Trains

Not a single instance of the old ScotRail logo is left anywhere on the route from Haymarket to Bridge of Allan, someone has been very busy putting First logo stickers everywhere. Some of the trains have even been repainted already to a purply colour.

The easiest thing that First could do would be to put litter bins back in Waverly station. Haymarket seems to manage fine with them. Someone at Bridge of Allan keeps wrapping up the litter bins with heavy duty bags presumably in the hope that this will stop terrorists blowing up the station. A quick slice with the penknife sorts it out quickly enough.

Meanwhile the old ScotRail sent me a letter apologising several times for their sleeper train being 3 hours late. Sleeper trains are great, first class travel for the price of a standard ticket, you get to use the waiting rooms with free coffee and the seats are almost comfy enough to sleep in. Best thing to do is get there early and grab two seats together so you can lie down on them. Unfortunatly I didn’t get a refund in money but in 4 £10 rail travel vouchers from which you can’t get change, how useless.

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Science Books

Recently I’ve read a few books by Bill Bryson who does comical travel books. His African Diary is particularly good because it has a political edge as he describes the problems of a slum in Nairobi or a refugee camp, a whole town in the middle of a desert where generations have lived unable to return to their homes in Somalia due to war or move in Kenya outside the camp because the Kenyan government has enough problems of its own.

His current big work is A short History of Nearly Everything which is what is known as a best seller. It gives a very good overview of the state of modern science and knowledge. If this is a best seller the public obviously has better taste than they are often given credit for. Actually most of it should be old ground for anyone who did the three main sciences at higher level but it’s always worth refreshing your knowledge and many things are explained a lot better than at school. The geology parts are very interesting since I never did that at school.

For example, those cross section diagrams of the earth, just how do people know what the earth is made of? It turns out they don’t for the most part, the couple of attempts at digging thought the earths crust have failed miserably but measuring echos from earthquakes means the density of the earth at different depths can be calculated, and by measuring the contents of lava we know what’s in there. Fascinating.

Less of a best seller is The Collapse of Chaos. This also covers (in it’s first half) an overview of basic science used to demonstrate how scientists explain our complex world as being made of smaller simpler items. Complex molecules are made of about 100 basic molecules. They are made of a smaller number of sub-atomic particles. It all results in a very complex universe. Except that much of the universe isn’t complex says the second half of the book, just ignore the first 300 pages. Whole galaxies are in simple formations and the solar system is no less complex than the structure of an atom. There may be a unifying theory for physics to join together the theories of relativity and of quantum but it would be useless since objects on different scales need different rules to be understood. Yes you may be nothing more than lots of very complex chemicals to a chemist but that doesn’t help us to understand how humans work in many parts, that’s why we have Biology. Lots more fascinating incites within.

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ScotLUG Meeting September

Very rough notes from the meeting last night

Started with a question and answer session because the ones at the end just mean people go to the pub.

Why is Glasgow in Lanarkshire? It hasn’t been for many a year but we don’t know which database keeps getting this wrong.

KDE t-shirts and badges were for sale. Riddell had a bunch of leaflets for the Linux Expo next week showing KDE and Gnome.

mrben says he is doing a talk next month on video editing. In November someone from the Blender conference is doing a talk. December will be a Christmas party. January is a talk on Linux from scratch. February he is hoping for a talk from a company called Linux Factory about Linux in the business world. March will have an easter quiz. Anyone with things to talk about should ask mrben.

Big Kev Talk on BSD

BSD and Linux are not quite intimate with each other. Berkeley Software Distribution. Unix started in 1970 version 4 in January 1974. AT&T were banned from selling Unix due to anti-trust issues. Bill Joy was one of the founders of Sun and later devloped Java etc but at the time was working on a Pascal compiler, the main language for applications in those days (we normally think of C just because that is what Unix was written in).

By 1977 they released a tape which was effectivly BSD 1 with Pascal and ex editor (vi without all the good things vi has!). Sent out around 30 copies including one to UCL in London. Mid 1978 2BSD was released with better Pascal and vi. About 75 copies sent out. Termcap was written by Bill Joy to learn how to progam vi. AT&T did continue to develop Unix but about 1979 they stagnated and did not do much with it because it was seen as a research tool. 3.0BSD was in March 1980.

3.0BSD and 4.0BSD were performance enhancement issues. 3 was also a Unix distribution rather than just a bunch of patches. Delivermail was in 4.0BSD, a precursor to Sendmail. 150 copies of 4.0BSD were shipped.

4.1BSD in June 1981, 400 copies shipped, tuned to win the DARPA TCP/IP contract. AT&T were realising commercial potential of this and prevented them from calling it 5.0 to prevent confusion with their System V.

BSD was first with paged memory for swapping (because of the very small memory machines had at the time), TCP/IP networking, the C shell, vi, a fast file system, still used as the primary file system on current BSDs it knows about the multiplatered nature of disks and was tuned to be optimised for this, and was freely available.

CSRG was the Computer Systems Research Group. Kev shows us a book which explains everything about how BSD works. Formed in 1980 with a contact from DARPA to implement TCP/IP. Keith Jostic was one of the people who wanted to rewrite all the Unix tools to free it from the requirements to have a System V license (RMS was first though).

Sun Microsystems formed February 1982 as an early BSD adopter. Employed Bill Joy from CSRG. Sun OS 1.0 was BSD based.

Current times, we have NetBSD, OpenBSD and FreeBSD. Started roughly 1992. There was a big legal dispute similar to the current SCO case. AT&T sued Berkely for giving away their source code. Berkely said everying was public domain and not trade secrets. Story is that there was 5 header files left over from AT&T Unix. What AT&T failed to mention was that they had been using BSD changes for years.

NetBSD and FreeBSD are almost siblings from the code that was released which was two sets of source code in an attempt to remove AT&T files called BSDLite.

NetBSD set as its goals to provide a well designed, stable and fast BSD system. Avoids encumbering licenses (so can be incorporated into Linux and other GPL’d projects), provides a portable system which runs on many hardware platforms (it runs on lots of platforms). It is similar to the origional BSD, quite research orientated (and quite slow too).

FreeBSD goals (taken from website) are lengthy and talks about how nice a finantial contribution is but not necessary. They want the code to be as widely used as possible and provide the widest benifit so it can be used in proprietry software.

OpenBSD goals is to be openly developed (FreeBSD and NetBSD are too). No license restrictions, GPL is acceptable as a last resort but not in the kernel. Pay attention to security problems and fix them before anyone else does, this is their most famous goal but also their third goal. Lots more goals including integration of cryptographic software. It is developed in Canada to get around the US restrictions on encryption. They aim to not let serious problems remain unresolved, the firewall software is an example of this, it had to be taken out because of license problems (restrictions on the beta versions). They also want to provide a good cross compile and development platform and sell their 6 monthly releases on CD.

NetBSD Platforms: more than I wish to copy down but it still runs on Vaxes which shows how well decended it is on origional BSD. FreeBSD has 8 platforms. OpenBSD has plenty enough, about 20. Compared with Linux for which he lists 14.

Where does Coherant fit in? It is a System V derivative that died in about 1995.

Why BSD? At home Kev runs two machines, a Slackware box and a NetBSD box. Unlike (GNU/)Linux BSD has… the ports system. Most applications are written for GNU/Linux but BSD downloads the software and the patch to make it BSD happy and puts them together. It lacks some drivers. NetBSD was the first with USB drivers though. Linux took the ATA/IDE drivers from BSD.

Which one? Firewall stuff use OpenBSD, easy to set up with PF and includes stateful connection tracking. Difficulty with OpenBSD is that lots of things don’t run on it, e.g. his e-mail server wouldn’t work. FreeBSD is desktopy, very similar to GNU/Linux capability wise. NetBSD the development one. OpenBSD lists are also fun for flames.

Any big commercial backers? Wind River, they took over FreeBSD development and found it wasn’t much use so abandoned it 6 months later. DARPA were funding OpenBSD but then had a disagreement with Theo. FreeBSD is also the code for Mac OS X.

What is DragonflyBSD. It is a micro version of FreeBSD.

What do you need to run it? Anything. Really? Well. 540Meg hard drives are fine for a NetBSD and OpenBSD install. 64Meg RAM can work depending on what you’re using it for.

What about older hardware, like Gentoo you have to spend days compiling everything. You can also download binaries of everything which is a lot faster to install.

FreeBSD is developed by a core group, NetBSD is similar, Debian takes the opposite approach.

CVSup lets you download the entire FreeBSD tree and do a Make World and everything is compiled. FreeBSD has current which has big beasties (similar to Debian unstable he recons), FreeBSD 5 series with 5 stable and current and FreeBSD 4 series stable and current.

There is no Oracle for BSDs, although you can run the Linux ABI emulation.

Does FreeBSD support distributed update with CVS updates? There is a port of distcc, he doesn’t know if you can build the kernel with that, no reason why not.

Boot loader is more like Grub than Lilo, is can understand the filesystem more.

Can we go to the pub? Yes.

Big applause for Kev.

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