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Linux Events
  • LinuxWorld Conference and Expo, February 1-4, 2000, New York City, at the Jacob Javits Convention Center

  • LinuxWorld/LinuxExpo, February 3, 2000, Paris, France

STRICTLY ON-LINE

The following articles are posted on Linux Journal On-Line, our web site at http://www.linuxjournal.com/. We wish we had room to print every article in the magazine, but infinite space is just not available. Also, all articles in the current issue and past issues are posted on the LJ interactive site at http://interactive.linuxjournal.com/ for subscribers. Non-subscribers can find all articles for issues 1-32 (1994-1996) on the on-line site.

T/TCP: TCP for Transactions by Mark Stacey is a discussion of the operation, advantages and flaws of an experimental extension for TCP. Learn more about TCP as you read about this new protocol designed to address the need for a transaction-based transport protocol in the TCP/IP stack.

POSIX Thread Libraries by Felix Garcia and Javier Fernandez is a look at five libraries which can be used for multi-thread applications. The results of the authors' studies are discussed in this article. They also give us an in-depth look at threads: how they can be used and controlled in your applications for greatest benefit.

Laptops for Linux! by Jason Kroll is a review of the two laptop products currently available for Linux: the Attache from LinuxLaptops and the AS-LT300 from ASL Workstations. From ergonomics to software, find out all about these two products on-line.

Linux and Open-Source Applications by Peter F. Jones and M. B. Jorgenson provides us with a look at system security and how to build a secure and trustworthy computer platform. Learn about viruses, worms and Easter Eggs and what they can mean to your system. The authors answer the question, “Is open source the best way to get a truly secure system?”

GRAPHON INTERVIEW

by Doc Searls

GraphOn's stock doubled in November. Early that month, the company took a tack toward Linux with its new Linux Bridge product, and acquired a technology patent protecting its whole Bridge series of products. These products allow users to operate applications on other platforms—essentially using those platforms' workstations as terminals for applications run on servers elsewhere. GraphOn also announced an OEM deal with Corel, which was a big hit at Comdex with its new Linux distribution and application suite. One could almost see the stock rise as the implications (in particular, Windows-to-Linux migration) became apparent.

While at Comdex, I spoke with Robin Ford and Walt Keller, the couple who founded GraphOn. Robin is Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing, and Walt is CEO and President. The talk was recorded, and this is the edited transcript.

Doc: What's going on between you guys and Corel?

Robin: Years ago, Corel started developing a technology called J-Bridge, which allows you to access a Windows application from any desktop over any kind of connection. They were doing it because they needed to web-enable their existing applications. GraphOn has that technology for the UNIX and Linux market. We allow people to access a UNIX or Linux application from any desktop over any connection. This is great because you can run an X application over a low-bandwidth line, and it's like running an X server on your desktop. Corel ran into some challenges in their technology about this time last year. They had the core technology—the server part was coming along well—but they needed to put together the protocols and the client. They were already partners of ours for other reasons, and as they became more familiar with our technology, they realized we do this sort of thing for a living. It made more sense for us to carry this forward, as we had the low-bandwidth protocol. Thus, we acquired Corel's technology, which was unfinished at the time, and integrated it with our software.

Doc: And where are you with it now?

Robin: We call it Win Bridge, and we launched it here at the show. We've also “OEMed” our technology to Corel. Thus, any Windows-based application can be served to any desktop, and any Linux-based application can be served to any desktop—over any connection.

Walt: The exciting news for Corel is they can now insert very strong support into the Linux desktop. They can take any of their Windows applications and run them on those Linux desktops. By that, I mean the application is still running in an NT environment, but you can view and manipulate it from your Linux desktop as if it were running locally. That's the beauty of this bridging technology. Complete cross-platform capabilities.

Doc: So this has all kinds of implications for support, migration...

Walt: Yes. It lets people easily migrate into the Linux world. It's a difficult thing for most enterprises. They can't say, “Hey, we're going to switch to Linux”, and it's done. You need a migration path, and this technology provides that path.

Doc: How is this playing out in enterprises you know?

Walt: Well, the most interesting stuff at the moment—to us, at least—is in China. They don't want to deal with sole-source suppliers. They truly like the idea of Linux, and are very committed to it. Yet when you visit the schools, they're training on Microsoft. But the bridge between one and the other is a migration path that we pave. They're figured out ways to do that with server-based technology.

Doc: So you've got three bridges here.

Robin: Linux Bridge, Win Bridge and UNIX Bridge, each a component of a product called Bridges.

Doc: How do you see it playing out in the Linux movement in general?

Robin: Everybody agrees the next step for Linux is the desktop. To be successful, Linux has to be able to run Windows applications. Corel knows this, and they've been very smart about their strategy. That's why they've OEMed the Linux Bridge technology, and why it's very hot already, even though we aren't shipping until the end of December. When we were on ZD-TV, it was the most outrageous thing. Here was ZD-TV talking about server-based computing—serving up Linux applications. They invited people to come to the playpen part of our site and download a Java applet that allows them to run WordPerfect running on Red Hat on our server. It was amazing. We had thousands of people registering to download the Linux server portion of our product.

Walt: What knocked people out was they could sit there on their PCs and run Linux without ever loading it. An interesting concept, and a great way to start down the road to Linux or teach it over the Internet.

Doc: I want to ask you guys about this patent that seems to be a source of some controversy.

Walt: We discovered the controversy entirely by surprise. Obviously, it is not our intention to be out there stifling innovation, especially in the Linux community. We became aware of the patent because some of the people we have in Seattle were developing this technology a long time ago. We thought it was in the best interest of our shareholders and customers that we acquire this patent. It covered taking a Windows technology to a UNIX desktop using the X server—in other words, right in the path of our own product development. So our goal was just to acquire it and remove it as a potential problem, for the good of everybody.

Doc: That's interesting. I wonder sometimes if the reason to get a patent like this is as prophylaxis against the Jay Walkers of the world.

Walt: It is. These things are like baseball cards. You've got to trade them. If you don't have any, you don't get to trade.

Doc: You give yourself the right to be the alpha developer in this space.

Walt: It's a very strong form of protection. The truth is, you can't work in this industry without tripping over patents, and a patent of this type is a very strong one. We had to have it—better us than someone else.

Doc: So you want the Linux community to trust you to use it well.

Walt: That's right.

Doc: Let's go back to origins here. For years, you guys were known as a hardware company. What happened?

Walt: About three years ago, we saw the light. Before that, we were in the terminal business, selling to the X community. We did quite well, but the PC won the desktop. What we actually discovered was thin-client computing. We developed this technology for UNIX in the late '80s; the desktop, the client side, was very thin and all the heavy lifting happened on the server. But we were swimming against the tide in those days, very much against the flow of what people thought client-server should be.

Robin: Desktop-centric.

Walt: And we were going the opposite way. So finally, we decided to get out of the hardware business, take this technology, and make it work on the desktop. We found we were right in the middle of this new Internet conversation which is much more server-centric. Sun snapped it up, then IBM, and we were off and running. We funded ourselves last year, then went public last July, and it's been a real ride ever since.

Doc: I've always been interested in the soul of a company—where it comes from.

Robin: We're a family-oriented company. In case you didn't

notice, Walt and I are married, and the place is very much a family operation.

Doc: Are your kids involved?

Robin: Yes, our daughter works at the company. We welcome people bringing their kids in during the day. It's not unusual to hear little ones in the background. Our people work very hard, often for long hours, so we try our best to integrate having a life with being a Silicon Valley company. Although we've been around for a long time, we behave very much like a start-up. That's our energy—very entrepreneurial—very open-door—not very hierarchical. Walt is involved in almost everything that's going on at the company. It's not a strict reporting structure—just very entrepreneurial and very productive.

Doc: You know each other. That must count for something.

Walt: Everybody here knows each other. This value system we have applies to acquisitions too. We picked up this group in Seattle. The people there had been together for years and wanted to be in on what we have going here. The fit has been excellent.

Doc: You've been around since what, 1982?

Walt: 1982, yeah—a long time.

Doc: Were you married when you started the business?

Robin: No. We got married in 1985. But we were together for a long time before we started out. We just finally admitted to ourselves that it would work out. (laughter)

Doc: That's a great story.

Robin: It is a great story. We've had fun, and we're having more fun than ever now.

______________________

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