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Small-Tree extends G5 networking platform to G4, Windows and Linux

Inver Grove Heights, Minn – The two- and three-port Gigabit Ethernet cards that Small Tree Communications formerly made only for the Apple G5 platform have arrived for G4, Windows and Linux machines, the Minnesota-based company announced Monday.

"There are many multiple platform configurations going on in the computer center these days," said Corky Seeber, Small Tree's president. "Having a single networking hardware solution that can support Apple Mac OS, Windows NT and XP and Linux systems is unique."

The company's first offering of network cards were for G5 systems only. New software drivers were all it took to make the company work on G4 systems running Mac OS X 10.2 or greater, allowing Small Tree to reach businesses that have not upgraded. In the process, Small Tree also made the network cards compatible with Intel-based systems running Windows or Linux.

"The installed base of G4 systems is much larger than the G5 systems, so it just made sense to try and capture a larger market share," Seeber said. "Plus after some initial testing, we determined that our card would play on both platforms, no additional effort on our part — a drop-in solution is always good business."

While different operating systems can network effectively using different hardware, as long as all the network cards involved can handle the same protocol, Seeber said using the same hardware in every application adds consistency to the process. Companies can take advantage of volume discounts if they buy just one type of network card, he said, and technical staffs do not have to worry about maintaining as many different devices. The cards are especially intended for businesses that need to mix platforms for specialized purposes as part of their workflow.
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"Often there are problems that require computers that are very cost-effective from a computational power perspective [Linux platforms], and there are computers that have a specific application that runs only on one platform [Final Cut Pro, which runs on Apple]," Seeber said.

The protocol Small Tree’s cards use is Gigabit Ethernet, standardized in the IEEE 802.3ad specification. Seeber said they are compatible with 10/100 Ethernet cards. The cards' 64-bit PCI bus can have a clock speed as high as 133MHz, according to a company press release, but it is compatible with slower PCI buses. The cards also support "jumbo frames," for those who want to increase the amount of data an Ethernet connection can transmit at one time.

Detractors have pointed out problems with the technology, such as a router potentially not having enough memory to handle many large streams of data at a time when it expects smaller bits — but many companies are going ahead with it regardless for the increase in speed. Small Tree\'s cards allow for that an option — along with the user's choice of operating systems.

"This will allow people to focus on solving the problem they have to solve and spend less time worrying about how that work is going to get done, or overcoming that compatibility barrier," Seeber said.

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Jason Stitt is a staff writer for the Wisconsin Technology Network and can be reached at jason@wistechnology.com. )

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