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Review of Software Collaborative Tools

- Nishanth Menon

What is "Collaborative computing?" In order to understand this term, let us focus on the aspects of human collaboration, as it exists today. E-mail, discussion groups, news servers, and similar software products help people to electronically exchange information. In other words, these products provide the basis for "groupware"- an asynchronous aspect of human collaboration.

Now, being asynchronous does not help us all the time and "real time" communication seem to be the essence of the issue. Like the telephone systems, which offer real time communication between people, software products have been developed that provide functionalities that are beyond the traditional real-time systems. Thus to define Collaborative tools I like the quote from web wisdom;
"Collaborative computing is a term describing a variety of activities where people interact with one another using desktops, laptops, palmtops, and sophisticated digital cellular phones. As computers are best at handling data and representing information, person-to-person communication is enriched by an ability to share, modify, or collaboratively create data and information."

In short, this is what we do in real life over sheets of paper, a white board or sharing a magazine content over cups of tea. Online collaboration is due to change the way we work, providing instant connectivity and disregarding geographical location. As Chuck Martin speaks about the "wired workers" in his book the "Net Future" and states numerous examples about how various companies had imparted collaborative tools into their organizations and profited from the same.

This article shall look briefly at what the various tools for collaboration are and how emerging technologies can be merged to create the solution that you might want to adopt.

The Menu:

  1. Microsoft Net meeting
  2. Online chat systems
  3. P2P solutions
    a. Open Cola
    b. Jabber
    c. Groove
  4. Other options
  5. Security Issues

1. Microsoft Net meeting
This has been around for a long time with capabilities such as what Microsoft says - "Microsoft conferencing software that you can use to communicate with both audio and video, collaborate in Windows-based programs, exchange graphics on an electronic whiteboard, transfer files, or use a text-based chat program. Common uses of NetMeeting include real-time document collaboration, technical support in a HelpDesk environment, training and distance learning, and conducting remote meetings."

And to come to the technical part. The system uses Real Time Protocol (RTP) which works over User Datagram protocol (UDP) and H.323 for audio & video transmissions and call control. Light weight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) is used by the Internet Locator Servers (ILS) which in turn are used by the clients to locate and communicate other clients - a type of directory access system.

Setting this system up is the simplest task you can ever imagine. All one needs is the Net meeting client that can be procured along with Microsoft Windows. And of course the name of the ILS where the user has login (using his or her email ID).

Continue >>

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