Capital Area Central Texas UNIX Society
CACTUS Newsletter

Volume 19, Number 7 - July 2003


July Meeting

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

This month 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 from our friends at the High Tech Institute at Austin Community College.

June Meeting Report

by Ron Roberts

Attendance was good for a summer month because the newsletter arrived in a timely fashion advertising not only an excellent program, but a tutorial as well. President Lindsay Haisley solicited brief officer reports. Both CACTUS computers are up and running. Apparently the Sparc box had some kind of reset event after being moved to OnRamp's new facility. Lindsay & Gil spoke highly of OnRamp's services and new facility and recommend it. OnRamp deals only with commercial accounts.

Program Chair Ray Schafer announced a series of tutorials by the staff of the Austin Community College (ACC) High Technology Institute. He introduced Bob McGoldrick, the institute's coordinator, who outlined their offerings. Their website is at Bob invited us to checkout the brochures that he brought, then introduced staff member Nathan Isberg.

Nathan presented a tutorial on building a Linux kernel, using RedHat 9, Shrike, and the 2.3.21 kernel. He advised, "Read the README." It explains the process. After downloading the kernel sources, the next step is "make mrproper." This is like the "clean" label on steroids. In addition to compiled objects, it removes configuration and dependency files generated by previous makes. The next step is make configuration. There are several forms of this, such as config, Xconfig, etc. Essentially, it prompts you for information about your hardware. Nathan uses make menuconfig, the curses based version.

After the config, you run "make dep" which generates dependencies based on the configuration you selected. The next step is "make bzImage" which compiles all of the objects as well as the compressed kernel image.

The "make modules" step is not always required. Most people do use loadable kernel modules, however. Usually only advanced users with a thorough knowledge of their hardware skip this step because if you omit some driver, you have to completely rebuild a new kernel. This step writes to a version specific directory. It also requires that you perform a "make modules_install" to put the drivers in the proper directory.

Finally, you still have to copy the compressed kernel image to the /boot directory and configure the boot loader. Nathan prefers the older lilo to grub. Nathan updated a 2.4.20 kernel to 2.4.21. The question and answer period yielded as many comments and horror stories as questions. Apparently everyone who has tried to build a kernel has built one that wouldn't boot.

Because of the length of the tutorial and the fact that we had two more speakers, Program chair Ray Schafer cut off the discussion and introduced the speakers from the Austin chapter of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Chip Rosenthal, long time CACTUS member and former newsletter editor, gave some background about the Austin chapter.

In the wake of the government raid that confiscated computers at Steve Jackson Games, the Austin chapter was formed about ten years ago. It was in response to the raid, the computer decency act, and the proposal for mandatory encryption key escrow the the chapter became active. EFF declared victory on all three fronts, and essentially went dormant.

Last fall, in response to three legislative proposals, former Austin EFF chair Jon Lebkowsky approached Steve Jackson about reviving the local chapter. Chip listed these bills:

SB1116: the super Digital Millennium Communications Act (DMCA). This is essentially the state version of the federal law.

HB1282: state law proposed to fight SPAM.

SB1579: proposal to encourage use of Open Source Software by state agencies.

Chip introduced Adina Levin of Austin EFF to speak about the first two bills. Adina said that the DMCA debate was largely controlled by industry groups with little input from citizens groups. Industry felt the need for the state version because laws to prevent service theft are state based. Af first, the state level DMCAs went through legislatures quietly, as it did in Michigan. In Massachusetts, the bill was stalled. In Tennessee, twenty people showed up at a hearing to stall it. About this time, the national EFF notified the Texas organization to warn about the bill. The Texas EFF infiltrated the ACLU Cyber Security Project to get support.

State Representative Ron Wilson is an entertainment lawyer. When EFF contacted him about the bill, he referred them to Jody Richardson, who is the lobbyist for the Motion Picture Industry. Other legislators indicated that the bill wasn't going anywhere.

However, when the Motion Picture Association lobbyists arrived, the legislature waived the rules that require a one week notice before a hearing. EFF got two people to show up for the hearing on short notice.

The bill lifts language from a fifteen old cable bill that make it a crime to modify a device connected to a communication service with intent to defraud. It specified a $ 2,500 civil penalty per infraction. Service agreement contracts and tort law already provide relief for these infractions. These and other provisions began to catch the interest of other companies like Texas Instruments, who began to lobby against the bill.

The state senate scheduled hearings and at midnight of the last session and announced that it would come out of committee. The bill passed the senate and was sent to the house. Because the description of the bill didn't match one of the processes, the bill was stalled on a point of order.

There was a last minute attempt to include the bill by amendment to the Government Reorganization bill. This bill was referred to as the Christmas tree bill, because there were four hundred amendments hung upon it. But, time ran out and it wasn't passed.

The super DMCA was passed in six states. It passed in states when no one showed up to oppose it. As word got around and people got involved in opposing it, it failed.

Adina next spoke of the Open Source bill introduced by Senator Carona of Dallas. It requires state agencies to include open source as a possibility when procuring software. The bill got a committee hearing, where several Microsoft front groups opposed it. It never got out of committee.

Chip spoke about HB1282, the anti-Spam bill. He said initial version just about legalized spam. Though it mandated an opt-out, it gave the spammer ninety days to desist. This was changed to two days in the final version. The bill allows individuals to sue for ten dollars per piece of spam.

As usual, the discussion of spam was only ended by time constraints.

For more information about the Austin EFF, see

Letter From the President

by Lindsay Haisley

I'd like to say a special word about this month's presentation, since it should really appeal to all the old-line Unix folken among us. It seems that all things of great power move in cycles, and with Gentoo Linux, we've come back a basic Unix root concept, namely that everything of importance is distributed as source code and compiled on-site. Gentoo is one of the most modern of Linux distributions, but unlike most distributions which are distributed as binary files compiled for the least-common-denominator architecture, Gentoo is compiled from source as part of the installation procedure. While this can take many hours of time, the results are impressive.

Our old friends and colleagues from the newly-reborn company of OuterNet Connection Strategies, Mike Erwin and Jamie Pugh will be doing the demonstration. I talked to Jamie this week and he's not going to make us wait for the entire Gentoo installation to compile, but has a good presentation planned around a limited demonstration of the installation process. I, for one, am really looking forward to this presentation!

Just For Fun...

What if SBC handled the regular highway infrastructure instead of the
*information* highway?  (written by Gil Kloepfer, with apologies
to the many other "information highway" jokes)

SBC:     SBC Customer Support, my name is Terry Smith.  How may I help
         you today?

Me:      Hello, my car is stuck in a very large pothole in the road, and
         I cannot get the car out.

SBC:     Okay sir, I can help you.  May I have your driver's license number

Me:      {responds with driver's license number}

SBC:     Thank you.  {pause}  Are you Mister Kep{pause}fort?

Me:      Kloepfer.  Yes, that's me.

SBC:     Thank you Mr. Koephler, how can I help you today?

Me:      As I said before, my car is stuck in a very large
         pot-hole in the road, and I cannot get the car out.

SBC:     Let's take a look a few things.  Is your car's key turned on and
         is the motor running?

Me:      Yes, everything is running fine, I am just stuck in a hole in
         the road.

SBC:     Good.  Does you car have enough gasoline in the tank?

Me:      The engine is running OK and the gas gauge says that I have
         three quarters of a tank.

SBC:     Well, as long as you're sure.  If we send someone out to
         help you and we find that you don't have gasoline in the tank,
         we will have to charge you a fee for a service call.

Me:      I'm very sure.

SBC:     Hmmm...  Is your car's gear shifter in drive or reverse (that's
         the D or R on your dashboard).

Me:      I have tried my transmission in both drive and reverse.  The car
         is too far into the hole and I'm stuck.

SBC:     Well, it doesn't appear that any other customers are having this
         problem right now, so I will need to send a tow truck out to
         help you.

Me:      {breathing a sigh of relief}  Great!  Thank you!

SBC:     I need to know the kind of car you are driving.

Me:      2000 Toyota Camry

SBC:     Sir, did you buy that car from us, or did you provide it yourself?

Me:      I purchased it a few years ago from Toyota.

SBC:     Sir, I'm afraid that the Toyota Camry is not a supported vehicle
         on our roads.  You'll probably need to contact Toyota if you
         need assistance.

Me:      I've been driving the car for 3 years on the roads with no problem.
         The car is stuck in a pothole and I can't get it out.  The hole
         is in the road.  The car is functioning fine.  Please send a
         tow truck, my friend and I need to get to work.

SBC:     Well, your friend should not be in the car with you.

Me:      Excuse me?

SBC:     According to your driving plan and the Terms of Service, only
         one person can be in a car at any time on the roadways.

Me:      But they call it a "passenger car."

SBC:     Our roads are designed for cars with one person.  If you want to
         carry more than one person, you need to purchase a bus and
         register it and obtain a commercial driver's license.

Me:      Please send someone out.  I need to get to work.

SBC:     Sir, I can dispatch a tow truck, but I don't think they will be
         able to help you.  I really think you need to call Toyota for

         I need to speak to a supervisor.  Can you hold for a minute?

Me:      Sure.

  {silence or awful muzak for 5 minutes}

SBC:     Thank you for holding sir.  I've spoken to my supervisor and
         she said that the only thing we can do to help you is come out
         and replace your car.  We will need to bill you for the car
         on your next registration statement.  If you want to take your
         friend to work, I will need to change that order to a bus and
         you will need to obtain a commercial driver's license.

         We should be able to send a new car out within 24 hours.

Me:      Don't worry about it.  I guess I'll just have to call for a
         stinky Time-Warner Cab.

SBC:     Sorry we couldn't help you today.  Is there anything else you
         need me to help you with?

Me:      Uh, no.

SBC:     Well thank you for choosing SBC for your highway needs.  Have
         a nice day.

CACTUS System News

by Lindsay Haisley


CACTUS member Randy Zagar has been agitating for the installation of webmail on for a couple of months now. Rather than wait for someone else to pick up the ball on this, he's gone ahead and done a good deal of research and testing on a couple of different open-source webmail tools. There are two webmail system which he's currently investigating, Squirrelmail and Courier Webmail (also known as sqwebmail).

Squirrelmail consists of a collection of scripts written in PHP, the native server-side active page language on our web server. It's a very capable and highly configurable web-based email client. It requires the coopration of an IMAP server on the server-side, even if it's running on the same box as the server. The logical candidate for an IMAP server is Courier-IMAP, since it understands about mail stored in user's home directories in Maildir format and can deal with it intelligently.

Courier Webmail (a.k.a. sqwebmail) runs as a single compiled suid binary. It works directly with user Maildir directories and can accomplish rather more than can Squirrelmail since its capabilities include mail filtering (using maildrop) and other very nice features not available via an IMAP server. Because both Courier and Qmail (our current mail server) store mail in maildirs, Courier webmail is quite compatible with Qmail.

Because both Courier Webmail and Courier IMAP were written by the brilliant Russian/American programmer Sam Varshavchik, both use the same techniques for managing Maildir structures, and so it's entirely possible to use both Squirrelmail with Courier IMAP and Courier Webmail interchangably, as my company does on our mail server.

Randy is making good progress, but he's looking for CACTUS members willing to do some testing and help him out. We need volunteers for this project!

Randy writes:

I've had good luck with my web-mail experiments:

I tossed my Sendmail installation and went with Exim (the default for Debian) since it supports the Maildir format. Since I'm not a major ISP and I'm not relaying for other domains, the configuration did not stray far from the default settings.

There are several inter-related Courier mail packages and I installed them all:

So far, the only Courier config file I've changed was for the courier-imap package, and that was just a one-liner.

I already had a working SquirrelMail installation, so I only had to change one line in its' config file to make it work with the new Courier-imap server.

Everything now appears to work, so at this point I need some people to review the configuration, make recommendations, and help add new functionality like virus or spam filtering... I also need one or two testers.

Now, who's going to help out?

June CACTUS Membership Report

by Luis Basto

Address of NT Computers

A couple of months ago I described the I-Opener web browser which has been re-furbished to an interesting laptop-like computer running Linux. The place selling these is NT Computers. They are at 12317 Technology Blvd, Suite 300, which is on the corner of Tech. Blvd. and Spicewood Springs Rd. Take a look:

Call 250-0001 and ask for Bruce. He's the one familiar with Linux.

Let us welcome Dresser Industries - Wayne Division as the newest corporate sponsor to CACTUS.

Dresser Wayne is a leading supplier of integrated retail solutions to the global petroleum and convenience store industries. These integrated retail solutions include point-of-sale systems, fuel dispensers, and after-sale support services.

Dresser Wayne is the technology leader in the manufacture and supply of retail petroleuum fuel dispensers, dispenser control systems, credit/debit card processing terminals, and point-of-sale systems for petroleum markets worldwide. They are also the industry leader in developing new technologies, and over 75 countries use their products.

Contact person: Steve Cox, steve <dot> cox [at] dresser <dot> com, 338-8444

We wish to thank the following individuals for renewing their membership -- Chip Rosenthal, Joe Zagar, Sherry Lesikar, Lindsay Haisley, Bob Izenberg, and Mark Scarborough.


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)
OnRamp (
Internet service provider. (
IT operations and management solutions to small and midsized businesses.

CACTUS Sponsors

Auspex Systems (
Fastest reliable network fileservers.
Covad/Laserlink (
(Chip Rosenthal)
Dresser Industries - Wayne Division (
(Steve Cox, steve <dot> cox [at] dresser <dot> com, (512) 338-8444)
A leading supplier of integrated retail solutions to the global petroleum and convenience store industries, including point-of-sale systems, fuel dispensers, and after-sale support services.
Journyx (
Provider of workforce management software and services
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)
Hounix (
(Marilyn Harper)
Houston's Unix Users Group.
Network Appliance Corporation (
(Frank Mozina, fmozina [at] netapp <dot> com)
O'Keefe Search (
(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 (
(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.