Capital Area Central Texas UNIX Society
CACTUS Newsletter

Volume 19, Number 6 - June 2003


Contents:


June Meeting

The June CACTUS meeting will be held at 7:00pm (6:30pm for pizza and lively discussion) on Thursday, June 19, 2003 in the auditorium of UT Applied Research Laboratories (see below for directions to the facility). CACTUS Welcomes the leaders of the Austin chapter of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF-Austin).

In the Texas congressional session that just ended, EFF-Austin worked to represent the interests of technology users and professionals. The bills addressed include theft of broadband services (the so-called Super DMCA), spam, and open source software. There were a number of notable successes -- and some disappointments. This presentation will review the technology legislation targeted by EFF-Austin, and will provide a rare insider glimpse of the lobbying process. Presenters will include EFF-Austin President Jon Lebkowsky, as well as Legislative Co-Leaders Adina Levin and Chip Rosenthal.

This month's CACTUS meeting will be preceded by our a tutorial given by our friends at the High Technology Institute (HTI) at Austin Community College (ACC). Nathan Isburgh will cover configuring, compiling, and installing kernels for Linux. The HTI folks will be doing 3 tuturials for us for the next three meetings. Bob McGoldrick has agreed to have his staff provide these tutotials. He will be at the June meeting and I would like us to introduce him and let him speak for a few moments on what his group offers our CACTUS community at ACC.

A sneak preview of our July meeting: CACTUS welcomes back Mike Erwin who will be joined by his associate Jamie Pugh to discuss the Gentoo Linux distribution. Gentoo Linux is different than other Linux distributions in that it is distributed as source and compiled during the installation process. This makes for a much longer installtion time, but the result is an OS optimized for the hardware on which it is running. The presentation will be preceeded by a tutorial (mentioned above) from our friends at the High Tech Institute at Austin Communuty College.

Letter From the President

by Lindsay Haisley

From the activity on the officers mailing list, it looks as though we have some excellent programs lined up for the next few months. Ray Schafer will be keeping us updated. For those of you who have skipped meetings because there was no program announced in the newsletter, you've missed a number of excellent hour long discussions and a couple of spontaneous presentations by members present. Whether or not there's an announced program at a CACTUS meeting, it's still always worth it to show up - and there's always enough pizza to go around :-)


May Meeting Report

by Ron Roberts

Despite the lack of a program, the usual suspects attended. Lindsay Haisley began with a discussion on Usenix. Usenix provided a priority code for Unix users groups for a $100 discount for tickets. He was hoping that someone would volunteer to set up a booth for CACTUS, but no one bit.

Lindsay then discussed the paucity of programs and promised to call the program chair, Ray Schafer. He suggested that we get Chip Rosenthal to speak about the super Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA).

The CACTUS Sparc 10 was offline at the time of the meeting. Ray Solanik was unavailable address the issue. As of June 5, the Sparc is back on line and available for ssh.

Membership chair, Luis Basto, reports that we still have members. Johnny Long reports that we have $4,500 in the treasury. Lindsay Haisley requested a resubmission of the FAX sent by the scribe that officially indicates the new officers for 2003 so that we can update the signature authorities on our bank account.

Someone mentioned that Dresser Industries may soon become a CACTUS sponsor. Lindsay promised to pursue Larry Wall as a speaker for later in 2003.

The ad hoc program was Gil Kloepfer demonstrating installation of FreeBSD on a Dell PC. Some interest was shown regarding the FreeBSD logical volume manager (vinum), and Gil said he would continue addressing more FreeBSD-related topics at a later date.


CACTUS System News

By Lindsay Haisley

Our Sparc 10 continues to be rather under-utilized. last(1) shows only 7 logins so far during the month of June, of which three were by Ray Solanik, the system admin for the box, and two were by me, checking to see if it's still up (which it is - thanks, Ray). This compares with 144 logins to our Linux box since June 1. I guess we know which OS is more popular! There are other reasons for the difference. Just to get a rough measure of raw processing power on the two boxes, I ran a short perl program on each of them.

#!/usr/bin/perl
for ($i=1; $i<=1000000; $i++) {

}

All this does is count to 1M and exit - not really a fair measure of overall system performance since it doesn't take I/O into account, but a decent measure of how fast the processor works.

On the Linux box:

$ time ./perl-timer.pl

real    0m1.221s
user    0m1.220s
sys     0m0.000s

On the Sparc:

$ time ./perl-timer.pl

real    0m11.248s
user    0m10.750s
sys     0m0.130s

The speed difference is roughly a factor of 10 in favor of the Linux box. The sparc is certainly faster than my old 486 print server (by a roughly similar factor) but certainly no match for the dual-Pentium Linux box. On the other hand, the Sparc currently has close to 4G of space available in /home (16% of capacity used), compared to 1.7G available on the Linux box (62% of capacity used). The Sparc would certainly be a good place for members to store stuff they don't use daily but don't want to discard, especially when space gets tight on the Linux box, as it did a couple of months ago.

We keep the Sparc up and running with the generous help of Onramp Access, which provides our Internet connection for it. With the general move in the ISP business towards large, less personal and less tech-friendly ISPs, Onramp remains an island of hope in a rising tide of commerical mediocrity. Regardless of the low relative popularity of our Sparc, we sincerely appreciate Onramp's support of CACTUS and of the Austin technical community in general.


Project Announcements

mkbackup.pl

Author: Newton Hammet
Status: Open Source
Licensing: Yes, few restrictions
Announcement by: Newton Hammet (software author)

I am announcing mkbkup.pl version 2.0 is released today (April 24, 2003). It replaces the earlier version that was available for download.

The website is the same:

http://www.io.com/~treeflyr/mkbkup

I gave a presentation at CACTUS in April. It was a lively bunch and they had some suggestions/wish-list:

  1. A gui interface (probably will use Perl-Tcl)
  2. Ability to deal with LVM partitions.
  3. Ability to perform a backup even in the face of nfs mounted filesystems. (this one is probably the easiest).
This could easily become a never-ending story.

So the proposal is the same ... free email plus occasional onsite support (thursday and monday are good days)... for those brave souls ready to beta this puppy with scsi disks dual boot systems, what-have-you.

Here are the changes (what makes v2.0 better than v1.0): (how mkbkup.pl version 2.0 differs from mkbkup.pl version 1.0)

  1. The depth limitation for mounted filesystems has been increased...
    under version 1.0:
    /usr/share              NOT ALLOWED.
    under version 2.0:
    /usr/share              ALLOWED.
    /a/b/c/d/e/f/g/h/i      ALSO ALLOWED.
    (up to 10 levels, settable by changing global variable $MAXLEVELS)
    
  2. The prohibition on handling msdos and vfat filesystems has been removed.
    under version 1.0:
    ext2,ext3,jfs,reiserfs            are supported.
    under version 2.0:
    ext2,ext3,jfs,reiserfs,msdos,vfat are supported.
    
  3. A bug that mishandled the partition table during verbatim mode has been fixed. This occured if a backup was attempted with one of the current file systems unmounted.

  4. there are now 3 levels of verbosity...

Contents of the tarball (mkbkup.v2.tar.gz):

INSTALL          Please read 'README' first.
LICENSE          Open source-like license governing distribution
README           general instructions, descriptions, caveats
mkbkup.1         raw man pages in 'groff' format.
mkbkup.pl        Perl script that performs bootable backups.
swapfind         bash-script for finding and activating swap partitions

Editor's note: My apologies for releasing this very useful information two months late...


Letters to the Editor

From: Joyce Reinbolt <{removed}@yahoo.com>
To: CACTUS Newsletter Editor
Date: Sun, 1 Jun 2003 20:28:36 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: cactus

Hello,

I've recently started to collect cactus. They are such
beautiful plants. The only thing is, the plants I've
bought did not have names attached. I know a few of
them like the aloe, but I have several plants that
have {I'm probably not using the right terminology}
the stalk or stem each having a different color round
spiney ball on top. Each of these plants has small
exact replica's of the mother plant growing on the
ball. They fall off the plant and I don't know what to
do with them. Can I plant these little balls that fall
off? Can you tell me the name of the cactus just from
my description? :)) I also have another, its round
like a ball, a red flower in the middle and all around
on top it has these "things" that look like little
spiders. I've been to so many sites and can't find
what i'm looking for, particularly if cactus can
survive without direct sunshine, I'd like to set up a
shelf I have against an inside wall in my kitchen and
place my plants on it, but there wouldn't be any sun
getting to the plants. The second question I've
already asked, that is, if you can tell me more about
the cactus I've described above. Any help you could
give me would be GREATLY appreciated!!! also, if there
are any websites that have the pictues with names
would you mind giving them to me?  I'm really looking
forward to "growing" cactus. If you need to know where
I live, I'm in Ohio.
Thank you very much for your time and patience.

Joyce R
 From: Gil Kloepfer (CACTUS Newsletter Editor)
 To: Joyce Reinbolt <{removed}@yahoo.com>
 Date: Tue, 3 Jun 2003 23:15:12 -0500
 Subject: Re: cactus

Hello Joyce-

I'm going to make the assumption here that you've heard about us
from our web site (www.cactus.org), and that your questions pertain
to the information on that site.

On Sun, Jun 01, 2003 at 08:28:36PM -0700, Joyce Reinbolt wrote:
> I've recently started to collect cactus. They are such
> beautiful plants. The only thing is, the plants I've
> bought did not have names attached.

There are several ways to find the name of your system.  The best
and most portable way is to use the 'uname -n' command.  If
you use this command, it doesn't matter where you bought the
system, as long as it is running some variant of UNIX that should
get you the system name.

> I know a few of
> them like the aloe, but I have several plants that
> have {I'm probably not using the right terminology}
> the stalk or stem each having a different color round
> spiney ball on top. Each of these plants has small
> exact replica's of the mother plant growing on the
> ball. They fall off the plant and I don't know what to
> do with them. Can I plant these little balls that fall
> off? Can you tell me the name of the cactus just from
> my description? :))

It sounds like you may be talking about the new speakers that
come with the later models of Macintoshes.  The Mac G3 speakers
tend to look like round translucent balls, and I suppose they
could appear a little spiney.  Keeping these solidly in the center
of the table should prevent them from falling off.

While MacOS X is based on FreeBSD, at CACTUS we typically don't
address the Macintosh since there are a myriad of user groups
already dedicated to this platform.

> I also have another, its round
> like a ball, a red flower in the middle and all around
> on top it has these "things" that look like little
> spiders.

Yes, this definitely sounds like the Macintosh.  Probably a newer iMac.

> I've been to so many sites and can't find
> what i'm looking for, particularly if cactus can
> survive without direct sunshine, I'd like to set up a
> shelf I have against an inside wall in my kitchen and
> place my plants on it, but there wouldn't be any sun
> getting to the plants.

Well, CACTUS has survived rather well in our windowless auditorium
and meeting in the evening.  So I don't think sun is an issue (although
we have spent a lot of time dealing with units from Sun Microsystems,
oddly enough).  As long as we are supplied with sufficient pizza
and interesting UNIX-related topics, most of us are fairly happy.

Extensive Macintosh information is available at http://www.mac.com/.

> The second question I've
> already asked, that is, if you can tell me more about
> the cactus I've described above. Any help you could
> give me would be GREATLY appreciated!!! also, if there
> are any websites that have the pictues with names
> would you mind giving them to me?  I'm really looking
> forward to "growing" cactus.

I'm not sure that it would be possible to "grow" the iMac system
you speak of.  In an ideal environment, it could be possible to
"grow" a silicon wafer that is used to construct the integrated
circuits within the iMac.  However, obtaining sufficient intellectual
property rights to the circuit design and software makes "growing" one
much more expensive than simply buying one down at a local computer
store or mail order outfit.  In fact, you could probably get a good
price for an iMac on e-bay.

> If you need to know where
> I live, I'm in Ohio.
> Thank you very much for your time and patience.
> 
> Joyce R

We are here in Austin, Texas.  Our meetings are the third Thursday
of each month and the directions are available on our web site
at http://www.cactus.org/.  Please feel free to drive down and
attend a meeting if you would like to discuss UNIX or Open Source
related topics further.  We are a small group, but our discussions
are typically very technical and I have gained a lot of useful
information from attending the meetings.

Thank you for writing.

---
Gil Kloepfer
CACTUS Newsletter Editor
newsletter [at] cactus <dot> org


Editorials

NOTE: Editorials are written by members of CACTUS, and do not necessarily represent the views of the CACTUS organization or its officers.

Texas Legislative Wrap-up

By Randy Zagar

Well, except for the possibility of a special legislative session, it looks like the Texas Legislature is done providing entertainment for the next couple of years. And there are things to celebrate... The MPAA S-DMCA bill did not pass in Texas.

There was an Open Source bill in Texas, SB1579, but it got stuck in committee and never got voted on or debated on the Senate or House floor. The good news is that Senator Cardona, the author of this bill, seems very interested in pursuing this issue again in the next session. What's interesting about this is that Sen. Cardona was one of the supporters for UCITA in Texas. It seems we've made a convert here...

I think that this is great news, but I don't have any illusions that the fight is over... There's still lots of work to do.

-- Randy Zagar

"What Customer Support?" (Part II)

Some of you may remember the tutorial I presented at the March, 2003 CACTUS meeting about moving to SBC/Yahoo! DSL after essentially being dumped by Allegiance Telecom aka. Hosting.com.

At the meeting I made a pretty positive presentation about SBC. To be honest, I do feel that my Internet connection is pretty good (still, three months later). However, I have heard mixed reports from others since my presentation and probably neglected to emphasize the difficulties necessary to get my connection and service turned-on. Perhaps this is because I have become so accustomed to getting unsatisfactory customer service when it comes to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that I accept it as "normal." Bad customer service should NEVER be considered normal.

To pick on SBC/Yahoo! for a moment: In order to find someone at SBC's DSL customer support department who had any idea about the difference between bridged and routed IP subnets was an exercise that added more grey hair to my head. If you don't use the exact equipment blessed by SBC, you're not only on your own, but you're at fault. We're talking about an Internet connection here, based on industry standards. I've used lots of different equipment, and the configuration can be categorized in about 3 different ways. This isn't rocket science. I still have yet to get the in-addr.arpa for my address block configured correctly (and it was an exercise in phone tag to get that far). I have friends who argued with SBC order takers who couldn't take an order because their line was in an "error state," but nobody at SBC could say what that meant. I have other friends who ordered one service and got another.

I know there are people who require some hand-holding to order and install their Internet connection or need the services an ISP provides (mail, news, DNS servers). People who need this kind of bundled service should be able to call the kind of order lines there are now and be able to get a bundled package - ISP services and a nice DSL pipe with "Windoze" software for set-up.

For those of us who really just need a pipe, please give me a phone number to call where I can speak with someone who knows what DSL provisioning is, who can set-up reverse DNS properly, and who knows that a Redback is a router (company) and not someone who got too much sun (no pun intended). I don't need firewalls, mail filters, or anything else to block out pieces of my Internet experience. I can do that kind of blocking fine myself, thankyouverymuch. I guarantee that my support requirements are far less costly than most novice "net surfers" ISPs cater to.

I know that SBC can run networks well. I've seen it. SBC -- if you're listening -- take some of that money you spend on fancy commercials telling us how great you are and spend it on good customer support. Stop treating people who run UNIX-like operating systems like they're freaks and are doing something strange. Geeks, yes. Freaks, no. What did you expect in Austin? Stop hiding legal "CYA" text in your customer agreement that makes running servers a potiential violation. Just stop treating people like they're stupid unless they've earned the distinction.

While I've picked on SBC in this editorial, I can't say I've received or heard of better customer support from many other ISPs since Jump.net. Time Warner's RoadRunner service blocks ports they think may be dangerous (read: that may be used by someone running a server). Newsflash: Servers aren't inherently dangerous. In fact, there are times when a server is being run somewhat unintentionally, such as when running a H.323-type Internet phone application (like GnomeMeeting or Microsoft NetMeeting). I can't establish a call to my parents on Earthlink because Earthlink has somehow blocked that traffic. Thankfully my parents can reach me OK. Servers aren't bad, and they don't affect bandwidth consumption unless they're abusive. Reasonably define abusive and allow servers so those of us who don't like Exchange handling our e-mail can set-up a real mail server.

Somehow I envisioned a different Internet than what has become commonplace. When I got my ISDN connection some time back, I felt that was the beginning of an age where people would be able to expand the sharing of knowledge and services that made the Internet what it was. While broadband has brought us higher bandwidth, I don't think ISPs have encouraged that ideal of the Internet.

An update from last month: After not having received any response from Dell Computer Corp. in a month, I decided to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Dell finally responded and did ultimately deliver the rebates they promised. My thanks to those at the BBB of Central Texas and those at Dell Computer Corp. who finally handled and resolved my complaint.

-- Gil Kloepfer
(ceditorial @ kloepfer.org)


May CACTUS Membership Report

by Luis Basto

Let us welcome Newton Hammet as the newest member to CACTUS. Newton presented a very nice utility at our April meeting for backing up filesystems. You can get more info and download the utility at http://www.io.com/~treeflyr/mkbkup.

We wish to thank the following individuals for renewing their membership: David Wieboldt, Eric Jones, and Ray Schafer.

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):

     CACTUS
     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 (http://www.arlut.utexas.edu/)
(Gil Kloepfer, Computer Science Division (CSD), 835-3771, gil [at] arlut <dot> utexas <dot> edu)
OnRamp (http://www.onr.com/)
Internet service provider.
Outserv.net (http://www.outserv.net/)
IT operations and management solutions to small and midsized businesses.

CACTUS Sponsors

Journyx (http://www.journyx.com/)
Provider of workforce management software and services
Auspex Systems (http://www.auspex.com/)
Fastest reliable network fileservers.
Covad/Laserlink (http://www.laserlink.net/)
(Chip Rosenthal)
Multi Media Arts (MMA)
(Lee Williams, 451-7191)
Publisher of instructional materials for classroom and independent study.
VoIPing, LLC (http://www.voiping.com/)
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)
BestRegistrar.com (http://www.bestregistrar.com/)
(Steve Locke, (800) 977-3475), swl [at] cas-com <dot> net)
A top-level domain name registrar, CORE member.
CTG
(Maurine Mecer, 502-0190 [FAX 502-0287])
Professional recruiting.
EDP Contract Services
(Mark Grabenhorst, 346-1040) Professional recruiting.
Hewlett Packard (http://www.hp.com/)
(Bill Sumrall, 338-7221)
Hounix (http://www.texascomputers.com/hounix/)
(Marilyn Harper)
Houston's Unix Users Group.
Network Appliance Corporation (http://www.netapp.com/)
(Frank Mozina, fmozina [at] netapp <dot> com)
O'Keefe Search (http://www.okeefesearch.com/)
(John O'Keefe, john [at] okeefesearch <dot> com, 512-658-9224 or 888-446-2137)
Professional recuiting.
Sailaway System Design
(Chris J Johnson, 447-5243)
Schlumberger (http://www.slb.com/)
(Kathy O'Brien, obrien [at] asc <dot> slb <dot> com)
Technical services and products in over 100 countries.
Silicon Graphics (http://www.sgi.com/)
(Don Williams, 346-9342)
Solid Systems
(Pete Farrell, 442-2222)
Sterling Infomation Group (http://www.sterinfo.com/)
(Darrell Hanshaw, 344-1005, dhanshaw [at] sterinfo <dot> com)
Sun Microsystems (http://www.sun.com/)
(Rick Taylor)
Supplier of Unix client-server computing solutions.
Texas Internet Consulting (http://www.tic.com/)
(Smoot Carl-Mitchell, 451-6176, smoot [at] tic <dot> com)
TCP/IP networking, Unix, and open systems standards.
Technow
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.