 2002

Well, if you are considering using Linux clients, gnumeric loads a lot quicker than OpenOffice. I don't know whether it supports all the features you need, though.

Daryl Oidy
Thursday, September 05, 2002

Depending on how much load the spreadsheet is going to take, you might want to consider running the spreadsheet itself _on the linux box_,  with the display running on the user's terminals. This would require an X server to run on the windows clients, which can range from expensive (HummingBird) to not much (MetroX, if I remember their prices) to free-as-in-beer (XFree on CygWin works fine).

It will ease your maintenace (need only upgrade one install), will ensure files are saved on the server rather than locally, and generally give you a single point of control much stronger than before.

It will cost you in a single point of failure, though (although it seems like you already have one), and -- depending on spreadsheet complexity -- performance.

Ori Berger
Friday, September 06, 2002

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