Unix Archive

The HP-UX Porting and Archive Centre

The HP-UX Porting and Archive Centre was established in August 1992 in the Department of Computer Science at Liverpool University in the United Kingdom, but has been run by Liverpool-based Connect Internet Solutions Limited since 1995. Its primary aim is to make public domain, freeware and Open Source software more readily available to users of Hewlett-Packard UNIX systems. The archive began with an initial collection of 150 packages, all of which had been successfully compiled and tested locally by staff at the Liverpool centre before being installed and made available on the archive. The centre continues to act as a porting body as well as an archive site – all software held in the archive has been verified to run successfully on HP-UX PA-RISC (and now Itanium) systems. As of October 2012, the Centre held over 1,500 packages! For reasons that will become apparent somewhere in the coming weeks, I’ve been spending a lot of time exploring and using HP-UX, and the HP-UX Porting and Archive Centre is one of those things that the four enthusiasts running HP-UX might find useful. It’s a vast collection of open source and freeware software built for HP-UX, installable either manually or using a specific script to resolve dependencies. This is one heck of a labour of love, considering HP-UX’, shall we say, unpopular status. Sadly, the Archive has a major limitation, one that I ran into: since 2017, only the very latest version of HP-UX – 11.31, also known as 11i v3 – is supported, meaning packages for the version I’m running, 11.11 or 11i v1, have long ago been deleted. On top of that, since 2020, all PA-RISC packages are marked as deprecated, meaning they’re no longer updated and will, at some point, be deleted too, leaving only Itanium 2 packages up for download. Using HP-UX as an enthusiast is one hell of a challenge, I can tell you that.

Transcending POSIX: the end of an era?

In this article, we provide a holistic view of the Portable Operating System Interface (POSIX) abstractions by a systematic review of their historical evolution. We discuss some of the key factors that drove the evolution and identify the pitfalls that make them infeasible when building modern applications. Some light reading to start the week.

The MGR Window System

MGR, sometimes said to be short for “ManaGeR”, sometimes short for “Munger”, is a simple network transparent window system. It was originally developed for the Sun 3 series of workstations by Stephen Uhler and colleagues beginning in 1984 while at Bellcore (later Telcordia, now part of Ericsson) and later enhanced by many others. The window system ran on many different hardware platforms, at least these: Sun 3/xx workstations running SunOS, which was the the original development platform, Sun SPARCstations (SunOS and then ported by me to Solaris), Intel x86 based PCs (Coherent, Minix, FreeBSD or Linux), Atari ST (under MiNT), AT&T UnixPC (SysV) and the Macintosh. I had never heard of MGR before, so this was a great read.

Why V7 Unix matters so much

When I talk about things involving the history of Unix, I often wind up mentioning V7, also known as Seventh Edition of Research Unix from Bell Labs (for a recent example, in my entry on when Unix got stack size limits). If you’re relatively new to the history of Unix, you might wonder why V7 keeps coming up so often. There are a number of reasons that V7 matters so much both for the history of Unix and for what is what we think of as being ‘Unix’ and the Unix way. The history of Unix is… Complicated.

A new path: vm86-based Venix emulator

So, I stole the bulk of my old 86sim-based Venix implementation, installed a i386 VM using bhyve on my FreeBSD/amd64 box and write a quick little test program. The test program worked, so in a fit of “why not give this a try” I ported the pcvenix.cc from 86sim to being driven from SIGSEGV in vm86 mode. Hello world quickly worked. I didn’t even know what Venix was before coming across this post, but it turns out it was a lightweight UNIX implementation for a variety of platforms.

The HP-UX Porting and Archive Centre

The HP-UX Porting and Archive Centre was established in August 1992 in the Department of Computer Science at Liverpool University in the United Kingdom, but has been run by Liverpool-based Connect Internet Solutions Limited since 1995. Its primary aim is to make public domain, freeware and Open Source software more readily available to users of Hewlett-Packard UNIX systems. I’m about to buy a HP-UX workstation for OSNews (become an OSNews Patreon if you want to help!) since I’ve found an amazing deal, so I’ve been diving into the – to me – unknown world of HP-UX. I stumbled upon this software archive, which could prove to be quite useful to other people considering snapping up an old HP-UX workstation.

v7/x86: the last true UNIX, ported to x86

V7/x86 is a port of the Seventh Edition of the UNIX operating system to the x86 (i386) based PC. UNIX V7 was the last general distribution (around 1979) to come from the Research group at Bell Labs, the original home of UNIX. The port was done mostly around 1999 when “Ancient UNIX” source code licenses first became available, and was revised for release, with some enhancements, during 2006-7. The distribution includes the full UNIX Version 7 operating system, with source code, pre-built binaries, man pages, and original Version 7 documentation. Also included are a custom UNIX-style x86 assembler, an ACK-based C compiler, and several key early UCB software components such as the C shell, the editors ex and vi, and the pager more. I’m inclined to try and run this virtually, to see just how bastardised and messy UNIX has become in our current UNIX derivatives.

Unix v6 for Qemu RISC-V

xv6 is a re-implementation of Dennis Ritchie’s and Ken Thompson’s Unix Version 6 (v6). xv6 loosely follows the structure and style of v6, but is implemented for a modern RISC-V multiprocessor using ANSI C. Exactly what it says on the tin. It runs on Qemu’s RISC-V target.

Unix at 50: How the OS that powered smartphones started from failure

Maybe its pervasiveness has long obscured its origins. But Unix, the operating system that in one derivative or another powers nearly all smartphones sold worldwide, was born 50 years ago from the failure of an ambitious project that involved titans like Bell Labs, GE, and MIT. Largely the brainchild of a few programmers at Bell Labs, the unlikely story of Unix begins with a meeting on the top floor of an otherwise unremarkable annex at the sprawling Bell Labs complex in Murray Hill, New Jersey. I acknowledge the importance of UNIX – who doesn’t – but I hate how it has become a huge roadblock to any meaningful rethinking and improvement in lower-level operating system design. The best we can do seems to be to hide the ’60s guts underneath ever more layers, instead of addressing the actual shortcomings of such an old design. But hey, I’ve learned over the years that criticizing UNIX is akin to drowning kittens, so maybe I should just fall in line and parrot the party line – UNIX is great, UNIX is perfect, and UNIX needs zero modernisation because it was instantly perfect.

Commodore’s forgotten UNIX workstation

Commodore built this prototype UNIX workstation/server computer in the same time frame as the Amiga and their PC-Clone and then decided that they only had production capacity for two out of three, and the CBM900 lost. All the approx 300-500 prototypes were recalled for destruction, but due to some kind of “mistake” this particular machine, which was on loan to a favored customer in Denmark, never made it back. The machine resurfaced when this company cleaned up their basement, and sent 3 euro-pallets of Commodore artifacts our way. I never knew Commodore tried to build a UNIX workstation. I shouldn’t be surprised though; virtually everyone dabbled in UNIX workstations in the ’80s. This page has more information about the CBM900.

Vintage gaming on Xenix

This post is about vintage gaming in vintage unusual operating systems, focused on Xenix/x86. Tried Hampa’s turnkey xenix86 images while they had been tested in fake86, 8086tiny and other emulators. The installation was surprisingly easy, because most software packages in floppy/tape images are basically in .tar format, so let’s check GAMES 360k floppy image’s content on host. I can’t get enough of articles like these.

RetroBSD: Unix for microcontrollers

RetroBSD is a port of 2.11BSD Unix intended for embedded systems with fixed memory mapping. The current target is Microchip PIC32 microcontroller with 128 kbytes of RAM and 512 kbytes of Flash. PIC32 processor has MIPS M4K architecture, executable data memory and flexible RAM partitioning between user and kernel modes.

The enviable pedigree of UNIX and POSIX

But today's breakthroughs would be nowhere and would not have been possible without what came before them - a fact we sometimes forget. Mainframes led to personal computers, which gave way to laptops, then tablets and smartphones, and now the Internet of Things. Today much of the interoperability we enjoy between our devices and systems - whether at home, the office or across the globe - owes itself to efforts in the 1980s and 1990s to make an interoperable operating system (OS) that could be used across diverse computing environments - the UNIX operating system.

As part of the standardization efforts undertaken by IEEE, it developed a small set of application programming interfaces (APIs). This effort was known as POSIX, or Portable Operation System Interface. Published in 1988, the POSIX.1 standard was the first attempt outside the work at AT&T and BSD (the UNIX derivative developed at the University of California at Berkeley) to create common APIs for UNIX systems. In parallel, X/Open (an industry consortium consisting at that time of over twenty UNIX suppliers) began developing a set of standards aligned with POSIX that consisted of a superset of the POSIX APIs. The X/Open standard was known as the X/Open Portability Guide and had an emphasis on usability. ISO also got involved in the efforts, by taking the POSIX standard and internationalizing it.

A short look at the history of UNIX standardisation and POSIX.

How Unix made it to the top

It has often been told how the Bell Labs law department became the first non-research department to use Unix, displacing a newly acquired stand-alone word-processing system that fell short of the department's hopes because it couldn't number the lines on patent applications, as USPTO required. When Joe Ossanna heard of this, he told them about roff and promised to give it line-numbering capability the next day. They tried it and were hooked. Patent secretaries became remote members of the fellowship of the Unix lab. In due time the law department got its own machine.

Fascinating bit of Unix history.

Unix in your browser tab

Programs written to run on conventional operating systems typically depend on OS abstractions like processes, pipes, signals, sockets, and a shared file system. Compiling programs into JavaScript, asm.js, or WebAssembly with tools like Emscripten or GopherJS isn't enough to successfully run many programs client-side, as browsers present a non-traditional runtime environment that lacks OS functionality. Porting these applications to the web currently requires extensive rewriting or paying to host significant portions of code in the cloud.

Browsix is our answer to these challenges.

Neat.