Router man

The creator of the multiprotocol router reflects on the development of the device that fueled the growth of networking.

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But then a lot of things happened to the organization. JXTA was put under the product side of things, which kind of gave me the shivers. I mean, you get into product stuff, and you're in a box. You can't get out. I always managed, but just because I was irritating enough for my vice presidents that they would say, 'Go do something else.'

So in 1998 I'm talking to my vice president, and he says go do what you want. And I said I'm doing wireless. It's the next big thing. He says OK, if you believe it, go do it.

I wrote something called the iPlanet Wireless Server, which sat between IMAP e-mail on the back end, and on the other side you could go to [Wireless Application Protocol] servers or any kind of wireless device. It was presentation language stuff so, depending on the device, you put out screens for phones or whatever. It was quite cool. It ended up being probably one of their only money-making wireless projects.

Based on some of the projects I know you've been involved in, a common thread seems to be handheld devices. Do you see particular promise there?

Over the years I've developed a real interest in mobile devices, which was one of my reasons to go to Sun in the first place, to do this mobile laptop, which they ultimately end-of-lifed (in error, but they did it anyway). So I saw the power of these devices, and I saw the power of integrating these devices. You could see wireless moving in, see all of this happening. It was very clear.

I felt we ought to do something to get some decent user interfaces on these devices. That's going to be a big next step. I don't think everybody in the world's going to have a computer, and it's stupid to ask everybody to learn to type. If you can use a mobile phone there are ways around this, and that's part of what I'm working on if I can get this new company going.

What's the focus of the new company?

It's called Peerouette, and it's a new twist on peer-to-peer. I've created what's called a deterministic peer-to-peer network. That is, the peers are never down, because the peers are not your devices. The peers are in the network and hosted by ISPs. Your device just authenticates strongly with public key and gets in there. And all your content lives in the network and is shareable 24 by 7.

You drop your mobile phone in the toilet, it's done, but it's all backed up. Automatically. My colleague says 'Bill, go to this URL.' I do. An image of his mobile phone appears on my laptop. He says 'press the menu key.' I do. I'm looking at his menu. He says 'take a picture.' I do. A picture of him appears. We've really gotten into these operating systems, how they work. We can totally control mobile phones from other devices. This is great for mobile phone people doing IT. All under very strong encryption.

So it's a lot about that and a lot about giving computing back to the people. I'm very big on the garage rock band having a way to sell their stuff. So in my world, you create your community out there in what we call the Peerouette Network, you take your MP3 files, push them out there, we give you billing, give you advertising, and you can sell them for whatever price you want. We'll take maybe 10%, something like that. What we're really doing is giving the user, the wireless ISP and the content provider a fair share of all the content revenue.

That's kind of what I'm up to, if we can fund it and get it going. We are very close. Cross your fingers. The Internet will surely be a better place if we succeed.

Sounds great. Good luck with that. In closing, let's change the subject. I understand you have a wine cave. What's that?

In French a wine cellar is called a cave because originally all the wine bottles were literally stored in caves. So we have a wine cellar and keep a reasonable supply . . . about 500 bottles going back to the '80s. Always fun when you have friends over. Go down to the cave and bring out a bottle or two.

What's your favorite wine?

Pinot Noir. Without any doubt. They are the most subtly complex wines. They have a spectrum of flavors that show a taste of the earth.

William (Bill) Yeager

Where born, year: San Francisco, 1940
  • Bachelor of arts in mathematics, University of California at Berkeley, 1964
  • Master of arts in mathematics, California
Work history:

1971-1975 — Systems programmer, NASA AMES

1975-1994 — Research staff in Stanford University’s Knowledge Systems Laboratory

1994-2004 — Sun

Present — Final stages of completing financing for start-up Peerouette
Interests/ hobbies:
  • Fluent in French, learning Mandarin
  • Tennis
  • Collecting wine
  • Travel to Europe, Asia
Tidbit few people would know: After high school I attended the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. I left the academy after 18 months, six of which were spent seeing places like Pago Pago, Samoa, Australia, Tasmania, Japan, China and the Philippines. I found a calculus book published in 1895 in the library of the USS Golden Bear of Pacific Far East Lines. I read it, liked the math and ended up at UC Berkeley, where the mascot is the Golden Bear.

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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