[na-user] 1997 VE7TCP.AMPR.ORG Funding Drive

Lyndon Nerenberg Lyndon Nerenberg <lyndon@ve7tcp.ampr.org>
Thu, 17 Jul 1997 23:27:04 -0600

Please direct any questions about the funding drive to:


          		     1997 Funding Drive
      Some (Ancient) History
           This  message is being sent to all subscribers to mail-
           ing lists hosted on the ve7tcp.ampr.org server.  Copies
           will  be  placed in the root directory of the anonymous
           FTP area, and on the web server.
           The ve7tcp.ampr.org internet server  has  been  a	back
           room  project of mine (literally) since 1994. It's con-
           ception can be traced back  to  the  formation  of  the
           Internet  DX  mailing  list in 1993.  The DX list was a
           spin-off from the very  successful  CQ-CONTEST  mailing
           list  started  by	Trey  Garlough. The DX list was ini-
           tially hosted on a system at the University of Northern
           British  Columbia,  but as time went by the administra-
           tive load involved with running the list required it to
           be  moved	to a dedicated server where I had the flexi-
           bility to install software necessary to manage the list
           in a more reasonable (on my time) manner.
           Once  the	machine  was in place, setting up a web site
           dedicated to ham radio was a natural extension, and  in
           early  1994  ve7tcp.ampr.org  made it's debut as one of
           the first web/mail servers on  the  internet  dedicated
           exclusively  to  amateur  radio.	(As  near  as  I can
           recall, it was the first, and I would be interested  in
           corresponding  with  anyone who can provide information
           on other servers that were set up	in  that  timeframe.
           There's  some  history  there that should not be lost.)
           The initial focus of the server was on  contesting  and
           DX  (my  two  favourite  aspects  of ham radio, in that
           order :-)	although it soon  grew	to  encompass  other
           aspects  of  the hobby. It was (and has) always been my
           intention to make this place a home for useful informa-
           tion,  and  not  just  a site containing links to other
           sites ...
           From it's birth I have funded the server out-of-pocket.
           This  worked well until early 1996, by when the load on
           the server overwhelmed not only  the  hardware  running
           it,  but  also  it's internet connection. That spring I
           was uncertain what to do about the situation. I  didn't
           want  to turn the operation into a commercial business,
           but at the same time I didn't want  to  shut  it  down.
           After a bit of soul searching, and a lot of poking from
           the system users, I  decided  to  undertake  a  funding
           drive  to get the system upgraded to the point where it
           could handle the increasing load. The positive response
           from this was stunning to say the least, and allowed me
           to make the upgrades necessary to keep  things  running
           smoothly  (for the most part) and to expand the service
           Since then, the demand on	services  has  maintained  a
           steady  growth,  and the hardware has continued to age.
           We're now at the point where  critical  components  are
           starting  to  fail, and doing so with all too much fre-
           quency. So once again we are at a point where the	sys-
           tem needs an upgrade if it's to continue doing the job.
      What Have You Done For Me Lately?
           From it's beginnings as a server for a  single  mailing
           list, ve7tcp.ampr.org has grown to offer a wide variety
           of services to the ham community.	Some  of  these  are
           rather  mainstream  (the  mailing	lists, FTP archives,
           etc) and some are unparalleled anywhere (the Heard  Is.
           log servers). A quick summary of these includes:
           Mailing Lists
      	  *    The Internet DX Mailing List
      	  *    The Heard Is. Expedition Mailing List
      	  *    WF1B-RTTY
      	  *    CT-USER
      	  *    LOGPLUS
      	  *    NA-USER
           As  well  it acts as an FTP distribution site for files
           and software related to CT,  DXBASE,  Logplus,  Logwin-
           dows,  and NA, and mirrors the FTP archives at the ARRL
           and oak.oakland.edu.
           During the Easter Island (XR0Y) DXpedition it  provided
           the  first internet-based online search engine allowing
           hams to query the DXpedition log files  to  ensure  the
           information  about  their	QSO(s)	had been logged cor-
           rectly. During this years DXpedition  to  Heard  Island
           (VK0IR)  it  served  up  an  e-mail  log  search engine
           (another first) in addition to providing web-based  log
           search  capabilities.  And  as  we've gained experience
           establishing these services, the software has been made
           available	to  the  amateur community for use in future
           expeditions -- a tradition I intend to carry on.
           Both the web engine  and  the  FTP  archives  offer  up
           archives  of  several DX bulletins (through the efforts
           of some very dedicated volunteers), and these  archives
           are  indexed and available for search via a WAIS server
           running on the machine.  More recently, a	WHOIS  based
           Canadian  callsign  server  was  added, and I expect to
           have the US callbook incorporated	into  that  shortly.
           NNTP feeds of rec.radio.amateur.*, alt.ham-radio.*, and
           the ampr.*  newsgroups are also available.
      So What's Next?
           Good question. I wish I had a simple answer. There  are
           some immediate goals I would like to achieve:
      	  *    Redo  all  the  mailing	list  archives using
      	       Glimpse as the indexing and search engine.
      	  *    Provide a single consistent front-end -- both
      	       web and email -- for DXpedition log searches,
      	       ala what we did for VK0IR.
      	  *    Write (yes,  write)  a  replacement  for  the
      	       mailing list server we currently run.
      	  *    Replace	the  existing  server  hardware with
      	       bits that have been manufactured  within  the
      	       last  five  years,  and	get  some filesystem
      	       backups happening.
           I also have some longer term goals that involve provid-
           ing  web  accessible  tools  for  things  like  antenna
           design, propagation analysis,  and  general  electronic
           design,  that  are not available to people running low-
           end computer systems. From an operating  standpoint  it
           would  be nice to provide an archive for expedition and
           contest log information in a format suitable  for	con-
           ducting propagation analysis, and I would *love* to see
           a truly interactive QSL database engine that could  not
           only be queried, but *updated* by the users.
      What Needs To Be Done?
           The  most	immediate  need  is  to  replace/upgrade the
           existing server hardware. As much as I hate to  say  it
           (and  believe me, I *hate* asking for money like this),
           it's going to take $$$ to do this. Details of the	his-
           tory  of  the  server hardware are available on the web
           page so I won't repeat them here. As  it  stands  right
           now,  the	system	is running on a 100 MHz Pentium with
           128 MB of RAM and roughly 8 GB of disk. A year  ago  it
           was an 80486 with 16 MB and about 2GB of disk.
           The  load	imposed  by  running  the  mailing lists has
           always been the limiting factor.  Last  years  upgrades
           kept  the status quo mailing lists quite happy, but the
           appearance of the Heard Is. list required a RAM upgrade
           to  32  MB. Since them we've gone to 64, then 128 MB of
           RAM. Disks have also had to be replaced, mostly due  to
           the  old  ones  failing from old age. A related problem
           has been heat.  The server has enough  hardware  in  it
           that  the	fan  just can't push the air through it fast
           enough any more. (I attribute two of  the	recent	disk
           failures to excess heat.)
           As  I  see  it,  here's  what we need to do to keep the
           server going:
      	  *    Replace the existing cabinet with  commercial
      	       grade  rackmount  chassis -- two of them: one
      	       for the CPU board and base peripherals, and a
      	       second for the SCSI expansion bay.
      	  *    Install a tape drive for backups.
      	  *    Purchase tapes for the tape drive.
      	  *    Replace/upgrade	most  of  the disk farm with
      	       current hardware. This includes adding a sec-
      	       ond  SCSI  controller  so  that	I  can start
      	       interleaving the disk I/O  across  more	than
      	       one channel.
      	  *    Expand  the disk farm to properly accommodate
      	       the FTP, mailing  list,	and  expedition  log
           Beyond  this  it would be nice to be able to add one or
           two (or more) SCSI CD-ROM drives in order to be able to
           offer  up	some  of  the  public  domain  amateur radio
           related CD's via the FTP archives.
      How Can I Help?
           Over the short term it's quite simple: cash is required
           to  upgrade  the hardware. But there is more to it than
           that. Just having the  hardware  means  nothing  unless
           there are people willing to use it to provide tools and
           services useful to the  amateur  community.  Running  a
           mailing list is not a simple exercise. The people work-
           ing behind the scenes put in a lot of hours to see that
           you  get  that  information in your mailbox. Similarly,
           maintaining the web site, the FTP archives, the mailing
           list  indices, etc., requires time that we could all be
           spending on the air. Keeping this going requires a com-
           munity  effort,  and  it's  you the community that must
           contribute to reducing the  information  vacuum.  First
           and  foremost  this  site	requires  VOLUNTEERS to help
           maintain the services running here. Regardless of	your
           level  of	computer  skills,  please consider providing
           some of your time to help this continue to be a  useful
           site.  Just  like	contesting and DXing, you will learn
           more by looking over the shoulder of an experienced  op
           than  otherwise,  and  we're more than willing to share
           our knowledge.
           But naturally the other half involves finding  the  $$$
           to  fix  the  hardware  problems we have. I've run up a
           quick budget showing where we need to get to:
           | Tape drive (DDS-2 Sony DAT 8GB)	     $1000	    |
           |		   DAT tapes for above	       110	    |
           |			 4GB SCSI disk	      1050	 *  |
           |			 4GB SCSI disk	      1050	    |
           |			     96 MB RAM	      1200	 *  |
           |		       SCSI Controller	       100	    |
           |			   SCSI CD-ROM	       200	    |
           |	       Rackmount Chassis (CPU)	      1300	    |
           |	      Rackmount Chassis (SCSI)	       800	    |
           |		     Sub-total (CDN $)	     $5810	    |
           |			       GST(**)	       407	    |
           |				 Total	     $6217	    |
           *	  These represents bits that  I  have  already	pur-
      	  chased this year to keep the box running.
           **   GST  is  the	Canadian  "Grab and Steal Tax" -- an
      	  excuse for the government to take an additional 7%
      	  of my livelihood.
           The costs I've listed represent my "dealer cost" buying
           price. Some of you  might	be  able  to  get  the	gear
           cheaper,  however	I insist on purchasing the equipment
           myself from vendors I know.  It's not worth saving  $10
           to  get  something  that doesn't work, and UNIX servers
           are a lot more picky about what they will or  will  not
           work  with.  (But if you have pointers to quality hard-
           ware that I should consider purchasing, please send the
           information along.)
      How Can I Contribute?
           As  mentioned  above,  there are two things required to
           keep this service going: volunteers, and money for  the
           Anyone  wishing  to volunteer their time and knowledge,
           or who has ideas on how  the  services  here  could  be
           expanded to assist the amateur community should contact
           me via e-mail at:
           I discovered last year that  collecting  donations  was
           almost as much work as running the server :-(  I'm very
           fortunate this year in having a volunteer who  will  be
           coordinating  the collection of donations on my behalf,
           freeing up my time  to  concentrate  on  upgrading  the
           server.   Those  wishing  to make cash contributions to
           the server upgrade fund can send them to:
      	  Robert Reed (W2CE)
      	  1991 Route 37 West
      	  Lot 109 - Pine Acres Manor II
      	  Toms River, New Jersey
      	  USA  08757
           Cheques and money orders  are  fine  --  cash  is	not.
           Please  make  things out in Robert's name as he will be
           depositing the money and  forwarding  it  to  me  sepa-
        	  To  those  of  you in Edmonton, I can collect this
        	  money directly. You can reach me via e-mail or  at
        	  424-4922 x339 during the day.
           Last  year I promised to have a web page set up to list
           those of you who  contributed  to	keeping  the  system
           going.  The  workload  of keeping up with the donations
           precluded that, but I'm hoping that someone  with	some
           basic  HTML skills will step forward this year and vol-
           unteer to maintain that information.
      I Would Like To Thank The Academy ...
           Jim Reisert (AD1C) deserves a *lot* of thanks for	act-
           ing  as the other system administrator for this system.
           He spends *way* too much time watching all the  mailing
           lists,  and  the  machine	in  general,  in between his
           duties watching out for contesting.com.  (And  we	even
           let him off for a bit to get married :-)
           Bob  Reed	(W2CE) also deserves a large *thank you* for
           handling this years fund  raising	drive.	(He  doesn't
           know what he got himself into :-)
           And  all  the  people who keep the bulletin and mailing
           list archives up-to-date also deserve your thanks.  The
           system would not be what it is without them!
--lyndon (VE7TCP/VE6BBM)

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