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Too fat to fly: Kevin Smith and OpenOffice

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News has surfaced of humiliation for two oversized geek icons. Director Kevin Smith has been deemed too fat to fly by SouthWest airlines, who turfed him off an Oakland to Burbank flight just as he'd buckled himself in. Meanwhile, OpenOffice has been deemed too fat for Ubuntu's NetBook distribution.

"I'm way fat... But I'm not THERE just yet," wrote the writer and star of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back*, correctly, as he shared the unnecessary humiliation with 1.6m followers on Twitter.

But while laying off the stoner munchies can bring rapid results, there's no easy remedy for the gigantic Office suite, which reached a new milestone recently.

Canonical has done a fine job of making the Linux user experience more coherent, and for the kind of dinky 3lb laptops that Apple doesn't make, Ubuntu is preferable in many ways to Windows 7 or XP for reliability and ease of use. So there are high expectations for the official NetBook-specific distro, originally called NetBook Remix but now called NetBook Edition. It promises all the benefits of Google's ChromeOS, but without the mandatory built-in Google creepware.

Ubuntu Netbook Remix

Ubuntu Netbook Remix

But in paring down the packages to the minimum, a few tough decisions have been made, with the team decreeing that OpenOffice was too fat to fly. Google Docs would instead be the way users must open and edit Office documents and view their Office mail attachments. The GIMP photo editor had already been thrown overboard, in the hope the distro would gain altitude. Many years ago, we suggested the suite should be renamed in honour of Howard Hughes' famous Spruce Goose - a plane too heavy to get very far off the ground. Was this coming true?

It was certainly an odd decision in several ways. Google Gears doesn't really work, so you're stuffed if you try and edit an attachment offline. But the typical Netbook spec has moved on since the original beachwear Eee PC (illustrated below).

Eee PC Girl

The original Eee netbook had very little local storage

Most Netbooks now have 160GB hard drives, more than ample for even OpenOffice. For those that don't, 8GB of flash retails for less than $10. Even the leanest "cloud computing client" still has room to spare. It's not a deal breaker. A storm of protest followed, and the team has relented - it's going to include AbiWord for editing, much as the Xfce-based Xubuntu does. It would be nice if footprint optimization was part of the OO mission, but since local storage is now so cheap, it doesn't matter if it isn't. Does it? ®

Bootnote

* Which is still the funniest. Read our review of the slightly faster but not-really-slimmer OpenOffice here

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