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Sun's source code for office software hiccups onto Web

The effort to spur adoption of the office applications package goes briefly awry when demand for the software sinks Sun's OpenOffice Web site.

Sun Microsystems released the source code for its StarOffice software suite Friday--almost.

The effort to spur adoption of the office applications package and secure the good will of the sometimes prickly open-source programming community went awry when demand for the software sunk the Web site.

"Please excuse our technical difficulties. At about 5:45 a.m. PST, our Web server was brought down by a veritable tsunami of hits," a note posted to the OpenOffice Web site said. The site was gradually restored as the morning progressed.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company released the source code under Gnu's General Public License, the bedrock of many open-source projects, including Linux. The office application suite--which includes a word processor, spreadsheet and other desktop applications--competes with Microsoft Office.

Sun initially announced plans to open the StarOffice source code in July.

Open-source software can be freely modified by anyone, and programming is shared among those who want to contribute. One advantage of releasing software as open source is that volunteers can translate it to new environments. For example, StarOffice could be brought to the Mac OS.

The OpenOffice effort is hosted by CollabNet, a company that hosts open-source efforts for Sun, Hewlett-Packard and others. CollabNet also offers consulting services to companies seeking open-source advice and operates the SourceXchange site, where software developers can bid for open-source programming jobs.

Sun has been criticized for going only part way toward "pure" open source with its Java software and other projects, but the company gradually moved to complete open source with StarOffice. Sun will be only one of several players that have control over the future software and details such as file formats.

The desktop version of StarOffice, popular among Linux users and available as a free download, is the result of Sun's 1999 acquisition of Star Division.

StarOffice competes primarily with Microsoft Office, the dominant office suite, which runs only on Windows and Mac OS. In the Linux world, StarOffice competes with VistaSource's ApplixWare software and Corel's WordPerfect Office.