SIPB Project List

This list is intended to be a resource for members and prospectives who are looking for things to do. Send additions, correction, requests for more information about any projects, etc., to

There is a discuss meeting called sipb-todo which can be found at
CHARON.MIT.EDU:/usr/spool/discuss/sipb-todo or WWW interface.

Install perlmacs somewhere.
Perlmacs is a program based on GNU Emacs with the Perl interpreter linked in. More information is available at:

contact: zacheiss, mwhitson

mail filtering
It would be useful if there were documentation on how to achieve reasonable mail filtering on athena, both with mh (the "recommended" mail architecture) and perhaps with other mail filtering systems.

It ought to be a goal that the system should be as easy to use and as functional as standard PC mail readers (e.g. Eudora).

contact: jhawk, cfox

Update iAthena
Inessential Athena is sipb's generic ``athena'' document, and, as such, is almost always in need of updating. The document is somewhat modular, making it relatively painless to add sections, etc. Grab a copy, take a look at it, and think about sections to add/change.

Requires some knowledge of LaTeX, although it's relatively simple LaTeX. (LaTeX 2.e coverage is one area that should probably be mentioned a bit more in iAthena, for example. SSH is another. what-runs-where is another. etc. :-)

contact: yandros, zacheiss

Install an ICQ client
ICQ is a popular instant messaging protocol many people have used before coming to MIT, and which they wish to use from Athena workstations. Several free ICQ clients for UNIX platforms exist, and it would be nice if one of them was installed in a locker.

contact: cfox

Update the Linux-Athena installation documentation
Both of Inessential Linux-Athena and the Installing Linux-Athena one sheet haven't really been updated since Redhat 4.2 was the released version of Linux-Athena. Someone should update the documentation to reflect new features in Redhat 5.2 Athena, such as the Athena sshd and the use of the /etc/athena/access file.

contact: amu, linux-dev

Squid server maintenance
Squid is a popular software package used for running a caching web proxy. SIPB is in the process of setting up a squid server and could use a few more people interested in helping to maintain it. Sub-projects include setting up and configuring squid on the machine (an Alpha), release engineering some of the Athena environment for the D/UX platform, and coming up with the best way of advertising this service to the MIT community.

contact: zacheiss, mwhitson, squid

discuss interface hacking
Write an IMAP front-end for Discuss meetings, to allow reading of Discuss meetings with modern, standard mail clients. It could even support proper ACLs if the client is clever enough.

contact: nathanw

Oracle server maintenance
We're beginning to explore running Oracle on one of our servers to get more experience with it and to make the technology available to anyone with a project that would find a database useful. We're looking for people interested in maintaining the database itself and for anyone with an idea for a project that could make use of a database.

contact: hartmans, zacheiss

Windows NT
We have a Windows NT machine, and no one knows how to use it. We should figure out how. Right now, this machine ( sits in the back of the SIPB office and is generally unloved; it would be great if someone could turn it into a useful machine.

Specific things that probably need to be done include having it multiboot NT 4 and NT 5 beta (it might already), installing some of the MSDN software we get every month so users and members can make use of it, and install some of the apps being developed locally (ZephyrNT, maybe others).

contact: licks

IAP classes
Every IAP, SIPB trackes several classes on a variety of computer related topics. In the past, topics have included C (see below), shell scripting, SQL, LaTeX, emacs, lex and yacc, perl, and a variety of other things. We're always looking for more teachers.

contact: xela

Crash Course in C (IAP 2000)
C^3 is one of SIPB's most extensive and most popular IAP courses, consisting of eight two-hour meetings over a two-week period. Two identical sections of the course are taught, one during the first two weeks of IAP and one during the last two weeks of IAP. Lecturers willing to teach for one or more class meetings are needed. See "".

contact: belmonte

high school course in computer science (spring 2000)
A high school course on theoretical computer science and programming is offered on weekends during the spring term. Teaching assistants are needed to answer students' questions and to check programs and theoretical assignments. The time commitment can be as little as a single morning or afternoon, or can cover the entire course. See "".

contact: belmonte

The SIPB web pages could use a major overhaul. We could use as many people as are interested to work on different parts or maybe to work together on a coherent redesign.

The many lockers in the sipb afs cell could use some documentation that talks about what's there and perhaps gives a small blurb about what the various programs do. Having this up as part of the SIPB web pages would be a great addition, and also a just fine stand-alone project.

There's also need for more people to answer mail we receive about our web pages, and to work on the scripts currently running on our web server as well as add new ones.

contact: sly

"hacking code"
Of course, we also do a fair bit of just plain coding, and you're welcome to join in. Write that program you've always thought would be useful, and maybe put it in the sipb locker or one of the other software lockers we maintain. If you're not sure what you'd like to work on, there are always plenty of ideas someone can help you get started with.

contact: golem

pZephyr is a project to produce a Perl extension that provides access to all of the functionality provided by the zephyr library. Work was begun on it some time back, but it's looking for someone else to continue working with it.

contact: klmitch, pzephyr-request

software exploration and support: Alternative, user-friendly editors
While many hackers find that some combination of `emacs', `ed', and `vi' meet their needs quite nicely, many new users would likely prefer to use some alternative, more user-friendly text editor. There are a numbr of good candidates available, and it could be very useful to have some people (more than one person can work on this at one time) examine the alternatives and attempt to provide support for good candidates. Some good places to start looking are:


contact: yandros

Graphical File Manager
Another key area open for improvement in the Athena user experience is in file management; there basically isn't one. Athena has a project underway that will most likely include the GNOME file manager (gmc), so investigations can probably focus on other available file managers. Most likely effort will be required to make any candidate work nicely on Athena.

Endeavor (MIT!)

contact: yandros

Web `message forum' system
While Athena users can use either (or both) MIT's and SIPB's web servers to serve documents, neither group currently has support for `web forum' services which are so common in many places. It could b very useful to set up and maintain such a service on one of SIPB's web servers. There are a number of existing packages which might be used for such a system, including:
(Editor's Note: Academic Computing actually does sponsor a web-based discussion forum, but the software is somewhat suboptimal. See: for an example.)


contact: yandros

It could be very useful to provide a php-enabled system that could be reasonably opened up for general Athena-user use (perhaps on a by-permission basis). Software changes may be required to make such an environment `safe'.


contact: yandros

calendar/schedule/pim system
Calendar/schedule/pim systems are poorly represented around Athena. There are several different projects here for interested people: local software (such as plan, jPilot, and KOrganizer); Web-based software (WebCal, webplan); and `middleware' connectivity (mcal, vcal)

jPilot (ok, so it's pilot-conn. so?)
webplan (part of plan; see above)

contact: yandros

text searching
There's no good text indexing/searching system available on Athena, and the system that are available are out of date. In addition to providing the software, it would be interesting to maintain indexes of some of the information already available to Athena users. lq-text ISearch Perfect Search Glimpse
contact: yandros

ldap/directory service
MIT maintains an `official' opt-out directory for certain kinds of athena users via finger, but the information is managed by `official' parts of MIT. It might be interesting to provide an externally-available opt-in ldap server that could provide usr-configurable information. This would involve determining needs, evaluating software, and installing and maintaining a service.


contact: yandros

'nuff said.

contact: yandros

Berlin is an open-source windowing system being designed from the basement up. It's features are too complex to mention here, but if you've ever been annoyed at the architechture of X, you should take a look at this (whether you will be overjoyed or aghast afterwards is intentionally left unspecified).
This is a *large* project that will easily accomodate many people.

contact: yandros (not that I have time to do anything with it)

Coda is a distributed filesystem being developed at CMU (home of AFS). It aims to be secure, efficient, and scalable while supporting two somewhat novel features: freely available source and disconnected usage for mobile computing.
This is a *large* project that will easily accomodate many people.

contact: yandros, zacheiss, vice-squad

mailtoy - automated management interface for MIT mailing lists
A partially-designed project to add a majordomo-like interface to MIT's moira-managed mailing lists. Has very good high-level support, most tough design decisions done, in search of someone with free time to implement. This could grow into a *very* popular service.

Office sensor
The SIPB owns an infrared tripwire that used to be set up such that our NeXT machine would play an appropriate sound whenever someone walked through the doorway, which was very useful for alerting engrossed members that users have entered the office and are now anxiously trying to decide if they should try to get someone's attention *again*. The reflector has since been lost, along with the documentation for the sensor, but a little bit of work could probably restore this little piece of amusing/annoying SIPB nostalgia to functioning condition.
contact: yandros

Cluster Maps
The w20 cluster is a somewhat disorganized mess. the existing ascii-drawing map is out of date. Someone should update it. It should involve simply walking around w20 with a copy of the old one and marking the changes. Be sure to include the printers. An enthusiastic person might also consider ways to concisely include information like machine type and default printer.
contact: yandros

Locker List
Compile a list of useful lockers, with short descriptions of the contents and a longer list with one-line descriptions. There are a few such lists around, but they are mostly out of date.

Guile is the GNU Ubiquitous Intelligent Language for Extension. It is a library that implements a Scheme interpreter that can be embedded into other programs, to provide a consistent configuration and extension language for all programs.

contact:, /afs/,

User FTP Site
Although normal athena users now have access to both AFS and at least 2 web servers, sometimes it would be useful to make things available via FTP. It could be useful to have someone investigate creating an FTP server that allows access to `special' directories in user's afs homedirs (perhaps Public, or perhaps something new like `ftp'). I would suggest that users be required to do something (`registering' in some way) before the ftp server would allow access to those files. Possibilities include running the ftp server as an authenticated specific user, using IP acls, or using some kind of krb5 credentials-forwarding to optionally allow write access.

IPv6 support
IPv6 is a new protocol derived from the existing IP version 4 protocol used by the Internet, in an attempt to address some of the scaling issues (such as a shortage of address space).
This is a *large* project that will easily accomodate many people.
Another web page contains current status and possible work items.

Old Projects

(These may or may not still be things that need to be done; check with the contacts before even thinking about it.)
Project  Contact Time Frame Date Added
Windows NT licks ongoing 10/26/98
Machine room shelving ghudson winter break 10/26/98
Clue dump kretch any evening 10/26/98
IAP class xela IAP/now 10/26/98
sipb locker svalente ongoing 10/26/98
Linux-Athena testing linux-dev soon 10/26/98
Webmaster webmaster ongoing 10/26/98
Gnome yandros now 10/26/98
lyx yandros now 10/26/98
Update iAthena yandros now 10/26/98
plan yandros now 10/26/98

Project: Windows NT
Contact:, a public mailing list of people interested in SIPB NT things (add yourself!)
Time Frame: ongoing
Date Added: 10/26/98
Description: We have a Windows NT machine, and no one knows how to use it. We should figure out how. Specific things that probably need to be done: repartition and install both NT 4 and beta 5, buy a netcard for the machine and get it on the net, install some of the developer packages, talk to the Pismere people and get a copy of ZephyrNT and anything else they're working on.
Experience Necessary: Having used NT before would be helpful, but isn't necessary.

Project: Machine room shelving
Time Frame: over winter break
Date Added: 10/26/98
Description: Greg has ordered some shelves to reorganize the SIPB machine room, and will probably deal with this over winter break. If you'll be around, he could use some help. Much of this may be physical or mechanical work (moving machines and shelves, and putting them together), but you'll also get a chance to see what services run on what machines, how to deal with an outage, and learn about general machine room issues.
Experience Necessary: None.

Project: Clue dump
Contact:, to schedule a time
Time Frame: about an hour, any evening
Date Added: 10/26/98
Description: We can always use more clue dumps in computer-related areas. There are two options here: 1. If you have something you think you know a bit about (you don't have to be an expert) and think others might want to know about, lead an informal discussion on it. 2. If you have something you want to know about, find someone who knows about it and convince them to lead an informal discussion on it.
Experience Necessary: Know something about some area, or know someone who does.

Project: IAP class
Contact:, to schedule a time and registration with the IAP folks
Time Frame: IAP
Date Added: 10/26/98
Description: Teach a class on some computer-related topic you know about during IAP. You need to let xela know if you're interested in doing a class by Nov. 1, 1998 so he can get you registered.

Project: sipb locker
Time Frame: ongoing
Date Added: 10/26/98
Description: Help maintain software in the SIPB locker. See [7019] in bug_sipb for more information, or ask a member if you don't know how to find that in discuss.
Experience Necessary: C programming skills

Project: Linux-Athena testing
Time Frame: soon
Date Added: 10/26/98
Description: The linux-dev people are working on a new release of Linux-Athena based on RedHat 5.1. Pretty soon they'll be ready for people to do beta testing. So, if you have a spare partition on your PC, or can make one, try it out! They'll send mail to when it's ready for testing.
Experience Necessary: Ability to submit a well described bug report (you can learn this while doing it), tolerance for using a slightly buggy system.

Project: Webmaster
Time Frame: now
Date Added: 10/26/98
Description: We could use a few new people.
Experience Necessary: People that know perl or C are useful (script writing/updating, for example, the counter, automation, etc). People to beat on the queue (of generic webmaster requests) are also wanted.

Project: Gnome
Time Frame: now
Date Added: 10/26/98
Description: There's a pretty neat user interface/API system called `gnome' available on the net ( that really should be supported on athena.  This is a large, large system, with many parts that could be worked upon more seperately or in groups.
Experience Necessary: Requires general knowldge of unix/X development, including portability between `linux' and `unix'.  This `project' is pretty darned open-ended.

Project: lyx
Time Frame: now
Date Added: 10/26/98
Description: There's a pretty neat software package for GUI editting of [La?]TeX called `lyx' that really should be installed on athena, but no one (as far as I know) has done anything yet.
Experience Necessary: Requires knowledge of installation of programs under unix/athena. Interest/experience with [La]TeX and X is proabbly helpful.

Project: Update iAthena
Time Frame: now
Date Added: 10/26/98
Description:  Inessential Athena is sipb's generic ``athena'' document, and, as such, is almost always in need of updating.  The document is somewhat modular, making it relatively painless to add sections, etc.  Grab a copy, take a look at it, and think about sections to add/change.
Experience Necessary: Requires some knowledge of LaTeX, although it's relatively simple LaTeX. (LaTeX 2.e coverage is one area that should probably be mentioned a bit more in iAthena, for example.  SSH is another. what-runs-where is another.  etc. :-)

Project: plan
Time Frame: now
Date Added: 10/26/98
Description: Someone should install `plan', a relatively nice calendaring program, in the sipb locker.  Sources are in /mit/sipb/src, but some work is required to integrate it nicely with athena.
Experience Necessary: Requires some knowledge about building and installing programs on athena.  It would be nice to have some vauge clue/interest about athena/kerberos would be nice.

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