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From: Rich Morin <rdm@cfcl.com>
To: tuhs@minnie.tuhs.org
Subject: [TUHS] introduction and sales pitch...
Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2020 20:26:57 -0800
Message-ID: <633DAB15-0F13-425E-9600-1125308C9E6A@cfcl.com> (raw)

I just found out about TUHS today; I plan to skim the archives RSN to get some context.  Meanwhile, this note is a somewhat long-winded introduction, followed by a (non-monetary) sales pitch.  I think some of the introduction may be interesting and/or relevant to the pitch, but YMMV...

Introduction

In 1970, I was introduced to programming by a cabal of social science professors at SF State College.  They had set up a lab space with a few IBM 2741 (I/O Selectric) terminals, connected by dedicated lines to Stanford's Wylbur system.  I managed to wangle a spot as a student assistant and never looked back.  I also played a tiny bit with a PDP-12 in a bio lab and ran one (1) program on SFSC's "production system", an IBM 1620 Mark II (yep; it's a computer...).

While a student, I actually got paid to work with a CDC 3150, a DEC PDP-15, and (once) on an IBM 360/30.  After that, I had some Real Jobs: assembler on a Varian 620i and a PDP-11, COBOL on an IBM mainframe, Fortran on assorted CDC and assorted DEC machines, etc.

By the late 80's, my personal computers were a pair of aging LSI-11's, running RT-11.  At work (Naval Research Lab, in DC), I was mostly using TOPS-10 and Vax/VMS.  I wanted to upgrade my home system and knew that I wanted all the cool stuff: a bit-mapped screen, multiprocessing, virtual memory, etc.

There was no way I could afford to buy this sort of setup from DEC, but my friend Jim Joyce had been telling me about Unix for a few years, so I attended the Boston USENIX in 1982 (sharing a cheap hotel room with Dick Karpinski :-) and wandered around looking at the workstation offerings.  I made a bet on Sun (buying stock would have been far more lucrative, but also more risky and less fun) and ended up buying Sun #285 from John Gage.

At one point, John was wandering around Sun, asking for a slogan that Sun could use on a conference button to indicate how they differed from the competition.  I suggested "The Joy of Unix", which he immediately adopted.  This decision wasn't totally appreciated by some USENIX attendees from Murray Hill, who printed up (using troff, one presumes) and wore individualized paper badges proclaiming themselves as "The <whatever> of Unix".  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery... (bows)

IIRC, I received my Sun-1 late in a week (of course :-), but managed to set it up with fairly little pain.  I got some help on the weekend from someone named Bill, who happened to be in the office on the weekend ... seemed quite competent ... I ran for a position on the Sun User Group board, saying that I would try to protect the interests of the "smaller" users.  I think I was able to do some good in that position, not least because I was able to get John Gilmore and the Sun lawyers to agree on a legal notice, edit some SUGtapes, etc.

Later on, I morphed this effort into Prime Time Freeware, which produced book/CD collections of what is now called Open Source software.  Back when there were trade magazines, I also wrote a few hundred articles for Unix Review, SunExpert, etc.  Of course, I continue to play (happily) with computers...

Perkify

If you waded through all of that introduction, you'll have figured out that I'm a big fan of making libre software more available, usable, etc.  This actually leads into Perkify, one of my current projects.  Perkify is (at heart) a blind-friendly virtual machine, based on Ubuntu, Vagrant, and VirtualBox.  As you might expect, it has a strong emphasis on text-based programs, which Unix (and Linux) have in large quantities.

However, Perkify's charter has expanded quite a bit.  At some point, I realized that (within limits) there was very little point to worrying about how big the Vagrant "box" became.  After all, a couple of dozen GB of storage is no longer an issue, and having a big VM on the disk (or even running) doesn't slow anything down.  So, the current distro weighs in at about 10 GB and 4,000 or so APT packages (mostly brought in as dependencies or recommendations).  Think of it as "a well-equipped workshop, just down the hall".  For details, see:

- http://pa.cfcl.com/item?key=Areas/Content/Overviews/Perkify_Intro/main.toml
- http://pa.cfcl.com/item?key=Areas/Content/Overviews/Perkify_Index/main.toml

Sales Pitch

I note that assorted folks on this list are trying to dig up copies of Ken's Space Travel program.  Amusingly, I was making the same search just the other day.  However, finding software that can be made to run on Ubuntu is only part of the challenge I face; I also need to come up APT (or whatever) packages that Just Work when I add them to the distribution.

So, here's the pitch.  Help me (and others) to create packages for use in Perkify and other Debian-derived distros.  The result will be software that has reliable repos, distribution, etc.  It may also help the code to live on after you and I are no longer able (or simply interested enough) to keep it going.

-r


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