Apr 162009

Unfortunately I have to run Microsoft Office 2007 for work purposes. No criticisms please! I have tried OpenOffice 3.x and it is just a little too disruptive to the documents in question (although part of the fault may be sub-optimal document templates). Personally I would much rather use LyX which is little feature light, but absolutely brilliant for pure writing.

Anyway, when I first tried running Microsoft Office with WINE, I couldn’t get past the installer and I had to come up with the following recipe for getting it installed.

First of all, remove all traces of wine from your system (I’ll be assuming Ubuntu 8.10 which is what I’m running) :-

sudo apt-get --purge remove wine wine-dev
rm -rf ~/.wine

Note that I am removing the old ~/.wine directory which you may choose to keep if you wish (you may have installed something else after all!). However this document assumes that you are only installing Office and may not work if other software is also installed.

The next step is to download the right version of wine from WineHQ. Unfortunately the latest version of wine isn’t compatible with the installer. The version I tried (after reading numerous problem reports) was 1.1.16. The archive page can be found here.

After downloading, install manually with :-

sudo dpkg -i wine_1.1.16\~winehq0\~ubuntu\~8.10-0ubuntu1_amd64.deb

After this has been installed, you can mount the Office 2007 CD and start the installer. Incidentally it is well worth creating an image file from the real CD if you are going to be spending any time tinkering with this – which is why I’m using a CD image!

sudo mount -oloop,unhide /cdimages/office2007.iso /mnt
wine /mnt/setup.exe

The installation process should be fairly straight forward although you will need to ignore a few warnings about being unable to obtain some updates.

Once this has finished you can run Word with :-

wine ~/.wine/drive_c//Program\ Files/Microsoft\ Office/Office12/WINWORD.EXE


No guarantees that everything works properly of course, but it is a start.

At this point it may well be worth taking a backup copy of the wine directory with the installation of Office 2007. This can be done quite easily with :-

tar cvf ~/wine-drive-c-with-office.tar .wine
bzip2 ~/wine-drive-c-with-office.tar

If you no longer need to run the installer, it may well be worth removing wine again to install a later version of Wine. This can be done by repeating the first step (but not removing the .wine directory) and downloading a different version of wine from the archive page as given.

Jan 072007

I recently replaced an elderly SGI Octane2 workstation which had 2 CPUs (400MHz MIPS-based), 1.5Gbytes of memory, and 3 elderly SCSI disks with a nice new Sun Ultra40 … 2 AMD Opteron 248s, 2Gbytes memory, and 2 mirrored SATA drives. It is interesting to compare the difference between an old-fashioned workstation originally designed in the middle to late 1990s with a 21st century PC. Not that I’m going to produce hard numbers from useful benchmarks … that is just too much work, and in some ways it is the feel of the differences that are important.

Of course this is not really a fair comparison. Whilst the SGI Octane is now very elderly and due to SGI managerial incompetence has not kept pace with PC performance as it should have done, it is after all a machine that originally cost 10-20 times the cost of the PC I am comparing it to. In car terms, I’m comparing a 20-year old Mercedes with a new and cheap Ford. I should point out that much of the software I am using is very much the same on both machines … the Enlightenment window manager, Sylpheed Claws as the mail client, Firefox as the browser, LyX as the word processor, and a text terminal for much of the remainder.

The PC is considerably quicker than the SGI of course. The graphic user interface is a good deal snappier, and most of the applications offer very welcome improvements in performance. With the exception of GIMP however, none of this performance increase is really essential; my old SGI ran pretty much everything my PC does, fast enough to get the job done. GIMP performance is the reason I upgraded, and here the difference is quite dramatic … filters that previous required patience now run almost instantly; when you are repeatedly trying things out in GIMP on quite large images this performance increase makes some things feasible that simply were not before.

There is one area where the SGI does offer some advantage over the PC; something I was expecting. The PCs disks are overall somewhat faster the the disks in the SGI (and of course I don’t have to pay to mirror my disks!), but the SGI tends to work more smoothly under high load. I’ve noticed before with the ‘low end’ on disks in PCs, that if you start to drive your disks very hard, the computer will sometimes stutter. Essentially the SGI was slower, but smoother under high disk load than the PC.

If was not for the need to run GIMP extensively (and the appeal of more standard add-on hardware like USB hard disks), there is no reason why I could not continue with the SGI. The tendency we have in the computing arena of replacing computers every few years is not a healthy one.

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