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Newsletter Section 1


Editor's Column

(Susan Small)

[sue3] We certainly have a bumper issue for you this month – it was the first time I have had to decide to leave items out, rather than plead for more contributions from your hard-pressed Council members and reviewers. Again, Daf Tregear has worked her usual muscle power and got a host of reviewers lined up to steer you through the maze of books etc which are on offer.

I hope you like the innovation of a supplementary review in the middle of this issue. If you have similar material to submit, in a “strange format” which is not easily incorporated, then let me have it for future editions.

Is the plethora of material something to do with the subject matter? As some of our Council members advocate – is a concentration on Linux the future direction for the Group?

It will be interesting to see what happens when the Council membership changes after the next AGM; will we see a new focus?

What would you like us to focus on for the next few editions of the newsletter? Your Chair thinks that freeware is a hot topic – do you have any thoughts or contributions on this topic?

Have a productive (and relaxing) Summer.

Report from the Chair
(Mick Farmer)

[mick0001] It certainly seems that our decision to encourage individual membership of the UKUUG (by reducing the subscription to £35) was the correct one. There has been a steady stream of membership applications since the beginning of the year, the vast majority being for individual membership. Interestingly, these applications have come via our web pages – underlying how important it is for organisations, such as the UKUUG, to have a web presence.

It will be interesting to see whether these new members are Linux devotees answering Martin's call to arms, or simply individuals wanting to know more about UNIX and freeware in general. Whatever the answer, it is good for our group to have this intake of new blood, hopefully with new ideas, to take us into the new millennium.

I mentioned freeware above deliberately, because I personally think that this is going to be an important subject for us. How much freeware is running on your systems? The quality of this software is excellent, and many organisations are packaging them up as value-added services – the SuSE cover CD is an ideal sampler. Can we look forward to a future where all software is provided free by altruistic individuals or organisations, simply for the kudos?


(Phil Gregg)

[unknown] “Must get to Regents Park for ten o'clock”. I slipped into autopilot and made my way along the canal tow-path. This is a regular trip for me, usually accompanied by my children – the playgrounds in the park open at 10.00 am. But on this occasion it was different. The excited screams of children were replaced by the hushed tones of “sysadmins” and UNIX aficionados assembling for the UK Large Installation System Administration conference organised by the UKUUG at London Zoo.

After picking up my conference pack and “Puppet Master” T-shirt at the registration desk it was down to business with the other eighty or so delegates. The conference got underway with Paul Haldane from Mailbase at the University of Newcastle. The Mailbase project, of which Paul is acting manager, runs electronic discussion lists for 130,000 subscribers in the UK Higher Education community and worldwide. In the beginning (c 1989) Mailbase ran on one computer but as a result of its popularity mail queues became too long. It now has three queue servers and a separate database server, which holds the lists and membership details using Ingres. The mailing list manager (MLM) software is written in-house. They did try majordomo but its performance was degraded when dealing with large lists due to its dependence on flat files. Most of the problems Mailbase encounter are outside their direct control. They are caused by the mail user agents (MUAs) that users employ and mail transports agents (MTAs) that Mailbase sends to. Paul commented that most problems are caused by PC-based MUAs/MTAs. The MLM has been tweaked to catch many of the common problems such as checking that the sender is not a mail system account ( MAILER-DAEMON or root ) and eliminating duplicate messages. In some cases a local work-around solves the problem. In other cases they take up the issue with software suppliers in an effort to get at the root cause of the problem. As the popularity of Mailbase has grown so has the proportion of naive users and postmasters. Often there is no local technical support person with whom they can discuss the problem.

Low list latency and consistent delivery times to all list members are two of the technical issues which are being addressed at the present time. Low latency is important if lists are to be used as simple conferencing system. Commercial MLM's claim that 90% of deliverable messages are delivered within 1 minute. Usenix claims that all messages are delivered within 5 minutes. This is the sort of performance that Mailbase are aiming for. Consistent delivery times are more likely now that the outgoing mail is split across three queue servers. Paul concluded by highlighting some of the future developments at Mailbase. They are considering whether or not to move to a commercial or public domain MLM (listserver, majordomo2). They will also be looking at setting up list digests. He foresaw a bright future for Mailbase:

“Mailing lists are simple and sometimes people prefer simple things.”

One of the most pertinent questions from the floor was how do they deal with “spam”. Mailbase incorporates spam on two fronts. First, to deal with spam sent to the list, certain domains and subjects are cut off via sendmail. Closed and moderated lists are also protected against this type of spam. Secondly, to stop would-be spammers from picking up e-mail addresses the membership list details are out of site to web crawlers and similar.

The next speaker was Jane Curry from Skills 1st Ltd who described system management frameworks with particular reference to Tivoli. Jane defined a system management framework as a common software layer which hides the heterogeneity of the underlying operating systems. This provides a common interface for performing system management tasks related to security, user administration and software distribution as well as an API for building system management applications. Who uses frameworks? Jane said frameworks were likely to be used by organisations with at least 100 servers and 1000 workstations, which were geographically distributed, and running a mixture of operating systems. It also helps if they have plenty of money because implementing a framework does not come cheap. Jane went on to describe how a framework is implemented with examples from Tivoli. Jane's paper states that “much of this improvement (of using a framework) comes through having fewer platform-specific gurus managing larger numbers of machines”. On reading this after the conference I was a little confused because Jane stressed during her presentation that the idea of a framework was not to reduce the number of system administrators. Maybe both statements are true as the system gurus get re-trained on Tivoli! In conclusion Jane stressed that in order for a framework to be implemented successfully it will require sponsorship at a high-level within the organisation and that a great deal of planning, implementation and configuration is required before any benefits are demonstrated.

Stuart McRobert from Imperial College presented a paper entitled “Larger and Larger File Systems from 200MB to 300GB”. SunSITE Northern Europe at Imperial College is one of a number of archive sites sponsored by Sun Microsystems. Stuart described the milestones in the growth of the archive since 1993. (I assume that the 200MB in the title refers to when it was just the UKUUG archive without Sun's sponsorship). Today the archive has over 400GB of disk space on a 6 CPU UltraSPARC 6000 machine with 3GB of memory. This is whittled down to 300GB of space after formatting and mirroring. Stuart's presentation was highly entertaining and was accompanied by some computer animation of Titanic proportions. As the archive has grown the traditional strategy of “add more disk and grow the file system” had to be revised. Imagine having to wait for fsck to run sequentially on thirty or so disks (we did with the aid of one of those animations). The use of RAID 5 increased the fsck throughput by a factor of three. The use of transaction logs in Solstice DiskSuite eliminated the need for fsck completely. Stuart is now testing a hardware RAID system from CMD Technology. This sits in the SCSI chain between the host and the disks and controls on which disk the data i/o is performed. Stuart likes the hardware RAID.

In the course of testing a new server it was noticed that the hardware RAID was 90% idle. After much testing and tuning of UFS he arrived at the conclusion that UFS was too slow – goodbye UFS, hello Veritas. The Veritas File System offered many improvements over UFS – extent based, improved synchronous writes, on-line backup, on-line administration (defragmentation, +/- resizing, dynamically allocated inodes), fast recovery and enhanced i/o performance. Together with the Veritas Volume Manager, and a few spare disks, this will provide automatic recovery from disk failure. This concluded a very enjoyable and informative insight into the technology behind one of the world's largest public domain archive sites.

After lunch and a stroll around the zoological gardens to check out the front covers of O'Reilly's next batch of releases it was back to business with Andrew Macpherson from Nortel talking about changing DNS domains on a global scale. “Nortel had a problem”. In the past year Nortel have been planning and implementing the changes to their IP network of 200,000 nodes across 300 sites in 100 countries. The new namespace adopted has five large geographical regions (Asia & Pacific, Canada, Caribbean and Latin America, Europe and USA) each with a primary nameserver holding approximately 40,000 resource records. Andrew described the preparatory work and reconfiguration relating to UNIX servers such as resolv.conf , NIS and automounter maps. He also covered the implementation plan for changing to the new structure.

“Cheaper than Gartner” was the title of the talk given by the conference chairman, Andrew Findlay at a moment's notice when it transpired that one of the speakers was not able to attend. Andrew's talk was a summary of Brunel University's IT strategy. The title was derived from a report by Gartner Group which estimated that it costs $11,000 p.a. to provide and support each desktop PC, appreciably more than Brunel spend. Brunel decided to simplify the provision and support of 21,000 users on 4000 computers across four sites by standardising on one network protocol (TCP/IP), two hardware platforms (Sun and PC) and three operating systems (Solaris, Windows 95 and Windows NT).

Each user has one username and directory and there is one management domain, one mail domain and one point of control for each managed object e.g. mail address. This results in a “Centre of the World” machine (COW) which holds the master copy of all passwords, user account details, mail addresses etc. To add resilience there are sub-masters called “calves” on each of the other sites. There are 40 servers giving access to home directories, applications, mail, news and web services. Andrew also described how they have implemented Windows NT using NISGINA from QMW, Samba and a homegrown utility called “mount”. Their PC strategy is to force logins, write-protect the C: drive, disable booting from floppies, and not to install any local software. In summary Andrew warned us not to take too much notice of the trade press:

“it's not a technical business, it's a fashion industry”.

Afternoon tea was followed by one of the most informative and well-delivered papers of the day on planning, management and integration of large NT installations by Matt Givertz from ECsoft UK Limited. The sub- theme of Matt's paper was how to balance what users want with what they actually need from a Windows NT system. He started by considering the importance of the underlying network infrastructure (LANs, subnets, WANs) when deciding how to use services and protocols such as DHCP, DNS and WINS or indeed, whether to use them at all. He went on to describe how user authentication, resource sharing and centralised administration are accomplished through the use of Windows NT server domains. He highlighted some important questions to address when planning the location and number of domain controllers: “how often is the directory database replicated?”, “how long does it take to synchronise the domain?”, “how large is the directory database?”. The answer to the last question being anything from a one to forty megabytes. He then reviewed user profiles, policies and login scripts, the three weapons in the NT administrator's armoury for fighting off the unremitting attacks that users mount on their workstations. Matt described how roaming profiles allow users to personalise their desktop but can also lead to problems if they move from a workstation with 1024x768 resolution to one with 800x600, for instance. This was a good point, but in the education sector where workstation rooms are the norm, roaming profiles are essential. Matt issued a word or two of warning in relation to the computer browser. This is an NT service that maintains lists of available domains for use in Network Neighborhood and the Select Domain dialog box. His advice was to be aware of what it does and how it works (especially across subnets) and if it is not needed, disable it. In the final part of his talk, Matt gave some advice on how to decide whether to use a single or multiple NT domain. He stressed the importance of understanding the way users will access their data, their movements between sites, and the requirement for global logon. He also pointed out that domains work well within LANs but may suffer when distributed across a WAN due to the amount of synchronisation data going from the primary to the backup domain controllers on different sites. Returning to his sub-theme Matt's final comment was “Users may know what they want, but do they always get what they deserve?”, Windows NT perhaps?

The final presentation of the day was given by Mark Dawson. He described how NT was tamed by daemons at Queen Mary College. QMC's objectives were to consolidate their investment in NFS file servers and UNIX compute servers, but also to offer an improved range of software on Windows NT and Linux workstations. The method they designed has many features which make a system administrator's (and user's) life much easier: a single user home directory, a common UNIX/NT password, NT user

profiles and dual boot capability (NT and Linux). At the core is a piece of software called NISGINA, written by Nigel Williams at QMC. NISGINA manages the user login dialogue and sets up the session. The “NIS” refers to the use of Sun's Network Information Services to distribute various databases or maps to the workstation e.g passwords, home directory mount points, and user registry modifications. On the UNIX servers they used Samba to serve the users' home directories.

Mark also described how the systems team at QMC went about installing Windows NT on one hundred and fifty workstations in 1996. The first approach involved copying the master NT image from server to workstation one at a time. This allowed them to set up fifteen machines per hour, or ten hours for the lot. That doesn't sound too long provided you only have to do it once! In any case, they thought of a better way. They used the UDP protocol to broadcast the image to 150 machines at once. The entire lab was done in 30 minutes! More recently, they have set up unattended installation of Windows NT using a combination of Linux and DOS to download the NT images and applications. For QMC (and probably most of us) the future, if it arrives, will bring Windows NT 5.

After the results of the competition, the conference was brought to a close by the conference chair Andrew Findlay (it adjourned to the pub actually). I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a great deal thanks to the high quality of the presentations. The venue, facilities and catering were excellent and the organisation by UKUUG was streamlined.

Phil Gregg is the Head of the Systems Group in the Department of Computer Science, Birkbeck College.

YALC (Yet Another Linux Column)

(Alec Clews)

Well, a rapid and short column again this month due to lack of spare time.

Linus and Tove have had a second child, so many congratulations to them – has no one told Linus that children can seriously eat into your hacking time!

New Local Linux User Groups have been set up (or I have only just noticed them) in Bath, Hampshire, Edinburgh, Glasgow (possibly two groups there) and Birmingham. I try and maintain a list on the UK resources page at www.earth.demon.co.uk/linux/
so look there for details.

The first UK national Linux conference will be held at the end of June, and this newsletter is in honour of that event. We are having a bit of a gamble here so please help us to make it a success by attending, the cost for members is only £35. More information can be obtained from the web site or ask Jane to supply you with details.

A very useful site for up to date Linux news is Weekly Linux News at www.eklektix.com/lwn/ . The SSC web site seems to more up to date these days as well at www.ssc.com/linews/ .

Alec Clews is a Principal Consultant for Intersolv Ltd – a supplier of configuration management tools. In his spare time he was doing his M.Sc course with the Open University but now he writes for the UKUUG instead.

Another Linux Offering

(Martin Houston)
Welcome to this Linux Special edition of your newsletter. This year has been one of stupendous importance for UNIX. Those of you who attended our 21st Birthday conference in Edinburgh at the end of last year would have sensed something of an air of resignation, but not despondency. As we all know, UNIX has been the source of many of the innovations in computing over the last 25 years. The feeling last December was that the increasing encroachment of Microsoft, both as an unshakable monopoly on the desktop, and developing of the UNIX heartland was inevitable.

The events of the first five months of 1998 have brought about a sea-change in the fortunes of Microsoft and I sense a new mood of optimism in the UNIX community. I will not go into detail about Microsoft's misfortunes, it does not do to gloat. By the time this newsletter comes out, we may (or may not) be inflicted with Windows 98. Microsoft has been retreating on several different fronts and must be beginning to realise that no amount of money spent on clever lawyers is going to allow it to keep a monopoly so obviously bad for open market competition. It is good that Microsoft has brought standardisation, even if those standards have not been of the highest possible quality. What they must now learn is that they cannot act as if they own the world. Hopefully, come September, they will be taught that lesson. One of the possible outcomes of all this, according to Computer Weekly, among others, is the eventual forced breakup of Microsoft to separate the OS and Application businesses.

It will be marvellous to see Microsoft competing with other software vendors without the “Aces up the sleeve” of the silent OS modifications that come when you install Microsoft applications. Microsoft has some good applications which would be even better if they were freed from the non- portable and unstable Windows OS.

We know that the decline of Windows will leave things wide open for UNIX systems, where standards have been hammered out by consensus, or systems are flexible enough to allow people to differ.

One of the companies that has seen this coming is Netscape. After years of a strange ambivalence to Linux – such as allowing Linux users to download and use Navigator, but refusing to allow it to form part of distributions, Netscape did what some would say the only sensible thing it could do faced with Microsoft's “negative” pricing of Internet Explorer 4 (not just giving it away, but paying for it to be given

away!). To just say that Navigator was free would just be playing catch-up with Microsoft, always a mugs game, as IBM found out with OS/2. The only way to trump Microsoft, and go where they dare not, was to turn Netscape round into a company that can benefit from the open development model of opening up the source code also. If you want to download Netscape source code you will need to visit http://www.mozilla.org .

The opening up of sources was followed by statements of increasing strength from Netscape, planting seeds in the minds of Corporates that Linux was ready as a serious contender to Microsoft as a desktop OS as well.

This message that Linux is being considered as ready for prime time use was echoed by the announcement that Corel has endorsed Linux. It has dones this, not just by releasing full OS source code for the CorelComputer Linux-based network computer “NetWinder”, but also a general statement of intent from the parent company to make Corel WordPerfect 8 Personal and Server Editions available for Linux this summer. It also plans to develop a suite of business applications for the Linux platform.

Until a couple of years ago, Linux really was just for the dedicated UNIX hacker as there were no real “end user” applications (try asking your average secretary to knock off a memo using LaTeX macros in emacs ).

The situation is already very different with Applixware and Star Office and WordPerfect here now, and other heavyweight contenders in the wings. A Linux system, properly set up, has the potential to do general office tasks with greater ease of use and dependability of “being there”.

Attitudes to Linux are changing. Big companies are buying and using it. According to Netcraft (who record that Apache has about 52% of the web market and actually accelerating away in percentage growth), Linux systems already form at least 15% of the connected Web. That is hundreds of thousands of systems.

In a very real way we are falling behind here in the UK in realising that a resurgence of UNIX is going to be the “next big wave”.

One of India's leading computer magazines, PC Quest, has recently given their readers a Linux cover disk and were rewarded by that month's issue selling out within 48 hours!
See http://www.pcquest.com/

You will be glad to know that I am working with PC Plus magazine to educate their readers this Autumn. The offering will probably be based on the SuSE Linux that forms the majority of this issue's cover CD,

so now is your chance to get to grips with something before a hundred thousand new users enter the fray.

The UKUUG has been going through several years of slow decline. To be fair, it has not been all our fault. The advent of “information at your fingertips” on the Web, coupled with increasing work pressure, has made joining and putting effort into user groups of all sorts less attractive.

Now is the time to stop the rot. People have got to be made to realise that using a web search engine to turn up some dry facts is not the same as coming to a conference and having something explained by a human. Meeting and actually doing things, as opposed to just talking about doing them, should be the hallmarks of a new revitalized UKUUG. We have a new redesigned membership form, use them! Get your friends and colleagues to join. If you work for a company that is using UNIX-based systems – even if it is just a Linux file server stuck in a cupboard, get them to join and participate in the UKUUG.

I feel that the new century could well be the time when the promise of Open Systems becomes truly fulfilled with a rich and stable Linux upon which the whole computer economy of the next century can be constructed. What better and safer foundation could there be than one that is communally owned?

VNC? That's the one for Me

Another useful thing that you will find on the CD is the Virtual Network Computer from the Olivetti and Oracle Research labs ( http://www.orl.co.uk). For those of you who have not yet tried it, VNC is a piece of free software from the Olivetti & Oracle Research Labs that implements an “ultra thin” network client. The traffic between client and server is just mouse/keyboard events and screen painting (cleverly optimized and optionally further compressed).

With an uncongested network and reasonably fast machines, it works very well for most sorts of software (high speed action games and real-time streaming video being obvious exceptions).

One of the really neat things about VNC is that it is cross-platform. There are clients and servers for both Windows and many UNIX-type systems. As everything is just images and events, the client has two big advantages over an X-based client (i.e. one with a locally running X server – confusing isn't it?).

.     There is no concept of finding fonts or other complex resource management.

.     There is no requirement to save state. A viewer can shut down in mid-sentence in a WP program and a new viewer can complete it.

These two factors make the Window- based VNC viewer a very attractive interface onto Linux (or any UNIX system).

Why? Firstly, they only have to install one small free program onto their Windows machines. Minimalism is important here, as

we are talking about rickerty software assemblies that may already be on the point of collapse (again).

The intrinsic poor quality of Windows as a front-end will allow the second element of VNC to shine. The ability for the Windows system to crash in its normal day-to-day affairs without loss of data or even what was going on at the time on the solid dependable Linux host.

Think about it, for the trade-off of a slight sluggishness of response, people will be able to continue to use Windows to access the multi-media encyclopedias and talking paperclips, but will be able to trust their really important jobs to a Linux machine.

I have tried using the whole Applix suite through VNC and it is all usable, even presentation graphics works well enough.

Putting in a Linux server and accessing it by VNC is a useful foot in the door. Next, it will be the desktop PCs that we will be able to tempt into first being dual boot – so applications can take advantage of local X server support, or even be run completely locally. As availability of application software for Linux increases, the need for people to run MS Windows at all will go away, and they will have made a painless transition thanks to VNC.

One thing that I nearly have working in the preparation of this piece is using xdm to start a number of VNC sessions that users can log into as if they were real X Terminals. At present you have to access the Linux machine via that bloody awful Microsoft telnet program and use the vncserver command to start a personal server – this is not very intuitive to Windows users, whereas clicking an icon and getting a nice xdm or kdm login screen is.

Give VNC a try – there is a very active mailing list you can join if you can see the potential there. VNC is a simple idea, well executed and surprisingly useful in all sorts of ways.

Applixware Academic Licencing

Thanks must go to Lindsay Marshall for asking about Academic licencing for the popular Applixware office suite for Linux. Applixware for Linux is already a keen price. The SuSE Linux version of Applixware 4.3.7 costs just £50 per copy for commercial use (compared to around £400 if you wanted to run it under NT). With this keen unit pricing an Academic site licence would have to be a pretty good deal to beat buying individual copies. It turns out that it is.

For just 5000 DM – about £1800 plus VAT, you are not only entitled to run as many copies of the Linux-based Applixware as you want, but can also call off licences for Applixware on Windows and other UNIX platforms.

Around £2000 will have your office suite software needs covered.

There are a few provisos:

.     Firstly, the offer is only open to Universities and Colleges. If you are using Applixware in other educational situations, then the £50 a seat for Linux based Applixware is still hard to beat. Note that the SuSE version of Applixware comes complete with a minimal version of Suse Linux 5.1 – enough to build a full-featured Applix Workstation with.

.     Secondly, calling off of Applixware licences for other platforms can only be done in the first year – you need to plan ahead.

.     Thirdly, if you need support, you may purchase an Applixware support contract at normal commercial rates. It is however hoped that academic users will be capable of applying published fixes etc as the need arises.

If you are interested, please contact me, as I can arrange the licencing.

If this has aroused your interest to try Applixware there is a time-limited demo as part of Suse 5.2, and the real thing is only £50 after all. For full details see http://www.deluxe-tech.co.uk.

Martin Houston is a UNIX Systems programmer and system administrator for 15 years and organser of the UKUUG Linux SIG since 1994.

PGP Creator slams new British Encryption Policy

Speaking at the Infosecurity'98 show in London last month, Pretty Good Privacy creator Phil Zimmerman spoke out against the British government's recently proposed encryption policy. Zimmerman said British users should create their own grassroots public-key infrastructure where they would not give anyone their message encryption keys and would choose who they trusted to hold their digital signature keys. The British government's revised plans, which were released a day before Zimmerman's speech, proposed the introduction of voluntary licensing of companies that provide third-party security services. Those would include certification authorities for digital signatures and key recovery agents for encryption.

(Network Week, 1 May 1998)

Use the Source, Luke!

(Warren Toomey)

So you call yourself a UNIX hacker: you know what bread() is, and the various

splxx() routines don't faze you. But are you really a UNIX hacker? Let's have a look at a brief history of UNIX and the community of UNIX users and hackers that grew up around it, and some recent developments for real UNIX hackers.

UNIX took the academic world by storm in 1974 with the publication of Ken Thompson's paper about its design, which was published in the Communications of the ACM. While not containing many radically new ideas, UNIX had an elegance, simplicity and flexibility that other contemporary operating systems did not have. Soon, lots of people were asking Bell Laboratories if they could get copies of this wondrous new system.

This was the cause of some concern within AT&T, because of the restrictions of an anti-trust decree brought against them in the 1950s. This decree effectively stopped AT&T from selling or supporting software – they could only engage in telco business. Their solution to meet the UNIX demand was to charge a nominal “licence” fee to obtain UNIX, and to distribute tapes or disks “as is”. You would receive your disk in the mail with just a short note:

    Here's your rk05, Love, Dennis.

AT&T's stance on UNIX was often seen as an OHP slide at early conferences:

.     No advertising.
.     No support.
.     No bug fixes.
.     Payment in advance.

“This slide was always greeted with wild applause and laughter” says Andy Tanenbaum. This lack of support was tolerated for several reasons: Ken and Dennis did unofficially fix things if you sent them bug reports, and you also had the full source code to UNIX.

At the time, having full source code access for a useful operating system was unheard of. Source code allowed UNIX users to study how the code worked (John Lions' commentary on the 6th Edition), fix bugs, write code for new devices, and add extra functionality (the Berkeley Software Releases, AUSAM from UNSW). The access to full source code, combined with AT&T's “no support” policy, engendered the strong UNIX community spirit which thrived in the late 70's and early 80's, and brought many UNIX user groups into existence. When in doubt as to how a program (or the kernel) worked, you could always “Use the source, Luke!”.

During this period, UNIX became wildly popular at universities and in many other

places. In 1982, a review of the anti-trust decree caused the break-up of AT&T into the various “Baby Bell” companies. This gave AT&T the freedom to start selling software. Source code licences for UNIX became very expensive, as AT&T realised that UNIX was indeed a money-spinner for them. Thus the era of UNIX source code hackers ended, except for notable exceptions like the 4BSD work carried out at the University of California, Berkeley.

Those organisations lucky enough to have bought a “cheap” UNIX source licence before 1982 were able to obtain the 4BSD releases from UCB, and continue to hack UNIX. Everybody else had to be satisfied with a binary-only licence, and wait for vendors to fix bugs and add extra functionality. John Lions' commentary on how the UNIX kernel worked was no longer available for study, being restricted to one copy per source code licence, and not to be used for educational purposes.

What were UNIX hackers going to do, with no UNIX source code to hack any more? The solution was to create UNIX clones which didn't require source code licences. One of the first was Minix, created by Andy Tanenbaum, and aimed squarely at teaching operating systems. Early versions of Minix were compatible with 7th Edition UNIX; the most recent version is POSIX compliant, and can run on an AT with 2 Megabytes of memory and 30 Megabytes of disk space. Many Minix users tried to convince Andy to add features such as virtual memory and networking, but Andy wanted to keep the system small for teaching purposes. Eventually, one user called Linus Torvalds got annoyed enough that he used Minix to create another UNIX clone with these extra features. And so Linux was born.

While Linux was taking off like a plague of rabbits, the BSD hackers were working on removing the last vestiges of UNIX source code from their system. They thought they had done so, and released BSD/386, a version of 4.3BSD which ran on Intel platforms. AT&T, however, wasn't so sure about the complete removal of UNIX source code, and took them to court about it.

Now, AT&T is not a good company to be sued by – they tend to have a small army of lawyers. Eventually, the conflict was settled out of court with a few compromises, and we now have several freely-available BSDs: FreeBSD, NetBSD and OpenBSD. Of course, they all come with source code.

The UNIX hacker of the late 90's surely has an abundance of source code to hack on: Linux, Minix, OpenBSD, etc. But is she really a UNIX hacker, or just a UNIX clone hacker? Wouldn't it be nice if we could hack on real UNIX, for old time's sake?

UNIX turned 25 in 1993, which makes the early versions of UNIX nearly antiques. Many of the old UNIX hackers (hackers of old UNIX, that is) thought the time had come to

get the old, completely antiquated UNIX systems back out for sentimental reasons. After all, ITS, CTSS, and TOPS-20 had been rescued and made publicly available, why not UNIX.

At the time, UNIX was undergoing a crisis of ownership. Did AT&T own UNIX this week, or was it Novell, Hewlett-Packard or SCO? UNIX is a trademark of someone, but I'm not sure who. After the dust had settled, SCO had the rights to the source code, and X/Open had dibs on the name “UNIX”, which is probably still an adjective.

During the ownership crisis, Peter Salus, Dennis Ritche, and John Lions had begun to lobby Novell: they wanted John's Commentary on UNIX to be made publicly available in printed form. It wasn't until the UNIX source code rights had been sold to SCO that this finally was approved. It helped to have some old UNIX hackers, Mike Tilson and Doug Michels, inside SCO to fight the battle. You can now buy John Lions' Commentary on the 6th Edition UNIX (with source code) from Peer to Peer Communications, ISBN 1-57398-013-7. As Ken Thompson says: “After 20 years, this is still the best exposition of a real operating system”.

One of the restrictions on the Commentary's publication is that the UNIX source contained within cannot be entered into a computer. Ok, so you can read the book, but what use is source code unless you can hack at it?

At the time that SCO bought UNIX, I began to lobby SCO to make the old source available again, unaware of the efforts to release the Lions' Commentary. SCO's initial response was “this will dilute the trade secrets we have in UNIX, and it wouldn't be economically viable”. My efforts drew a blank.

To help bring greater lobbying power to bear on SCO, the PDP UNIX Preservation Society (PUPS) was formed. Its aims are to fight for the release of the old UNIX source, to preserve information and source from these old systems, and to help those people who still own PDP-11s to get UNIX up and running on them. After realising that SCO was never going to make the old UNIX source code freely available, we explored the avenue of cheap, personal-use source licences. The Society set up a Web petition on the topic, and gathered nearly 400 electronic signatures.

Inside SCO, we were very fortunate to contact Dion Johnson, who took up our cause, and fought tooth and nail with the nay-sayers and the legal eagles at SCO. The combined efforts of the PUPS petition and Dion's hard work inside SCO has finally borne fruit.

On 10 March 1998, SCO made cheap, personal-use UNIX source code licences available for the following versions of Unix:

.     1st to 7th Edition UNIX,
.     32V, and
.     derived systems which also run on PDP-11s, such as 2.11BSD.

The cost of the license is US$100, and the main restriction is that you cannot distribute the source code to people without licences. Finally, we can be real UNIX hackers and “Use the Source, Luke!” again.

Acknowledgments and References

I'd like to thank Dion Johnson, Steven Schultz, the members of the PDP UNIX Preservation Society, and the people who signed the PUPS petition, for their help in making cheap UNIX source licences available again. Dion, in particular, deserves a medal for his efforts on our behalf.

You can find more about the PDP UNIX Preservation Society at


and details on how to obtain your own personal UNIX source licence at


SCO won't be distributing UNIX source code as part of the licence. PUPS members have volunteered to write CDs and tapes to distribute old versions of UNIX to licence holders. We currently have 5th, 6th, 7th Edition, 32V, 1BSD, all 2BSDs, Mini UNIX and Xinu. We are looking for complete versions of PWB Unix and AUSAM. We desperately want anything before 5th Edition – hopefully these early systems haven't gone to the bit bucket. Please contact us if you have anything from this era worth preserving.

If you are licensed and want a copy of the PUPS Archive, see the PUPS web page above for more information. We expect to be deluged by requests for copies, and so if you can volunteer to write CDs or tapes for us, please let us know.

You don't need own a PDP-11 to run these old systems. The PUPS Archive has a number of excellent PDP-11 emulators. If you have bought a copy of the Lions' Commentary (and you should), now you can run real 6th Edition UNIX on an emulator. And if you want, you can hack the code!

Warren Toomey is Chairman of the PDP UNIX Preservation Society (PUPS).

News from Owles Hall

(Jane Morrison)

The UKUUG certainly got it right at the recent LISA 98 which was held on 6-9 April. We were quite overwhelmed by the interest in this event which was originally planned to be held on 6-7 April. However, due to the fantastic response we had to extend the event by two days!

Our thanks to Dr Andrew Findlay who organised the tutor, Æleen Frisch,and the Conference speakers, and who even gave a presentation himself when one to the speakers couldn't attend because of the flu.

The responses received from the feedback questionnaires which the delegates completed, give LISA 98 top marks – we are hoping this upturn in events will continue for UKUUG in the future.

With this copy of the Newsletter you should find enclosed your complimentary copy of the LISA 98 Conference proceedings. This is one of the benefits of UKUUG membership which makes our subscription fee even more value for money.

With regard to subscriptions (if you haven't paid your membership fees yet), we are about to chase all outstanding subscriptions for payment.

The last Committee meeting was actually held during the LISA event at London Zoo, and we would like to welcome Charles Curran who, at that meeting, was co-opted onto the Council.

It was decided at the April meeting to delay the AGM this year by a couple of months – it will probably be held in September 1998.

We will be losing Mick Farmer, Andrew Macpherson and Ivan Gleeson at this AGM and, if Simon Earthrowl and Charles Curran move up to full Council places, we shall be looking to fill one vacancy. Are you interested? Please contact the Secretariat for more details.

The LINUX Developers Event is now in place for 27 & 28 June 1998 in Manchester. Bookings are beginning to come in and full details can be found on our web page.

The Council are working on the following forthcoming events: October - UNIX vs NT (London); November - UKUUG Annual Technical Conference.

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