February 01, 2011

Free UULINK Dial-Up Internet Software to Fight Internet Tyranny

Greetings ...

Executive Summary: In an effort to do what little I can to help fight "Internet Tyranny" such as we've seen in Egypt, I am preparing to release my dial-up Internet interfacing UULINK software package for free noncommercial use.

Details: Frankly, I never imagined that turmoil in Egypt would lead to people asking me about a software package that I first developed during the 1980s. I developed UULINK to communicate between PCs and UNIX UUCP systems, and between PCs running UULINK, during a period when few individuals or firms had actual Internet "IP" connections.

UULINK was the first non-Bell Labs UUCP protocol implementation, and I built in extensive flexibility for gatewaying of email between the UUCP ("!") and Internet ("@") email networks, and to support a wide array of dial-up modems.

During the 80s and well into the 90s, I sold UULINK widely as a package oriented very much toward technically knowledgeable users -- a necessity given the complex configuration environment. As true Internet connectivity became widespread, demand for UULINK understandably tapered off, and I did not expect to be dealing with what seemed to be an obsolete package again in any significant ways.

However, events in Egypt and other concerns about centrally ordered Internet shutdowns have rekindled interest in dial-up based networks as a backup to conventional Internet infrastructures in time of crisis or emergency, and like a distant echo from the forgotten past, UULINK queries have begun again.

While I am unsure if UULINK can actually play a useful role after so many years, it's at least worth a try. I am in the process of preparing a clean distribution that can be freely copied for noncommercial use (any former [or existing?!] UULINK users out there, please do not distribute files or other materials from your copies).

There are several important issues to note:

UULINK is a DOS-based package, from the era of floppy disks (it was originally distributed on 5-1/4 inch floppies). Early users were even sent a "Cats that think use UULINK" button as shown below. A very different time.

As DOS phased out in favor of Windows, it became apparent that UULINK could function in various modes in at least some Windows versions, within the COMMAND.COM prompt context. However, this was very late in the life of the product, and I did not attempt to track the various hardware and software combinations and configurations that were useful for this purpose.

Any and all use of this upcoming UULINK distribution is pretty much on your own. I will attempt to help where I can, but I simply do not have the time (nor operational environments) for comprehensive support of this free distribution. I would of course appreciate hearing back regarding what does and doesn't work in different situations, so that I can pass that information along to other users. It may also be interesting to experiment with running UULINK under the actively developed DOSBox emulation environment. But I can offer no promises regarding operations of UULINK or its ability to function at all with any given hardware and/or software environment.

Sources are not available at this time, since I don't have access to them myself currently. I no longer have the build environments to compile new UULINK executables (I studiously avoided using Microsoft compilers for the project, but this meant the development environment was nonstandard, and in fact UULINK was written both in C and assembly language). All of the associated build materials were taken offline many, many years ago, and I simply never expected to need them again. If I can locate the necessary offline files in readable shape, the source availability situation can change.

Given the time constraints I mentioned earlier, I am not going to just dump the distribution on a server willy-nilly. However, I invite anyone who believes that they might have a serious noncommercial use for UULINK, especially in terms of promoting Freedom of Communications, to contact me and I will let you know as soon as the free distribution is ready to go (this should be shortly, I've been working for days to pull the various components together).

In the meantime, there are two items that you can inspect now. First is the original UULINK technical specifications document. I have also now released the quite long and comparatively formidable UULINK 1.4 Manual (stored on Google Docs) as a scanned PDF document -- which is the only form I can provide currently. The manual may be freely copied for noncommercial use.

Both of these are original documents, which I have quickly patched to update contact information and related data. Hopefully these docs will be enough to help prospective users decide if they really want to dive into this or not!

My special thanks to very early UULINK user (and old friend) Lou Katz, who has been of great assistance in helping me with this archaeological effort. He's proof that at least Katz that think really do use UULINK!

Again, I don't know if UULINK at this stage of the game will truly be of significant use to anyone. I do hope so.

Down with Internet Tyranny! Up with Internet Freedoms!

Take care, all.


Posted by Lauren at February 1, 2011 07:17 PM | Permalink
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