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Editor's Column

(Susan Small)

Sue It is with great sadness that we report the death of Rob McCron in this issue. He was well known to most current and former officers of the group as well as many ordinary members as he was an enthusiastic UNIX user and attended many of our conferences and tutorials. He also wrote a number of articles and reviews for this newsletter. We are fortunate in being given permission to publish his Essence of a System Manager as a tribute.

Our cover CD is proving very popular with members and we intend that future CDs should contain material that is of interest to you. If there is some software or package, or whatever, that you think should be included on one of our CDs, please inform me or your Secretariat at Owles Hall.

As you know, the UKUUG is always interested in publishing material from its members. If you have anything that you would like to bring to the attention of your fellow members, here are the copy dates for the remainder of the year.

Finally, we have arranged with User Friendly Media, Inc. for their strip to be published in the newsletter. Enjoy!


School Focus Project

(Mike Clinch)

Mike Who is able to offer support?

As you may know the Council has pressganged me to form a School Focus group. ( Well, I did say Yes). So here goes! I am on the look out for support. This is a general call for support for assistance with Open Source in schools. This is addressed to all members and any LUGs which can be contacted.

You may remember your old school with fondness or be glad to have shaken its dust from your shoes but as schools adopt Open Source software they will need support from experienced persons. If you have knowledge, in Linux or BSD, which can be put to such good use and have the time and wish to help, please contact me so that I can build a list of supporters. It is intended that the council, through me, can build up a list of regional "gurus" who can be called on from time to time to offer assistance.

I understand that free time is a scarce commodity, (well it is for me), but a question or two now and again may be practical for you to help with. Do please consider carefully. We need your assistance and that of the local LUGs. So if you know any members or are also a member of a LUG please pass on our need for help for schools.


UKUUG Winter Conference 1999

Internet Technologies

(Charles Curran)

The papers and slides from last December's conference are now available on our web site. They are a mixture of PDF, Postscript, and slide presentations. The full URL is http://www.ukuug.org/events/winter99/prog.shtml, or follow the links from our home page.


Use Those Spare Cycles!

(David Hallowell)

David The chances are that your CPU is 99% idle most of the time your computer is switched on. All these CPU cycles can be put to better use. The UKUUG have launched their distributed.net teams for the RC5 and OGR challenges. The RC5 challenge is an encryption challenge which uses your computer's idle time to decrypt a key containing a secret message. The main purpose of this challenge is to prove to the US government that current encryption levels are not sufficient. More information is at http://www.distributed.net/rc5/.

The OGR challenge is a mathematical challenge which is described at http://www.distributed.net/ogr/. The challenge is to find the Optimal 24-mark Golomb Ruler. OGR's have many applications including sensor placements for X-ray crystallography and radio astronomy. Golomb rulers can also play a significant role in combinatorics, coding theory and communications. Dr. Golomb was one of the first to analyze them for use in these areas. http://www.research.ibm.com/people/s/shearer/grbib.html#grapp lists some papers that show how Golomb rulers can be useful in the fields of information theory and communications.

To enter either challenge (the default is to do OGR then move to RC5 when it is complete) all you have to do is download a client for your Operating System from http://www.distributed.net/clients.html (clients are available for most operating systems) and install it on your system. For best results put it in your system's startup script so that it will run immediately the system is rebooted. The client will only run during your CPU's idle time so you should not see any deterioration in your systems performance and it uses very little memory.

To join the UKUUG team you have to join team number 2443; more information is at http://www.ukuug.org/rc5/ and more general information on distributed.net is at http://www.distributed.net/ - the aim of the UKUUG team is to get amongst the top 100 teams.


New UKUUG Mailing Lists

(Alasdair Kelgon)

Alasdair We have recently created two additional mailing lists for members:

As a reminder, the existing lists are:

If you'd like to join any of these, simply send a message to majordomo@list.ukuug.org containing the following line.

subscribe <listname>

For example

subscribe newsletter-ideas

Alternatively, use the web interface at http://www.ukuug.org/cgi-bin/majordomo


The following article is reproduced with kind permission from Edinburgh University Computing Services. Rob will be well known to many UKUUG members through his articles for this newsletter and his attendance at many of our conferences and tutorials.

RIP: Rob McCron

25 May 1963 - 6 January 2000

(The EUCS UNIX Group)

Rob Rob McCron was the youthful manager of the [Edinburgh] University's central UNIX computer services. He died suddenly and unexpectedly, at the beginning of the year.

Apart from a year managing a wide variety of computers at Edinburgh Portable Compilers, Rob spent all his working life in the UNIX team in the University's Computing Services. He joined in 1985 and rose to become UNIX Systems Manager, taking the first central service, "castle" through the generations of "festival" and "tattoo", to the current services "holyrood" and "waverley".

Rob's total commitment to quality, and his meticulous attention to detail, ensured that these services were as reliable as possible. He brought his skill and experience to the procurement and management of the other major UNIX facilities, namely those of MIS, the Data Library, and the new Voyager service for the Library and National Library of Scotland. Rob was responsible for the computers on which most of the University's most critical work depends. He was a strong supporter of the new Linux operating system and founded the city-wide Edinburgh Linux User Group.

Rob's work was invisible to most users. System managers labour hard behind the scenes, often outside normal working hours, to ensure their hardware and software are up-to-date, secure and functioning properly. This requires constant vigilance, and Rob would often dial in from home in the evening or at weekends to sort out problems, even during his much-needed vacations.

Many people knew Rob as a good friend and a helpful colleague. Anyone who took a problem to him was always helped in a friendly and easy manner. He preferred T-shirts to suits, and as his Essence of a System Manager shows, he could always see the amusing side of his work. As well as being very good company, Rob inspired confidence, both in himself and in others: he was sought after by other organisations and we are grateful that he chose to work at this University.

Rob spent his early years in Dundee before moving to Galston in Ayrshire and then on to St. Andrews, where he gained his Honours degree in Computational Science, and where he met and married Marianne. He was a devoted family man, often regaling us with amusing stories of what his family had been up to, and we learn from them how he would go home and tell them about us. He loved his work, his family and his social life at the University. As a friend he was good to spend time with, someone with whom we would go for lunchtime walks round the campus, and often the instigator of Friday pub visits and UNIX team dinners. He was never afraid of holding strong opinions and would argue them vigorously, often displaying his wicked sense of humour, yet he was a caring man who wanted to make the world a better place.

On the first day back after the New Year, Rob was in early with other colleagues, checking that the arrival of the year 2000 had not brought any problems. In the words of one of his MIS colleagues, they thought at the time that the worst that could happen was the loss of a computer for a few days. How dreadfully wrong that was. Rob died in his sleep that night, from no apparent cause.

Rob's legacy to the University is a safe, secure and stable UNIX computing environment which will serve it well into the future, but he will be missed most deeply by his family and his many friends for his human qualities. We extend our very deepest sympathies to Marianne, Anna and Caitlin in their terrible loss.

Rob McCron was a keen supporter of Shelter and Amnesty International, and indeed of the Blood Transfusion Service, and anyone who wishes to mark their appreciation of Rob's work could do no better than make a donation to any of these, with him in their thoughts.


News from Owles Hall

(Jane Morrison)

Jane Have you paid your subscription yet? All subscription invoices were sent out in mid January and some 120 members have paid already. Please make sure your payment reaches us by the end of March as this is the cut off time for being suspended on our mailing list. If you have any queries concerning your membership please contact me as soon as possible.

The Winter Conference, held in December, was very successful. Although we only managed about 40 attendees it was a typical Winter Conference and apart from the presentations I know the Dinner in the magnificent Old Dining Hall was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. All the papers from the event are available on our website.

The UKUUG Council met for their first meeting of 2000 on 27th January. Events for 2000 were fully discussed and we are hoping to publish a list of forthcoming events over the next couple of weeks.

The book reviews that appear in each Newsletter are very popular with our members and we are actually looking for some more reviewers. The book review project is now organised from this office and if you are interested in reviewing books please send the following details to me at mailto:office@ukuug.org.

Enclosed with this Newsletter you should find our new book list of the very popular O'Reilly titles. You will note from the order form that all UKUUG members (paid up members) receive a 21.5% discount, including postage and packing. The list and order form is also available on our web site. We cannot as yet receive credit cards payments via our web site - so please download the order form. All book orders must be pre-paid using either credit card or cheque. Organisations may order using official purchase orders in which case we can invoice.

The next UKUUG Council meeting is scheduled for 9th March and after this meeting the list of events for 2000 will be published.


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