Don Gilbert gilbertd at
Fri Jan 17 13:23:55 EST 1992

I have used Apple's A/UX on a Mac 2ci for the last year.  It was on this
that I learned how to administer unix and set up system services.
Many A/UX users rate this flavor of Unix as a good, pretty generic
version, on which you can expect to install and run most programs
that are geared for general Unix and X-Window computers.

I have run some biology programs on A/UX, including treealn, 
and prosite/prosearch. This A/UX computer also was the home to the
IuBio ftp archive for about 6 months, and it worked well in that 
capacity.  I've used it easily for Usenet network news and e-mail.  
I've used it to develop X-Window software, using the Interviews 
C++ package.

The drawbacks to relying on A/UX as a Unix platform seem to be:

(a) It isn't a Sun Sparcstation (this is a drawback for many unix 
    platforms :).
(b) It lacks the speed of comparably priced RISC based computers, 
    by an order of magnitude or more.

The problems under (a) include not being able to use programs 
distributed only or first or most widely as Sparc binaries.  These
include GDE multiple sequence editor, WCS worm community system,
ACEDB worm database, and at least a few others for the biology
community.  I still haven't gotten GDE to recompile and display
properly on a Silicon Graphics Iris.  There are also many source
programs that might run on many Unix platforms, but have been tested
most thoroughly on Suns (which commands over 50% of the unix workstation
market).  One of importance to me is CAP that permits Unix computers
to do Macintosh file and printer sharing.  It works on Suns well,and
on other Unix computers less well, generally.

I don't know about Staden software and A/UX.  But you cannot assume
it will work. 

Under drawback (b), one of the biggest reasons for me to buy a Unix
box is for the speed.  A Mac 2ci runs at about 1-2 MIPS (millions
of instructions per second).  A Mac Quadra or NeXT runs around 5-10 MIPS.
The current crop of under $10K (US educational institution pricing)
workstations that are based on RISC processors run from around 30 
to 50 MIPS.  These include computers like Sun Sparcstation IPX,
Silicon Graphics Iris Indigo, and workstations from DEC, HP and

Some of the main plusses of using A/UX for a group familiar with 
Macintoshes are as follows:

(x) no weird hardware to deal with, and if you don't like A/UX you
can always use the hardware as a personal computer.  To counter this,
most Unix workstations use essentially the same hardware today as
Macintoshes.  I use the same SCSI hard drives on Mac and Sparcstation,
and the same memory (Sun requires 9-chip SIMMS, Mac only 8-chip ones).

(y) learning Unix system administration, and just Unix usage, is 
easier with A/UX than with SunOS.  This is my experience, and I would
guess that it holds for previous Mac users as well as beginning Unix 

(z) you can use the box for personal productivity as well as Unixy things.
Although you can buy word & graphics processing programs for SunOS, Iris,
and others, a general consensus is that Unix productivity programs
are about 4-5 years behind Mac, or about 1-2 behind MS Windows, in ease of
use, pricing, availability and such.  I would not recommend to any biologist
to buy just a Sparcstation or Iris Indigo for his/her desktop computer.
I view these as important multi-user computers and adjuncts to biology
research, but they still cannot compete as a personal computer.

(*) If you are willing to wait a bit, you can expect to get
A/UX running on a RISC based Macintosh in the not to distant future.
Rumors in Mac magazines say that Apple engineers now have put the
IBM POWERseries RISC processor into a Mac LC running A/UX.  This
IBM processor runs at 30-50 MIPS.  Apple may well be selling this kind
of fast mac in early 1993.

For more facts and discussion about Apple's A/UX, see the Usenet
newsgroup comp.unix.aux.
For facts about Sun computers, see comp.sys.sun.hardware and other
comp.sys.sun.* groups. For facts about Silicon Graphics, see 

I may have made factual mistakes in the above, as they came from the
top of my head.  Please other readers feel free to correct these points.
There are also other viewpoints; some of these points have been discussed
before in these newsgroups.
					-- Don

More information about the Bio-soft mailing list