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Meeting held at the home of Carolyn Baird.

  1. Meeting declared opened at 2.22pm.

  2. Members Present:

    • Carolyn Baird
    • Ross Slade
    • Andrew Glazebrook

  3. Apologies:

    • Peter Longworth

  4. Minutes of March 25th, 2001 Regional Meeting: A printed copy of the previous minutes was circulated and read by all present. Andrew approved the minutes. Seconded by Ross. Accepted unanimously.

  5. Regional Report: The Following documents were circulated and read by all present.
    • The Co-ordinator's report for March
    • Copy of Telstra's April account
    • Hunter Region's current financial summary with March summary for comparison
    • Financial statement for the year to date with March statement for comparison
    • Financial forecast to June 2002 with March forecast for comparison
    • Treasurer's report, 30th April 2001
    • Copy of the letter from UUNET regarding our new connection
    • Correspondence received from TIO regarding complaints against Telstra on APANA's behalf dated 12 April, 2001.

    MAY REGIONAL CO-ORDINATOR'S REPORT:

    • Introduction:

      The highpoint of the past two months was the opportunity to provide afternoon tea to the Treasurer, John Childs and wife, Cindy in my home on April 26th.

    • Finances:

      The financial situation in the region has improved only marginally since the last meeting due entirely to a few members paying promptly or in advance. However, our bottom line would be far healthier if it weren't for the amount of overdue fees outstanding ($350).

      The upgrading of our Ozemail link to 56K while costing us $100 setup fee was meant to save us around $58 @ month which meant that the setup fee would have paid for itself within two months. However, Telstra has advised that the rental on all non-profit phone lines will be increased as of June 1st, which will mean that we will now only be $25 @ month better off and we won't begin to see any savings for around 4 months.

      Advice from Dingoblue is that they won't be charging for downloads in excess of 1.5GB until they've installed the software to provide progressive feedback to members of the amount downloaded each session (estimated to be in another 2 or 3 months time). However, they will advise any customer who is exceeding that limit at the end of each intervening month. So the viability of maintaining our backup link in the long term still can't be determined, but it seems prudent to maintain restrictions on the use of the Dingoblue link to peak hours only to provide maximum benefit while keeping call costs at 1 or 2 per day. In the previous month there were 16 calls for that link, so this month and in future months our call costs will be at least doubled.

      National has advised that within 3 or 4 months according to current trends it will be unable to financially support any region whose incomings do not match their outgoings. So the Regional Committee may have no option but to disconnect some services (such as the backup link and some of the dialins) and/or increase access fees unless prompt payment of access fees is adhered to by all members.

      At the moment if all money due by the end of the financial year is paid in before then we will finish the year (just) in the black and if prompt payment after then continues until the end of the year, it may even be possible to reduce access fees by a small amount the following year and still have sufficient income for equipment replacement and upgrades.

    • Equipment:

      Despite the heavy rains we've experienced in the last few weeks, the phone lines appear to be holding up quite well even though the damaged cable has not been replaced as yet. It is hoped that the temporary fix by Telstra linesmen will last until that happens.

      Since I received the letter acknowledging our complaint dated April 12th, I've heard nothing more from the TIO or Telstra even though I did receive a call from Dingoblue prior to April 20th regarding the complaint that the TIO lodged with them on my behalf with respect to my personal line. Both Dingoblue and Telstra were given until April 20th to respond to the TIO letters but I have not been advised of the outcome of those as yet.

      March 27th to 31st:

      • Bombadil developed a problem accessing its hard drive. The problem was solved by disconnecting the second drive after the problem recurred twice in following weeks.
      • The Ozemail link showed problems with significant packet loss. It was never determined what had caused it but it only lasted a few hours before it came good again.
      • There were reports of a few disconnections but a thorough check of the equipment here showed no network problems.
      • Received notification that Sendmail on Bombadil had been upgraded to 8.11.3 by a member of the admin team without prior consultation with anyone. It then took about 2 weeks before all the problems that that upgrade had caused were sorted out which mainly involved resetting ownership and permissions or creating symbolic links for established programs so that they could run in conjunction with the new version of sendmail.
      • Problems encountered in connecting a new member pointed to a problem with members using customised software from commercial ISPs and internal modems to connect to us. Not the first time it had been encountered but the first time a temporary fix without resorting to a complete reinstall was accomplished (deleted and reinstalled dialup networking and connected an external modem).
      • Problem with 'yellow background' being displayed in IE but not Netscape on one of the webpages was corrected.
      • Received notification that Sendmail on giles had been upgraded - again without prior consultation. Resulted in numerous problems including mail relays from servers on the network. Most problems were eventually resolved over a number of days as problems were reported by members.
      • Problem with modem not resetting properly on dialins - replaced.
      • Testing board established at the hub.

      April 1st ot 30th:

      • Access to MSN and Hotmail sites continues to be a p roblem for some members.
      • Lag on Ozemail link returned - appeared to be at the ir end.
      • Restrictions on the Dingoblue link were implemented at 12 hours per d ay.
      • Worklogs created on all machines as a record of activities of the admin t eam members - all admins required to make an entry for any changes they make.
      • Email worm detected on member's machine which accounted for the lag on the Ozem ail link. Email access restricted for that member until he demonstrated that he 'd removed it from his system.
      • Member rescued from a hefty phone bill by isol ating the line his computer was automatically but unsuccessfully trying to conne ct to using a dialin script in his absence.
      • Modem on dialins not holding conn ections - replaced.
      • Member reported not being able to access his email. Disc overed he'd changed his password on giles but his old password was still current on his bombadil account.
      • Problem with news - fixed.
      • Discovered alterations made to sendmail configuration were preventing members from logging on. Resolved by using old configuration settings.
      • Mailertables updated on giles, bombadil and cray. Problem encountered when it was discovered that two members of the admin team had been simultaneous working on these files - one in accordance with admin team procedures, the other without.
      • Giles upgraded to Pentium133 with Debian 2.2 installed as the OS.
      • 32-port card installed and configurations changed. ISP links only modems not currently being served by 32-port card.
      • Faulty second drive in Bombadil physically removed.
      • All machines 'spring cleaned' during Admin Day.
      • Typo in member's PPP setup conflicted with Niggle and stopped the network machines communicating with each other.
      • Problems with UUCP due to upgrade.
      • Problems with firewalls restricting use of various programs via the proxy - advise members to use a direct connection for those programs.
      • Link to Ozemail upgraded from 28.8K to 56K. No entries made in worklog by admin who set up the link (nor at any other time by that member).
      • Discovered entries had been removed from mailertable without consultation with other team members or entry made in the worklog.
      • Unable to use Ozemail for mail relay due to blacklisting by MAPS.
      • Discovered reinstatement after 1 hour of being booted not working - 2 members affected - fixed.
      • Problem with proxy fixed.
      • Attila removed from DNS.
      • Accident caused power disruption to premises. Network down 15 minutes while the computers' circuit was separated from main household circuit.
      • Admin team member edits files without authority that are the domain of the region's dnsmaster.
      • Continuing problems with UUCP reportedly fixed by upgrading ssh.
      • Problems with Giles not accepting mail from Cray - Cray setup to send directly.
      • Continuing problems with sendmail on Giles.

      May 1st to 19th:

      • Restriction on Dingoblue link usage upgraded to connect only between the hours of 6pm and midnight.
      • Assurances received days earlier that telnet on Giles was working found to be erroneous - fixed.
      • Various cronjobs broken due to ssl upgrade fixed.
      • WebPOP installed for use by members to access their email accounts prior to downloading.
      • Solution to member's connection problems discovered. Uninstall all customised software, delete modem driver files and reinstall modem drivers from Windows CD.
      • Congestion on the Ozemail link causes concern.
      • Ozemail upgraded their Newcastle server after numerous complaints regarding congestion. The next morning we awoke to find that our route to the outside world stopped at their Newcastle server. After numerous phone calls our subnet's routing was finally fixed 6 hours after it was first detected. During the period the Ozemail link was offline, the Dingoblue link was brought online to provide members with access through their proxy connections.
      • Cause of cray's problem running cronjobs found - flat battery causing machine to record incorrect time at bootup when cron was started.
      • Telstra fibre-optic cable accident causes outage of the Ozemail link for 20 hours. Dingoblue link brought online for that period.
      • Failure of admin team member to communicate with others before carrying out work on the system led to disruption of network operation and hampered efforts to determine quickly the extent of the phone problem and which of our lines were affected.
      • Accidental power disruption when a household member flicked the wrong switch on the meterbox.
      • Access to the DNS server (Niggle) restricted to the DNSMaster or his authorised team member.

    • Members:

      There are currently 54 members of the region - up 1 since the last meeting despite 3 new members being added during this period. There are now 31 dialin members, 6 permanent connects, 4 uucp, 9 mail-news only,2 ethernet and 2 additional member in household. The 2 members we lost left because of problems associated with having installed customised software (Pre-paid Internet Access with BigPond) on their computer immediately after the upgrades when they were having trouble connecting only to find afterwards that they were unable to reconnect to us at all and refused to take advantage of help offered to them to resolve the problem.

    • Complaints:

      Power surges continue to be a problem by causing modems to disconnect and fail to reset properly on average once @ week. Despite the lengthy list of problems the admin team has encountered during the past two months, the only actual complaints I've received have not been caused by our network at all. The source of all those problems have been the member's own machines, our ISP links, Energy Australia or Telstra. This is most likely due to the fact that when there is actually a problem with our network it is fixed so quickly under normal circumstances (that is, when normal admin team procedures are followed) that hardly any other member notices except the one reporting the problem. If a problem continues for any length of time, members can be assured that it is only because it is a problem beyond the control of the admin team who are afterall just members like any other and reliant on the network for their Internet connection as well, so not only is it in everyone else's best interest that the problem be fixed promptly, it is in their own best interest for it to be done too. No-one on the admin team wants to spend all their time fixing problems with the network - we all have other interests that we'd like to spend time pursuing - thus the creed of the admin team has always been "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" There's been ample evidence in the past few months of what happens when a member of the admin team tries to fix things that aren't broken....things get broken and that's a problem we can all do without.

    • Expenditure:

      The only expenditure incurred during the previous 2 months are a few phone calls which I am undecided at the moment whether I will claim or not.

    • Conclusion:

      The only major problem we have at the moment is one of 'attitude'. I was more than a little irritated recently when after spending my time helping a member (free of charge, of course) fix their connection problems (by eradicating the customised software on their computer and the modem driver files it had modified which were restricting connections to V90 protocol) only to be met with a further complaint by that member about the slowness of connecting to a popular website during their peak hour. When I tried to explain and my agitation became apparent I was told to not 'take it personally' as their complaint was 'against APANA not me'. It appears that despite the information provided to this member that their access is provided by a 'self-funding co-operative' they still fail to accept that 'APANA' doesn't provide them with their Internet access - that we are all the end-users of our connections and that our Intranet hub is just a single point of access that can be maintained permanently online allowing us permanent access (if required) to two ISPs at the same time. The advantage that this has over connecting independently to a single ISP apart from financial benefits is that if one ISP fails (and every ISP does sooner or later no matter how good they profess to be...it's just not Ozemail that has those problems - by all accounts, Telstra and Hunterlink are equally as unreliable) we as the members of the regional hub have some access via the backup link. It is up to members now to decide if when things fail if it's better to be cut off completely and incur additional expense in wasted phone calls to a single commercial ISP or to have access at all times although sometimes limited to those services which will only work through the proxy or on our Intranet.

      The other 'attitude' problem is that when things aren't working the way they should be the automatic response is the 'blame our network'. This is not only common amongst members it is also currently a problem on the Admin Team. So my advice to all members is 'Don't assume the problems you are experiencing are the fault of our network or your own computer. Communicate the problem to other members first to determine if it is a problem with your own computer, our network or further afield, BEFORE assigning blame or making any attempts to fix the problem'. To do otherwise only serves in raising frustration levels and can lead to unjust criticism of the network which is felt 'personally' by those of us who devote our free-time in maintaining it free-of-charge so that all members of the region will have an option to connecting to a commercial ISP. Members should also use their Hunter mailbox (which can be accessed by WebPOP now if you don't want or don't know how to change your email settings to do that in your email program) for internal mail at least and make sure they regularly check it so that they can be advised immediately regarding any problems that occur which relate to our connection to the outside world.

      In conclusion the most pertinent quote I know to describe the past 2 months comes from the Ancient Greek poet, Thais - "Evil communications corrupt good manners" and they've certainly 'corrupted' mine in recent weeks.

      Carolyn Baird
      Hunter Regional Co-ordinator.

    Andrew proposed that the Admin Team Policy be formalised and documented by the Regional Committee and displayed so that all admin team members both present and future could reference it for the purpose of determining the correct procedure to be followed at all times. Seconded Carolyn. Accepted unanimously. Andrew volunteered to prepare a draft of that policy for approval prior to implementation by the Regional Committee.

    With that proviso, Andrew voted to accept the Regional Co-ordinator's report. Seconded: Ross.

  6. System Administrator's Report:

    Ross stated that as Carolyn had presented a full account of events on the admin side of things there was little to add except that he would like to propose that a collection be taken up amongst members to provide Carolyn with a supply of Prozac to alleviate her 'panic attacks'. Carolyn responded: "Laughter is better for me than any drug...keep making me laugh and I'll be fine."

  7. Testing & fate of surplus spare parts in stock.

    Carolyn advised that she had tested all the hard-drives in stock, discarded those that were defunct but that there were still a number which worked fine ranging in size from 80MB to 840MB in size. Since it is unlikely that the region will ever have any use for these, she proposed that they be offered to members as backup drives in the event of hard-disk failure since most had a variety of software already installed on them or sold off to members cheaply as second drives. Carolyn also indicated a huge pile of computer equipment littering the floor which the committee members would be required to sort through after the meeting to determine what was of use to the region and what wasn't.

    Andrew proposed that after completion of the 'sort' that Carolyn publish a list of the surplus equipment and if it was of use to any member they could have it for the price of a small donation to the region. But that any leftover equipment could be taken to the dump. Approved: Ross. Seconded: Carolyn.

  8. Telstra & the TIO re damaged phone cable.

    Carolyn advised that she had heard nothing more from the TIO since receiving their letter of April 12th. However, she did advise that she had received a phone call from Dingoblue regarding her personal TIO complaint against them prior to the deadline of April 20th that both telcos had been given to respond.

  9. Annual General Meeting of APANA

    Carolyn advised that the MC rep for Sydney was finalising details for the venue for the AGM on August 11th and Hunter's primary role would be to provide sufficient members to make up the quorum of 20 required for the meeting. Ross advised that he would be able to hire and drive a 28-seater minibus for $350 (includes fuel) so that all regional members wishing to attend could have a pleasant day out without the hassles or expense of finding their own way to Sydney. Andrew proposed that if there were more than the members of the Regional Committee wishing to attend then we should hire that bus or a smaller one for that excursion. Accepted unanimously.

  10. Other Business

    Carolyn requested direction concerning members whose accounts are overdue but have requested time to pay. Ross proposed that when an account is one month overdue that it be restricted to mail and new only access until such time as the account is paid. He also proposed that 2 weeks and 3 weeks after the due date Carolyn contact the member advising them that their access will be restricted in 14 or 7 days time unless she receives advice that the overdue fees have been paid. Request for 'time to pay' should be left to Carolyn's discretion. However, these restrictions should apply regardless of requests for time to pay when accounts are more than 6 weeks overdue. Seconded: Carolyn

    Possible ways of alleviating the region's financial situation were discussed. Noting that the region currently has a lower than sustainable level of dialup members to dialin lines, it was felt that if anyone expressed an interest in obtaining a permlink that they could be given one of the rarely used dialin lines in lieu of installing a new one.

    Andrew put forward the idea that since some of the permanent connect members weren't constantly connected that the permlink modems could be concentrated into a pool with the spare capacity available as a 15 minute express line. The consensus however was that this would be inappropriate as part of the purpose of the permanent lines is that they are for the exclusive use of that member and while using them in this way probably would never be noticed it would be unfair. It also would not provide much financial benefit as six line hunt monthly charges are only a few dollars less than the monthly rental on a dedicated line.

  11. The next meeting will be held on Sunday, July 22nd at 2pm at the hub.

  12. Meeting declared closed at 3.55pm.


(completed by Carolyn on 21/5/01)