[SunRescue] Speaking of SGI equipment...

andrew m hoerter amh at POBOX.COM
Thu Dec 16 18:55:22 CST 1999

On Thu, 16 Dec 1999 ward at zilla.nu wrote:

> Irix is just fine in production, but I dislike their networking stack.  Then 
> again, I haven't used an SGi since 5.3.

My biggest problem with IRIX is that SGI engineers seem to enjoy creating
unnecessary superdaemons that walk your dog, floss your teeth, and toast
your bread, but which are also tragically buggy and full of memory leaks.

Since 5.0 IRIX users have been afflicted with 'objectserver'; ask anyone
who's used 5.1 or 5.2, and they'll tell you how much objectserver sucks.
It basically rendered those releases almost unusable on lots of machines,
and up until 5.3 SGI floundered trying to flush out the problems with 5.x.
Even on my 6.2 Indigo^2, objectserver slowly accumulates memory as long as
the box is up, although it's never actually gotten to the point where a
reboot is required.

In 6.5 SGI has brought us 'nsd', which in terms of Solaris does the same
thing as nsswitch.conf and nscd combined.  Or at least, it almost does.
It's buggier than your worst nightmares, especially in NIS+DNS 
environments.  Some hostname queries mysteriously fail because of negative
cache entries that won't expire.  Sometimes it refuses to talk to the NIS
server until you clean its cache and restart the box.  It has its own
files and administrative commands to learn and re-learn every time a
problem comes up (and they will).  The worst part?  You *can't turn it
off*.  It's compiled into the resolver libraries.  So maybe you can hack
around it (like in the old SunOS 4.x days, remember trying to do DNS
without NIS?), if you feel lucky.

This rant was brought to you by the letters 'S', 'G', and 'I'.  And the
number '0', which is how many IRIX machines I'll ever put on another IP
network as long as I'm responsible for managing them.

All that froth aside, IRIX really is very nice from the user perspective,
and comes with a lot of multimedia pizzazz that you don't have to bother
obtaining later.  The software (package) manager is fairly nice, although
the System V package system is less bulky and more versatile.  It's easy
for the average UNIX illiterate to administer.  Lots of hooks for
efficient distributed computing (using the Cray hardware).  Unless you're
an enthusiast, the only environments I see an SGI being really good for
are HPC and graphics/simulation.  And even then, IRIX and MIPS are
technologies fast headed for the dustbin, with very little roadmap for
anything in the future (unless you like using Windows).  It's sad to see a
company so innovative in the past regress to becoming a PC clone
manufacturer, but I guess any CEO that would defect to Microsoft (Rick
Belluzzo left after 9 months to be VP of MSN) might have that effect on a

"Welcome to Taco Bell!  Would you like to try... a taco?"
		-- a Taco Bell cashier, to me

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