[TUHS] Non-US Unix Activities

Arrigo Triulzi arrigo at alchemistowl.org
Sat Apr 8 00:29:16 AEST 2017


Ah, so someone rattled our cages… I see Alec has already chimed in so I guess it is time for the others to admit culpability.

I’m Italian, born & raised in Milan and first touched Unix in 1978 on my father’s TTY via an acoustic coupler into the “Unix machine” at the University of Milan. It was actually a completely “illegal” venture because the acoustic coupler was not the official one from the Italian monopoly telco, SIP (now Telecom Italia), but one which my dad had imported from the US as he used to work for Honeywell.

Not only, the Unix machine was another amazing story because it belonged to the “Cybernetics” group of the Physics Department as the proper Computer Science department did not yet exist (it would be later born as an offspring of the Physics department as “Scienze dell’ Informazione”, Information Sciences aka dsi.unimi.it when “the Internet” arrived) and was run out of God knows who’s funds (Italian academic funding is particular in that you get handed pots of money under generic titles and then what you do with them is your problem). I distinctly remember being asked to change a disk pack aged 8 and causing quite a kerfuffle when I switched the wrong pack. I *think* it was a Vax but cannot remember (age…). At some point I was handed my first Unix book, an Italian translation of a McGraw-Hill book which contained a series of exercises. I ended up following them faithfully, including e-mailing root at the time who was a lady called Anna who’s password was “favola” (fable) and, er, it actually worked when I tested by copying straight out the book. I assume that they thought the readership would not have access to the exact machine the book was written on!

At home we eventually landed a string of fancy kit plus access to my father’s GECOS & other Honeywell kit including a Western Digital Pascal uEngine (gorgeous), Apple ][e, etc. but my first “home Unix” was an Onyx C8002, a Z8000-based system with a 40Mb disk and “my" lovely ADM 3a serial terminal on which I learned C on Unix Version 7. That was 1980.

After the Onyx we “upgraded" to a series of disastrous Xenix systems but eventually *the* machine came into our house: a gorgeous Data General Aviion pizza box followed by an even more powerful “radiator” later model. Cue: learn X11 :)

In parallel by then I was also managing a set of Sun workstations (both Sun3 & Sun4) and a Silicon Graphics at the University of Milan for a professor researching “eidomatics”. I had a memorable joust, my first security gig, with the guy running “idea” (name censored as he turned out to be exactly who he was predicted to be in his youth).

Shifted myself to the UK for uni and landed at Imperial College where within a few months I was root on the RS/6000 cluster which had just been purchased and, as they say, the rest is history including running SunOS, installing the first three DEC Alpha workstations in the UK (tera, the server, giga and mega, the “clients”) along with a slew of Ultrix MIPS DECstations which were then upgraded to Alpha via the, then available, “upgrade kit”. Ended up running Alphas & Suns a bit everywhere in Imperial plus a few HPs for the Aeronautical Engineering bunch. I hate HP/UX, for reference.

Following Imperial ended up at the now defunct London Parallel Applications Centre where I had an Alpha farm, several Alpha workstations and “my” MasPar plus a rarity, an AMT DAP. Cue: HPF, MPI, etc. etc. plus Tandem K10000. Then Mathematics again where it was Linux & Sun Solaris. At some point I ended up on IPv6 & 6BONE with my very own 3FFE:: prefix.

Startup time because it was the dot.com thing and K2 Defender was born (http://www.k2defender.com/) as a co-founder, a gigantic distributed NIDS based around a Tandem S-series (Cue: more TACL) and then ported “down” to a simple Unix database. 

Then death of the startup because the product was far too early for the world and the only customers would not readily buy from an Italian & South-African/German combo.

Since then independent security consultant with an eternal adoration for old Unix systems, in particular Motorola 88K-based.

Machines owned in various ways:

* VAX w/ Unix
* Onyx C8002
* Data General Aviion with System V
* tons of PCs running whatever Unix I could lay my hands on
* Sun3
* Sun4 until my Ultra & SS10 died
* SGI Irix on different machines
* Apollo DN10000
* A/UX 1.0 (yes, that too…)
* RS/6000 w/ AIX
* RIOS with RISCOS (I think…)
* Linux since 0.12 booting off a floppy in the Mathematics undergrad PC room :)
* OpenBSD since 2.2
* FreeBSD since forever
* NetBSD only occasionally
* HP/UX
* OSF/1 since T1.0 until the bitter end (I still have a gorgeous PWS 600au with the Evans & Sutherland 3D graphics card)
* Ultrix
* WD9000 w/ Pascal
* Xenix
* Tandem Unix layer
* Convex
* other absurd Unix variants I have forgotten…

Arrigo



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