Parallel Architectures Group

Parallel Architectures Group

From: (Marius Hancu) Subject: Free UNIX for Romania: Request from Nigeria Organization: CRIM (Centre de Recherche Informatique de Montreal) Date: Fri, 7 Jan 1994 21:45:42 GMT


One year ago, I founded an international organization dedicated to the advancement of UNIX, computer science and free software in Romania. This drive has been described in Communications of Association for Computing Machinary and other journals. It has generated considerable international interest, as I got letters from India and now from Nigeria.

The main drive was based on sending free UNIX-es such as linux and 386BSD and UNIX books to various universities in Romania and creating free software distribution centers. There are over 90 such centers now in Romania, large and small. Everything was based on volunteer work and donations. We use the soc.culture.romanian and the romanians email group for advertising and interaction.

I am asked now by: Ernest Paul P. O. Box 1494 Uyo Awka Ibom State NIGERIA

a 20 year-old student in computer science, to extend the Free UNIX for Romania program to Nigeria too. It's a quite impressive and emotional letter.

My time is very limited (with up to 40 messages a day related only to Romania), as are the funds put to our disposals by generous, but certainly not rich donors, mainly of Romanian origin.

What I can do is help a person or group that wants to start the same drive for Nigeria (or other African country) with initial advice. I guess scientists or students in computer science presently in the West could do the same as we did in order to help their countries of origin. But I have to warn you, with lots of effort.

In order to give you an idea of the scope and targets of Free UNIX for Romania, I enclose the following descriptive article. Those interested to do the same for other countries should contact me directly for details.

Cheers, Marius

------------------------------------------------------------------------ [Presented on my behalf at the First Romanian Open Systems Conference and Exhibition, ROSE'93, Cluj, Oct. 1993]

FREE UNIX FOR ROMANIA - working for the programmer's freedom of choice -

Marius Hancu, Parallel Architectures Group Centre de Recherche Informatique de Montreal (CRIM) 1801, avenue McGill College, Bureau 800, Montreal, Quebec H3A 2N4, Canada phone: (514) 398-5561, fax: 514-398-1244, email:

Let me first introduce myself. I am working as an Advisor/Conseiller in the Parallel Architectures Group at the Centre de Recherche Informatique de Montreal, in Montreal, Canada. I was formerly on the faculty at the Polytechnical Institute of Bucharest, Romania. I worked also at the University of Toronto, Bell-Northern Research Ottawa and Hitachi Central Research Laboratory, Tokyo, Japan.

It is my pleasure to address the Romanian Open Systems Conference and Exhibition, ROSE'93. I would like first of all to thank the presenter of my message, Professor Mircea Bodea, and the organizers, especially Alexandru Rotaru, the Chaiman of GURU, for inviting me to contribute this address as the initiator and coordinator of FREE UNIX FOR ROMANIA. Of course, Professor Bodea is one of the founding partners of this drive in Romania.

This effort has been centered on sending public domain and/or freely distributable (as opposed to pirated) software to the Romanian universities, individual programmers and companies, accompanied by related computer science books.

It has been started by me using as vehicles the electronic media: electronic mail, the newsgroup soc.culture.romanian on the Internet, and the mailgroup (based at Stanford University, also on the Internet). The volume of work was considerable (over 2,000 messages as of today). I would like thank the organizers/administrators of these groups, Nick Sandru and Alexander Mihai Popovici, for their silent, but active, cooperation.

The main focus of Free Unix for Romania was on sending free varieties of the well-known operating system Unix, which is presently widely used in many universities, research facilities and other places, all over the world.

The systems sent are complete with advanced programming environments, editors, compilers for multiple programming languages. etc. These varieties are known as linux and 386BSD and can be obtained without fee or authorization from hundreds of computers all over the world. However, they were not available in Romania, before we started this action, mainly as a result of poor telecommunications equipment.

Our decision to chose these systems was based on the fact that they are free and thus can be distributed with no restrictions or copyright infringements all over Romania. They also run on the 386/486 PCs, which are presently and for the immediate future the most ubiquitous computing platforms in Romania, based on their cost.

Free Unix for Romania was initially born (in the autumn of 1992) out of concern for some of our fellow Romanians which were confronted with employment problems in their process of immigrating to Canada and United States. They were faced with programming environments and sets of tools, especially Unix and X windows, that were virtually unknown to the vast majority of them.

As a parenthesis, I would like to mention that, as far as I know, Unix was introduced in Romania in the mid-eighties, by the work of teams at ITC. Hovever, its penetration seems to have been small. Also, some of the universities were teaching Unix as an operating system, but because of poor resources the students did not really get to know the system. I would like to pay my respects to these forerunners in the introduction of Unix to Romania, for it is them who planted the initial seeds of interest.

In the process of trying to help my Romanian friends in Canada and United States, I became aware that two free varieties of Unix were under development by Bill Jolitz, formerly of the BSD project at the University of California, Berkeley, and Linus Torvalds, from the University of Helsinki. At the present time, these systems are both perhaps two years old. The names of these free Unix derivations are 386BSD and linux. Both are copyrighted by their authors, so strictly speaking they are not public domain software. But their copyrights are designed in a way that encourage the free and unlimited distribution, once the copyright (or "copyleft") notice is kept together with the program code.

Being free software, these systems have borrowed heavily from the experience and products of the GNU project, founded by Richard M. Stallman, arguably the most famous programmer of our time, at MIT. All the source code of the GNU tools is available for several years, thus what Bill Jolitz and Linux Torvalds, two other outstanding programmers (Linus is only 23 years old and a student) did was to re-design from the ground up the kernel.

As of this writing, myself and Adi Rotaru are working around the clock to ensure the participation by Mr. Stallman at your conference, via satellite. We just hope our efforts will prove fruitful.

Also as of this writing, I hope a presentation of linux will be made at this conference by Professor Irina Athanasiu, which has made a major contribution in its proliferation in Romania and to Free Unix for Romania in general. Irina, you have our heartfelt thanks for all you did!

After using my friends in Canada and United States as beta testers, I decided that the systems were stable and powerful enough to be used successfully in Romania for the introduction of Unix at the grassroots level, with no cost involved in terms of software. Consequently, I started a massive campaign of advertising for help on the Romanian electronic groups mentioned above. This campaign is still in full drive.

In response to my appeals, volunteers from all over the world have contributed by:

- obtaining public domain software, recording and shipping it to Romania (over 5,000 Mbytes)

- donating diskettes, magnetic tapes, CD ROMs, terminals and other equipment

- making financial contributions wich have been used mainly for sending related computer science books to te universities of Romania

- distributing, installing and testing the software in Romania

- registering their names for Know-how for/from Romania, a wide-ranging data-base of specialists willing to be contacted by their colleagues in Romania for consultation on technical matters, bibliographical matters, etc., also started by me.

Many of the initial donors, which have ftp-ed and shipped linux and 386BSD to Romania, come to my mind when I think back at our starting moments: Romulus Vlasie and Viorel Negru, who took the first copy of SLS linux to Romania (both from the University of Timisoara), Ted Lungu (from NASA), who sent several copies of the SLS linux, Edward Nicolescu (from Cornell University), who did the same, Prof. Mihai Datcu (on leave from the Department of Electronics of the Politehnica University Bucharest) and Ivonne Nicolescu (from the Freie Universitaet Berlin) who shipped 386BSD, Dan Grecu (from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute).

In Romania, an important contribution was made by the PC Report magazine, by publishing an article by Professor Irina Athanasiu, concerning the availability of free software sent by us, together with a list of distribution centers. The article on linux by Eugen Rotariu was also quite instrumental in making the Romanian programming community aware of the features of linux. Two companies, System Plus International (of Bucharest) and Berg Computers (of Timisoara) have started to distribute freely linux together with some of their systems. System Plus International also exhibited a linux-based system at CERF'93, increasing the awareness. We would like to hope that other companies will support the distribution of free software in Romania. This can only increase the level of programming expertise, as many programmers prefer to work on their own systems, at home. From the very beginning, our belief was that free software must coexist with proprietary software in Romania. The growth of the software and systems market passess through the education of the users, at least in my view of things.

Free Unix for Romania has also received coverage in the prestigious Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery, in the July 1993 issue, which included an appeal for help by Professor Irina Athanasiu on behalf of Romanian computer scientists.

Presently, as a result of these efforts, linux and 386bsd are installed at over 90 locations in Romania, including universities, research institutes, private companies, individual computer scientists and students. And there is a tremendous request for related documentation and computer science books (especially describing the structure and operation of the Unix system).

As a result of the donations (presently at the 3,000$ mark), we have been able to send a relatively comprehensive set of Unix books to the Politehnica University Bucharest (curator: Prof. Mircea Bodea) and to the Universities in Timisoara (curator: Mircea Hancu, my cousin).

At this point in time, I would like to express my deepest thanks to all who made financial contributions, from 20 to 200$, all very important. The list is too long, but I would like to sample several names: George Costache (University of Ottawa, Ludwig Galambos (Stanford University), Sorin and Octavia Cismas (LSI Logic), George & Cornelia Haber, Galina and Mihai Popovici, Alexandru Mitaru (Tektronix), Constantin Sevici, Mihai Dima (University of Colorado), Virgil and Elena Simplaceanu (of Carnegie-Mellon University).

In principle, at the present time, we have fulfilled our first target of making free, Unix-like, operating systems and full programming environments available to Romanian computer scientists, programmers and applications specialists. The next step is the coverage of the various application software domains. In this area, we have been quite successful too.

Our intention was/is to create centers of excellence in the use, porting and distribution of free software. At the present time, we have in place several such centers oriented on specialties.

The center in the Department of Electronics of the Politehnica University Bucharest (Prof. M. Bodea), has installed many packages in VLSI design. Main contributors in this area were Viorica Simion from the Delft Institute of Technology, Radu Cotet from Namur University, Traian Mitrache from University of Southern California, Edward Nicolescu from Cornell University and myself. Some of the major packages that were installed are: magic, Caltech VLSI tools, Alliance VLSI design system, Ocean/Nelsis VLSI design system, the switch-level simulator ESIM, Isplice (high level simulator). Several of these tools are already used in teaching and research.

In Timisoara, prof. Ioan Jivet is starting a similar center in free software for VLSI and hardware design (in the Department of Electronics). Prof. Petru Eles and Marius Minea have made ftp contrbutions to it, while being abroad at the Linkvping University.

In terms of software engineering and parallel and distributed computing, a major center of free software testing and distribution has been implemented in the Department of Computer Science of the Technical University of Timisoara (led by Professor Ioan Jurca). Some of the parallel packages already functional on a network of workstations are: pvm/hence, mentat, paragraph. Many others are in testing. They are all state-of-the-art packages, barely appeared on the network. As major contributors I would like to mention again Edward Nicolescu from Cornell University, Ovidiu Sandor, Prof. Petru Eles, Marius Minea and myself. With Timisoara we have the privilege of an active direct uucp connection provided by the Tempus project, which enabled us to send massive amounts of software in email/uuencoded form. I would like to appreciate especially the degree of involvement of both Professor Jurca and Cristian Ionitoiu, the system administrator of the local node, in the day-to-day operations, on many weekends too. This is what we expect, plainly speaking, as we do it ourselves.

The Department of Computer Science of the Technical University of Timisoara has benefited recently from a major donation (12,000 DM) from Novell-Germany, arranged by our contributor Sanda Graetz, from the University of Duesseldorf. Being proprietary software, it cannot be distributed, unfortunately, nonetheless I would like to underline it as being something very positive. We just hope more companies present or not at this conference will make such gestures.

More recently, Ion-Alexandru Neag and Stefan Gal, both on faculty staff in the Department of Electronics of of the Technical University of Timisoara have made important contributions, by ftp-ing, while at the University of Dortmund, vast amounts of free software and references for the neural networks and fuzzy logic areas. Starting September, this software will be available at their respective locations for all interested parties in Romania, at no cost, as it it is proceeded at all centers.

From the outset, we had a very good co-operation with GURU and its president, Alexandru Rotaru. GURU is another major distribution center for linux and bsd related packages. A major help was provided in this respect by Daniel Dumitriu. I would like to address personal thanks to Adi Rotaru for his degree of personal involvement, for the many messages through which he kept us informed about the local developments and needs. Thanks, Adi, and keep going!

In Cluj-Napoca, the graceful host of this conference, things have progressed, honestly speaking, a little bit slower, especially because of poor network connections. However, thanks to volunteer efforts spearheaded by Dan Grecu (of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute) and Daniel Marcu (of the University of Toronto), linux is present as are many other free programs in CD ROM format, at Professors Letia Ioan and Kalman Pusztai, in the Department of Computers at the Technical University. We really hope that people in Cluj will try to benefit/copy more of the packages sent to other centers, until the networking conditions improve.

At the present time, KNOW-HOW FOR/FROM ROMANIA is administered by Tiberiu Grigoriu, of Concordia University ( We are happy to report over 100 names on this list. As a special notice, the list has become bidirectional, including specialists not only from abroad, but also from Romania and Moldova. Thus, we hope to bridge a true exchange of information in various areas, from history and mathematics to computer-aided design, between the specialists in Romania and those temporarily or permanently abroad.

Very recently, I have started the first international Romanian electronic courier, NEUROM, in the field of artificial intelligence, neural networks, fuzzy logic and connected domains. In this way, we are trying to keep the specialists in Romania informed on the latest news in this area. We hope to establish, with the help of specialists listed on the Know-how list, several more such couriers / electronic lists in other areas.

This will be the focus of our effort in the future, the expertise exchange and fostering the co-operation in the Romanian international community, as gradually more centers in Romania will have ftp facilities which will enable them to get the software themselves over the network.

During all this time of feverish activity, a very important contribution to ensuring the flow of information was made by Nini Popovici, Eugen Staicut, Cristian Ionitoiu and other system and network administrators which on many occasions had to contend with a large flow coming from me and other participants to this drive. Ivonne Nicolescu from Freie Universitaet Berlin constantly helped us with her practical expertise in the area of networking. Thanks, we are counting on you from now on too!

I cannot end without providing the addresses of some of the free distribution centers. Please contact them! Good luck in your work.

Prof. Mircea Bodea Prodecan Facultatea de Electronica si Telecomunicatii University "Politehnica" Bucharest Splaiul Independentei 313 Bucuresti 71239 tel. 3-12-24-52 email: - is the custodian major Unix book collection sent by us

Prof. Irina Athanasiu Facultatea de Calculatoare University "Politehnica" Bucharest Splaiul Independentei 313 (?) Bucuresti tel. 6-31-43-25 email:

GURU Romanian UNIX USER GROUP 21 Calea Grivitei, 78101 Bucuresti tel (40) 613 21 98 (Rotaru Alexandru and Togui Radu) FAX (40) 312 96 55 tel sau FAX (40)1 email:

Ing. Mircea Hancu Timisoara, tel. +40 96 191034 (home) (my cousin) email: tempus0! - the curator of books and linux for Timisoara

Prof. Ioan Jurca Prorector Technical University of Timisoara Department of Computer Science Bd. V. Parvan 2 1900 Timisoara ROMANIA Phone: 40-96-134793, 40-96-112330,ext. 153 email: tempus0! (fast connection) Software custodian: ing. Cristian Ionitoiu

ANDREI Paul & Andrei AXON International SRL IASI tel: 145720/int. 151 or Str. Silvestru nr. 5

Prof. Letia Ioan Alfred Catedra de Calculatoare Facultatea de Automatizari-Calculatoare Universitatea Tehnica Cluj-Napoca str. Baritiu 24-26 tel: (95) 134565 int 165 (s) (95) 160705 (a) fax: (95) 112055 email: Software custodian: ing. Marius Joldos

Preparator ing. Costin Badica Asist. ing. Mihai Mocanu Fac. Automatica, Catedra Calculatoare Craiova tel (94) 145724 /116, 169 fax: (94) 162455


-- Marius Hancu, Parallel Architectures Group Centre de Recherche Informatique de Montreal (CRIM) 1801, avenue McGill College, Bureau 800, Montreal, Quebec H3A 2N4, Canada phone: (514) 398-5561, fax: 514-398-1244, email:

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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