[Linux-aus] Vice President Report

Steve Walsh steve at nerdvana.org.au
Fri Jan 22 21:09:34 EST 2010

== Vice President Report ==

This report completes 3 years on the LA council, one as an OCM, and two 
in the office of Vice President, taking over from Pia Waugh in the 2008 

As both Stewart and AJ indicated in their reports, ongoing concern all 
three of us shared was the continuing reliance on healthily profitable 
LCAs to fund other activities. My focus whilst in the position of VP for 
2009 was twofold; to investigate alternative sources of income that 
would be simple for the organisation to implement (as well as provide 
minimal overhead for the council to setup and run); and to find a way to 
get a handle on getting reimbursements processed as quickly as possible. 
Of the former, these included a Linux Australia Webshop, and the 
investigation of a Linux Australia "branded" credit card.

The surplus of schwag from LCA2009, combined with the Tux-branded 
keyboards purchased after CeBit 2008, provided a perfect opportunity to 
stock the LA Web shop, and I undertook the creation and population of 
the webshop with Leah Duncan. Further investigation and discussion with 
SecurePay, the merchant provider for linux.conf.au registrations 
indicated that we would need another merchant account, however before 
this was underway the council was approached by a commercial 
organisation who wished to run the LA shop themselves. As this 
discussion is still underway, I will refrain from going into specifics 
on the organisation or agreement, however the 2009 council felt that 
this would be the best way to move forward with the shop, so I look 
forward to hearing more about this from the LA 2010 council as the year 
progresses, should they wish to continue down this path.

 From the initial investigation, LA Branded credit cards appeared to be 
a useful way to provide some added income for the organisation, and also 
provide a service of (debatable) benefit it's members. In schemes like 
this, the organisation negotiates with a bank or card provider a set 
interest rate, as well as any extra features like interest free periods, 
etc, and provides artwork for the cards. Members can apply for a card, 
and are subject to the normal conditions of acquiring a credit card. 
Once the member has been sucessful, they receive their card and can use 
it as normal, however a fraction of the credit interest is paid to the 
organisation (ie - the organisation negotiates a rate of 13.5%, of which 
2% is paid to the organisation). Similar schemes run by University 
Alumni organisations have resulted in substantial results (University of 
Pennsylvania reports $1.4million from it's program in 2006). A program 
like this exposes the organisation to very little risk; the burden of 
debt is carried by the card provider, with a contract for repayment 
being held between the provider and the individual member. This did not 
proceed past initial investigation stage, mainly due to my needing to 
focus on operational tasks from mid-year onwards.

== operational tasks ==

In 2008, Terry Dawson and I had highlighted a need for a simple 
ticketing system for tracking payments and reimbursements. We had 
investigated a number of options, such as Eventum, RT, using components 
of the Horde project, however we had not been able to find a system that 
provided the features we needed. At LCA2009, AJ and I resurrected this 
side project and we decided to look at a SCM for this task. We settled 
on Trac due to the simplicity of setup, and the integrated wiki/ticket 
options, which allows us to create a wikipage for things like a grant 
request, reference tickets details within the page, having the wiki page 
update as the ticket was updated, and providing a way to update the 
tickets in a simple work flow process. The hostility the council faced 
from some community members requiring reimbursement earlier in the year 
was a plain indicator that payments had been a problem during 2008. The 
council used this trac instance over the course of 2009, with all 
reimbursement requests, grants, incoming and outgoing payments entered, 
meaning that at any time all members of committee could see the status 
of a payment, from "pending discussed" to "paid and reconciled". This 
also permitted payments to continue to be processed and updated while 
council members were travelling or dealing with those pesky real world 
problems. The trac install was transitioned to a LA VM in November, and 
is part of the ongoing backup procedure.

Whilst I agree with the broader intent of the Policy the LCA2010 council 
announced in their acceptance of nomination, I believe that for Linux 
Australia to grow and move forward, it needs to decide what it's "core 
mission" is, then work in that direction. Consistently I have heard from 
members "what can linux australia do for me?". A few times over the last 
two years we have had members come to the council with great ideas, then 
appear concerned that the Council doesn't take the idea and run with it, 
but rather asks the member to tell the Council what that members needs 
to make the idea happen. If our membership is not aware that our mission 
is to "Provide facilities to support and stimulate community interest 
and participation"[0], then that needs to be address before other ways 
to benefit members are explored. Our Whilst ideas such as Personal 
Liability and Professional Indemnity Insurance, and greater engagement 
and interaction with OSIA and the LinuxChix community are worthwhile 
pursuing, the need still exists for the core mission to be defined, and 
the LA community revitalised and Energised.

During my time on council, I have volunteered twice at Linux Conf Au, 
both times assisting the team with the preparation and deploying of the 
Confernece Network. I have a firm belief that Council members should 
volunteer at LCA, which is, at the time of this report, our main source 
of income. Even though I was a part of the team that organised and ran 
LCA2008 (while I was an OCM), I have seen the conference grow and evolve 
further during LCA2009 and LCA2010, and being on the ground to lend a 
hand has meant that I can carry forward in my position for the following 
year the knowledge of what happened "on the ground" during the conference.


My other roles on council included representing the Sysadmin Team, and 
coordinating the LA storage facility at North Melbourne. The Sysadmin 
team undertook some upgrades this year, some planned, and some that 
occured due to the alignment of various celestial bodies and the 
required Hardware. Thanks to donations of a number of SAS harddrives 
from Bob Gobiele at HP, and 16GB Ram from Bulletproof hosting, we were 
able to give russell (LA's main VM server) a new lease on life, allowing 
us to allocate appropriate resources to LA hosted VM's. At the same 
time, the chance was taken to upgrade the RAM in the LCA VM box, 
allowing us to run 3 VM's on that box, for LCA2008, LCA2009 and LCA2010. 
I am currently working with representatives from LCA08 and LCA09 to 
transition plaintext copies of their websites to the LA webserver, 
allowing us to shut those VM's down and recover the resources for 
LCA2011 and further use.

One serious issue the sysadmin team faced this year was performance 
issues impacting the operation of Russell, the HP server. A number of 
causes were investigated, however it was eventually determined to be 
failed batteries on the RAID card. New Batteries were sourced and 
installed, however the card is still reporting failed batteries, so the 
sysadmin team are investigating further avenues to resolve this issue.

Two options the LA council discussed at the 2009 face to face meeting 
was a way to make the Sysadmin team cost neutral. We had intended to 
funnel the profits from the sale of the Tuz toys in the webstore into 
providing an operating fund for the mirror and sysadmin teams to improve 
our resilience, chief among the options investigated and decided on was 
a programmed replacement of older servers or those with a restricted 
upgrade path, and the purchase of an IPv4 and IPv6 block from APNIC. The 
purchase of an IP range would provide LA with a buffer should we need to 
move machines in a hurry (something which has occured 3 times in the 
last 2 years), meaning we could, if needed, move into a commercial 
environment and have little to no impact on machine availability. 
Neither of these ideas bore fruit, mainly due to the stalling of the 
webshop project.

The LA storage shed at North Melbourne was leased following LCA2008 to 
temporarily store the LCA gear prior to shipping it to LCA2009, however 
the purchase of 2 pallets of Cherry-brand Tux Keyboards has meant the 
shed is now a permanent ongoing requirement. The LCA gear was returned 
to the shed from Hobart in October, then palletised and shipped to 
Wellington in December. A small amount of collatoral from Linux Users of 
Victoria is stored in the shed, mainly consisting of a box of Fedora9 
DVD's, SFD disks, and some equipment used for LUV Workshops. There is 
also a storage facility leased in central Hobart which contains the 
excess Tuz toys, tshirts, rubik's cubes, shirts, etc from LCA2009. I am 
not able to provide an accurate list of items in storage in Hobart at 
this time, as, at the time of writing, I have not received an accurate 
audit of the contents. The LCA2009 team will need to provide this to the 
2010 council.


[0] http://www.linux.org.au/About/Charter

Steve Walsh

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