Chapter 16: Utilities and other PD software
Software in /nerc/packages/utilities


This chapter contains notes about the Systems Group Utilities package which contains a selection of well-known utility programs. These are mostly to do with the Internet or X-Windows. We hope that by taking on the responsibility of this software, we can save individuals throughout NERC from repeatedly reinventing the same wheel. The amount of knowledge and experience we have of the various packages varies widely - some we use ourselves regularly. For others, we have done no more than follow the install procedure. Suggestions for additions are welcome but note that we want to restrict ourselves to well-known and 'freely available' software. With that caveat, it is worth recording that the quality of such software is extremely good - certainly there are far fewer bugs than with most commercial software and what bugs there are are usually fixed promptly.

Much of the software is protected by the GNU Copyleft agreement. However, you ought to consult documentation for individual packages regarding legal issues. Some of the software is also bundled with OSes (e.g. SG bundle perl with IRIX). Where this has happened and the vendor version is up-to-date we have omitted to do one in utilities. We have found, however, that vendor versions are often badly out-of-date.

We produce updates of the utilities package at roughly annual intervals and incorporate new releases of particular programs more often if we are prompted. Versions are available for

Solaris 2.x
IRIX 5.x and 6.x (ie ELF format)
Digital Unix
Sunos 4.1.x (Unlikely to be any more updates of this.)
Irix 4.x (Definitely obsolete and has not been enhanced for some time)
HP-UX 10.x

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Like other /nerc/packages/..... software, utilities comes with a setup script and one can type 'setup utilities' which results in the following:

NCS Unix Systems Group Utilities Package (V1.5) setup.
Among other things, this contains the following major PD software packages -
ghostview (1.5) X11 PostScript viewer
gzip (1.2.4) file compression utilities
zip (2.0.1), unzip (5.11) file compression utilities
perl (5.001) interpreted language popular for system admin procedures
xarchie (2.0.5) X11 browser for Internet archives
xgopher (1.3) X11 gopher ( Internet exploration tool)
xmgr(3.01pl7) X11 simple graphics
xmosaic (2.6) X11 version of NCSA mosaic for World Wide Web (WWW)
xvnews X11 interface to the USENET news system
xv (3.10) X11 application to view images
ImageMagick (3.7) X11 image processing and display
pgp (2.6.2i) Public-key encryption

However. since many of these utilities are very frequently used in the course of one's daily work, we felt this would be a nuisance and added the necessary directories to the default $PATH and $MANPATH environment variables as they are defined in /nerc/etc/cshrc. There is also a scheme involving shell wrappers to ensure that X Resources are configured correctly. The result of this is that one simply types xarchie or xmosaic or ... to invoke the program.

Following is a list of the main packages presently in /nerc/packages/utilities with a few notes on some of them. More information is generally available via man pages or in the /nerc/packages/docs directory. (The text here has been shamelessly plagiarised from relevant README files and the like.)

NB This is not a complete list of everything in /nerc/packages/utilities.

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/nerc/packages/nedit is a GUI (Graphical User Interface) style text editor for programs and plain-text files. Users of Macintosh and MS Windows based text editors will find NEdit a familiar and comfortable environment. NEdit provides all of the standard menu, dialog, editing, and mouse support, as well as all of the standard shortcuts to which the users of modern GUI based environments are accustomed. For users of older style Unix editors, welcome to the world of mouse-based editing! NEdit is free, available in source and binary form for Silicon Graphics, HP, DEC, IBM, Sun, and Linux systems, as well as for VAX and Alpha VMS. Executables for non-supported systems are also available. Porting to other Motif platforms has generally been easy. xvnews
  An X-based newsreader for Unix systems. xvnews is a front end used to invoke the xvnews newsreader on a local or remote Sun system. Only Sun binaries exist since xvnews uses the Xview toolkit included in OpenWindows. Users may wish to define the following environment variables in their .cshrc files in order to override the the defaults used by xvnews :-

variable default
ORGANIZATION The Natural Environment Research Council
NNTPSERVER (ie. the NERC news server)

 We should point out here that Netscape has a good newsreader and is to be preferred over xvnews.


version 3.7, is a package for display and interactive manipulation of images for the X Window System. It is written in C and interfaces to the X library, and therefore does not require any proprietary toolkit in order to compile. Although the software is copyrighted, it is available for free and can be redistributed without fee. The ImageMagick image display tool first determines the hardware capabilities of your workstation. If the number of unique colors in an image is less than or equal to the number the workstation can support, the image is displayed in an X window. Otherwise, the number of colors in the image is first reduced to match the color resolution of the workstation before it is displayed. In addition to the image display program, ImageMagick also has command line programs that perform these functions:

Describe the format and characteristics of an image

Convert an image from one format to another

Transform an image or sequence of images

Read an image from an X server and output it as an image file

Animate a sequence of images

Combine one or more images to create new images

Create a composite image by combining several separate images

Segment an image based on the color histogram

Retrieve, list, or print files from a remote network site

ImageMagick supports many of the more popular image formats including JPEG,PNG, TIFF, Photo CD, etc. ImageMagick is known to compile and run on virtually any Unix system and Linux. It also runs under VMS.

ImageMagick is continually being enhanced. Recent enhancements include

All LZW compression has been removed because it is subject to licensing and is not freely distributable.

Display and animate now lighten or darken an image of known gamma to match the gamma of the display.

ImageMagick no longer requires X server fonts to annotate an image.

ImageMagick can now write an HTML document. An imagemap is generated for any Visual Image Directory image.

For much more detail on this very attractive software, use a WWW browser (eg netscape) to view the file /nerc/packages/utilities/docs/ImageMagick/ImageMagick.html

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PGP Phil's Pretty Good Software

PGP(tm) uses public-key encryption to protect E-mail and data files. Communicate securely with people you've never met, with no secure channels needed for prior exchange of keys. PGP is well featured and fast, with sophisticated key management, digital signatures, data compression, and good ergonomic design.

Pretty Good(tm) Privacy (PGP), from Phil's Pretty Good Software, is a high security cryptographic software application for MSDOS, Unix, VAX/VMS, and other computers. PGP allows people to exchange files or messages with privacy, authentication, and convenience. Privacy means that only those intended to receive a message can read it. Authentication means that messages that appear to be from a particular person can only have originated from that person. Convenience means that privacy and authentication are provided without the hassles of managing keys associated with conventional cryptographic software. No secure channels are needed to exchange keys between users, which makes PGP much easier to use. This is because PGP is based on a powerful new technology called "public key"cryptography. PGP combines the convenience of the Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA) public key cryptosystem with the speed of conventional cryptography, message digests for digital signatures, data compression before encryption, good ergonomic design, and sophisticated key management. And PGP performs the public-key functions faster than most other software implementations. PGP is public key cryptography for the masses.

For more information on the software and also the extraordinary legal history of the PGP package, see the files /nerc/packages/utilities/lib/pgp/pgpdoc1.txt and pgpdoc2.txt


the NCSA WWW browser, probably superseded by Netscape Navigator now. xarchie X windows version of ARCHIE, good for finding software on WWW. ghostscript ghostscript and ghostview. A very famous PostScript library and viewer. xv A very famous image processing package. For more information, see /nerc/packages/utilities/docs/ Be warned that this PostScript file is almost 4 MB long. zip and gzip zip, zipinfo, unzip and friends. ZIP format files are very popular in the PC world

gzip, gunzip and friends. This is the GNU equivalent of compress and zip

shar shar and unshar. Use these to pack and unpack shell archives patch patch. Well known patch utility. perl perl. Well-known scripting language, especially good for system administration type scripts. Highly recommended. xdir xdir from Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. This provides a GUI for file transfer and for manipulation of local files. A user can manage (browse directory structures, transfer files and directories etc), all his/her files in a network. xdir uses the familiar 'file manager' folder-icon metaphor to display any number of directories on any number of hosts. top, proctool proctool (Solaris only) and top are system monitoring packages. traceroute traceroute can be used to resolve IP routing problems. xrlogin xrlogin and xrsh - two rather smart scripts to open xterms and work on remote systems. See relevant man pages for more information. mpack mpack and munpack. These programs can handle MIME attachments in email. Use these if your mail program does not understand MIME. acroread acroread (Adobe Acrobat). Use this to view PDF files. Note that this lives in /nerc/packages/adobe but should be considered as part of 'utilities'.

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PD software available as part of the iTSS UNIX support

There are several popular public-domain packages which we compile and supply for most architectures. They are set up in the /nerc/packages style which includes a 'setup' script to set paths and environment variables and if necessary X-resources. We aim to provide a new version about once a year. We do not provide any kind of support for the use of these packages beyond simply checking that they work, but since many people fetch copies themselves at least their central maintenance saves disk space and avoids problems when the prime user leaves! More packages are added as demand arises.


The public domain C and C++ compiler; favoured by many pd software providers, although for really tricky code on Solaris we recomend the SunSoft C compiler ( v3.0 as we speak) .


The popular editor. We have compiled this in various ways ( with various X-resource toolkits ) according to local preference. In general there will be no extra add-ons unless these are supplied in the original emacs source, as we have no way of testing them.


The text formatter much used by authors of equation-rich papers. This is only available for Solaris, SunOS and Dec Alpha. The package is called /nerc/packages/tex.

Non-PD software available as part of the iTSS UNIX support
Now that Netscape is bundled with Solaris, IRIX, DEC UNIX and HP-UX and updates are available, we are able to supply it as a separate package  /nerc/packages/netscape. The latest version includes Netscape Communicator which has Web-composing facilities and IMAP mail.

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This page last updated February 18th by