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Editor's Column

(Susan Small)

Sue Some of you might notice that the layout of this issue of the newsletter is different from what we did in the past. This is because I have changed our method of production. Previously, the newsletter's camera-ready copy was created using WordPerfect; the web version was then generated from this using the wp2htlm filter. This time the newsletter has been created as an HTML document first, ready to upload to our web-site. The new pictures were captured at the last winter conference on his digital camera and look good in colour on my screen. (I guess a colour printer is the next thing I need.) Some of the formatting may appear slightly different to previous newsletters.

I then had fun translating the HTML version to Word97 - the latest software which I have been given to use at work! I found this a nightmare as I struggled to make Word do what I wanted it to. In some cases I lost the battle - hence the front cover watermark is not really a watermark, but something I created manually in a text box; the page numbering also defeated me and I have accepted the default.

The only good thing about using Word was that the table of contents generated automatically as it recognised the HTML headings.

Please can I have WordPerfect back!

Report from the Chair

(Lindsay Marshall)

Lindsay No, it's not a misprint - after long and sterling service to the UKUUG Mick Framer has come to the end of his allowed time on the council and officially stood down at the AGM. A couple of weeks later, for some unknown reason, the rest of the council elected me as the new chairman. And this is my first report from the chair, which is, I'm glad to say, still very comfortable even after nearly 22 years of use!

Not only did the AGM see Mick Farmer leaving the council, but also fellow old-lag Andrew Macpherson, trusty Ivan Gleason and new boy Alec Clewes. You'll be pleased to hear that they are not all entirely lost to us as Mick will still be looking after the newsletter and Andrew the web-site. And I'm pretty sure we will be able to work out some way of getting Alec's enthusiasm for Linux harnessed in some capacity. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for all their hard work and make a special mention of Ivan's work in helping us get the financial side of the UKUUG into good order.

Since there were goings, there had to be comings and elected to the council were Ted Harding, Adrian Wontroba and David Hallowell, the other members being Simon Earthrowl, Charles Curran, Martin Houston and me. This means that the six member council temporarily has seven members and no longer has any co-opted members. No, I don't understand either but it is entirely legitimate, or so I am reliably informed. You will find profiles of all the new council members later on in this issue. By the way, for those who missed the AGM, it was a masterpiece of efficiency and was over in less than quarter of an hour - not all AGMs drag on for hours and hours!

At the first meeting of the new council we sorted out posts and portfolios and elected Simon Earthrowl as Vice-chairman and Charles Curran as Treasurer. The portfolios allocate special areas of concern to individuals (not all of whom need be council members) and are as follows:

Simon Earthrowl Corporate liaison
Lindsay Marshall Educational liaison
Martin Houston Press liaison
Ted Harding Software
Adrian Wontroba Membership
Mick Farmer Newsletter (non-council post)
Andrew Macpherson Web-master (non-council post)

So these are the people you should contact if you have any queries that fall into these areas.

When you read the profiles of the new members of council you may think that the Linutix have taken over the asylum, but that is very far from the case. We are committed to UNIX in all its forms and whilst the Linux community is growing at a great rate, the UKUUG has no intention of becoming purely a Linux users group. In fact why not try FreeBSD, which you can get from the cover CD of this issue (and thanks to Walnut Creek Software for letting us distribute it)

That being said, as you have no doubt heard, there are big changes afoot in the Linux camp with major companies such as Oracle and Informix announcing support for the system, and Intel, amongst several others, putting money into Redhat as you can read in this issue. We'll be trying to grab a piece of all this action to get the name of the UKUUG out there as well.

This is starting to get rather long so I'll wrap up with two items:

  1. You'll see a couple of software reviews in this issue of the newsletter and we'd like more. If you have installed a new piece of software recently why not review it? Contact Mick Farmer for more information.
  2. The NLUUG are holding their SANE conference in November and the programme looks excellent. There will be lots of UNIX people from all over Europe there and I bet, in the tradition of such conferences, a good time will be had by all. If you can make it then I urge you to go and support the Dutch group. (No, I can't go, but I wish I could!) That's it until the next issue. Now read all the articles carefully as there will be questions at our Winter Meeting in December.

New Council Members

With so many changes involving Council members, we invited the current crop to provide you with brief biographies of themselves. Here they are in alphabetical order.

Simon Earthrowl

Simon In an attempt to write something that will try and describe both my interests and background, I arrive at a familiar problem; that being how does one describe a generalist?

I have worked with UNIX, and some strange variants, since the 70s. I have also worked on nearly all the Sun hardware platforms (I'm still waiting to be let loose on an E10000). This for a no-Sun employee, must show, some commitment to that particular version of UNIX. I also haven't worked on a Sun 1. The very first Sun!

I do however remember when Sun was a basement office in Windsor. I have also worked on many of the Hewlett Packard range of workstations and servers; and can claim some success in combining both environments into a single user environment. This was done at a time when network services where very young, and this type of thing unheard of.

There are a number of other variants and variations I have worked on, and at varying technical levels.

When I started (when 'I was a lad' type story starting), the administration was a part-time job, to be done on top of the normal programming work (end of 'old lad' story). Now, I find most of my time concerned with the task of managing the complexity of large networks of heterogeneous computer and networking equipment.

If I had to state an aim, or purpose, then it would be to put the simplicity and fun back into the job of systems administration. I hope a laudable ambition. Unfortunately, it would appear that the commercial differences between operating systems provides a stronger drive for change than I have.

I have often been credited as a walking man pages server; as well as a prolific digressor from the current topic; to which I must return.

What I would like to see happening within the UKUUG, is a greater awareness of the opportunities that our preferred operating system can be applied to. In achieving this, I would like to see better integration and administration tools.

As a final rallying call; lets see the administration role returning its SA's back to the pub at a much earlier hour! I'll raise my glass to that one!

Ted Harding

Edward Frank Harding was born in Wimbledon in 1937.

Honours Mathematics, Cambridge
Scientific Officer, Ministry of Defence
Assistant Lecturer in Statistics, Aberdeen University
Lecturer in Statistics, Edinburgh University
Lecturer, Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, Cambridge University
Since 1988
Visiting Lecturer, Mathematics, UMIST Manchester and Director of Statistical Advisory Unit
Current work
is largely statistical consultancy

Fellow of Royal Statistical Society, Member of Biometric Society.

UNIX experience began in 1983 with a UNIX system in the Cambridge Pure Mathematics Department (mainly for mathematical typesetting). After a lapse resumed it with a swing after discovering Linux in 1992 - I have successfully used Linux, almost exclusively, for productive work since 1993.

I founded the mailing-list linux-users@mcc.ac.uk in 1994, and shared in setting up the Manchester Linux Users Group (Man-LUG) in 1995. Linux-Users was from the start intended to promote support for people using Linux for work. Man-LUG was probably the earliest user group set up in the UK, and Linux-Users was also an early entrant, if not the earliest in the UK Linux mailing-lists.

Since then I have been continuously active in promoting use of, awareness of, and support for Linux and other Open Source UNIX systems; my current UKUUG Council brief covers this area.

Future intentions revolve around projects to expand the takeup of Linux in various domains, in the context of increasing public Internet usage and the recent rapid expansion of "business" and other applications available for Linux.

David Hallowell

Born on 6th September 1979 in South Shields and lived in Hebburn, Tyne and Wear, all my life.

My experience with UNIX began early 1996 when I discovered Linux while looking for more stable alternatives to Windows 95. Since then I knew Linux had potential and continued using it at home (and since 1997 I don't use Windows at home as there's always been a Linux application for my needs). As Linux was free it enabled me to get into UNIX at a much earlier age and I considered the best way to 'repay' my debt to the Linux community was to help other users and educate people that there is a choice. I've created a few Linux related sites and helped people through email and the newsgroups. The most recent site I'm designing is LinUKs, which when complete is meant to be a collection of UK-related Linux information sites. As well as the content I'm going to provide I'm also looking for volunteers to contribute to this site.

Before, I said that I liked to show people there's choice. Of course that choice doesn't just include Linux. There is no single ideal OS for every need and probably never will be (despite what Microsoft say!) so despite my Linux bias I do believe if the UKUUG ever became solely a Linux group, that'd definitely be a bad thing.

Martin Houston

Martin Martin, fresh from the success of getting Suse Linux onto the cover of PC Plus magazine is looking forward to taking on the responsibilities of press officer, just after recovering from the trauma of moving house!

Lindsay Marshall

Lindsay is a lecturer in the Department of Computing Science at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and has been using, programming, managing and teaching about UNIX systems since the early 80s. He is the maintainer of the RISKS mailing list web-site and created the Internet's first cemetery site, the Virtual Memorial Garden. Lindsay has been a member of the council of the UKUUG for the last five years. He has a cat called Astro.

Adrian Wontroba

Born, 1952.

First programmed a computer: 1969.

In-real-life: Computer contractor, specializing in ICL IDMS and VME technical support. I sometimes get to use UNIX too (8-)

UNIX interests: Started out in (I think) the late 80's with SCO UNIX, and have run UNIX boxes of my own ever since. I currently run FreeBSD - I chose this for the Association of C and C++ Users' server (I was at that time the Electronic Communications Officer for ACCU), and liked it so much that I switched over. I seem to spend most of my time nowadays reading mail and news, but do sometimes do some gentle porting. In the past I've been system administrator, web-master, postmaster, etc.

Linux Tie Anyone?

(Martin Huston)

Eddie Bleasdale suggested at the AGM that the UKUUG should produce a tie.

The reasoning behind this is that a tie is something that people in business situations can wear to show their support for the Open Source movement. There are plenty of T-shirts (I still have a few of my "Stop Gates" ones left if anyone would like one) but not much available that is suitable for office wear.

Another striking thing about the AGM is that three of us turned up in ties with penguins on.

The UKUUG council has decided that we want to produce a tie with Tux, the Linux penguin on it. We are open to suggestions as to the actual design. One Tux or many? On what background? Get busy with your painting packages.

We intend to get the ties woven. This means that they are limited to a total of six different colours, including the background colour (and you thought 16 colour VGA limiting).

Whoever comes up with a design we choose to use will receive a woven waistcoat featuring the design, and a tie.

We want to have the first batch of ties produced in time for Christmas so get designing!

Linux - It's War Boys!

(Martin Houston)

One of the reasons that news@UK is slightly late this time is that so much news was breaking just as we should have been wrapping up and starting production.

In the space of just a few weeks we have now moved to a situation where all the major database vendors (with the exception of Microsoft, of course) now roundly supporting Linux, not just with kind words but products you can buy and run.

The benefits of Linux have been known to us for years, the Linux systems you can install today are better than the ones of 18 months - 2 years ago but not radically so. It is obvious that what we are seeing now in a torrent of announcements from people all over the industry who have been biding their time, waiting for a time when Microsoft was not in a position to retaliate for the disloyalty of supporting the only genuine alternative (now that Bill has his finger in the Apple pie) around.

With the DOJ vs. Microsoft court case looming that time is now. Even companies like Dell and Compaq, who before would not have dared give any message but the Microsoft party line will now admit to using and shipping Open Source software.

By now everyone knows that there are a lot more Linux systems in corporate use than companies have officially owned up to. Now that Linux has the increasing media exposure I expect a chain reaction of "coming out" about Linux. Companies that have been using Linux for years can now bask in the glory of being seen as "far-sighted" rather than the previously feared reaction of being thought of as corner-cutting cheapskates.

Something that has generated a huge amount of publicity is the news that Netscape, Intel and two Venture Capital firms are investing in the Linux vendor RedHat (see my email exchange with Bob Young, President of RedHat).

Netscape is no surprise really, they recently returned to profitability (a lesson in itself for companies choosing the Open Source path) together with a spate of rumours a couple of months ago that they were looking to acquire one of the Linux distribution vendors. Six months ago the Investment by Intel would have been a total shock. The perception was that Intel and Microsoft were inseparable - the "Wintel" alliance.

The involvement of Venture Capitalists (Greylock & Benchmark Partners) is important that it shows that investment in RedHat Linux is a serious commercial proposition, not just a strategic move by Microsoft's enemies that will fall by the wayside when the objective is achieved. The story even made the Sunday Times, giving the general public a tiny clue to the true potential of the PCs that have now become so much of a commodity.

What role does the UKUUG have in all this? Firstly it is not just good news for Linux but the whole Unix community. The Microsoft propaganda that everyone is moving to NT has been blown out of the water. Now is the time to press for the right to solve your problems "the Unix way". (If you are putting Linux or FreeBSD to an important or unusual use in business please write about it for news@UK).

People are doing wonders with Open Source components and are starting to get some real credit for it.

Linux has huge potential to be an NT Server killer. Who would really want to pay a couple of thousand pounds extra for a top spec PC and expensive NT Server licence when a machine half as expensive with a free Linux/Samba server will do the job better?

The advance could even go as far as being an NT Workstation killer. Availability of full suites of desktop applications together with the ability to run NT software remotely from Linux makes NT on the desktop look less sensible than before.

Linux of course makes a solid growth path up to the big iron Unix systems from Sun, HP etc. Dare I suggest that common standardization of Linux ported to the various platforms would be the ideal way to get the universal Unix standard that has eluded us and without loss of face. Unix needs to continue to out-gun NT in cross architecture compatability. Linux has the structure to do this.

Microsoft thought they had won the battle of the desktop. It was only a battle, not a war. The turn around of fortunes in the last few weeks could be compared to D-Day. Not a conclusion but an important turning point. Territory that Microsoft thought that it had in monopoly grasp now looks again an area for real competition. That can only be good news not only for the industry but also for the customer; for everyone in fact apart from Gates, Balmer & Co ...

Added to the news about Linux is Apache's new endorsement by IBM who plan to use it in their e-business system. Open Source software has had a lot of publicity of late.

Apache brings out an important point. It is a web server, not an operating system. It runs across many (mostly Unix-like) platforms. Most importantly it has all but won its own campaign. Visit Netcraft - and you will see that Apache now runs on well over 50% of the web and its main competitor, Microsoft's I2S is actually in retreat with a shrinking market share!

The success of Apache gives us a feel for what a general move to Open Source software would look like. There is a healthy choice of both commercially supported Apache versions and the ability to buy support for the standard Apache anyone can pull from the net.

The fact that Apache is well understood allows a huge industry of extensions and add-ons to flourish. Apache is only bad news if you are trying to promote an alternative non-Apache compatible server.

The other important point about Apache is that it has not gained its great success purely by being "part of Linux".

As a Linux distribution tends to include all that is best in Open Source software there is the temptation to be lazy in thinking and think of it all as "Linux Software" or just "Linux". This is unfair. Almost all Open Source software runs on a variety of Unix platforms and much of it has also been ported to Windows.

It would help to dispel misconceptions if you the UKUUG membership could seek to explain the situation to people who just assume that Linus Torvalds somehow had the time to write Apache, Perl, Gcc, Tex, emacs, Tcl... as well as the whole Linux kernel ;)

Linux is playing a pivotal role. It is a convenient point of reference around which to make self-sufficient collections of software. It is after all quite hard to be self-sufficient without an OS defined for you!

Vendors of other operating systems are perfectly free to do the same. Install the right optional packages on Solaris and a Linux user will feel completely at home; SCO also has the "Skunkware" disks of Open Source material and now even emulation for Linux binary formats to save the trouble of recompiling readily available Linux packages.

You may have noticed that the majority of the new UKUUG council come from Linux rather than purely Unix backgrounds. This does not mean that we are going to change our name to the UKLUG any time soon!

Our strength is diversity. Diversity allows for change and change gives the possibility of progress. It is true that too much diversity is closely akin to chaos but too little is stagnation.

News from Owles Hall

(Jane Morrison)

Jane In the last issue of news@UK I reported on the success of the LISA 98 event, and now here we are in early October and we are about to start planning LISA 99.

But before we look at 1999, there is still the UKUUG Winter Technical Conference being held on Monday 14th & Tuesday, 15th December 1998 - "Using those Spare Cycles". The event will be held at Wivenhoe House, Colchester, Essex, which is attached to the University of Essex. We felt that as the last few Winter Conferences had been held in the North, i.e. York, Manchester and Edinburgh, we would come down South for the 1998 event.

The Conference will start after lunch on Monday (to allow time for travelling) and will end with lunch on Tuesday. A Conference Dinner will be held on Monday evening and, if required, overnight accommodation and breakfast can be included at the venue.

We hope to have the provisional programme and booking details available very soon.

If you would like to make a provisional book please contact the Secretariat now!

Since the June Newsletter there have been quite a few changes within the UKUUG, and most importantly a change in Council members.

At the AGM on 10th September (the minutes from the AGM should be enclosed with this Newsletter), we had three prime members of Council stand down: Mick Farmer, Andrew Macpherson and Ivan Gleeson. We also had three new members come forward for nomination: David Hallowell, Adrian Wontroba and Ted Harding - all three being duly elected.

The first meeting of the new Council was held last week in York and the following positions were elected:

Mick Farmer, although no longer a member of Council, is going to stay as Newsletter Manager, as is Andrew Macpherson in the role of Web-master.

Hopefully you will be able to find out more about the UKUUG Council members elsewhere in this newsletter and even more in a couple of weeks when their biographies appear on our web page!

Corporate members: Please note that as a Corporate member of the UKUUG you can have this newsletter sent to up to five named individuals within your company - free of charge - please contact the Secretariat now with your list of names.

All Members: Don't forget you can take advantage of our e-mail for life service - free of charge to all UKUUG members during the lifetime of their membership. Please send the Secretariat your target e-mail and we can set it up straight away.

O'Reilly books at discounted rates: You should have recently received our new book list and order form - if you would like a further copy please send e-mail to office@ukuug.org and we will send it to you.

Finally, although some of the Council members have changed, the Secretariat remains unchanged.

For any new members who don't know the Owles Hall Secretariat set up.

I hope that explains it all!

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