TFM:Apropos ProgSoc

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Apropos ProgSoc

Tom Bozic
who has consolidated the previous work of
Gabriela Marcionetti, Andrew Wilson and Stephen Boyd Gowing
into a single chapter

If you've just joined our club and bought this TFM, welcome to ProgSoc, arguably the most exciting non-BBQ[1] club at UTS! If you've renewed your membership and bought this TFM, welcome back! If you haven't bought this TFM, buy a copy, freeloader![2]

Or maybe you've stumbled across this TFM by chance and flicking through it has piqued your interest in our club. Or possibly, during the heady excitement that is Clubs Day during Orientation Week, you joined our club on impulse -- paid the membership, bought this TFM, etc. -- and then after you came home, having joined roughly half the clubs the UTS Union has on offer, not really knowing which clubs are worth your time and energy, but having spent a lot of money on memberships, you start leafing through all the leaflets you had accumulated that day... and then you pick up that thick, white book you bought -- this book -- but you can't remember where you bought it.

If either scenario applies to you, then this chapter is for you! If it doesn't, keep reading anyway -- you might learn something.

What is this thing called ProgSoc?

ProgSoc -- or to give its full name, the Programmers' Society of the University of Technology, Sydney -- is pretty much what it says on the tin: a society of computer programmers, or at least those people that have an interest in the field. But ProgSoc is about much more than just programming. In fact, our collective interests spread far and wide into the vast field of computing, from computer science to system administration, from security to networking and beyond. And each member brings to the club their own diverse interests in things computing- and non-computing related, meaning that we often engage in discussions that go off all sorts of wild tangents -- art, science, philosophy, culture; you name it, we talk about it! In short, ProgSoc is really a club for those of an intellectual bent who wish to spend time or argue with similar-minded individuals -- you don't even need to know a line of C/Java/Haskell/whatever to join -- but programming and computing is at the very core of ProgSoc's being, so if you join, you might just learn a thing or two. Sometimes, we even program!

Sound like your kind of club? ProgSoc meets every Thursday evening (even between semesters) at around 1700 hours.[3] Later in the evening, we go out to dinner at one of lower Sydney CBD's fine eating establishments.[4] The meetings themselves are mostly informal get-togethers, save for our Annual General Meeting, normally held in the last Thursday of March, where we elect our seven-member Executive, responsible for the administrative up-keep of the club.[5]

So when did it all begin? Cast your mind back, if you are able, to March of 1989. Bob Hawke was Prime Minister, Telecom was the telecommunications company, the Berlin Wall showed no imminent signs of collapsing, The Proclaimers were dominating the pop charts[6] and two plucky, enterprising young students of the recently-formed UTS (sans Ku-ring-gai campus -- they would join us the following year) by the names of Roland `Raz' Turner[7] and Chris Keane approached the university union with a view to setting up a club (affiliated, to this very day, with the Union) for people interested in computer programming. Raz and Chris were -- and presumably still are -- old-school UNIX hackers, therefore the whole culture associated with that operating system (and UNIX-inspired derivatives such as Linux) has permeated into ProgSoc and persists to this day -- flick to any random page of this TFM right now for proof of this! We're very much into UNIX as a result and maybe you are/will be into UNIX as well -- that is one of TFM's aims.

What do I get for my membership fee?

ProgSoc's myriad machines

ProgSoc has a number of desktop and server machines located in the club's headquarters, most of which were donated to ProgSoc by some of our generous members -- thanks! There are our three desktop Mac minis, kali, loki and rani, two of which dual-boot Ubuntu Linux and Mac OS X, and the other just runs OS X, sitting on the bench -- feel free to hop on one of the machines[8] if and when they are available. Amongst ProgSoc's fleet of servers[9], we have our web and mail server muspell, our file and LDAP server crypt, our firewall peisinoe and our general-purpose user server niflheim, all of which live in a big, black box, run Ubuntu Linux, and are temperature-regulated, utilising the latest in cooling technology[10].

All members of ProgSoc are able to register for an account on the ProgSoc machines by completing our registration form on the web (see below).

All of the user machines are accessible (once your account has been created) by ssh. To connect to niflheim, for example, ssh to or[11]. If you have any problems obtaining your account you can send mail to \texttt{} requesting assistance.

ProgSoc's private, secret, aboveground lair

ProgSoc has been based in 10.03.380A since 2002, having moved from our old headquarters in the old Building 4[12] (replaced in 2006). This is the current resting place of all of our server gear, lots of junk, lots of mugs, a growing library of programming books, and lots of TFMs, not to mention a comfy couch and a fridge filled with all kinds of drinks -- the perfect environment to kick back, relax and gab geeky gobbledygook! 10.03.380A is actually a secret annexe to 10.03.380, which is a joint room for various societies in the Faculty of Engineering and IT.[13]

Would you believe ProgSoc also has a publicly-accessible webcam? Just point your browser to and have a peek at who -- if anybody -- is inside the ProgSoc room at any one time.[14]

ProgSoc's mailing list

ProgSoc is more than just the ProgSoc room and the weekly meetings!

There is a mailing list set up on ProgSoc for general discussion of matters of interest to ProgSoc members. There is also a ProgSoc Announcements list to which all important ProgSoc announcements are posted. The names of these lists are progsoc and progsoc-announce respectively. To subscribe to either of these lists, you should send mail to:

where listname is the list you want to subscribe to, with no subject and a body consisting of the command subscribe. Alternatively, you can sign up to the lists using our handy online registration forms located at and respectively.

When you sign up to ProgSoc, your ProgSoc email address should be automatically added to both these lists.

There are several other lists hosted on muspell, for a full list, see

OK, I'm sold. Sign me up!

If you have already signed up, you can skip reading this section, although it wouldn't hurt to read it anyway, if only to familiarise/remind yourself of our policies, especially the Acceptable Use Policy, or AUP.


If you're a new member, or an existing member whose membership has run out, you need to fill out the pre-registration forms on the web or on paper (and get them to an Executive member).


Before the ProgSoc systems administrators register your account, you need to have signed[15] or otherwise agreed to[16], our AUP. Your signature on the AUP indicates your intent to be good, just, decent, an upstanding member of the ProgSoc community. Not even a little bit evil. (If you don't like this idea, skip to the next chapter -- it won't be much use to you since you won't be able to get an account, but it might have some jokes in it).

UTS Programmers' Society Equipment Acceptable Use Policy

Definitions as per the Society's constitution.

The Society operates for its members a collection of equipment, belonging both to the Society and to individual members.

Acceptable use of this equipment is considered to be any use which is generally in line with the Society's objects, apart from the following:

  • Any activity which, in the opinion of the Executive Committee, is of an illegal or fraudulent nature.
  • Any activity causing traffic to or from any connected network which does not meet that network's AUP.
  • Impersonating another user, or allowing another user to impersonate you.
  • Any form of commercial activity not specifically authorised by the Executive Committee.
  • Any activity likely to bring ProgSoc into disrepute.
  • Any activity which would reduce the security or usability of the Society's equipment.
  • Possession of material designed to facilitate a breach of this policy.
  • Assisting others to breach any part of this policy.
  • Listening for connection to any machine on ProgSoc's network on protocol ports below 10000 or above 11000 without prior authorisation from the Executive Committee. (See footnote 1).


  • The ports 10000 to 11000 inclusive are allocated for experimental use inside ProgSoc.

Filling Out the Pre-Registration Forms

The Pre-Registration forms can be found on the web [17]. It's pretty straight forward, but there are a few things to note: firstly, put in an email address that you actually check. As soon as you get your account, you'll get a ProgSoc email address (and lots of email), and we will only use the email address that you give us if we can't contact you through your ProgSoc account. Secondly, the username that you choose is your login name for ProgSoc and forms the bit before the @ in your new ProgSoc email address. Thirdly, your password.

Something should be said about the password you just picked.

Password Picking

Like your friends it is up to you to choose your passwords well, but unlike your friends you cannot tell anybody about your password. This is because your password is the key to your account and all the files you have. If someone knows your password they can login as you and read your files, delete your files, read your mail, send mail supposedly from you. Sometimes evil people from other universities find out passwords and then use your account for their own twisted purposes and you get blamed for any trouble they cause.

Why should you care? Why is it important that you don't tell any of your friends your password, even if they do go to another university? First, when you registered, that white piece of paper you signed (or button you clicked) said amongst other things that you would not disclose your password to anybody and would not let other people use your account upon pain of medieval torture (thumbscrews) and contemporary torture (account locking). The admins are concerned that some of your friends will do bad things to the system, because they know what sort of people you associate with.

Choosing Passwords

Your job is to choose a secure password so if anybody does get into your account you can say "Here's my hard password. It wasn't my fault." There are simple rules and simple guidelines for choosing a secure password. Here they are, feel free to hum along:

  • no word that you could look up in any dictionary;
  • no run of letters or numbers from the keyboard. No qwerty!
  • no names, first or last, even if they belong to imaginary people;
  • no repeated characters. ******* is not a secure password, no matter how clever it seems.


  • Take a word from a dictionary. Replace random letters with punctuation symbols, capitalise a couple of letters, put your thing down, flip it and reverse it.
  • Take a favourite sentence---your own, not everybody else's---and take bits from it. Try the second letter of every word, just the punctuation, the first letter from the first word, the second letter from the second word, etc. An example: "You're well developed for an eight year old." As a password this would give ywdfa8yo[18]. This is an ideal password, not to mention a useful mnemonic for remembering your password.

Password Restoring By System Staff After You Forget

If you forget your password, ask one of the admins; they can reset it for you.

Account Locking

Your account can be taken away from you for a lot of reasons. Most of them involve you doing Something Wrong:

  • Letting other people use your account;
  • Breaking into other computers;
  • Suspected of being broken into (someone else is using your account without you knowing about it);
  • Having an easily guessed password.

Once you have paid the required membership fee, your account will be (re)opened and you will be a full-fledged[19] member of ProgSoc! Welcome aboard!

  1. Flame-grilling meat produces carcinogens which can be harmful if ingested in excess, and who knows what's in `sausage meat' these days?
  2. Unless, of course, you are reading the wiki version of this TFM, in which case, buy a new edition every time one is printed.
  3. Or 1800 hours -- depends on who you ask.
  4. Some of which will be discussed in the `Surviving' chapter.
  5. But even that is of questionable formality.
  6. People were rapt in the escapades of two nerdy identical brothers walking five hundred miles and a geeky club was founded at roughly the same time by two geeky friends. Co-incidence?
  7. Who is still an active member at time of publication. Hi Raz!
  8. Not literally -- that would be dangerous.
  9. ftoomsh (and its successor ftoomsh v2), named after a demon that appeared as a character in the classic early 80s British comedy series The Young Ones (for the record, the correct spelling of said demon is F'tumch not Ftoomsh -- ed.) was the primary machine of ProgSoc for many years, so you'll often hear it referred to as the machine to use, primarily due to the editors' oversight during the TFM revision process.
  10. A desk-mounted fan, pointed towards the box -- it's quite effective.
  11. Or even
  12. 4/438 (Broadway Building 4, Level 4, Room 38 in the old notation) and 4/G25 (Building 4, Ground Level, Room 25) to be precise.
  13. Including BiG and... that's about it, I think.
  14. Provided, of course, a hat isn't covering the 'cam, in which case, a few well-timed 'cam manoeuvres should shake the hat off, enabling you to see the room in all its glory. However, as the act of covering the webcam with a hat has been declared a `denial of service', this will unlikely be a problem for you.
  15. If you are using our paper-based pre-registration form.
  16. If you are using our online pre-registration form and have clicked `Yes'.
  17., at time of publication.
  18. Don't use this as your password! That would be really stupid AND ideologically unsound, but that's okay 'cause this is a password. No-one is supposed to know.
  19. Not card-carrying, unfortunately. This may well change post-publication, as we now have a fully-functional printer in the room.
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