Sun takes JavaOS into realm of the obsolete PC
So much has been said about Java that it probably is lost on most people. Many hear the word Java and recollect pre-conceptions about the subject, be they positive or negative. Most are unaware that developments are taking place.
One of the most recent events, excluding disputes between the likes of Sun, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard over the future of the Java environment, is the emergence of Java-based thin clients.
Sun began it all by offering the JavaStation network computer that runs the JavaOS system, an entirely Java-based operating system designed for NCs. Now, Sun is working on JavaOS for DOS PCs, making allowing obsolete PCs to become the equivalent of a JavaStation.
The JavaPC software is in beta development, with a preview available from Sun's Java developer's Web site at http:// developer.javasoft.com The final release is expected to sell for about US$100, and it is clear how this product offers a way to use hardware once thought obsolete.
It is possible to take a 486-based computer with 8 MB or 16 MB of memory that runs DOS and turn it into a full-featured network computer with a Web browser with full network connectivity.
The JavaPC environment runs on top of DOS, which provides such basics such as access to the hard disk and floppy disk, plus the display and basic network drivers.
The rest, including all the more complicated network support and the Java implementation, is provided by the JavaPC software which implements the functionality of the JavaOS found on the JavaStation series of NCs.
Of course, to run a JavaPC system means being connected to a network since the whole concept of the JavaPC and Java-based NCs is to access Java-based content including Web pages and applications on servers elsewhere on the network - either on the Internet or an intranet.
Also, since the JavaPC is designed to run on an Ethernet network and not a dial-up modem, it is aimed at the corporate environment where can provide applications written in Java to be used on the Java-based NCs.
In my tests, the hardest part of configuration had nothing to do with the JavaPC software itself but rather with configuring DOS with my network card.
JavaPC can work with the NDIS or ODI drivers shipped with many network cards, but I opted to use a free set of network card drivers known as packet drivers which can be downloaded from the Internet and are included with the JavaPC software.
After several attempts to get the packet drivers to work with my card, I switched to a different card and things worked without difficulty.
Once the network card was configured, I was able to configure the rest of the software quite easily, using an added utility that allowed me to answer a series of questions and have my configuration files built for me.
Once done, it is possible to browse the Web immediately, using the built-in Web browser and run some small Java programs installed on my test network's server.
One benefit of the JavaPC over dedicated NC hardware is that it allows organisations to continue to use existing DOS and even Windows 3.1 applications and systems.
Also, Java-based network capabilities can be added without disrupting existing work. This lets you gradually move mission-critical applications to a Java-based client-server environment.
However, the PCs need a minimum 486, 66 MHz PC with at least 8 MB of RAM. A low-end to mid-range Pentium is preferable and 16 MB of RAM is better.
Of course, an entry level PC these day is quite inexpensive and would provide more than adequate power for running a JavaPC system.
Full information about the JavaPC as well as other Sun Java products is available at Sun's Java Web site at http://www.javasoft.com/