Linux in Romania > Free Unix for Romania, ROSE 93'

[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

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

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
- 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

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

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

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 

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

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

ANDREI Paul & Andrei
AXON International SRL IASI
tel: 145720/int. 151
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
Software custodian: ing. Marius Joldos

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