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December

No report prepared due to postponement of MC Meeting and ongoing problems at the hub.

November

During the first 2 weeks of the month only a few problems were encountered. First was the loss of one of our 33.6K Maestro's as the result of a power surge which required all the other modems to be manually reset. The 28.8K modem previously used on the Kastlore link was used to replace it until such time as the region can afford to purchase a new one. The Dingoblue link appears to have been relatively stable throughout the month but twice the Ozemail link was observed to have dropped out for no apparent reason.

This past week, however a lot has been happening at the hub and it has been rather a hectic one.

Last Tuesday, Telstra installed 3 new lines for permanent connections. Due to problems with the 4 port card, it was Saturday before those members were able to use their new connections for the first time.

Last Tuesday as well, our ads appeared in the Newcastle edition of "The Star". While the response hasn't been overwhelming, it has been steady with a total of 10 phone calls having been received so far. Our webpage stats show an increase in the number of hits and I've received one email enquiry. Two application forms have been mailed out and 2 new members signed up today.

During the month we lost 2 members - no reason was given. So membership is now 57 (33 dialins, 6 perms, 4 uucp, 11 mail/news, 2 ethernet and 1 additional dialin in household).

On Sunday, a surprise visit by Sydney APANA's RC to our hub provided a pleasant break on an otherwise miserable day. Later that day, however, the squid proxy decided to take a break as well and it was down apparently for some time before I was notified by a member that it wasn't working and was able to ask one of the admin team to fix it.

While the financial prospects for the region appear healthy in the long term, it is likely we will experience cash-flow problems next month unless we can add more new members and members with fees due or overdue pay those before the end of next month to offset the setup costs for the permanent connections.

Carolyn Baird
Regional Co-ordinator.

October

While on the surface it has appeared to be a quiet month so far, behind the scene has been a different story.

After losing our backup link to Dragon, the RC decided to trial a 56K link with Dingoblue and so far it seems to meeting our needs for proxied web access.

We've had continuing problems with our modems and cabling, to the point where in desperation last Thursday, I raced out and bought new cabling and connectors for all 4 machines before the shops shut after I'd spent most of the afternoon trying to find a combination that would work from what I had on hand.

With the demise of our link to Dragon and the reclaiming of Andrew's permlink for our connection to Dingoblue, the Express Dialin line which he kindly made available to us before can no longer be used. The configuration webpage has been updated to reflect that as well as two 'modem help' files being added to that page.

During the month I bought a member's old 486DX computer and 56K modem - that modem has replaced the Sprint modem that died on the dialins. I upgraded the computer to a Pentium 100 and it is now begonia - part of my personal network - a Windows 95 machine that can be used for educational purposes.

There have been problems with cray, the mailserver, crashing on average once a day for the past fortnight. Reboots restore its function but as yet I haven't been able to isolate the cause....but, as it's not an integral part of our network, there's no problem in it being offline for short periods.

The possibility has presented itself of picking up some reasonably cheap Pentium 100 or 166's from Pasminco who are upgrading their network at the moment.

We acquired one new member last week, bringing the tally to 53 members actively accessing our network (there are 5 other members whose dialin access has expired recently but remain members of APANA).

Carolyn Baird
Hunter Regional Co-ordinator.

September

While the power spikes have decreased in frequency they have increased in intensity and created havoc with our modems. Following one of these spikes, our newest modem (a Spirit 56K) which was used on our Ozemail link died.

Despite trying to eliminate as many as possible of the known causes some members with 56K internal modems are still suffering frequent disconnections. Members using 'older' modems don't appear to be having any problems.

Sickness has ravaged the admin team in recent weeks so very little to my knowledge has been accomplished on that front.

With the demise of dragonet (bought out I'm told by comcen) we've experienced ongoing but intermittent problems with our backup link. It's unclear what the source of 'squid's' problems are although 'some of the problem' may be due to members not deleting their cache files after encountering such an error on a particular site.

A number of members are experiencing financial crises and have requested time to pay their access fees. It may become necessary to formulate a policy to restrict the amount of time allowed to pay before access is denied.

No action has been taken regarding the purchase of a UPS as approval for the purchase from Oztec or feedback regarding other options hasn't been forthcoming from the regional committee.

Our membership is still increasing although at a snail's pace, with only one or two new members being added each month. I have only received two enquiries about joining so far this month.

My local newsagent asked me if I would like her to display our flier alongside the computer magazines in her shop. Of course, I graciously accepted her offer and delivered 20 fliers to her the next day.

Otherwise things have been relatively quiet and we just keep plodding along as best we can.

Carolyn Baird
Hunter Regional Co-ordinator.

August

No report submitted due to illness.

July

It's been another quiet month in the Hunter Region. A few reported problems involved one or two modems not resetting properly. There have been only a couple of power surges this month but with all the machines connected to the UPS now none of them were affected but all the modems needed to be manually reset on those occasions.

The CDROM in niggle refuses to mount any disks. The problem may be able to be rectified by rebooting the system but in the interim Rosco's drive which is in cray is still in use.

One of the spare Pentiums is being converted into a newserver and if all goes well it should be on the network within a few of days.

There are currently 51 members of the region with one new member being added this week and three enquiries being received. 8 members are currently overdue with their access fees.

Some modifications have been made to our webpages and thanks go to Chris Roughsedge of the Wollongong Region for redesigning the APANA logo for our use.

Carolyn Baird
Hunter Regional Co-ordinator.

June

It's been a quiet month in the Hunter Region, but behind the scenes the admin team has been occupied with discussing and researching various search-engines to find one that is suitable for use on our network and the RC has been discussing ways that will facilitate the formation of a Central Coast region.

There are currently 52 members of the region with no new members having been added this month and only one enquiry being received. However any overt advertising has been suspended pending the outcome of negotiations regarding the Central Coast region. It is anticipated that if such a region is formed then both regions will be better served by a joint advertising campaign in the local press.

The installation of the line for a phonelink into the Central Coast region is at the moment on hold pending the payment of our Ozemail account and sufficient regional access fees being paid to cover these costs.

Thanks to donations from a number of members the region now has 3 spare machines (2 Pentiums and a 386 with BBS software installed) and ample spare parts to upgrade the network if/when it is deemed necessary or time permits or for short-term loan to members who suffer personal equipment failures.

The frequency of power spikes has decreased in recent weeks.

During my 5 day absence the fourth modem on the dialin pool failed to reset properly the day after I left. Although I know many members would have been unable to connect, no complaints were received. This situation was aggravated by certain members maintaining connects waiting for the boot script to disconnect them. However it didn't run because not all of the lines could be used. I was pleased to see on my return that some members who suspected there was a problem with a modem chose to use the alternate numbers and were able to connect that way.

I implore all members in future to have regard for others and disconnect before leaving your computer. If you wish to remain connected all the time then you should apply for a permanent connection.

Carolyn Baird
Hunter Regional Co-ordinator.

May

The power spike problem appeared to have eased in the past two weeks but last night it returned with a vengeance.

Diskspace problems on cray were resolved promptly with a temporary fix by the admin team.

Ross Slade's permlink line was installed by Telstra on schedule on April 26th.

The express dialin line supplied by Andrew Glazebrook should now be working properly after a few hiccoughs at the start.

No complaints have been received since the April report. I have been contacted by a few members regarding difficulties they were having but as far as I know those members have been able to resolve their problem either by themselves or with assistance from other members via the hunter-support list.

There are currently 53 active members of the region.

The estimated annual income for the region now stands at $10,380. Subtracting the monthly average Telstra and Ozemail charges per month should leave us with $372 per month to devote to regional expenses including upgrading our equipment and links. However as can be seen by our 'bottom line' which doesn't include $1,770 still owed to Ozemail (because of their failure to render an account to the Treasurer despite his frequent requests), the failure of a number of members to pay their fees promptly is having a serious impact on our financial situation at the present time. There is currently $550 (minimum) in access fees overdue with another $600 due by the end of this month. If all members with payments due renew by the end of the month and the Ozemail account is paid then we will still be in debt to the national body in the amount of around $525. This will mean that it will still be at least 3 months (more likely 6) before there are sufficient funds in our regional account to even purchase the most needed piece of equipment - a UPS to protect all our servers and modems. With the onset of winter, the power spikes and surges can only be expected to increase in frequency so the smooth operation of the region throughout the winter months does depend very heavily on each and every member's prompt payment of their fees when due. Without a bigger UPS it is unlikely we will be able to survive the winter months without any equipment losses.

Carolyn

April

The power spike problem has been only marginally better in the past month. It's been occurring only once or twice @ week this month.

Major corruption on bombadil manifested last week disrupting mail and news for a number of hours before a way around the problems could be found. It did however become obvious during that process that bombadil's 4GB hard-drive was failing rapidly. So an emergency admin session was called for last Saturday. Ross Slade (rosco) offered his new 6GB drive to the region on loan but during the course of the day a deal was made with him whereby the region gets ownership of the drive in exchange for part payment of his permlink access fees. The admin session didn't proceed without problems and in all around 6 hours of downtime was required before the system was operational again. Since then the location and replacement of all the missing files that were corrupted on the old drive has been proceeding slowly but apart from problems with news on Sunday and the proxies yesterday all services now seem to have been restored to members.

Further donations of 'spare parts' from Alan Gillanders and Ross Slade means that we are just about in a position to rebuild cray. This will take place following the next RC meeting which at the moment looks like being held on May 7th.

The express dialin line at Andrew's will have its trial run this week.

Rosco has applied for a permlink connection and the installation for that is set down for April 26th.

A lot of enquiries were received regarding the integrity of the system during the past month, but none of them could be classified as complaints. We DID have problems and members were very understanding and patient in our ability and efforts to fix those.

We currently have 52 members in the region who are actively accessing the hub. Our boot script has been getting a thorough workout since the system came back online on Saturday but it is hoped that the express dialin and new permlink connection will allow all members to connect quicker and stay connected longer than is currently the case. These measures will bring our member/modem ratio back to 5:1.

Carolyn

March

Power spikes upsetting the modems and causing them not to reset properly continues to be the most frequent problem at the region's hub, occurring between 2 and 3 times a week on average. Fortunately it is a problem that is easily rectified once members notify me that there's a problem.

A more serious event occurred on March 7th causing the system to be down for a number of hours. During a heavy wind-driven downpour, the computer room developed leaks in its ceiling. One powerboard got dripped on and that was sufficient to trip out the earth-leakage unit, shutting off power to the whole house for around 4 hours in the early hours of the morning. All the leaks occurred well clear of any of the region's equipment but new leaks on March 8th drenched all my equipment, yet the network stayed up throughout its ordeal becoming unstable only after I attempted to dry everything off - replacing a wet ethernet cable was all that was required to remedy that.

Last week our backup link to Dragon was out of service for a number of days while Andrew upgraded his machines and connections. But despite the slow responses due to having significantly reduced bandwidth no complaints were received during this time.

Andrew has offered the region the use of one of his dialin lines as an 'express line' for members wishing only a short connect. We have of course accepted his offer and as soon as it is properly configured it should come into operation delaying the need to revise the boot policy or install an additional line to cope with our increased membership.

We currently have 51 members in the region who are actively accessing the hub. Most evenings all lines are full but with most members electing not to connect for their allowed length of time during peak periods everyone appears to be getting a 'fairgo'. I would like to commend the region's members for their consideration of others and for upholding the spirit of APANA by this action.

Two members of the Admin Team have recently given advance notice that they will be relocating out of the area having obtained employment in Sydney. In light of this two new members have been appointed to the team, (Ross Slade and Adam Clarke) who have already demonstrated their aptitude by jumping in when there's a problem and fixing it (even I am benefiting from the sharing of information and instruction that both Pik and Gavin have been giving the new admin team members in recent weeks).

Due to the lack of items for an agenda, the Regional Committee has decided to postpone the next meeting which was to be held on March 26th. The new date will be advised in due course {when there is something to talk about (such as enough money in our account to purchase a UPS), a member requests a fixit session or the weather is more amenable for a social get-together}.

Carolyn

February

While all appeared to be going well for the region at the RC meeting on January 30th within hours of the meeting finishing, it became clear that our good luck had run out and we were headed into another of THOSE months.

Not only did the rebuild of cray not go well but at 4am the next morning two of the admin team were still here having just got cray's drives still in Gavin's loaner machine back online with the help of the Dec 26th backup.

The following day while I was still in the process of trying to update all the files on cray with the information I had on my hard-drive (sometimes being a 'packrat' is advantageous) we lost our Ozemail connection. This turned out to be due to our port on Ozemail's Newcastle Server having died leaving us without mail or news for over 48 hours.

During the problems with Ozemail I found out that the 33.6K link we believed we had with them (since that is what we applied for on our original application and never received any advice to the contrary that they were unable to supply it) was in fact only a 28.8K link and was told that they'd never had anything greater than that available in Newcastle and were unlikely to be upgrading the Newcastle permanent connects to 56K anytime soon. Which is also contrary to the advice received from them last May when they claimed that they would be upgrading our link to 56K by June 30th, 1999. (I have not had the time to devote to pursuing this matter any further since then).

Since then there have been problems with something else every second day with the majority of the problems caused by power spikes upsetting the modems and causing them not to reset properly except on February 12th when there was not only power spikes but an actual blackout that caused the hub to be down for just a few minutes short of an hour.

It's apparent that we're going to need a much bigger UPS that can handle all our equipment if this situation is not to be allowed to continue.

Membership continues to grow despite all the hiccoughs and the current number of members receiving access through our system is 49. So if our current equipment can hold up for a few more months we should be out of the red and able to do something about the problems that keep hassling us from time to time.

Carolyn

January

During the months of December and January, our finances continued to improve. The ad in The Star in December and the letterbox distribution of our flyer have brought in sufficient new members to cover the expenditure for that purpose.

Our yearly income currently stands at $9200 which exceeds our Ozemail fees and Telstra charges by $2500 per year. This is enough to pay off our debt to the national body within the next few months provided we can maintain our membership at this level or higher until the APANA debt is settled. Once that is achieved we can finally start making plans for the future with regard to increasing the number and quality of services we are able to offer members.

The problems with the newserver seem to have been finally resolved thanks to the implementation of an automatic script by our very able sysadmin to restart nntp as soon as it fails. Although this takes about 15 to 20 minutes before the newserver is accessible again it is a vast improvement.

On two days in the past month, heatwave conditions and massive power spikes coupled with the failure of some equipment (2 ethernet cables and cray's IDE controller card) have resulted in the network failing and some ensuing downtime while the cause was analysed and the necessary repairs/replacements carried out. However, only the listserver, cray was out of service for any length of time. Cray's services are currently being provided by Gavin's machine which he loaned to us for that purpose until cray can be rebuilt. Fortunately thanks to the generosity of members, Alan Gillanders (IDE controller card) and Chris Baird (500MB hard-drive),it appears that we have the spare parts required to rebuild cray at no cost. The faulty ethernet cables are repairable for less than $10.

Alan Gillanders has donated a number of spare-parts to the region some of which have already been utilised to keep the system operational and no doubt more items will come in very handy in the future. (Thanks Alan!).

The total of members receiving access through our system is currently 47. Although 2 of that number appear to not intend to renew their membership because of connection difficulties which they were not prepared to allow us to help them sort out.

After a few initial setup problems (which appear to have now been satisfactorily sorted out) and two members who required additional assistance following mishaps with their computers; two members experiencing difficulties with their browsers and a further four members needing help to configure their browsers to use the proxy - personal help was provided on five of these occasions by Carolyn with phone support being sufficient to resolve the remainder of the members' problems.

Most members now seem to be enjoying substantially lengthy connects without any difficulties (based on the frequency with which the boot-script has been activated in recent weeks).

No complaints as such were received from existing members during this period. However, it was gratifying to receive calls from members alerting me to the fact that they were experiencing difficulties which allowed me to resolve the problem without delay if originating at this end or help them to resolve it if it was at theirs.

A special admin day was held here on Saturday, January 8th for the purpose of urgent hub maintenance and indoctrination cum training session for newest member to the admin team, Nigel Bell. All members of the admin team were present on that day (Craig Pickering, Gavin Condon, Ben Eisel, Nigel Bell and me) as were two of our newest members Ross Slade and Kevin Bingham.

The implementation of two-way feeds between local lists and local newsgroups has seen a dramatic increase in requests for assistance and other types of interaction between members. Members can now select whether they prefer to read/contribute to the support or general groups by using the mailing lists or newsgroups.

The Hunter Region's membership has now reached a level where we are financially viable in the long-term and have sufficient resources currently available to be able to provide members with a reasonably quality service in the short-term.

Carolyn