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The virtual conference room

GnomeMeeting helps bridge the gap to NetMeeting.

In these uncertain times, virtual meetings help people work together without having to travel to remote sites. Users all over the world can participate. Linux has always been strong in networking, but not so much in video conferencing and support for networked meetings.

Microsoft’s NetMeeting rules the roost for most organizations. NetMeeting, of course, runs on Windows, not Linux, leaving Linux users out in the cold for this important de facto desktop standard. You can try to run NetMeeting under WINE, which runs Windows applications under Linux, but this is one Windows application that is currently listed as not running under WINE.

NetMeeting supports shared desktops, allowing multiple users to view the contents of a remote desktop screen. NetMeeting uses ILS, or Internet locator server, and LDAP directories to allow users to find meetings and connect. NetMeeting also supports shared video conferencing using H.323 video and audio.

A Linux application called GnomeMeeting supports the latter two functions but not the shared desktop. GnomeMeeting supports H.323 video and audio, along with H.245 tunneling and a host of other features listed on the Web site. GnomeMeeting supports ILS and LDAP directories, allowing GnomeMeeting users to see NetMeeting users, but the reverse is not true. NetMeeting users won’t see GnomeMeeting users. Unfortunately, GnomeMeeting does not support the shared desktop feature of NetMeeting. Virtually every time I’ve run NetMeeting, the shared desktop has been the feature I’ve used the most.

ZMeeting brings the capabilities of GnomeMeeting to the Sharp Zaurus handheld. The Zaurus is a Linux-based handheld, which means you can participate in video conferences from a handheld using wireless networking.

Palantir supports video and audio streaming with a variety of clients, including specialized ones for Windows. Palantir also supports the Zaurus.

VNC (short for virtual network computing) provides the missing feature by supporting shared desktops, but is not compatible with NetMeeting. Luckily, VNC runs on Linux, Windows, Windows CE for PocketPC devices, UNIX, and a host of other platforms. VNC allows you to remotely access your desktop over a network or dial-up connection. This is also very useful for technical support. In addition, multiple users can share the same desktop. Other VNC versions are available from Tridia and TightVNC.

The Keypebble VNC client extends VNC support to the Sharp Zaurus handheld. You can also run the VNC server on the Zaurus, bringing your handheld screen to other users.

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