Path: gmdzi!unido!mcsun!uunet!decwrl!purdue!spaf
From: s...@cs.purdue.EDU (Gene Spafford)
Newsgroups: news.announce.newusers
Subject: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Message-ID: <>
Date: 5 Oct 90 03:43:37 GMT
Expires: 3 Jan 91 03:43:36 GMT
Followup-To: poster
Organization: Dept. of Computer Sciences, Purdue Univ.
Lines: 492
Approved: s...@cs.purdue.EDU
Posted: Fri Oct  5 04:43:37 1990
Supersedes: <>

Original-from: je...@eagle.UUCP (Jerry Schwarz)
[Most recent change: 4  Oct 1990 by (Gene Spafford)]

		Frequently Submitted Items

This document discusses some items that occur repeatedly on USENET.
They frequently are submitted by new users, and result in many
followups, sometimes swamping groups for weeks. The purpose of this
note is to head off these annoying events by answering some questions
and warning about the inevitable consequence of asking others.  If you
don't like these answers let know.

Note that some newsgroups have their own special "Frequent Questions &
Answers" posting.  You should read a group for a while before posting
any questions, because the answers may already be present.
Comp.unix.questions and comp.unix.internals are examples -- Steve Hayman
regularly posts an article that answers common questions, including
some of the ones asked here.

 1.  What does UNIX stand for?

     It is not an acronym, but is a pun on "Multics".  Multics is a
     large operating system that was being developed shortly before
     UNIX was created.

 2.  What is the derivation of "foo" as a filler word?

     The favorite story is that it comes from "fubar" which is an
     acronym for "fouled up beyond all recognition", which is supposed
     to be a military term.  (Various forms of this exist, "fouled"
     usually being replaced by a stronger word.) "Foo" and "Bar" have
     the same derivation.

 3.  Is a machine at "foo" on the net?

     These questions belong in news.config (if anywhere), but in fact
     your best bet is usually to phone somebody at "foo" to find out.
     If you don't know anybody at "foo" you can always try calling and
     asking for the "comp center."  Also, see the newsgroup
     comp.mail.maps where maps of USENET and the uucp network are posted

 4.  What does "rc" at the end of files like .newsrc mean?

     It is related to the phrase "run commands." It is used for any
     file that contains startup information for a command.  The use of
     "rc" in startup files derives from the /etc/rc command file used
     to start multi-user UNIX.

 5.  What does :-) mean?

      This is the net convention for a "smiley face".  It means that
      something is being said in jest.  If it doesn't look like a smiley
      face to you, flop your head over to the left and look again.

 6.  How do I decrypt jokes in rec.humor?

     The standard cypher used in rec.humor is called "rot13."  Each
     letter is replaced by the letter 13 farther along in the alphabet
     (cycling around at the end).  Most systems have a built-in
     command to decrypt such articles; readnews and nn have the "D"
     command, rn has the "X" or "^X" commands, notes has "%" or "R",
     and VMS news has the read/rot13 command.  If your system doesn't
     have a program to encrypt and decrypt these, you can quickly
     create a shell script using "tr":
	tr A-Za-z N-ZA-Mn-za-m
     On some versions of UNIX, the "tr" command should be written as:
	tr "[a-m][n-z][A-M][N-Z]" "[n-z][a-m][N-Z][A-M]"

 7.  misc.misc or misc.wanted: Is John Doe out there anywhere?

     I suspect that these items are people looking for Freshman room-
     mates that they haven't seen in ten years.  If you have some idea
     where the person is you are usually better off calling the
     organization.  For example, if you call any Bell Labs location and
     request John Doe's number they can give it to you even if he works
     at a different location.  If you must try the net, use newsgroup *NOT* misc.misc or misc.wanted.

 8.  sci.math: Proofs that 1=0.

     Almost everyone has seen one or more of these in high school.
     They are almost always based on either division by 0 or taking the
     square root of a negative number.

 9.*: Where can I get the source for empire or rogue?

     You can't get the source of rogue.  The authors of the game, as is
     their right, have chosen not to make the sources available.
     However, several rogue-like games have been posted to the group and they are available in the archives.

     You can obtain the source to a version of empire if you provide
     a tape and SASE *plus* a photocopy of your UNIX source license.
     To obtain further info, contact mcnc!rti-sel!polyof!john.
     You can also call John at +1 516 454-5191 (9am-9pm EST only).

     Sites with Internet access can ftp several versions of empire
     from site

     Also, please note that the wizards' passwords in games like these
     are usually system-dependent and it does no good to ask the
     net-at-large what they are.

10.  comp.unix.questions: How do I remove files with non-ascii
     characters in their names?

     You can try to find a pattern that uniquely identifies the file.
     This sometimes fails because a peculiarity of some shells is that
     they strip off the highorder bit of characters in command lines.
     Next, you can try an rm -i, or rm -r. Finally, you can mess around
     with i-node numbers and "find".

     Some Emacs editors allow you to directly edit a directory, and
     this provides yet another way to remove a file with a funny name
     (assuming you have Emacs and figure out how to use it!).

     To remove a file named "-" from your directory, simply do:
	rm ./-

11.  comp.unix.internals: There is a bug in the way UNIX handles
     protection for programs that run suid, or any other report of
     bugs with standard software.

     There are indeed problems with the treatment of protection in
     setuid programs.  When this is brought up, suggestions for changes
     range from implementing a full capability list arrangement to new
     kernel calls for allowing more control over when the effective id
     is used and when the real id is used to control accesses.  Sooner
     or later you can expect this to be improved.  For now you just
     have to live with it.

     Always discuss suspected bugs or problems with your site software
     experts before you post to the net.  It is likely that the bugs
     have already been reported.  They might also be local changes and
     not something you need to describe to the whole Usenet.

12.  Volatile topics, e.g., soc.women: What do you think about abortion?

     Although abortion might appear to be an appropriate topic for
     soc.women, more heat than light is generated when it is brought
     up.  All abortion-related discussion should take place in the
     newsgroup talk.abortion.  If your site administrators have chosen
     not to receive this group, you should respect this and not post
     articles about abortion at all.

     This principle applies to other topics: religious upbringing of
     children should be restricted to talk.religion.misc and kept out
     of  Similarly, rape discussions should be kept to
	 talk.rape and not in, and/or soc.women, and
     Zionism discussions should be kept to talk.politics.mideast and
     not in soc.culture.jewish.  USENET newsgroups are named for
     mostly historical reasons, and are not intended to be fully
     general discussion groups for everything about the named topic.
     Please accept this and post articles in their appropriate forums.

13. What do MOTOS, MOTSS, and MOTAS  stand for?
     What does LJBF mean?

     Member of the opposite sex, member of the same sex, and member of
     the appropriate sex, respectively.  SO stands for "significant other".

     LJBF means "Let's just be friends."  This phrase is often heard
     when you least want it.

14. and elsewhere:  What does HASA stand for?

     The acronym HASA originated with the Heathen and Atheistic SCUM
     Alliance; the Hedonistic Asti-Spumante Alliance, Heroes Against
     Spaghetti Altering, the Society for Creative Atheism (SCATHE),
     SASA, SALSA, PASTA, and many others too numerous to mention all
     followed.  HASA started in (what is now) talk.religion.misc and
     also turns up in, talk.bizarre, et al. because members
     post there too.

15. Shouldn't this group be merged with

     No. is for timely news bulletins. is for

16.  How do I use the "Distribution" feature?

     When postnews prompts you for a distribution, it's asking how
     widely distributed you want your article.  The set of possible
     replies is different, depending on where you are, but at Bell Labs
     in Murray Hill, New Jersey, possibilities include (for example):
	local	local to this machine
	mh	Bell Labs, Murray Hill Branch
	nj	all sites in New Jersey
	btl	All Bell Labs machines
	att	All AT&T machines
	usa	Everywhere in the USA
	na	Everywhere in North America
	world	Everywhere on USENET in the world 

     If you hit return, you'll get the default, which is usually
     "world.".  This default is often not appropriate --
     PLEASE take a moment to think about how far away people are likely
     to be interested in what you have to say.  Used car ads, housing
     wanted ads, and things for sale other than specialized equipment
     like computers certainly shouldn't be distributed to Europe and
     Korea, or even to the next state.

     It is generally not possible to post an article to a distribution
     that your own machine does not receive.  For instance, if you
     live in Indiana, you can't post an article for distribution only
     in New Jersey or Germany unless your site happens to exchange
     those particular distributions with another site.  Try mailing
     the article to someone in the appropriate area and asking them to
     post it for you.

17.  Why do some people put funny lines ("bug killers") at the beginning
     of their articles?

     Some earlier versions of news had a bug which would drop the first
     512 or 1024 bytes of text of certain articles.  The bug was
     triggered whenever the article started with whitespace (a blank or
     a tab).  A fix many people adopted was to begin their articles
     with a line containing a character other than white space.  This
     gradually evolved into the habit of including amusing first

     The original bug has since been fixed in newer version of news,
     and sites running older versions of news have applied a patch to
     prevent articles from losing text.  The "bug-killer" lines are
     therefore probably no longer needed, but they linger on.

18.  What is the address or phone number of the "foo" company?

     Try the white and yellow pages of your phone directory, first; a
     sales representative will surely know, and if you're a potential
     customer they will be who you're looking for.  Phone books for
     other cities are usually available in libraries of any size.
     Whoever buys or recommends things for your company will probably
     have some buyer's guides or national company directories. Call or
     visit the reference desk of your library; they have several
     company and organization directories and many will answer
     questions like this over the phone.  Remember if you only know
     the city where the company is, you can telephone to find out
     their full address or a dealer.  Calls to 1-800-555-1212 will
     reveal if the company has an "800" number you can call for
     information.  The network is NOT a free resource, although it may
     look like that to some people.  It is far better to spend a few
     minutes of your own time researching an answer rather than
     broadcast your laziness and/or ineptitude to the net.

19.  What is the origin of the name "grep"?

     The exact origin of the name is shrouded in the mists of
     prehistory, but one explanation is often given:  The command
     g/re/p in the original UNIX text editor "ed" was used so often it
     was packaged up into a command that was obviously named "grep."

     According to Kernighan/Plauger _Software Tools in Pascal_, it
     stands for "Globally look for Regular Expressions and Print."
     The phrase "Generalized Regular Expression Parser" has also been
     offered as an origin of the acronym.

20.  How do I get from BITNET to UUCP, Internet to BITNET, JANET etc etc.?

     See the article "Notable Computer Networks" in Volume 29, #10
     (October 1986) of the "Communications of the ACM" (CACM).  The
     table on page 940 should provide the syntax needed.  The
     appropriate gateways should be derivable from the postings in

21.  Didn't some state once pass a law setting pi equal to 3 ?

     Indiana House Bill #246 was introduced on 18 January 1897, and
     referred to the Committee on Canals "midst general cheerfulness."
     The text states, "the ratio of the diameter and circumference is
     as five-fourths to four", which makes pi 3.2 (not 3), but there
     are internal contradictions in the bill as well as contradictions
     with reality.  The author was a mathematical crank.  The bill was
     passed by the state House on 5 February, but indefinitely tabled
     by the state Senate, in part thanks to the fortuitous presence
     on other business of a Purdue professor of mathematics.

     For details, including an annotated text of the bill, read the
     article by D. Singmaster in "The Mathematical Intelligencer" v7
     #2, pp 69-72.

22.  Where can I get the necessary software to get a "smart"
     mail system running on my machine that will take advantage
     of the postings in comp.mail.maps?  (E.g., pathalias, smail, etc.)

     There are a couple of packages available through the supporters of
     the comp.sources.unix archives.  If sites next to you don't have
     what you want, contact your nearest comp.sources.unix archive, or
     the moderator.  Information on archive sites, and indices of
     comp.sources.unix back issues are posted regularly in
     comp.sources.unix and comp.sources.d.

23.  What is "food for the NSA line-eater"?

     This refers to the alleged scanning of all USENET traffic by the
     National Security Agency (and possibly other intelligence
     organizations) for interesting keywords.  The "food" is believed
     to contain some of those keywords in the fond hope of overloading
     NSA's poor computers.  A little thought should convince anyone
     that this is unlikely to occur.  Other posters have taken up this
     practice, either as an ambiguous form of political statement, or
     as an attempt at humor.  The bottom line is that excessive
     signatures in any form are discouraged, the joke has worn stale
     amongst long-time net readers, and there are specific newsgroups
     for the discussion of politics.

24.  Does anyone know the {pinouts, schematics, switch settings,
     what does jumper J3 do} for widget X?

     These postings are almost always inappropriate unless the
     manufacturer has gone out of business or no longer supports the
     device.  If neither of these is the case, you're likely to get a
     better and faster response by simply telephoning the

25.  What is "anonymous ftp"?

     "FTP" stands for File Transfer Protocol; on many systems, it's
     also the name of a user-level program that implements that
     protocol.  This program allows a user to transfer files to and
     from a remote network site, provided that network site is
     reachable via the Internet or a similar facility.  (Ftp is
     also usable on many local-area networks.)

     "Anonymous FTP" indicates that a user may log into the remote
     system as user "anonymous" with an arbitrary password.  A common
     convention is that some sort of identification is supplied as the
     password, e.g. "mumble@foo".  This is sometimes useful to those
     sites that track ftp usage.  Also note that most sites restrict
     when transfers can be made, or at least suggest that large
     transfers be made only during non-peak hours.

26.  What is UUNET?

     UUNET is a non-profit communications service designed to provide
     access to USENET news, mail, and various source archives at low
     cost by obtaining volume discounts.  Charges are calculated to
     recover costs.

     For more information send your US mail address to (uunet!info).

27.  Isn't the posting mechanism broken?  When I post an article to both
     a moderated group and unmoderated groups, it gets mailed to the
     moderator and not posted to the unmoderated groups.

     This is a question that is debated every few months.  The answer
     is "No, it was designed to work that way."  The software is
     designed so that the moderator can crosspost the article so it
     appears in the regular groups as well as the moderated group, if
     appropriate.  If the article were to be posted immediately to the
     unmoderated groups, the moderated group name would have to be
     deleted from the header and you would lose the crossposting.

     Whether or not this is correct behavior is a matter of opinion.
     If you want your article to go out immediately to the unmoderated
     groups, post it twice -- once to the unmoderated groups and once
     to the moderated groups.

28.  comp.arch and elsewhere:  What do FYI and IMHO mean?

     Those are abbreviations for common phrases.  FYI is "For Your
     Information" and IMHO is "In My Humble Opinion" or "In My
     Honest Opinion."

29.  Would someone repost {large software distribution}?

     This question should never be posted unless you are reporting a
     widespread problem in article propagation. Lamentably, there ARE
     occasional glitches in article transport. Large source or binary
     postings, by their sheer size, are an inviting target.

     If the problem is isolated, it is much better to take it upon
     yourself to obtain the bad portions of the program than to ask
     thousands of sites to spend thousands of dollars to needlessly
     move several hundred kilobytes of code. There are archive sites
     around the net that make most source/binary newsgroups available
     via anonymous FTP and UUCP. If you get desperate, you can always
     mail the author a blank disk or magnetic tape with provisions for
     return postage.

30.  How do I contact the moderator of an Internet mailing list rather than
     post to the entire list?

     To do this you should know that there are, by convention, two
     mailing addresses for every mailing list (except where noted by
     the List of Lists):

	     list@host		(e.g.
	     list-request@host	(e.g.

     When you have something for everyone on the mailing list to read,
     mail to the list@host address. HOWEVER, if you have an
     administrative request to make (e.g. "please add me to this list",
     "please remove me from this list", "where are the archives?",
     "what is this mailer error I got from sending to this list?"), it
     should be directed to the list-request@host address, which goes
     only to the mailing list administrator.

     It is considered to be in bad taste to send administrative
     requests to the entire mailing list in question, and if (as is
     often the case) the administrator does not read the mailing list
     (i.e. he just takes care of the admin tasks for the list), he will
     not see your request if you don't send it to the right address.

31.  I see BTW (or "btw"), wrt and RTFM in postings.  What do they mean?

     BTW is shorthand for "by the way."  WRT is "With respect to".

     RTFM is generally used as an admonition and means "read the f*ing
     manual" (choice of f-words varies according to reader).  The
     implication is that the answer to a query or complaint is easy to
     find if one looks in the appropriate location FIRST.

32.  Are there any restrictions on posting e-mail someone sends to me?

     At a minimum, it is only polite for you to contact the author of
     the letter and secure her or his permission to post it to the net.

     On a more serious note, it can be argued that posting someone's
     e-mail to the net without their permission is a violation of
     copyright law.  Under that law, even though a letter was addressed
     to you, it does not grant you the right to publish the contents,
     since those are the work of the author and the author retains
     copyright (even if no explicit copyright mark appears). 

     Basically, your letters are your intellectual property.  If
     someone publishes your letters they are violating your copyright.
     This principle is well-founded in "paper media," and while
     untested in electronic forums such as Usenet, the same would
     probably apply if tested in court.

33.  What's an FQDN?

     A fully-qualified domain name.  That is, a hostname containing
     full, dotted qualification of its name up to the root of the
     Internet domain naming system tree.  Example: uiucuxc is the
     single-word hostname (suitable for, e.g., UUCP transport
     purposes) of the machine whose FQDN is

34.  How do you pronounce "char" in C, "ioctl" in UNIX, the character
     "#", etc., etc.?

     Opinions differ.  Pick pronunciations close to what your
     colleagues use.  After all, they're the ones you need to
     communicate with.

35.  How do you pronounce "TeX"?

     To quote Donald Knuth, the creator of TeX: "Insiders pronounce
     the X of TeX as a Greek chi, not as an 'x', so that TeX rhymes
     with the word blecchhh.  It's the 'ch' sound in Scottish words
     like loch or German words like ach; it's a Spanish 'j' and a
     Russian 'kh'.  When you say it correctly to your computer, the
     terminal may become slightly moist."  [The TeXbook, 1986, Addison
     Wesley, page 1]

36.  What is the last year of the 20th century A.D.?

    The A.D. system was devised before "origin 0 counting" was
    invented.  The year after the time when Jesus was (incorrectly)
    assumed to have been born was numbered 1.  (The preceding year was
    1 B.C.)  So the 1st century was 1 to 100, the 2nd was 101 to 200,
    the 20th is 1901 to 2000.  This is standard terminology no matter
    how much some of you may dislike it.  However, "a" century is any
    span of 100 years; so if you want to celebrate the end of "the
    century", meaning the 1900's, on December 31, 1999, nobody will
    stop you.  It just isn't the end of the "20th century A.D.".

37. I heard these stories about a dying child wanting postcards to get
    in the Guiness Book of Records.  Where can I post the address for
    people to help?

    Post it to "junk," or better yet, don't post it at all.  The
    story of the little boy keeps popping up, even though his mother
    has been reported as appealing for people to stop.  So
    many postcards were sent that the agencies involved in the effort
    don't know what to do with them, and the Guiness people
    claim they will retire the category from the record books. If you
    want to do something noble, donate the cost of a stamp and
    postcard (or more) to a worthwhile charity like UNICEF or the
    International Red Cross/Red Crescent.  There are tens of
    thousands of children dying around the world daily, and they could
    use more than a postcard.

Gene Spafford
NSF/Purdue/U of Florida  Software Engineering Research Center,
Dept. of Computer Sciences, Purdue University, W. Lafayette IN 47907-2004
Internet:	uucp:	...!{decwrl,gatech,ucbvax}!purdue!spaf

			  SCO's Case Against IBM

November 12, 2003 - Jed Boal from Eyewitness News KSL 5 TV provides an
overview on SCO's case against IBM. Darl McBride, SCO's president and CEO,
talks about the lawsuit's impact and attacks. Jason Holt, student and 
Linux user, talks about the benefits of code availability and the merits 
of the SCO vs IBM lawsuit. See SCO vs IBM.

Note: The materials and information included in these Web pages are not to
be used for any other purpose other than private study, research, review
or criticism.