Julian H. Stacey

Tel .........................

16 January 1988

Smymetric Computer Systems Inc.
40485 Encyclopedia Circle,
California 94538,

Tel: +1 415 651 6090

Dear Lynne Mesner,


First may I acknowledge receiving my Symmetric Computer 28th January 88 including tape & floppy drives, plus vdu & printer & 5 blank tapes + distribution tape.

2 HARDWARE FAULT REPORT - Please Replace Tape Drive

Unfortunately I appear to have been shipped one of your bad tape drives, I had to read my distribution tape about 7 times before I could successfully read a root file system (tape was at room temperature for some time before, + no other obvious errors).

Can I suggest you ship me a good 60M tape drive for me to install, I’ll return the original (I am a qualified engineer, so expect no problems, & won’t blow up boards with static etc). I would suggest the tape drive be shipped marked as an ‘exchange/replacement spare part - zero differential value’ or some such labeling, to (hopefully) avoid or reduce customs bureaucracy.


The / root filesystem can be read after many attempts:

3rd 7738+2 records in 7739+1 records out ; 3962878 4th 7738+2 records in 7739+1 records out ; 3962878

( 7739 * 512 = 3962368, 7740 * 512 = 3962880 )

The tape drive cannot write large files to tapes (several different tapes tried, all newly purchased from Symmetric), (large means typically a duplicate of the root tape file (system).

The system cannot read the /usr file from tape, using dd if=/dev/nrmt1 of=/dev/null a typical error is

44559 records + 1

which seems a byte too much (22814208 = 44559 * 512).

3 HARD DISC ERRORS On Receipt Of Computer, (Fixed).

The machine as shipped to me had about 7 block errors, whether they occured in transit, or existed prior to shipment, I wouldnt know, but they caused a delay in checking the computer, as they included :

A hard error in the symbol table of /vmunix.
A hard error in libc.a.

These errors were eventually fixed when the tape drive allowed me to read a root file system.


4.1 Adb
Adb is shown in manuals, but executable is missing.

4.2 Learn VI
Learn vi is shown in the /usr/lib/learn index at run time, but is missing.

4.3 Machine Readable Manuals
Although the system was shipped including the normal sections 1-8 (+ locals like kermit), the large manual sections were not included to cover things such as

adb as boot c csh ed fsck lex make ms nroff pgmg sed shell troff.tut uucp vi yacc, 4.2BSD Line Printer Spooler Manual (referenced in man printcap),

Could you send a machine readable copy please ?.

4.4 Printed Manuals:
The only printed manual I received was a slim blue volume, nothing more, this was surprising, dont you issue anything more ?

4.5 BSD 4.2 & 4.3
I have been sent 4.2 rather than 4.3 (presumably still not quite ready ?), would you please confirm what I was earlier told, that I’ll receive 4.3 free later, when its available.

5 EXTRA SOFTWARE PACKAGES: No Removable Media Copy

To quote from your sales literature: "Customising your 375: Optional Software PAckages : All software arrives on floppy media" : Mine arrived only on winchester; A floppy copy would have been useful for the following reasons:

I suspect a block of data somewhere may have been damaged by my using bad144 to fix hard errors.
A separate read only copy would have been useful as a reference, in event of possible winchester damage, & anticipated system rebuilds & re-configurations.
There is not much room left on my machine, but i can not tar off to tape as the drive is not usable. Taring off to lots of floppies may lose some of the ‘structure’ of the tree unless done carefully, particularly where the tree involves binary components that are intermixed with the normaly resident Symmetrix distribution.

Presumably when you install each package on a winchester or floppy, you do it from a shell script reading a list (or makefile), if you sent me that it would be sufficient to ensure I copy off all relevant components, If you would not, or cannot, send the makefiles or list, please send a full copy of all optional software on floppy, as offered in the sales literature.


The following program crashes the machine. ( I dont expect a ‘quick fix’, but attach the information for your interest.

/* This file kills a Symmetric Computer Systems Inc UCB 4.2 BSD (killing is more likely to occur if the tape drive is in use, or some other system activity is also in progress, This file is the result of extracting the critical part from a larger normal program that inadvertently killed the machine */

#include <setjmp.h>

jmp_buf ret;

sleep(3) ; sync();
longjmp(ret, 1);


7.1 /dev/lp
As your package is shipped, /dev/lp comes as major=6, minor=20, we seemed to need a different minor device number(5) before the printer would work; So either :

a) we have a strangely configured printer,
b) the computer was shipped somewhat different from a standard distribution.
c) all your customers get a printer that doesnt work straight away

If (c) is appropriate maybe you’ll want to change something ?.

7.2 Man Printcap
7.2.1 Inconsistency: man printcap refers to :pl:, /etc/printcap uses :li:
7.2.2 /etc/printcap has no :is: facility.
This is probably a UCB/BSD omission rather than a Symmetric omission. (It arose when trying to software switch the Riteman printer to "No Perforation Skip" mode.)

7.3 Man 4 Tty
Refers to man 4 bk, man 4 bk doesnt exist, presumably because it no longer exists.


8.1 If you have a list of known kernel & other errors, perhaps you would like to send me a copy ? (so I can avoid them, & save both my time and yours reporting bugs you already know of).
8.2 Do you have a standard bug reporting mechanism you would like us to use ? (please remember we are not on a network yet).


I am sorry if you were offended by my phone calls, but Symmetric had failed to provide the goods on time, for which I had paid in advance. I believe if you put yourself in a position like mine for a moment, & imagine a similar situation, I am sure you will understand my previous concern at the delayed delivery:

You are a USA individual, running a firm financed from your own pocket, You decide to buy a computer from a company in West Germany, that none of your Unix associates has ever heard of.
The firm’s terms of business are 100% money in advance for foreign orders (they obviously do not trust their unknown foreign customers, which on an even parity basis raises the question : should you trust the


foreign company any more than they will trust you ?)
You authorise a bank transfer of $9000 of your hard (personally) earned money 19th December, and post an order 19th December, You see the cash transfer from your account 22nd December.
The firm phones in the first few days of January, & promises shipment within 1 to 1.5 weeks, You receive & hear nothing by 15th January. The new machine is needed in house to service new business opportunities. You make the first of 2 very expensive calls to West Germany, spaced over a few days, the firm blames non delivery of their system on their component suppliers.
You are surprised that the German computer supplier does not carry adequate stocks to buffer a component supply problem.
You know people who have worked for computer companies that have gone bankrupt, and know that one of the the first symptoms is non fulfillment of customer orders - you become VERY worried.

To repeat myself: I am sorry if you were offended, but my supplier (you, Symmetric) did not trust me, but wanted me to trust them, asked for and received 100% payment in advance of shipment - and then failed to deliver as contracted ! - I not only had a right to worry, I would have been foolish not to !.

I appreciate your finally sending the computer faster than the normal 2nd day air delivery, & hope we can now consign this matter to the past.


I attach photocopes of my bank transfer mandate form & subsequent confirmation form (in German) from which you can see I instructed my bank to pay transmission charges from Germany to the USA, but not to pay USA collection charges. I thought this was equitable to us both.

If your USA bank just charged you for USA costs involved dealing with an overseas customer, this would be correct, but if as you report, they maintain they have had to deduct from the money you received, both a fee for themselves, & a fee for a German Bank, then I suggest you inform them I have paid all fees for the German end of the transaction, & they are incorrect & have no right to withhold such an amount.

In case you want to quote it to your bank, my bank’s address once again is :

Account Number Konto Namen .........................
Account Number Konto Nummer .........................
Bank Sorting Code Leitzahl .........................
Bank Name ................................................
Bank Address ................................................


If you have a computer network address please let me know, I intend getting connected later in the year.


If I or my English company (Vector Systems Limited) can be of help to you as a ‘contact in Germany’ please let me know, either on a casual reference basis, or as support for other European customers (actual or potential).


Lastly may I say I am (as both You & I expected) pleased with the machine, and its software capabilities, also of the Esprit vdu. I hope you can help me iron out the remaining problems, by sending the following: Tape Drive, adb executable, vi learn texts, machine readable manuals (ie csh & nroff tutorials etc., optional package component lists or original floppies)

Best Regards,

Julian H. Stacey