Minutes of the Third AGM of the Hatters Club


Sunday 31st September, 2001


The Mad Hatter Hotel, London. 2:30pm





Jahingo, Peter/Dan Hawkins, Jonathan Baker-Bates, Satnam Singh-Loyal, Humbug, Dfuse, Michael Bluett


(Ian Westbrook allowed JBB to vote on his behalf so we were just quorate)




Steve Dicks, Ian Westbrook, Andy Henson, Richard Dallaway, Amanda (Machinemaid).




Troy Helm, Alan Truelove



Minutes from the Previous Meeting and Matters Arising


  1. SSL certificate renewal for Edith: JBB said he would renew this on his credit card this year (renewal date soon).


  1. Terminal server access to Edith: Couldn’t remember whether Dan had found out how much this would cost. Dan to clarify if possible.


  1. Jahingo have not yet started their trial to download the DNS database.



All other matters from the last AGM have been dealt with.





1. The role of Alice and Edith


It was agreed that despite some talk at the last AGM that Alice should be seen as a secondary of some sort, Alice and Edith should be treated equally, and have the same primary software installations (give or take a version or two).


The reason for this decision was that it is likely that we will need to migrate from Edith to Alice at some point in the next 12-18 months in order to perform a system upgrade, and b) it would be too difficult and complex to limit members’ usage of Alice in some way to enforce a “secondary” usage of it.


Action: JBB to buy an SSL certificate for Alice.


2. Server configs: what’s worked and what’s not, any possible improvements


2.1 Weblogs


It was felt that the Apache log rolling system that Steve and JBB had set up in order to overcome certain problems was satisfactory. Even Michael Bluett agreed.


2.2 Quick scripts


Not all of these may be been installed on Alice as well as Edith, but again it was felt that they were functioning OK.


2.3 Server move/DNS


Despite taking six months longer than we said it would at the last AGM, the move was felt to have gone OK, and was a good learning experience for all of us should we need to do it again. Members with large numbers of domains hosted on the servers should however consider using a third party domain hosting service such as Granite Canyon, since the delays seemed largely to do with problems arising from master records on Alice needing to be deleted.


2.4 Config files


Jahingo pointed out that not all members’ config files on Alice had been activated yet (Apache, named etc.)


2.5  IP addresses on Alice.


There was some doubt about whether all the IP addresses we have are set up on Alice’s NIC.



JBB to synchronise quick scripts and create members’ config files if absent.

Dan to investigate and configure IP addresses on Alice


3        More RAM for Edith (and kernel upgrade)?


It was decided that we should buy an extra 256Mb ECC DIMM for Edith, at an estimated cost of £35-40. Peter confirmed we had the budget for this. No decision was made on who should do the installation, but the names Daniel Hawkins, Michael Bluett and Stanam Loyal were mentioned.


It was pointed out that whoever goes to install the RAM should also try to do something about the reportedly fragile power cable connected to Edith (possibly by using a right-angled plug?)


We are not sure how many free RAM slots there are on the machine, nor which type of RAM we have already, but it was assumed that we have at least one free slot and that a 133 ECC DIMM would not cause problems.


It was agreed that a kernel upgrade can be done remotely at any time. No decision was made as to who should do this.



Peter Hawkins to purchase 1 x 256Mb ECC 133 DIMM.

Volunteers required for installation (please post to the list)

Kernel upgrade to be discussed on the list.


4. Backups, disaster plans, etc.


It was agreed that we felt rather exposed by not having any backup and Alice’s DAT drive is not being used.


JBB said he could revisit the Amanda network backup system, but this may necessitate the installation of another hard disk on Alice so that data can be efficiently spooled to tape. However, since bandwidth usage may also be an issue, it was agreed that we could test the system without a hard disk to see what the impact on that might be.


If was cannot implement Amanda, then it was thought that we might be able to perform remote backups in another way to home machines, or back up each machine’s vital files to the other using scp or similar. Data being backed up should in any case be encrypted before it goes across the public Internet.



JBB to investigate Amanda (sans hard disk), set up a few test backups and monitor bandwidth usage before reporting back with a recommendation.


5. General security – are we doing enough?


It was agreed that we probably are doing enough. SafeTP is running on Alice, but not Edith. There are not enough FTP users of Alice yet to know whether problems with passive mode and some firewalls manifest themselves with any significance.


All members were reminded that accessing the servers via FTP, POP3 or IMAP means that passwords are sent unencrypted across the Internet. SSH passwords are not affected, however. Those using cyber cafes or other un-trusted networks should bear this in mind. Jahingo had their account hacked and the contents of their home directory deleted earlier in the year due to their FTP or mail password being compromised over an insecure college network.


6. AOB


6.1 Formmail


Following the use of FormMail.pl to send out spam, the master Apache configuration on both servers has now been altered to deny access to any file called “formmail.pl” or “formmail.cgi” (case-insentive). Although renaming the script to something else will allow you to use it, members are strongly encouraged not to use it any more for mail forms. JBB recommends Soupermail, for example.


6.2 Bandwidth upgrade for Alice


Following notification from Mailbox Internet that they are inviting us to upgrade our bandwidth quota to 256K (fixed), probably prior to them ceasing the current 64K (burstable) contract we have with them, it was agreed to postpone the decision to upgrade until such time as we want to or we are forced to by Mailbox.


Peter recommended a slight increase in the next subscription fee to cover this, however.


6.3 Subscription fee for next Hatters Year


This was agreed to be £120.00 + VAT.


6.4 [illegible – too much beer…]


[I can’t read my writing here – looks like “Mailing List”?]


6.5 Alice’s web server


There is currently no members’ area configured on Alice’s web server from which to access the bandwidth reports, etc.




JBB to configure this at www2.hatters.org.uk/hatters/


6.6 ASP extensions: information


Satnam said that he’d found a cheap ASP hosting ISP at £50 a month for those members that may want to investigate this for ASP hosting.


Jonathan thanked all those in attendance and closed the meeting at 5:00pm