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The StartX Files: Between the Sheets With NExS - page 2

The New Hoosier Workshop

  • January 25, 2002
  • By Brian Proffitt

NExS is the brainchild of North Carolina-based GreyTrout Software, which seems very intent on positioning their main product as a corporate tool that will do a lot more than just produce spreadsheets. But more on that in a second; I want to review how to go about getting your hands on this application.

First off, NExS is not free, in any sense of the word. The product is licensed under a pay-per-seat proprietary arrangement. So, obviously, no source code is available. Instead, the program is packaged with RPMs that will run under Linux and Solaris, if that is also your cup of tea. GreyTrout has gone out of its way to assist users in obtaining the product for other platforms by providing links to sites that can assist potential clients in running the RPMs on SCO, FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD.

One thing GreyTrout does do is provide a demonstration version of NExS for you to try out. After you download and install the 4-Mb RPM, you will have a fully function version of the application--well, except for the fact that it only will let you use 150 cells. Not to worry, back at the GreyTrout Web site is a link that will let you register for a free 30-day license. After filling out the online form, GreyTrout will quickly e-mail you a license.txt file that you can stick in the /usr/local/libs/nexs directory and be merrily on your way.

RPM installation is nothing out of the ordinary, though GreyTrout did warn me that one of the components of the installation could likely demand to see libtcl8.0.so and libtk8.0.so and thus hang up the RPM install. The warning was appreciated, since that's exactly what happened to me. But the solution was also given: add a --nodeps parameter to the command. NExS itself does not need these libraries, just the tclNExS package.

Besides NExS, GreyTrout has also included two other packages designed to capitalize on what NExS is designed for: data gathering, processing, and reporting from and to any X application. The first is the NExS conNExions API, which, according to the GreyTrout Web site, is "a set of C and Fortran-callable functions for connecting external, user-written C and Fortran programs to the NExS spreadsheet through the X Window client communication mechanisms." And I have already mentioned tclNExS, which allows you to get at the conNExions API from Tcl/Tk.

The upshot of this is, if you want to work with Tcl/Tk and NExS, you need to go out and grab those 8.0 libraries I mentioned first and then install the NExS RPM.

As far as purchasing NExS goes, you can get the Personal Edition for $49 US. The Professional Edition does not offer any more features than the Personal Edition, other than to let you run your purchased copy on Linux and Solaris. For this, you pay $99 US. Finally, there's the Enterprise Edition, which will let you have 10 floating licenses for $999 US.

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