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Turning Tablet PCs into Wireless UNIX Workstations

Looking to expand the capabilities of Tablet PCs, software maker StarNet Communications Wednesday said it is further bridging the gap between mobile devices and server hardware.

At this week's DesignCon 2003 in Santa Clara, the company used their latest X-Win32 software to connect a HP-Compaq Tablet PC via built-in 802.11b wireless networking to a remote Sun Solaris 8 server running Cadence Design Systems' Virtuoso -- a program that is used to design complex integrated circuits.

Sunnyvale, Calif-based StarNet said their platform lets the Tablet PC access individual X applications or bring up a full UNIX or Linux desktop from one or more networked servers. Using the software, the company said data could be tapped directly into the X application using the Tablet's electronic stylus and virtual keyboard. Users could even use the Tablet PC's handwriting interface in combination with a text editor to enter data and UNIX commands into an xterm window.

StarNet execs say the goal in conducting the demonstration is to help network administrators think about using Tablet PCs in different ways.

"The Tablet PC is a revolutionary device that offers new ways for professionals to increase their job efficiency by being able to take their entire computing environment where notebook PCs are too cumbersome and PDAs too limited," said StarNet vice president Paul Swart. "With X-Win32, the functionality of Tablet PCs is further extended to powerful UNIX and Linux servers."

The company said its X-Win32 software allows for point-and-click access from Windows-based desktops to Linux and UNIX servers, including Sun Solaris, IBM AIX, HP/UX, Red Hat, SuSE, Caldera, Mandrake and others. The platform offers both SSH, RSH, REXEC and XDMCP connections between Windows desktop computers and UNIX/Linux host systems as well as support for complex 3-D OpenGL applications.

Swart said some of the sectors that might benefit from a Tablet PC-to-server configuration include:


-- Surgeons and other medical staff taking their Tablet PC into the operating room and accessing X-rays, patient information and other medical data residing on UNIX servers.
-- Automotive engineers pulling up complex 3-D CAD schematics while working under the hood of a new prototype vehicle.
-- IC production engineers taking Tablet PCs into the cleanroom fabrication area to make on-the-fly adjustments to intricate IC production processes and equipment settings.

"All typical X server functions controlled on a standard Windows computer with a keyboard and mouse, are now also available on Tablet PCs," Swart said.

StarNet said it is making the latest version of X-Win32 (5.4.1) available with a free trial license. The software lists at US$245.00 with volume discounts available for commercial, government and educational users.