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Newstead is Online - Freely

Since moving to Newstead, Victoria just over a year ago I have been involved in several tech projects in the town.

The first of these was helping to organise the inaugural StixCamp. StixCampNewstead was a great success - many described it as awesome (insert wikipedia citation/s needed here link). The event got some good media coverage too. Although the overwhelming majority of the 60 or so attendees were from Melbourne, several locals and people from across the goldfields turned up. Mount Alexander Shire Council kicked in some cash to cover the budget shortfall which ensured the event was free, and Telstra Central Victoria & Sunraysia gave us free internet via their Next G network. StixCamp showed that although the Newstead district has a population of under 600 people, we are a switched on community that can host successful events.

Just after moving into town I was roped into building the new community website. The site was launched on the 19 September. The new Newstead community website is built using Drupal 6, with a theme developed by a local designer and myself. Maldon & District Financial Services, operator of the Maldon branch and Newstead agency of the Bendigo Bank, provided some funding for this project, while DHC donated many hours of free labour and hosting. Unlike many community websites the Newstead site is maintained by the community for the community. Each community group has a person nominated to create and maintain their content. There is a local editorial team which takes care of the basic maintenance work.

The Newstead site is built around the existing community groups. The site lists around 40 groups based in the town. Each group can post news and upcoming events. This approach also allows us to showcase the spirit of involvement in the town. The business directory has over 40 business listed, which range from micro businesses to the large employers in town. Go check out the Newstead community website for yourself.

The other project launched at the same time was Network Newstead. Network Newstead is the local free community run wifi network. The network comprises of 3 access points which cover most of the activity points in the town. The Mount Alexander Shire's community grants program paid for the hardware. After some discussions with Internode, they came to the party with free backhaul. Without the support of both organisations this project would not have been possible.

Network Newstead allows locals and tourists a like to access the internet for 30 minute sessions. We only allow access to whitelisted ports, sorry unless you know how to run openVPN you can use p2p - but leave everything a geek should need open. OpenDNS provide simple DNS based filtering of inappropriate content - no I don't think I am Mr Conroy, but I do think we should be able control what is available on our free network. WifiDog is used for the captive portal.

Newstead's telecommunications infrastructure, like many other small communities, has been neglected by Telstra. The local telephone exchange only had a DSLAM installed in 2007, and Telstra could be only bothered to install some clearance sale ADSL1 unit. Many properties outside of central Newstead (read more than 2kms from the exchange) can't get ADSL due to pair gain and poor quality copper. In our case we ended up spending close to $1000 on equipment to get a decent signal from Optus. Unfortunately you can't buy good service from Optus and have switched to Telstra Business at $165 per month for 15Gb. For many in the community these costs are just excessive.

Some members of the local community don't own a laptop, but we have facilities for them too. When I moved into town the internet cafe at the community run Rural Transaction Centre (RTC), was referred to by some as "the biggest botnet in town". Over a period of 4 to 6 weeks DHC have replaced the Celeron machines running Windows XP, with newer Pentium 4 with 17" LCD screens from ComputerBank, running Ubuntu Linux. Dave Hall Consulting donated the PCs and services to the RTC to get the new network up and running, some equipment may have even come from our spare parts bin.

Although DHC has been the main driver and implementer of these projects, the Newstead community has been heavily involved in the planning and implementation. Structures are in place to ensure the community is also involved in the maintenance of the projects.

Being involved in tech projects in a small town has been an excellent learning experience. During these projects I was able to work with community leaders, senior members of council and other members of the community. I used to cringe at the thought of the local grave vine gossiping about what I bought from the supermarket, but now I think it makes you more accountable - if you do the wrong thing everyone knows about, but if you deliver everyone knows too. At the same time this network allows for rapid feedback on ideas. I am also conscious of the fact that if I argue with someone, I am likely to see them in the main street next week.

In a former life I worked in local government in metropolitan Melbourne, even as an employee, councilors and management seemed disconnected. When I'm in Newstead, I have a weekly meeting with the ward councilor to discuss where my projects are at. I even have the Shire CEO's mobile number along with direct numbers and email addresses for several other council employees. This level of accessibility makes it a lot easier to get things done.

If you are a geek who has moved (or is considering moving) to a small community, if you have the time, I would highly recommend offering some of your skills for free. Not only will you get that warm inner glow from doing something to help someone else, you build up some experience / street cred / brownie points / connections / local knowledge - all important things in a small community. Community projects can also be part of your portfolio / resume.

Expansion of the website and wireless projects are already on the drawing board. Watch this space!

installing qt

shubham wrote:

i m very new to linux, i want to install qt sdk in kubuntu, tell me each step with brief discription.

Added Tue, 2010-04-20 00:52

Re: installing qt

Dave wrote:

I have never tried using the Qt SDK. A quick at http://qt.nokia.com/downloads suggests you just download it, run "chmod +x /path/to/ide-download.bin && /path/to/ide-download.bin" (drop the quotes and use the right filename). Sorry I can't be of more assistance, have you tried the kubuntu forums or ubuntu forums?

Added Wed, 2010-04-21 01:28