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UKUUG News


Editor's Column

( Susan Small)

Sue The first thing that you may notice about this issue of your newsletter is the new format. We are currently looking at ways of producing a more appropriate newsletter and using more appropriate mechanisms in its production. This edition has been created using a single XML master generating both an HTML version for the web and a PDF version for our printers.

Although XML is experiencing a rapid take-up in many application areas, support for printed documents, via FOP, which is what was used this time, still leaves a lot to be desired. These shortcomings are apparent in the printed issue. For example, leaders and widows & orphans are not handled as well as we would like.

Your feedback concerning the type of newsletter you want and the type of articles you wish to read is most welcome.


News from Owles Hall

( Jane Morrison)

Jane The UKUUG office move, as reported in the January Newsletter, went quite smoothly considering the large amount of papers, files and equipment we had to move. BT almost let us down but actually turned up at 3.00 pm on Friday afternoon (four days after the requested day!) to carry out the necessary work. So we were up and running again.

Please note that your records should be changed to reflect our new address. Your accounts department should also be notified of the change.

PO BOX 37, Buntingford, Herts SG9 9UQ - all telephone, fax numbers and email and web addresses remain the same.

The move coincides with another change that will take place in the summer. Helen Gibbons, of Fleming Gibbons Ltd., the company who provides secretariat services to the UKUUG, is retiring and winding up her company, the contract for services will therefore cease on 30th June. This means that UKUUG Council is considering alternative arrangements. The most likely outcome is that I will be providing the service personally from 1st July. We shall keep you informed of developments.

The UKUUG subscription invoices were sent out at the end of January. To date we have had a large number of payments and I would like to remind you that if subscriptions are not paid by the end of March further copies of news@UK will not be sent. The costs involved in sending our Newsletters and servicing non-paying subscriptions is too high.

If you have mislaid the invoice please let me know and I will arrange for a copy to be sent.

We will be happy to take credit card payments via the telephone if you ring this office - 01763 273475.

The Newcastle Winter Conference which was held on 8th & 9th February was very successful. The tutorial by Jim Reid was well attended by 20 delegates. There should be a technical write up in this issue - see below. 45 delegates attended the conference - again see technical write up below.

From the questionnaires returned we have noted that delegates would have preferred an organised social event on the first night and longer slots in the timetable for the presentations as some speakers had to cut their presentations short due to time constraints. We have noted this and will make sure these items are considered next year. The full papers from the event should now be on our website http://www.ukuug.org/events/newcastle_2001/.

We are busy working on the UKUUG Linux conference being held on 29th June - 1st July which will be held in Manchester. There are further details below.

The UKUUG council has been conducting meetings so far this year by phone-conferences. Given the problems with the trains, weather etc. the phone-conferences seem to work well, although it is quite difficult sometimes to organise times etc. that suit everyone.

On 15th March the first face-to-face Council meeting of 2001 will take place in London.

The UKUUG 'committees' set up to concentrate on various topics still have places if you feel you would like to get involved.

Committees are being formed for the following: Newsletter, Events, Schools and Linux - if you would like to get involved please contact the Secretariat.


Linux in Schools - A Quiet Revolution

( Roger Whittaker)

When I joined SuSE Linux a year ago after twenty years as a teacher, it's not surprising that one of the projects I was particularly keen on was that of trying to interest schools in using Linux. My own interest began with a project to create a network at the small school where I was Deputy Head (the Hellenic College of London in Knightsbridge). Originally this project was to be carried out by an ex-student who had completed a research degree and had come back to help us with a little part-time teaching. The idea of using Linux (in fact we originally opted for FreeBSD, but switched to Linux for various practical reasons) was his - the project very soon became mine when he was offered a very good job with a consulting company. I had to learn very fast, but, as they say, I haven't looked back ...

In January 1999 I was at the BETT educational IT show at Olympia (the main IT trade show for schools each year). I noticed that there was no Linux or Unix of any kind there at all. By this time I was firmly convinced of the benefits of Linux to schools and even considered the question as to whether it might be possible or practical to hire a space next year there on my own behalf or with the help a LUG to promote Linux to teachers.

By January 2000 I was working for SuSE and was at the BETT show on our stand (having suggested before I joined that this would be a useful place to be). There was an enormous amount of interest from teachers and school network managers - we were rushed off our feet keeping up with the questions from them. Most of those who stopped at our stand had heard of Linux, but didn't really know what it was. Others had not heard of it at all.

At this year's BETT there was a similar degree of interest in Linux, but the increased general awareness which had come about with the passage of time was very noticeable. The questions we heard were not so much about 'what is it?', and more about 'what can we do with it?' or 'how easy is it to learn?'.

As a result of the interest that we found at BETT 2000, we decided to run a direct promotion to schools whereby they could obtain a full boxed copy of SuSE Linux for half price. This promotion had a remarkable take-up rate: it was clear that there were a large number of teachers and network managers in schools who were seriously looking for alternative ways of doing things. This interest continues to grow, paralleling the growth of interest in Linux more generally. This growth of interest springs firstly from the 'grass-roots': however, there is now a growing awareness of Linux on the part of those whose job it is to advise teachers and schools on their use of IT.

There is a wide variety in the ways in which schools are using Linux. There is a great deal of interest in the use of samba as a file and print server for Windows clients on the network. Similarly squid as a proxy server is a popular use. However, there are also schools where Linux is making its way onto the desktop - and as might be imagined there are plenty of schools where there is considerable interest in Linux among the students.

It is worth mentioning some peculiarities of software usage in schools: there is a peculiar kind of hypocrisy whereby what teachers say they use computers for in their teaching differs from what they actually do. There is a strong pressure on teachers to `show' that they are using `educational software' in their lessons as part of their subject teaching. This pressure comes from inspectors, heads of department and others: I have seen weekly lesson planning sheets with a box labelled `use of IT', which is expected to be filled in. The reality, however, is that a large proportion of this `educational software' is of very poor quality, is bought unseen from a catalogue, and is not often used. In reality what people are doing is word processing, images and spreadsheets and using the Internet. So the reality and the theory of educational computer use don't quite correspond. And the reality corresponds much more closely to what can be achieved very effectively with open source.

Another peculiarity of schools' use of IT is that although cash is short, many schools buy hardware for rather inflated prices from particular suppliers who have (shall we say) a very strong `psychological hold' on the market and provide solutions tailored to education. This has two consequences: schools get less hardware and software for their money than they might, but worse, those responsible for IT lose their self-confidence in their ability to make and implement decisions about developing their infrastructure.

This goes hand in hand with a general attitude towards the place of IT in schools which regards IT as a form of training (rather along the lines of the 'office practice' and typewriting lessons of long ago), rather than as education. In this regard, attitudes to IT in education have gone backwards with the same rapidity that the technology has moved forwards. Ten years ago, when computing in schools was still in its pioneering period, the attitude of the educational establishment was that the nation would need programmers - school computing was essentially to be an introduction to programming. This was educational in the true sense of the word: not only are the skills learned in trying to solve a programming problem highly transferable to other fields, they genuinely develop the mind. In contrast there is nothing more depressing than a class of children being drilled in which menu item to click in a word processor (would anyone like to guess which one?) to achieve a particular result.

One of the arguments which I have often heard used against the use of Linux and open source software in schools is that `it's not what they'll have to use when they go out to work'. I have even heard this argument used to support the use of a particular word processor or spreadsheet as against another functionally virtually equivalent one. Such arguments show a stunning lack of historical perspective: children starting secondary school this year will be reaching retiring age in the year 2055 - will those fascinating details of Word 2000's `Edit' menu really be relevant then? But someone who has learnt a little programming even in an obsolete language has learned something more - they have learned to think.

The use of Linux in schools has begun to re-empower teachers and school network people. It has connected them to a real community where support means genuine help from one interested individual to another as opposed to a cynical and expensive waste of time on the telephone. It has introduced them to a mentality which sees technical problems as something you can solve for yourself rather than automatically call in an expert for. It has reintroduced an active attitude where understanding is the key and where choices can be exercised.

These are still fairly early days for Linux and open source in schools: however much work is going on to encourage and support schools. In particular, SuSE Linux has been running a mailing list for those interested in the use of Linux in education. Malcolm Herbert (now at Red Hat) during his time at BECTa organised a series of meetings on `Open Source in Education' bringing together teachers, the DfEE and the industry to discuss the impact of open source on schools' IT.

A meeting will be held at Westwood St Thomas school at Salisbury on 12th March which will at which it is hoped that an umbrella organisation to promote open source in schools will be set up with the support of UKUUG, the major Linux distributions and other interested parties.

Anyone can help by talking to their local school: telling them about Linux/UNIX, offering a little bit of help. The learning curve is steepest at the beginning. In my experience people who have started and become interested don't look back, and that includes teachers. So I would urge UKUUG members to offer useful help and advice to their local school if they have contacts there. Any UKUUG members wishing to join in our efforts to help schools more generally are most welcome to contact me.


UKUUG Winter Conference 2001 - DNS Tutorial

( Roger Whittaker)

Upgrading to BIND 9

Tutor: Jim Reid (Nominum)

As an adjunct to the UKUUG Winter Conference at Newcastle, another tutorial on DNS from Jim Reid of Nominum was offered, following on from his successful tutorial on DNS administration in London last October. As before the tutorial was open to all, but with special rates for UKUUG members.

It would be dishonest were I to claim the expertise honestly to evaluate this tutorial from a technical point of view: this was an advanced tutorial on a difficult topic. I will however attempt to give some general impressions.

Jim Reid of Nominum gave a detailed full morning's session on the transition from BIND 8 to BIND 9. Nominum is responsible under an agreement with the Internet Software Consortium for maintaining the BIND name server software. Nominum also offers commercial consulting, training and other services and offers outsourced DNS through their Global Name Services (GNS) network infrastructure. Jim gave a second session during the conference proper on Nominum's GNS. It is worth mentioning that during that session he gave very firm assurances about the continuation of open source development and licensing of BIND under the terms of Nominum's agreement with the ISC. However it is also only fair also to point out that he caused some surprise and not a little controversy during the conference session when he revealed that Nominum's GNS services are based on a proprietary and closed source name server written within Nominum by lead developers of BIND.

Jim's delivery of the tutorial was clear, well-planned and organised. He spoke with a dry humour and frank and open manner and clearly held the attention of the participants well. The slides for the tutorial were presented in printed form as tutorial notes: these run to some 58 pages at two slides per page and consist of a comprehensive listing not simply of bland topic headings (as is so often the case) but contain the substance of the talk summarised in bullet points and include command examples and sample configuration files among other details. A detailed and very clear checklist for upgrading to BIND 9 is also included - as well as two other technical appendices to the notes.

Jim began by looking at the history of BIND, and in particular the development of BIND 8 from BIND 4. BIND 8 had been based on the same code base as BIND 4 with the incorporation of contributed code and improved configurability. He pointed out the important fact that all versions of BIND prior to 8.2.3 should now be regarded as having security issues.

Unlike BIND 8 which was a revision of BIND4, BIND 9 was an entire re-write of the code and a very tight and consistent approach to coding had been implemented. He explained that BIND 8 was still being maintained in the sense that bug fixes for important security issues would continue to be issued, but that the main development effort had now shifted to BIND 9 of which the recommended version now was the current version 9.1.

It was therefore clear that in the long run upgrading to BIND 9 was recommended, but he stressed the need for proper planning of such a move for anyone running DNS on a large scale. Indeed the main bulk content of the tutorial consisted of explaining in detail the nature and scope of the kind of planning and implementation which was necessary.

Among the potential problems which were stressed during the tutorial was the fact that BIND 9 was far less forgiving of errors in the configuration files and zone than previous versions had been: syntax which was technically wrong had previously been forgiven by less careful parsing. However, bundled with BIND 9.1 were checking tools for solving any such problems before upgrading.

Also explained were new features in BIND 9 including the use of `views': the ability to split DNS responses according to the identity of the requester - details of more than one setup designed to offer this functionality were shown. The issues involved in moving to IPv6 were also discussed as were the problems of internationalised (Unicode) domain names.


UKUUG Winter Conference 2001 - Day 1

( Richard Ibbotson)

8th and 9th February University of Newcastle upon Tyne

The Thursday morning at the start of the conference proved to be one of those rare occasions in the British winter when the sun came out and people smiled at each other. A refreshing change from those other times when a bunch of depressed Brits scowl at each other over lukewarm tea whilst it pours with rain outside.

The morning started with the Bind 9 tutorial which was a well informed resume of what's what with Bind 9 and how to avoid the problems that are normally associated with software upgrades and those three in the morning sessions of hitting ones head against the monitor. The people who attended explained to me that they thought it was "very useful" or "just what I wanted".

After lunch which was at one o'clock we got stuck into the meaty bit of the day when Andrew Findlay gave us his talk on the network connection booking system at Brunel University. Andrew now works for Skills 1st Ltd. His talk went into the details of the 1000 study bedrooms that were wired up at Brunel. This provides a web-based system for students to request connections and handle payments as well as log the connections. All of this is managed through a web interface. It was interesting to see how a University can run if someone just thinks about it a bit.

Next was Malcolm Beattie who gave us the IBM mainframe hardware from a hackers point of view. This is the kind of thing that generally interests the Linux people who seem to like to just chop things around until something fits in the right place. His up market and hard sell power point type presentation was well received. The points he made at the end about the Z900 hardware did wake a few people up and no doubt there are a few geeks out there who are now working out how to close down a library or encourage the students to do something they shouldn't so they can get hold of the 64 bit stuff that's coming along next.

After the coffee break Brad Knowles introduced us to the design and implementation of scalable e-mail systems. Brad is a well informed chap who can explain all of it to you. One or two people did ask him questions that were a bit pointed but it was friendly and helpful. I made a tape of his talk. Solid BBC voice. Kind of orator who could hold NBC news together for twenty years without a hitch. His network awareness spoke for itself.

To finish the day off Anton Holleman explained the ins and outs of implementing a large scale DHCP service. Anton does know his stuff very well but his explanation of how he implemented the DHCP service raised a few eyebrows which were subsequently shoved back into place by Anton's obvious technical expertise. He did have to drone on a bit to get there but for DHCP people it was with the trip.


UKUUG Winter Conference 2001 - Day 2

( Dr A V LeBlanc)

8th and 9th February University of Newcastle upon Tyne

Jim Reid of Nominum spoke about GNS, a global DNS service run by Nominum. It did sound rather impressive, with servers at critical points in the world network infrastructure, no single point of failure or dependency on a single piece of software, and high speed lookups, but this appears due more to selective presentation than to true technical superiority.

Malcolm Beattie located and dug at a major weakness of the system: its exclusive dependence on a secret, unreviewed replacement for bind. Jim's assertion that 'it has been working without a hitch for six months, and if we don't know how to write a nameserver, we deserve to fail' is, in my opinion, pretty unconvincing. I could recommend Nominum's GNS service only to small companies without the expertise to manage their own DNS.

Andrew Cormack of UKERNA discussed 'Defending a 21st Century Network'. Many University networks are designed to presume that a firewall can protect the Good inside users from the Bad outside users. This strategy is inadequate in many respects; for example, it leaves you wide open if one of your internal machines is compromised. The acceleration in the number of hacking attempts, the number of reports, and the number of vulnerable machines means we need a new strategy.

Andrew suggests several tactics, including private networks for workstations, connecting to the whole internet only over defined proxies, slower connections for most machines, and high speed connections only for those machines whose administrators can take special measures to secure them. More administrators at lower levels need to be educated and encouraged to take better precautions. Andrew's little thumbnail caricatures were particularly entertaining. I liked his approach: he didn't have the solution, but a number of suggestions that might be parts of a solution.

Stuart McRobert of Imperial College discussed wireless ethernet at 11 Mbits per second. He gave a lot of good news, as well as some bad news: the software does work, though rarely up to the speeds claimed by the salespeople, particularly when there are many users in a small area. The lack of encryption, possible health risks, and the dangers of exposing internal networks to outsiders all appeared and were faced squarely, if not always as successfully as Stuart would have liked. He also warned us that professional installers can jack the prices very substantially up. A very informative presentation.

Lindsay Marshall of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne presented the electronic submission system for coursework which he has created and continues to develop. He listed and explained the requirements and desirable features of such a system, and explained how and to what extent his system meets them.

Many people, as Lindsay is well aware, are working on similar systems in other universities; this one may have some solutions that others have missed. The system is constructed with Apache, MySQL, PHP, and OpenSSL.


UK Linux 2001 Developers Conference, 29 June - 1 July, Manchester

( Charles Curran)

This summer we shall be holding another conference for Linux developers. It will take place between midday, Friday, 29 June, and midday, Sunday, 1 July. It will be held in UMIST's Manchester Conference Centre. With this newsletter you will find the Call for Participation which gives more details. See the web pages at http://www.ukuug.org/events/linux2001/ for the latest information.

Last year's conference at Hammersmith drew a variety of speakers from various parts of the Linux community, including both well-known, major contributors and people working on interesting developments you probably hadn't heard about in detail.

This year we hope to cover many of the developments you can expect next year. Speakers on all types of Linux development are invited to contribute. Topics are not limited to the kernel itself. If you have something to say about any aspect of Linux development, we want to hear about it. Other topics likely to be of interest to Linux developers and enthusiasts will also be considered. The closing date for abstracts is 30 March, but if you intend to make a submission, please advise us as soon as possible.

We are seeking sponsors and exhibitors. If you are able to help, please contact the UKUUG office. The programme and booking information will be posted to members shortly after Easter.

Speakers at the conferences in 1999 (http://www.linux.ukuug.org/linux99/) and 2000 (http://www.ukuug.org/events/linux2000/) were: John Adams, Malcolm Beattie, Wichert Akkerman, Adrian Cox, Alan Cox, Miguel de Icaza, John Edwards, Chris Evans, Tony Guntharp, Carsten Haitzler, Philip Hazel, Ian Jackson, Russell King, Owen Le Blanc, Luke Leighton, Steve Lord, Heinz Mauelshagen, Michael Meeks, Peter Polkinghorne, Dick Porter, Sebastian Rahtz, Hans Reiser, James Troup, Stephen Tweedie, Rik van Riel, Linda Walsh, and Steve Whitehouse.

The topics covered in 1999 included: CORBA ORB, Debian Build Daemon, DECnet and Implementing a New Network Protocol, Designing and implementing a large scalable mail server, Enterprise Filesystems and Ext3, Exim, GNOME, History of ARM Linux, Large Projects, Qube, Linux Security, SMP (Linux multi-processor support), and Support for the I20 (high performance i/o).

And in 2000: Linux 2.4, Beowulf in a box, Clustering, CODA, Debian - Package Management, GlobalFileSystem, GNOME, Linux Security Policy, Logical Volume Manager, Performance Programming for X, ReiserFS, Samba TNG, SourceForge, The Ext3 Filesystem, Memory Management, VMware, XFS Journaling Filesystem, XML & Documentation.


London UNIX Users Group (LUUG)

( Charles Curran)

Normally we don't review local meetings, but those of you who are unfamiliar with the peripheral meetings UKUUG organizes may be interested in these. The LUUG is an informal group, run by Andrew Findlay, that meets on the last Thursday of the month. Often there is a talk, but otherwise there is a drink and discussion in the Rising Sun on Tottenham Court Road (corner of Windmill Street). Thereafter, they sup, usually now at The Spaghetti House in Goodge Street. When there is a lecture, the UKUUG finances the room hire, etc.

This month, at rather short notice, we arranged for Elliotte Rusty Harold to talk on Java 1.4 and beyond. Elliotte was in London for the XML DevCon event and O'Reilly UK had put us in touch with one another. We held this meeting in the Institute of Education in Bedford Way. A group of 30 turned up for 7:00pm. Elliotte gave a brief history of Java, and then talked about the design of the language, and its future.

The new 1.4 release, code-named Merlin, is in private beta now, and public beta is due in approximately two months. Language changes: Assertions (a la Eiffel) for internal, non-exposed code; concise array literals; printf; generics/templates. Items probably not in the new release: multiple inheritance; operator overload; upgrading primitive data types to full objects - this will probably have to wait for another language.

Changes to existing packages: clone; chained exceptions; JAR archives; AWT/Swing; i18ln including Unicode 3.0 (but there will be problems with 3.1 and > 2-byte chars); asynchronous i/o, memory-mapped, printf, regex, exceptions; networking-passive mode ftp, IPv6; JDBC; applets; security; internationalization. New packages: preferences-JSR 10; installer; logging-JSR 47. New std extensions, e.g. XML: remote monitoring; fail-over & clustering; WebStart.

Non-Sun developments: Apple-1.3 with OS X, but earlier OSes never likely to have 1.2; M$ at 1.1.4 and dropping it in favour of C# - IE6 will probably have no Java support. Open source: Transvirtual Tech's Kaffe; Giant Java Tree; ... Cryptix. To Learn More: JSR 59-Merlin. Questions were asked on: Java in 5 years; whether Sun will open source it; C#: other languages > JVM; uptake of servlets.

The slides of the talk are now online at http://www.ibiblio.org/javafaq/slides/ukuug/future/. The talk concluded at 8:30pm when ten of us retired to The Spaghetti House until 11:00pm.

If you are interested in the LUUG, but are not on the mailing-list, please contact Andrew.Findlay@skills-1st.co.uk.


NordU2001 Trip Report

( Charles Curran)

NordU2001 [1] was the third annual event of its kind - billed as a EurOpen/Usenix conference - and was held in Stockholm 12-16 February. Next year's event is in Helsinki at the end of February 2002.

This was my first real contact with the Nordic groups, although I had managed to meet some folks at last year's SANE [2] in Maastricht.

The purpose of my visit was to establish more formal and better contact between UKUUG and other similar European groups and also with Usenix. In particular, I hoped to determine how we might co-operate both at member and at organizational level. UKUUG does not have an intention to affiliate to Usenix, as SE has done, but it is long overdue that UKUUG re-establishes formal contact with the various groups. Some of this was started at the SANE conference last May but did not progress much. I was determined that we develop a loose co-operating network structure with other European user groups. To this end, I have established three mailing-lists: eu-groups (for group organizers), eu-announce (for group- and event-related announcements), and eu-discuss (where anyone interested in EU groups or events can have their say); all these lists are lists are based @ukuug.org [3] .

The Diary

I am getting to this event at the end of the second day of tutorials, one day before the conference starts.

2001-02-13. I expected the coach ride from Oxford to LHR to be brisk and uneventful, however, I had to assist the driver who got a foreign body in his eye; at least he had the sense to pull in onto the hard shoulder.

I had a BA 767 almost to myself on the run over to Stockholm, no doubt things were different on the GBP14+tax RYAN flight to not-quite Stockholm. The day was sunny although it was dark by the time we skated in over a frozen Sweden. At Arlanda airport, my first time in Scandinavia, I begin to see and feel the cultural differences. Still, as they all speak English - if only most of those in the UK spoke more than one language - I shouldn't have communication problems if things get desperate. After twenty minutes scouting around I found a working cash machine and am now the proud owner of 1000 kroner (~GBP73). I can now get transport to the city. I chose the 20-min journey on the express train over the bus. I don't know where I am meant to go in the city, still, that's never been a problem for me before. Without much effort, I find my hotel, but it is a 1* hostel. This would be good enough but they want to charge the same as the conference 4* hotel. Still, I can sort that out tomorrow. The conference centre is locked up, so I take a walk around the city, There are lots of 'Italian' and oriental restaurants; I plump for one of these mainly because I don't understand the other menus and so postpone any difficulties in finding 'non-murdered' food. After another long walk, I am ready for a good night's sleep.

2001-02-14. I try to negotiate a lower price for the cupboard I am staying in but to no avail. Worse still, breakfast just stopped being served. Around the corner at the Wallin - the standard hotel for the conference - they give me a room more than big enough for my case.

Along to the Norra Latin conference centre, a splendid looking building, with lots of rooms, NordU2001 has a handful of the biggest.

I sign in with Congrex Registration services and get my badge, and micro (A7) conference schedule. Checked the exhibition briefly - no recognisable faces. I see they have Intel wireless cards at a refundable SEK2317 (GBP170). This I try but, alas, there is no driver available for my laptop. So, for network connections, I have to use the somewhat disorganized terminal room which has ~20 UTP connectors and a few terminals. Then off to breakfast. Back at the exhibition, I meet Josette Garcia of O'Reilly UK, and various other exhibitors. There are meant to be 25@4sqm exhibitions spaces, perhaps there are, but I only see a dozen or so exhibitors. I spend the afternoon talking to individuals finding out what they want in conferences and user groups. After 5pm there is a drinks reception sponsored by Sun. Now, I meet the familiar faces and names who have been giving or attending the tutorials. After shutdown, I go off to supper with Josette who is forever useful with suggestions about what UKUUG might do.

2001-02-15, 06:55. Start of conference day one. Early breakfast as we have an early start.

The conference is to start and finish with a plenary talk. Other talks run in three tracks on the Thursday, two tracks on the Friday. The track themes are Operating Systems, Free UNIX/Open Source, SAN (Storage Area Network), Software Development, Security, Mobile Computing, Refereed Papers, and Sponsors' Presentations.

The main hall is a comfortable ~400-seater, the other two rooms hold about 50 each.

08:39 Start with clip & music from Space Odessy (2001). Everyone silent through the Cosmic Waltz (the Blue Danube); I resist the urge to waltz.

08:44 Welcome by Jan Säll, chair of conference & EurOpen.SE. He says there are ~400 delegates at tutorials & conference; the conference only seems to have attracted about half that number though (10 are from the UK). All the papers will be available via the DKUUG site [4] . Unfortunately, this site is password protected for now. Meanwhile, search engines may help you find some of the papers and tutorials elsewhere, e.g. the PHP tutorial [5] .

8:50 Rob Kolstad (Kolstad@delos.com) gives the opening keynote on System Administration as a Profession. Whilst I appreciate what he is doing - getting on with developing a taxonomy of system administration - I find a lot of what he says off the point. You can join the sys admin taxonomy project at http://ace.delos.com/taxongate. Wow, he has been speaking for 45 mins and has only just mentioned SAGE; I must question that reluctance. He does not say anything about the different breadth of roles according to unit size & complexity (e.g. enterprise or small-scale unit).

When questioned about relationship the work of SAGE, RK said SAGE had failed because it had been going ~nine years & not achieved anything. It is a pity to hear that from someone so influential in Usenix, especially as their SAGE group at last appears to be getting things done.

We now split into three. I do not get to my intended track as I find people want to talk about user groups.

11:50. Lunch is a ciabatta and a bottle of beer or other fizz. This is taken in the exhibition hall.

13:00. I get to hear Nik Clayton, Marketing Director, BSDi EMEA (nik@bsdi.com) & Documentation Project Manager, FreeBSD (nik@freebsd.org) talk on DocBook. This was a nice, clear talk on the subject. Those of you without the O'Reilly `bible' on DocBook can read it online [6] .

17:15. User Groups. This wasn't the inter-groups meeting that I had expected but it was still useful. There were 20 or so of us; we discussed what particular groups are doing, what they would like to do, and which items we may be able to help each other with.

We spent some time discussing what we are doing with schools and universities. Most of us do not have adequate contacts. For example, with HE in the UK, whilst we have relatively up-to-date contact lists for computing science depts and computing centres, we do don't have active members in each. It was suggested that groups invite representatives from schools+, and others responsible for education to our conferences and that we try to ensure our presence at their IT-related conferences. Even placing advertisements in appropriate magazines may prove fruitful.

We also spent some time discussing magazines, the pros and cons of paper editions, sharing articles, etc. They agreed to my mailing lists, mentioned above, which I then populated with their addresses. And, of course, there was one chappie (DK?) who said we needed a mission statement.

We then retired to the social evening that was held in the Livrustkammaren (the Royal Armoury - the oldest museum in Sweden - in Stockholm's Royal Palace). The 100 or so of us who turned up were split into three groups for a tour of parts of the Armoury housed in stone vaults. We had a very trying young gent, who had the right effect in that we rushed up the plentiful beer and marginal buffet well ahead of the other groups. Entertainment was in the form of a magician - I didn't see him - and an Indian/Swedish/American comedian. This was a splendid opportunity to meet folk.

The last day I started early again but did not get to any of the talks. Still, I had many useful discussions. Amongst that, I also arranged a LUUG meeting for the following Thursday.

Overall, NordU2001 was a well-organized, professional conference, though not as polished as SANE-NL.

  1. http://www.nordu.org/NordU2001/
  2. http://www.ukuug.org/newsletter/92/n92-02.shtml#T5
  3. http://www.ukuug.org/cgi-bin/ukuug-lists
  4. http://www.dkuug.dk/nordu2001/ (username/pw needed)
  5. http://conf.php.net/pres/index.php?p=slides%2Fintro&id=nordu2001
  6. http://www.docbook.org/

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