Conference Report — USENIX Winter 1993

Christopher Rath

31 January, 1993


This is the conference report that I circulated to my co-workers upon my return from the USENIX Winter 1993 Conference that took place in San Diego, CA, USA.  I also submitted this to the USENIX ;login: journal, but I do not recall whether or not it was published therein.  At the time I wrote this report I as employed by JetForm Corp., and it was company policy that you wrote a report on the experience in exchange for the company sending you to a conference .

This was my second USENIX conference, my first being the conference that had been held in Baltimore, MD, USA.

The Report

	       Conference Report --- Winter USENIX '93
			   Christopher Rath
			      31 Jan.'93


	This Conference Report contains my notes and thoughts of the
	Winter USENIX Conference, 1993, which took place recently in
	San Diego.  Because I've taken this report from my
	hand-written notes, my own thoughts and conclusions are
	sometimes mixed into the pot.  If you don't like that fact
	then don't read this report.  If you have a specific question
	about something you see here, please give me a call.

				= * =


	I know that I've arrived in CA: The "fancy-shmancy" restaurant
	at the Hotel serves butter substitute, and cut up fresh veg. &
	upscale melba toast before the meal.  The promo-card on the
	table calls these "healthy options."

	On a travel note, the miracle of time zones and carefully
	crafted airline schedules strikes again: I was able to spend
	11 hours in transit between Ottawa and San Diego, 6.5 of it
	actually in the air, and only be served a single sandwich.
	Love those US based air carriers.

				= * =

Monday Tutorial: NFS NETWORKING
	I learned a couple of interesting points today:

	1) If a symbolic link (ln -s) points to a path which doesn't
	   begin with a slash (`/') character then it is evaluated
	   with respect to the current working directory.

	2) NFS timeouts and retries are set at the per-mount level.
	   If either of the values is too large then user response
	   time may be compromised when a file-server goes down.
	   These values must be set intelligently for each mount.

	3) NFS is built on top of UDP.  Many vendors do NOT ship their
	   systems with UDP checksums enabled.  Checksums need to be
	   enabled to prevent data errors from creeping in.

				= * =


	Some threads rules and info:

	1) Do NOT use threads asynchronously.  POSIX pthreads have
	   been implemented such that ALL standard UNIX's normally
	   asynchronous signaling is accessible synchronously.

	2) Threads should be used whenever they would simplify
	   implementation.  Many times threads do not result in better
	   performance, but rather result in simpler, easier to
	   maintain applications.  The instructor's example was that
	   of a program's GUI User Interface: He suggests that every
	   widget which may possibly receive input should have 2
	   threads of control.

	3) DCE threads implement C++ style exception handling.

				= * =


	The first USENIX lifetime achievement award was given to CSRG
	(the BSD people).  The award is called "The Flame," and is a
	red glass sculptor depicting a stylized flame.  Recipients of
	the award are called "Keepers of the Flame."

				= * =

KEYNOTE SPEECH --- Robert Carr, Go Corp.

	Two-thirds of the U.S. workforce do not directly interact with
	computers as part of their work.

		+ It is interesting to note that even Computer
		  Professionals become disenfranchised when they leave
		  their desks; for example, only a small minority of
		  us here at the conference have a computer we're
		  taking notes on.
	Where-ever pencil and paper is in use, a potential exists for
	use of a computer.  However the current keyboard paradigm will
	not work in many situations (for both technical and social

	Fax, Email and Cell Phone technologies have experienced
	exponential growth in recent years.  This makes them prime
	candidates for integration with emerging mobile computing

	Go Corp.'s innovations in mobile computing have resulted in
	what the press has called "Pen Computing."

		+ However, from Go Corp.'s perspective, it is not the
		  pen-on-glass technology which is the key element of
		  Pen Computing; rather, it is the enfranchisement of
		  people that is key; and this is due primarily to the
		  portability and usability of the pen computing

	One of the keys to the success of mobile computer will be
	social acceptance.  If it's not socially acceptable to pull
	out your computer and use it then the majority of users will
	shun the technology.

		+ Pen and paper is already a socially acceptable

		+ Anytime-anywhere is also a key enabler.

	The concept of file systems is one of the most difficult to
	teach.  This paradigm and many others are prominent barriers
	to the increased use of computing.

	Mobile devices must be very network robust.  That is,
	connecting-to and disconnecting-from one or more networks must
	be handles as a normal daily occurrence, not an exception.
	The mobile device must also manage i/o intelligently ---
	deferring outgoing data until a network connection is
	available, and pulling down incoming data at regular

	Desktop PC workers comprise 20% of the U.S. workforce.

	Mobile workers comprise 40% of the U.S. workforce: 20% mobile
	in the office; 20% mobile in the field.

	Robert Carr then gave a long demo of PenPoint, Go Corp.'s OS.

		+ PenPoint appears to be a very powerful and easy to
		  use User Interface; implemented in a very orthogonal

		+ The file system paradigm has been replace with that
		  of a book: Pages, sections, chapters, Table of
		  Contents, etc.

		+ The OCR technology embedded in PenPoint worked much
		  better than I anticipated (on printed text only).

				= * =

Talk: HELLO WORLD, by Rob Pike		  
	Rob spoke about the internationalization of Plan 9, a research
	OS developed by Bell Labs.

	The most difficult part of supporting non-7 bit character sets
	(i.e. 16 or 32 bit characters) is simply making the initial
	transition.  Once your software can handle char not being a
	byte, then it no longer matters exactly which character set or
	encoding scheme is used.

		+ A good example is the malloc()'ing of space for a
		  buffer.  Traditional C programmers would have
		  written `malloc(BUFSIZ)'; but now you must write

	Most of the changes required to support the new character sets
	and encoding schemes can be implemented non-obtrusively.  For
	example, the malloc() in the previous paragraph.  If we begin
	to make these sorts of changes now then there will be less
	work to do later.

				= * =


	This shell has been implemented in a very simple and elegant
	way, much differently from existing shells.  The biggest
	difference is that es allows the user to easily subclass the
	built-in commands and operators, using es' own commands.

	This shell looks like is might be worth closer examination.
	The source for es is available for ftp.  Email
	or for further info.

				= * =


	The point of this paper was to document just how involved a
	process it is to fully internationalize an application.  To do
	the job properly you must do more than just handle non-ASCII
	character sets.

	Internationalization of an application must take into account
	cultural as well as language issues.

				= * =


	Hostname selection is covered by RFC 1178.  We (JetForm)
	should get a copy of this RFC and follow it.

	DNS is much simpler to configure and maintain that straight
	UUCP.  We (JetForm) should begin to use it now, not only for
	the immediate benefits but also for future compatibility with
	the Internet.

				= * =


	20 people attended the BOF; out of the 800 conference

	The NeXTSTEP 3.0 release was discussed in some detail.

		+ while some minor problems were reported, only one of
		  the 20 people advocated not upgrading to 3.0; and
		  the one dissenter did not give any specific reasons.

	The largest installation represented was SwissBank.  They have
	have a worldwide WAN with 800 NeXT's connected.

				= * =


	BSDI makes a BSD 4.3 derived version of UNIX which comes with
	source code that is AT&T free.  It only runs on 386/486 PC's.

	BSDI is currently shipping release 0.9.4 on CD-ROM for about

		+ Over 650 copies have been sold.

		+ Half a dozen distributors exist outside the U.S.

	Their DOS emulator currently only supports 8086 code.

	SCO UNIX binary compatibility is under development and will be
	ready by the summer.

	While BSDI is not fully POSIX compliant, they are working on
	it and expect to begin conformance testing later this year.

	A binary only release of BSDI may be available shortly after
	release 1.0 goes out.  It will cost about $600.

	A Sun Sparc port of BSDI will begin once release 1.0 is out.
	One of BSDI's customers has already ported the 0.9 release to
	a Sparc, so this port is almost guaranteed to happen.

	An ATI Ultra VGA card, using BSDI's X Windows server clocks
	85,000 Xstones.

				= * =

Talk: WAFE

	WAFE is a replacement for TCL's TK library.  TK implements
	Motif-like widgets, while WAFE uses real Athena or Motif

	While WAFE only works with TCL, WAFE has been designed to work
	with any application.  WAFE has been used by the developers
	along with C and FORTRAN programs, Perl scripts, SQL-Plus, and
	other applications.  WAFE provides an easy way to create an X
	UI for any program.

	A UI Builder application is provided with WAFE; it generates
	either WAFE or Perl scripts.

	WAFE can be ftp'ed from `

				= * =

	The MIME specification was created with the help of the X.400
	people.  In fact, MIME can be used as an X.400 transport

	The MIME spec. appears to be very robust, yet not overly

	We (JetForm) should definitely commit product resources to
	monitor further MIME developments.

		+ The next stage of mail spec. development is that of
		  Privacy Enhanced Email.  I believe we would benefit
		  from participating in the development of this

	MIME allows new mail types to be registered.  It would be
	invaluable for JetForm to spearhead the creation of a
	Electronic Form subtype of a more general EDI mail type.

				= * =


	Two types of Object Database technology are currently being
	developed and marketed: Extended Relational, and Object
	Oriented (OO).

	Since an object consists of Data plus Procedures, there arises
	a problem of procedure specification.

		+ What language should procedures be written in.

		+ Where can/should procedures execute, the client or
		  the server.

		+ These same issues arise with respect to types
		  (i.e. classes).

	The Extended Relational DB's side-step (to a great extent) the
	language and type-evaluation issues.  This is because they are
	NOT tightly bound to either the application or the language.

	On the other hand, OO DB's ARE generally tightly bound to the
	application and language: Procedure and Type specification and
	processing are shared.

		+ Procedures may execute in either the client or the

		+ Objects obtain their persistence via inheritance
		  from a DB base-class.  The application may then
		  derive new classes which are immediately useable by
		  the DB.

		+ Because the application does not manage object
		  persistence, the application is simpler to write:
		  Write as though you are managing generic objects,
		  and they will simply be persistent.  That is, the
		  database is effectively transparent to the

	OO DB's come in two implementations:

		+ Memory-Mapped, pointer-based, implementations which
		  overload the pointer de-reference operator so that
		  they can page in objects from disk, directly into
		  virtual memory.  Objects are brought in from disk a
		  memory-page at a time.

		+ Object-Handle implementations which manage objects
		  in a much more traditional manner.  Objects are
		  brought in from disk one at a time.

	Memory-Mapped implementations very quickly exhaust virtual
	memory, and so they do not scale up very well.

	Object-Handle implementations run a little slower.  However,
	virtual memory exhaustion is not an issue.

				= * =


	PageSat Inc.:

		+ They offer a satellite delivered USENET newsfeed.

		+ This is a full newsfeed, over 50 meg/day, including
		  most major regional groups from around the world.

		+ Cost is $1800 US to purchase the necessary hardware;
		  with no additional charges for 2 years.  Beginning
		  in the third year there will be a subscription fee
		  of $30 per month.

		+ Users with access to email can request that files be
		  sent to them via the satellite link.  This means
		  that if you are now paying connect time to ftp large
		  files from other Internet sites, then you may be
		  able to reduce your connect charges by using this
		  email service.

		+ I believe even a company like JetForm could benefit
		  from this service!

		+ Get info via `'.


		+ They are an electronic news & information supplier.
		  They offer:

			- UPI wireservice

			- An electronic newspaper published in USENET

			- "Library Of Tomorrow," an electronic
			  bookstore where fiction and nonfiction books
			  can be purchased for about $5 per novel
			  length work

		+ Contact `' for more info.

	Walnut Creek CD-ROM:

		+ Offering a selection of CD-ROM titles starting at $25.

		+ Contact (510) 947-5996 for info.

	O'Rielly Books:		

		+ Their latest offering is "Unix Power Tools."  This
		  looks like an excellent reference book for both new
		  and experienced users.  It's 1100 pages of UNIX
		  tips.  The programs and utilities referred to are
		  supplied on CD-ROM (comes with the book), along with
		  Sun3, Sun4, HP700, RS6000, DEC and SCO UNIX


		+ Offering dialup Internet service (just like UUNET).
		  Their basic email service starts at $25 per month.

		+ Get info from `'.

	Mortice Kern Systems (MKS):

		+ The latest release of the MKS Toolkit includes full
		  UUCP, via a TSR.

		+ Get info from `'.

	Free Software Foundation (FSF):

		+ This is the GNU people.

		+ Their latest printed manuals are available in the
		  same binding as O'Reilly's latest books.  The
		  printed manuals make an excellent investment for
		  regular users of FSF tools.

		+ Info via `'.

©Copyright 1993, 2003, Christopher & Jean Rath
Telephone: 613-824-4584
Address: 1371 Major Rd., Ottawa, ON, Canada K1E 1H3
Last updated: 2007/11/27 @ 18:00:30 ( )