Capital Area Central Texas UNIX Society
CACTUS Newsletter

Volume 16, Number 6 - June 2000


Contents:


June Letter from the President

by Michael Rice

Ray (our programs officer) has been working very hard to get programs lined up so we have an excuse besides the air conditioning to come to the CACTUS meetings.

We'll certainly talk about the recent changes to the cactus machines, and what that means to our members. Feel free to bring your questions or suggestions to the meeting.


Our Sponsor of the Month - Real/Time Communication

By Lindsay Haisley

Our Sponsor of the Month for June is Real/Time Communications, one of CACTUS's oldest sponsors. As I noted in the March newsletter, Real/Time has hosted our (now sidelined) SPARC II since the early 90s. Prior to that, Real/Time was a part-time project of George Wenzel, Real/Time's chief engineer, and was part of the CACTUS domain as wixer.cactus.org, so the relationship has gone both ways.

This article is in part a good-bye to Real/Time. Real/Time has decided to terminate their sponsorship of CACTUS, coincidentally just as we are decommissioning the aging SPARC II which they co-locate. I wanted to interview Bob Gustwick, president of Real/Time for this article, but Bob is notoriously elusive, and repeated phone calls and emails couldn't smoke him out. Bob is an engaging fellow with an encyclopedic knowledge of the Internet and of Unix, as well as a keen sense of humor, and it's a pity that we couldn't publish an article based on an interview with him. This article is based on my own recollections and those of other CACTUS officers who remember CACTUS and Real/Time from 'the old days'.

In the early 90s the Internet was still primarily the province of the military, major universities, colleges and major corporations. DNS name registrations were still done by the National Science Foundation and were free. Microsoft considered the Internet to be "immature technology" and would have nothing to do with it. Linux was just a hobby project by Linus Torvalds of which very few people had heard.

In those days, although CACTUS had a direct connection to the Internet, there was by and large neither a market for general Internet access nor much access available from major carriers. All this started to change around 1993 and 1994, and the business known as "Internet Service Provider" was born. Real/Time jumped on the bandwagon early and was one of the first two or three commercial ISPs in Austin, initially offering Internet access to the public via a dozen or so dial-in modem connections and a 14.4K connection to the Internet via AlterNet. They've come a long way since then! They now offer dial-in and dedicated connections via several hundred modems, ISDN and T1. They advertise 8 T1 connections to various backbones and highly fault-tolerant connectivity for their customers.

Over the years Real/Time matured as a company, moving from a back room in Wallingford Electronics in 1993, through several locations in north Austin, to their current offices in downtown Austin. They have always been very strongly a Unix shop. In the early days of their business, all their operations were done on BSDI Unix. Dial-up users got a simple curses based menu system from which they could access a number of services such as FTP, IRC, email (via pine and elm) and a shell prompt if they were more comfortable working in a straight Unix environment.

In the mid 90s, the Winsock standard began to emerge as the default API and protocol implementation for accessing the Internet from a Windows box and a market for direct dial-in connections to the Internet began to develop. Real/Time helped to pioneer direct access to the Internet using SLIP, writing their own kernel drivers to provide and monitor SLIP access via modem. This form of access is now nearly universal (although PPP has replaced SLIP as the protocol of choice), and dial-up shell accounts are the exception rather than the rule. At the time, however, SLIP access to the Internet was a special service for which Real/Time customers paid a premium price.

Real/Time continues to stay up with the times, offering co-location and various high-bandwidth services to the Austin, San Marcos and San Antonio communities. Their strong suit is their immense technical knowledge and engineering expertise, and they've become the service provider of choice for a number of businesses in the Austin Community which already have substantial in-house Unix and networking knowledge and need a provider with equivalent skills and the resources to match them. They take pride in their "Rock Solid internet connectivity" offering high fault tolerance and high bandwidth.

We'd like to extend a very special 'thank you' to Real/Time for their many years of support of CACTUS, and our best wishes for their continued success.

You can reach Real/Time via their website at http://www.realtime.net.


CACTUS System News

by Lindsay Haisley

We have finally taken all essential services off of the SPARC II at Real/Time and have moved most services onto our Linux box at OuterNet. We plan to leave the SPARC II online at its present location, with the permission of Real/Time, or elsewhere until June 23. The box can still be reached as sparc2.cactus.org. All email to cactus.org addresses is now going to the Linux box, linux.cactus.org, so if you depend on receiving email at your cactus.org address you'll want to go there to pick up your mail, or set up a .qmail file in your home directory (which works like a traditional .forward file for forwarding) to have your email sent elsewhere. Mail to you should still be addressed to your username @cactus.org, just as before.

Linux being a variety of Unix (in spite of what the folks at GNU say) you'll find that most shell operations on the box will be familiar to you. Syntax for a few commands such as tar and ps are different, but everything has man pages so you should have no trouble. If you have questions or problems, send email to admin [at] cactus <dot> org and one of the officers will be glad to help you.

You should note that there have been a few important changes.

If you are a paid-up CACTUS member you should already have an account on both linux.cactus.org and sparc.cactus.org. If you find that you don't please contact our membership chairman, Luis Basto at membership [at] cactus <dot> org and bring the matter to his attention.

If you need any utilities or services on either the Linux box or the SPARC 10 which are not already installed, please contact the system administrators at admin [at] cactus <dot> org and one of them will be glad to install the requested software for you. For utilities which might be of use to more than one member, this is much better than having everyone compile their own local versions - for obvious reasons.

The files on the SPARC II have been archived and should be available permanently even after the box is taken down. CACTUS President Mike Rice has the archive CDs.


June Meeting

by Ray Schafer

Finally things seem to be working out. I am now looking to fill September!

This months program will be held at UT's J.J. Pickle Research Campus Auditorium at 10000 Burnet road on Thursday, June 15th at 7:00 PM. The talk will be about AIX's Logical Volume Manager. The Logical Volume Manager (LVM) has been shipped as part of AIX since day 1. This industrial strength subsystem places a logical layer on top of the physical disks and allows file systems to span multiple disks, be increased in size on the fly, be moved to another disk during write operations. Mirroring of logical volumes is also available. Ray Schafer will discuss some of the features of LVM and perform a live demonstration.

July's presentation will be on the Network Appliance's Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices. Pete Farrell, of SIS will present Network Appliances's NAS product and talk about some of it's nice features. This is a system dedicated to file serving, and as such has been built from the ground up to do just that. Because of this approach, Network Appliance was able to build the OS and file system to enhance performance and minimize administration needs. NAS allows you to consolidate your storage into one manageable box. It uses standard NFS protocols for the Unix environment and CIFS (aka SMB) protocols to talk to the Windows world. It provides features that allow it to out-perform direct attached SCSI devices.

The presentation in August will be given by Cisco Systems. Craig Tobias will discuss Cisco's Net Director, a router device that can perform load balancing between servers.


Membership

By Luis Basto

We'd like to thank William Dodd and Eric Jones for renewing their membership.

Membership

To renew your membership, please send check or money order payable to CACTUS ($25/yr for regular membership and $96/yr for corporate sponsorship):

You can also pay in person at the general meetings. Please direct any inquiries or address changes to membership [at] cactus <dot> org.



 

CACTUS Officers

Contact Information


CACTUS Sponsors


CACTUS Meeting Location: Applied Research Labs

CACTUS meets on the third Thursday of each month at the Applied Research Labs (ARL) in the JJ Jake Pickle Research Campus (JJ PRC). We'll meet in the main auditorium located directly behind the guard's desk and main lobby.

Please do not show up earlier than 6:20 pm on the specified day. Enter through the main entrance at 10000 Burnet Road for ARL:UT. Tell the guard that you are here for the CACTUS meeting. You will be required to sign a log book, but not required to wear a badge. The guards will direct you to the auditorium entrance. Limited parking in the front of the building is available, but more extensive parking is available in the large parking lot just north of the ARL building. After 6:30 pm, all entrances to JJ PRC, except for the Burnet Road entrance, are closed and locked. You can still enter the parking lot in front of the ARL building. No parking tags are necessary after 6:00 pm. See map for further details.

Online maps are available at:

As always, please leave the facility as you saw it when you arrived. So let's clean up all pizza and soda items before we leave. Thanks and hope to see all of you there.

Map to the Monthly CACTUS Meeting

                                                  | |     ^
        <---- to MOPAC                            | |     |
                                                  | |     | North
                                                  | |     | to Braker Lane
                                   ---------------+ |
                                   -+ /-----------+ |
                                    | |           | |
                                    | +--------+  | |
                                    |  Parking |  | |
                                    |    Lot   |  | |
                                    +----------+  | |
                                                  | |
                           +------------+         | |
                           |            | +-------+ |
                           |            | |   +---+ |
                           |            | |   |   | | Rutland
                           |    ARL     | |   |   | +---------
                           |            | |   |   | +---------
                           |            | |   +---+ |
                           |            | +---+---+ |
                           +------------+         | |  |
                                                  | |  | South
                                                  | |  | to US 183
                                                  | |  v