November 2007 Meeting Details

Meeting Details of November 2007

Date: 25-11-2007
Time : 2:15 pm
Location : Jays Internet Club, Broadway, Kochi, Kerala

Agenda: “Free Operating Systems”

The meeting started at 2.15 pm. The agenda discussion started with the
speaker giving an introduction about Free Software and explaining the importance of Freedom in Software. This was important for new users and especially in the context of the Agenda topic. Besides the concepts of Freedom being the core values of ILUG need to be discussed in detail at every meeting.

The talk then switched to explaining about “Open Source Software”. Since many people mix up the two categories of Software it was very important
that this confusion was cleared. The important points of the Open Source Definition was briefly mentioned. The audience were also enlightened about the concept of Licenses and the GNU GPL and Copyleft and LGPL. Although all the above concepts were discussed in brief, it definitely helped the people who were new to the subject to get an idea of the basic aspects. The power of Free Software and the community was explained in context
of the different Free Operating Systems on how they ave evolved over the years.

The proposed agenda was “Free Operating Systems” . Basically the intent of the Agenda was to throw some light into the existence of some powerful Operating Systems that come under the Free and Open Source category. There was a common misconception among the people that GNU/Linux was the only Free Operating system. The presentation was intended to clear this misconception and encourage people to try the available Free Operating Systems.

The Operating Systems were categorized on basis of the License and were discussed as GPL and Non GPL based OS which included the following:

GNU/HURD, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Debian GNU/kFreeBSD, GNU Solaris, AROS, ReactOS, GNU/Darwin, Free DOS, Jnode.

The discussion started with GNU/HURD OS. The name HURD which is a mutually recursive acronym was explained. The history of the GNU/HURD was briefly explained. The speaker stressed on the architecture of the GNU/HURD system and talked about the Mach Kernel. Various GNU/HURD distributions were also mentioned including Debian GNU/HURD. The advantages and disadvantages of GNU/HURD such as its inability to support some video and audio devices were also discussed.

The presentation moved on to the BSD family of Operating Systems.
The history of BSD was discussed in brief. There was a discussion regarding BSD License. The speaker gave the names of major users of BSD.The discussion continued with the evolution of FreeBSD, NetBSD and OpenBSD. The major advantage of OpenBSD that is security and the
portability advantage of NetBSD was explained.

AROS was next OS to be discussed. It is a recursive acronym for AROS
Research Operating System. It is designed for AMIGA computers.

ReactOS, which resembles Windows NT was the next Free Operating System discussed. He explained the features and advantages of ReactOS.

The session continued with the GNU/Darwin, a new generation Mac OS.
Next Free Operating System discussed was Free Dos. It was explained that Free Dos was started when Microsoft decided to stop support for DOS.

Jnode was the final Operating System discussed. As the name suggests it is based on Java.

The session concluded with the question “Should normal users concern about Free Operating Systems?”. One of the members answered that it will
depend on the user’s discretion.

The speaker asked the opinion of audience in using “Free Operating Systems” other than GNU/Linux. Many people thought of trying out other OS, but a few said that it might be out of scope of the home user. But there was a conclusion that the other Free Operating Systems need to be given prime importance considering the fact that technology was always evolving.

The meeting paused for a while for the tea break. There was the customary introduction, in which everyone shared their experiences and why they had come for the meeting.

After the tea it was time for the technical presentation “Introduction to BASH Prompt”.

Technical Presentation:

The intention of the presentation was to give an introduction to the BASH prompt and tips for tweaking and customization and little introduction to BASH Shell Programming.

The presentation started by explaining what a shell is. A shell is an interpretor which translates user commands into OS understandable instructions to perform a particular operation. It can be used as a programming language in which users can automate their works. It can also be used to configure the system. Next the speaker gave an idea about different shells:

Thomson shell (Ken Thomson, 1970 )
Bourne shell (Steve Bourne ,1979 )
C-shell (Bill Joy , BSD Unix )
Korn shell (David korn, AT&T)
pdksh (public domain korn shell )
Bash (1988, Brian Fox and Chet Ramey )
z-shell (Paul Fa1sted in 1990 )
Almquist shell

He talked about the advantages and features of these shells. Next he talked about tweaking the BASH shell. He started by telling about the various environment variables used by BASH shell.

PS1 – Primary prompt string. This is the string the user sees when he is logged in. The default is “u@h:w$”, where “u” is user name, “h” is host name and “w” is present working directory.

PS2 – Secondary prompt string. The default is “>”. If the user is root then he will see a “#” and if the user is a normal user then he will see a “$”.

PROMPT_COMMAND – Contents of this variable are executed just before bash display a prompt.

The speaker gave some examples on how to use these environment variables. They are as follows.

PS1=”[$(date +%H%M] [ u@h: w]$”

PS1=”[�33[1;34m][$(date +%H%M][u@h:w]$[�33[0m]”

PS1=”[�33[44m][�33[1;31m][$(date +%H%M][u@h;w]$[�33[0m]”

PROMPT_COMMAND=”echo -n [$(date +%H%M)]”

Next he talked about command aliases. They are used to modify existing commands. He explained it with an example. For example we can configure ‘rm’ command to ask our confirmation before removing a file or a
directory. Command for setting aliases for ‘rm’ is given below

alias rm=”rm -i”

He also showed how to copy files, how to delete files, how to create files etc using BASH with examples. The session was quite informative as BASH is the default shell that comes with almost all popular GNU/Linux distributions.


As usual the meeting concluded with everyone telling what they would be doing after the meeting. Many talked about their plans to try the Free Operating Systems discussed.

The meeting wound up at 5.30pm.


Jay Jacob
Fr.Thomas V.V.
Raju Ramdas
Rajesh Kumar K
Nitish Kumar
Gaurav Nigam
Rajagopal V
Bilal M.K.
G.Venkata Subramanian
Sreenadh H
Raja Krishnan
Muhammad ali E.V.
Kurian Mathew Thayil
M.Balakrishna Pillai
Sameer Mohammed Thahir
Muhammed Sabir
Binny V.A.

Meeting Photos