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Uniforum NZ NewsLetter    May 1998

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Editor: Brenda Lobb UniForum NZ News is published by UniForum New Zealand, tel and fax 07-839-2082, after hours fax 07-839-2084, P.O. Box 585, Hamilton. Material may be reprinted, with acknowledgement, for non-commercial purposes. Views expressed in UniForum NZ News are not necessarily those of the editor or UniForum New Zealand.



Bruce's Bandwidth

Read this heartfelt plea from President Bruce Miller - and step right up!

What else can I possibly say about the conference except "See you there !!!!"

While you're writing out your registration, think about what goes on in the background to keep the UniForum NZ engine-room going. Each year we burn up a little more of a few enthusiastic people. Each year we need a few more new enthusiastic people (luckily these are in abundant supply in UniForum NZ) to step (or be pushed) forward to serve on the Board. Now is the time to put your own or someone else's hat into the ring for the Board elections taking place at the UniForum NZ AGM during the May Conference. Interested in the future of IT ?? Want to help create the perfect conference??? Look no further !!!! We WANT YOU on the Board !!!!!

There's no doubt that the face of IT will continue to change and UniForum NZ is changing along with IT. Guiding the evolution of an organisation such as UniForum NZ is no mean feat. UniForum NZ retains a strong Unix focus underpinning a commitment to open systems environments, equipment and applications. Each year the Board looks for speakers and themes which highlight the current issues of operating systems, networks and technology with which we all contend each day. We look for the developments which promise to enhance the diversity of open systems. We also look to identify the threats and consequences of industry trends towards "monocultural" computing and information managment.

Every one I know in NZ is a member of several organisations. BOT's, Bagpipe Clubs, swimming, golf, skiing... you name it, we'e in there. Few of us can really take on a big committment to more than a single one of these groups at a time. Mostly, we just pay our money and let the committee do it's job. Short of the President stealing the group's spaceship, the members are generally happy to let them carry on.

That's fine and the Board appreciates the faith members have shown. Now we need to encourage you to look to see if you have the time and inclination to join us in pushing UniForum NZ towards the Year 2000. There's no question we'll be different. I invite you to come help us make that difference.

For those looking for something to do over the weekend ??? I urge you to checkout the NETDAY web site and volunteer to help install networks at a local school. Let us know how you get on.

Planned Auckland Regional Meetings

With the conference this month and preparations now in full swing, the next Auckland Regional meeting is planned for mid-June. This is likely to be either:

  • further discussion on Java
  • a user's creative use of Web technology as a marketing tool
  • discussion of Tarantella or recent Unix release(s)

Any feedback on topics of interest will be strongly pursued.

Contact Ian Soffe, Auckland Regional Meeting Coordinator
Email: Ian.Soffe@uniforum.org.nz

Conference Update: Hurry!!! Don't Miss Out!

If you make it to only one conference in 1998, make it UniForum NZ '98!

UniForum NZ's 15th annual conference will take place at the Wairakei resort, near Taupo VERY SOON NOW! The conference caters well for both management and technical delegates with a variety of streams and tutorials.

The tutorials, which have been extremely popular in the past, begin on Tuesday 19th May and the conference runs until Saturday 23rd May. There is still room in most of them, if you are quick.

Tutorial topics include IP version 6, Unix Serial Communications, Perl programming, Solaris Performance Tuning, and many more.

Conference speakers include Rob Kolstad from BSDI, Anne Buzbee and David Purdue from Sun, Horst Truestedt from IBM, and a variety of other international and local speakers, covering management issues, user experiences, and technologies, such as the Web, Electronic Commerce, security, Linux, 3-tier client-server projects, and others.

For more information: get the conference brochure by email, by emailing to "conference-info@uniforum.org.nz", or get a printed copy from Ian Soffe (details below). Or check out our web site for conference details).

To register for the conference: email to "conference-rego@uniforum.org.nz", or use the registration form in the back of the printed conference brochure.

UniForum NZ gratefully acknowledges its 1998 conference sponsors:

Amdahl NZ, BEA Systems, Cisco Systems, Digital, EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, IBM, Oracle, Seabrook Group, Silicon Graphics, Sun Microsystems, Tech-Tonics, Xtra.

Contact Ian at Ian.Soffe@uniforum.org.nz

What Do YOU Want?

Ian is busy on another front as well, and needs your input:

In preparation for the AGM (to be held at the conference) I have been thinking about our membership and seeking to understand in more detail what our members want from their organisation.

Your elected board members work hard to try to provide various services and structures, I think obviously with a good degree of success given the health and history of UniForum NZ.

However that does not mean that there are not other things that we possibly should be doing, or things we currently do that should be done differently or get more or less emphasis or resources. So my questions are: what do (you) the members most value in your user group? What are you most enthusiastic to get involved in? What would you most like to see provided or arranged?

I have some (current and hypothetical) ideas to tick, cross out, or be lukewarm about:

  • NZ newsletter with relevant industry, business/management and technical info
  • Regional meetings doing case studies, technology discussions, tutorials/workshops
  • Annual conference for papers
  • Annual conference for tutorials
  • Annual conference just for a sanity break!
  • Technical assistance (currently via Web site/email)
  • More detailed archives of reference information/links on the Web site
  • Book discounts
  • Training discounts
  • others???
  • NZ cross memberships/international affiliations?

What should these membership services cost? What level of luxury/subsistence/compromise is appropriate, or should we cater to both extremes? Can you claim your costs through your work? Are you self-employed and end up paying anyway?

And for all of you that answer this, what would the five colleagues who you work most closely with give as their reasons for NOT currently being involved with UniForum NZ and doing some of these things? (Maybe you should ask them!!) I.e. if we want to grow and do more things, how do we reach others in our industry of like mind, and present them with something of value that they want to be involved with?

What technologies are compelling or interesting to you?

  • Generic Unix
  • Specific Unix flavours (name them)
  • TCP/IP and networking
  • Name services and internet domain names (DNS)
  • Email, network news
  • Web servers
  • Java development
  • General programming/development
  • Portability
  • Multi-tier development, OLTP
  • Application/system architecting, middleware, CORBA, objects, HA
  • SQL databases
  • PICK
  • Shell scripting, PERL, etc
  • Data Warehousing
  • System clustering, network storage
  • Firewalls, security, encrytpion, authentication
  • Electronic Commerce
  • DOS (just to see if you are still awake)
  • Imaging, graphics, multimedia
  • Network integration
  • PC connectivity
  • Comms (eg serial, uucp, ATM, ISDN, F/R, X.25, IPX, etc etc)
  • Networking technologies, wireless, satellites, convergence, etc
  • etc, etc

I fully expect to be bombarded by responses from hundreds of our members, and others besides who aren't (yet!). I don't just invite you to reply, I challenge you!! (Like most things, you can always put off being apathetic until a bit later...)

Remember, this is YOUR organisation, and this (and the AGM,or in fact anytime!) is the time to have your say. We want your ideas, and your enthusiasm for them!

I await your reply... send one RIGHT NOW!! (and ask your colleagues too!)


You can email Ian or any Board member at FirstName.LastName@uniforum.org.nz

Marvellous Mailing Lists

Donald Neal surveys some useful mailing list software:

Mailing lists are among the simplest and most useful means of communication available on the Internet. They range from class discussion lists within universities to lists used to support software to those which support truly complex activities such as Internet protocol development. Individual users do not require especially complex client software or fast network links. And discussion becomes possible without all of those involved needing to be available at the same time and yet with information passing between particpants at high speed. But certain problems arise with all mailing lists, and as you'd expect there are various pieces of software which set out to solve those.

A mailing list does not need to have more than a couple of dozen subscribers before the effort required to maintain the list of subscribers' addresses becomes significant. So software exists which allows subscribers to subscribe themselves to a list, remove themselves, and possibly to perform a variety of other tasks as well. Originally, subscribers were assumed to do all of this through email, and that option remains to them.

Easily the most common mailing list management software in use today is Majordomo. Majordomo has a number of advantages. It is fairly simple to install, administer and to use. It is widely used, so subscribers may well be familiar with it. And the interesting bits are written in PERL, making them easy for a system administrator to modify if that seems necessary. Oh, and it's free.

On the other hand, Majordomo does not itself perform the task of forwarding mail to subscribers. That is done by the system's mail software, which under Unix usually means sendmail. That means that when a new list is created the necessary aliases need to be created too, whether in the main system aliases file or elsewhere. And a list may require half a dozen or more aliases. So list creation can be a daunting task when first encountered, especially by comparison with commercial mail software.

Still, if you're willing to put up with some administrative effort, it's possible to provide a wide range of mailing list related services with Majordomo. Majordomo itself allows archives of mailing list messages to be maintained, and also allows messages to be sent out all in one go every, say, two days to users who choose not to read messages as they come in. What it does not give you is any kind of web interface. Not to worry - freeware to the rescue again.

MailServ, for example, allows an end user to subscribe themselves, unsubscribe themselves and do other things (like ask for a list of subscribers to a mailing list) through a web interface. They do still need to type in their own email address, though, and all responses are sent out by email. But for end users, MailServ's very simpilicity is its main advantage. http://list.waikato.ac.nz/ , for example, uses MailServ heavily.

Much more complex, or at least potentially so, is MajorCool. This is a tool intended for use in administering mailing lists. It allows list administrators, who in general will not be the same people as those who administer the server, to change any of the settings of a Majordomo mailing list. Perhaps most useful, it allows them interactively to edit the list of subscribers. It can also be installed to allow them to create lists themselves, though more cautious server administrators may choose not to install that particular function.

Another tool for web users is MHonArc. Its function is to make a mail archive, such as one created by Majordomo, available as one or more web pages. Pages can be updated either at fixed times, as by a cron job, or as messages come in. http://list.waikato.ac.nz/archives/ contains links to archives maintained using MHonArc.

Another useful feature to add to archives is the ability to search them. I have to admit that in the case of the archives referred to in the previous paragraph., I've not bothered to use software specifically for that, but have rather chosen to use the Harvest web indexing software already present on the server.

There is, of course, vastly more software out there than I've described here, and there's much more that could be said about each of those I have mentioned. Mailing list software remains a domain of the traditional Unix tool-kit approach. If you're not using mailing lists, it may be your organisation has cases where you should. And if you are, do remember that there's often a free, fairly easy to use piece of software out there which will allow you to enhance the service your end users receive.

Oh, and remember to spread the job of managing lists among a number of people rather than leaving it to the server administrator. There are far too many dud email addresses out there.

And this month's warning for careless use of a spell checker goes to the international Internet Society. Their latest posting to members tells of the ISOC official who has received the 1998 Marconi International Fellowship. Shame about the headline, though: MACARONI AWARD FOR DR. VINTON G. CERF .

References: MailServ: http://advicom.net/~fitz/www/mailserv/
MajorCool: http://ncrinfo.ncr.com/pub/contrib/unix/MajorCool/
Majordomo: http://www.greatcircle.com/majordomo/
MHonArc: http://www.oac.uci.edu/indiv/ehood/mhonarc.doc.html

So, Just How DO You Run An IT Project?

Malcolm Stayner gives a foretaste of his conference paper:

Project management is pretty much de rigeur these days. It is common to find many technical staff citing project management as one of their skills or competencies these days. Project management, it's just common sense. Isn't it?

Well, yes and no. Organising a team of people should be pretty much common sense, after all we all have plenty of experience to draw upon when it comes to dealing with other humans. Sure, we need to learn about Gantt charts, project scope, managing time, cost and quality. But the rest, it's common sense, isn't it?

Most project managers will tell you that they spend 80-90 per cent of their time communicating. Co-ordination on projects is vital. But just what does communication comprise of?

I was interested to find a reference to an article published in MIS Quarterly back in 1989 by G. Green. It cited research revealing 18 behavioural skills required of a system analyst. Interestingly, others have since concluded that these skills are also relevant to IT project managers. All of these behavioural skills relate to communication in some way, although I have chosen to classify them into three groups, managing, communicating and organising. Lack of appropriate skills is considered to be one of the leading causes of project failure by management gurus such as Peter Drucker and Tom Peters.

What are these 18 skills? Well, to find out you will either need to read my conference paper "PM++ - the art of Open Systems Project Management", or better still attend my presentation in person on the Saturday morning.

In the meantime, three words of advice to all project managers: "Communicate, communicate, communicate!"

By email? Careful! It's fraught with danger! Check out Brenda Lobb's conference paper on that topic.


UniForum NZ News (ISSN 1170-9464) is published by UniForum New Zealand, tel and fax 07-839-2082, after hours fax 07-839-2084, P.O. Box 585, Hamilton. Material may be reprinted, with acknowledgement, for non-commercial purposes. Views expressed in UniForum NZ News are not necessarily those of the editor or UniForum New Zealand. Volume 7 Number 9. (c) UniForum New Zealand.