Capital Area Central Texas UNIX Society
CACTUS Newsletter

Volume 19, Number 4 - April 2003


April Meeting

The April CACTUS meeting will be held at 7:00pm (6:30pm for pizza and lively discussion) on Thursday, April 17, 2003 in the auditorium of UT Applied Research Laboratories (see below for directions to the facility).

The meeting topic and speaker was not finialized by newsletter publication time. The meeting's topic will likely include another installment in the operating system installation tutorial series.

Letter From the President

by Lindsay Haisley

I'd like to encourage everyone to help us come up with CACTUS events for the coming year. Ray Schafer is once again our programs chairperson, and as always, the job is one of the most challenging and important since our membership numbers depend on offering interesting and well-publicised programs at our monthly meetings. So far we've been doing well, and have revived the old CACTUS tradition of having short software tutorials prior to our main presentation. Turnout at our last meeting was good, and I'm hopeful that it will continue to increase.

As I've said before, I'd also like to see CACTUS become more involved in the activities of the Austin technical community. Along this line, I'd like some input from our membership. Please email me (president [at] cactus <dot> org) with information on events such as technical shows, "dog and pony" shows or any other event at which it might be possible for CACTUS to set up a booth, either on our own or in cooperation with other groups in town such as the Linux users groups (ALUG and CTLUG). In particular, the names of organizers and others whom we might contact in this regard will be most helpful.

BTW, over the years, our president [at] cactus <dot> org address has made its way onto the spam-list circuit. When I was elected to the office, I set this alias to redirect email to me at my home email address (fmouse [at] fmp <dot> com) using a private address that bypassed my spam filters, however due to the volume of spam I was getting through the alias, I've relented. If you send email to president [at] cactus <dot> org you'll receive a confirmation request before your email will be delivered to me. A simple reply to the confirmation request (content is irrelevant - the magic is in the reply address) will cause your original email to be delivered to me and will "whitelist" your address so you'll be able to send email to me in the future without having to confirm it.

March Meeting Report

by Ron Roberts

The parking lot was almost full, but attendance was only about twenty despite the timely arrival of the newsletter advertising an excellent program. The meeting coincided with the start of the latest Iraqi war, and at least two of the leadership were attending a peace rally earlier in the day. Our illustrious president, Lindsay Haisley, warned us that he might not be on time, but his cell phone skills ensured that the pizza was on time. Are we in Kirkut yet?

There may have been officers reports, but the reporting officer didn't hear them. They've been the same for some months. Luis Basto spoke about an interesting offer from NT Computers (phone 250-0001, location indeterminate). They are offering a $99 complete "all-in-one" Portable Computer. Dimensions are 12"x12"x2" weighing in at 6 pounds. It runs Linux.

Next, Gil Kloepfer lead a discussion about Hosting.Com user migration. Years ago JumpNet, bought Zilker.Net, which sold out to Hosting.Com. Hosting has been sending DSL users cancellation notices lately. A show of hands, indicated that four of the membership present still used Hosting. Gil recommends that if you want to keep DSL, go with SBC. Static IP users with a routed subnet can use their old equipment, but must work out some special provisioning (the magic word when dealing with SBC support is, "tier two support." This apparently will get you connected to someone who can spell TCP/IP). Static address blocks with the SBC equipment works in a "bridged mode" that traditional routers find difficult to deal with.

The discussion with the membership rambled on about how DHCP users can just use Time Warner Road Runner. Gil doesn't like Time Warner particularly, since they do not allow servers to be run on their service (and block some ports to guarantee that). Another member mentioned that they throttle the pipe and it could be faster. Yet another member pointed out that Time Warner no longer requires you to have cable TV service in order to get Road Runner. SBC service is [probably] much better if you have a business phone. Metered business phone costs only two dollars a month, plus usage. SBC requires that you have a phone number that they can associate with the DSL line. Another tip: don't tell the service people that you use anything but MS Windows.

Gil concluded by admitting that SBC knows networks. He contrasted this with the Hosting.Com web site, where if you click on "Cancel Contract," you get a 404 error. Scott Davis is the head of Time Warner Support in Austin. He's also on the Central Texas Linux User's Group (CTLUG) mailing list. He's quoted as saying, "We know people run servers." They don't bother as long as the bandwidth isn't significantly affected.

This went on for some time, so our featured presentation was allocated only an hour. Long time members Lenny Tropiano and Brian Sinclair had thirty nine slides and a demo about Voice over IP. Lenny did the premier ISDN presentation about fifteen years ago for us. IP telephony is packet switched connections for voice and FAX.

All of the slides are on their web site (see

Lenny got our attention by promising a door prize to whoever answered the trivia question. He described the standards organizations involved in the enterprise: ITU and IETF produce such documents as H.323 and H.248 (see web page for details). Cisco has an offering called Skinny.

The basic reason for voice over IP is cost reduction. There are also add-on packages available, such as PBX software. Lenny went into the technical details about how it is done. He asked a question about the algorithm used by the CODEC for digitizing voice. This went over everybody's head. Multimedia uses UDP, which has inherit problem with packet loss--lost packets are not retransmitted. In development, a problem was identified during periods of silence. Listeners were discomforted by the dead air. So they invented "comfort noise generation" (CNG), which is essential white noise you hear on a land line connection. This is done on the receiving end, in order not to waste bandwidth.

One of the more interesting utility applications was Voice Over Misconfigured Internet Telephony (VOMIT), which enables eavesdropping.

The more powerful application is a full function open source(tm) PBX available at:

Lenny mentioned that a commercial implementation of VOIP is available from for about forty dollars per month.

He awarded the door prize to the member who answered his second trivia question--a caller ID callout. Then Lenny and Brian performed a highly scripted demonstration of the open source PBX, Asterisk. Finally, though we were running late, they offered the membership to step up to one of the phones they had brought to make a long distance call.

They did ask that we didn't call Iraq. Just as well, since no one knew the national and area code for Tikrit. Some time during this, our president, Lindsay Haisley showed up. This quashed the earlier rumor that he'd been arrested during the anti-war demonstration. (This geography lesson is brought to you by the letter W.)

Announcement: Open Source Across Texas

The following announcement has been forwarded to the CACTUS Newsletter by Chip Rosenthal (chip [at] unicom <dot> com): (for the full announcement, please see

Open Source across Texas: Helping the Taxpayer in Troubled Times

From the analysis of Senate Bill 1579, assigned to the State Affairs Committee: Currently, most state agencies rely on proprietary software, which incurs a considerable cost through licensing fees and maintenance. Copyright laws on the software restrict its use and modification, preventing agencies from adapting the software to their needs. As proposed, S.B. 1579 allows state agencies to choose software products on a "value-for-money" basis, rather than being limited to traditional products on the market.

Tuesday, April 15, 7:00 p.m. ACTLab, The University of Texas at Austin CMB, 4th floor

Speaker: Dr. Peter H. Salus Former Executive Director of the USENIX Association, Sun User Group, and the Free Software Foundation, author of Casting the Net (Addison-Wesley UNIX and Open Systems Series) and managing editor of Computing Systems (MIT Press). Editor-in-chief of the Handbook of Programming Languages (MTP Press).

*** LATE ADDITION!! Mr. Paul Reyes, Legislative Aid to Senator
*** John J. Carona, will be joining us to discuss why Sen. Carona
*** introduced SB 1579.

Sponsored By: EFF-Austin Quarterman Creations ACTLab at the University of Texas, Austin (Part of the ACTLab International Lecture and Performance Series)

Email: info [at] effaustin <dot> org

Subscribe to EFF-Austin's email list for tracking SB1579: send a blank email to sb1579-subscribe [at] effaustin <dot> org

April CACTUS System News

by Lindsay Haisley

A couple of issues have cropped up during the past month on both our Linux box and our Sparc 10 which deserve some mention, and also some attention from our membership.

On April 3, Luis Basto reported to the system administrators that the "disk is 100% full" on our Linux box, and he deleted material in /tmp. I checked in on the box and found that the /home filesystem, which is a separate partition, was nearly full. Gil ran usage stats on the drive, and it seems that the #1 disk-hog was one of our officers (who shall here remain nameless :-) with a drive usage of close to 1.3 gigs. The #2 disk-hog is an expired member, using over 800 megs of space, more than twice the amount of space used by any one other than the aforementioned officer. A note to disk-hog #1 resulted in quick action, and our /home filesystem is currently at 68% of capacity.

A brief review of our filesystem layout is in order here for everyone who uses the Linux box.

# df
Filesystem  1K-blocks  Used  Available  Use %  Mounted on  
/dev/sda1  295474  35656  244558  13%  /  
/dev/md0  1018232  800931  164693  83%  /usr  
/dev/md1  1018232  217157  748467  23%  /var  
/dev/md2  1018232  91656  873968  10%  /usr/local  
/dev/md3  5011977  3213719  1538815  68%  /home  

One important thing to note here is that although our hard drives were state-of-the-art when the system was assembled in the '90s, they've become small by today's standards. Everyone's home directory is on the /dev/md3 RAID1 partition, which is mounted on /home. The total size of this partition is 5 gigabytes. We have around 90 member home directories here. This works out to a about 55 megs per user. Of course some of these 90 user accounts belong to lapsed CACTUS members, and there are plenty of members who only use the system for email redirection and whose usage is minimal, so strict apportionment and quotas on drive space aren't essential, but due diligence is certainly appropriate. We currently have a dozen accounts on the system (including that of yours truly) which are over 55 megs. As long as the total usage of our /home system is under 75% of the total drive capacity we're in good shape as far as I'm concerned, but please do run df from time to time, and du on your home directory to help keep us from hitting the ceiling. In particular, please don't use for storage of large files such as ISO images of CDs or large numbers of sound or image files just because you don't have space for them on your home or office system. Invest in a new hard drive! You can buy close to 100 gigs of hard drive for a little over $100 these days. the CACTUS home directory fileystem is on more expensive SCSI drives, and mirrored across two of them, so we've exchanged economy for reliability. You might consider the CACTUS system as a suitable repository for smaller, more valuable data files rather than larger expendable files.

On another front, Michael Shaw emailed us on March 30 noting that our Sparc 10 was down. Ray Solanik went over to OnRamp and discovered that OnRamp has moved, and they brought the Sparc with them to their new location on Montopolis (next to Time Warner) but hadn't started it up again. He brought the box back up with no problems, with the generous help of Don West at OnRamp. Ray notes that their new location is much bigger. A lot of people have noted with regret the demise of tech-friendly hosting in Austin. OnRamp is holding the fort here. They're a sponsor with a great facility and service, and we should send them business when we have the opportunity to do so.

March CACTUS Membership Report

by Luis Basto

We wish to thank the following individuals for renewing their membership -- William Dodd and Michael Shaw.

We received an interesting mail this month - sent from the U. S. Bankruptcy Court in Arizona and addressed to CACTUS COLL. The P. O. Box was correct but CACTUS COLL must mean something else. Since two of these notices were sent and I'm returning one anyway, I opened the other to see what's up.

It turned out to be an individual in Arizona filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and the Bankruptcy Court is notifying all creditors. CACTUS COLL must be one such creditor. I checked our membership database and cannot find that individual. Darn! We might have gotten a windfall.


To renew your membership, please send check or money order payable to CACTUS ($25/yr for regular membership and $96/yr for corporate sponsorship):

     PO BOX 9786
     AUSTIN, TX 78766-9786
You may also pay in person at the general meetings. Please direct any inquiries or address changes to membership [at] cactus <dot> org.

CACTUS Officers

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.
VoIPing, LLC
A Central Texas privately owned and operated partnership specializing in IT Consulting and Services. (Email info [at] voiping <dot> com. Phone 512-698-VOIP (8647) or 512-698-8031)

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)

CACTUS Meeting Location:
Applied Research Labs

CACTUS meets on the third Thursday of each month at the Applied Research Labs (ARL) in the JJ 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.