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Java Desktop support site launched

The site features how-to articles, user forums and software downloads designed to help newbies use Sun's low-cost operating system.

A group of open-source software enthusiasts hopes to give a boost to Sun Microsystems' low-cost PC campaign with a self-support site for the Java Desktop System.

JDShelp.org opened for business Monday with a collection of how-to articles, user forums and software download links. The idea is to help novice users--particularly individuals and small businesses without Sun service contracts--get comfortable with open-source software, said co-founder Sam Hiser, who came up with the idea for JDShelp.org with software developer Tom Adelstein. The two recruited a few more open-source backers to launch the site.

"These are likely to be people who have been aware of Linux but haven't used it," said Hiser, who is also active with the OpenOffice.org organization. "They understand it in a general sense, but they aren't technically oriented people."

Sun launched JDS last year as an effort to provide a low-cost replacement for PCs running Microsoft's Windows. The JDS software package is based on the open-source Linux operating system and includes Sun's StarOffice productivity software and various Java-based components.

Sun has aimed JDS mainly at large organizations looking to replace thousands of desktops at a time, such as the United Kingdom's Allied Irish Bank.

But the package has also proved popular with smaller customers--particularly those looking to extend the life of old PCs.

Hiser said it's up to the open-source community to give those users whatever hand-holding they might need.

"We're not being critical of Sun," he said. "They've got an application that appeals to a pretty broad market, but they've got to pick the sweet spot...and be very deliberate about the markets they go after."