History of Skynet Logos

SkyCon :: 1. Who are Skynet?

"There is a place where foreign worlds must merge, where laws break down, language is corrupt and conflicts rage. This is the place where networks collide. We call it home."

Skynet is now one of the oldest societies here in UL having been set up back in 1992 by a dedicated small group of students. John Quinn, Andrew Good and Ivan Griffin and others had an interest in computers, and in the tradition of Clubs and Societies in the University of Limerick, wanted to bring that interest to other students. They started by running Skynet in a bedroom in Plassey Village. The location was far from static through the years - and as people moved from place to place, Skynet moved from Plassey village to underneath a and undergraduate's desk in the B2 computer laboratory, to under a postgraduate's desk in the Foundation Building. The 1997 academic year saw Skynet and beast (two of the computers providing services) moving to the university Intel Lab where they lived until 2000.

The completion of the new UL Student Centre in 2000 and the Computer Society's successful application for a computer room has finally given the Skynet servers a permanent home. From the times of using donated machines, Skynet was finally in a good position to expand and offer a stable platform for services.

The computer society now hosts many websites for class groups in UL, Clubs and Societies and the ULSU. Our users consist not only of computer systems students and engineers, but include many humanities, business and other students.

2003 saw the Computer Society really 'come out of the server room.' The wide variety of events that ran included a series of talks and presentations, InterSocs meetings and workshops, all of which proved to be highlights of the academic year for those involved. Throughout the year, workshops were run in whatever areas people needed help; from programming to web design. This year also saw admin workshops for people interested in "giving something back" and helping with the maintenance of the computer servers.

In May 2005 saw Skynet move home once more. We'd grown out of out home in the ULSU and with the large machines we were now purchasing and the redesigning of our network so we could offer more space to users and more services we relocated to the old broadcasting room where we now reside.

2006 was our most eventful year to date. We headed up some ground breaking talks with Alan Cox speaking about "Software Engineering in Open Source". Google Ireland and Intel both came to UL and gave great talks which our users participated in and gave us contacts for our visit to MIT in Boston USA in February 2006. We took 10 members to MIT - where the crème de la crème of high-tech innovation has occurred in the past. Artificial intelligence was developed into a science there and in particular, computer graphics were developed to the level we have come to expect today. Many people can only dream of seeing MIT and meeting some of the people involved in these historic occurrences - Skynet did!

It has been an eventful 15 years, from our small services we offered, to the 'big crash' where we lost a lot of our data due to lack of air conditioning to what we are today. Many users have started with Skynet, worked on Skynet graduated and still rely on Skynet for their mail.

We have users such as Caolan McNamara who was one of the users on Skynet who has gone on Caolan works with RedHat, probably the largest commercial distribution of the Linux Operating system. He was a key developer for StarOffice and then OpenOffice, the cross-platform alternative to Microsoft Office.

Others such as Mel Gorman who was an admin on Skynet and has gone on to be one of six people in the world who is an expert in the field of the Linux Kernel system and has been published. Many users use Skynet as their training ground but also give back to Skynet in the form of the Skynet talks. Which are held throughout the year.

SkyCon :: 2. History of Skynet

A glimpse at the History of Skynet, from 1992 to 2007

486-33 Chip
Skynet was originally a 486/33 belonging to John Quinn (quinnj) with 4MB of RAM. Gradually this was upgraded to first 8 and then a whopping 16MB of RAM. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this was overclocked to 100MHz and burnt through numerous CPU's in the first year. Bear in mind that most people only heard of overclocking in 1999/2000 and a CPU's back in 1992 would have cost well over IR£100.

Not only was Skynet in its infant years at this stage but internet access was not widespread and was dearly sought after. With the establishment of the Computer Society, the air of legitimacy it brought with it alleviated fears of trouble were ITD (UL's Computer Department) to find out about Skynet.
ITD Logo
This changed to the degree that at the beginning of the 1994 academic year, Skynet was given (restricted) internet access and donated a noisy 486 box by ITD which was christened the infamous Beast and provided DNS services for years.

Around this time, skynet was upgraded to a P90 with a mind-boggling 32MB of RAM and it stayed like this until 1996, when John Quinn departed Limerick - taking with him the machine formerly known as Skynet. This brought about the first society purchase of a machine - a P166 bought at a competitive price from the business of a user's father.

Kilmurry Village
Plassey Village
Skynet's location was far from static. For the initial years, it lived under various different desks in Kilmurry or Plassey. At one stage, it was very much a distributed system. Logins were on one user machine, home directories were on the P166 in Kilmurry somewhere and /usr/local was coming from one of the college labs. The 1997 academic year saw skynet and beast moving to the university Intel Lab where they lived until 1999.

Intersocs - 1998
Amongst all the happenings of Skynet in UL, there were good links and relations with Computer Societies in other Colleges around Ireland culminating in intersocs. This year saw one of the most memorable intersocs meetings with guest Alan Cox.

New UL Student Center
The completion of the new UL Student Centre in 2000 and the Computers Society's successful application for a computer room has finally given the Skynet servers a permanent home. At this stage, Skynet consisted of mother - the firewall, skynet - login and /home, orac - webserver and admin - DNS server. October 2000 saw the delivery of holly and hal, 2 dual Pentium Pro machines organised by Cian Davis (davisc). holly came with 7 9.1GB disks in RAID - it was quickly designated as the new /home relieving the 8GB or so /home single SCSI disk on skynet. Soon after, an Enterprise E450 was donated by Sun with 20 9.1GB disks in RAID. This gave Skynet more disk space than we knew what to do with. The computer was almost a cube and had wheels, giving it the name r2d2. hal brought the first IRC server to Skynet when one of the admins got bored one night - SkyChat was born.

Various Skynet Members
This year saw the Skynet Computer Society really "come out of the server room". From the wide variety of events that were ran, the series of talks, InterSocs meetings and workshops have all proved to be the highlights of the academic year for all involved. Throughout the year workshops were run in whatever areas people needed help; from programming to web design all was covered. This year also saw admin workshops for people interested in "giving some back" to help with the server maintenance. Retro Gaming Competitions and a series of talks were also run throughout Greek Week. These events and others were in line with the Society moving away from being only a server. There was a lot more socializing this year where members came away from their computers to actually meet the person behind the web alias!

New Server Room and Rack
This year saw all aspects of the Skynet Computer society develop tremendously. The third female president is elected, firmly establishing a focus on a society as a whole, rather than simply a server with admins. In terms of infrastructure and equipment, Skynet took a huge leap forward, resulting in a newer and more spacious server room with improved power and air-conditioning services been provided by UL and the Students Union. After completing several proposals and tenders, the hard work paid off, with funding and grant support being obtained, allowing the society to purchase two new servers (flexo and bender), a rack and UPS. Surely a far cry from the days of scrounging for old & used computers in skips, offices etc.!!

Skynet MIT trip to Boston
New Servers
This year headed up some ground breaking talks with Alan Cox speaking about "Software Engineering in Open Source". Skynet also organised, and part financed a weeklong trip to MIT, in Boston for 10+ members. Further successful grant applications resulted in the purchase of another new server (calculon) to be used for /home, with a mammoth 2 Terabytes of disk storage. A second rack was also purchased, securely housing all of the updated and modern equipment providing a resilient and stable computer network.
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Indeed, what a long way Skynet have progressed over the last 15 years. It is a credit to all the students of UL who have participated and gotten involved, making Skynet what it is today, one of the most successful, modern and efficient Computer Societies in Ireland.

Skynet Machines - Past and Present
All machines are named after artificial intelligences from tv/books/movies
To whit, the current machines are:
- bender (Robot from Futurama)
- beowulf
- bishop (Android from Alien)
- calculon (The robot in "All my circuits" from Futurama)
- father (The computer from Alien Resurrection)
- flexo (Another robot from Futurama (bender's good/evil twin))
- hal 2001: A Space Odyssey
- hex (The computer in the Unseen University (Terry Pratchett, Discworld) which self-modifies and contains, among other things, a teddy bear. No one is quite sure what function it serves, but it seems to work so it's probably best left alone.)
- holly (Red Dwarf's comuter, with an IQ of 6000.) - intelligence (The computer from Team America)
- joshua (The computer from Wargames)
- marvin
- mother (The computer from Alien)
- number5 (Military killer-robot that gets struck by lightning and becomes sentient - see Short Circuit)
- orac (Blake's Seven computer.)
- q (As in [Alpha Q] from Transformers: Energon)
- queeg
- r2d2 (Beeping dalek-like dustbin on wheels from Star Wars.)
- sally (An ai car from a short story by Isaac Asimov)
- skynet (Terminator, computer that achieved sentience and started the war with humankind.)

Credits: Some photos taken from davisc, and www.ul.ie
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