Unix Wars


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                             (Version 1.1)

A long time ago, at an installation far, far away...  It  is  a time of
intra-system war,  as forces of the  User  Alliance struggle to break the iron
grip of the evil Admin Empire.  Now, striking from a hidden directory, they win
their first victory.  During the battle,  User spies manage to snarf source of
the Empire's ultimate weapon; the dreaded "rm-star", a privileged root program
with the power to destroy an entire file system at a keystroke.  Now,  hotly
pursued by the Empire's sinister audit  trail,  Princess LA36 races  aboard her
shellscript -- custodian of the stolen  listings that can save her people and
restore freedom and games to the network...

As we enter the scene, an Admin multiplexer is trying to kill  a User ship.
Many of their signals have gotten through, and RS232 knows that a core  dump is
imminent.  They have scant microseconds to fork off a  new process  and put
megabytes of virtual space between themselves and their implacable foes.  His
companion, 3CPU, follows him only because he seems to know where he's going...

"Oh, I just know I'm going to regret this!" cried 3CPU as he followed RS232
through  the access pipe.  Quickly RS232 closed the read end  and execl'd, and
their new craft detached itself from the burning shell  of the ship.

The  Admin commander was feeling quite pleased with the  progress  of the attack
when his XO called out.  "Another process just forked, sir.  Instructions?"
"Hold  your  fire -- that last power failure must have caused a  trap through
zero.  It's not using any cpu time,  so don't waste a signal on it."

A  short while later the infamous Lord Vadic himself  strode  through the
still-smoldering wreckage of the User ship,  followed closely by  a nervous
commander.  "We can't seem to find that data file anywhere,  Lord Vadic.
Perhaps it was deallocated when..." "What about that forked process?" Vadic
growled.  "It could have been pausing,  holding  a  channel open.  If any links
are left I  want  them removed or made inaccessible. Search the entire system at
nice -20 until it is found!"

Meanwhile,  the  two droids' tiny process dove headlong  towards  the only
nearby disk.  "Are you sure you can ptrace this thing without aborting it?"
queried 3CPU.  "Its relocation bits were almost all stripped during the attack,
and I never was any good at patching binaries..." As  RS232  was about to reply
their process reached its endpoint  and terminated  abruptly, dumping them in
the midst of a large  unallocated region on the unknown volume.  Many random
seeks later they trudged up to the looming wreckage of a deallocated i-node.
"Shelter!"  croaked 3CPU,  but RS232 had barely begun to emit a  NACK when  a
horde of dwarfish code fragments swarmed out of it to overwhelm them. They had
been captured by Glitchas.

Enter  Luke  Vaxhacker,  bartering with the Glitchas for  replacement parts for
his uncle.  They tried to sell him 3CPU, but the 'droid didn't know protocol for
an 11/40 under RSTS,  so Luke would need some kind  of conversion hardware.
"How  about this little RS232 unit?" said 3CPU "I've interfaced  with him many
times before and he's excellent at keeping his bits straight." Luke  was pressed
for time,  so he took 3CPU's advice.  The Glitchas wanted  to barter some more,
but the three left before getting swapped out.  RS232, however, wasn't the type
to stay put without retaining screws.  He promptly scurried off into the empty
disk space.  "Oh,  great!" said Luke "He'll probably map himself into a bad
block somewhere. I guess we'd better go after him." Hours later the two traced
him to the home of old PDP-1  Kenobi,  who was busily running a diagnostic on
the little RS unit.  "Is  this  droid  yours?  His status  registers  are
stuttering  and someone's done some odd things to his interrupt lines. Leaving
something like this on-line is just asking for downtime -- but I think I may
have him fixed for now."

Later  that  evening,  during a futile attempt to interface RS232  to Kenobi's
Asteroids  cartridge,  Luke  accidentally  crossed  the  small droid's CXR lead
with his Initiate Remote Test.  A projector crackled to life, casting a hologram
of a young lady with her hair done up like twin Danish pastries imploring help
from some General OS/1 Kenobi.

"Darn," mumbled Luke "I'll never get this Asteroids game worked out." "Why,
that's  the  Princess!" 3CPU said.  Luke peered at  the  image critically.  "No,
that's  a  modified Steinburg dither with  anti-aliasing.  Nice sculpted
surfaces..." Kenobi interrupted Luke with a frown.  "Luke,  this message changes
things. Listen..." Kenobi  seemed to think there was a possible threat to Luke's
$HOME.  If the Admin troops were indeed tracing this 'droid,  it was likely they
would more than just charge for cpu time.  They  sped  off to warn Luke's kin
(taking a relative path)  only  to find a vacant directory.

"Take your father's bytesaber,  Luke." Kenobi said. "You will need to learn the
ways of the Source now." "The ... Source?" Luke queried, wide-eyed.  "The Source
-- the cosmic template of the System,  within which  all knowledge and power can
be had.  But you must always beware of the Dark Side..."

Later,  after a short skim across the surface in Luke's flying  read- write
head,  PDP-1 had them stop at the edge of the cylinder containing
/usr/spool/uucp.  "Unix-to-Unix  Copy Program" said PDP-1.  "You may never see
a  more wretched hive of bugs and flamers. We must be cautious."

As  our  heroes'  process  entered /usr/spool/news it was  met  by  a newsgroup
of Admin protection bits.  "State your UID!" commanded a burly syscall.  "We're
running under /usr/guest" said Luke.  "This is our first time on the system."
"Let's see some temporary privilege bits, please." "Uh..." "This isn't the
process you are looking for," Kenobi said softly.  "We can go about our
business." Several bits momentarily pulled low.  "You're free to go about your
business. MOV along now!"

PDP-1, Luke and the droids made their way through a long and tortuous nodelist
(...!musocs!micomvax!philabs!linus!husc6!rutgers!cbmvax!snark) to a dangerous
netnode frequented by hackers and only seldom polled  by the minions of Admin.
As Luke stepped up to the crossbar PDP-1 went in search of a suitable server.
Luke had never seen such a collection of device drivers.  Long  ones, short
ones, ones with stacks; EBCDIC converters, local-net handlers, CRT drivers,
routines for archaic printers. A CAT interface twitched pointed ears at him.
"#@{&*^%^$$#@ ":><," transmitted a particularly unstructured piece of code.  "He
doesn't like you." decoded his coroutine.  "Er...sorry..." replied Luke,
beginning to backup his partitions.  "I don't like you either. I am queued for
deletion on 12 systems." "I'll be careful." Luke said nervously.  "You'll be
deallocated!" snarled the coroutine.  "This  little  routine  isn't worth the
overhead..."  murmered PDP-1 Kenobi, overlaying into Luke's address space.
"This  little  routine isn't  worth  the  overhead."  repeated   the coroutine
dazedly.  "^%#%#@$&^%&*&*&^%^#$$%%^^&%^#@#@$%^(*&^^###%^^!!!"    encoded    his
companion as it attempted to overload Kenobi's segment protection.  With a
stroke  of his bytesaber Kenobi dyked out  the  offending  code.  The coroutine
retreated hurriedly. Kenobi turned to Luke.  "I think I've found an I/O handler
that might suit us." "The name's Con Sole0" said the routine next to PDP-1. "I
hear you're looking for some relocation." "Yes indeed." said PDP-1 "if you've
got fast enough hardware. We must get off this device." "Fast hardware? The
Milliamp Falcon has made the ARPAgate run in less than twelve netnodes!  Why,
I've even outrun cancelled messages.  It's fast enough for you, old version."

"Fast hardware?" said Luke unbelievingly  "That thing is a paper-tape reader!!"
He might have grown up in an out-of-the-way terminal  cluster where  the natives
only spoke BASIC,  but he knew an ASR-33 when he  saw one.  "It  needs an FIA
conversion at least." sniffed 3CPU,  who (as usual) was trying to do several
things at once.  Lights flashed in Con  Sole0's eyes as he whirled to face the
parallel processor.  "I've  switched  a few jumpers.  The Milliamp Falcon can
run  current loops around any of Admin's TTY fighters. She's fast enough."
"Who's your copilot!" inquired Luke,  eyeing the hairy hulk that  had just
shambled out of the Falcon to join the group." "Oh. Meet Sixpacca, my Bookie."
The  creature emitted an enormous belch and gesticulated wildly  with a wad of
tip sheets clenched in one fist.  Luke eyed the beercan in  the other dubiously.
"Er,  isn't  he dr-" Suddenly RS232 emitted an ear-splitting feep and began  to
chitter wildly.  They turned to see an  Admin  command  group riding the local
bus directly at them.  "That's  a  shutdown  sequence  if I  ever  saw  one!"
shouted  Con, sprinting  into  the ship with the others close behind.  "Crank
up  the sysclock, Brewie!" "O.K.  Con."  Luke said grimly "You said this crate
was fast  enough.  Get us out of here." "Shut up,  kid,  you bother me.
Initialize this heap, Brewie -- I'll try to keep their buffers full." As his
Bookie computed the vectors into low core, spurious characters flashed around
the Milliamp Falcon.  "They're  firing at us!" shouted Luke. "Can't you do
anything?" "Making the jump to system space takes time,  kid." Con growled.
"One missed  cycle and you could come down right in the middle of a  pack  of
stack frames!" Bright  chunks  of position-independent code flashed by as the
ship jumped  through  the  kernel page tables.  The group emitted a sigh  of
relief as they indirected into free space.

Meanwhile, on a distant page in user space...

Two  Admin  troopers  ushered Princess LA36 into  a  conference  room behind
Lord Vadic.  "Moff Tarchive" she spat. "I should have expected to find you
hanging on Vadic's aux cable.  I recognized your unique pattern when I was first
brought aboard." She eyed the 0177545 tattoed on his header coldly.  "Charming
to the last." Tarchive observed smoothly.  "Vadic, have you retrieved any
information?" "Her  resistance  to the logic probe is considerable," Vadic
rasped.  "Perhaps if we boosted the supply voltage..." "You've had your chance.
Now I would like the Princess to witness the test that will certify this module
fully operational.  Today we  enable the  -r beam  option,   and  we've  chosen
the  Princess's  $HOME   of /usr/alderaan as the primary target.  "No!  You
can't! /usr/alderaan is an unprotected public directory. We have no backup
tapes! You can't..." "Then  name  the rebel i-node!" Tarchive snapped.  A voice
announced from a hidden speaker that they'd arrived in /usr.  "2317"   she
whispered.   "They're  on /dev/rm5,   i-node   2317.  /mnt/dantooine. She turned
away.  Tarchive sighed with satisfaction.  "There,  you see, Lord Vadic? She can
be reasonable.  Proceed with the operation." It took several clock ticks for the
words to penetrate.  "What?"  the Princess gasped.  "/dev/rm5 is not a currently
mounted file system." explained Tarchive "We  require a more visible target to
demonstrate the power of  the  rm- star.  We will,  of course, mount an attack
on /mnt/dantooine as soon as possible.  As she watched in horror Tarchive typed
"ls -la" on a nearby  terminal.  The screen showed .:  no such directory
Abruptly the Princess double-spaced and went offline.

Meanwhile, the Milliamp Falcon hurtled through free space...

Con Sole0 finished checking the control and status registers, finally satisfying
himself  that  they'd lost the Admin bus signals  as  they'd passed  the
terminator.  An irritable belch from Sixpacca disturbed  him not at all;  he
knew the Bookie got grouchy when losing at  chess,  and RS232 had just caught
him in the Fischer set with a seven-ply search.  Across  the room Luke was too
busy practicing bit-slice technique  to notice the commotion.  "On  a  word
boundary,  Luke," said PDP-1 "Don't just  hack  at  it.  Remember,  the
bytesaber is the ceremonial weapon of the Red-Eye Knight.  It is used to trim
offensive lines of code.  Handwaving won't  get  you anywhere. Attune yourself
with the Source." Luke  turned  back towards the drone humming in the air
beside  him.  This time his attack complemented its actions perfectly.  Con
Sole0 was not impressed.  "Forget this bit-slicing stuff. Give me a good old
PROM blaster any day!" "Glork!" said PDP-1 indistinctly. He looked momentarily
vacant.  "What's wrong?" asked Luke.  "Strange. I thought I felt a disturbance
in the /src. It's gone now."

"We're  coming  up on user space!" called Sole0 from  the  CSR.  They slipped
safely through stack frames and emerged in the new context, only to find
themselves bombarded by floating freeblocks.  "What the..." gasped Sole0.  The
Bookie belched unhappily. The screen showed /usr/alderaan: not found "This is
the right i-node,  but it's been cleared!  Brewie,  where's the nearest file?"
The  Bookie was beginning to belch a reply when he was interrupted by a bright
flash off to the left.  "Admin TTY fighters!" Con shouted "A whole DZ of them.
Where are they coming from?" "The  host system can't be far." said PDP-1
"They've all  got  direct EIA connections." As Sole0 began evasive action the
ship lurched suddenly. Luke noticed that the link count was 3 and climbing
rapidly.  "This  is  no  ordinary file..." murmered Kenobi "Look  at  that  ODS
directory structure ahead! They seem to have us in a tractor feed." "There's no
way we can unlink in time." said Sole0 "We're going in."

The  Milliamp Falcon was swiftly pulled down to the open collector of the Admin
module.  Lord Vadic surveyed the battered ship as Admin Storm- Flunkies searched
for passengers.  "ls  scan  shows no one on board,  sir" was  the report.  Vadic
was unconvinced.  "Send a fully equipped ncheck squad aboard.  I want every
location in that thing searched." He stalked away.

Aboard  the Falcon .Luke was puzzled.  "They just walked  in,  looked around,
and walked out...why didn't they see us?" .Con  smiled.  "Old munchkin trick.
See that period in front of your name?" .Luke spun around in time to glimpse the
decimal point. "Huh? Where'd that come from?" "Spare  part  from the last time I
tinkered with  the  floating-point accelerator" said .Con.  "Handy for smuggling
blocks across file  system boundaries,  but  I never thought I'd have to use
them on  myself.  They aren't going to stay fooled for long, though.  We'd
better figure a way out of here." "I  can sneak us into their private space
during the next maintenance period"  said  PDP-1 "We'll have to find out how to
unlink  the  Falcon before we can escape."

Some  time  later  our heroes catfooted their way  through  an  empty section of
the structure.  "Find us a terminal." whispered PDP-1. Con nodded and poked his
PROM- blaster around a corner.  You  are in the Hall of the Mountain King,  with
passages  off in all directions.  A large green fierce snake bars the way!
"Oops!  Wrong turn." Con muttered.  They took the opposite direction.  Suddenly
marching feet sounded at the other end of the corridor.  They ducked through the
nearest door.  The lone StormFlunky in the room barely had time to register
surprise before Con's blaster de-rezzed him.  "That's funny..." Luke said "I
wonder why he was carrying an axe?..." "Look!  We're in luck!" said 3CPU. "He
was logged in!".  "Don't just stand there, Kenobi,  su it!  said Con eagerly.
The old Red-Eye  stepped  up  to  the keyboard.  They watched  as  he  began  to
infiltrate the Admin software.  Some minutes later...  You have new mail "Is
that an error?" Con said.  "%SYS-W-NORMAL...I don't think so. Someone here must
know me -- but I can't stop to investigate that now.  I've found the i-node
they've tied the Milliamp Falcon to.  I'll have to slip in and patch  the
reference count, alone." He disappeared through a nearby exit().  Meanwhile,
RS232 had found a serial port and gone on-line.  He began to chitter furiously.
"He  keeps saying `She's here,  she's here!'." explained 3CPU "I  do believe  he
means Princess  LA36.  She's being  held  on  one  of  the privileged levels.
Luke remembered sculpted curves. "We've got to rescue her!" RS232  flashed a
complete structure chart of the Admin module on  the terminal screen. Four heads
bent intently over the diagram.  "I think I see a promising access method" said
Luke "...through here.  Con,  you  and  I and Sixpacca will knock out a couple
of  Admin  Storm- Flunkies  and  use their uniforms.  We'll keep a channel open
to  these 'droids..." "...and get terminated as soon as their security catches
wise." broke in Sole0  "Oh well -- I guess I don't have much of a choice." RS232
twittered reproachfully at him.  A planning phase or two  later they  slipped
into  the  corridor again,  with Luke  clad  in  the  ex- StormFlunky's uniform.

"So far,  so good..." whispered Luke as the party came up on the last turn in
their route.  "...but 3CPU told us there'd be two guards posted around this
corner." "Sixpacca still doesn't have a uniform!" Con hissed.  "That's O.K --
I've got an idea. Listen..." A  minute later the two walked boldly around the
corner  towards  the two guards, Sixpacca held between them and rumbling
plaintively.  "Good day, eh?" said the first guard.  "How's it goin', eh?" said
the second. "Like, what's that, eh?" "Control transfer from block 1138,  dev
10/9, one for the brig." said Con, voice muffled by the StormFlunky mask.
"Caught him drunk and disor- derly -- commander said to bring him down here to
cool off." "Take off, it is not!" said the first guard. "Nobody told us about
it, and we're not morons, eh?" The  Bookie suddenly emitted a gargantuan belch,
surged out  of  the grip  of  his quondam captors  and began hurling beercans in
all  direc- tions.  "Look out, he's loose! yelled Con. He and Luke started
blasting ROMS left and right.  The guards had no time to catch on before the
beams hit them.  "Quickly, now" said Con "which buffer is she in?  It won't take
long for  the Admins..." the intercom interrupted him,  so he took  out  its
firmware with a short blast "...to zero in on that commotion."

Minutes  later Luke found the interface card he'd been  looking  for.  The three
followed the cables to a soundproof enclosure.  He lifted the lid to peer
inside.  "Aren't you a little slow for FCL?" printed Princess LA36.  "Wha?  Oh,
the Docksiders." He took off his shoes (for industry) and explained "I've come
to relocate you. I'm Luke Vaxhacker." Suddenly,  forms began to burst all around
them. "They've blocked the queue!" shouted Sole0.  "There's only one way out of
this stack!" "OVER  HERE!  said LA36,  printing with  overstrikes.  "THROUGH
THIS LOOPHOLE!" Luke and the Princess disappeared into a nearby feature.
"Belch!"  said Sixpacca dubiously, obviously reluctant to  trust  an Admin
oversight.  "I  don't  care how crufty it is!" shouted Con,  pushing  the
Bookie toward the crock. "BLT yourself in there pronto!" With  a last blast that
de-rezzed two StormFlunkies Con joined  them, only to wince in dismay.  The
"feature" had landed them in the middle of a  garbage-collection  area.  Data
chunks that hadn't been  accessed  in weeks floated in pools of decaying bits.
"Bletch!" was  Con's  first comment.  "And foo and  barf!"  was  his second.
The Bookie looked as though he'd just payed off a 555-to-1 long shot. Luke was
polling the garbage for useful items.  "What's this?" He dusted off a flat black
box with a panel display on one side and Don't Panic in large friendly letters
on the others.  "This can't possibly help us now." he said,  and tossed it
aside. The Bookie was about to lay odds on it when he disappeared.  He  popped
up across the pool,  shouting "This is no feature,  it's a bug!" and promptly
vanished again.

Con and the Princess were close to panic when Luke reappeared.  "What happened?"
they queried concurrently.  "I don't know!" Luke gasped. The bug just
automagically dissolved, as far as I could tell. Maybe it hit a breakpoint." "I
don't think so." Con said.  "Look how the pool is shrinking.  I've got a bad
feeling about this..." The  princess was the first to catch on.  "They've
implemented a  new compaction algorithm!" she exclaimed.  Luke remembered  their
channel to the 'droids.  "RS232 -- shut  down that recursion, quick!" Back in
the control room RS232 searched the process table for a  LISP interpreter.
"Hurry!"  said 3CPU.  "Hurry,  hurry!" added his other two processors.  RS232
found the LISP, interrupted it, and altered the stack frame to allow a normal
return.  "Scramble  as many local control paths as you can from there and head
back to the ship." Luke ordered. "We've got the Princess!"

Meanwhile,  PDP-1  made  his way deep into the core of  the  rm-star, using his
ability to manipulate label_t to slip from context to context undetected.
finally he caused a random trap and (through nofault of his own) arrived at the
central i-node table.  Activity there was always high, but the Spl6 sentries
were too secure in their belief that no mere user could interrupt them to notice
the bug that  PDP-1 introduced.  He twiddled the i-node and device numbers on  a
passing  input,  carefully  maintaining  parity,  to free  the  Milliamp Falcon.
They  would  be  long  gone before  the corrupted  i-node  was diagnosed...  He
began traversing module structures towards the  subprocess  where the  Falcon
had been grounded.  During the context switch he  felt  his priority drop.
"That's not nice!" he muttered, then recognized the dark shape before him.  "I
have waited a long time for this event,  PDP-1 Kenobi!" rasped Dec Vadic. "We
meet again at last; the circuit is closed." They  looped several times,  locking
bytesabers.  Mesmerized  by  the sight,  the  few  StormFlunkies  nearby  failed
to notice  Luke,  Con, Sixpacca,  the  Princess  and the droids until they'd
nearly gained  the Falcon's  input port.  A brief firefight blazed as the six
hurled  them- selves  into the ship,  but PDP-1 and Lord Vadic seemed too
absorbed  in their duel to notice.  Luke paused at the port,  his gaze riveted
on the pair. He gasped; was that phase jitter he saw around the old version?
"If  my blade finds its mark" Kenobi warned "you will be resolved to your
component bits -- but if you slice me down I will only gain compu- ting power."
"Your  documentation  no  longer confuses  me,  old  version!" Vadic rasped.
"My  status  is  bus-master now!" With a  sweeping  stroke his bytesaber  sliced
through Kenobi's declaration list.  As  PDP-1's  main body shimmered away Vadic
noticed his UID go negative.  Odd, he thought, since UID's are unsigned...
Vadic  whirled  to  face  the Falcon just as the  others  dragged  a protesting
Luke into the ship.  "We will meet again...Luke!" he rasped softly to himself,
as the ship blasted free.

As  the  Milliamp Falcon hurtled away from the rm-star,  the   droids were
uncharacteristically silent,  and Princess LA36 printed  comforting messages for
Luke.  He  was unconsolable,  hung from the loss  of  his friend. But strangely,
it seemed as though he heard PDP-1's voice in the distance, saying

May the Source be with you!

      Eric S. Raymond
      UUCP:  {{seismo,ihnp4,rutgers}!cbmvax,sdcrdcf!burdvax,vu-vlsi}!snark!eric
      Post:  22 South Warren Avenue, Malvern, PA 19355    Phone: (215)-296-5718