Letters to the Editor

Readers sound off.
Pure Java

I read your article about The Linux Appliance (“From the Publisher”, Issue #36, April 1997, page 12) with interest. Right offhand, I can't help but ask myself:

How can such an appliance compete with a “pure Java” system as an appliance? What kind of marketing technique might be used to offset the power of Microsoft? How might we get some major hardware makers (like Sony, Panasonic, etc.) interested?

Is there anything I can do, or anyone I might contact, to help this along (purely on a part-time basis; I have a full-time job as a mainframe/NT system support analyst; if it became a money-maker, I could quit, of course)?

I don't have any business or manufacturing experience, but I have wanted to contribute something good to Linux for a long time. This might be a possibility. —Chuck

I'm not the person ready to manufacture and market this appliance so I am hoping someone else will seriously address these points, but here is my input.

A pure Java system might be a winner, but it could also be a dead end. An addition to Java or a move to something other than Java would result in an obsolete system. On the other hand, a programmable computer makes it easy to follow software changes. In addition, upgrading from an Internet Appliance to a useful computer for word processing and such is also possible.

As for the power of Microsoft, the sales approach is what could make the difference. Anyone can buy a PC/Microsoft system from a catalog or retail store but for many, this is a scary proposition. While computers have come a long way toward being easy to set up and use, offering the necessary support with a system like this could make a big difference. Much like getting a price break on a cellular phone when you purchase air time, ISPs could offer a price break on these systems with connectivity contracts. The ISP would then be there to support it.

As for the possibility of Sony or Panasonic getting interested, if you know the right people to talk to, point them at me. The idea of Linux on the Sony Playstation has already been suggested. —Phil Hughes phil@ssc.com

Applixware Review

I appreciated your review of Applixware in the April 1997 issue of the Linux Journal. I do feel obligated to point one large error—Applix data is NOT provided with the 4.3 release, according to Lisa Sullivan at Red Hat.

There are some people (Cameron Newham, cameron.newham@nomura.co.uk) working on interfaces to databases that do exist on Linux, but the full-fledged Applix Data interface is not likely to exist in the near future, a victim of lack of support from the big-3 database vendors—at least, that is the reason in my opinion.

Applixware has a chance to do either a lot of good or a lot of harm to the Linux community. It is not quite ready to replace MS Office. Filters and data access, as well as performance with embedded graphics, are areas that need work.

If people expect it to do everything, try it, and are disappointed, they may end up dismissing Linux as junk—a tragic mistake. —Cary O'Brien cobrien@access.digex.net

Many Thanks

Dear Terry Dawson,

I just wanted to thank you for your article “A 10-Minute Guide for Using PPP to Connect Linux to the Internet” that appeared in Issue 36 of Linux Journal.

I bought Slackware 2.3 (kernel version 1.2.8) in September of 1995, loaded it on my Micron Pentium-90 and have been experimenting with it ever since. Being more experienced with DOS/Windows, I wasn't successful in getting my PPP connection to work from Linux. I read Matt Welsh's Running Linux and Patrick Volkerding's Linux Configuration and Installation as well as the PPP HOWTO but had no success until your article. Since then, I've gotten ftp, rlogin, telnet, lynx 2.3 and Netscape Navigator 1.1 to run. Next, it's e-mail (I'm sending you this from my DOS/Windows partition). —Steve Tjensvoldstjen svo@execpc.com

Etherminals

I read your article in this month's LJ with much interest. In the March 10th issue of Computerworld magazine, Mr. Charles Babcock wrote about building his own network computer from scratch. From the sound of his article, Mr. Babcock had no previous experience with Linux, yet that was the OS he chose for his NC.

Mr. Babcock was not able to keep the price of his NC below $500. However, it is not clear whether he used many resources towards getting the best prices available. Clearly, anyone venturing into this on a large scale would be able to better his price—$1200.

What interests me most about both articles is the fact that such a system already exists—and has existed for over a year. IGEL, LLC has a line of systems called Etherminals—they were even advertised in LJ for a while. (That's where I learned of them)

I left a full-time position as a Unix Systems Engineer in August of '95 to help my wife with the acquisition of the veterinary hospital where she had worked (as a veterinarian). One of my first responsibilities was to install a computer network.

That's when I discovered the Etherminals. The model 3x was IGEL's current offering—386sx-40 w/ 8MB RAM, on-board Ethernet (all 3 media types) and the standard compliment of 2 serial and 1 parallel ports. What made these machines so attractive to me was that they booted Linux and X Windows from ROM/NVRAM. These units had no drives—not a floppy, not a hard drive, nothing.

I went out on a limb and bought three of them. Once they arrived, I connected them to the Ethernet I'd run (with the help of a couple of good friends) the week before. In a little over an hour I had everything working like a charm. I think it helped more than a little that the server was running Linux as well. (This was something that I insisted on—it even became a point of contention with two potential vendors of veterinary office applications.)

In the end, we chose a vendor whose application was (and still is) DOS-based. DOSEMU now runs multiple sessions on the server and uses X to redirect the I/O to the Etherminals. It's an acceptable solution—DOS being the weakest link.

The most important point of this whole message is that this solution was arrived at over a year ago. No need to wait for SUN or ORACLE. It's here today. —Chuck Stickleman stick@richnet.net

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