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December

No MC meeting held.

November

Of the last two months, November has been the worst for the Hunter region with regard to reliability. The recent severe storms interfered with the power supply on several occasions, and as we've also discovered, with the quality of the telephone service in the area as well; 56k connections being unavailable for the moment.

The downtime did however allow an opportunity to do some provocative maintainance to the Hunter hub hardware, including bringing the hand-me-down Netcomm SmartModems from the Sydney region into service (they work well!) and retiring the Maestros from the non-permanent dialins. To date, there has not been a time that any of the 'new' modems have required resetting.

After two months of unreliable service, the privately-funded 'load bearing' connection with Dingoblue was canceled. Unfortunately a suitable replacement has yet to be found, and doubly so was the timing to just before the storms and the modem speed problem occurred. As a result, for the past week network access to/from Hunter has been rather poor over the constantly saturated 33 kbps connection to the outside world.

Membership payments have been prompt and without problems for the past two months. No problems there...

Kildall (aka news2.hunter.apana.org.au) is now the primary newsserver, although the existing outside feeds to Bombadil are still being maintained-- there hasn't yet been any interest in making the new system Usenet2/bofhnet-sound, at least. Giles is now the 'unofficial' primary name-server for the region, due to problems with Niggle's zone-xfers persisting.

There was also a bit of a scavenger hunt at a local high school that was selling off old hardware, including a number of CDROM drives that we intend to stack inside Bombadil, and other groovy equipment like 16 port Ethernet hubs (for $5 each!)

Chris Baird
MC Representative.

October

The last month has been comparatively quiet for the Hunter Region. Announcements have gone out about the ARM, which is taking place on October the 28th contary to the malicious rumours that had it down as the 21st. Technology wise, the replacement news and DNS server is progressing nicely while the outbound connection server had a glitch that required its reboot (it is due to be phased out sometime soon).

It looks likely that the Dingoblue internet connection for web data during peak times will be discontinued shortly, though it is easy enough for it to be returned to service if we get a few more dialin members. Things are looking fairly stable on the financial side of things. There really hasn't been a lot happening and despite the gossip that a US bomb was dropped upon the hub, everything is functioning fairly well.

Andrew Glazebrook
MC Representative.

September

A not too unpleasant month it has been rated 23% on the hectometer. Telstra engaged in some line work in the street that disrupted things for a while, they did a nice trick of forgetting to move two lines over from the old cable to the new one. Ozemail had a little clerical confusion that had us without full internet access for several hours as well. Very little has been happening on the regional committee list as it largely waits for...

The ARM is coming up in October, so we await it with eager anticipation. Things have been quiet on the front of the Central Coast MAS/dialin proposal while things are progressing with the dedicated news server to get the load hogging nntpcache off the main server machine and the internet link lines transfered to the main modem server (though this probably won't happen for a while yet). Inspector Rex is back on SBS, which has boosted the morale of the admin team and thus I think we can see some good things coming. The region is also nearing the black in the financial realm which will be quite nice to see after so long (will it be the first time since HNA became the Hunter APANA region?).

Andrew Glazebrook
MC Representative.

August

A quiet month, things have gone fairly smoothly for the region. We lost a few members which is always an unhappy occurance, however they were mostly APANA only members rather than users of the full dialup facilities. The Regional Committee took place on the weekend (August the 19th) and we discussed some ideas from the AGM/other regions that may be adopted here along with the goals of organising some social/technical events within the region soon. A good time was had by all from the region that attended the AGM.

There was also a visitor from an individual considering establishing a Central Coast presence, which the Hunter region would support as much as possible (within our rather limited financial circumstances). With Marc Walters accepting the Regional Coordinator's position until the ARM, the date has been set for 28th of October. With the region in the red, the decision to purchase hardware from Sydney was postponed, for discussion by the new Regional Committee after the ARM when the region ought to be in the black. Andrew Glazebrook was appointed to be the region's representative to the Management Committee as well. A general round of applause was given to Carolyn Baird for her transition to the most highly esteemed position of APANA Treasurer. With the upcoming federal election there are rumours surfacing that she will be the nations first female Prime Minister yet.

Telstra has had contractors working on replacing the cable in the street connecting the hub to the telephone exchange, there is some hope that once this work is completed that less problems will be experienced in the future.

Andrew Glazebrook
MC Representative.

July

In contrast to previous months, June has been phenomenally quiet but prosperous for the Hunter region.

The only negative event that occurred was the loss of one of the dialin modems, but due to the spares donated by Andrew that didn't present any replacement problem. The most outstanding event was that our UUNet link remained connected without disruption for 20 days straight. Since then it hasn't performed quite as well with disconnections occurring every 1 or 2 days - which is fairly normal.

The downtime advised regarding the household wiring problem didn't eventuate afterall as it was discovered in the nick of time that there are in fact 3 electrical circuits installed here so the electrical rewiring of the bathroom did not interfere with the computer circuit.

It is gratifying to know that my pleas for prompt payment has not gone unheeded by the majority of members and as a result we have reached the end of the financial year in the black with a balance of approximately $45 after all bills are taken into account.

Our membership has dropped this month to 52 (31 dialins, 6 perms, 5 uucp, 6 mail-news, 1 ethernet and 3 additional household) - 50 individual and 2 organisational members of the region but without any loss of regional income so our 'bottom line' was unaffected.

The dialins have been so underutilised this month that it caused me some concern about whether the lines and/or modems were working properly, but since I received no calls about failures to connect properly which couldn't be resolved at the member's end and all tests I've run from this end on the lines and modems seem to indicate that they are all working properly then I guess that means that the cold weather is preventing members from remaining online for more than a few of hours at a time.

We did not exceed our download quota on the Dingoblue link last month and I did think about extending the hours of its use this month, but since it appears from here that the UUNet link (although reportedly connecting at the same speed) is providing faster web access most of the time I decided in the absence of information to the contrary to leave the Dingoblue use limited to 6 hours per day. This means that if any member finds web-access to be too slow, if they let me know I can run some tests and bring the Dingoblue link up (or take it down) at any time in an effort to improve response times. Please do check a number of sites both locally and internationally first though to make sure that the problem isn't due to congestion related to a single site you are trying to access.

There is no problem with members remaining connected for long periods of time provided it doesn't incovenience or cause problems for other members. On a time-share basis each dialin member is entitled to 6 hours of online time per day, 43 hours per week or 186 hours per month and only one member exceeded his time allocation this month while most members did not come even close to using their share.

The financial forecast for the coming year at the moment looks healthy but it is dependent on retaining our membership around current numbers. I continue to receive calls from applicants but there have been no new members this month.

The Annual General Meeting of APANA will be held in Sydney on August 11th at 1pm. Could any member who'd like to attend please notify me so we can organise the transport for those attending from this region. It is hoped that we can make this a 'cheap fun day out' for all of us.

On a curious note, I had a call from the Taxation Examiner yesterday but when I advised her that we were a non-profit organisation she didn't want to talk to me anymore. :-)

Carolyn Baird
Regional Co-ordinator.

June

In contrast to previous months, June has been phenomenally quiet but prosperous for the Hunter region.

The only negative event that occurred was the loss of one of the dialin modems, but due to the spares donated by Andrew that didn't present any replacement problem. The most outstanding event was that our UUNet link remained connected without disruption for 20 days straight. Since then it hasn't performed quite as well with disconnections occurring every 1 or 2 days - which is fairly normal.

The downtime advised regarding the household wiring problem didn't eventuate afterall as it was discovered in the nick of time that there are in fact 3 electrical circuits installed here so the electrical rewiring of the bathroom did not interfere with the computer circuit.

It is gratifying to know that my pleas for prompt payment has not gone unheeded by the majority of members and as a result we have reached the end of the financial year in the black with a balance of approximately $45 after all bills are taken into account.

Our membership has dropped this month to 52 (31 dialins, 6 perms, 5 uucp, 6 mail-news, 1 ethernet and 3 additional household) - 50 individual and 2 organisational members of the region but without any loss of regional income so our 'bottom line' was unaffected.

The dialins have been so underutilised this month that it caused me some concern about whether the lines and/or modems were working properly, but since I received no calls about failures to connect properly which couldn't be resolved at the member's end and all tests I've run from this end on the lines and modems seem to indicate that they are all working properly then I guess that means that the cold weather is preventing members from remaining online for more than a few of hours at a time.

We did not exceed our download quota on the Dingoblue link last month and I did think about extending the hours of its use this month, but since it appears from here that the UUNet link (although reportedly connecting at the same speed) is providing faster web access most of the time I decided in the absence of information to the contrary to leave the Dingoblue use limited to 6 hours per day. This means that if any member finds web-access to be too slow, if they let me know I can run some tests and bring the Dingoblue link up (or take it down) at any time in an effort to improve response times. Please do check a number of sites both locally and internationally first though to make sure that the problem isn't due to congestion related to a single site you are trying to access.

There is no problem with members remaining connected for long periods of time provided it doesn't incovenience or cause problems for other members. On a time-share basis each dialin member is entitled to 6 hours of online time per day, 43 hours per week or 186 hours per month and only one member exceeded his time allocation this month while most members did not come even close to using their share.

The financial forecast for the coming year at the moment looks healthy but it is dependent on retaining our membership around current numbers. I continue to receive calls from applicants but there have been no new members this month.

The Annual General Meeting of APANA will be held in Sydney on August 11th at 1pm. Could any member who'd like to attend please notify me so we can organise the transport for those attending from this region. It is hoped that we can make this a 'cheap fun day out' for all of us.

On a curious note, I had a call from the Taxation Examiner yesterday but when I advised her that we were a non-profit organisation she didn't want to talk to me anymore. :-)

Carolyn Baird
Regional Co-ordinator.

May

A fuller report will be available this week in time for the next RC meeting next Sunday....BITM...

The only high spot in an otherwise exhausting month was the visit from John and Cindy Childs. Since then we've had problems cropping up on an almost daily basis. Most of them were able to be solved eventually but not before they'd killed off a few more of my grey cells and left me headachey and wondering why I'm doing this, instead of enjoying my senior years. :-(

As of 7pm things seem to be working properly again after today's problem which involved the collapse of our IP routing at 5.35am this morning resulting in 'invisibility' for a period of 8 hours today and 3 calls to UUNet to get them to resolve the problem.

Carolyn Baird
Regional Co-ordinator.

April

This month the RC Committee and Admin Team have had a number of issues/events to deal with and keep them occupied.

Sendmail on both bombadil and giles was upgraded to version 8.11.3 towards the end of last month. It took a number of days to find and eliminate all the bugs in the network that that introduced.

On April, 13th, the network was down for just over 6 hours while giles was rebuilt into a Pentium (133MHz with 32MB RAM) and Debian 2.2 was installed as the OS. The 32-port card was installed into giles and all modems except our ISP modems were connected to it (the ISP modems will be moved over at the next Admin day when niggle is to be upgraded). After bringing the network back up, it took around 3 hours before enough of the configuration problems were resolved to allow members to maintain connects. Problems for our UUCP members took a couple of days to sort out but by the end of the week everything seemed to be working OK and all members who had notified the admin team of problems seemed to have resolved them now (if problems still persist contact your local doctor...errr sysadmin. :-))

The announcement by dingoblue last month regarding limits on sessions and downloads prompted the need to upgrade our main unlimited connection with Ozemail....now owned by UUNet. It was discovered that 56K permanent connections were available in Newcastle now and an application was lodged to upgrade our connection to them. This was completed yesterday (April 20th) and now we have two 56K ISP connections - one unlimited and the other which as of May 1st will only be able to be used 400 hours and for maximum downloads of 1.5GB per month. This will necessitate the RC devising a policy regarding connect times and usage of the dingoblue link so some restrictions on its use may need to be applied.

My complaint to the TIO on behalf of APANA members appears to have progressed one step further with the TIO advising that they have written to Telstra requesting their opinion of the complaint. While I have been 'unoffically' advised by one of the local linesmen that the replacing and rerouting of the cable has been scheduled and it is up to the contractor when it gets done now.

There are currently 54 (31 dialins, 6 perms, 4 uucp, 10 mail-news, 2 ethernet and 1 additional household) - 52 individual and 2 organisational members of the region (not including the member who has advised that he will not be renewing when his access expires in May...he installed Telstra 'free trial' software on his computer and hasn't been able to maintain a connect to us since but was unwilling to allow me access to his computer to help him resolve the problem).

Our yearly contribution from members now stands at $9,060 and the projected balance of our account for the end of this month is still in the red in the amount of $358. However if all members with overdue fees were to pay those before the end of the month, it would only take one member with fees due in May to pay early to put us back in the black. While it cost us $100 to upgrade our UUNet connection, the monthly rate is less than we were paying so that amount will be recovered over the next couple of months by those savings which will also (I hope) cover the increase in call charges on the dingoblue link.

The upgrading of our Ozemail/UUNet link to 56K on April 20th was accomplished without incident. Since then the improvement in the operation of the network has been significant to the point where it now appears that the backup link to Dingoblue will only be needed during peak periods.

This has worked in well as the 'reasonable use limitations' came into full effect tomorrow. The RC has decided that for a trial period the dingoblue connection will only be up from 6pm to Midnight every day with our main link handling all the proxied traffic during other times. This trial period will continue until it can be determined how much is being downloaded over that link during that period. Session lengths may be lengthened or multiple sessions per day implemented if it appears that its usage will fall below the 1.5GB per month limit. Conversely if it appears that the usage will go beyond that figure then session lengths may be shortened and if that limit is reached that link will stay offline for the remainder of the month.

Carolyn Baird
Regional Co-ordinator.

March

The end of the rain saw the end of our phone problems for the time being with a total of 8 separate fault reports (involving up to 5 lines at a time) lodged between Feb 5th and Mar 12th.

Nothing further has been heard from the TIO or Dingoblue re Telstra since receiving acknowledgement of messages I sent in reponse to their requests for further information.

Last word from Telstra was advice from linesman that his boss had approved not only the replacement of the cable but the rerouting of it from in front of my place to clear the drain area completely.

(A more comprehensive report is available in the March 25th Regional Committee Minutes.)

February

I doubt that I have ever welcomed the end of a month as much as I do this one.

This month there has not been a week without at least one of our phone lines having to be repaired - there were 6 lines in the first week. Since I lodged the complaint with the TIO on February 16th regarding the failure of Telstra to replace the damaged cable, we've suffered two more totally dead lines - the last one which was repaired today was the line that when first checked on February 5th was announced to be the 'only good line' we had. The response I had from the TIO is that I can expect to hear from them this coming week.

At the moment none of our lines can be considered 'fault free' but I am constantly monitoring connections to make sure that those lines which appear to have the shortest connect times are fitted with the Fax Filters that Andrew gave me to try to see if they would help filter out some of the noise. In all cases the lines that those filters have been attached to have shown a marked improvement in the length of connects. They haven't entirely eliminated the disconnections on those lines, but there is ample evidence that instead of the length of connects on those lines being measured in minutes or seconds, they are now displaying connects which can be measured in hours or ten of minutes.

To date only two members have complained about short connects and in both instances those members had been connecting directly to unfiltered lines. Currently the filters are fitted to the 'noisiest' lines which occur higher in the rotary group, so that members who use the main rotary dialin number (4954 8168) can maximise their chances of achieving a good connect.

But our phone lines have not been the only problem this month. During the first week of February while half our dialins were out of commission we also suffered two instances when our modem at Ozemail's Newcastle server failed to reset. However I was pleased to see that they have finally realised that just allocating us any alternate number will not resolve such a problem and that the last time it occurred it only took them 10 minutes to set a new number up for us rather than the 3 days it's taken previously.

There has only been one instance of a power surge causing modem disconnects this month - the lines connected to the filters did not disconnect although the remainder did - but none of the computers were affected. Overall our equipment has been operating in a stable manner since it was last rebooted 20 days ago. Andrew has lent us two modems for the dialins to replace those which were suspected of having problems.

Two new members have joined us this month - Gavin Bottrell (Kellie's brother) and Leon Garde (a former member of the HNA who has returned to the group with skills and knowledge that we most definitely will find a use for). Welcome Gavin! Welcome back Leon! Both were introduced/re-introduced to the group by existing members and this still does remain the best way of not only increasing our numbers, but of ensuring that new members realise that we are 'not an ISP'.

Our current membership stands at 54 - 31 dialins, 6 perms, 4 uucp, 10 mail and news only, 2 ethernet and 1 additional account within household). Our yearly gross income now stands at $8,191 (after GST) with net income of around $105 per month which is all that remains to pay for phone call charges and any other expenditure that is incurred in maintaining or upgrading the network.

Unfortunately we have exceeded this figure in recent months which coupled with overdue access fees of $382.50 has left us in the red by around $400. We could be out of the red by July and have the finances to purchase the 32-port card and 7 modems from Andrew in November if members pay only their minimum access fees when due promptly. However if members pay for 6, 9 or 12 months at their next payment or we acquire more new members then there is the slight possibility that this much needed equipment can be purchased next month and we can remain in the black for the remainder of the year.

The saddest news I received this month was the announcement that Gavin Condon who has been a lynchpin of the Admin Team since the relocation is being transferred to Melbourne in his job. Gav has assured me that he will not be deserting us though - that he will continue to supervise the maintenance of the system that the less knowledgeable members of the admin team carry out and remain available for consultation regarding any problems we encounter with the system and will telnet in to fix any problems that we can't. (With the loss of Pik to the Central Coast and Benny to Sydney last year and now Gav going south as well, I'm feeling their loss almost as much as I did that of my own sons when they moved out of home. The number of hours they had all spent here in the past 3 years made us all feel like they were part of our family, so I would like them to know that their skills and knowledge are not the only things that they'll be missed for. Hunter APANA owes Pik and Gav a debt of gratitude that we can only repay by continuing to remember and appreciate that without them it is unlikely that we would still be together as a group).

Carolyn Baird
Regional Co-ordinator.

January

The financial situation in the region has improved slightly from that previously notified due to a few members paying their fees in advance and the addition of two new members this month. Unfortunately as the financial report shows the forecast for the next six months indicates that we will continue to have cashflow problems unless the advances made during this month can be replicated in coming months.

As all members are aware the past 3 months have been chaotic with severe equipment failures occurring frequently, especially during the Christmas/New Year period. Thanks to the donation of assorted spare parts by Ross not only were bombadil and giles able to be returned to good working condition, we were also able to upgrade bombadil from 32 to 64MB of RAM. Since then the only problems experienced have been software problems and modems continually failing to reset properly.

There are currently 56 members of the region - down 2 since the last meeting despite 5 new members being added during this period. The largest proportion of these were members whose regional access expired some time ago but, since they had failed to notify that they wished to resign their membership, they remained in our membership database until their APANA membership expired. Consequently their departure did not affect our financial situation any, since their access fees were not included in any of the last 3 months financial reports. Three members were downgraded to mail-and-news only due to financial hardship. Two of those members had been conservative in their online use since their due date so their overdue fees for full access were discarded. However the third continued to use the system's resources to fullest capacity until the downgrade so his overdue fees still apply and must be paid before his membership will be restored to full access. Three members were moved from the dialins to permanent connections during November. These changes have brought our member:modem ratio for the dialins down to less than 4:1 - resulting in the region having the capacity to add more dialin members without having to add any extra lines.

No complaints have been received although a number of enquiries regarding the status of the system have been received.

If all members continue to support the region for the remainder of the financial year both financially and in helping us to acquire new members, the chances of us updating our equipment and being able to provide a faster and more reliable connection to all members before the end of this year will be greatly improved.

Carolyn Baird
Hunter Regional Co-ordinator.