Capital Area Central Texas UNIX Society
CACTUS Newsletter

Volume 16, Number 8 - August 2000


Contents:


August Letter from the President

by Michael Rice

Not much of a note this month. As always I'm interested in how CACTUS is and is not meeting the expectations of it's members. In one case this month a member contacted us about the SSH requirement on the CACTUS machines. If you are having trouble please contact us and we will do what we can to help you, including explaining ourselves again for the reasoning behind the change.


An Important Message from the National Center for Internet Security

By Lindsay Haisley

My busy schedule this past month prevented me from pulling together a 'Sponsor of the Month' column, which will return next month. In place of it I'm offering this recent news report which I believe you'll find worth your attention.

REUTERS - New York City - Aug 17, 2000

Officials from the National Center for Internet Security confirmed today that a new strain of Internet virus has apparently been discovered in the wild in the Network Access Points in several states in the southern US. Network Access Points (NAPs) are the centers which route all Internet traffic in the US and around the world, and their function is vital to the proper functioning of the Internet.

The new form of virus was first reported by a number of AOL users in Alabama and Mississippi, and has since been confirmed at several NAPs in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia and Florida. The effects of the virus vary, but apparently one of the most common symptoms is on the appearance of websites within affected areas of the country. NCIS officials, who have been researching the virus intensively over the past several days, stated that affected websites were most often reported by Internet users as appearing "weasely", although a precise definition of what is meant by this term is unclear, and research is continuing to try to clarify the situation. At least some researchers report that the virus, dubbed "Weasely01" can also attach itself to emails, making them appear more conciliatory than in their uninfected states.

A sample of the virus was isolated yesterday at the Southern Regional NAP in Atlanta, and Dr. Lynn C. Doyle, a senior engineer with NCIS reported that preliminary tests show that "there's some good news and some bad news" about the new virus. "The bad news," stated Dr. Doyle, "is that we don't yet have a clear picture of how the virus spreads, and it appears to be spreading fairly rapidly. It doesn't respond to conventional antiviral software techniques. The good news is that we've discovered that the virus apparently takes up residence in an infected computer's mouse, and in the wires connecting the mouse to the main body of the computer. We've also found out that the virus is water soluble, especially in the presence of any one of a number of common household detergents. We're advising people who suspect that they may have contracted the Weasely01 to wash their mouse out with soap. Be sure to wash the mouse cord as well, along with the plug which connects the cord to the body of the computer". NCIS distributed a press release early this morning suggesting that laundering an infected mouse with a household washing machine may be sufficient to completely eliminate the virus from an affected computer. Users who employ this technique to eliminate the virus are warned to turn off their computers before connecting or disconnecting the mouse, and to dry it thoroughly using a hair drier before reconnecting it.

In spite of these developments, the virus continues to spread, although engineers at several regional NAPs are reportedly near discovering how to prevent Weasely01 from passing through their systems and spreading to still unaffected areas.


July Meeting Minutes

by Ron Roberts

Almost twenty members attended the July meeting at ARL. Michael Rice introduced the officers, whose reports were unnoteworthy. The only real news was that the Sparc 2 was offline and ready to be returned to Sun. In the event that Sun doesn't want it back, someone suggested that we auction it off at some future meeting. We're still waiting to hear from Sun.

Program chair Ray Schafer then introduced the speakers from Network Appliance Corporation. Yates Hagen, the sales representative, gave a quick overview of the company. Network Appliance Corporation is usually referred to as NetApps in shorthand. They've been in business for only eight years. They've been IPO'd for five. The founders were architects at Auspex systems who invented the dedicated NFS server business.

Since then they've gotten into the Web Proxy business. They purchased some Internet middleware from the guy who invented SQUID and adopted their hardware for it.

In Austin, NetApps has four sales representatives, two Sales Engineers, a Field Engineer, and about ten support staff. Some of their local customers are Illuminati Online, JumpNet, Yahoo, Cisco, Outernet [parent], Texas Instruments, UT, and Motorola. The whole company does about ten billion a year in sales.

Their current NFS offering includes a patented backup system that allows administrators to clone snapshots of the filesystems. The .snapshot directory keeps an hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly inode by inode copy of previous versions [depending on how it's configured]. It only keeps versions of blocks that have changed since the snapshot. On the remote system, these versions look to be complete copies. Users can revert to previous versions without any administrative assistance. This snapshot mechanism works with several different backup packages, such as Veritas and Legatto.

The NetApps filesystem is called WAFFLE--write anywhere file layout. It's journaled to disk and to battery backed NVRAM. The NVRAM is only used when necessary because it's not as fast as the CACHE. It has builtin RAID4 and can expand a filesystem on the fly. The operating system is called ONTAP and consists of about 600,000 lines of code. It's lean and quick. You can reboot in 60-90 seconds. Like previous offerings, it's not a full multitasking operating system--it does networking, filesystems, and what you need to do to administer it, such as rshell.

Earlier versions ran on 486 Intel versions with a DOS like shell that let you ifconfig, exportfs, etc. The current boxes are DEC (Compaq) Alpha boxes with PCI bus, with 18 or 36 gigabyte drives--SCSI 3 and fiber. The bottleneck is currently the single CPU (unlike Auspex), but they claim throughput of 80 megabytes per second, which beats Auspex. NetApps used to be considerably cheaper than Auspex, but no longer. You can get a one terrabyte NetApps for about 175k. NetApps is fond of saying that Auspex is a four dollar stock losing money every quarter. Several Auspex trade in boxes are at NetApps headquarters converted into fish tanks.

While Auspex concentrated on hardware solutions such as optimizing the VME bus beyond it's original specifications, the founders of NetApps concentrated on software solutions. They use commodity off the shelf hardware and proprietary home-grown software. So while Auspex had to deal with porting from SunOS 4.0x to Solaris, NetApps kept optimizing their software and adding support for newer hardware.

Thanks to Yates, Frank and the Network Appliance Corporation for the presentation. And congratulations to Ray Shafer for actually providing two programs in a row.


August Meeting

by Lindsay Haisley

Since this newsletter is late to press, the August meeting has already come and gone. As it turns out, no good deed goes unpunished. Our scheduled presenter, Cisco Systems, failed to get back with our Programs Chair and the expected presentation didn't materialize. The CACTUS membership, however, is resourceful and diverse, and given sufficient pizza and soda, something good will always come of any CACTUS meeting, no matter how bollixed the schedule. Member-at-large Gil Kloepfer saved the day (or rather the evening) by demonstrating an install of FreeBSD which was very well done and held everyone's attention. The only glitch was the inability of everyone there to deduce the correct video technology in the onboard video in the Dell box used for the presentation. We were treated to the spectacle of at least half a dozen Unix geeks all trying to get their heads over the Dell box at the same time trying to identify the mystery video controller.

Gil also discussed ARL's ban on food in our meeting room, which had us considering alternative possibilities for future meetings. As of press time, however, it appears that the ban has been rescended and we are free to bring in our traditional pizza and sodas, with the caveat that we take our trash fully out of the room at the end of our meetings. No problem there!

Hopefully we'll be able to contact Cisco for the September meeting and get back on track, however given the response to Gil's presentation, 'back on track' might well mean scheduling presentations by CACTUS members from time to time. We have a lot of knowledge and talent among us.


CACTUS System News

by Lindsay Haisley

Some members have had difficulty accessing our two online systems, linux.cactus.org and sparc.cactus.org with telnet. There's a reason for this. There are inherent insecurities in the telnet protocol, including the transmission of plaintext passwords over the Internet, and shell access to both boxes requires ssh (Secure SHell). If you're not familiar with ssh, you should be, and we'll most likely present a tutorial on it at a future meeting. In order to log on to CACTUS boxes you'll need an ssh client. Unix clients can be obtained from http://www.openssh.com. For those of you who must use Windows, there's an excellent and very lightweight Windows ssh client called PuTTY available at http://humbolt.geo.uu.nl/~bjs/putty/index.html. The OpenSSH project also advertises Windows clients, although I'm not personally familiar with any of them.

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.


Membership

By Luis Basto

Mucho thanks to Gil Kloepfer and C. Unnikrishnan 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