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- The Ever-Changing Computer Network: How to Stay in Touch
- VAX (VMS) User Group Meeting
- RIP 2501
The Christmas issue is here again. EARN users have had their Christmas present early. At its meeting on 3 November the Computer Board agreed to contribute to British membership of EARN for the year 1988 after IBM funding has ceased. User Support continues to be funded by IBM throughout 1988 and Philip Overy is dealing with large numbers of queries. His article in this issue explains some of the problems he has in supporting users. Some of Phil's more challenging queries are those from users who want to get to destinations on networks other than EARN or BITNET. While he will do all he can to support these users it should be remembered that he is funded to help users of these two networks and that we cannot guarantee to help get mail to nodes of other networks.
The article on X25 Remote Job Entry to SLAC Batch notes the delay in the installation of Release 4 of CP, I am sure that users who have suffered from the various system breaks arising from the testing of Release 4 will be painfully aware of the delay. Two comments arise from this. Firstly, although it may not appear so at first sight, we install these new releases for your benefit and not for our own. IBM is constantly developing new hardware and software and without an up-to-date operating system we are unable to take advantage of new features which offer real benefits to users - the next release of CMS, for instance, has windowing. Secondly, the difficulty of installing a new release of an operating system is directly related to the number of local modifications. We are constantly striving to reduce local modifications to the operating system while meeting user demand for increased function. This explains why sometimes we have to say NO to your requests particularly when they mean large modifications to operating system software. One such modification to which we did agree and which causes us pain in supporting is the separator page modifications in RSCS. We shall be reviewing users needs in this area with a view to reducing the scope of our local modifications.
Talking of modifications, Bart Fossey told us in his retirement speech that he had finally structured his program for life by removing the last of the GO TO statements - GO TO WORK! As those of you associated with the Atlas Centre for any length of time will know, Bart has been involved with many of the major functions of the Centre over a long span of time. He joined Atlas in 1963 on transfer from Harwell where he had been since 1948. Bart has in his time worked on Mercury, IBM 7090 and 7030, Atlas 1, ICL 1906A, IBM 360/195 and 3081, Atlas 10 and the CRAY. During his career at Atlas he has been actively involved with users playing a major role in the development of the Sigma2 - one of the very early interactive systems - and then as Head of Resource Management, Grant Support, User Support and latterly as Technical Secretary to the Centre. We shall miss his good humour and his quiet insistence on accuracy in matters technical and financial. He has given a great deal to the Centre in his 24 years here. We wish him well in his retirement.
This is the last issue before Christmas and we wish all our users a peaceful Christmas and a happy New Year.
Paul Thompson,Head of User Support and Marketing, Central Computing Department
The Ever-Changing Computer Network: How to Stay in Touch
Computers communicate by calling agreed names and sending agreed commands to copy data from sender to receiver. Changes in names, line hardware and funding go on all the time so each sites information must be up to date to remain in contact.
Most modern networks distribute information automatically; the EARN gateway software (the Columbia University mailer) picks up data on changes elsewhere through the database virtual machine 'NETSERV. This article describes three features of EARN communications which could cause EARN mail or file transfers to fail: These are profiles, tables and non-standard interfaces.
A gateway profile is a list of information about other sites on EARN and BITNET and other networks connected to them. It comprises the site names, the local name chosen for the MAILER machine, the format of mail messages, possibly a gateway name to be inserted and the types of authorised users of the gateway.
The profile also contains the list of domains or other networks we can reach and specifies how to reach them. If the information in the profile is wrong, we may not send to a site correctly; each site specifies its part of a profile when it registers changes with EARN but new sites do not always get it right first time.
Authorisation failures are a common problem; communication can be an expensive business; we sometimes fail to reach a site because it has not agreed to pay bills if EARN calls it to send mail. Sometimes they have inadvertently switched off our permission.
RSCS tables are lists of all sites on EARN and BIT-NET with a pointer to the real lines down which traffic for that site should be sent. Although the tables are simple, a site or node must choose the right route when using them to send a call; out-of-date tables may point at a line which has been taken out of service. We update tables extremely frequently, however the EARN tables are large so remote sites with slow lines tend to do so less often.
EARN is based on the IBM RSCS/NJE protocol. Non-IBM machines have to conform with this protocol without the benefit of off-the-shelf IBM software. There are many different types of hardware on EARN and the software that exists for them to use RSCS has a wide range of quality and reliability. In many cases the distribution techniques described above are not used for this software so sites can be running outdated versions.
To send mail to JANET there is an extra requirement to conform to the ARPA RFC822 mail protocol. Many sites need additional software to do this, resulting in another possible source of maintenance problems. Some mail programs are prefaced by a statement that they were written in someone's spare time - but they may be the only way for users to reply to UK mail.
For example, 'gMail' is a 'mail system made easy' for VAXes; it recently went wrong and we had great difficulty in getting its users to send correct addresses or alter the program - not because they were uncooperative; they simply did not have the expertise to fix the program and did not know where it came from.
REPLYING TO MAIL MAY NOT BE AN EASY OPERATION!
Please bear these problems in mind when complaining about EARN service. Although we try to keep the service running smoothly, some of the problems are outside our control: some sites simply do not answer mail. I hope this article has explained some of our problems in an understandable way; some EARN problems CANNOT be fixed at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory!
In the previous issue of FORUM 87 I described how to get certain help information from UK.AC.RL.IB. Unfortunately after that edition went to press some of the files were moved for reasons beyond our control. The NETSERV files can now be found on NETSERV's 193 disk. This can be accessed from JANET by FTPing from remote userid NETSERV//193.
Phil Overy - User Support & Marketing Group, Central Computing Division
VAX (VMS) User Group Meeting
The sixteenth VAX (VMS) User Group meeting was held in London on 29 September, 1987, with 25 people attending. A morning of assorted routine business was followed by an afternoon presentation of Networking Policy from Bob Cooper, head of the Joint Network Team. Lively discussion ensued. Highlights of the morning business follow below.
The current versions of JANET networking software are PSI 4.0, CBS 4.2-3. Fixes for PSI bugs are available from SUPPORT@RL.VE. DEC have increased their maintenance charges significantly for this software and are being tackled on the matter by the RAL VAX support team. There is now an online version of the GIFT manual on CMS.
Phil Taylor's popular POST-MAIL interface, recently updated, is available on the understanding that people taking copies inform Phil.
Kevin Ashley (ULCC) has agreed to the distribution of his Network-3270 software, which turns a VAX-connected VT100 into a Network-3270 terminal. This software will not be modified further and is offered with no guarantees of support. However it does provide full-screen access to remote IBM hosts (e.g. RAL and CERN CMS) at zero cost.
There were reports from representatives of the VAX/VMS Network User Group, the RAL Computer Users Liaison Committee, and the Computer Board Applications Group, as well as a report of the DEC product update held recently in London.
The contents of some of the DECUS symposia tapes, which contain a selection of user-written "goodies", are now available online from RL.VE. Details obtainable from Peter Chiu of the support team. DEC are currently offering special deals to SERC establishments on both VAXstation 2000's and layered software products. For further details contact Mike Waters at RAL.
The next VUG meeting will be an Open one at RAL on 10/December 1987. It is hoped to include presentations of "SERC support policy" and "Networking for the uninitiated". If you are a VAX user wishing to come to this meeting please contact Ros Hallowell (VUG secretary) at RAL.
Bob Cranfield,UCL, HEP group VUG Chairman
We have received from IBM notice of withdrawal of support for the 2501 card reader. It has been decided that the card reading facility will be closed at the end of 1988. No user has requested cards to be read within the last two years, therefore it is reasonable to suppose the service is no longer required. Users who have cards that they wish to input to the computer should contact PAO where arrangements will be made to complete the work.