Skip to Navigation (at bottom of page). (at bottom of page).

Introduction

The past year in the Hunter Region can only be described as chaotic.

The year started with negotiations for routing of our subnet by Ozemail still pending, while the region's bank balance was being eroded by rental for phone lines installed at the new location unable to be used since the relocation was to be delayed until the subnet was routed correctly. With a membership freeze in place on the decision of the previous Regional Committee until after the relocation (which at the time was thought to be imminent), no additional finance was being gathered by the region and a number of members failed to renew as their subscriptions became due.

This was the state of the region when the previous Regional Co-ordinator (who was also the sole system adminstrator) and Deputy Regional Co-ordinator resigned on September, 29th. After numerous attempts at negotiations with Ozemail and the invaluable assistance of the Treasurer, the subnet was finally routed by Ozemail at the end of October. The relocation then followed on November 1st. It took some weeks before our reverse DNS was correctly assigned, but that was just the first of the problems following relocation.

Members

At the time I became Regional Co-ordinator the database had the Hunter at 24 members, 6 of whom have since failed to renew their membership or have left the region. One member added after that date has since resigned his membership.

The lifting of the membership freeze and a push for new members started immediately following the relocation. However, the 5 advertisements in 3 separate newspapers we lodged between February and May of this year did not produce the results we had hoped for. The fliers placed at the TAFE brought at least one new member, but there's no doubt that our increase in membership is almost solely due to 'word of mouth' from existing members of APANA - some local and some interstate. The database currently has us with 37 Active members. However, 5 of those have either not paid their regional access fee or have indicated that they will not be continuing with us. Since last September we have added 21 new members, 15 of whom are still with us plus 17 longer-term members.

Finances

Of our 32 members, 2 have UUCP connections; 2 mail/news only; 3 secondary members in a household (only 2 of whom pay an access fee) which forecasts a yearly income of $5,300 for the region which just covers the cost of our Ozemail and basic Telstra charges, but not call charges if we have any more months like the last ones. It doesn't however provide for any additional regional expense or repayments of our APANA loan. It is therefore essential for us to increase our membership by 10 to 20 members within the next few months. Our record to date shows that it is possible, but it depends heavily on help from APANA members in all states who have contacts in this region.

The region's finances were set back by the increased charges Ozemail levied between December and May; by the need to purchase two additional modems; replacement power supplies and a few other miscellaneous items such as advertising costs. Fortunately a lot of additional expenditure has been avoided by the donation and loan of equipment by Hunter members.

Income for the month of August to end of September has exceeded charges so we should start to see a reduction in the loan amount to APANA by the end of the month. If all other charges can be kept to a minimum this trend should continue over the next few months as more of our members renew their membership for the coming year.

Assets

The system currently consists of:

We are currently seeking the donation of a larger harddisk for cray so that it can be better utilised.

The full current list of assets can be viewed here.

Problems

Constant complaints of disconnections by members and our Ozemail link dropping out on a regular basis continued through to the end of the year and into the beginning of this one, with some members considering not renewing because of these problems. The source of these problems turned out to be threefold:

  1. Line noise on the new lines. Telstra was asked to check them when the problem first manifested but a subsequent check showed significant problems still on those lines. Members were also advised to have their own lines checked for quality.

  2. The new Roadster modems turned out not to automatically invoke error correction. This was rectified by installing an appropriate modem init script on the system and members were advised how to initialize their own modems with a similar script if disconnections were still a problem for them.

  3. After only a few months use, the power supplies for the new Roadsters started failing, resulting in disconnections at first followed by a failure to reset until they died completely. Two of these were replaced but the financial position of the region by this time didn't allow replacement of any others so with each failure the number of dialin lines had to be reduced. Fortunately a new member added in March was able to repair all the defunct power supplies so all the lines and modems have been able to be utilised since then.

Barely had these problems been sorted out when the onset of colder weather brought with it severe fluctuations in the electricity supply causing extensive file corruption on all machines. However it wasn't until after a UPS (on loan from a member of the region) was connected to the region's machines that the file corruption on our main server was found to have a different cause - vibration from the CDROM drive (donated by a member in November) which had been installed in the same box as our high-speed drive. The CDROM drive was relocated to another box at the end of last month and since then there's been no further reports of new file corruption occurring. However the last episode of file corruption was so severe that work is still continuing on replacing all the missing files as their absence is made known.

In addition, our secondary server was crashing on a regular basis due to mail overload. This problem was fixed by reconfiguring the sendmail system to allow it to handle the increased volume of mail caused by the relocation of one of the Regional Co-ordinator's larger mailing lists to her own machine (which had previously been considered the cause of all the bandwidth problems until smarthosting was implemented for both her machine and the region's machines).

The past 3 months have also subjected our system to ongoing problems with Ozemail's Newcastle servers. Mostly they've only been of short-duration except for twice when our link with them was down for around 20 hours both times. However, through the efforts of the admin team in redirecting traffic over the permlink to Macroportal (courtesy of the Deputy Regional Co-ordinator), only the minor inconvenience of not receiving incoming mail or being visible to the outside world has been experienced by our members. The region however has suffered the additional expense of massive increases in our call-charges as the result of the Ozemail link dropping out and failed subsequent automatic attempts to reconnect until such time as it's manually stopped.

Since the relocation, nnmaster has continued to cause us grief - collapsing almost on a daily basis. Despite cutting the number of newsgroups to only those specifically requested by members in addition to all the APANA groups, news still remains a problem although only two members consider themselves inconvenienced by it.

Conclusion

There's not much to add except that things could be a lot worse for the Hunter Region. We have a dedicated Admin Team and a host of members willing to help the region or individual members in any way they can - which makes my role of Regional Co-ordinator a LOT easier than it might otherwise be - and having survived the last 12 months, I'm confident that as a group we can survive anything.


Carolyn Baird
Regional Co-ordinator
Hunter APANA
24/10/99