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December

The past month has been rather eventful in Hunter, not only from a financial perspective but also in the amount that has been accomplished in such a short space of time.

In addition to and following the last RC Minutes:

  1. Two permlinks were established. Two days after the initial phone call to Telstra, the lines were installed....the lines were in two days before I received the acknowledgement of my order for the lines from them.
  2. Entries in the White & Yellow Pages were accepted.
  3. 2000 flyers have been commercially photocopied for letterbox distribution in the Cardiff, Glendale and Edgeworth areas the week before Christmas. Members have also distributed a small number flyers around their neighbourhoods.
  4. The display ad in The Star yielded 15 requests for applications and 6 of those have already joined (not counting the ex-member whose APANA membership was cancelled and her cheque returned to her). The Star ad will be run again next week. One new member transferred to us from Wollongong and 3 members joined as referrals from other members. There are currently 41 members receiving access through Hunter: 2 by ethernet; 2 by UUCP; 3 permlinks; 1 organisational member; 33 on the dialups and 7 APANA members on the database whose access has expired.
  5. A few minor technical problems were experienced but these were either fixed by the admins or me as soon as they were brought to our attention.
  6. None of the current members have lodged any complaints during the past month although our system seems to have been getting a good workout by all.

All in all a very good month...probably the best we've ever had for which we owe a great vote of thanks to Chris Roughsedge for providing us with a copy of Wollongong's advertising material on which we were able to model our own.

Carolyn

November

Finances:

With the renewals from members in October, our finances gained some ground but since our display ad appeared in The Star on November 3rd, the situation is Hunter has improved dramatically.

Our yearly income currently stands at $6900 which exceeds our Ozemail fees and Telstra charges by $1600. This, of course, is still not enough to pay off our debt to the national body in the short term but it does indicate that in the longer term we are now a financially viable region provided we can maintain our membership at this level or higher until the APANA debt is settled.

Equipment:

Apart from a few modems not resetting properly; the continuing problems with news access and a minor glitch with sendmail, all of which were able to be attended to promptly by the admin team - thanks to members bringing them to their attention without delay - there have been no major problems with our equipment during this time.

New member, Alan Gillanders, has donated a 175MB Seagate hard-drive and 16MB of EDO RAM to the region (Thanks Alan!).

Ozemail:

From October 17th until November 7th, 3 of Ozemail's mailservers were spam-blocked by mail-abuse.org and therefore some of our outgoing mail was being bounced. Despite notifying Ozemail of the problem in 3 emails and 4 phone calls over a period of a week, none of their suggested 'solutions' worked so we just had to wait until they finally contacted mail-abuse.org and had the spam-blocks removed.

Members:

In the past 10 days, 6 new members have joined and one member of the Wollongong region has transferred to us. Bringing the total of members receiving access through our system to 40. A further 7 applications were mailed out during this period.

Members are now being encouraged to print out and distribute our flyer produced with the help of Chris Roughsedge of the Wollongong region (many thanks, Chris!). I've already received two responses to the flyer but expect more over coming weeks.

Complaints:

No complaints were received from existing members during this period. A few new members experienced difficulties in configuring their machines and received free support from two RC members to complete their connection to us. However new members are reminded that:

"Please note that we are a volunteer-run organisation, and do not have the resources to provide much technical support. All members will endeavour to assist you in any way we can, but ultimately the responsibility of establishing a reliable connection is your own since we are together as a group to provide ourselves with Internet Access and we are not Service Providers."

So any member continuing to experience problems with their computer which they are not able to resolve on their own or from advice given through email with other members are expected to bring them to one of our fix-it days for any additional free support.

Expenditure:

Printing, postage and phone call costs are the only expenditure since June 30th. The account from The Star has not been received as yet, but it is expected to be for $70.

	2 x cartridges (B/W & Col) plus 2 x refills	$ 130.90
	Paper & Staples					$   9.15
	Postage						$   9.00
	Telstra						$   9.00
	Optus						$  19.86
							--------
							$ 177.91

Printing costs are high due to the production of the flyers and information for applicants and new members. It is however expenditure that is expected to pay for itself in coming months.

Conclusion:

Our first barbeque and fix-it day following our AGRM on October 24th was so successful that it is intended to make these regular features of all future regional committee meetings. Two members were delighted to finally have their computers fixed after a month of trying to sort their problems out themselves (Thanks Gavin!). Nigel was assigned the role of cook and did an excellent job despite setting off the smoke-alarms by having the barbeque on the front verandah due to the rain (Thanks Nigel!). It WAS a fun-day so I hope that many more members will attend such events in the future.

The future of the Hunter Region is looking exceptionally bright from all angles.

Carolyn Baird
Regional Co-ordinator

October

In the past fortnight a problem with our system has arisen which the admins have not been able to fix as yet. It appears that when the Ozemail link is disconnected (which appears to be happening more frequently during the early hours of the morning - between 3am and 6am) after a new connection is established our network fails to recognise that the Ozemail link is up. The only way I've found to rectify this is to reboot the whole system. During the shutdown prior to reboot niggle claims not to be able to connect to cray or giles, yet prior to the shutdown script being run I'm able to telnet into both machines from niggle. Until the Ozemail link drops out, there appears to be no problems with the system.

The next question is what is causing the Ozemail connection to drop out in the early hours of the morning? Three theories have been proposed:

  1. Dew on the phone lines....doubtful, since it would be expected that the problem would be even more severe during wet weather and there's no evidence of this.

  2. Ozemail rebooting their system.

  3. Interference from the off-peak signals to my hot water system (1050Hz). However since it is Off-Peak 2, there are two 'turn-on' signals each day and there is no evidence of the second signal causing any problems. Although some members have reported disconnections at other times during the day, none of the disconnections are coincidental and seem to suggest modem incompatibilities for specific members connecting to particular modems rather than faulty equipment or lines. Also our backup link which requires manual reconnection has been in place each time the problems have been evident with the Ozemail link.

The article which appeared in the Newcastle Herald produced no new applications although there was an increase in the number of hits on our 'How to join' webpage. The meeting announcement in The Star on Tuesday has to date produced one enquiry from the local Whale-Watchers group though they seemed more interested in having us join them than in joining us unfortunately.

Our Annual General Regional Meeting is to be held next Sunday (October 24th). Nominations have been received to fill all positions with no surplus.

Hunter struggles on....

Carolyn

September

Hunter experienced some minor problems with two modems - one fixed itself; a replacement modem is in use for the other. Otherwise equipment has been performing adequately.

Our financial situation has shown a slight improvement, but at least we appear to be headed in the right direction now.

Two new members have been signed up. Currently there's a membership problem for one member - his wife's a member; his APANA membership has expired but his access fees are paid 6 month's in advance. I'm awaiting the return of the Treasurer to see if we/he can sort this problem out in the meantime the RC is allowing him to continue accessing the system.

Our ARM has been set for Sunday, Oct 24th at 11am.

That's the short version - the long version is in the minutes posted yesterday.

Carolyn

August

Ozemail continued to have problems with their Newcastle server in the first part of the month increasing our phone call charges substantially but not resulting in the extended downtimes of the previous month.

Extensive file corruption on bombadil was found to have been caused by the installation of the CDROM drive in that box. The CDROM drive was relocated to cray. The admin team spent most of the last weekend in July on site cleaning up bombadil, although very little downtime was experienced by members.

We continued to experience problems with nnmaster so the non-APANA newsgroups were severely cut from 97 to 24. This appears to have granted us some respite from the problems.

One new member joined the region this week.

Cray (donated by Chris Baird) - a 486DX/60 overclocked 486DX/50; 162MB HD with 20 MB RAM - has been installed on the network and is currently being configured as a Majordomo listserver. (It's slow going because, as I am the primary listowner in the region, the task has fallen to me to do most of it. To date all the lists have been created and configured for mail, including one for member, Marc Walters (who has provided me assistance in interpreting the documentation), but I'm currently still having problems setting it up for digests.)

Last month I was approached by another majordomo listowner for assistance in mhonarcing his archive files. Very happy with the results but aware that I won't accept payment for doing this he has now asked if it's possible to make a donation to the Hunter Region or if as a New Zealand resident he could join the Hunter Region.

The system has been running quietly and efficiently since the end of last week, so it seems that the admin team have rectified most of the problems for the time being. This is evidenced by the number of members being booted off our system during peak hours because of the long sessions they are apparently enjoying. The only phone calls or email I've received from members in the past week have been social in nature so it makes a very welcome change.

Carolyn

July

Hunter continued to experience problems with news and system crashes over the past month. Most were able to be rectified promptly. However the source of these problems was not discovered until the weekend prior to my departure for Armidale. Temporary fixes were put in place during my 5 day absence but the day before my return those collapsed and there was some downtime before one of the admin team could get here to reboot the system. I returned last Friday and the admin team spent most of last weekend at the hub remedying the file and disk corruption that apparently had been caused by the power problems since the onset of winter prior to the UPS being utilised.

However two days after our system was working properly again, Ozemail's servers in Newcastle collapsed leaving us invisible to the outside world for about 18 hours. Workarounds were put in place by the admin team to use our backup link for all services except incoming mail so minimal inconvenience was caused to our members.

While the database shows us as having 36 members, it appears that 5 of those members will not be continuing with us (only one of those has indicated that he wasn't happy with the service as his reason for leaving) - all 5 had regional fees due/past due at this time. However a number of members have renewed their membership since July 1st so hopefully the balance of Hunter's account is not as far in debt as it was on June 30th.

Two enquiries from new applicants have been received in the past two weeks but both of those were 'out of area' - one from Wyong; the other from Tenterfield - so it was not feasible to offer them membership of the Hunter Region.

It has been suggested that if we can find someone to make up a sign for us which could be displayed in my front yard (which is adjacent to a high traffic road) then that could provide us with a cheap form of permanent advertising. In the meantime members have been requested to make copies of our flyer and distribute them throughout the region.

Obtaining new members remains our #1 concern.

Carolyn

June

The region has suffered a number of downtimes during the past month. The first occasion occurred when the main phone cable for the area was severed by a neighbour using a ride-on mower. This resulted in a downtime of around 20 hours.

The second series of disruptions occurred when to conserve the region's bandwidth it was suggested that Boronia allow Giles to host all its mail. On three occasions shortly after the large digests for my list PAN-L were distributed, Giles (which also serves the modems) crashed causing everyone to be disconnected. It was spotted almost immediately except for one occasion when it occurred at 3am and Giles wasn't rebooted until 8.15am. Boronia is now set up to allow Giles to handle only small messages while large messages are directed to Ozemail's mailserver. The success of this workaround had led to mail from all the system being hosted by Ozemail instead of being distributed by direct connection. This has significantly reduced the number of mail-errors; 'connection reset by peer' which were previously commonplace and appears to have reduced some of our bandwidth problems.

Since the onset of colder weather, the Hunter Region's hub has been plagued by electricity supply problems. There have been evidence of daily fluctuations in power that on at least 3 separate occasions have crashed the system. At other times, they have caused members to be disconnected or required one of the servers to be rebooted. Gavin Condon has lent us the use of his UPS which is now (this morning) connected to all 3 servers while all except two of our modems are connected to 'surge-protected' powerboards.

Unfortunately these problems have not provided a very good impression to the 4 new APANA members who are currently trialing our system and they have expressed concerns over the number of disconnections they have suffered.

My 56K modem which was on loan to the region died early last month which left us with only 7 lines in use for a few days until Gavin offered to provide us with one of his own which will eventually be attached to his permlink when that has been organised but in the meantime is on loan to the region. This month we've had problems with two of our older modems which were failing to reset; disconnecting members for no apparent reason or providing too slow a response (complaints were received regarding these problems from a number of members). These two modems have now been replaced by 2 x 33K6's provided by Andrew Glazebrook (rejects from Dragon due to faulty power supplies) which were able to be utilized by us since we now have an over-abundance of power supplies thanks to the repairs made to the faulty Roadster power supplies by Allan Beeton. Andrew has indicated that if these modems prove reliable he is willing to donate them to the region.

In addition we have been offered the donation of a 386 already configured as a mailserver by Chris Baird (I hope to be going to Armidale during the school holidays to pick it up) and Marc Walters has offered the donation of a 486 motherboard if we have a use for it. Charlie Brady (the son of a Hunter member) has also offered to donate any 'bits and pieces' we need if he has them onhand.

We had a limited response to the ads we ran in the Trading Post and The Star although there have been 76 hits on our 'joining' webpage so far this month and I've personally had contact with 4 people who indicated that they will sign up with us when their contract with their ISP runs out. Other members of the region have indicated to me that they have had contact with others who may be interested in joining.

An RC meeting was held on Sunday, June 13th - the minutes of which will be available shortly. Advertising for new members is still a priority. Copies of our flyer have been posted at both Glendale and Newcastle TAFE by RC members and a poster is currently being designed that will be placed on community noticeboards in the shopping centres and libraries within the region. It is not planned to run anymore newspaper ads at the present time.

Two members are still having problems receiving mail from Hotmail addresses. Thorough investigation by the Admin Team has thrown no light as to what may be the cause...apart from the suggestion that it may be a bandwidth problem. A similar problem exists with the PEI.SYMPATICO.CA server, yet none of the other addresses on my international list have this problem.

Apart from the problems outlined here (most of which we hope have now been remedied), everything is 'hunky-dory' in the Hunter Region. :-)

Carolyn

May

Hunter offline - no report.

April

No report.

March

Despite the weather at this time of year, our system has only been down for 20 minutes in the past month during an electrical storm. Only one complaint from a member was received in that period and that turned out to be a global rather than a local problem concerning the server at the other end. Our most recent new members have reported that the access we provide is 'faster' than they were able to achieve with their commercial ISP before so they are quite happy.

Hunter started advertising for new members in the Newcastle Herald on Feb 27th. There appeared to have been very little response and no new members generated by it. We currently have an ad running for 3 weeks in the Hunter Trading Post which appeared for the first time on March 11th. Since it came out I have received 3 emails in direct response to it so things look more promising now. Two new members have been added this month bringing our current number to 25 with another new application in the post. Unfortunately I've been notified that one of our current members whose membership expires in April won't be renewing, so again it's two steps forward one step back. I was told by one applicant that he was nearly turned off from contacting me by the slowness of the access to the National page - he had wrongly assumed that that was an indicator of the speed with which webpages would load using our server. I have managed to convince him otherwise but it's hoped that the new National machine in its new location will rectify this problem.

The RC is currently designing a poster that will be displayed on community noticeboards and those should go up within the coming month.

Our last RC meeting was held on March 7th (minutes are available on our webpage) and a new policy brought into effect requiring members to encourage their household members, who regularly use the facilities provided by the region at no charge, to join APANA and pay a reduced access fee for their usage. The advantage to the household member is that they will have their own fully functional account which will not be subject to any usage/time restrictions placed on the first account in that household. It was realised that this was a way for those who wished to help the region out of its financial bind to make a 'donation to the region' while receiving something for their money instead of increasing fees for all members at the present time. It's a policy that can't/won't be enforced unless membership of APANA becomes mandatory for household members across all regions, rather it relies on the goodwill of members to implement it if it's applicable to their situation.

Fortunately financial problems are the only ones that the region appears to have at the moment. The system under the guidance of the admin team is running beautifully; members appear to be happy and there's a spirit of co-operativeness and enthusiasm within the admin team and RC that I've not witnessed the likes of before. The new members of the RC have already shown themselves to be assets to the region.

Carolyn

February

Since the relocation, there had been numerous complaints about random disconnections occurring, however last month I decided it was time to read the modem manuals and discovered that our new Roadster II's were not automatically enabled for MNP10 correction. Since this was rectified I've received no more complaints.

To date 3 of the 5 power supplies for the Roadster II's have failed, although our Maestro's have all been performing well. We are currently operating with only 7 modems for dialins but so far this doesn't seem to be creating any difficulties in connecting for anyone.

Two new members have been added this year but that has been offset by the departure of two of our members who have moved to Sydney.

We experienced a few problems in connecting the new members as they were using Windows 95 and Windows 98 and only the absent member of the admin team at that time knew anything about configuring their software. But a combined effort managed to sort the problems out before our new members became too frustrated by our apparent incompetence. Since then however both have complimented us on the operation of our system.

Since early January our system has been subjected to a 'web-hammering' from a client of IDL (a local ISP). Contact was made with IDL and the client identified by them and reprimanded for their behaviour although they could find no evidence on his computer relating to it. However, that same evening the 'web-hammering' recommenced so we have now blocked access to our system by IDL until such time as they can assure us that the problem has been eliminated at their end. (IDL reported that the client was a 15 or 16 year old former member of APANA but would not divulge his identity).

The RC is currently drafting an advertisement that we should be able to place in the local newspaper within the next two weeks. In addition copies of our flyer have been posted on noticeboards at the TAFE colleges in the area. We had planned on doing this earlier, however this was put on hold because of the disconnections and difficulties in connecting our new members. We feel we are now in a position to push ahead with increasing our membership.

Carolyn

January

Management Committee in recess - no report.