Capital Area Central Texas UNIX Society
CACTUS Newsletter

Volume 16, Number 10 - October 2000


You can get to this newsletter on the web at

October Letter from the President

by Michael Rice

Another typical month for this particular president, nothing much to report except the pizza will be there yet again. The Sparc 10 is still at JumpNet, we got our NetApp, and the Linux box is still doing the brunt of the work at OuterNet.

Wait a minute...

We got our NetApp!!! Yep, that's right, your's truly spoke up when Network Appliance came to talk to us a few months ago and asked if they had a box they would loan/donate. Frank Mozina said "Sure, I think we can do that." Later that week he emailed me and let me know it was in the works. Just before our last meeting he emailed and said he had it, but it wouldn't be ready for us for another week yet. Well, the time went by and I finally found the time to go get the box last week. It's sitting in my house now, I'll bring it to the Thursday meeting, and if we have the appropriate hardware (laptop and serial cable), we can configure it on the big screen (depending on the presentation we may do this _after_). They want a 'powered by NetApp' logo on our front webpage in return, shouldn't be a problem.

I also still have the sparc2 which was the only CACTUS box for a very long time. I may or may not have room to bring both on Thursday, but I'd like to talk about what we want to do with the sparc2, if nothing else just to get it out of my house.

Sponsor of the Month - The Kernel Group

By Lindsay Haisley

The Kernel Group has been a CACTUS sponsor for 3 years, and of all our sponsors, is probably deeper into the heart of Unix than most. I talked today with Ray Schafer, our Programs Chair, who is one of the senior members of the TKG technical staff. With only minimal questioning Ray grabbed the ball and ran with it, and told me about everything we'd want to know about TKG. Ray's account was enough of a story that I'll present it to you with only minimal editing.

"The Kernel Group started back in 1990 and was basically a group of contractors who were writing the kernel for AIX. IBM changed their way of doing things and these guys decided that the best way maintain a relationship was to form a company that [IBM] could contract with. So the original method of doing that was to charge per bug fix. That made the accounting staff at IBM happy because they knew how much a bug would cost them now, whereas they had no idea before. Sometimes it would take three months, sometimes it would take one hour. Of course, to make this more productive for us we made some tools so we could fix bugs faster and better. If we fixed a bug and it broke something else we fixed that at no charge. Because of the tools we developed, we got into doing some products, and about 5 years ago or so we made available some [of these] products that we developed. They were mainly developer oriented products; Zero Fault and SC Trace, and they were specifically geared toward AIX.

"Then we were asked to port the Tivoli Code Base from Solaris to AIX since we were experts in AIX at the time. That was before Tivoli was even a gleam in Lou Gerstner's eye, so that was way before IBM came into the picture. Then in 1993 we branched off into doing services. We were asked by IBM to go help install a trading floor up at Wall Street. So we did that, and then were asked to install a couple more, and we ended up getting into the services business. When I started working with TKG my job was to help get the New York office started.

"About a year ago, almost to the day, we brought a new CEO on board. Up until then it was like 'now it's your turn to be CEO.' We didn't really have a top management person. We hired an executive search firm, and were very lucky to get Sol Suberi. Sol is a very good, very astute executive. He put a lot of focus on the company - a lot of focus on products, so about a year ago we began focusing on service products; things that we learned in the services industry that we could package and sell. The products started coming out of ideas that we had from performing sysadmin services for huge data centers - Chase Manhattan Bank, Deutschebank, Prudential Securities, United Parcel Services, so we got ideas about what these people need to better do their job. We came up with a couple of ideas and got products off of those. One is the Bare Metal Restore that was demo'd at the last CACTUS meeting. Another is something called AutoTrace which is a developer tool which automagically at compile time inserts tracing information into code, and then you can turn on trace hooks to trace your code. You don't have to add any code at all. You just basically compile your code with it. It's tremendous! It really uses some very innovative ideas. Without being in kernel mode, we're able to have multiprocessing and allocate a memory piece without any kernel locking at all. There's some really neat stuff that we have in there! We're able to track multiple processes running on multiple machines writing to the same trace file and keep it all straight, with very little impact on performance. With all the trace hooks in and nothing turned on it's far less than 2% overhead. If you turn on all the trace hooks it's a big impact, but most of the trace hooks you can turn off. Generally, it's less than a 10% performance impact when you turn on enough of the trace hooks to get meaningful results, so it's incredible stuff."

TKG has recently received 3.7 million dollars of venture capital for marketing, and plans to double in size over the next 8 months or so. Ray was eager to let newsletter readers know that they're looking for technical staff. TKG has the growth potential of a startup company, but because of their experience they have their act very well together, more so than many startups. As Ray says, "It's an exciting time to start working for TKG and basically get in on the ground floor".

In addition to AIX, TKG currently supports, Solaris, HP, and NT, and is looking toward supporting other platforms such as Linux. AutoTrace right now will run on any platform on which gcc will run, although none of the code is open source at this time.

With support and sponsorship from companies such as TKG, it's easy to see that Unix is Alive and Well in the world these days.

September Meeting Minutes

by Ron Roberts

Plenty of pizza and sodo as usual. Michael Rice announced the expiration of the RSA encryption patent on the previous day. He speculated that that's why the Austin Linux User's Group were having free beer that night. Michael also announced that the Network Appliance Corporation has offered to donate a NetApps box to CACTUS. It only has 24 gigabytes of hard disk, which is small by NetApps standards, but it is available. No one had any sound ideas as to what to do with it. The officers had nothing noteworthy to report.

Michael then introduced Bruce Ramhall from the Kernel Group (TKG). Bruce gave a brief history of the company, which began in 1990 providing support for AIX. They actually wrote patches and fixed bugs, rather than doing telephone support. In 1993, they ported Tivole Framework to AIX. The next year they got into System Management consulting, which sent our program chair, Ray Schafer, to Wall Street. In 1995, they released to products for AIX: ZeroFault, a memory error detector, and SCTrace, a debugging tool.

But Bruce really came to talk about their current effort: BareMetal Restore, a disaster recovery tool. While the Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) is good, it does not recover the operating system environment. Tools like mksysb and sysbak will do this, but you have to make a new backup after every change to the operating system environment. You can schedule BareMetal to regularly make incremental backups of most all of your systems.

BareMetal uses TSM to actually backup the data, but it works in conjunction with the AIX Network Install Method (NIM) to generate an images of a NFS filesystem exports for root and /usr filesytems for export to each client. In addition to a nightly backup of the original files, BareMetal generates a backup of the disk configuration: volume groups, logical volumes, and filesystems. If you've expanded a filesystem during the day, BareMetal will take a new snapshot of the configuration.

When BMR gets a request for a disaster recovery, it extracts the configuration information from TSM, creates a customized client boot script and images of each filesytem. Using NIM, the client boots, mounts the custom /usr from the BMR server. It then configures the disks, creates and mounts the local filesystems. Then it restores the contents of the filesystems from TSM. It also sets up the master boot record. Finally, it reboots and performs a post boot cleanup for items like mirroring.

Though BMR currently only supports AIX, TKG has plans to support HP-UX, Solaris [non-Intel], Windows NT, Windows 95, 98, and ME. This is an ambitious plan. Bruce introduced the TKG Human Resources representative, Thomas Seythe. Thomas listed the types of people they were looking to hire immediately, explaining that he had one interview slot open for the following Monday.

Thanks to Bruce Ramhall, Thomas Seythe and the Kernel Group for the presentation. And congratulations to Ray Shafer for actually providing three programs in a row.

Upcoming Events

Tuesday, Oct 24
8:45AM until afternoon
RFD and Associates presents a lunch and free seminar on the Capability Maturity Model and Configuration Management. The Software CMM has become a de facto standard for assessing and improving software processes. CMM is an effective means for modeling, defining and measuring the maturity of the processes used by software professionals. For more information, contact Ann White at 512-347-9411 X125, or see CACTUS members are invited.
November 8
8:30 AM - 11:45 AM
RFD and Associates, in association with Garrison Technologies, Argus Systems and Securant Technologies invite you to a full morning of Internet Security Training. "Most companies today have security software in place that could be compared to putting a steel door on a tent." Registration required. See for more information.
November 28
7:30PM - 9:30PM
IBM's 3rd Linux Summit. While the main event, which goes on for 2 days, is for IBMers only, this is a session potentially for the Linux and Unix community in the rest of Austin. Several of the summit participants will be presenting on topics as yet undecided. The program will be at the JJ Pickle Center, probably in the same location as the CACTUS meeting. Contact Judith A. Thorburn <jathor [at] us <dot> ibm <dot> com> if you're interested in attending.

October Meeting

by Lindsay Haisley

Ray says that our scheduled presentor, RFD & Associates, has had to reschedule their presentation until November. Ray will instead do a presentation himself on the AIX Object Data Manager. ODM essentially makes AIX "Plug and Play". It's the thing about AIX that people hate the most when they first look at it, however Ray feels that ODM was an extremely smart innovation by IBM and has a lot of benefits.

CACTUS System News

by Lindsay Haisley

We have our NetApp box! Mike Rice had the foresight to ask if the Network Appliance folks if they'd like to donate a box to CACTUS for our use, and they came through for us. It has yet to be decided how to deploy said box, but this will doubtless be a subject for discussion at this month's meeting.

Don't forget about our listserver lists. Join up and stay informed!

If you are a paid-up CACTUS member you should already have an account on both and 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.


By Luis Basto


To join or renew your CACTUS 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