Your mission, Jim …

After broadsiding Sun Microsystems' thin clients the other week I feel like I need to talk a little about some of the good stuff these guys are doing.

What a terrible few weeks. Regular readers of A Week of IT will have noticed that I’ve skipped a couple of instalments recently.

My life is like that ancient Chinese curse (that is, it’s bloody interesting). On the domestic front alone, each and every member of my family is currently nursing an injury of some kind. My wife has a black eye from walking into a concrete pillar and almost knocking herself out, our daughter also has a black eye which she received while playing ball at school, our son has a badly bruised ankle from tripping over while playing tag at school and I’ve torn the rotator cuff in my right shoulder falling down the stairs at home. I’ll be surprised if we don’t get investigated by ACC.

Speaking of surprises, imagine mine when there I was one evening a couple of weeks ago watching an Abdul Salam Zaeef (the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan) press conference on CNN and in the background (like, in the room) among the warbling of cellphones came the sound of one particular phone playing the theme tune from Mission Impossible. I kid you not. The ambassador didn’t appear to notice but the irony wasn’t lost on his translator -- he looked for a few seconds like he was going to lose it and laugh right out loud. The juxtaposition of trash TV and real life was truly hilarious and a really bright moment in what has otherwise been a month of darkness.

Anyway, down to business. After broadsiding Sun Microsystems’ thin clients the other week I feel like I need to talk a little about some of the good stuff these guys are doing.

Local Sun agent SolNet is reselling a product called Tarantella. It’s like the Unix/Linux equivalent of Citrix and, like Citrix, it allows you to deploy all your Windows/mainframe/X/whatever apps to a variety of native clients or to any Java-enabled browser. It costs a lot less than Citrix and makes a lot of sense if you’re Windows-averse. Unfortunately, unlike Citrix, it doesn’t support native RDP/ICA clients (Windows-based terminals) just yet but apparently Tarantella (the company) and Compaq have an alliance and are going to make that happen.

My other product pick of the moment is Sun’s range of Cobalt Server Appliances. These puppies are available in a couple of different form factors – a 19” rack optimised 1U box or a very stylie “Qube”. They’re a Linux-based server that – out of the box – will take care of all your DNS, DHCP, firewall, proxy and web hosting requirements. All the software is pre-installed and configuration is done via an HTML interface. The best bit is that – for real server-class hardware at least – they’re dead cheap.

Before my column starts to read too much like a Sun advertorial, I need to report that I’ve just had a chat with an engineer from SolNet regarding my comments on the SunRay. He reckons I’m wrong and that he can make them do what I need them to. Sounds to me like a gauntlet hitting the deck – I might just have to hold him to it. I might just have to get that Mission Impossible ring tone for my phone, too.

Swanson is IT manager at W Stevenson & Sons. Send email to Jim Swanson. Send letters for publication to Computerworld Letters.

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