[TUHS] A/UX [was Linux is on-topic]

Dan Cross crossd at gmail.com
Fri Aug 14 03:14:17 AEST 2020

On Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 9:37 PM Larry McVoy <lm at mcvoy.com> wrote:

> On Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 07:12:57PM -0400, Richard Salz wrote:
> > > SMIT was quite nice
> >
> > i have never seen those four words together like that before.
> Me neither.  SMIT was HORRIBLE if you understood the files in /etc and
> knew what to do with them.

The sysadmin in the CS department had a USENIX button on his wall: "SMIT
happens." I always found that amusing.

The Motif-version was especially horrible, and crashed all the time. The
curses-based version was called `smitty`, which I found humorous in a way I
wouldn't have expected coming from "This page intentionally left blank"
IBM. In my mind, the worst part of admining RS/6000 boxes of that era was
the little 3-digit LED code on the front: I guess those machines didn't
assume that they had either a graphical head or a serial port, so this damn
teeny tiny display would cycle through a sequence of codes that told you
what the machine was doing; it came with a book that told you what each
code meant. Something like "387" meant mounting /usr. Ugh; I just found a
page on ibm.com describing these "IPL codes."

It might be nice if you had no understanding
> of how to admin a Unix system and here is this "nice" curses based way
> to do admin.

The thing was that IBM changed a lot of stuff almost gratuitously.
Specifics I remember were the print daemon (I ported `lpd` from 4.4BSD for
that) and anything related to disks and filesystems. In fairness, they had
logical volumes that could split across disks before most other Unix
systems that I was working on at the time, but the commands were all custom
to AIX and, frankly, weird: I remember that one would "vary on" a logical
volume before one could mount a filesystem from it or something like that.
I was told at the time that the people who'd built that side of things had
come from the mainframe world, where that was the nomenclature. Creating
JFS filesystems required these tools as well; there was new `newfs_jfs` as
I recall. So I ended up using SMIT for basically anything related to
filesystems, but for almost nothing else.

To anyone remotely competent, and I don't mean edit sendmail.cf, I mean
> you can edit inetd.conf, you can edit a crontab file, etc, SMIT was a
> nightmare that made something that should be vi $FILE, done 20 seconds
> later, a hellish journey through their menus.  It was AWFUL.

One of the more gratuitous differences I remember from AIX was that instead
of having e.g. /etc/shadow, they had /etc/password (all spelled out), which
had semi-structured stanzas for each user. That was just weird.
Fortunately, we were using NIS and it was smart enough to ignore that for
NIS users.

Ask me how I know.

I still have nightmares about AIX.

        - Dan C.
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