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...making Linux just a little more fun!
The Sushi Pub at the World Internet Center
By Janine M Lodato

The most important capital of an alliance: people, successfully collaborating via the Internet.
Hope springs eternal at the World Internet Center (The Center) in Palo Alto, California. Located in an upstairs suite at the historic Stanford Barn, The Center hosts a weekly social event on Thursdays from 5 to 7 PM called "the Pub". Aside from sushi and wine provided by The Center at nominal cost to those who attend, the networking that takes place at the Pub offers hope to millions of people.

The Center brings hope by connecting Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, corporate executives and technologists, all wanting to forge a start-up company that will make a mark on today's economy using info-tech such as the Internet. From the business opportunities that develop, the beneficiaries of such opportunities are not just the businessmen putting together the deal. In the long run, the beneficiaries may also include people around the world afflicted with physical malfunctions and illnesses.

The Pub allows people to put together start-up firms of varying interests. Small, narrowly-focused companies such as those concentrating on life sciences, soon to be headquartered in Singapore, rely on larger businesses to disseminate their services and capabilities. These larger businesses are called systems integrators.

Visitors to The Center come from as far away as Russia, Australia, Iran, Europe, China, Japan, Chile, Brazil and, of course, from Silicon Valley. California's Silicon Valley is the Mecca of high technology: telecom, multimedia telecom, computers, Internet and e-commerce, attracting countries wanting to ride the high-tech wave of the future because of its potential for financial gain.

Because people forming a team and working well together as a group make for the success of a new company, the elbow-rubbing they do socially at the Pub is an indication of how things will work out in the long run. People make the deal work, not technology, not ideas, not money, but people with those things. If new businesses can speed along medical help for people with all sorts of physical malfunctions, The Center will have achieved a major milestone: lowering the cost of medicine and improving the lives of the needy.

The main theme of The Center is to connect its current and past large corporate sponsors such as Amdocs, Deutsche Telekom, HP, IBM, SAP, Sun with with small high-tech companies and expert individuals in the form of a series of focused think-tanks.

Because my husband, Laszlo Rakoczi, a Hungarian revolutionary who emigrated to the USA after the revolution in Hungary was crushed by the Evil Empire (the Soviet Union), is a member of the Advisory Board of The Center, many small companies seek him out to discuss the potential of collaborative strategic alliance type business arrangements. One such high-tech company recently approaching him is Sensitron.net. Dr. Rajiv Jaluria, founder and CEO, met Laszlo through The Center. Sensitron is a small high-tech firm which built an end-to-end system to connect medical instruments to monitoring stations and databases thus improving the productivity of the medical professionals and increasing the quality of medical care. Of course the question of what type of platform should the application run on came up. Laszlo immediately introduced the idea of embedded Linux based systems for the medical instruments as well as for the PDAs and Tablets for the professionals and even the potential of Linux based servers and databases. Laszlo suggested these since Linux would allow...

Laszlo could not resist pointing out that the real Evil Empire which is holding down and fighting the real revolution -- the simple and low cost collaboration of all peoples via the Internet, not just the ones who can pay for the high cost of a Windows based PC -- is Microsoft with their monopolistic pressure tactics. One of such evil practices of Microsoft is the campaign under which they embrace a small company like Sensitron, enhance their application of Sensitron, then extinguish the original team. Embrace, enhance, extinguish. The Soviets were never that good and imaginative in their tyrannical approach. Maybe that is the reason they have failed.

As the biotech and IT arenas converge, IT enables life sciences companies to accelerate the development, testing and marketing of their intellectual properties, products and services. Life sciences encompass the fields of biotechnology, medical equipment and pharmaceutical products and services. Such companies include many small, as well as large entities like Pfizer, Chiron, Philips and Agilent.

It is hard to believe such a sophisticated, practical idea could come from people socializing over wine and sushi, but that is indeed the case. Many future start-up companies in the Silicon Valley will have the World Internet Center and its weekly Pub to thank for their conception.

One such important think tank, currently in formation stages looking for corporate sponsors, is an NIH-funded project for the disabled, aging and ailing. This proposed think tank planning to investigate the potential of collaborative telemedicine. For example, due to the shortage of medical professionals, China must use telemedicine to connect the small clinics in 260,000 communities to the 100 large teaching hospitals via VSAT type Internet linkage. NeuSoft of China is putting together such a system and of course they do not want to fall prey to Microsoft's overpriced systems. In fact Linux is the major platform China wants for all their applications supported by the Red Flag project.

Telemed systems of this type apply to a very large group, including disabled, aging and ailing people as well as the professionals supporting them. The sum of these people account for half the population of the world and very few of them can afford the artificially high cost of Windows-based systems. Telemed can lower the cost of medicine, improve the capabilities of the medical professionals and at the same time improve the quality of life of the patients.

Sensitron, with the support of NeuSoft will propose that NIH should provide a grant to their strategic alliance under which a disabled and female investigator will do a clinical study of the potential of significantly improved condition of health via Internet-based collaborative virtual community style involvement. This significant upgrade of self-supported health improvement can be achieved using assistive technologies (AT) connected via the web. However, such AT technologies must be upgraded to allow collaboration between the health service professionals and their patients linked via the virtual community. The AT based virtual community needs functions such as...

An important point: the AT technologies we would apply to the disabled and the aging can also be used for the eyes-busy, hands-busy professionals. It could be sold via a for-profit Internet company, with some of the profits paid back to the non-profit think tank in the form of grants and matching grants.

Melbourne, Singapore, Dailan, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lampur, Munich, Budapest, Vienna, Lund, Bern, Helsinki, Shenyang, Dublin, London, Stuttgart, Hawaii, Vancouver, Toronto, etc., would all love to come to Silicon Valley in this virtual community manner, through a club equipped with a standard wireless local area network (WLAN), connected to a virtual private network (VPN). This cross-oceanic virtual private network will have kiosk-based unified messaging (UM) between the clubs. This would also including very low-cost voice over the Internet protocol (VoIP) connected in all major APEC, Asian Pacific economic community, cities with the VoIP and UMoIP as well as through carrier allies with IP backbone to 120 of the important cities in USA/Canada as well as many in the EU.

Those of us with neurological dysfunctions such as MS, ALS, ALD, Parkinsons, Alzheimers and myriad more, have a very special personal stake in the networking that goes on over sushi and wine. Life sciences and information technology working together can aid these patients in a very effective way. For example, techniques like neuroprosthetics -- interaction with devices using voice and eye signals -- can develop.

As I sit in the only quiet spot at The Center during its weekly, after-hours social event, I notice the networking that takes place. The Center provides a great opportunity for people to share ideas for business. Everyone from the original architects of the Valley to new entrepreneurs is there. Investors look for good investment opportunities, and start-up companies look for anyone wanting to put money into their new venture. Basically, it's a people-to-people scene and is exciting to observe.

Then there are those who find the allure of the event as a singles bar irresistible. Where else can they find stimulating company, fresh sushi and good wine at such a fair price? Personally, having attended the weekly occasion for so many months now because my husband, Laszlo, is a member of The Center's Advisory Board, I could care less if I ever see sushi again in my life!

By now I have my own circle of friends at this gathering. And I find those wanting to do business with my important husband very courteous and attentive to me. In general, the entire encounter is an "upper" for me, a technology midget among giants.

Nibbling on the cheese set before me, my taste for sushi having long since expired, I fulfill my role as a mouse in the boardroom to the max. I overhear conversations of businessmen from the already-mentioned countries exchanging e-mail addresses to further negotiate via the Internet. The Center has achieved its goal.

I smile a little inward smile, realizing medical researchers around the world have been sharing ideas and breakthroughs on the Internet for years. A medical Manhattan Project has been globalized thanks to the Internet. I know a lot of afflicted people who were ready for medical help yesterday.

What can we do besides raise money to hurry things along? Hope the convergence of biotechnology and IT accelerates treatments for physical malfunctions worldwide and promotes the free exchange of intellectual property among biotechnology companies and research institutions, that's what. And keep that sushi and wine readily available for the Thursday night Pub at the World Internet Center.


Copyright © 2003, Janine M Lodato. Copying license http://www.linuxgazette.net/copying.html
Published in Issue 88 of Linux Gazette, March 2003

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