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TPC Server/Linux

by Paul Cipywnyk

It's been awhile since I've written something for the AJ, but there's a bit of space left so off comes the publisher's hat, and on goes the writer's.

The club has WWW pages, newsgroups and mail lists that are online 24/7 (24 hours a day, seven days a week). The setup comes courtesy of Vice President Ken Cotton and guru-at-large Jim Tittsler.

Ken provides the all-important 24/7 link to the Internet. He's got an NTT OCN 128K account at his home, and has been hosting the club's server on an old 486. Jim set up the server, and though he's been asking members to take a more active role in its maintenance, he still does 95% of the system administration work.

The server runs the free Linux operating system. What's Linux? If you haven't caught the gathering Linux wave, let me fill you in a bit.

Linus Torvalds started what became Linux around 1991. The OS is more or less a Unix clone (apologies for painting with a very broad brush in this limited space :-). Linux has grown into a crashproof, multitasking OS, improved by thousands of programmers around the world. It's distributed under a free software license and the source code is open to anyone, while Linus retains control of what goes into kernel upgrades.

An industry has developed around Linux, and while you can download the latest version from the Internet for free, you're probably better off getting a commercial distribution on a CD for around 5,000 that includes support, installation and management tools, and all sorts of other software.

There are versions of Linux for Intel processors, Alphas, Sun SPARCs, and Macs. Linux is estimated to run on over 7 million computers around the world, and that figure is growing rapidly. Linux will run fine on an old 486, or even a 386 with 8MB of RAM.

The icing on the cake is that there's all sorts of free software for Linux that runs WWW, newsgroup, email and ftp servers etc. Not to mention graphical interfaces, programming languages, editors, games.... And as more users and even corporations jump on the Linux bandwagon, major software players (Netscape, Corel, IBM and Oracle, to name a few) are taking notice and porting applications to the OS.

Linux is damn reliable. For those of you used to rebooting Win95 a couple of times a week (a day?), or who have faced Windows NT's "blue screen of death" more often than you'd like, take a look at this: At one point (Paul searches the TPC newsgroups), Jim said the TPC server had been up for 263 days. Such figures are common in the Linux world.

While Linux isn't a "household" OS yet in terms of "ease of use," if you're interested in learning about the OS (and helping run the club's server :-) there are plenty of resources available.

There are hundreds of Linux sites on the Web. Try by Specialized Systems Consultants, Inc., publishers of Linux Journal (, or for starters.

Linux distributors' sites also have a lot of information and free downloads.

You can access the Tokyo Linux Users Group at and/or join their active mail list. It's a friendly group that runs great meetings at which users of all levels of experience are welcome.

For books, try O'Reilly & Associates Inc. at O'Reilly publishes excellent books including several Linux "standards" and dozens of Unix tomes that apply to Linux. The Bookpool at is an online store specializing in computer and technical books at great prices.

I'm a Linux beginner and I've had versions of the Red Hat distribution running on my old 486 for over a year. While I haven't had the time yet to really get into it, it's provided a lot of fun and learning opportunities.

I don't mean to flog Red Hat, but it's the only distribution I'm familiar with. Here's some of what you get if you buy the boxed version of RH 5.1, which is available in Akihabara for 4,980:

  • Protected-mode multi-tasking, multi-user OS
  • TCP/IP protocols
  • Modular hardware drivers
  • Ethernet, PPP, SLIP, NFS
  • Network Firewalling
  • Network aliasing
  • Reads DOS and OS/2 filesystems
  • HTTP (Web) and FTP servers
  • Virtual hosting
  • Sendmail, SMTP server, IMAP and POP servers
  • Email clients
  • C, C++, FORTRAN, Pascal, Assembly, Basic tools
  • perl, python, Tcl/Tk, LISP, Scheme
  • image viewers for JPEG, GIF, PNG, TIFF etc.
  • MPEG, AVI, QuickTime video viewers
  • Graphics programs
  • X Window system
  • Netscape Communicator
  • Real Audio server and client
  • etc.

It just goes on and on, and other distributions have comparable complements of software and tools.

There's a lot of excitement in the Linux world. It might be worth your while taking a look.

© Algorithmica Japonica Copyright Notice: Copyright of material rests with the individual author. Articles may be reprinted by other user groups if the author and original publication are credited. Any other reproduction or use of material herein is prohibited without prior written permission from TPC. The mention of names of products without indication of Trademark or Registered Trademark status in no way implies that these products are not so protected by law.

Algorithmica Japonica

September, 1998

The Newsletter of the Tokyo PC Users Group

Submissions : Editor

Tokyo PC Users Group, Post Office Box 103, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo 150-8691, JAPAN