Letters to the Editor

Readers sound off.
Using PPP

I have read many articles about PPP connections. The descriptions were huge and targeted complex tasks. That's why I always delayed configuring my system for a simple PPP connection.

That was true until I read the article “A 10-Minute Guide for Using PPP” in the April issue of LJ. I followed the instructions (just changed the init-string for my modem) and...it worked at once. Wow! Thanks very much to Terry Dawson for his excellent article and to LJ for publishing it. —Andreas Zisowsky, Berlin zisowsky@fokus.gmd.de

Exit Xenix, Linux is here.

In the March 1997 issue of LJ, E. Leibovitch wrote an article entitled “The Death of Xenix” about the opportunities offered by the near death of Xenix. Undoubtedly, LJ is in touch with its readers, or at least one of them.

I would like to tell you about my experience. A few years ago, the library of a high school (Lycee Victor Hugo, Colomiers, France) was computerized by means of an AT386PC with Xenix as OS and dedicated software. This system is now collapsing.

As a technical engineer working for the CRDP (Centre Regional de Documentation Pedagogique—a government organization acting in the area of educational services), I proposed that the existing system be replaced with an actual PC box with Linux as OS and the existing Wyse terminals should be reused. Our goal was to expand by installing an Intranet service to distribute the library databases into all the lycee (schools) using the existing Ethernet-based pedagogic network.

I encountered a few difficulties caused by:

  1. lack of personal knowledge of the necessary setup,

  2. inability to find not-too-new hardware (yesterday's software doesn't always work on today's hardware),

  3. problems compiling the dedicated software: it worked first under IBCS, but I thought it would be better to get a genuine version. I am now in the test assembly stage.

Many thanks to LJ and its team for helping to sustain the Linux movement. —Jean Francois Bardou France devpoly@crdp231.crdp-toulouse.fr

PPP Control for Mortals

I tried your C program as shown in LJ in the article “Safely Running Programs as root” by Phil Hughes in the May 1997 issue. It compiled and worked like a champ. Keep it up; that sort of program is very helpful to strugglers like myself. Looks to me as though I could simply add it to the root menu in FVWM to bring it up and take it down. I'll let you know if it works. Thanks. —Jim Smith jim@oz.net

Bristol Zoo Location

On page 14 of May's LJ (From the Editor), you stated that Bristol Zoo is in Swansea. In fact, Bristol Zoo is in Bristol (75 miles from Swansea).

The confusion may have arisen because Alan Cox, at least at one point, had a Swansea University e-mail address and may still live in Swansea. I've never met Alan, so this is mere speculation. —Martin Radford M.P. Radford@exeter.ac.uk

Yes, the press release from Alan Cox originated from Swansea, and I assumed quite wrongly that the zoo was located there. Sorry —Ed.

Linux Appliance

I read your article “Linux—The Internet Appliance” in the April issue of Linux Journal. It is a subject I have also thought about and agree with your main points.

I think you missed one key point: the users you target probably don't want a floppy or a CD-ROM. A disposable small IDE hard disk would serve your machine much better. What do I mean by disposable? One that can be changed out without disrupting their service. One that is automatically backed up by the ISP. One that serves the following needs:

  • boot device

  • swap space

  • web-page cache

  • off-line letter writing

  • configuration information

In short, performance. Changing out the hard disk (to one that has been freshly dd(1)'d from a master, followed by a 10-second transfer of the account's setup from the ISP database) will be almost transparent to the customer, except that all the caches are empty, and therefore, they will slog along for a while like everybody else at home. When the caches fill up (200MB is cheap), all the usual pages and images will work as we rich, ethernetted folk expect.

Besides, by dropping the CD-ROM and floppy, and going to a smaller case and power supply, I think the cost total (including $200 monitor) is closer to $600 today than the $800 you suggest.

  • 80 Fast 486 motherboard w/CPU

  • 50 8M RAM (we have swap, remember?)

  • 50 1M Cirrus video card (intended 800x600 16-bit mode)

  • 120 540M IDE drive (buy out a warehouse of discontinued models)

  • 60 28.8 modem

  • 40 Sound card “Hi, my name is Leenus Torrrvalds and I pronounce Leeenux as Leeenux”

  • 50 Case, Power supply, Keyboard, Mouse, lousy speakers

  • 200 14 inch 800x600ni monitor

  • 50 Assembly and testing

  • 600 Total

Perilously close to the $500 target, right? In volume, you could probably get there now by contracting a custom motherboard, with embedded video, modem, sound, and power supply. It would then no longer be a PC-compatible (no ISA slots), but anyone who wanted that stuff could trade in for a “real” PC. The assumption of your article, which I support, is that there will be a large volume of people who don't want to fuss with it—just plug it in and use it. —Larry Doolittle ldoolitt@jlab.org