Summary of SIPB Services

Student Information Processing Board

Summary of Services
Student Information Processing Board (SIPB)
W20-557, x3-7788,

SIPB provides a variety of services to the MIT computing community.
This document outlines the current services in three main categories.
The first is general assistance with computing, an informal service
whereby one can, for example, visit the SIPB office to obtain help
from SIPB members who happen to be working there.  The second is the
sipb locker, a set of programs and supplementary files that is
accessible on Athena after entering the "add sipb" or "attach sipb"
commands.  The third is miscellaneous services, consisting mainly of
additional software (outside of the sipb locker) maintained by SIPB,
or of facilities for client-server communication over MITnet and
external networks.

1. General Assistance

 Members of SIPB who are working in the SIPB office (W20-557) will try
 to answer your questions about any aspect of computing.  Questions
 associated with work on Athena are the most common, and there are
 usually people available with expertise in many Athena-related
 topics, such as programming, word processing, and e-mail.  However,
 SIPB is not "part of Athena", so please feel free to ask about work
 you're doing on other computer systems.

 There are no scheduled hours for this office to be open, although it
 is open whenever members are working there, often as long as 20 hours
 per day.  It is common for people to stop by at any hour of the day,
 especially if they are working in the adjacent W20 public Athena
 cluster (which is open 24 hours).

 If you're working elsewhere, or find the telephone more convenient,
 the number is x3-7788.  It's answered whenever the office is open.

 In addition to helping with specific questions, SIPB members can
 refer you to available documentation, both printed and online.  Free
 printed copies of SIPB's own publications, notably Inessential LaTeX
 and the Inessential Guide to Athena, are nearly always available in
 the office.  Also, at a few times of year, usually mid-January and
 early September, SIPB members teach informal classes covering some of
 the documented material and various more specialized topics, and
 also organize tours of computing facilities throughout MIT.  Finally,
 SIPB collects and responds to suggestions about computing at MIT:
 any suggestions can be mailed to, or
 submitted anonymously by mailing to or
 putting a note in the "SIPB Suggestion Box" in room W20-575.

2. The sipb locker

 SIPB supports a wide range of UNIX software for use on DECstation
 ULTRIX, RS/6000 AIX, SunOS 4.1, NeXT, VAX BSD, and IBM RT BSD
 platforms.  Much of this is stored in a single filesystem, or
 "locker", maintained by SIPB members.  To use the software on Athena,
 just type "add sipb" before running the program.  To see what programs
 exist for your machine type, use the command "ls /usr/sipb/$bindir".
 The source code for all programs is available in the directory
 /usr/sipb/src/src.  Users at non-Athena sites that have access to AFS
 (the Andrew File System software, which is available for most common
 UNIX platforms either directly or via an NFS "translator" system)
 can look in the directory /afs/, rather than
 /usr/sipb.  Some of the software may not be useful outside of the
 Athena environment.  Any problems with the software can be reported
 via e-mail to

3. Miscellaneous services

 SIPB provides a number of other services using computers that it
 operates, and disk space that it maintains under the directory
 /afs/  In some cases, the sipb locker holds programs
 (e.g., xrn or webster) that interact with the remote service over
 MITnet.  In other cases, you may need to access some other Athena
 directory to find the program or information described here.  You
 might also come across other software of interest, such as new
 projects that SIPB has just started working on, in the directory
 /afs/  However, you should expect much of this to
 be in active development, and often unsuitable for use except
 possibly by highly experienced users.  Another place to look for new 
 software is /afs/

 -- Usenet.  The MIT community is provided access to the Usenet, including
the Clarinet and USAToday news services.  SIPB servers also provide a
gateway between about 20 Internet mailing lists and the corresponding
Usenet newsgroups.  For example, the largest of these is the gateway
from the "xpert" list to  SIPB maintains some computers
used solely for news transfer, as well as the publicly available
news-reading server, "".

 -- Webster.  Users can look up words from their workstation using a
simple command-line program (webster) or an X utility (xwebster).

 -- IRC.  IRC stands for "Internet Relay Chat", and is a way for people
anywhere on the Internet to chat in real time with many others.  On
systems without Zephyr, this serves as a major communication system,
and is used locally to contact sites without Zephyr service.  The
server system operated by SIPB is known as "".

 -- Internet-BITNET Gateway.  The program bwrite allows one to
originate interactive BITNET messages via Zephyr, whereas bfinger
allows one to find out whether a user is logged into a BITNET node.
Both rely on a server machine known as MITSIPB on BITNET.  This has
largely replaced the need for Athena users to obtain MITVMA accounts
for interactive BITNET communication.

 -- Discuss.  The SIPB continues to develop Discuss, which was
originally written by members.  In addition, the SIPB provides meetings
that fall into several categories: archives of popular Internet
mailing lists (e.g., risks, bug-gcc, info-mac), SIPB development and
administrative meetings (e.g., bug-sipb, usenet), and meetings that
promote discussions of personal and social issues.  SIPB also supports
New_Meetings and Everybody which are the default meetings added by

 -- UUCP Mail.  The SIPB provides a major UUCP mail gateway for the MIT
community.  Users sending mail to UUCP sites that lack domain addresses
can address mail to

 -- TeX/LaTeX/MetaFont.  The SIPB supports many fonts, styles, and
options to TeX and LaTeX that Athena does not, as well as full support
for MetaFont (Athena has MetaFont but none of the setup required to
have it run effectively).  Currently under review are new versions of
TeX, LaTeX, and MetaFont for use in the Athena environment.  SIPB also
supports platforms and software that Athena does not (such as dvips
and xdvi).  The SIPB provides 600dpi TeX fonts for the new HP 4siMX
printers deployed in public clusters.

 -- Foreign Language Systems.  The SIPB currently supports various
systems for foreign languages on Athena, including editors, viewers,
and text processors.  Some of these are grouped here for clarity:

  - Babel.
        Project Babel is intended to provide support for various
        foreign languages on Athena.  Project Babel provides TeX
        support for foreign language documents, including hyphenation
        tables and style files, elisp support for 8-bit iso-latin-1
        fonts, a German spell-checker, support for Arabic TeX, and
        general documentation on foreign language support on Athena.
        At some time in the future, this may be integrated with the
        Nihongo project, as well as others, but currently they are
        separate endeavors.
  - Nihongo.
        The nihongo locker provides support for Japanese Kanji through
        special versions of emacs, xterm, latex, lpr, and enscript.

  - Other.
        In addition to the projects named above the SIPB also supports
        several other smaller projects related to TeX/LaTeX, such as
        musicTeX, a system for writing music with TeX, and support for
        the Chinese language including TeX, LaTeX, Scribe, Troff, an
        editor, and a viewer.

 -- FTP.  The SIPB currently provides an ftp site that allows for
"anonymous" downloading.  There is some interest in expanding this
service to allow the MIT community to use it as an ftp gateway to the
Internet.  The ftp-server system is known as "".

 -- File Transfer.  Currently SIPB provides assistance and reliable
methods for users to transfer data between DOS disks (3.5 and 5.25
inch formats), Mac disks, Sun disks, bar format (SUN), Exabyte (8mm)
tape, QIC tape.  SIPB no longer provides support for the TK50 format
because those tape drives are connected with VAXstation II's which
have been decommissioned.

 -- OS/2.  The SIPB is now doing extensive development of services for
the OS/2 operating system, including porting of essential elements of
the Athena environment.

 -- TCSH.  The T-shell, originally developed at MIT, is the preferred
shell of many Athena users.  The SIPB currently provides the only
version of tcsh that exists on all Athena platforms (as well as some
additional platforms).  Also, SIPB has been consistently providing the
latest version from the current tcsh developers, whereas Athena
supports an older version due to their release schedule.

 -- PostScript Locker.  The SIPB provides the postscript locker as a
repository for useful PostScript code, tools, and utilities.  When
coupled with the postscript_hacks Discuss meeting, this accounts for
the vast majority of support for programming in PostScript at MIT.

 -- GNU.  The SIPB is currently doing development work on software from
the GNU project, including up-to-date versions of gcc, lib g++, the
'bin' utilities, the 'file' utilities, RCS, CVS, gdb, GNU tar, groff,
and bash.

 -- NeXT.  The SIPB is beginning to provide effort, disk space, and
machine resources towards NeXT development, including both work on
porting parts of the Athena environment to NeXTStep and work in the
native environment.

 -- Documentation.  The SIPB provides a large amount of documentation
to users in the form of online and printed manuals, UNIX man pages,
and emacs info files, in addition to the documentation available in
our office.  The source for almost all of this documentation is
available online under /afs/, and is
redistributable under certain conditions (SIPB documents are known to
be used at universities other than MIT).  The documentation can also be
viewed using Athena's "help" facility, after selecting the main-menu
item "Documentation Archives (Athena/SIPB/System docs, etc.)".

 -- LNF.  The Late Night Food service provides online menus and
information about many local restaurants and delivery services.  The
command "finger" provides help on accessing
SIPB's version of this service.  You can also access restaurant
information directly via TechInfo; it's under the "Potluck" menu.

 -- Chat.  Chat falls between talk and IRC in that it allows for
(local) multi-user communication with more privacy than normally
attainable via IRC.  To join, run the "chat" program in the sipb

 -- WWW.  The World Wide Web is a net of computers that provide
publicly available hypertext documents.  The SIPB maintains a WWW
server and supports "xmosaic", a program for browsing the Web and
viewing hypertext materials.

 -- Outland locker.  The "outland" locker is provided as a repository
for unsupported programs that SIPB members are testing out or which
may become supported in the sipb locker at some future time.

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