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June 2003 Newsletter of the
Front Range UNIX Users Group

Cndnsd Vrsn: 4 PM Thursday 6/19 ACS Room 123- UNIX APIs


What is UNIX, Anyway?

The next meeting of the Front Range UNIX Users Group (FRUUG) will be held at 4:00 P.M. on Thursday, June 19. Marc Rochkind has been studying the history and current state of the UNIX API in excruciating depth, and has been working on what promises to be another best-selling book on the topic

"UNIX is a general-purpose, multi-user, interactive operating system for the larger Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-11 and the Interdata 8/32 computers," according to the first sentence of the seminal Bell Labs Technical Journal article on the topic published in 1978. Or it may be a trademark for anything that implements the 1117 functions defined in the Single UNIX Specification, even if the system is IBM OS/390 or Microsoft Windows. Or maybe it's a name for a community of Windows haters.

Linux, which contains no AT&T code (well, maybe :-) and doesn't qualify for the trademark, is In, or maybe Out. FreeBSD, which shares both characteristics, is definitely In. OS/390 and Windows can use the UNIX trademark all they want, but they're definitely Out.

What happened? The 72 system calls of the 7th Edition have grown now to over 500. Instead of small, elegant, and minimalist, it's now bloated, redundant, inconsistent, and, in some cases, defective. Today's system-call interface is a terrible mess, but the systems underneath are reliable, efficient, and cheap, and they run much of the world; the 7th edition was useful only for research. Is programming-interface design even important? Or is UNIX an exception to the rule? Is a chaotic programming model a requirement for success?

Marc's talk will trace what's happened, and try even to explain why it happened. Marc plans to blame Ritchie, Thompson, AT&T, Sun, OSF, X/Open, IEEE, Linus Torvalds, FRUUG, himself, and anyone else he has time for. (Bill Gates gets off, though.) Marc's talk will also explain what he had to do to his 19-year-old book, Advanced UNIX Programming, to bring it up to date. (Hint: he decided what to put in the 1st Edition by scribbling on a piece of scratch paper; for the 2nd he used a relational database.)

About the Speaker

Marc Rochkind has his hands in so many interesting projects that we really can't keep track of all his activities. Fortunately, he surfaces on a regular basis to come tell FRUUG what he's been up to, and this is one of those special months. Marc is best known in Unix circles for the development of the Source Code Control System, which he worked on more than a quarter-century ago at Bell Labs, and the book "Advanced Unix Programming." He was also the founder and CEO of Boulder's XVT Software Inc., which developed and marketed a toolkit for writing portable GUI applications.

Meeting Location

This meeting will be in room 123 of the CU Academic Computing Center building at Arapahoe and Marine Streets in Boulder. Marine St intersects Arapahoe at 38th St; the Computing Center is on the southwest corner.

See <> for map

Our Last Meeting

Sorry about this, folks, we've had two meeting this spring that were cancelled due to weather and changing travel plans of the speaker. We still hope to have our meeting on Monitoring and Managing Applications with JMX, and also our meeting on IP-based Storage Area Networks, or iSCSI, when we can re-schedule the speakers.

Announcements, presentation slides, and writeups for past meetings are be available in the FRUUG Meeting Archive?

Future Meetings

Next month (tentatively July 16) we're going to have a meeting to inform our members about the City of Boulder's new initiative to tax Internet access, and how it may affect you.

The City of Boulder has recently presented the Colorado Internet Cooperative with a bill of almost $171,000 for nine years of back taxes on Internet access services. The City claims that the Coop must pay tax not only on the fiber and copper that connects them to the Internet (these were already paid), but also on the "taxable service" provided in the form of bandwidth and circuit capacity. Any business with Internet access would be liable for this tax, though the City has said it does not apply to individuals.

The Coop claims that this tax is superceded by both state and federal laws that prohibit new taxes on Internet access, and most recently Douglas Bruce, author of the TABOR amendment to the state constitution, has chimed in to say that his amendment makes it illegal to change taxation policy to begin taxing something that in the past has not been taxed. The City claims that it has been collecting this tax for some time, however other local ISPs dispute that claim.

Some observers think that even if the tax is legal, it just hurts local businesses, incenting them to move outside the city or face higher costs than their competition.

A timeline of this issue and a collection of articles from Boulder's Daily Camera, the Rocky Mountain News, and the Denver Post are posted on their site at: The City of Boulder's Sales and Use Tax code is at

FRUUG Giveaways

Steve Gaede realized that the FRUUG Library Merit Badge program isn't as complicated as it seems. Learn about it and sign up for give-away books by consulting the FRUUG Library page on our Web site. FRUUG merit badge holders are eligible for our frequent book give-aways, and all you have to do for a lifetime membership is to review any book from the FRUUG library and send the review to gaede at

This month we have two books from Addison Wesley to give away:

  • Beyond Software Architecture, Creating and Sustaining Winning Solutions
  • Software Architecture in Practive, Second Edition

If you're a FRUUG Library Merit Badge holder and would like one of the books, please sign up at

Finally, we once again have a Gift Certificate to SoftPro Books to give away to a FRUUG member at the meeting.

FRUUG Library Notes

We welcome Prentice Hall Professional Technical Reference (PTR), part of Addison-Wesley, to our FRUUG Library Program! Prentice Hall PTR publishes lots of useful UNIX and open system-related works, and has contributed several give-away books for our future meetings. As you'll see from the list below, Prentice Hall PTR has contributed quite a set of security-related books to the library this month.

Because it's been a while since our last actual meeting, we have a large number of new books this month. We have extra copies of the books marked with an asterisk that will be made available as future give-away copies for FRUUG Library Merit Badge Holders.

  • Apache, the Definitive Guide, 3rd Edition, from O'Reilly.
  • Beyond Software Architecture, from Addison-Wesley
  • Code Reading, the Open Source Perspective, from Addison-Wesley
  • Firewalls and Internet Security, Second Edition, from Addison-Wesley
  • Intrusion Detection with Snort,* from Prentice Hall PTR
  • Linux Server Hacks, 100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools, from O'Reilly.
  • Linux on the Mainframe,* from Prentice Hall PTR
  • Inside Network Perimeter Security, from New Riders
  • Inside the Security Mind,* Making the Tough Decisions, from Prentice Hall PTR
  • PHP Cookbook, from O'Reilly.
  • MacOS X for Java Geeks, from O'Reilly.
  • Personal Firewalls for Administrators and Remote Users,* from Prentice Hall PTR
  • Practical Unix & Internet Security, from O'Reilly.
  • The Practice of Network Security,* from Prentice Hall PTR
  • Sendmail, Third Edition, from O'Reilly.
  • Software Fortresses,* Modeling Enterprise Architectures, from Addison-Wesley
  • Software Architecture in Practice,* Second Edition, from Addison-Wesley
  • The UNIX CD Bookshelf, from O'Reilly.
  • Using Samba, from O'Reilly.

You may check out books using your business card as your library card; you must be on the membership list to check books out. Books are due at the meeting following the one in which they are checked out.

Remember that your FRUUG membership entitles you to discounts on your book orders from both New Riders Publishing and O'Reilly & Associates; refer to the FRUUG Web site for details.

The New Riders discount program has changed; pick up a discount coupon with our secret password at the meeting.

Site Map Recruiter Info
February 15, 2009

February 2008: FRUUG Enters Quiescent Phase
After 27 years running, we're suspending operations.

Future Meetings:
None planned

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