Posted inExperience / Information Technology

Remembering Lotus Symphony

I never used the DOS version of Lotus Symphony. (Windows wasn’t an operating system until Windows NT. Microsoft committed criminal fraud putting “operating” system on the box because it was nothing more than a task switching GUI on top of DOS. Janet Reno should have put Bill Gates in prison.) The other day I got into a . . . “discussion” . . . with some kid who uttered a phrase like “never in the history of . . .” Here’s a hint! Actually live some history before you start talking about it.

When IBM resurrected the Lotus Symphony name with their fork of OpenOffice the first release, despite all of the bitching about it, was pretty good. I actually wrote a book using it and turned the final editor onto Lotus Symphony. For you using LibreOffice or Apache OpenOffice today, this is where the Navigator and other coolness came from.

Infinite Exposure

Lotus Symphony for Linux is pretty difficult to find today. Most of the pages with download links suffer horribly from Internet Rot. Believe it or not, this is probably the only justification for the Internet Archive.

Was the only place one could find Symphony in 2022

I decided to park a file here as well.


I’m sure many won’t see the point, but you really need to understand just how sad OpenOffice was to appreciate the massive effort IBM put into this. Despite all of the complaints, if you had a 32-bit computer with 4GB of RAM and chose the option to “improve performance” Symphony ran well!

IBM only officially released it for 32-bit Linux and Windows. Might have even been released for MAC, I don’t remember. Even my .deb files have disappeared from archival storage so I was happy to find IA had some. One dude created a 64-bit package and you used to find it everywhere, including on bittorrent sites. Now you can only find references that direct you to an on-line black jack site. There is potential hope to be found here though.

I had forgotten that Canonical put it in the Ubuntu 8.04 repos.

You will understand why I was happy to find IA had .deb files in a bit. For now, enjoy my ride down memory lane and learn how to get really old Ubuntu versions installed in a VM today. Yes, you might find yourself working on a medical device whose development environment dates back to 2008 or earlier.

Setting up a Ubuntu 8.04 LTS VM in 2022

I’m going to set this up on a Windows 10 machine in an Oracle VirtualBox VM. You might want to bare metal install Ubuntu 16.04 LTS for your host OS though. Why? To get the version of VirtualBox that works with the libxrandr-dev version found in Ubuntu 8.04 LTS. Otherwise you have a tiny little screen no matter what you do.

When initially creating the VM I gave it 4GB of RAM and 30GB of “disk.” Here are a couple of other tweaks.

4GB of RAM

Don’t go wild with CPU when setting up 32-bit distros. These were for the days of dual core processors. AMD had a 6-core but most everything was dual core then.

64MB of video RAM

Don’t take the default video RAM. In some instances it will work for you. You generally won’t find a hardware platform where 64MB won’t work or won’t work well. This was kind of the “BIOS default” back in the day.

Always set up a shared folder

Always set up an actual shared directory. Once you have guest additions installed in a VM this is the easiest way to transfer files between host and VM.

Always boot to the “live desktop” which is also called something like “try Ubuntu without modifying…” then choose the install icon from there. The direct install option could really get you into trouble back in the day. It’s less of an issue now in the VM world but on actual hardware you didn’t have all of the network and video drivers you needed.

Making it work

After first boot and login you will see a screen much like this.

After first boot and login

If you dilly-dally around you might crash. The reason is the automatic update has invalid information.

Now you have to fix stuff. The “live” disk points to repos that no longer exist. They have been moved to new locations. Open a terminal.

cd /etc/apt
sudo mv sources.list sources.list_orig
sudo gedit sources.list

The sad thing is that you need to get the updates applied and build-essential installed before you can cut and paste. The Internet has since moved to a new non-compatible SSL standard so Ubuntu 8.04 can only reach http, not https sites. You need to edit /etc/apt/sources.list and make it look like the following:

# /etc/apt/sources.list
# ubuntu Hardy 8.04
# main and restricted
#  These are the primary package archives.
deb hardy main restricted
deb-src hardy main restricted
deb hardy-updates main restricted
deb-src hardy-updates main restricted
deb hardy-security main restricted
deb-src hardy-security main restricted
# Universe:
deb hardy universe
deb-src hardy universe
deb hardy-updates universe
deb-src hardy-updates universe
deb hardy-security universe
deb-src hardy-security universe
# multiverse:
deb hardy multiverse
deb-src hardy multiverse
deb hardy-updates multiverse
deb-src hardy-updates multiverse
deb hardy-security multiverse
deb-src hardy-security multiverse
# backports:
deb hardy-backports main restricted
deb-src hardy-backports main restricted
deb hardy-backports universe
deb-src hardy-backports universe
deb hardy-backports multiverse
deb-src hardy-backports multiverse

That isn’t as bad as it sounds. You type in the first deb line then copy from http: through to the end. Type deb-src on the next line, hit tab key, paste. From there you copy these two lines and past them for the next two adding -updates. Repeat for the -security lines. After that the next two blocks are a copy of the first changing “main restricted” to first “universe” then “multiverse.” The “backports” section is the first two lines of each previous section changed to hardy-backports.

Save and Quit.

sudo rm -vf /var/lib/apt/lists/*
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo reboot now

Yes, there will be a lot of things that don’t delete with the first command. Just roll with it. We need to be certain an old address isn’t lying around. After reboot, log in, open a terminal and do the following:

sudo apt-get install build-essential
sudo apt-get install libxrandr-dev

You need the build-essential for the Guest Additions. (I assume you are using Oracle Virtualbox.) “Insert Guest Additions” next.

Insert Guest Additions

Autorun will not work. Yes, the dialog will appear and when you press “Run” something will flash, but it doesn’t actually run. After you’ve inserted the CD via the Devices menu you have to open a terminal and type the following:

cd /media/cdrom0
sudo ./
sudo reboot now

Yes, all of the reboots get annoying, but this is a very old version. Most likely your screen will remain a tiny box in the center of your actual screen. At least it will if you are using a current Virtualbox on Windows 10. I tried every video card Oracle provides. Found no monitor love. Newer Virtualbox needs version 1.4 and 1.2 is what the repo has.

Wait a few moments until the big red arrow appears.

Big red updates arrow

Ignore the fact your distribution is not supported anymore.

Update warning

Do not click “Upgrade!”

Shows updates held back

There was some weird update rule where firefox and some other things got held back when trying command line updates. In later years things were held back only if there was an actual package conflict. There was a method to this madness, I just don’t remember what it was. 2008 was a long time ago. When complete you should see this.

Updates applied

Close and reboot.

One thing you will notice is that Ubuntu 8.04 is much faster than say, Ubuntu 20.04. Nowhere near as much bloatware forced into the package.

But where is Symphony?

symphony not found

This link specifically states IBM Lotus Symphony will be available via software install.

quote from link

Maybe they didn’t lie? Maybe it just got done too late?

I actually asked in Looks like the official answer was removed. Should have taken a screen shot. The gist of it is Canonical only archived its own repos. The things that were in the “partner” repos simply disappeared. Really gotta suck if you worked on say, a medical device, and the build/dev/test environments have to remain exactly as they were. Well, gotta suck if you used one of those partner tools that is no longer around.

Hey, every few years I get contacted by Harman about a medical device using OS/2 as its dev environment. I kid you not. Still in production and still getting minor updates.

Fixing it now that it works

Whenever I’m creating virtual machines, even if I’m creating them on a Linux host, I create a directory called “windows-share.” I advise everybody not to skip this. I gave you a screen shot showing this earlier. Now it is time to put it to use.

Boot your VM and open a terminal

mkdir bin
mkdir share
cd bin
nano mount-share

For a long time now Ubuntu has provided shell startup that looks for a bin directory under $HOME for a user. If found, the bin directory gets added to the PATH automatically. It’s so you can have personal binaries that are available from the command line. Now that the editor is open paste in the following:

sudo mount -t vboxsf -o uid=$UID,gid=$(id -g) windows-share $HOME/share

Naturally, if you chose something other than windows-share you will need to tweak the line. Exit and save.

chmod +x mount-share

Now, reboot, open a terminal and type


You should be asked for your password and the shared directory should mount under $HOME/share. If you have any files in there you will see them with the ls command. You might want to go to your host and copy something there just to verify.

Lotus Symphony install

Download the debian from one of the two places listed above. If you use your host (and you probably should due to SSL changes) you want to save the file to your windows-share directory or copy it there after download.

If you closed your terminal after mounting share you should see the following.

Ubuntu 8.04 put mounts on the desktop

Double click on it and navigate to your .deb file for Symphony. Right click on it and choose GDebi Package Installer.

Right click and choose GDebi Package Installer

Yes, you will find many who are mortally offended I didn’t show you how to do this from the command line. Installing a Debian package from the command line that might have dependencies is a pain in the ass. It also leaves your apt in a broken state for a bit. The graphical installers pull down dependencies leaving the user blissfully ignorant. We just want to install our Lotus Symphony Debian package. We don’t want to know how to assemble a sewer.

The GUI installer

After it chews on the file a bit you should see the screen above. Choose “Install Package” if that isn’t your obvious choice.

Some associations

After the install completes and you launch IBM Lotus Symphony fir the first time you probably should take a look at the settings. “File Type Associations” is interesting for us old timers because this product is old enough to know what Lotus SmartSuite lwp file format was. Support for lwp duth sucketh in current OO based world processors.

Bold and Beautiful

It looks a little tacky because I didn’t bother to install the “Free Times” font this old resume was created using.

So, if you are curious about IBM Lotus Symphony or you have a bunch of Lotus SmartSuite files to convert and you can’t scrounge up Lotus SmartSuite for an environment you have, you can at least begin your journey with Symphony.

Roland Hughes started his IT career in the early 1980s. He quickly became a consultant and president of Logikal Solutions, a software consulting firm specializing in OpenVMS application and C++/Qt touchscreen/embedded Linux development. Early in his career he became involved in what is now called cross platform development. Given the dearth of useful books on the subject he ventured into the world of professional author in 1995 writing the first of the "Zinc It!" book series for John Gordon Burke Publisher, Inc.

A decade later he released a massive (nearly 800 pages) tome "The Minimum You Need to Know to Be an OpenVMS Application Developer" which tried to encapsulate the essential skills gained over what was nearly a 20 year career at that point. From there "The Minimum You Need to Know" book series was born.

Three years later he wrote his first novel "Infinite Exposure" which got much notice from people involved in the banking and financial security worlds. Some of the attacks predicted in that book have since come to pass. While it was not originally intended to be a trilogy, it became the first book of "The Earth That Was" trilogy:
Infinite Exposure
Lesedi - The Greatest Lie Ever Told
John Smith - Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars

When he is not consulting Roland Hughes posts about technology and sometimes politics on his blog. He also has regularly scheduled Sunday posts appearing on the Interesting Authors blog.

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