Capital Area Central Texas UNIX Society
CACTUS Newsletter

Volume 18, Number 11 - November 2002


November Meeting Program

Lindsay Haisley will tell us something about the remarkable (relatively) new Courier MTA, which he describes as "Qmail on steroids". Courier is described by its author Sam Varshavchik as "a modular multiprotocol mail server that's designed to strike a balance between reasonable performance, flexibility and features." Among its many modern features are

Prior to Lindsay's presentation, Gil Kloepfer will give us a tutorial on SpamAssassan. SpamAssassin is an "expert system" written in Perl that examines e-mail messages and determines their likelihood of being spam based on an extensive rule-set and scoring system. The tutorial will briefly introduce SpamAssassin and how it may be installed and used.

October Meeting Report

The meeting began with informal discussions about various updates to our Linux box. Lindsay Haisley reported that the address "officers [at] cactus <dot> org" has been directed to a vacation autoresponder and mail to this address no longer reaches the CACTUS officers. The "officers" account has been replaced with an "admin" alias since so much spam was being received at the officers address. We're sorry about any inconvenience this may cause members. It's no longer the kinder, gentler Internet of our forefathers of 10 years ago.

Some discussion ensued with regard to pros and cons of John Kingman's operation of a SETI [at] home daemon on Linux box, all with reference to John in the 3rd person. John, it turns out, was at the meeting and wasn't unduely offended by being talked about as if he weren't there, and chimed in with good humor and discussed the project. It was agreed that we had no problem with his project, however we extracted a promise from him at some point to give us a tutorial on the SETI [at] home. Bob Isenberg, who had been among the skeptics about John's activities, got The Force with him and subsequently formed the first CACTUS distributed computing team (see his article in this newsletter).

Jack McKinney showed up in time to give the main presentation on his project CVSCC, an open source wrapper for CVS which adds release and project control to it. CVSCC bears much the same relationship to CVS as CVS bears to its predecesor, RCS in that it's an attempt to rectify design deficiencies in CVS. CVSCC adds features essential for large, managed projects with release schedules and both frozen and development releases. It helps with the management of patches and upgrades in large projects, such as open source projects, where there's a need for centralzied decision making prior to establishing official interim and final releases. Jack welcomes any help with CVSCC, and encourages everyone with a need for software project management to take a look at CVSCC and give him feedback. You can get CVSCC at

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    November CACTUS Membership Report

    by Luis Basto

    Let's welcome Troy Carter and James Umbarger as our newest members to CACTUS.

    We would like to thank C. Unnikrishnan for renewing his membership.

    A book plug

    Bookpool has a sale on SAMS, QUE, New Riders, Macromedia Press, and Peachpit Press Trade Titles! 42% off trade titles for a limited time...

    You will find topics at every user level. Web Publishing, Graphics, E-business, System Administration, Security, Networking, Programming, Databases, and much more!


    Someday we may be able to accept direct deposit or paypal but currently we only deal with checks and cash, preferably in small unmarked bills.

    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.

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    CACTUS Members: Recycle Your Cycles

    by Bob Isenberg

    Can CACTUS borrow a cup of megahertz? The first CACTUS distributed computing team has been formed. If you haven't encountered the concept of distributed computing before, a quick description would be "Using under-utilized computing resources to work on pieces of a project." You may have encountered, or spent a princely sum of your or your employer's cash upon, batch or parallel processing systems that distribute tasks amongst several computers. Distributed computing is just that, using whatever hardware is available. Put aside any pre-conceptions about needing large, fast iron to participate in distributed computing projects. Small (sometimes barely visible) computers join in along with the really large ones.

    For its first group project, CACTUS has joined the search for non-random electromagnetic signals in the Universe. The project is called SETI. You can find out what that acronym stands for, if you haven't already channeled Carl Sagan to find out, by browsing to the project's web site, You can join the CACTUS team or check on its progress at There are other distributed computing projects in which you can participate. Several can be found at the Distributed.Net web site . Their focus is on the math: Testing the security of encryption ciphers (those projects have finished) and working on interesting mathematical projects like the current one, Optimal Golomb Rulers of more than 25 Marks, or OGR-25 for short. You might also choose to join United Devices' distributed computing projects described at UD's projects are commercial ventures for its customers, so take that into account. Your computer at school or work may not belong in a distributed computing project for a company that sells processor sharing technology and resources.

    That brings us to the ethical side of distributed computing. Most projects urge you to have consent to run the client where you install it. Get permission before you crunch. At least one person has been handed a bill and a pink slip by their employer for installing it on every machine that they managed. Yes, it was the usual, wildly-inflated bill that never stands up to serious examination, since there's a reason why CPU time on your 200Mhz Pentium Pro doorstop is valued less highly than a room full of supercomputers. Get permission anyway.

    Please join us on the CACTUS SETI team. If you start a CACTUS team on any other project, please let us know about it.

    Editor's note: To learn more about the CACTUS distributed computing team, contact Bob Isenberg at bei [at] cactus <dot> org.

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    CACTUS System News

    by Lindsay Haisley

    There's progress on a couple of fronts on our Linux box at To help cut down on cruft and eliminate dead accounts a mailing list was set up with all local account holders and known aliases on the box as subscribers. A couple of test posts were sent out, and since our list server (ezmlm) auto-deletes bouncing list addresses, the list will be pared down by the server to only those email addresses which don't produce bounces. We'll compare the cleaned list with our original list and drop dead accounts and invalid aliases from the system.

    Our Web Server

    I've finally reorganized our webserver configuration at When the CACTUS website was moved from the old Sparc II (now serving as a deep-water boat anchor in Lake Travis), the document filesystem layout and server configuration were moved with it. The configuration was primative, non-standard, and enabled only a small subset of features available in recent versions of the Apache webserver. The webserver native to the Linux distribution was configured to operate on an alternate port and seldom if ever used. Because PHP, our active server technology, was unavailable on port 80, I was unable to proceed with a much-needed upgrade to our membership database system. We now have only one Apache daemon on the box, running on port 80, and the DocumentRoot for is now /var/www, as per Debian standard policy. PHP (version 4) works well, and I've made good progress on our new membership database system. Visitors to the CACTUS website should notice nothing different.

    CACTUS Membership Database

    I've completed the hardest part of an upgrade to our membership database system. The old membership database was maintained using a perl/ncurses script and was stored in a delimited flat file. While it was adequate for storing and recalling information on members, it was burdened with a number of legacy issues and much of the information in it was unused or under utilized. The new database is housed in a MySQL database, and can be maintained with a new PHP-based front end using any web browser. All data from the old flat file has been imported and pages for adding and modifying membership data are in place. The next step will be to set up scripts, cron jobs and other tools to bring us into the Internet Age. Proposed features include....

    Anyone with ideas, suggestions, or time to help may contact Lindsay Haisley, fmouse [at] fmp <dot> com.

    CACTUS Officers

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    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.
    IT operations and management solutions to small and midsized businesses.

    CACTUS Sponsors

    Provider of workforce management software and services
    Auspex Systems
    Fastest reliable network fileservers.
    (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)
    (Steve Locke, (800) 977-3475), swl [at] cas-com <dot> net)
    A top-level domain name registrar, CORE member.
    (Maurine Mecer, 502-0190 [FAX 502-0287])
    Professional recruiting.
    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)

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    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.