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Video Splashtop's Cliff Miller Talks About Their New Linux App (Video) 96

Yes, you can now have full remote access to your home computer or a server at work that's running Ubuntu Linux. Really any Linux distro, although only Ubuntu is formally supported by Splashtop. What? You say you already control your home and work Linux computers from your Android tablet with VNC? That there's a whole bunch of Android VNC apps out there already? And plenty for iOS, too? You're right. But Cliff says Splashtop is better than the others. It can play video at a full 30 frames per second, and has low enough latency (depending on your connection) that you can play video games remotely in between taking care of that list of server issues your boss emailed to you. Or perhaps, in between work tasks, you take a dip in the ocean, because you're working from the beach, not from a stuffy office. It seems that work and living locations get a little more remote from each other every year, and Splashtop is helping to make that happen. This video interview is, itself, an example of how our world has gotten flatter; Cliff was in China and I was in Florida. The connection wasn't perfect, but the fact that we could have this conversation at all is a wonder. Please note, too, that while Cliff Miller is now Chief Marketing Officer for Splashtop, he was also the founder and first CEO of TurboLinux, so he is not new to Linux. And Splashtop is the company that supplied the "instant on" Linux OS a lot of computer manufacturers bundled with their Windows computers for a few years. Now, of course, they're focusing on the remote desktop, and seem to be making a go of it despite heavy competition in that market niche.

Note: Robin Miller and Cliff Miller are not related to each other.

Robin: Cliff, I understand Splashtop made a big time announcement recently. What was it?

Cliff: Well, we announced our Streamer software for Ubuntu.

Robin: Okay.

Cliff: So that means if you’ve got a computer running Ubuntu, then you can connect to it from an Android device or any number of other types of devices.

Robin: Okay. Is it Ubuntu only or can a clever person who can use the Ubuntu repository put it on any flavor of Linux?

Cliff: Well, we don’t want to say any flavor of Linux, we’re only supporting Ubuntu. However, if you are a clever person, you might well find a way to run it on some other Linux distribution.

Robin: How do you feel about that? Do you like it or not like it?

Cliff: We love experimentation. I mean, our engineers do it all the time and that’s how we all can come up with new products, in fact.

Robin: Don’t you publish a lot of APIs and make your stuff open? Are you open source or closed?

Cliff: Well, we have a certain number of open source offerings that we’ve... you know, files and so on that we put on our website. But we, in fact, are proprietary. We have Windows and Macintosh clients as well.

Robin: Well, probably all because Linux is new for you guys... started with it just now, right?

Cliff: Well, in fact, we do go back a ways with Linux. Our first product’s offering was an Instant On Linux. Splashtop has been bundled with over a hundred million PCs from Dell, Acer, HP and so on. So, this is – Linux is not new to us.

Robin: Ha-ha. So, you are sort of like getting back to your roots and going back with the old school and the young school and merging them and going forward?

Cliff: Well, that’s true, we’re doing different things in this current product line that we’ve got... remote desktop offering and it allows any stream to any stream computing. But, we certainly realize the underlying OS is important and so we are experts at OS, so Windows, Macintosh, iOS and Linux as well.

Robin: Okay. Now, the big thing that I’m picking up from the press releases and such, is that I can be sitting there with my Android or my official 2.0 Jobs approved thingy, the i-thingy.

Cliff: Yeah.

Robin: I can be sitting in a coffee shop and I can be monitoring my company’s computers as a sysadmin, I can work with them, I can work into them and I could always do it for a long time with PCs and Macs. Now I can use Linux as well with the same program, right?

Cliff: Exactly. And so we see a number of key beneficiaries or key user categories and one would definitely be a sysadmin where you’ve got a bunch of Linux machines, Ubuntu machines that are powering your office or your server rooms and now you can be at Starbucks or on your couch at home and monitoring and in fact, you could be working on them if you wanted to be.

Robin: And somebody told me that -- not that any of our readers would ever do this while on the clock -- that you could also play games like PC games or whatever on your little hand-held thing actually where the games are resident on the big computer. Is this so?

Cliff: Well, that’s true too. And, well, our take on this is that, in fact, Linux folks are so efficient that they can do this and their boss isn’t even going to realize it.

Robin: Boy, I love that, excuse me Slashdot readers, the man is pandering to you. Are you enjoying it?

Cliff: Well, I’ve used Linux for a long time. I use all kinds of different OS’s. But, I’m no stranger, so, yeah.

Robin: What I see with this going on is, it’s like a huge change in the way we work and where we are. For instance, this interview with you in China and me in – the Golden Land or whatever the heck they call it there – Florida, where you’re dealing with minus centigrade degrees and I’m dealing with plus 24 maybe centigrade right now.

Cliff: Yeah.

Robin: We’re talking literally half way around the world, across generations and boundaries. We couldn’t have done this ten years ago and now you’re saying I can take my little device and with Splashtop I could be doing this from a forest monastery under a tree, a Buddhist monastery, wherever. So, how does this go, what happens to the way we work and play, how does it change our lives?

Cliff: Well, I think you’ve hit on a great point there that we’ve been kind of freed from our geographical location to work or play just about anywhere. There is a caveat there, you do have to have Internet, access to Internet and that could be either through a fixed line or through Wi-Fi or 3G/4G, what have you. But as long as you’ve got that connection, you can be connected, you can be connected to your computers, your company’s computers, anywhere in the world.

Robin: Really. So, we don’t have to show – I have friends who do this now, but you are taking it one step further, are you not?

Cliff: Well, yeah, we think we definitely are. I mean, one thing that has been there for a long time has been the ability to login using any number of terminal programs, but it primarily started out being text based, right. So you have screen, textual characters and it was slow when you were using a modem. That meant that you could do a certain number of things, but you couldn’t do things that were fun like watch movies or play video games -- that kind of thing.

Robin: Now, we know that we can do VNC and we can do remote access computing. I can access my home computer from anywhere because it does frankly run Ubuntu and it’s built right in for nothing. So how much for all this, I guess, how much better is your connectivity and how much does it cost?

Cliff: Okay. So, how much better? From our standpoint, we can go 30 frames per second and the other guys tend to do anywhere from 2 to 6. In the right environment with the right chipset, we can even get up to 60 frames per second. So what does that mean? That means, if you want to watch video with the other guys, you’re going to see Charlie Chaplin-like video. It’s going to be choppy and you may or may not have audio with it. With Splashtop you get not only audio, you get smooth video, so you can watch the latest movies that have very nice graphic effects and so on. Now to the cost question. The Streamer which is what we’re – first of all let me back up a minute. There are two parts to the software, two main parts, that means the Streamer Software, which is what you put on your PC and you login to or you access from your device that you are holding, which might be an Android tablet, for example, so you have the Streamer software on the computer and the mobile application on your tablet.

Robin: All right.

Cliff: The Streamer software is free, absolutely free. You can download it from our website or with the Ubuntu release, we’re also putting it on the Ubuntu Software Center, so you can go there and download it for free as well. So, on your Android tablet, you’ll need to get our remote app and that is absolutely free. If you have another device, an IOS device or something else, it may cost you a few bucks, but in any case it’s not going to set you back much. Now, if you want to do this in a LAN environment from an Android to an Ubuntu computer, it’s absolutely free. If you want to access it away from home or away from your work, then it will run $0.99 per month or $9.99 per year, and for that you’ll get what we call our Anywhere Access pack, which allows you to connect anywhere in the world from your mobile device to your computer at work or at home.

Robin: Okay. Cliff it sounds like people in Beijing are waking up because it’s afternoon here for me, but for you it’s morning, and I’ve heard that in Beijing, as people get online, the connectivity goes down the tubes. Is that what’s happening, why the voice thing is.?

Cliff: It’s a little bit early for it to be breaking up. I mean, typically there are four peaks in a day. People go to work and there are a lot of gamers here, so they play games before they go to work and then right after they go to work, at 9 or 10 there is a big peak, because they play games then too, and then around lunch time and then in the evening there is a couple of peaks as well. So, I’m surprised. It’s only 5.30 right now.


Cliff later told us that sometimes enough gamers were active in Beijing at 5:30 a.m. to slow down the Internet for everyone, which is apparently what happened to us. So we stopped the recording because from here on we could not understand what Cliff was saying.

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Splashtop's Cliff Miller Talks About Their New Linux App (Video)

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Adding features does not necessarily increase functionality -- it just makes the manuals thicker.