plans for computers in the action room (very techincal)

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James
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plans for computers in the action room (very techincal)

Post by James » Wed Nov 14, 2007 8:57 pm

non techies people - we will present these plans in a easy to understand way later.
For now attention Swithun! Tom! Martin! Duncan! (martin Mckenna? and others)

Me and shuan were discussing this, here is the plan:


Plan for action room

Desktops
- are normal Ubuntu machines like the ones in the gold room
- "guest" account which clears every night/time logs in (using rsync script as in gold room)
- everyone must do usb keys
- need standard install procuedure like infoseed had (ask Tom)
- updates done by hand
- also need a sudo account for updates and installs, not everyone needs that password

Server
- physically locked away
- every forest wg and other trust worthy people have a normal account
- trusted people with computer skills get sudo access
- every one has there own private space in their account (is severly limited)
- people have access to shared folders for FWG
- mount /home on a different partition or ideally a different HD. Shared folders and user accounts go in /home/
- Print Server - think about how quotas would work with this with swithun
backup #1
- Have external HD attached
- every night, rsync in a mode which does not delete files onto this HD
- every month, rsync in a mode which does delete files onto this HD - to prevent us running out of room on backup drive
backup #2
- DVD burner - slect number of trusted people will burn DVD regularly and take away

nb server should not need to be very powerful, just lots of disk space


normal people just use a desktop
FWG and others use the ssh file sharing stuff built into Ubuntu.
we will write scripts for linux desktops to make this very very easy

Windows desktops can download winscp and use a ftp like interface

this server will be accesiable from new office, ryans laptop, people in cafe

and if we port tunnel with dynamic IP domain service can be accessible from your own home!


Note
- Try to copy ionfoseed system where ubunuto packeages are fetched from server and not internet to save bandwidth

todo:

* run network cable
* run electrics
* sort computers, decide which to use as server
* ubuntu installs
* figure out what we need to buy: need 2 good hard drives for the server (the backup one should prob. be external), also a DVD burner for the server
* We need to document the setup we do and the processes!


Meet Sat 11pm in the actual room? I will be in Mancehster all weekend but if enought of you guys can make it just go for it.

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Post by James » Wed Nov 14, 2007 9:02 pm

places to lock server away safely? the new office! most desktops will be crap so then no need to worry about security cables and the like!

thought: can we ask greame for standard life computer donations?

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Post by chombee » Wed Nov 14, 2007 11:33 pm

Just in case anyone missed it, Can we all meet on Saturday at 11 in the Action Room to discuss and take action on this? We all need to get together in the same place at the same time if we're gonna make things happen, and meeting at unspecified times on week days isn't gonna work.

About computer donations: we will work with what we have from forest and infoseed at first, just so we can get stuff rolling asap. But we should be able to get better spec computers donated from various sources, which would increase the pleasantness of the computing experience no end.

Potential sources: standard life (Graeme), Edinburgh University (me), arts council? Computer amnesty? (i.e. we put out the word, ask for donations, I have a spare computer I'll bring in).

Problem: better computers are more stealable, so as we get better stuff we need to get better at securing it. Here's a thought: do we need the client computers to be good? What about just trying to get one really good server donated, then running the clients as thin-clients? That way they could be pretty slow, but things would still be smooth, because ubuntu is really running on the server. At least, I think that's how it works. Anyone know what spec a thin-client needs to be? And what spec the server needs to be? And how to you set it up? We could even ask on the Ubuntu lists to see if we can get any advice from people with experience setting up Ubuntu thin-client labs. If schools in Africa can run Ubuntu thin-client labs then so can we.

Other stuff:

"every one has there own private space in their account (is severly limited)" -- we were thinkin of giving people accounts with quotas in the range of 10mb or 100mb. That way, they are encouraged to place work they have done in the shared folder once it's done, and not to store loads of stuff in their account. Also it prevents the size of backups from getting out of hand.

People need to be able to browse their user folders and the shared folders on the server from one of the client machines. We'll do this via ssh. "we will write scripts for linux desktops to make this very very easy" -- actually I was just looking at this, and we won't even need a script. We just need a shortcut on the desktop that launches:

Code: Select all

nautilus ssh://ourserver.org/home/


and it pops up a window asking for your username and password on the server. The only problem is that this window gives you three options:

* Forget password immediately
* Remember password until you logout
* Remember forever

we want to somehow disable the last two. This will browse the folders on the server just as if they were local folders, and you can drag-drop etc. I use it a lot and it works fine as long as the connection to the server is fast and reliable enough. Which it should be in our case since it's on the same network. If it's not, we would need to use sshfs to mount the folder as a local filesystem and then browse the "local" folders with nautilus. This is more robust than nautilus' built-in ssh handling. I don't think we'll need it though.

Oh, and I've burned 6 Ubuntu Gutsy CDs for this.
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Post by chombee » Wed Nov 14, 2007 11:40 pm

Oh, p.s. we thought that when we move them to the new office upstairs we would setup the two forest office computers, blue and grey, in exactly the same way as the action room computers, using the same server. Don't see why not?

p.p.s. this means no Windows at all! We will not have photoshop until we sort something out for that, which will not be right away. I say we think about buying one mac and a mac copy of photoshop, but I don't know what it would cost.
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Post by chombee » Wed Nov 14, 2007 11:56 pm

"need standard install procedure like infoseed had (ask Tom)", "Try to copy infoseed system where ubuntu packages are fetched from server and not internet to save bandwidth", Tom can tell us exactly how to do this, but as I recall what he did was to set the apt cache on each client machine to point to one folder on the server. To do installs or updates you just use the package manager on the clients like normal, you have to do each client separately, but as soon as you've downloaded an update or install via one client the other clients will all find it in their cache and will not have to download it. So you save time and bandwidth. Pretty neat hack from Tom.
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Post by James » Thu Nov 15, 2007 12:07 am

chombee wrote:Here's a thought: do we need the client computers to be good? What about just trying to get one really good server donated, then running the clients as thin-clients? That way they could be pretty slow, but things would still be smooth, because ubuntu is really running on the server. At least, I think that's how it works. Anyone know what spec a thin-client needs to be? And what spec the server needs to be? And how to you set it up? We could even ask on the Ubuntu lists to see if we can get any advice from people with experience setting up Ubuntu thin-client labs. If schools in Africa can run Ubuntu thin-client labs then so can we.


I would be against this, because it introduces a single point of complete failure. With the scheme we mapped out earlier, if the server goes, all we lose is file sharing and printing. People can still browse the web and so on.

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Post by swithun » Thu Nov 15, 2007 9:47 am

I like thin clients - I just chucked out some X terminals I didn't have a use for, though they might still be in the West Preston St internet cafe.

There is a trade-off. With desktop machines, you have lots of medium problems. With thin clients, you have some small problems and the odd big problem. But with backups, RAID and maybe a standby server, you can quickly recover from any disaster.

There is 2X PXES, which has a free Linux distro that gets transfered to a diskless client (min 64Mb RAM). Ubuntu + Gnome isn't the fastest combination. Arch Linux with a simpler window manager would be more responsive, though less familiar.

But I suppose we will want to have some full power desktop machines for video editing etc.. And unless we have lots of very crap boxes and not many good ones, we wouldn't get all the benefits of running thin clients.

I'm going to test some print quota software on my computers. And I'm afraid I won't be able to come on Saturday. I'll be in the countryside covered in mud.

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Post by Gandhi » Thu Nov 15, 2007 10:45 am

I concur with all these points as I understand every single thing that you are saying. :D
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Post by Martin » Thu Nov 15, 2007 12:20 pm

I'm not sure how thin we're talking here, but if you mean just running an X server on the client and all the apps on the server then we'd need a hell of a server, and gigabit ethernet everywhere. I don't see the point really. The machines we took upstairs are P4s, P3s, fine on their own. Do a standard install on them, treat them as wipeable, keep anything of value on the server where it will get backed up. Server can be in another room for security. Easy to chop and change machines, and we can do it all with current hardware.

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Post by ravanwin » Thu Nov 15, 2007 12:37 pm

all:

nice brain work on this. I don;t understand most of this but here are two things I wanna say.

Sorry about meeting at random times on a weekday. We decided it somehow but, obviously, that was stupid. I can;t remember how or why it was thought that weekdays were better. Action is for weekends. Meetings is for weekedays! Agreed?

Also: I love the idea of a server where people can store data. In theory, we could have more storage space and charge people a fee? Could this be a way for the room to pay for itself? Or could we sell pen drives / external hard drives if people are using the computers for a large ammount of work. As we are striving for a workshop space, it would be really good if we could offer storage. I do think that all computers, on reboot, should be wiped much like you would have at any university etc.

Also: please feel free to buy things within reason. (has anyone pm'd graeme?) If we need more network stuff / hard drives etc and want to make sure it all works --- just get it. The goal should be to have something that works without driving us all insane.

Only you all can stop The Forest from going computer free by 2009. If this fails, we return to analogue!

Seriously, awesome work on this thought process!
Ryan

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Post by chombee » Thu Nov 15, 2007 2:03 pm

I agree with what Martin said. We probably need to secure the machines somehow, then.

Ryan, I am not sure about charging people a fee for storage space. In theory we could do it, yes, but storage space is really easily available. I have about 600mb on one server and 1Gb on another, both for free and no ads, and there are lots of free or cheap or ad-supported services like this.

It would be kinda cool if we could offer ssh access from outside the forest to accounts on our server, and let people store files and run email programs and such. But now we're talking about providing *nix shell access, which is pretty geeky and for a limited audience, and there are already places to get that for free too.

Similarly with selling thumb drives, we could do, people using our space might buy from us just for the convenience, but they are really cheap from computer stores everywhere, and ours would probably have to be more expensive. Also people don't need external drives, they can just use some free online storage space like dropboks.com, although people might not know about those.

For people running workshops and stuff -- I think we can give them an account on our server where they can store stuff if they need to.

I haven't looked at what machines we have but I don't think we'll need to buy much except maybe good hard drives for the server, maybe a router, and maybe boost the ram on the clients?
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Post by ravanwin » Thu Nov 15, 2007 2:59 pm

cool. i know nothing, you see.

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Post by Jay (Infoseed) » Thu Nov 15, 2007 7:39 pm

Sounds like a plan! :)

Sorry for not being around much recently (tough few months) but I would be happy to help out... dropped in a couple of times over the last few days and will be around for a bit later tonight.

Have a few sources for more PC equipment if required - some of the pcs that have been salvaged from downstairs should be ok with a little testing/tweaking.

Still plenty of sorting out and clearing of the old infoseed junk to be done and reorganizing of the new meeting/workshop/action room. Seems there are a few people available on Saturday - please come and lend a hand if you can... :wink:
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Post by chombee » Sun Nov 18, 2007 2:34 pm

So I showed up on Saturday but it seems no one else did? There wasn't much I could do on my own. The new printer arrives on Tuesday I think. We need to get a group of people, like 6-8 people, together at once for a day or half-day to get the action room work done. It isn't gonna happen any other way, or at least if we show up randomly in ones or twos it'll take months.

Shall we try next Saturday at 11? Meet in the cafe? Who can make it?

I had a look at what would need to be done:

* Electrics. Someone has already run power to the room from the hall. That'll do for now. In the long term we need to fix the electrics in the room somehow but lets not worry about it for now.

* Network. One of the first things we need to do is get Internet access to the room. As I understand it we need to run an ethernet cable from one of the routers above the coffee machine into the room. In the long run the server above the coffee machine needs to be moved, but lets worry about that later. I had a look with Graeme and the easiest thing seems to be to drill a hole through the window frame of the window nearest the kitchen. The cable can go out the window and up and then into the action room. There is tons of network cable in the room already, but most of it has no ends, so we need someone with a crimping tool and cable ends. This is a 2 or 3 person job.

* Clearing space. We need one wall cleared so we can put the two big desks against it and setup the computers. I think the wall opposite the windows looks best. Some filing cabinets need to be moved. Another 2 person job.

* Software setup. I've left 6 Ubuntu CDs in the room, so we can do all of the installs at the same time. Install Ubuntu, setup the rsync script to wipe the homedirs every login (same as gold room), install ssh, get the clients reading the folders on the server. We can worry about getting the rsync backup solution on the server working later.

* Server. Finding a secure place to put it.

* Printer. Get it working, get printer sharing working.

* New office. Move the two computers from the existing office, set them up as the client in the action room are setup with a connection to the server. Files already on these computers need to be backed up, moved to the server. The office should have its own little printer too.

* General tidiyng and cleaning of the room

Well, that'd be a pretty good start anyway. If we could get through the first 6 of these in a weekend it'd be pretty good. So as you can see, this is gonna require a day of action from about 6 or 8 of us. Who can come?
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Post by martinmckenna » Sun Nov 18, 2007 2:58 pm

i can help out

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Post by ravanwin » Mon Nov 19, 2007 12:57 pm

i can come for a few hours but feel i'm not so suited to this kind of work. i'll help clean and organize but we're really gonna need the big info-seed guns!
ry

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Post by beev » Mon Nov 19, 2007 2:26 pm

I can help with installing ubuntu on the comps, though I may need some guidance to begin with.

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Post by Shannon » Mon Nov 19, 2007 4:36 pm

Regarding the internet: I'm not sure if it's any help, but there is already a hole drilled in the corner of the kitchen ceiling closest to the router. Chris did it for his multi-floor dj set at the last Blender.

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Post by Martin » Mon Nov 19, 2007 8:12 pm

I have salvaged a bunch of good stuff out of what was getting thrown out of the infoseed rooms - we didn't have time to find it all at the dorkbot session.

There are two more 1.7GHz Pentium 4 machines with 20GB hard drives, an Athlon 800, Celeron 600, two P3 500s and the old Infoseed server, a dual P2. I also found a CD burner and some spare memory & network cards.

For now this is all in the new room which makes for quite a lot of machines, but I figure we may want up to about 4 working ones, plus a server, and it's going to take a while to cannibalise those out of everything we've got before we can decide which bits to throw out.

I don't know for sure if I can come on Saturday, hopefully though. Is anyone free on Thursday evening though? I would be up for making a start on sorting out the machines then.

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Post by chombee » Tue Nov 20, 2007 11:16 am

Yeah I think I can come on Thursday evening. What time?

If we could setup one machine and plug it into the printer, even without Internet, then people would be able to print from USB drives or whatever.
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Post by Martin » Tue Nov 20, 2007 11:41 am

How about 6pm?

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Post by chombee » Tue Nov 20, 2007 5:22 pm

Ok
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Post by Martin » Thu Nov 22, 2007 5:11 pm

Right, will be there soon. Anyone else who wants to help get down there!

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Post by chombee » Thu Nov 22, 2007 5:34 pm

I'll be there in 30mins. I can stay for about 2 hours I think.
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Post by ruairidh » Thu Nov 22, 2007 6:30 pm

Since I'm not in Scotland yet I can't physically help out but I'd like to offer the following advice:

If you're allowing SSH access (especially from the outside world), layer it! I can't say this enough! Basically:

Code: Select all

Initial SSH access /home/ssh folder

on cd ../ ask for a password (either global or user dependant)

Depending on how you set it up you could allow users to go to their own home or some kind of shared folder. I'm all for the opening up systems to let the world use them but you always get the bored idiot who will just rm -rf *


Next thing would be to make sure files are given correct permissions (yeah for the experienced geeks amongst you this may seem insulting but I have seen so many servers where important files like httpd.conf were 777)

The other rule is never to entirely trust your users, most are ok but there'll always be one or two who try to access something or other. Don't let many scripts run. Be careful what you allow into shared folders (all too easy to put in a wee keylogger).

Good move on Ubuntu, make sure that accounts are locked down, don't allow people to get too funky with terminal (I'm mainly thinking about nmap, issuing system commands, hell even trying to sudo shouldn't be allowed on most people's accounts). Enforce password changes every month!

Umm, I'll post more as I think. Sorry if this seems a wee bit patronizing but I know from sore experience how easy it is to forget! Hope this helps!
Hello there!

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Post by Martin » Fri Nov 23, 2007 1:20 pm

Me, Tom, Martin, Sean and James worked on the room last night.

There are three machines installed with Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon):

Server: Dual P3 500Mhz/512MB/4.3GB (300GB to be added for home dirs)
Workstation 1: P4 1.7GHz/512MB/20GB
Workstation 2: Athlon 1GHz/512MB/20GB

The workstations are set up on a desk with lovely big Sun monitors, and speakers. The server is not currently hooked up but is ready to go.

There is a 12-port 10/100Mbit switch under the desk, uplinked to the one in the kitchen for internet. It is big and noisy but we didn't have a suitable smaller one.

We cannot set up the printer because we don't have the admin password. Ryan is chasing this up.

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Post by chombee » Fri Nov 23, 2007 2:27 pm

Sounds like you got plenty done after I left then. So what is still to do on Sunday? Mainly install more clients, right? I guess there's not much point in setting up the server and the SSH folders until we have the big hard drive for it. By the way is that the hard drive Tom bought for Infoseed that is to be added to the server? If Tom bought this with his own money, can the forest reimburse him something for it?

Great work.
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Post by beev » Fri Nov 23, 2007 3:48 pm

Depends. If you have details, bring them to fwg meeting.

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Post by chombee » Fri Nov 23, 2007 4:18 pm

Sorry, on SATURDAY, not Sunday. I'm coming at 11 on Saturday to work on the room.
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Post by chombee » Sat Nov 24, 2007 5:08 pm

So lots of people helped today and we've gotten much done on the action room:

Thursday: Internet access to the room, a hub setup in the room, two desktop computers installed and the server. I think. The hub is one the floor right now but Graeme says he can fix it to the underside of the desk which sounds great.

Saturday: most of the junk in there has been cleared out and the rest stacked against the far wall. Generally much tidier. We've discovered a switchboard and other power and phone related stuff against the far wall. Also, there is power to the lights in the room, and to about half of the power sockets in the room. So it seems we no longer need to run power from the hall or fix the electrics. We didn't do anything, we just discovered this. Martin, you might want to take a look. Also I setup one more desktop computer and monitor, but I couldn't get any working CD image or a reliable Internet connection to download and burn one, so nothing's been installed on it yet. There didn't seem to be a fifth complete computer in the room, hopefully we can cobble together one from what is there, but maybe we don't need to cause I have a desktop PC at home that I've been meaning to bring in. I'm not sure how it compares in spec to what we have, but it's not bad and likely less broken. If people are willing to do the work, I think we should make as many complete and working (and installed) PCs as we can with the working kit we have, then any spares can be donated to people.

I think that's all that's been done. We've made a lot of progress on that room in two days, it's really great to see.

So still to do... get two more clients setup (we aim for four clients plus one server), get the server's big hard drive in, get the SSH thing between clients and server going and the various scripts we want ... what else? Move the two office computers to the new office and sort them out, connect them to the server. Sort out our Internet connection, see if we can make it any more reliable. Probably other stuff.

Next weekend?

Oh, and the printer. They will not give us the password, only an engineer can have the password. They're coming on Tuesday to setup an IP address for it for us. One of us should be there to see what they do and show them what the deal is with our equipment.
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Post by Martin » Sat Nov 24, 2007 6:24 pm

<i>We've discovered a switchboard and other power and phone related stuff against the far wall. Also, there is power to the lights in the room, and to about half of the power sockets in the room. So it seems we no longer need to run power from the hall or fix the electrics. We didn't do anything, we just discovered this. Martin, you might want to take a look.</i>

Okay, I'll look as soon as I can. Sorry I couldn't make it today.

<i>Oh, and the printer. They will not give us the password, only an engineer can have the password. They're coming on Tuesday to setup an IP address for it for us. One of us should be there to see what they do and show them what the deal is with our equipment.</i>

This is bullshit. We bought this, right? We need the fucking password. I do not want to have to call these bastards out because we need to change settings.

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Post by Martin » Sat Nov 24, 2007 6:31 pm

Oh, and don't fix that hub to the desk - we don't need it, it's a noisy monster. Get a little one.

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Post by ravanwin » Sun Nov 25, 2007 7:58 am

re Password:

they say we only need the password in order to set up an ip adress and while, yes, it is our machine, i suppose as the people we are contracted into service with, they worry that access to the guts of the copier will mean that we might mess things up. like when you own your computer but your warrenty forbids you from opening it up and tinkering around. it seems fair to me and i think they will give the password if we are adament. maybe come and meet the engineer and talk to them. these are truly reasonable folk (at the moment - since we haven't paid them yet)

2pm. tuesday.

also, damp paper is slowing the copier down. need to bring paper up from the office and make it dryer.

r

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Post by Martin » Sun Nov 25, 2007 9:12 am

If it's just to set it up with an IP address, and we can do the rest of the admin stuff over the web interface on it, that's not so much of a problem.

I don't know if I can be there on Tuesday, so could someone pass the following on to them:

Ideally we would like the printer to get an IP address automatically using DHCP, which is already set up on our network and is and how all the computers get their addresses.

If the printer doesn't support DHCP then please assign it to 192.168.43.5 with network mask 255.255.255.0 and gateway/DNS 192.168.43.1.

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Post by Martin » Tue Nov 27, 2007 8:27 pm

Right, all the sockets are now working. There is a three-circuit fusebox in the room, two of the circuits (15A each) are for the sockets, one of them had a blown fuse so I replaced it with the fuse from the unused circuit.

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Post by Martin » Tue Nov 27, 2007 8:28 pm

Also the printer is up and running, and the machines in the room are set up to print to it.

I will post some more notes about it later on.

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beev
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Post by beev » Wed Nov 28, 2007 11:07 am

I've received the bill for the printer. Shall I pay it?

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ravanwin
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Post by ravanwin » Wed Nov 28, 2007 12:55 pm

yes, please.

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martinmckenna
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Post by martinmckenna » Wed Nov 28, 2007 11:17 pm

there is info on the situation of the photocopier and the computers
here
http://www.theforest.org.uk/index.php?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=148

sry if ive posted the info in the wrong forum

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