Mail, file exchange, and news for science departments
gilbertd at cricket.bio.indiana.edu
Wed Feb 13 19:31:35 EST 1991
More about How Unix Works, that may be of interest to biology and
other science department computing. Your comments are welcome and
will help inform other readers here with similar interests.
-- Transparent network file exchange between personal and
departmental/research (Unix) computers is possible with CAP and NFS
Any scientist can "own" his data, using methods of his/her personal
computer, and more easily move it between personal computers and
RU-CAP (Columbia Appletalk Protocol, Rutgers University edition) is
a suite of programs for linking Macintosh and Unix computers with
Macintosh-style file handling methods. The scientist can use
familiar Mac tools for editing data files, and then drag a file to
a Unix disk for further processing by Unix tools. Result files can
be dragged back to Mac disks, worked over and stored on floppies
that the individual can keep direct tabs on. The Aufs program of
CAP lets each person with an account on that Unix computer have
their disk space look like a personal AppleShare disk. CAP
includes software for linking Postscript printers to a Mac network
thru the Unix computer.
NFS (Network File System) is similar, and can work with IBM-PCs as
well as Macs, though I haven't tried it yet.
-- Well-connected, easy-to-use mail among personal computers
through a departmental Post Office (Unix) computer is possible.
A Post Office computer can provide the unified mail handling,
within a department, between departments at an institution, and to
the world thru Internet and Bitnet. Individuals can choose from a
variety of personal mail software, and send mail to any location
without having to learn many confusing procedures.
Unix has excellent network software built-in or readily and freely
available. Eudora is a recommended personal mailer for Macintosh.
Eudora lets Mac users mail Mac documents (by encoding/decoding
them). An alternate means of document sharing withing a department
is to use CAP and accounts for each person set so personal folders
are drop boxes that others can drag documents to. Mews is another
Mac mail interface that combines mail and network news.
-- Network news. A Unix box can be easily configured as a news
server for a department that otherwise does not have news access,
but has an Internet connection. Mac and PC news reader software is
My preliminary impressions, which I haven't yet tested in my
department, are that a decent Unix workstation (as inexpensive as
$4-5K) with a large disk (under $2K for 300-600 MB SCSI disk) will
provide an academic department that has networked personal
computers with many services that can not be matched by Macintosh
or PC file servers. All of the above software either comes
standard with Unix or is freely available from/to academic users. A
knowledgeable, or learnable (I've learned most of this in the last
month), Unix system manager is important. Also important is the
existence of good network links to the personal computers.
Ethernet is recommended over Appletalk.
Although I've been learning this software on an A/UX Macintosh, it
will work on most other Unix computers, probably with less hassle
(Suns seem to be most completely supported) and certainly faster.
However mail, network news and file serving do not take a lot of
CPU power, thus for those on a budget, around $5-8K will purchase
the basic hardware. A good server with lots of CPU for other tasks
and fast disk access will run around $20-30K (e.g., a Sun
SparcServer/Station 2). This assumes your institution has ethernet
and tcp/ip network connections installed.
There are also various commercial programs that handle Unix/Mac
file sharing, mail and news. What I've heard of these suggests
that they may in some cases be nicer to use. Since I have a
software budget of about $0, I haven't investigated these yet.
-- Eudora. A POP mailer for Macintosh, by Steve Dorner. Anonymous
ftp to ux1.cso.uiuc.edu, cd mac/eudora.
-- Mews. A Hypercard POP mailer and NNTP Network newsreader for
Mac. Anonymous ftp to sumex-aim.stanford.edu, cd info-mac, or
wuarchive.wustl.edu (info-mac mirror).
-- Popper. Implements the Post Office server on a Unix computer,
by Edward Moy and Austin Shelton (U.C. Berkeley) with
contributions. Anonymous ftp to lilac.berkeley.edu
-- RU-CAP. Implements Appleshare and Chooser laserwriters on Unix
for Appletalk. Various authors from Columbia U, Rutgers U and
elsewhere. Anonymous ftp to rutgers.edu, cd source.
-- rn for Unix. by Larry Wall with contributions. A network news
reader / server for Unix. Anon. ftp to wuarchive.wustl.edu, cd
-- NNTP. Implements network news transport for Unix. by Phil
Lapsley, Stan Barber, Erik E. Fair, Brian Kantor and others. See
-- CNews for Unix. Implements network news server. See rn.
Don Gilbert gilbert at bio.indiana.edu
biocomputing office, biology dept., indiana univ., bloomington, in 47405
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