News from Council

(Charles Curran)


This is the first newsletter put together by the newsletter working-group and there are certainly rough edges, however, I trust they will not put you off reading this issue.

Unfortunately, it did not make it into the last issue, but that was the last issue to be edited by Sue Small, who has now stepped down as Editor of news@UK. Sue has edited this publication for many years and has done admirable job. We thank her for the work she has done and for her various contributions to UKUUG.

Newsletter Contributions

We welcome material for the newsletter, and are particularly interested to hear from anyone either willing to write a regular column or act as the editor for such. If that sounds like you, or if you have concrete suggestions about the content of the newsletter, please contact us:

December's newsletter will be the first of the slimline issues. The deadline for copy is mid-November, so please send us what you have as soon as possible.

Recent Events

Events since the last newsletter have included: UKUUG's Fourth annual Linux developers' conference held in Manchester, 29 June – 1 July. This was a most enjoyable event. There is a review of some of the talks elsewhere, but the papers, etc are available at We had arranged a talk in London by Tim O'Reilly at the beginning of August, but this had to be cancelled. Fortunately, Ted Ts'o, who was in London for the 51st IETF, stepped in and to talk on A Decade of Linux. Andrew Findlay, of Skills 1st Ltd, gave a talk after the AGM on Building an Open Source PKI for E-Mail.

Future Events

Elsewhere, you will see a repeat CFP for our winter conference which is being held in London 13 — 14 February. The venue is still being decided for next year's Linux conference; it is likely to be somewhere between Bristol and Birmingham at the end of June; this will be determined soon. We are also considering various tutorials/workshops. Topics suggested include IPv6, Zope, XML, XSL, Apache, Information Privacy, Samba, Embedded Systems, Perl for Systems Administrators, and Security. If have particular interests, please inform the Office.

Membership Classes

Council are about to consider what might be done about the different classes of membership. Anything will be considered. One suggestion is that, at the top end, we introduce sponsoring memberships — gold, silver — aimed at companies who would be willing to make an annual contribution to the running of the group. Please let the Council know your suggestions: .


The new Council has decided to move from OA5 to Manchester University's service. The changeover should take place sometime later this year.

Working Groups

We welcome all members to participate in the running of the group; this you can do in a very positive way through our working-groups. If you wish to help in any of these — the newsletter, events, schools, liaison with industry and education, the web, publicity — please contact us: .

News from the Secretariat

(Jane Morrison)

Jane In the last issue Newsletter this piece was referred to as 'News from Owles Hall', we did in fact move from that address in January this year. I think because the office was located at Owles Hall for so many years we have had problems shrugging off the name. Any way, from now on I suppose this column has to be known as 'News from the Secretariat'. I do not think 'News from PO Box 37' sounds quite right!

I was kept busy over the summer months with the Linux 2001 Developers Conference. This year was even bigger than ever before. We had a large number of delegates and after securing sponsorship were able to provide an excellent Conference Dinner at a well-know Chinese restaurant. I have just finished the evaluations from the conference questionnaires and the event appears very well received.

At the time of writing we are very near the AGM date and are planning to hold up this issue to include an update for members on this meeting.

I would like to use this column to thank our book review team. This issue includes some ten or so reviews and I hope that you find these reviews interesting and helpful. The book reviews have been an important part of this Newsletter for many years and it would be helpful to know if the members do enjoy reading them and find them helpful — if you do could you let me know?. I suppose if you do not you should also let me know! Please email .


(Jane Morrison)

Fifteen members attended the tenth Annual General Meeting of UKUUG, held on Thursday 27th September at the Institute of Education, Bedford Way, London. Members will receive their copy of the minutes in the post with this Newsletter.

It is such a shame that more members do not attend and we can only think that by not attending you are quite happy with all aspects of the current running of the group!

The only nominations for the two places on Council were for Charles Curran and David Hallowell who were both re-elected for a second term of three years.

The accounts for the company are very healthy and our reserves do put us in a safe position. However, these reserves were built up over many years (in the days when we had 400 or so delegates at events!). We continually monitor our expenditure and look very seriously when setting the costs for events so that we maintain a break-even status. Remember we are a non-profit making company and we aim to use any profits to fund member benefits, such as the Newsletter and CDs.

We hope you will be able to attend next year.

Linux Developers' Conference 2001: review of some talks

(Tom Wilkinson)

Linux Clusters in Enterprise (Dave McAllister, Egenera Inc)

This talk, the first of the conference, discussed the applications of Linux as an accelerant for enterprise clustering applications. Dave began by discussing the traditional responses to enterprise level applications, such as SMP and NUMA, and defining what he meant by a cluster — a collection of processes organised to store resources, requiring easy addition and removal of resources. Various considerations for clustering were then discussed, including load balancing, failover capacity, management software and shared storage solutions. Both open and closed source solutions were considered, including Mosix, Kimberlite, LVSP and Failsafe. This incorporated a discussion of the storage solutions, including shared SCSI and NFS. Finally the use of Linux as an accelerant in Processing Area Networks was discussed — having the source open enabled Egenera to work much more quickly to adapt it to their needs.

Design and Management of a Brute Force Cluster(Bob Gautier)

Contrary to the preceding talk, Bob's requirements for a cluster were very different. The University of Wales in Aberystwyth's computational Biology group had much simpler requirements for a cluster — each processor needed merely to continue to process a job until it had finished. There was no need for process accounting — the jobs are, in the main, database searches and prolog programs. Another requirement is that the programs should not need rewriting for use in the cluster as the database software in use is closed source. The hardware was discussed — the cluster consists of 40 650MHz Athlon machines with 256MB of memory and a 20G hard disk. The technology used to preserve the aims (1 job per node, long jobs, resources shared evenly and preserving work in progress from failure) included PostgreSQL, TCL as the job control language used, and Apache with CGI scripts for user control. Finally a comparison between the cluster as built and the university's Sun E6500 server (20 400MHz Ultra Sparc II processors, 10G memory) was given — the cluster came out of this comparison very well, giving 12-60x (depending on the jobs being run) cost benefit.

Value of Linux (Nick Davis, IBM)

Nick discussed the growing marketplace of acceptance of Linux ad the open source movement in terms of its growing marketplace acceptance, as an industry-wide initiative, mulitplatform OS which has formed the basis for innovation across the industry (with the notable exceptions of Sun Microsystems and Microsoft). He then went on to discuss how IBM intend are reacting to this change in the industry. This includes the fact that all IBM hardware currently in production (and for the foreseeable future) will run Linux. Also mentioned was IBM's Ready, Set, Linux programme which aims to train new users in Linux, including RHCE status and free development use of IBM software.

Porting Linux to x86-64 AMD Sledgehammer (Bo Thorsen, SuSE Gmbh)

The next generation of processors are approaching; Intel's Itanium and AMD's Sledgehammer processors are set to ultimately replace the current generation of CPUs. While Intel's new chip is completely incompatible with the current x86 range, AMD aim to keep their processor compatible with existing software while at the same time exploiting the power available in a 64-bit architecture. Bo explained clearly the various operating modes of sledgehammer, which include a native 64-bit operating mode and a compatibility mode for running 32-bit (and lower) applications. He then went into greater detail, talking about the differences between an x86-64 and an Athlon, highlighting the new registers and features. Finally a demonstration of the processor in emulation was made — there being no actual processors in existence. This was running a version of GNU/Linux ported by SuSE. One point of note here was that SuSE were ahead of Microsoft in that they would have software ready for release on the day Sledgehammer is launched.

x86-64 Vsyscalls (Andrea Arcangeli, SuSE)

A syscall is one of the most expensive operations which need to be executed in an operating system, due to the large overhead of changing from user to kernel mode and back — on a P166 gettimeofday() can take 125 cycles, and on an Athlon, 266. gettimeofday() is fast, so would be better executed in user space, however cannot be moved due to its requirement for interrupt data. This is a typical use for a vsyscall, which is implemented by using a kernel page in userspace. Vsyscalls use locking numbers in order to ensure a correct response to whichever function has been called. On benchmarking the vsyscalls, when compared to syscalls, come out up 250% faster.

The Journalling Flash Filesystem (JFFS2) (David Woodhouse, Red Hat Inc)

The talk began with an explanation of the different types of flash memory available — these include NOR and NAND flash. The original JFFS is used in the Compaq Ipaq's Linux implementation, which uses NOR flash. NAND flash is unsuitable for the implementation of a filesystem due to the rapid wear time — each bit of memory can be unusable after just ten write/ reset requests. While NOR flash is less wearable, it suffers from similar problems so part of the filesystem's requirements are that wear should be balanced across the entire device. In addition some form of journalling is required, due to the likelihood of power failure on a portable device. The garbage collection algorithm was explained in detail — this code also performs the wear balancing on the flash device.

Perl news

(Simon Cozens)

At last year's Open Source Conference, Larry Wall and the other Perl maintainers got together and decided that the best way to drive Perl forward was to make some radical changes to the language and its implementation.

Over the past year, the Perl community has been consulted on how to make Perl better — the new features that people want to see, the things that people want to get rid of, and new directions to explore. As the appointed Perl 6 Language Designer, Larry has been weighing up the suggestions, and, together with his assistant Damian Conway, has been steadily putting together the design of the Perl 6 language. and publish the results of Larry's deliberations, the Apocalypses ( apocalypse3.html) as well as Damian's more practical tutorials, the Exegeses ( 10/03/exegesis3.html)

While the language will still look pretty much like Perl 5, anyone who has ever hacked on Perl will be glad to hear that the internals are being completely redesigned from scratch. Dan Sugalski has been designing the Perl 6 interpreter, code-named Parrot, with the goal of being a portable bytecode interpreter which can deal with other dynamic languages as well as Perl, such as Python, Ruby and Tcl. I have been helping Dan out by holding the release "pumpkin" — the responsibility for committing patches, gearing up for releases and generally herding developers.

Currently, we have seen 3 Apocalypses from Larry, and expect one roughly every month or so; Parrot is currently at version 0.0.2 and its assembly language can deal with basic string, integer and number operations. Parrot 0.0.3 is expected within two weeks, and will see the addition of simple "scalar" types which can morph between strings, integers and numbers at will. We expect a full design of Perl 6 and a first cut at the implementation to be no more than 12 months away, and certainly to have some very interesting prototypes within 6 months.

But you do not have to wait! One of the big benefits of Perl 6 is that it is inspiring plenty of improvements in Perl 5 right now; check out the work that is being done in the Attribute::*, Class::Delegation, and other modules by Damian Conway on CPAN, and also have a look at the Perl6::Parameters, Perl6::Variables and Perl6::Interpolators modules for a glimpse of how to program Perl 6 code in Perl 5.

Simon Cozens is an open source programmer and author; he is a columnist for the Perl Journal, the author of Beginning Perl by Wrox Press, and co-author of Using Perl and C. He has recently joined the UNIX team at Oxford University (OUCS).

Shell Programming Puzzle

(James Youngman)

Write a script which takes as input (on stdin) a list of files (one per line) and which emits a list of files with identical contents, each group on one line, and does not emit "groups" which contain only one file.

The winning entry will be the bug-free entry which is most portable (i.e. runs on the widest selection of vanilla-installed UNIX systems available to the judges). In the event of a draw, the entry occupying the fewest bytes will be declared the winner. There are no prizes, but the winner will be announced in the next issue, and runners-up may get honourable mentions.

Entries by e-mail to

UKUUG Open Source Award

(Charles Curran)

As mentioned at the AGM, UKUUG's Council is initiating an Open Source Award which is open to current students in UK Higher Education.

The prize — £ 500 — is to be awarded annually (provided submissions of sufficient merit are received) for a significant contribution to open source; this might be in the form of an article or paper, software product, or other contribution. The winner will be expected to deliver a talk at the annual UKUUG Linux conference, which in 2002 will be held around the end of June.

The judging panel will include representatives from UKUUG, the Open Source community, and UK Computing Science departments.

The closing date for submissions is Friday, 5 April 2002. Email any enquiries to