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  1. Technology
May 28, 1987


By CBR Staff Writer

One of the major themes of last week’s Unix User Show at Olympia was networking, highlighted by the fact that 22 of the exhibiting companies were linked over a network set up by Spider Systems’ subsidiary Spider Networks. Users of the network included DEC, Hewlett-Packard, Apollo, Sun Microsystems, High Level Hardware, Gould, Integrated Micro Products, Logic Replacement Technology, MIPS, Motorola, Relational Technology, Sequent, Torch and many others. Edinburgh-based Spider claims that this was the biggest networked interconnection in the world and adds that the Instruction Set’s help was invaluable in contacting the companies and getting them to join in, but judging by the amount of use it had at the show the invited users were more than happy and companies not approached felt rather left out. Motorola used the network to demonstrate RFS working between itself and two of its resellers, Hi-Tek Solutions and Semads Ltd. Relational Technology Inc used the network to give the first European viewing of its distributed relational database system, Ingres/* on a Pyramid, MicroVAX II and IBM Personal.

Whitechapel MIPS

East London-based Whitechapel Workstations has adopted the new MIPS Computer RISC as a file server and is promising a RISC workstation based on its own design for delivery in the fourth quarter. Whitechapel claims that the new workstation will deliver around twice the performance but is making no comparisons with the forthcoming RISC products from Sun Microsystems due for launch this autumn. The Whitechapel workstation will be targetted for specific niche markets and the company is currently deciding which. The MIPS file server, called the M800 from MIPS and the MG-300S from Whitechapel, is intended for current users that have a number of MG-1 workstations and want to link them together. The MG-300S is rated at 8 MIPS and uses the MIPS’ Umips operating system which is available as a Unix System V.3 or a Berkeley 4.3 BSD implementation.

Siemens keeps faith with NatSemi

Although one of National Semiconductor’s best customers, Sequent, has left the fold, Siemens is vowing to continue using NatSemi’s processors. At first glance this may seem perfectly normal but when you realise that Siemens is in fact a Sequent OEM for the Balance machines and would probably be expected to take on the new Intel-based Symmetry machines. Siemens, has, however decided to stay with NatSemi and is now evaluating the NS32532.

X/Open marketing chief

Bob Ackerman, formerly president of Unisoft, is moving over to the X/Open Group to take up a newly created post as Chief Marketing Officer: the appointment is likely to be the first in a series accompanying X/Open’s change in status to a limited company, due to be formalised over the next month or two. Current X/Open chairman Geoff Morris will become president and CEO of the new company. Ackerman, who will initially be splitting his time between London and San Francisco, has been brought in to strengthen marketing side and push X/Open’s US presence. And Donal O’Shea, who joined Unisoft just a few months ago from Amdahl, becomes the new president of the US Unix systems software specialist, majority owned by Root Computers of London.

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Scientific Computer Systems’ SCS-40 Cray-compatible minisupercomputers are to get both a version of the COS Cray operating System and Unix System V, courtesy of Boeing Computer Services which has a software development, marketing and support agreement with the startup manufacturer. COS is close to beta test, to be followed by a port of System V to which Boeing plans to add COS features to emulate as closely as possible the Unicos Unix supplied by Cray for its own machines. The SCS-40s currently run the CTSS public domain software originally developed at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories.

Task Force Groups around Unix

One of the more interesting developments at the show was software to turn an MS-DOS micro into a windowing Unix terminal using standard Personal Computer windowing packages. Shown in its initial incarnation using Digital Research’s

GEM, the software comes from Task Force Group Plc, a company with offices in Stoke-on-Trent, Southend and Sheffield that covers everything from recruitment to consultancy, turned public in 1986 and has been quietly building up its Unix expertise. The product shown was still in an early stage, and so far allows a Personal user to open up to six GEM windows, each showing all or part of an 80 by 24 character terminal screen to a Unix host. It also includes a GEM menu-driven facility for transferring data or binaries between the Unix and DOS systems. Task Force also plans versions supporting Microsoft Windows and X-Window, and says that the forthcoming versions of GEM should allow suitable PC-DOS applications to be run concurrently. Although the version shown used an 80286 CPU connected by an RS232 line similar host running Microport System V, the company claimed that the product had been written to support networks in future as well as hosts running Xenix or other Unix variants. Written in C, the software is UKP100 for the host end of the software and another UKP100 for each Personal Computer.

Wider smile on face of Sphinx

Sphinx Ltd continues to spread its influence and in honour of the Unix User Show it announced an additional five members for its ICUS program, contracts with nine software authors and another contract with ICL. The five new ICUS members brings the total up to 16 and gives the organisation representation in West Berlin, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Abu Dhabi. Six of the software houses to be awarded Sphinx contracts come from the US and the complete line up comprises: Interactive Systems; Factindex; Laticorp; High Tech Business Graphics; Touchstone; Unipress; Ryan McFarland; Olympus; and Aim Technology. Following the announcement made with ICL in January to provide Unix software on the ICL Clan range Sphinx has now announced a similar contract for the ICL DRS 300 Unix range following close on the heels of a signing with Apricot. Apricot signed the contract with Sphinx, valued at around UKP200,000 in a year, to gain a significant share of the Xenix multi-user market. Sphinx intends to continue its ICUS expansion particularly in Australasia and the Far East.

Patience rewarded

London-based Instruction Set, technical consultant since 1984 to the X/Open group has now been awarded a formal contract by the group. The 12 month agreement involves the Set in helping to converge X/Open’s Portabilility Guide and the IEEE Posix standard. The Instruction Set has been heavily involved in the design, specification and production of both editions of the Portability Guide.

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