Volume 21, Number 4 - April 2005
|IBM pSeries Technology & Products
Pat O'Rourke & Mark Kressin
Thursday, April 21, 7:00 PM
The CACTUS Newsletter is a monthly publication, distributed to our members and other interested people. Visit the CACTUS Newsletter on the web at http://www.cactus.org/Newsletter/. There you will find archives of back issues, as well as instructions on how to subscribe to the e-mail distribution. We welcome newsletter submissions by our members. Please contact newsletter [at] cactus <dot> org for more information.
Pat O'Rourke will discuss the IBM pSeries POWER 5 processor technology and products. Mark Kressin will demonstrate the virtualization function and capabilities of AIX and the p5 products.
The next CACTUS meeting will be held on Thursday, April 21, 2005 at 7:00 PM (doors open at 6:30 PM for pizza and informal discussion), in the auditorium of UT Applied Research Laboratories. (See end of newsletter for directions to the facility).
Despite no formal program announced in the newsletter, attendance was normal at the March CACTUS meeting. President Randy Zagar announced that Midas Networks was buying the pizza for the evening and thanked Chris Boyd, the chief technical officer of Midas. Randy then promised to give away two legitimate copies of Red Hat Enterprise System (RHES). Gil Kloepfer joked that if more than two people wanted them, we could make illegitimate copies.
Randy Zagar noted that we have many machines that have different accounts, passwords, home directories, and no backups. He proposed that we employ Kerberos to tie them together. It's like Network Information System (NIS), but with strong encryption. Lindsay Haisley suggested that we use Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) over the secure socket layer (SSL). Randy Zagar mentioned that bubba (the 1U Newisys machine), will be getting a slim-line DVD burner for backup.
Randy also said that officers need to acknowledge when they can't fufill their obligations. IBM was scheduled to present, but needed to withdraw at the last moment, and we did not have an alternate program scheduled. Membership chair Luis Basto said that membership was about the same, but some sponsors haven't renewed. Some of them have gone out of business. Randy asked if we could get more corporate sponsors if we were a non-profit organization. Gil Kloepfer suggested that whether we provide "value-add" is more important. Someone mentioned that non-profits can't lobby for political candidates. Has providing good speakers grown our membership? The consensus was: no. The membership agreed that we need to get the word out better. Gil lamented that while people from UT:ARL didn't even need to leave the building to attend, there were only three people from ARL at the meeting.
Gil questioned whether CACTUS actually needed to grow. Linux groups such as ALUG compete for members. ALUG now has a ten dollar per year membership fee. Although they meet weekly, they frequently just have fellowship meetings when there is no speaker. Lenny Tropiano said we could get better speakers. He suggested that we could tour an ISP or a data center. Gil joked that we invite a spammer and crucify him! Lenny said he would try to arrange a tour of Inflow.
President Randy Zagar introduced the speakers for the evening: Chip Rosenthal and Chris Boyd. They had leaflets entitled, "Broadband for Texas." The Texas legislature is considering a law (HB 789) that would make it illegal for communities to set up wireless or broadband networks. The law is being pushed mostly by the phone companies to limit choice and competition. They encouraged people to visit savemuniwireless.org and express their opposition to this bill.
Chip Rosenthal had just received news that the bill was passed out of committee without the ban on free municipal wireless. This was in part, because of their lobbying efforts. Chip warned that the industry lobbyists haven't given up, and they may try to re-introduce the ban on the floor of the house.
Chip took issue with the US telecom industry: "US broadband sucks!" The US is not a leader and it is falling further behind. Of the top fifteen countries in the world, the US is thirteenth in broadband penetration. In the US, broadband is not a competitive market. There are only two choices: phone or cable. In the US, customers pay about $50 a month for a one megabit connection. Other countries have twice the bandwidth for on half of the cost.
Someone suggested that some countries such as Korea and Japan subsidize those industries. Chris Boyd said that they do provide tax incentives, but not direct subsidies. Cities acknowledge that broadband is becoming essential infrastructure. Many business require it for purchasing, customer relations, etc. Municipal broadband is more than providing WiFi hot spots, like we have in Austin. Chis mentioned the Utopia project in Utah. They intend to provide a 100 megabit connection at an estimated cost of six dollars per month. That's the estimated cost for maintenance. Routing costs will be about thirty dollars per month. The reason that the state of Utah got involved is that the telecom industry neglected their market. The population is not dense enough to be highly profitable.
At this point, Gil Kloepfer suggested that there is another class of users between business and end browser: the geek class. [Editor's Note (Gil): Actually, what I expressed was that broadband Internet access in the US is typically a "Windows or Macintosh only web surfer only" arrangement that has left people who want static IP addresses to run small servers out in the cold or forced to pay business rates for Internet service. SBC DSL is currently an exception to this, although the rate disparity between static and dynamic addressing is still quite high. While the speakers suggested that this would not be an issue with municipal broadband projects, I still feel that they would run it much like the bell companies are doing now and only provide very basic broadband Internet access.] Lenny Tropiano asked if projects like Utopia would put companies like Inflow out of business. Chris Boyd responded by asking, "Do you have a generator?" From his background as an ISP provider, he added that if the bandwidth is there, the kids will find a way to use it. The Utopia project is funded by partership between the state and private interests. About thirty other municipal projects exist today. About thirty percent of the Austin Wireless project nodes are on public property. Corpus Christi deployed WiFi primarily for city workers. Even the small town of Granbury, population 6,000, has a project.
Chip Rosenthal showed a copy of the bill that got of committed. Representative Phil King of Parker County, chairman of the House Regulated Businesses Committee, originally scheduled only one day of hearings, which provided testimony from all of the incumbent phone providers. Because of citizen input from groups like SaveMuniWireless, the committee was forced to extend hearings by three days. The committee tried to hold the ban and create small exceptions. As the argument continued, and the exceptions continued to grow, the committee finally removed the ban entirely.
Chip emphasized that the battle is not over. The telecom industry will try again. Municipalities are actually one of the weakest supporters of free access. They are afraid of the phone companies and the legislature.
At this point, the discussion lost some of it's focus as members began to talk about independent projects in rural areas. For example Western Broadband is putting up antennas at various locations in rural Texas (supported by a master 200 foot antenna in Leander) and charges $34.99 per month for service. Tim Wood mentioned how he got started working part-time for Western Broadband using an antenna atop his grain elevator to provide services for himself and his neighbors in the Walburg area.
At the end of the meeting, Randy Zagar asked who wanted the two copies of Red Hat EHS. He explained that they were actually a distribution of CentOS based on White Box Enterprise Linux (www.whiteboxlinux.org).
Thanks to Chip Rosenthal, Chris Boyd, and Midas Networks for the political update. And for their tiring effort in geek lobbying.
The board of directors met on Tuesday, March 21st at the Kirby Lane Cafe on 183 Highway near Oak Knoll. Present were president Randy Zagar, newsletter editor Gil Kloepfer, scribe Ron Roberts, membership chair Luis Basto, members at large Mark Scarborough, Don Kassenbaum, and Lindsay Haisley. Never formally convened nor recessed, the meeting was an informal and amiable discussion.
President Randy Zagar said he'd like to see something like SpamAssassin™ installed by default. Lindsay Haisley said that he wants to remodel our web page and get new hard drives for the Linux box. He mentioned the /home was 60% full.
Since Bubba is a newer, faster machine with more disk space, the board determined that we should switch all the hosting services from linux.cactus.org to "bubba." Then Lindsay could upgrade the "linux" box at his leisure. These services include web server, mail server, user accounts and home directories, and DNS. Randy will begin this effort.
[Editor's Note (Gil): It should also be mentioned that a motion was presented and passed that CACTUS shall not endeavor to provide high-availablity, redundant e-mail services. The e-mail system is maintained on a volunteer basis and providing services of that magnitude is outside the scope of our organization.]
After some discussion on programs, Randy indicated that he and treasurer Johnny Long needed two addition letters from the scribe vetting them as official officers of CACTUS.
Mark Scarborough said that both Compass and Guarantee Bank were offering free services. He agreed to check with them on what Randy and Johnny would need in order to open an account with them. Apparently, Johnny needs to get a copy of our Doing Business As (DBA) registration.
The board was unsure if there exists an MX record for mail.cactus.org, which would facilitate the switch from "linux" to "bubba." Gil Kloepfer agreed to configure each of the machines to use ntp so the clocks will agree. He asked that his account name be made consistent on all of the machines, and that he needed sudo privileges.
Discussion rambled onto diverse topics until about 9:30 pm.
From what I can recall of this year's Officers Meeting, it seemed to me that we spent the most time talking about what we wanted to do with all of our systems... And now that I think about it, I think the theme for CACTUS this year is "Infrastructure."
Gil Kloepfer, for instance, has volunteered to configure Network Time Protocol servers on all our systems. NTP is a protocol for keeping computer clocks synchronized over the Internet and is not an easy service to administer. It's not just a simple protocol, and it is astonishingly easy to waste bandwidth and/or annoy your upstream NTP servers. As of late March, Gil had already completed work on linux.cactus.org, sparc.cactus.org, and sun1.cactus.org with promises that more would be happening soon. In fact, the clocks on sun1 and bubba are looking suspiciously consistent. Gil will probably be able to give us an update at the next meeting, and if we ask really nice he might even be willing to do an NTP tutorial sometime...
There's been some work on Bubba related to e-mail... Sendmail is the
default Mail Transport Agent (MTA) for RedHat/Fedora systems. But we
don't like Sendmail all that much... Sometimes I think Rube Goldberg
was the software architect for Sendmail. For the moment Bubba is
running Postfix, which supports Maildir mail folders, and Bubba is also
running Courier IMAP.
[Editor's Note (Gil): Actually, configuring sendmail is really pretty straightforward, but the idea of using pattern matching and rewriting as a configuration "language" takes a lot of people by surprise.]
For those of you who'd like to test the new IMAP server, you need to set
up a .qmail file on linux.cactus.org. An example for a user who's
CACTUS username is "sample" is:
This will forward your mail to bubba. All you have to do is point your IMAP client at bubba, and make sure you configure it to use SSL.
More work on bubba is coming... The next step is to get our new dual-layer DVD-RW drive installed and make some backups.
Our old Debian box at linux.cactus.org continues to give good service. In spite of its rather outdated hardware, it's still fast and quite reliable. Since the first thing to go on any computer (with the exception of the power supply, which has already been replaced) is the hard drives, the CACTUS officers approved the purchase of a pair of replacement hard drives at the last officers' meeting. Hopefully, this will allow a larger per-member filespace on the box and the winners' circle of the daily Drive Hog competition will remain empty for some time to come.
Many thanks to Dave Maynard and Outserv for renewing the SSL security certificate for secure.cactus.org, hosted on the linux.cactus.org box.
Please welcome our newest sponsor, Flowing Circles Engineering.
The company is trying to take advantage of grid computing to solve
matrix engineering and energy conversion problems. You can contact
Johnny Long at (512) 293-7894 for more information, or see their
web site at
[Editor's Note (Gil): Unfortunately I couldn't view this web site under Mozilla on FreeBSD because the main page is Flash, and it crashes the Open Source flash plug-in for Mozilla.]
We would like to thank William Dodd, John Kingman, and C. Unnikrishnan for renewing their membership.
If you want to save a few bucks, Bookpool is having a sale on Open Source books this month. Take a look at: http://www.bookpool.com/.x/SSSSSS_C500S453708D0503311612/ct/174.
To renew your membership, please send check or money order payable to CACTUS ($30/yr for regular membership and $100/yr for corporate sponsorship):
PO BOX 9786
Austin, TX 78766-9786
You can also pay in person at the general meetings. Please direct any inquiries or address changes to membership [at] cactus <dot> org.
CACTUS meets on the third Thursday of each month at the Applied Research Laboratories (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. 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 (but you will need to inform the guard in the booth that you are attending a meeting at ARL). See map for further details.
Online maps are available at:
As always, please leave the facility as you saw it when you arrived.