Subject: Computing devices for accounting
Date: 1999/06/13
Author: Todd Boyle
  Posting History Home
Hundreds of articles have appeared in press, during 1998-99 telling us that the Personal Computer will not be the only computing platform:  Examples: PDAs like the Palm Pilot, Set-top boxes, etc.
  • A sealed case, with hardware security device built in, such as based on smart card technology, iris or fingerprint user authentication, etc.
  • Hardware timeserver.  Buddy system module for 2-or-more computers to monitor the physical security of the other members, detecting any moment of offline status.
  • Mirrored hard disks.
  • Connectors:  Power, VGA, Keyboard, COM1/COM2, Printer, Ethernet, V90 modem, USB ports, and SCSI port for backup.
  • The device would support cash registers and barcode readers 

Accounting Device -Operating System Software

Any reliable, cost-effective, multiuser server operating system. But Windows NT,  with SQL database and accounting software, is too expensive.  The box would run Linux, because that's the only way you're going to get the device cost down into the low $1000s for small business.
NT Server costs at least $1000 right out of the box. Every single component from SQL database thru applications costs more on NT.  Furthermore it is impossible to achieve reliability cheaply on NT.  Based on the last 5 years' experience, a reliable Microsoft platform cannot be acheived without regular upgrades, patches and skilled labor.  The platform is notorious for memory leaks, bugs, security holes and is inconsistent with the notion of a maintenance-free Accounting Device.
User Modality

No access to the operating system.  Just a standard menu of features, including tape backup.  The user has only one disaster recovery solution -- restore a tape into a standard Accounting Device.
Software maintenance and updates: performed by the vendor, thru a Browser interface.
Accounting Software

This is the missing piece, obviously.
The software must support the full accounting cycle for most businesses.  This includes, in my opinion, robust inventory system, payroll, some kind of activity or project codes, and multi-company and multi-department.
The software must also exploit the emerging transactions marketplace (EBPP (bill presentment), multiple options for electronic payments, generalized XML capabilities to send, or receive and post, any given set of transactions as an XML document.
There are at least 3 broad categories of midrange accounting solutions emerging for Linux.
1. Open source software under development, such as
Linux Kontor is by far the most advanced.  I have written a long report about it elsewhere on my webpage. 
None of these have the features needed for broad use, and the rate of new development suggests that it may be several years before any these products are usable anyplace other than some narrow niche markets.  Linux Kontor is the best bet.  GnuCash is designed as a personal finance software from top to bottom.  The last 3 are ambitious startups too early to judge. They could scream right past Linux Kontor but I doubt it.  Far more likely, a commercial GL would appear for Linux first.
2. Web GLs

Commercial software development in Web-based General Ledgers is 1000 times more serious and energetic than anything on the GPL platforms.  Most hard work and money is aimed at delivering Accounting functionality as a service or rental application (what I call, "General Ledger Dialtone"). 
Nevertheless these companies definitely have the best modules or code that seem, technically, possible to run in a Linux Accounting Device:
SecuredBooks version 1.o
ECompany Network
Review of it
Cyprus: Netveil
Virtual Controller
Zoo Net ZAS (online billing)
OneCore is a cash-centerd system
It should be noted that a powerful and secure Accounting Device would enable whole levels of new functionality, if designed to interface with *any* of the above Web GLs on the Internet. 
Everyone should review Intuit's architecture which might be called RC/RH (Rich Client/Rich Host) Quickbooks and Quicken as portals to e-commerce, online payments, and online bill presentment. ( --you don't have to give up your private standalone accounting system to Bill, pay and receive payments, over the internet.  (but you have fees, fees, fees.)
Small Web GL developers may decide to agree on XML standards, or to define a common client platform such as a Linux Accounting Device to talk to their online GL dialtone services.
3.  Established Accounting Packages migrating to Linux or Java
No links to show you, but I would not be surprised to see some of the existing accounting packages get re-written to run somehow, on Linux.  In particular, the smaller vendors having deep enough knowledge of the tables and business rules required, are in a very good position to start writing a whole new package for linux.
Both Borland JBuilder3 and CodeWarrior are scheduled for 1999 releases on Linux.  There will likely be some good accounting packages emerging on Linux within 6-12 months.  The largest software companies in 2020 may be those born at this particular moment in Linux market.
Here are some Java tools
Heck heres a whole list
There are whole universes of other server-side technology that might work.  Obviously, C programs, Perl, PHP3, GTK, X-windows etc. ..give me a break, I'm an accountant.  I'm looking for easy GUI types of dev. platforms, that have lots of objects already available to plug in.
4.  Accounting Packages for Linux already available or for sale:
The May-July 1999 Linux Journal have exactly four advertisements or editorial mentions, for *any* accounting or business-related software and none of them are web ledgers:  
  AppGen Business Software Inc.
  Hells Kitchen credit card module
Other Linux packages on download sites are listed in Programs to manage your money and track your investments, from -most of these are GPL.  a few are restricted.
GTK Pizza Delivery System
Java Pizza Delivery System
Portfolio Manager
Enough already
* Todd F. Boyle CPA
* International Accounting Services LLC
* 9745-128th Av NE, Kirkland WA 98033      (425) 827-3107
* Accounting ASP, Web ledger, netledger, web GL, GL Dialtone, whatever