Capital Area Central Texas UNIX Society
CACTUS Newsletter

Volume 16, Number 10 - November 2000


November Letter from the President

by Michael Rice

Hey all, hope to see you at the November meeting, and let's talk about the December meeting, which is just 4 days before christmas and right in the middle of a lot of folks holiday! Should we move it or just cancel it until January?

I haven't had time to set up the Network Appliance yet. I'll try to get a working head for it and bring it back to the meeting, if I don't make it, don't lynch me, we'll get it up and running yet.

Editor's Note

by Lindsay Haisley

You'll note that our section on CACTUS sponsors has been rather radically revised. At the last meeting, as a result of discussion among the membership and officers present, it was decided to divide our sponsors into 3 categories.

On behalf of all of CACTUS, I'd like to extend a heartfelt THANK YOU! to all of them.

'Maddog' Hall Speaks at UT

by Ronald Hugh Roberts

The Linux SIG of the UT ACM got Maddog to speak on campus on the night of the presidential election, Tuesday, November 7th. Attendance was good despite the bad weather, bad traffic heading downtown for the Bush celebration, and worse parking on the UT campus. There were about 200 people in attendance, about 90% of them students. The auditorium was only half-full, however.

Maddog began by describing his background. He wrote his first program in 1969 on an IBM 1130. At that time, a source license for UNIX from AT&T cost $ 160,000. That was for one CPU, based on serial number. The BSD license allowed them to change, but not to redistribute their enhancements.

After a stint teaching computer science, Maddog went to work for DEC in 1983 when they were into POSIX (e.g.: Open VMS). He remained with DEC working up to 120 hours a week until he was approached by Linux VA. He's been on the road since then advocating Linux and Open Systems.

Linus Torvalds spoke at the DEC user group, DECUS, in New Orleans in 1994. "The version 1 Linux kernel felt good, even though it was slightly out of tune. It was named Piano." Maddog took Linus out on the Natchez paddlewheel tourboat on the Mississippi. He tried to talk him into porting Linux to the Alpha processor. Maddog had trouble getting a machine to Linus, so he wound up porting to the PowerPC processor instead. The PowerPC wasn't powered up until three years after it arrived in his dormitory room.

At the time, the Alpha had only been out for two years. Maddog called in a favor and finally was able arrange a product agreement (promising to return the system eventually) and all of the necessary paperwork to send Linus a system with 96 megabytes of memory and a 4 mm tape drive. It's still in a dormitory somewhere.

Ironically, DEC ported the Digital Lock Manager from VMS to Linux, to the target Ultrix.

Shortly thereafter, Maddog was on the road promoting Digital Unix. He went to Sidney, Australia for the Sidney Unix Users Group. He went to Moscow for Unix Expo. The Russians he talked to wanted to know about VMS. They had built VAXs, but they kept crashing while DEC's machines didn't. In Moscow, he was approached by a group who wanted to hear about Linux. They were excited about it because they knew it was free. The Ingresoll Linux distribution that grew from this effort has since disappeared. In Israel, only ten people attended his presentation.

In 1996, only 200 people attended the Second Linux Expo, many sleeping in the living rooms of other advocates. It was here that Maddog met the founders of Red Hat and other now-famous people like Donny Barnes.

The city of Garden Grove, California, population of 200,000, was using an HP time-sharing system running the PICK operating system to run the city. It was driving the support staff crazy. The city purchased two 100 mHz Intel boxes--one for the system and one for applications. Four people, one of whom was a computer operator, ported over 4,000 applications to Linux. The city was much happier.

Maddog next described a case study involving the Johnson Flight Center in Houston. NASA was using thirty year old equipment on IBM mainframes running their proprietary OS. It was costing $200 million a year to maintain the software and hardware. People who could do this were not just retiring, they were dying. It was nearly impossible to find folks who could do this type of maintenance. They formed a Pirate team to re-write all of the code to run off Digital Unix. Maintenance costs dropped to $20 million a year.

This was a mission critical project. Representing DEC, Maddog had talked with the project manager, who was also project manager for the Challenger launch. He emphasized that he was very good at spreading the glory, but also very good at spreading the manure [another word was actually used]. Digital Unix was a very good target. It could expand and reduce filesystems on the fly, and you could bring down a failing CPU, hot swap it, and bring it back on line without bringing down the entire system. It was approaching five, seven, nine nines. [Nine nines is 99.9999999% uptime.]

Linux was and is not quite up to this level of reliability. But because Digital Unix used X11, NASA engineers increasingly used Linux on home systems to dial up and check on the progress of missions without having to drive into work.

At the 1997 Uniforum, Linus was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award. He was approached by the CEO of SCO, who asked Linus what SCO could do to help the cause. Linus could not think of anything to ask for. Maddog says, he should have asked for their customer list.

Linux is used for Robots in New Hampshire. It's secure, stable and free. There are over 200 different distributions. The Chinese distribution is called Red Flag.

In 1995, Donald Becker and Thomas Sterling created the Beowulf project for clustering Linux. It was designed for realtime, animation and treating disease. They regret the Beowulf name. In 1997, the University of San Paulo [Brazil] created a 125 unit Beowulf system. Hospitals had been using a program running on a Sun Sparc 20 to examine breast Xrays. It took twenty hours to complete. After ftp'ing the images to the Beowulf system, it took only minutes.

At this point, the meeting recessed for Pizza from Lovejoy's courtesy of the Austin Linux User's Group (ALUG). Maddog sat on the floor in the hallway surrounded by students eating cold pizza off of a piece of torn pizza box. Apparently SigLinux hasn't mastered paper plate technology like CACTUS has.

Maddog resumed by noting that his first computer had 12 kilobytes of memory and cost one-quarter as much as his pickup truck. The images ftp'd to San Paulo were created on a MS-Windoze machine. He was asked, "Is this a proper use of Linux?" His response: every use is a proper use.

People in Helsinki are using Beowulf Linux to simulate asteroids crashing into the earth. Five reasons why Beowulf is better than an IBM SP2:

5. Costs less--one fortieth of the cost

4. Costs less to maintain. The IBM SP2 costs $1.4 million a year for maintenance.

3. It's faster. You can keep adding processors.

2. More reliable. You don't have to call IBM, which averages one day per year downtime. Beowulf averages on half day per year downtime.

1. You can actually get applications for Beowulf. You can get applications for the IBM SP2, but they are very expensive. The market for them is too limited to become profitable for VARs.

Before Beowulf, only research Universities could afford supercomputers. With Beowulf, any university can--even community colleges like ACC. The cost of moving an application from one Windoze NT machine to another is expensive compared to Linux. Maddog then quoted Hall's Law: independent software vendors (ISVs) care only about volume--how many units can I sell. That's how you determine which platforms you port your software to. Volume, or the perception of it, is how the ISV sees the market.

At this point, Maddog had a little problem with his overhead slide show and someone asked him if it was PowerPoint. No, he said. It was Applix running on top of the Gnome window manager.

Maddog was in Korea in August of 1997. He complained that they smoke horrendously. He was astounded to find that they had 15,000 people on their mailing list. Linux handles three bytes of localization information superficially at the upper level of the OS. There are two different Korean versions of Hungl.

Funded by Joel Bergman, Maddog next went to a Unix conference in Australia. When he asked one of the conference leaders, he was told that there was no Linux here. He later discovered that the Australian military was using Linux to run JANIS, a warfare simulation program that previously ran on Sun SPARC hardware. Running on Linux, the cost was cut in half. It has since been redeployed throughout NATO. His military informant asked him to autograph his copy of the Linux Journal.

At CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research, Maddog was told that they used Windoze NT only. They were adding about one terabyte per day to their file servers. Management was finally told that their fileservers were actually using Samba running on Linux. Because the engineers knew Unix, but not NT, they changed their policy within one half of a day. They converted the NT boxes to Linux.

In Fiji in 1997, internet access was achieved via 1200 bps modem. They couldn't download Linux. Maddog gave them a CD ROM with a Linux distribution on it. Except for the University of the South Pacific, everyone in Fiji used VMS. Imagine professors in sarongs and bare feet. Two years later, the DEC salesmen were told by the professors that they weren't needed anymore. The professors are currently involved in a debate about changing the curriculum.

In 1997 and 1998, Linus was awarded the Gordon Bell award. Gordon Bell was the VMS architect who now works for Micro$oft (VMS +1 = WNT).

CeBIT in March of 1998, was the largest computer show in the world. Three hundred thousand people attended, and three thousand visited the S.u.S.E, Caldera, and QuantX booths.

Maddog is constantly asked, "Why the Penguin?" When the version 2.0 kernel was about to be released, the development group wanted to adopt a symbol/mascot. Someone suggested that they ask Linus. Linus said that he liked Penguins. Larry Ewing actually came up with the original design--a fat, sloppy, cartoon character.

Back in Korea in August 1999, the conference was even bigger. Linux is growing world wide, especially in developing countries. The University of Moscow bought one thousand Alpha systems and over-clocked the CPU's, running Linux. Maddog has about ten computers in his house today.

There are about 450,000,000 computer systems in the world today. Ninety percent run Micro$oft. Two million run some form of propriety operating systems. About three million run some form of commercial Unix. Two million run BSD style Unix, and thirteen million run MacIntosh OS. Thirty million run Linux. The standard for Unix is Linux. Maddog proposes Linux to be the POSIX standard reference implementation. The third world has not spoken -- 5.6 billion people haven't selected their operating system yet. Most haven't even made their first telephone call. Hardware is becoming more inexpensive, however. A 486 box can be had for about $50. Technology is bringing us closer together. You can get a dozen roses for two bucks today, because they can fly them in overnight from Brazil. A junior systems administrator in India makes about twenty dollars an hour. But in India, with that money you can afford a housekeeper, cook, nanny, and a private driver.

In conclusion, Maddog exhorted, "Become an activist. Buy, do not pirate applications." He pointed out that Inform runs 25% faster on Linux than SCO Unix on the same hardware. The proctor interrupted him, informing him that it was 10 PM. After thunderous applause, Maddog began taking questions from the audience.

Your humble reporter asked him if he was tired, and did he realize that this was a school night? Maddog responded that he was running on three hours of sleep, but that this sort of crowd always inspired him. Most of the night, he spoke from the cuff never referring to notes, and only using his slide show to move onto a different point. Fifteen minutes later, I crawled out of the auditorium while Maddog continued to answer questions. He may still be there for all I know.

Maddog is indeed a zealot.

October Meeting Minutes

by Ron Roberts

Typos in last month's report were noticed, so apparently someone is reading them. Lindsay Haisley requests that newsletter contributors submit two weeks prior to the meeting. The list of current sponsors was discussed. Expired or obsolete sponsors will be culled from the newsletter and web page in the near future. Program Chair, Ray Schafer, announced that next months presentation is set. He also hopes to arrange for backup programs when someone cancels at the last minute.

Our Membership chairman, Luis Basto, announced that we have about forty active members. An inquiry from Bill Bradford of SunHelp.Org about CACTUS sponsorship was discussed. We also have two new paying sponsors. Michael Rice announced that we've finally gotten the billing snafu with JumpNet resolved. He also suggested that we bring in the old Sparc II for some meeting to perform a forensic security post-mortem. MH Khan discussed our handling of the web pages, and it was suggested that we create a CVS repository to track changes. Most all of the officers were in attendance, and two non-officers came as well!

Michael Rice then spoke briefly about the Network Appliance file server that they have most graciously donated to CACTUS. Unfortunately, he was unable to get his borrowed laptop to connect to the console. It's a model F210 running ONTAP 5.something. Release 6.0 won't run on this model. It has twenty gigabytes of disk [four gigabyte drives], two SCSI channels, and a PCI backplane.

Finally, Ray Schafer spoke about the Object Data Manager (ODM) invented by Bob Fabio during his tenure at IBM for AIX 3.1. ODM is your friend. Though most folks are originally repulsed by the notion, one begins to appreciated it with experience. The presentation evolved into a general discussion of good and bad experiences with ODM and the System Management Interface Tool (SMIT) that drives it.

Congratulations to Ray Schafer for actually providing four programs in a row, and apologies for the atrocious spelling.

November Meeting

by Ray Schafer

I am working on the program at the last minute again. Laurie Zimmerman just told me that RFD has to cancel next week. I am pursuing the person who contacted us from Broadwing, and 2nd Wave. Hopefully one of them will do next week. I'll know before Sunday, I hope.

[Editor's Note]
Don't forget that, in keeping with CACTUS tradition, the December (21st) meeting will be a quite ad hoc, program-less, pizza-less non-meeting at the usual location. Come anyway, and share some season cheer with your fellow cacti. BYOP (bring your own pizza, or cookies, or anything else you'd like to eat drink and share).

CACTUS System News

by Lindsay Haisley

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.

A Note From Our Webmaster

By M. H. Khan

I would prefer any non-urgent web changes, and certainly any style/design changes to be coordinated with one person. By default I will do the editing once a week, so that should help in deciding what either needs my special/ urgent attention or needs to be otherwise treated exceptionally.

For cases where the need to edit is urgent, please drop me a note even as you begin the editing/changes so there is never a moment of uncertainty about the source/trustworthiness of any editing.

The officers group is mature and responsible enough that I am not uncomfortable with others among us exercising their discretion in regard to helping out in this area; let us however try to reserve the exceptions for exceptional situations and try to realize whatever benefits a clear designation of responsibility provides.

I have considered the possibility, and am open to suggestions about implementing either an automatic update (or sourcing) of the web page information for certain areas from fixed format flat files (which sources could also be used for the newsletter) which are maintained by the Officer responsible for that area. Examples being sponsors list, programs, officers list.

Irrespective of anything above, Lindsay's intent and willingness to help are appreciated and will likely be utilized.



By Luis Basto

We wish to thank Deepak Mathur and Brett Larsen for renewing their membership.

We'd like to extend our sincere thanks to the Kernel Group for renewing their sponsorship. The Kernel Group (TKG) provides top quality mission-critical computer network development and support services for the health care and financial services industries.

They provide integration and management services for existing networks, custom application development, and maintenance outsourcing services. The Kernel Group was founded in 1990 with headquarters in Austin, TX and maintains a branch office in New York, NY. The contact person is Ray Schafer, schafer [at] tkg <dot> com or 433-3300.


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

Significant Contributing Sponsors

Jump.Net -
(R.W. Rushing, rw [at] jump <dot> net)
Internet service provider.
Aperian / OuterNet -
        Internet service provider.

CACTUS Sponsor Members

Auspex Systems -
(Paul Levine, plevine [at] auspex <dot> com
Fastest reliable network fileservers.
Flametree Corporation -
(David Maynard, 670-4090, dpm [at] flametree <dot> com)
Internet and software consulting.
Covad / Laserlink -
        (Chip Rosenthal 428-9443)

Multi Media Arts (MMA)

(Lee Williams, 451-7191)
Publisher of instructional materials for classroom and independent study.


Friends of CACTUS

Applied Formal Methods, Inc.
(Susan Gerhart, 794-9732, gerhart [at] cactus <dot> org)

Applied Research Laboratories/University of Texas at Austin,
(Gil Kloepfer, Computer Science Division (CSD), 835-3771 gil [at] arlut <dot> utexas <dot> edu)
Austin Code Works
(Scott Guthery, 258-0785, info [at] acw <dot> com)
(Maurine Mecer, 502-0190 [FAX 502-0287])
Professional recruiting.
EDP Contract Services
(Mark Grabenhorst, 346-1040) Professional recruiting.
Hewlett Packard -
(Bill Sumrall, 338-7221)
Hounix -
(Marilyn Harper)

        Houston's Unix Users Group.
O'Keefe Search -
(John O'Keefe, 1-888-446-2137, john [at] okeefesearch <dot> com)
Professional recruiting.

Sailaway System Design
(Chris J Johnson, 447-5243)

Schlumberger -
(Kathy O'Brien, obrien [at] asc <dot> slb <dot> com)

        Technical services and products in over 100 countries.

Silicon Graphics -

(Don Williams, 346-9342)

Solid Systems
(Pete Farrell, 442-2222)

Sprint Paranet -
(Ron Roberts, 895-2566)

        Consultants in Integrating Hardware, Software, Networks and People.

Sterling Information Group

(Darrell Hanshaw, 344-1005, dhanshaw [at] sterinfo <dot> com)

Sun Microsystems -
(Rick Taylor)

        Supplier of Unix client-server computing solutions.

Tandem Computers -

(Ron Boerger, 244-8000)

        Provider of scalable, high availability systems.

Texas Internet Consulting -

(Smoot Carl-Mitchell, 451-6176, smoot [at] tic <dot> com)

        TCP/IP networking, Unix, and open systems standards.


A Sun Authorized Training Center and a Hardware Reseller.

Unison Software
(Shelley St. John, 478-0611)

        Supplier of networked systems management solutions.

UT Computer Science Department

(Patti Spencer)

UT Computation Center
(Mike Cerda, 471-3241, cerda [at] uts <dot> cc <dot> utexas <dot> edu)

Verio -
(Bob Izenberg, bei [at] verio <dot> net)

        DSL, Network and Hosting Services.

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