The Early Days
Smaug was founded (as "Santa Cruz Microsoft-Alternative User Group", or SMAUG) in October 2000 by area resident Jacob M. Hunter, using Web space and a mailing list at his employer NetLine, and the "scruz.org" domain name, which Silicon Valley Linux enthusiast Alvin Oga (and some other domains, paid for by VA Linux) registered for the group. Initial meetings — always free of charge and open to the public — were in rooms graciously offered by Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) near the Hwy 9 / Hwy 1 junction. There were and are no membership dues.
SMAUG was intended partly to fill the gap left when Santa Cruz Linux User Group, which had met at Got.net's offices in the nearby Sawmill building, went inactive a year or two before. But it was also intended as a home for other users of non-Wintel systems, such as the BSD family, BeOS, Atheos, and so on. And, unlike many groups, SMAUG from its beginning deliberately attempted to be both technical and social, without apology — and to plan a group role in community service.
The mailing list at NetLine (hosted using Lyris software on Solaris) proved very limited: Only the first dozen or so lines of each message got sent out unless/until you signed up for commercial service. (But it did have the advantage of transparent access to the list via NNTP newsreaders.) Within a month, Jacob accepted a kind offer by Silicon Valley Linux User Group to host a replacement mailing list on its GNU Mailman server, and the Web site (initially at http://www.orangeonyx.com/linux/) was moved to a virtual host on SourceForge.net (still using the scruz.org domain).
2001 brought SMAUG a couple of unpleasant surprises: First, company changes at SCO, following sale of most of its business to Caldera Systems, Inc. (which became the new SCO Group, in Utah) caused the sudden and permanent unavailability of the group's meeting space. Nobody at SCO bothered to inform SMAUG of this, so would-be attendees arrived for the January 8 organisational meeting to find only a locked door, and no time or opportunity to arrange a substitute meeting venue.
About this time, the mailing list broke, and was not fixed until early February — so the meeting-site problem couldn't even be effectively discussed.
Further, after the mailing list came back, we found out one of the reasons there needed to be an organisational meeting: Jacob had changed jobs, and also began taking classes in the evenings, and so would have to mostly bow out of the group's affairs.
The February 8, 2001 meeting was intended to be that organisational meeting, and to straighten out the group's affairs a bit. Unfortunately, the best venue anyone could come up with, Saturn Cafe on Pacific Avenue, albeit friendly enough was far too noisy to conduct group business. Moreover, the main agenda item — meeting space — proved somewhat intractable: All suggestions required either some fees for space rental (SC Public Library, Louden Center, Salvation Army, Veteran's Hall) or required personal connections the group lacked (Cabrillo College), or were way out of town. No solutions presented themselves.
In March, the scruz.org domain stopped working, such that the Web site was only reachable by the unwieldy URL of smaug-web.sourceforge.net/. The scruz.org domain expired entirely in October.
On December 3, 2001, SMAUG held another organisational meeting at Cafe Pergolessi, which was not considered suitable over the long term on account of loud music and limited room. The group discussed, again, a number of meeting-place options, finally arriving at one that (for a while) worked: downtown brewpub "99 Bottles of Beer". Later that month, David A. Gatwood revamped the Web pages at SourceForge and related CVS setup, Eric Cain re-registered the scruz.org domain, and Rick Moen fixed the SourceForge virtual-host configuration so that www.scruz.org worked again.
At the January 7, 2002 meeting, SMAUGers decided to drop the acronym, and thus the group become Smaug, settled on "99 Bottles of Beer" (upstairs room) as interim space for what will be regular, first-Monday 8 PM meetings, and formed a few informal sub-groups.
Unfortunately, in October 2002, "99 Bottles of Beer" began having Monday night football and karaoke during the nights Smaug would want to use, making the locale too loud. Meetings ceased, pending someone (once again) finding a reasonable meeting spot.
In December, 2003, the scruz.org domain was due to expire again, and no local Smaug member was willing to pay the renewal. However, a kind benefactor named Crawford Rainwater (President and CEO of Linux training and consulting firm "The Linux ETC Company" in Louisville, CO) stepped forward to take stewardship of the domain from Eric Cain (as the new domain Registrant) and keep it paid many years in advance.
On September 14, 2004, Phil White finally found a good long-term meeting space for Smaug at Tiny's Family Restaurant in Capitola, and we changed the group's regular meeting date to 3rd Mondays.
On March 3, 2005, Phil White and others changed the meeting frequency (still at Tiny's Family Restaurant) from one Monday a month to every Monday.
Eventually, Tiny's closed, since the executors of the estate of the former owner found it was unprofitable, and the building needed maintenance. So we were forced to look for other venues. For a while, a teahouse downtown seemed to be appropriate; it had some food and various drinks, and reasonable wi-fi from CruzIO. But they started playing music, and the music was amplified more and more. So, for a while, we tried Cafe Pergolesi again. That, too, proved to be inconvenient at times, due to music being played on some of our meeting nights.
Eventually, the former Tiny's building was leased by IHOP (originally International House of Pancakes). They had wi-fi, but it was erratic and not well maintained: Sometimes it worked a little, sometimes it worked a bit better, but much of the time it was inoperative. When it didn't work, we tried the Capitola Book Cafe across the parking lot. That was often overcrowded, and it was hard to find a table near power outlets. Pacific Ave. Pizza and Grille near Bookshop Santa Cruz was also tried (2007-10), but the Comcast wireless connection seemed to be eternally down, and management never pressured Comcast to fix it. We aso occasionally used Cafe Pergolesi and the Capitola IHOP.
Most recently (starting Thursday, May 5, 2011), we have been using Mr. Toots, a coffeehouse in Capitola Village. In the winter, this is mostly quiet, but, when it's warmer and a lot of locals and tourists visit Capitola Beach, they play music, often amplified. Even the UNamplified piano is often too loud when customers think they are playing to a concert hall instead of a tiny coffeehouse. Also, handicap access is available only by using a lift from a door on a street, and the lift is often out of order.
So, we are going to need a new venue soon.
In August 2012, we faced up to the fact that the 2005 decision to have a weekly meeting schedule was untenable, and switched back to montthly meetings (every 2nd Thursday), still at Mr. Toots Coffeehouse.
And so it goes.
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