Capital Area Central Texas UNIX Society
CACTUS Newsletter

Volume 17, Number 10 - October 2001


October Meeting Program


We'll be back at home at UT ARL, our usual meeting place. They have new carpet, so let's keep it clean. Most places are particularly concerned about security these days, so please co-operate with the guards should they ask to inspect your briefcase. No formal program is currently scheduled. Thanks to Gil Kloepfer for his longtime continued efforts to provide us a home at UT ARL.


September Meeting Report

The program didn't show, but Jack McKinney did. After the usual reports from the officers, our program chair, Ray Shafer, let Jack demo a TKG (The Kernel Group) utility called SCTrace (TM). Using a Linux laptop he poked around in a third party application to see where it went and what it did. Jack actually knew very little about the application or the tool (SCTrace), but it was remarkable what it showed. The application didn't crash, and the trace didn't seem to affect the performance. If programmer's had this in System V Release 2, we'd probably wouldn't have seen so many segv segment violations.

The group ordered a variety of sampler plates from the Indian resturaunt where we met. Most all of them were empty by the end of the night, so we seem to be able to live on more than pizza.


August Meeting Report

By Gil Kloepfer

Because of the lack of a meeting topic for August's meeting we decided to discuss the state of Austin broadband Internet connectivity for UNIX users, particularly for those who want to run servers. The topic was, in part, prompted by my personal quest to determine what options I had available for a pending change of living accomodations. I found myself frustrated and annoyed that the local Internet Service Providers' (ISPs') web sites had little to no good information for so-called "power users" looking for Internet connectivity.

We examined the web sites of several local and national ISPs to look at the offerings by these organizations, pricing, and the acceptable use policies (AUPs), and discussed our personal experiences. Among the leading contenders were Southwestern Bell Internet Services (SWBIS), Jump.Net (now, DirecTV Broadband Internet, Time-Warner's RoadRunner, Onramp Access, among others. During the investigation, we discovered that no ISP had a service offering that was well suited to the UNIX-based "power user." The problems we discovered were:

1. Many broadband ISPs did not support static IP addressing and/or specifically prohibited servers (Time-Warner being the most notable). While DirecTV did support a static IP, they would only allow one. SWBIS does provide a price- competitive service for those that wish to run servers and would provide multiple static IPs.

2. Almost every ISP geared their offerings to Windows users, and had a lack of or refused to support users' firewalls and routers. In the case of SWBIS, their offering for servers and static IPs became less price-competitive when their requirement for self-installation was not available for UNIX users.

3. In general, there was insufficient information on ISPs' web sites regarding pricing, availablity for static IP addressing, and ability to utilize own routers and firewalls. Where it was apparent that there was an offering that would work, it was difficult to tell whether or not they understood the requirements well enough to take the order.

4. Some ISPs were (or have, as of the time of this writing) looking to discontinue support for new personal broadband customers. In particular, when Jump.Net became, they stopped accepting new broadband customers (only full T1 and better commercial customers).

The void has become so large that Chip Rosenthal has spearheaded a discussion on USENET on this topic as well. I contacted Chip following the CACTUS meeting, and he lamented finding the same problems that we did.

The unfortunate thing is that technically savvy ISPs like Jump.Net (who, as of this writing, has become are moving toward colocation and web hosting services, as opposed to providing connectivity. Sources inside these ISPs note that their DSL service is ultimately provided by Southwestern Bell, and that SWBIS has unfair competitive advantages that make providing xDSL connectivity services unprofitable.

In the end, my own personal solution was solved by continuing my existing service with, who almost seamlessly moved my Internet connection to the new ADSL line in my apartment. This worked well because I was able to get ADSL at my new location, and I was still within a service area that supported. Unfortunately, this option is apparently not available for new customers.

I should note that we also looked at the web site of Outernet Connection Strategies/Aperian (one of CACTUS' sponsors). While we have been very pleased with the colocation services they have provided to us, and we would continue to recommend them highly for colocation and Internet consulting, we did not see very much at all in the way of personal broadband Internet connectivity (particularly for xDSL) on their web site.

In short, while the Internet and its applications have made great advances over the last 5-10 years, the idea of a someone running some small servers out of their home as a hobby at a reasonable price seems to have taken a big step backward. Running one's own DNS, Apache, and mail server is becoming extremely difficult in light of the ISPs' offerings. The thought of a "connected" home seems to go only as far as uploading webcam pictures to the personal area of an ISP's web site. It's difficult to tell if all this is the result of poor profitability for power user-type connectivity, or simply a fear in the wake of all the recent "buffer overflow" security vulnerabilities. In any case, those of us who still want this kind of service remain discouraged and feel insecure about future connectivity options.



By Luis Basto

We want to thank Chris Nystrom for renewing his 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

Significant Contributing Sponsors

Applied Research Laboratories/University of Texas at Austin
(Gil Kloepfer, Computer Science Division (CSD), 835-3771, gil [at] arlut <dot> utexas <dot> edu)
Internet service provider.

CACTUS Sponsors

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.
(Chip Rosenthal)
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)
Austin Code Works
(Scott Guthery, 258-0785, info [at] acw <dot> com)
(Warren Brown, (800) 977-3475), wlb [at] cas-com <dot> net)
A top-level domain name registrar, CORE member.
(Maurine Mecer, 502-0190 [FAX 502-0287])
Professional recruiting.
Compaq Computer Corporation
(Ron Boerger, 432-8000)
Provider of scalable, high availability systems.
EDP Contract Services
(Mark Grabenhorst, 346-1040) Professional recruiting.
Hewlett Packard
(Bill Sumrall, 338-7221)
(Marilyn Harper)
Houston's Unix Users Group.
Network Appliance Corporation
(Frank Mozina, fmozina [at] netapp <dot> com)
O'Keefe Search
Professional recuiting.
(John OKeefe, john [at] okeefesearch <dot> com, 512-658-9224 or 888-446-2137)
Sailaway System Design
(Chris J Johnson, 447-5243)
(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)
Sterling Infomation Group
(Darrell Hanshaw, 344-1005, dhanshaw [at] sterinfo <dot> com)
Sun Microsystems
(Rick Taylor)
Supplier of Unix client-server computing solutions.
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)

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