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BMUG plans a comeback

Mac addicts are facing the financial sinkhole in the world's largest and most influential Mac users' group.

Times have been tough for Macintosh users.

If things weren't disheartening enough with Apple Computer's (AAPL) recent turmoil, now Mac addicts must face the financial sinkhole in the world's largest and most influential Mac users' group.

The Berkeley Macintosh Users Group, or BMUG (pronounced bee-mug), is a nonprofit organization that serves more than 10,000 members around the world. Services range from a help line run by volunteers to producing how-to manuals, monthly newsletters, and CD-ROMs. But more importantly, BMUG serves as a community for Mac lovers.

"There were lots of people who've contributed to making it a great community where Mac gurus share info with newbies," said BMUG board President Peter Linde.

But times have changed, and now BMUG is faced with the task of trimming its $120,000 debt. Though much less than the $250,000 two years ago, the red ink raises questions about BMUG's viability.

To address the problem, the board has been trying to make BMUG more efficient. Already, the entire paid staff has been laid off, making the organization one that's strictly based on volunteers. Cutbacks in services also have been implemented to restrict negative cash flow.

Though Linde does not cite the situation at Apple as a factor, he does put blame on mistakes a few years back such as trying to sell CD-ROMs when the titles market became saturated and overall sales began to decline.

Two years ago, Anne Wrixon was brought aboard as executive director to become BMUG's first shot at changing years of inefficient business practices and unprofitable services. Wrixon's recent departure brought in its current executive director and fund-raiser, Hal Gibson, who Linde hopes to be the final savior in ending the financial troubles.

Though membership has been consistent, BMUG is planning to pursue a more aggressive campaign to sign up new members.

But survival has been on the minds of many. BMUGgers (as they like to be called) are confident in their products and in the strength of what they've built in almost 14 years of the community's existence.

"The Mac community is made up of such vital members that they desire a community aspect that BMUG applies," says board member Bruce Berkoff.

When asked what would happen if BMUG were to buckle under the pressure of its current financial woes, Berkoff added: "They'll recreate it. It'll come right back."