SBAY.ORG Status Report for 2005

by Ian Kluft
Founder and President, "SBAY.ORG", the South Bay Community Network
October 30, 2005

This is a report on the status of SBAY.ORG to provide information for members of the organization and potential candidates for elected positions before we hold our annual elections in November. I'll summarize what has happened since last year's elections in mid-November 2004.

Table of Contents

Highlights of 2005

SBAY.ORG

The original part of the SBAY.ORG organization has monthly forums over pizza, which has been going on for 12 years. We started a new tradition this year to allow "10 slides or less" presentations on technical topics at the meetings, keeping them deliberately short so that the meeting can still be mostly a social gathering.

Usually we change locations every 3 months to let someone else have a turn having it close to home. But we've been meeting most of the year in North San Jose at a Round Table Pizza that just opened on North First Street with free WiFi. This is the first time we're aware of a pizza place in the Valley with free WiFi. Feedback says we have to keep the WiFi access. So that now adds to our other criteria for a meeting location - a reservable meeting space, near freeways and near transit. But attendance has been lower than average, which makes us think the location isn't convenient for enough people. So we'll keep an eye open for another pizza place with free WiFi, now that we know that's considered a requirement.

A few members still maintain Internet hosts with names inside the sbay.org domain, which is where the term "community network" in our organization's name originally came from. As we ramp up for regular membership, we'll have to re-vamp the way this is done so people can register new ones again. If you want a host name for your machine at home and you don't want to maintain your own domain, we've been doing that for 12 years.

Silicon Valley Linux User Group (SVLUG)

SVLUG had met at Cisco's North San Jose site for 7 years, starting with the Linus Torvalds talk at SVLUG's 10th anniversary meeting in March 1998, and maintained a reputation with the staff as an excellent guest. But at the beginning of 2005, Cisco decided it wouldn't host external meetings any more. That was their decision to make, and it had to be respected.

So while a big "thank you" had to be given to Cisco for those 7 years, it also looked like SVLUG might be in for some rough times. But people who remember told us that the original Homebrew Computer Club (of which many view SVLUG as its descendant) had a similar problem 30 years ago when their meeting location became unavailable - they found a new place to meet and all was well. After SVLUG's leaders and members asked around the Valley, Veritas Software in Mountain View offered to host the meetings. When Veritas was acquired by Symantec, the offer was reconfirmed by Symantec. One of the advantages companies see in hosting SVLUG is that when they want to recruit technical talent, it doesn't hurt at all to have a group of some of the brightest technical people in the valley come to their site every month. Linux and Open Source Software are usually associated with technical self-training, with good reason.

As if there wasn't already enough chaos, SVLUG's Installfest site, Accent Technology, suddenly went out of business. Google came to the rescue offering a new site for the monthly event where SVLUG volunteers are available to help people who are doing their own installations of Linux.

So inside of the first few months of 2005, SVLUG's new President Paul Reed and Vice President Bill Ward had to overcome SVLUG's biggest crisis it had ever faced. Though they led a team of SVLUG members and employees of the new host companies who are all credited with solving this, Paul and Bill also deserve enormous credit themselves for leading that effort.

Paul also made the previously-unofficial #svlug IRC channel at freenode.net into an additional forum of SVLUG. At any given time, a dozen members can usually be found there either chatting or watching for new news and discussion.

A new feature of SVLUG's meetings is the "Nifty of the Month." Credit for the name goes to Melissa Kendrick. It's a short (10- to 15-minute) presentation on an Open Source project or related project by an SVLUG member. They've been met with enthusiasm, and are living up to their intent as yet another reason to come to SVLUG.

SVLUG's primary meeting schedule is booked through April 2006. Actually, the schedule was frozen to keep it from getting too far out in the future. Speakers who want to go sooner are referred to the SBAY Speakers Bureau where they can get in touch with other LUGs in California.

Bay Area FreeBSD User Group (BAFUG)

We've got a completely different situation with BAFUG. The group seems to be inactive right now. There haven't been any meetings since early 2005.

As far as the agreement had gone to bring BAFUG into SBAY.ORG, the group still gets to make its internal decisions. That was an easy agreement since it was already how the Special Interest Group (SIG) rules were written for SVLUG. We're sensitive that a BSD User Group wants to be seen as independent from Linux groups in the area.

So when BAFUG meetings stopped happening, it presented a dilemma. For some time we've needed to sit back and see if this sorts itself out. We're getting concerned so the offer for help needs to go out now. We don't know if the leadership are just busy or if they want to pass on the torch. And until we know the answer to that, it wouldn't be wise to do anything. We also don't know if they've had problems reserving their usual meeting place (Peter's Cafe, next to the Millbrae BART/Caltrain station and near US 101.) As we find out what BAFUG's leaders and members want, we'll mobilize to do what it takes to help get them on their feet again.

Addendum Nov 2005: Apparently BAFUG still had critical mass. Just the offer of help sprung people into action. They found a meeting location and started making preparations. However, with the original leadership no longer there, one person expressed opposition to BAFUG remaining in SBAY.ORG, and was intent on being obstructive to it. No others made comments either way. We had never had a chance to develop close ties with BAFUG due to their collapse, making it an awkward situation to start with. So this was a time to simply respect their choice. Their previous inactivity was enough to allow discontinuation of their status as a SIG of SBAY.ORG. So unfortunately that has been done.

Stratofox Aerospace Tracking Team

While the Winter is usually Stratofox's off-season, two things did happen since mid-November last year. The day after Thanksgiving 2004, Stratofox recovered the booster section from the historic CSXT Space Shot. It was a rush to get it out before a snowstorm arrived. But the weather had already been deteriorating conditions on the dirt roads into Nevada's Granite Range. So joining the team for the rare Winter 4x4 expedition were Ray Pledger and Tom White of El Dorado County Search & Rescue, who do Winter rescues in the Sierras. (El Dorado County spans US50 from Placerville to South Lake Tahoe.) They definitely earned their places on the Stratofox team by pulling two other 4x4 vehicles (Dave Masten's and mine) back onto the road when they slid off in mud or snow. It was 90 minutes on dirt roads to get to the site. So why go to all that trouble? The booster was wanted by the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum - how much more reason do you need? (Stratofox had already recovered the rocket's nose/avionics the day after the launch in May 2004.)

Early in 2005 before the season usually begins, preparations were afoot to start the season with yet another April Fools joke. Of all things, they staged a Lunar landing, claiming to have been named as the independent judging organization for a large monetary prize to retrieve a token from a probe that had just been landed on the Moon. Of course, the aerospace company that built the probe and the philanthropic foundation funding the prize were complete works of fiction, regardless of their elaborate web sites and a staged video from the Mission Control. When all was said and done, some people had been fooled for a moment but, as expected, none for long. Everyone laughed when they got it. Some professional rocket scientists who are really building a lunar probe for NASA said they thought Stratofox did their homework well and would even borrow some ideas from the hoax for their real probe.

But this type of fiction is limited to April 1st each year, if at all. There's too much serious stuff to do to put any doubt on the rest of the year.

By August Stratofox was at AeroPAC's hobby rocket launch meet at Nevada's Black Rock Desert, supporting the search effort for a low-altitude test of the "To100K" rocket designed to be the first rocket to reach 100,000' altitude with commercial hobby rocket motors. The first stage worked flawlessly but the second stage crashed about 1/2 mile from the launch site. Stratofox was still able to use the event as training in which four new participants qualified for membership and were subsequently voted onto the team.

In September, AeroPAC held its regularly scheduled September launch. The club's To100K rocket was ready with a new second stage. And once again Stratofox was invited to coordinate post-flight search efforts. The second stage experienced a different problem, failing to light its motor or deploy it parachute. Stratofox coordinated a search that included AeroPAC members. When a ground search failed to locate it, Stratofox took to the air in Stratofox member Ben Woodard's plane. Though they found someone else's rocket, To100K's second stage was finally located in a hole in the ground too small to be seen from the air.

Stratofox members Steve and Randy Palmer installed an Amateur Radio repeater on private property overlooking part of the Black Rock Desert.

Finally, the year's events were capped off with Stratofox's support of the Paragon Astronautics space launch. Stratofox's role was to be the Range Safety crew before launch and the search team after the flight. I served as the Range Safety Officer for the launch, the first time any Stratofox client organization has named a Stratofox member as one of the officers at their space launch. Unfortunately, the rocket didn't reach space, and therefore wasn't difficult to find where it landed. Even more unfortunately, a Stratofox team member was injured in a car accident and had to be flown to a hospital in Reno - he's recovering. The FAA and NASA had staff observers from Washington DC at the launch - while they can't make endorsements, we thought they appeared quite satisfied with Stratofox's performance at the launch.

Looking forward to 2006, Stratofox has been invited by UP Aerospace (a new company by some of the people who did the CSXT space rocket) to participate in the inaugural launch from New Mexico's Southwest Regional Spaceport. It's a long haul from California.

Picn*x - The Linux Anniversary Picnic

In August this year it was the 14th anniversary of the release of the Linux kernel. The event "Picn*x 14" was very successful. Corporate sponsors covered the costs for the event and provided free T-shirts, and they were thanked by posting their logos and links on the web site. The Linux User Group of Davis (LUGoD) Treasurer, Henry House, managed the finances since SBAY.ORG hasn't established a treasury yet. And a small army of volunteers put everything together, including the shopping and cooking. With all that being done, guests only needed to RSVP and show up for the free BBQ. The attendance was estimated at over 500, equaling the original 10th anniversary celebration in August 2001, which got the annual event started.

Well done everyone! Credit goes to dozens of volunteers and this year's co-coordinators Jennifer Davis and Bill Kendrick. We're looking forward to next year.

SBAY Speakers Bureau

The SBAY Speakers Bureau is getting moving slowly. It has helped refer some speakers for PenLUG (the Peninsula Linux User Group) and LUGoD (the Linux User Group of Davis.) The list has also been joined by LUGs in Los Angeles and San Diego.

Silicon Valley Wireless Users and Experimenters (SVWUX)

There is new momentum in what was once known as the SBAY Wireless project. A WiFi repeater is planned to be installed in November on a ridge overlooking Silicon Valley from above Los Gatos. The plan now is for the group to become the Silicon Valley Wireless Users and Experimenters (SVWUX) and schedule monthly meetings with presentations.
 
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