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 Interview: Curt Craig, SafeDesk Solutions

Orange Crate is pleased to announce an interview with Curt Craig of Safe Desk Solutions through email. I found this to be a fun one - Curt's self-effacing sense of humor is rather refreshing. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did, and that you learn a little more about the new businesses and opportunities that entrepenuers are finding in the new Linux channels available to them. No matter what the pundits are saying, there are plenty of trained solution providers out there, and their numbers are growing.

 (Submitted by Chuck Talk Mon Apr 25, 2005 )

  Chuck Talk: Hi Curt, I would like to begin by asking you about your role at SafeDesk
Solutions, and maybe some history of the company?

Curt Craig: I'm a pointy-haired sales guy...actually, my title is Director of Business Development, and I head up the Sales department and coordinate partner relations. SafeDesk is a subsidiary of Class 101, an educational-training company that was launched in Portland, Oregon several years ago and moved to Spokane, Washington in 2001. SafeDesk evolved from a partnership we formed with a Kansas City company called Lumen Software. Last year we parted ways, with SafeDesk focusing on our own line of thin-client products and customer support philosophies.

Chuck Talk: I had noticed that SafeDesk seems to be working with Thin Client computing solutions. Is SafeDesk Solutions building primarily for small to medium businesses?

Curt Craig: The largest percentage of our customers are in Education, both K-12 and
Higher Education. We also have a number of Small and Medium Business and Government customers as well.

Chuck Talk: What applications do you primarily recommend for customers? I noticed that you are a CodeWeavers partner, are you selling thin cleint solutions that allow businesses to take advantage of CodeWeaver's ability to run some Windows based applications for office and bookkeeping functionality to your customers?

Curt Craig: We always recommend OS applications first, but customers tend to want to use what their staff/users require (go figure). So in K-12 Education, for example, if a particular curriculum has some "gotta-haves", such as Renaissance's Accelerated Reader/Math, we expend the resources required to port/test/deploy the applications using CodeWeavers.

We've also found that a number of our customers who have been hesitant to "drop their MS Office training wheels", have come around, over time, to using Open Office, even after we've configured their servers for both.

Chuck Talk: When using CodeWeavers WINE solutions, are you placing those environments in a chroot environment and setting permissions such as > suggested by Nick Petreley and Jono Bacon in their book Linux Desktop Hacks for protecting the Linux machine from the Windows applications?

Curt Craig: No, we are not running Codeweavers WINE in a chrooted environment. We
are using the Codeweavers Managed Mode to control permissions for the WINE environment. Windows applications run as the user and therefore have all the privileges a normal user would have and the security implications that would affect any normal Linux system. Although we looked at a chrooted model, the cons involved outweighed the pros in terms of user experience. We try to make our Linux experience as close to a Windows experience as possible so that it is a painless adoption of the technology, while still leveraging the user/root separation of rights to lock down the system from unauthorized access to administrative functions.

Chuck Talk: Does SafeDesk do any custom WINE porting of applications for customers?

Curt Craig: See #3...Yes, we do.

Editor's Note: Some questions always seem silly through email when they have already been answered. ;)

Chuck Talk: Does SafeDesk Solutions do any work for schools in your area? We have a strong Novell presence in Academia and in several businesses and financial institutions here, but I was wondering if SafeDesk Solutions is focused mainly on the SMB space, government or K-12 markets?

Curt Craig: I can put you in touch with a customer or two if you like. We do quite a few Novell Integrations, which is one (of many) of the reasons we switched from a Gentoo Distribution to SuSE.

Chuck Talk: I notice that you are also providing a Firewall solution for SafeDesk, is the intuitive native interface (GUI) for the firewall solution a homegown solution, or are you utilizing aspects of the SUSE/Novell Firewall to setup Firewall servers for networks?

Curt Craig: The firewall solution utilizes the SUSE/Novell firewall as a base for building more advance rule-sets and customization for our customers. We thought that it would be redundant to build a new firewall system from the ground up when SUSE/Novell offered a fairly robust one. Also our partnership with SUSE/Novell eases the customization and enhancement process.

Chuck Talk: I have noticed as well that you are a Dell and Gateway Partner. Are these manufacturers white-boxing their products for you to build out your own drive image for installs?

Curt Craig: We have a great relationship with a number of hardware manufacturers, including Gateway, Dell, HP, IBM...the manufacturer's retain their branding - in some cases the SafeDesk bundle is imaged at the plant, but in most cases we ship from here.

Chuck Talk: What unique solutions and experience does SafeDesk offer above the hardware and OS products?

Curt Craig: Based upon our years of experience in Education, we still have a training and consulting division...but we're spending most of our time and resources in the technologies that are required in Educsation and the SMB space...by developing with and leveraging Linux, of course.

Chuck Talk:What are your goals for the company, and do you have a product and/or services roadmap for the business?

Curt Craig: Our goal is to facilitate/support the adoption of Linux/OS solutions in education, SMB, and government...even by those that don't know a thing about Linux. We've seen that a major hurdle for Linux thin-client adoption is the fact that many administrators don't have either the time or skill set to realize the benefits of Linux thin-client computing...we want to fill those gaps, whether you have the skills, but don't have the time, or vice-versa.

Chuck Talk: Do you build out custom solutions for your clients with WINE or build in-house software for sale in addition to the hardware solutions?

Curt Craig: We build our custom solutions based upon customer requirements; in recent years we've leaned away from building software solutions based upon anticipated customer demand.

Chuck Talk: Finally, is there anything that you would like to tell my audience that perhaps I missed asking you?

Curt Craig: We're committed to working with our customers, partners, and the open source community to provide high quality solutions. That may sound somewhat trite, but we truly DO look at other solution providers/community members, not as potential competitors first, but as potential collaborators. We have some great new tools ready for release for community collaboration, and we're committed to working hard towards finding "win-wins" for our both our partners and our customers. Your readers should feel free to shoot me their ideas or questions; I'll make sure they get to the right "non-pointy-haired-sales" people!

Editor's Note: Contact Curt via email @ sales at safedesksolutions dot com.

Chuck Talk: Thanks for your time Curt. I am sure that you will do well, and I wish you continued success.


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