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USENIX Auction:
Two books from the library of their author, John Lions
Autographed by Seven UNIX and Linux Notables
What is for auction:
Original copies of John Lions's books UNIX Operating System Source Code Level Six and A Commentary on the UNIX Operating System (thirty years old, uncirculated, paperback). The Commentary is signed by John himself, and both books are signed by seven notables in the history of UNIX and Linux: Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie, co-developers of the original UNIX system; Marshall Kirk McKusick, project lead for Berkeley BSD and the copyright holder for the BSD daemon; Eric Allman of Sendmail fame; Peter Salus, historian of UNIX; Mark Shuttleworth, head of the Ubuntu project; and, last but not least, Linus Torvalds, the architect and lead developer of the Linux kernel. These books were found in the basement of John's house after his death.


a donation to the USENIX Association for the John Lions Fund. This fund will establish the John Lions Chair in Operating Systems at the University of New South Wales. USENIX is matching contributions received for the John Lions Fund, up to $250,000 total, through December 31, 2006.

eBay fees, local taxes (if any) and shipping will be deducted from the winning bid for tax purposes, but all of the money above that in the auction may be tax-deductible, so, as they say in the advertisements:

  • helping a good cause and having these autographs to display on your desk or in your office: Priceless.

Your contribution may be tax-deductible as allowed by law under IRS Code Section 501(c)(3). Check with your tax advisor to determine whether your contribution is fully or partially tax-deductible.

How the auction will be run:
The book is being held at the USENIX office:

USENIX Association
2560 Ninth St., Suite 215
Berkeley, CA 94710
Tel: (510) 528-8649
Fax: (510) 548-5738

The bidding will run for ten days, to be timed with the end of USENIX's LISA '06 conference, held in Washington, D.C.

After the bidding is over, the winner will send to USENIX a cashier's check, in U.S. funds, drawn on a U.S bank, and made out to the USENIX Association. Upon receipt and deposit of the check, USENIX will send the book to you, with a receipt for the amount of the donation (your bid amount minus local taxes if any, shipping, and eBay fees).

How to bid:
Go to eBay and search for EBAY Article 270059249753 in the "books" category. Then follow the standard eBay bidding process. The bidding starts on December 1, 2006, at 1700 EST and goes for seven days, ending at 1700 EST on December 8, 2006.

Who was John Lions?
John Lions was a professor of computer science at the University of New South Wales in Australia. John believed that you could greatly improve students' programming skills by allowing them to study the programming habits of the best coders, so he annotated the source code of UNIX Level 6 for his students. He had received permission from the AT&T lawyers to do this, but they rescinded their permission, so the book was never published.

However, a couple of preliminary copies were photocopied. Then those were photocopied, and those copies were photocopied. For a time it was a badge of honor to have a copy of the book only five generations of photocopy removed from the original. Some were so far down the generational tree that they could barely be read. I cannot remember what generation my copy was, but it was pretty faint.

A few years ago, when John was dying of a degenerative disease, some of his friends and compatriots approached the UNIX copyright holders and got permission to publish the original manuscript, just in time, I believe, for John to see his work hit the streets before he died.

Now the University of New South Wales is establishing an endowed Chair to recognize the enormous contribution made by John Lions to the world of computing.

I support this fund-raising, not only to honor John, but for the good of the students at the University, to show them that good works do not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

Jon "maddog" Hall, President, Linux International

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Last changed: 30 Nov. 2006 ljc
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