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All About EngSoc

The EngSoc Project is a not-for-profit organization brought about, maintained, and funded by students enrolled in the Faculty of Engineering and Design at Carleton University. Our mission is to provide engineering students full shell and Internet access, including an internet e-mail address and a homepage on the World Wide Web while also providing resources for independent learning. Carleton engineering students are some of the best students in Canada, if not the world - and the EngSoc Project was created to help them exist on the Internet and with research or academic interests involving computer systems and networks.

EngSoc is under the political umbrella of the Carleton Student Engineering Society. The Dean's Office lets us use office space in the Mackenzie Building, we get network access and all that, and they're nice enough to pay for things like electrical outlets and give us money for some projects. A good portion of our funding comes from CSES and the good people at CUESEF. You can check out our sponsors page for some other organizations that have given us money. If you'd like to add your organization to that list, drop us an e-mail at ett(at)engsoc.org.

We have a large collection of Linux machines that provide mail, web, DNS and related services to students and student groups at Carleton University. If you or your group has some need for these kinds of services, drop us a line and we'll do our best to help. We can be reached at ett(at)engsoc.org.

Why use EngSoc?

As mentioned above, we try to provide Internet services of interest to the Carleton engineering community. Most EngSoc users primarily use our e-mail services, many use our web services and we offer databases, compilers, an exam library and more. These services, in most cases, are only available to account holders.

Now, a little more about EngSoc e-mail. Many people come to University with a free, web-based e-mail address like something from Hotmail. What is wrong with that? Well, for starters, I'm sure you will agree that free accounts from Hotmail or elsewhere do not exactly convey professionalism. Also, you can only access the free accounts via a browser or Outlook, in the case of Hotmail, and as mail readers both options are pretty limited. Most services impose a 2MB limit on your mailbox and SPAM filtering is rudimentary at best. There are rarely any mailing list features available and you cannot use a domain of your choice with the free services. There are likely many more less obvious limitations not included here.

With an EngSoc account (which is free, of course) you can access your mail with any mail client you'd like, including via the web interface we have. There is no limit on how big your mailbox can be and our spam filtering is miles ahead of Hotmail's primitive address blocking (and if you aren't happy with SpamAssassin, you can use your own). We will setup mailing lists for you or your group, which automatically archive posts and have a nice web interface for management. With EngSoc you can use any domain you own for mail/web. Alternatively we can create any sub-domain of engsoc.org, engsoc.com, engsoc.net and in many cases for groups we can handle sub-domains of carleton.ca. What you are getting is unlimited flexibility.

Why we chose to use Linux

The EngSoc project started as a vision to to provide UNIX accounts to undergraduate engineering students at Carleton. This vision became reality with the help of a group of dedicated and enthiusiastic students who volunteered and are volunteering their time to learn about and set-up such a system. EngSoc relied on loaned hardware to get off its feet and only recently acquired more suitable machines. Therefore EngSoc doesn't have any sort of reliable, external funding. The logical thing to do was to use a freely available unix variant or at least, a low cost one, that would run on the loaned hardware, 486DX at the time, ca. 1995. The choices then included 386BSD, FreeBSD, and Linux. Linux was chosen as it was widely used around the world and well supported. There were already systems on campus successfully running Linux reporting performance comparable to or better than higher-end setups. It seemed appropriate with students offering their free time to volunteer to help bring all this to reality and that ultimately providing undergraduate students with free accounts, that a freely available package such as Linux was used.

"Cooperation. That's what it's all about. Linux is free -- meant in the sense of both costlessness and liberty -- and this freedom fosters positive interaction between programmers who have the shared dream of a complete, working UNIX clone. Ask any developer why they spend hour upon hour on the self-described timesink known as Linux, and they'll give you the same answer: hack value, pure and simple."
-- Matt Welsh (Coordinator of the Linux Documentation Project)

A Brief History of EngSoc

The idea to for the CSES to run a linux machine had been around for quite a long time. The idea first came to Alex deVries while working for the Office of the Dean of Engineering in the summer of 1993. At that time, he was looking for ways to put the CSES exam library in an electronic format. At that point, the WWW was just beginning, so the chosen method was to be a gopher site. Alas, there was too much else to do (like creating what is now the TAZ Novell NetWare server), and this project was put aside.

In the summer of 1994, Vanier Kethireddy was starting work on what was the Aurora project. The idea was this: to create a Linux machine to enable users to learn a little bit more about Unix. That same summer, plans were announced to offer CHAT accounts to every undergraduate student. At the time, the plans were to put what is now the CHAT menus on top of a unix shell, so that users could access the shell if they needed to. By the time that deVries heard that the unix shell access had been scrapped, there was not enough time to enlarge Aurora to accomodate all the engineering students and give them shell access.

In early March of 1995, because of the massive number of complaints the CHAT system was generating, deVries proposed on various Carleton newsgroups the creation of a Linux system that would have a very specific mandate: to properly represent the CSES electronically, and to have the goal of eventually offering a UNIX account to every engineering student. The response was overwhelming, and there were soon more than 20 volunteers helping us with this project.

On June 20th, the results of an elected Board of Governors were presented. The first BOG consisted of James Carriere, James Chow, Alex deVries and Joshua Lamorie.

In late June, the Engsoc project received a donation from the Faculty of Engineering. The 16MB SIMM donated, which was quite large at the time, was to be used to launch a second machine, auk.carleton.ca. Also, discussion with the Library had begun with respect to a possible donation of their Pyramid MIS machines.

James Chow and Alex deVries were the first roots, presumably on auk. CCS required a full time staff member at EngSoc's inception to act as a primary contact, and that person was Warren Hik. Joshua Lamorie was the original webmaster.

In September of 1995, EngSoc bought a Pentium 90 with 48MB of memory and a 3GB disk. This machine was called Lager. It was funded completely by CUESEF donations.

By December of 1995, EngSoc had 500 users.

Check out our previous setup.
Check out the minutes from the year Engsoc was created.


Parts of this document were originally written by Alex deVries and James Chow and it has been modified by Matt McParland and Jevin Maltais.