Monthly Archives: April 2011

Using the Sun PDF Import OpenOffice extension to collaborate on PDF documents

A seldom-promoted feature of OpenOffice is the ability for users to collaborate on PDFs using the Sun PDF Import extension. It’s a fantastic way to seamlessly share and edit PDF documents, which would otherwise leave you having to send the source file and PDF around (clumsy), or rely on an Adobe Acrobat license to retro-actively edit the PDF (clumsy and expensive).

Here’s how it works. When an OpenOffice document is exported as a “hybrid” PDF, a copy of the source ODF file is embedded in the PDF. When the PDF (not the ODF) is then opened in another instance of OpenOffice with the extension installed, the source file is available for editing: a user can conveniently make changes as needed, and then export the file as a hybrid PDF for further sharing, or, as a standard PDF for end-delivery.

First, grab the Sun PDF Import Extension from here:

First thing you’ll note is that it’s a free download. I imagine the reason for this is that it’s open source, which possibly prevented Oracle from restricting it to people with USD9000 burning a hole in their back pocket.

Anyway, download the extension for the platform of your choice (I use two OpenIndiana x86 machines, and the Solaris x86 installer works just fine), and install it in OpenOffice (goto Tools -> Extension Manager):

OpenOffice Extension Manager

Now, using a new or existing OpenOffice Writer document, export a file as a PDF.

Export as a PDF

In the PDF options window that appears, tick “Create hybrid file”:

Setting PDF export options...

This will export a perfectly normal-looking PDF of your source document – no surprises here:

PDF opened in a PDF reader

However, let’s try using another machine running OpenOffice with same Sun PDF Import extension installed to open up the PDF directly, and see what happens. Simply use the standard File -> Open command in OpenOffice to open the PDF – there is no “importing” or whatever involved.

Et voila: With the extension installed, we can freely edit the PDF as an ODF file, adding new content, images…anything you can do natively in OpenOffice:

Editing a PDF file in OpenOffice

Once done, you can export the file as a hybrid PDF for further collaboration, or simply a standard PDF if you like:

Updated PDF opened in a PDF reader

Great feature, and one that’s particularly useful for people and organisations smart enough to use open source productivity applications as alternatives to the paid, proprietary status quo.


Oracle dumps OpenOffice – but what of the Sun ODF plugin?

Now that the brilliant minds at Oracle have realised too late that no-one is interested in their ham-fisted attempt to make money out of a commercialised variant of OpenOffice, any word on whether they’ll revert to making the Sun ODF plugin for Microsoft Office a free download again, rather than the minimum USD9000 dollar spend their sales and marketing team decided on instead?

A simple enough question, but one (given Oracle’s proven ability to communicate clearly and in a timely fashion with their valued user communities) that I’m not expecting an answer to anytime soon…

Bordeaux for OpenIndiana part 2: Safari and VLC media player

Continuing on in my multi-part review of Bordeaux for OpenIndiana, I’m trying out a few of the supported applications to see how well they run.

I must say there are some odd inclusions to the supported applications list, amongst them VLC media player, and Apple’s Safari web browser. Practically every current desktop-ish operating system out there is guaranteed to have a media player of some sort available for it: on OpenIndiana, I use MPlayer (which runs great), and generally if you’re running desktop Linux then you’re going to have access to a whole bunch of media players capable of handling practically any codec or format imaginable – so I’m not entirely sure why VLC under Wine would be desirable, nor even something Wine development resources should be focused on. Running VLC under Bordeaux for Linux, for example, just feels a bit pointless.

Safari is a similarly baffling inclusion. The rationale is so that web designers have access to Safari to check the rendering of web pages on – but I really think any web designer remotely serious about their job (at least, serious enough to use the title “web designer”) would have access to a Mac OS X box of some sort. Furthermore, Safari itself in my opinion is just a pointless browser to support – it runs on a single platform, is controlled by a single vendor, and frankly – in this day and age of cross compatibility – is just increasingly irrelevant to me.

At any rate, the performance of both of these applications under Bordeaux on OpenIndiana leaves plenty to be desired. VLC wouldn’t install at all using the standard Bordeaux GUI: I believe Bordeaux references download locations on the actual source vendors’ sites, and if the vendor changes these at all then the installer ceases to work: unfortunately, the Bordeaux installer GUI does not give sufficient feedback that this is the case. After manually downloading and installing VLC 1.1.0 for Windows under Bordeaux, I immediately noticed graphical artifacts in the VLC GUI:

VLC user interface problems

Interestingly, actual movie quality seemed to be degraded compared to the same file being played back under a native media player. In the below grab, a native media player is on the left, with the same movie being played back under VLC on Bordeaux on the right – click to zoom:

VLC on Bordeaux


Regarding Safari, the application appeared to install, but when attempting to view bookmarks, or perform other certain commands, the application would crash:

Safari crashing - part 1

Even worse, it would then screw up the windowing system, requiring manual killing of the wine processes:

Safari crashing - part 2

Finally, I could never actually get to any sites, internal or external, even though internet connectivity on the host was fine.


My suggestion to the Bordeaux developers would be to simply remove these redundant applications from the supported applications list, and focus on getting core business applications such as Microsoft Office working seamlessly under Bordeaux. Even if someone out there really does have a use for VLC or Safari under Wine, then it’s imperative to have these applications running smoothly in a shipping product: my initial impressions are that there are several areas where things aren’t quite ready for prime time.

See also:

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing

Set up LDAP authentication between Ubuntu 10.04 and OpenDJ 2.4.1

(Updated to remove the changes to the default password storage scheme in OpenDJ.)

The following guide describes how to quickly set up a test environment for authenticating Ubuntu client LDAP logins to a directory server. This is an insecure setup, intended only for learning more about LDAP authentication.

I am using VirtualBox to virtualise my test Ubuntu 10.04 client, although you may of course use a physical machine. The LDAP server is Forgerock’s OpenDJ v2.4.1, running on OpenIndiana oi_147 x86. OpenDJ is chosen for its brilliantly easy-to-use Java-based installation and management utilities, coupled with the fact it’s developed by ex-Sun Microsystems talent, and, perhaps best of all, Oracle has nothing to do with it.

This guide assumes prior basic familiarity with installing OpenDJ, and installing VirtualBox guest VMs. Let’s get started.


Install and configure OpenDJ 2.4.1 on the host system

Download OpenDJ 2.4.1 from, and install it via the Java quick start utility. Simply use the default settings as follows:

OpenDJ installation

OpenDJ installation

OpenDJ installation

OpenDJ installation

OpenDJ installation

OpenDJ installation


Next, let’s run the OpenDJ control-panel GUI utility and create a test People OU under our base DN:

OpenDJ - create a People OU

Add a test user account to the People OU: fill out the First Name, Last Name, Common Name, User ID, and User Password fields, then save changes:

OpenDJ - add a user account

Now, edit the test account’s Object Class, and add the posixAccount auxiliary object class to it. Fill out the gidNumber, homeDirectory and uidNumber fields as follows:

OpenDJ - add the posixAccount object class

OpenDJ - add the posixAccount object class

OpenDJ is now configured. Let’s set up our Ubuntu client.


Install and configure a fresh Ubuntu 10.04 x86 virtual machine

Create a new Ubuntu 10.04 x86 VM. The default NAT networking mode for the VM works fine. For the administrative account created during OS installation, pick a username that won’t exist in OpenDJ (e.g. “pcadmin” or something).

Once Ubuntu has been installed, run a full software update. Following this, install the VirtualBox guest additions, then restart the VM.


Install libnss-ldap and dependencies

Log in with the administrative account created during installation, then use Synaptic Package Manager to install the libnss-ldap package. The packages dependent on libnss-ldap will be also downloaded and installed automatically:

Ubuntu10.04 - install libnss-ldap

During installation of the packages, you will be prompted for the location of your LDAP server: point at IP address of the host system using the ldap:// format. Other settings may be left at defaults as illustrated in the following, but be sure to change the search base to dc=example,dc=com, and the LDAP root account to cn=Directory Manager:

Ubuntu - configure libnss-ldap

Ubuntu - configure libnss-ldap

Ubuntu - configure libnss-ldap


Manually edit the PAM LDAP configuration file

After installation of libnss-ldap and its dependencies, manually edit /etc/ldap.conf and comment out this line:

pam_password md5

If you are using a non-default port for LDAP connectivity (e.g. port 1389), then append this as part of the LDAP server address entry in /etc/ldap.conf. Look for the uncommented uri entry with the address of your LDAP server, then append the port number to it. In my case, this looks like:

# Another way to specify your LDAP server is to provide an
uri ldap://

I encountered authentication problems when attempting to set an alternate port number at the following section in /etc/ldap.conf, so leave this as-is (i.e. commented out):

# The port.
# Optional: default is 389.
#port 389


Edit PAM service configuration files

Change directory to /etc/pam.d, and edit the files common-account, common-auth, common-password and common-session, commenting out or removing the existing entries and replacing them with the following entries respectively:

In common-account:

account     sufficient
account     required

In common-auth:

auth        sufficient
auth        required nullok_secure use_first_pass

In common-password:

password    sufficient nullok
password    required nullok obscure min=4 max=8 md5

In common-session:

session     required skel=/etc/skel/ umask=0022
session     required
session     optional


Manually edit the name service switch file

Next, change the passwd, group, and shadow entries in /etc/nsswitch.conf from this:

passwd:         compat
group:          compat
shadow:         compat

to this:

passwd:         files ldap
group:          files ldap
shadow:         files ldap

Finally, reboot the VM. Ubuntu is now configured.


Test LDAP logins to the Ubuntu VM

After rebooting Ubuntu, you should now be able to log in using the test LDAP account you created. A home directory and GNOME environment will be created automatically on login.