Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Administration and meeting

Today was a mixed day. Part administration and part a meeting. Wednesday is the day David our part time administrator/book keeper comes in.

I went in very early [for me] - about 8am - to try to get things started before he arrived. I needed to do some invoices for facilities to partner organizations. We realised that there were a largish number of bills not paid so David went off and paid them. And then he began to get caught up with the rest of the paperwork.

It's not a full time job our administration, but it is probably 1/2 time. So, one day a week means we are permanently behind. It's the kind of job that would suit a retired person with the right gifts who likes the sun of Cyprus [hint].

Although David never gets to the bottom of the pile, he is beginning to do more and one thing we are bad at is chasing up when people owe us money. We are hoping that will be something he begins to take on - sending out monthly statements to remind people when they owe us something!

The meeting was with one of the partner groups we are working with for the SMS system, plus with the main software developer for the web interface. In between talking with David we managed to get one of two partners upgraded to the new system which includes email connection as well, and the other one is ready for upgrade the only problem is who will do the tech support for the change over. Not us!

The system is working well enough that there are hopes of rolling out similar systems for many parts in Africa and India and Parkistan. Again those are outside out 'patch' so others will be doing it. Encouraging to see that though.

Finally just as Peter left through the door he said that he thought that it was now mostly working, although there are a couple of sigificant wrinkles still to be ironed out.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The big picture?

This morning Pete and I spent the time together talking about the plans for the future… and praying a little. We decided this will be what we do each morning this week. It's very easy for us to get caught in the hussle and bussle of every day work without seeing where we are going.

For instance, one project we have been working on is a gateway between SMS mobile phone messages and a secure website, so that people responding to the radio stations can send SMS messages. It had been causing us grief keeping it all working and we were wondering if it was worthwhile. At a meeting a few weeks back we found that there were about 15 messages per day going through the system and growing. This sort of thing helps us focus on why we are doing what we are doing… rather than just doing it!

Pete's feeling a bit under stress with keeping all the Internet stuff going and we really need more technical support. We have so little free resources that even trying to improve things can end up causing problems elsewhere. Of course, this is the story of non-profit organizations the world over, but it doesn't ease the stress.

Anyhow I spent the afternoon catching up on email and helping Peter with one of the problems that is bugging us. We have two ADSL connections to the Internet. This is both to increase the bandwidth we have available and to have some redundancy. The redundancy is the problem. We want to allow people to connect to us on the second link if the first goes down. Sounds easy, but implementing is somewhat more difficult. At 6pm we left the office with it still not working.

So, back to the big picture… there are way more things we could do than have manpower and money to do, so deciding/finding out from God which we should do is the issue. Please pray that we find out God's will for what we should do in the next 12 months and what we should not do! Oh, and while you're about it, pray for more people to help us and the money we need, particuarly the money needed to cover the costs of such mundane things as the rent.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

It worked! [at last]

Finally completed the conference video that was wanted urgently. I don't know how many times I tried rendering it... I have lost count. I started on Friday and then every few hours over the weekend I would walk to the office to check it had worked... and it hadn't. It was so frustrating. I like equipment to work - or at very least have a reliable fault you can fix. This was just plain flaky.

I had made the DVD masters and I was trying to make the Video CD masters. Every time it would stop or freeze at a different place. I would try this and that and the other to try and fix it... then leave it for a few hours to while it should work and it would fail again. Its the part of the work I hate.

Eventually I traced it to a faulty RAID card [the RAID card is the thing that turns two normal hard disks into one very big, very fast hard disk for video editing]. It's another casualty of the upgrade. One of the new 'caddys' that enable us to swap hard disks around was faulty and totally wrote off a new RAID card and one of our original RAID cards, and it appears that it damaged this one. The problem is that you cannot buy the RAID cards we need in Cyprus. So we are dead in the water so to speak...

Anyway, at least its finished now, so I can send off copies to the UK head office, and I actually completed 2/3 of what I intended this week.

Tomorrow is a new week!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Editing completed

When you make DVDs or VideoCDs there are four parts to the process [excluding the filming] which are:
  1. Video editing
  2. Sound editing and mixing
  3. Convert files to DVD/VCD format
  4. DVD/VCD authoring
Today I completed the first two parts, which are the 'artistic' parts of the process, ie deciding what to keep in and what to remove, how to add appropriate graphics and how to balance the sound.

When the editing is completed the files have to be converted to the correct format for DVD or VCD. This is called 'rendering' and take 2-6 times the duration of the programme. So for this which is a 60 minute programme in 2 parts it will take about 10 hours to render both the DVD and VCD files. It's not something you have to sit and watch [which would be very tedious] but with the problems with the video editing machine the programmes that do the conversion seem to be having problems... I have done the conversion twice on one part and have left it trying again overnight.

When the files are converted I can start the 'authoring' process, which is adding the menus and titles that you see at the beginning of DVDs and make the master DVDs from which copies can be made.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Video editing

Today I spent the whole day woking on video editing one of the seminars I recorded the week before last. The content of it is timely so we need to get an edited DVD and VCD [Video CD] out as soon as possible.

The project involved adding in the Powerpoint graphics that the speaker used at the presentation. Many of you will know what Powerpoint is already, but for those who don't it's a Microsoft program to create graphic presentations on a video projector that can be seen behind the speaker as s/he speaks.

Sounds simple enough... export the graphics from Powerpoint and import into our video editing program [we use Adobe Premiere]. However... there is a small amount of information lost around the edge of a normal TV screen which is not lost when a presentation is projected onto a screen. This means that speakers often use the entire screen for text, some of which will be lost on the TV screen. So many of the graphics have to be re-worked for the video edit.

Alongside that problem there is also the problem of animations. We can export each graphic, but we cannot export the animations, so all the animations have to be re-created by hand in the video editing system. This often means that a single graphic will have to be exported a number of times with different stages of the animation and then put together as an animation afterwards.

The audio was recorded separately on the new Edirol R4 system, which worked exceedingly well, and part of the reason for using it was that we needed to record the audience reaction as well as the speaker. That means that we then have to mix the audio to go with the video. For those interested we use ProTools for that. ProTools is a pretty high end tool for mixing audio and it was a joy to do the audio for the seminar on it. Using tools that make the task easier also make it more enjoyable. We have so many struggles with equipment, having something that works easily is a real joy!

Now I've probably painted the picture that shows recording and editing a simple seminar is not as simple as it might sound at first. What made it more of a struggle is the problems we are having with the video editing system decribed in earlier blog entries. Still, it's progressing on slowly, despite having problems with the video editing system. Tomorrow I continue... hmmm... no I won't, my son arrives back from two months away and we will collect him from the airport in the morning.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Double it and move up to the next unit of measure

Today I spent the whole day creating a support administration system for all of our partners. We have made attempts at this in the past, but in order to cope we have decided that support has to change to a more structured approach.

Sometimes we have been overwhelmed with requests for assistance, more than 50% are usually not our problem and in some weeks almost all the 'fault reports' are nothing to do with us. However, every time we get a message saying 'there's a problem here' we have to check whether or not there really is a problem.

This in itself wastes time, particuarly when we are in the middle of something else and have to stop doing that to check out if there is a problem. Having structured approach lets us separate the support from us individually and prioritize according to our priorities rather than responding to other people's priorities.

What this means that any of our partners can either go to a webpage and complete a form describing the problem or send an email to a designated address. If they use the form then they will get either an email or SMS message in response, so they know that we have received the form and are dealing with it.

This project was one of three I want to complete this week and I had been concerned that it would take more than half the week so that I might not actually get to the other things that need doing this week.

This is particuarly in light of a rule of thumb in writing computer programs 'estimate how long it will take, double it and move up to the next unit of measure'. This means if you estimate it will take 2 days, it's likely to take 4 weeks! So its very pleasant and unusual to complete a computer programming task in less time that I would expect.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Defenders 2 Attackers 1

I wont tell you all the gory details of the attack. Firstly you probably wouldn't understand and secondly if you did you might work out some other vulnerabilities from what I tell you.

What I can tell you is that the break-in was not as serious as we first imagined. We are pretty sure we know where the break-in occured and how it happened. We have added extra 'bolts on the doors' so to speak, however, although we have added the extra security there is no way to make any server 100% invulnerable [certainly not the way the hacker got in] so please pray for the security of the servers.

It took ages to find - to start with I was looking for more subtle, cleverer break-ins. To find that it was simpler was actually reassuring. Anyhow, finished all that about 4am this morning. What was annoying was the bad service from the hosting company in London. They guarantee a reboot within 15 minutes. It actually took 4 hours, during which time I was waiting for them. Earlier in the week Peter had to wait 17 hours for the reboot. the exuse they gave was that they couldn't find the server among the tens of thousands of servers in the hosting company!

Friday, August 19, 2005


Well, I'm back in Cyprus now. I had a 6 hour delay on the flight back so spent time in the airport reading... and getting bored. Instead of arriving at about 10-11pm I arrived after 4am. I guess that means they made up some time, but still it was annoying especially as I had arranged a meeting for 2pm today [Thursday]. So I slept most of the morning and then went to the meeting.

We were discussing the development of the SMS message gateway system we developed. This allows listeners to the radio stations to send SMS messages to people who will follown up with their needs. In at least one country in the Middle East this is the primary method of getting messages and about 15-20 per day are received. One development we would like to do is to integrate with VOIP. VOIP is the system that allows telephone calls to be made over the Internet. This would mean than listeners could phone a Cyprus number and the call would be routed over the Internet to the person who would answer them.

We were also replacing a faulty phone. We developed the current system using cheap 40 pound mobile phones, but one of them has gone faulty and screen is totally back so we have no idea what its doing at all. One of the development things is to upgrade the system to use commercial grade phone modules that will enable us to be more reliable and to do the extra VOIP facilities we want.

It seems upgrading is in the air again... yesterday I had messages from Peter and some of our partners that one of our main servers in London had failed. Obviously I could do nothing about it sitting in an airport lounge [note for techies, I don't have wireless on my laptop so could not use the Internet wireless hotspot... I need a new notebook soon].

Anyhow, today I found out from Peter that the reason for the server going down was that the server had been hijacked by a hacker in Belgium. He had got in using the user name and password of one of our Egyptian support team.

Unfortuneately there is no defence in the world against someone using a legitimate user name and password and all the hacks to our servers have been through this method. We have thoughts about how to upgrade the systems, but we need more people to help and more than anything prayer coverage as nothing can stop this sort of problem.

Please pray for protection for our servers

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Buying more things wastes even more time!

I ordered a couple of special hard drives to come to my mother's house to try to overcome the problem with the video editing computer. They are significantly cheaper in the UK and the company sent me an email order confirmation saying that it was dispatched on the 7th August and would take 1-2 days to reach her. Being a trusting kind of guy, I believed them.

I arrive at my mother's and there is a new memory chip for our digital camera, plus some family things [ did it correctly again].

The following day I go to Brighton to pick up some components we need for the office. In particular I need some relays to modify our 'Telephone Balance Unit' to work remotely, plus red light relays so we know when mics are live.

A Telephone Balance Unit is the piece of equipment that allows you to do 'phone in' shows on radio and we want to start doing those this autumn. The equipment we bought works very well... but the button on the front is stupid, it's way too small for me to get even my small fingers into it, so that's why we wanted a remote for it with a reasonable sized button.

Anyway on the way to Brighton in the car I suddenly think "Ooops, what about the hard drives?" and as soon as I get back I send a message to the company concerned. They reply almost immediately that there had been an 'operational problem' at the courier company and that I would get them before I left.

Sadly this company totally failed and they had not delivered by the time I left. So now I am faced with the problem of getting it sorted out. These things waste so much time, no wonder the UK companies don't compete well in the world market!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

End of filming...

Well... the conference came to an end and we completed about 22 interviews, 7 seminar recordings and one advertising piece. The final interview was completed as people were getting on coaches to go home... we worked right up to the last minute!

The two of us on the crew both wished we had borrowed our wives step meters to measure how far we walked.

I caught the coach back to London and then went to the south coast to visit my mother for a couple of days. I think I had more than 50kg in total so was horrified with the number of stairs to go up and down at the railway stations.

I was ever so thankful when my mother offered to pay for a taxi to the airport so that I wouldn't have to go up and down all those the stairs again.

She came with me to the airport and reckoned I got away with the extra baggage through flirting with the check-in girl... hmmm... I'm sure it was just God opening the the door for me!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Television production: 'Hours of inactivity followed by 2 minutes of frenetic activity'

Someone once described TV production as 'hours of inactivity followed by 2 minutes of frenetic activity'. I'm not sure this has been totally true for us this week. In the last 5 days we have filmed 16 interviews, 7 plenary talks and one advert.

It's far short of the 30-40 interviews that we had wanted to film, but because almost everyone that we wanted to interview is a significant leader in the organization their schedule is VERY full and it's been difficult to make contact, arrange times for filming and then meet up for filming.

There have been times when we have been sitting waiting for an hour for someone to turn up... not quite the 'hours of inactivity' but we have waited and then the interviewee has turned up and said 'I have another meeting in 5 minutes, can we do this quickly?'

Till today the weather has been kind to us and we have had sunshine so most of the interviews have been outside. Today it rained and we were forced to be inside, which meant we were looking for suitable locations and then also having to light those locations.

The equipment today is MUCH lighter than it was - it was about 100kg as the mininum when I started nearly nearly 30 years ago, but even today camera, tripod, sound and lighting equipment comes to probably 30kg and carring that around; up and down hills between venues gets very tiring. We had about 45 minutes between interviews today and me and a colleague fell asleep waiting since we were so tired.

For all it being tiring, I must admit that location filming is still probably the most enjoyable part of my work.

I met another interesting person at dinner today, someone who is a professional graphic designer in southern California. He and his wife are over here helping with the children's work, but he hadn't known that there were opportunities for the Lord to use his gifts in His service out here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Well this is day 2 and we have so far completed 1 interview, and he was over 1 hour late for the appointment. The content was very good though.

I'm working with a colleague from Malta on this project [he's the guy on the camera]. I think we will both be very fit by the end of the conference. It's about 1 mile up and down hills between the main conference site and our accomodation. It's a mile in the other direction to many of the locations for filming.

We have also been filming some of the plenary sessions, which have been excellent. The main plenary that is wanted for distribution after the event will be tomorrow.

I was slightly concerned about all the equipment arriving OK, as I had ordered some extra pieces in the UK [along with all the tapes we needed for filming]. But PTL everything arrived safely.

The new tiny sound mixer/hard disk recorder [Edirol R4] we were given a month ago is excellent and really makes things very much easier. We are so thankful to people that come alongside us and help us with these gifts.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Meeting people...

There are about 1500 people at the conference that we are working at from all over the world. Our main job is to film interviews with people about the 'core values' of the organization so that new people coming into it may learn from the old stagers what its about.

We have a list of about 30-40 people who would be good to interview... but... have you ever tried to find 30 people in 1500? Then agree times to meet to film them? It's proving quite a task in itself.

What is interesting are the other meetings that take place unplanned... well... I say unplanned, but I guess God is doing the planning! I met for dinner with the missions pastor from a large church in the USA. We were both sharing what we were doing here and what our interests were...

What was facinating in this divine appointment was he had a guy in his church who wanted to set up a registry of media professionals who wanted to use some of their time per year for the Lord. We have a project where we want to bring out media professionals to work alongside and mentor people from the Middle East so that they learn to do some of the bigger projects better.

Coming out from dinner I met the wife of a sound mixer from the USA whose husband is just finishing a college course and is praying about what is the next step in their life... I'll meet him later in the week.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Frustrating isn't in it!

Some days things go from bad to worse. This was one of them. The ongoing saga of the programme with added Greek... this morning my son and I went in to the office to copy from the DVCAM to the new video editing computer... and the computer failed.

I then took it down to the computer store. One problem was that the BIOS on the motherboard didn't support DVD writers [we use a DVD writer] so the store technician flashed a new bios onto the motherboard and the DVD writer started working and the RAID system stopped working.

On the servers we use RAID to 'mirror' the hard drive so that if one fails the other can take over. On the video editing computers we use RAID in a different mode so that each drive is used alternately making one very large hard drive that is very fast!

So they then tried a new RAID card. This took at least a hour, because the BIOS on the RAID card was incompatible with the BIOS on the motherboard so it to had to be flashed with a new bios. Eventually all seemed to work together except one of the removeable units for one of the hard drives.

We use removeable hard drives so that we can have three pairs of hard drives [ie 6 hard drives in total] because we need so much space for video editing we cannot have enough space on one pair, so we swap them for different projects.

The computer store is supposed to close at 2pm but stayed open till 4pm working on it, which meant that I didn't have lunch till 4.30pm.

When I got back to the office after late lunch I replaced the faulty removeable hard drive caddy, found the second new one was faulty, bodged a way round using some old removeable hard drive caddies and then... had problems with the RAID system, which it had not be possible to see because the removeable hard drive system had not been working.

The RAID system failed totally. Fought with it for a couple of hours and then it was time for dinner.

Back after dinner... managed to get the system going sufficiently to copy the programme [this time correctly - no added Greek and high quality] onto a hard drive. Finished 9.45 pm.


Very frustrated!

When I get back from this trip I will have to start again trying to get the new and the old video edit computers to work. The aim is that the new one will become our main editing computer, hopefully much faster than the old one, and the old one will be used in the ProTools sound dubbing system as the video playback system.

One option is to purchase new SATA hard drives for the new computer. We don't really have the funds for this - already the new edit computer has had unbudgeted an extra new motherboard, an extra new RAID card, and a new Matrox dual head graphics card...

Sometimes I think it would be a good idea to swap over to video editing on an Apple MAC, but that would be even more expensive!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Final day in the office?

My final day before travelling to the UK. That means I was trying to finish up too many things... I met with one colleague who will be away when I am back and then back when I am away again and so we won't meet again till the end of October. Seems like a long way off. He's the main co-ordinator of the learning website, so we will be in contact through email during the next two and half months, but we wanted to make sure how it would progress during that period.

Then my other colleague came back for an hour or so - he'd been on holiday this week and he will be in the office next week alone, so I was doing the 'handover', leaving him with all the things I had not done or could not do. One of which was a problem of Internet routing. When you connect to a website the other side of the world [or in this case connect from Malta to Cyprus or visa versa] the packets of data go through many computers en-route. If any one of them is having problems then the effect for the end user is a problem with the website.

We collect audio files from a computer at the Malta team office for one of the Internet radio stations and they connect to our system here to administrate following up people who contact the radio stations. Neither way is working properly, its been almost 2 weeks since we have been able to collect audio files and during that time they have had severe problems connecting to the administration site.

Last night, very late, I chatted online with the team leader in Malta and we diagnosed the problem together. There is a computer or computers near them [probably in Italy or France] that are loosing packets of data as they go through the Internet. What is strange is that if those packets are addressed to one of our two connections we lose about 90%, but if they are addressed to the other connection we lose about 50%. 90% is unusable, 50% is just about usable, so it would make sense for us to route packets to the Malta team through the connection that works better for them. That's where I came unstuck.

The 'black box' that does this is called a router [for those who are interested we use Cisco routers] and so I logged on to one of the routers and looked to see if I could route the packets in a way that would make it work for Malta and us. At this point I realised that my colleague [who is ex-British Telecom] knew a whole league more than I do about routers and although I can do the basics of routing I hadn't got a clue how to do this. So that's one of the tasks I left him.

My son was in the office too, trying to finish building the video editing computer, 'It will only take an hour' he said... and finished at 5.30 this evening! Tomorrow I will have to go in to the office and copy one programme onto the computer... this is the ongoing saga of the programme with 'added Greek' mentioned in business as usual.

When they copied it a second time, it arrived back without added Greek, but the quality of the sound was terrible [for the technically inclined, the Betacam player we have only plays back with Dolby C encoding, whereas they had recorded it without Dolby C encoding]. So rather than try a third time, we borrowed a DVCam recorder and tomorrow will make a copy straight onto the computer [correctly this time] and then on Monday another colleague will drive back to Nicosia to return the DVCam recorder.
So after all that today was not my final day in the office before I travel!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

It's all in the timing...

I phoned the International office about the delivery at 1 minute past 9am to see if the package had arrived. I don't know if I was more surprised or relived to find that it had. So all things being well it will be ready for me on Monday when I get there.

And on the subject of timing, a new probable team member came round this afternoon and we were talking about what he will be doing and in passing he said one of the things he had hoped to use, but so far hadn't, was his qualification in distance learning for IT. Ping, light goes on in head... isn't this what we're trying to do with the learning website? I'll have to get him and the other guy who's working on it together. He and I are struggling somewhat as we know little about distance learning.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Buying things wastes time!

About 12 years ago we spent a couple of years living the USA. One of the good things about the USA is that when you place an order with a company it is nearly always fulfilled on time and on specification. Contrast that with the 3 years we spent in the UK directly after that when only one order I placed with a company was fulfilled on time and on specification. Sometimes I feel it hasn't got any better in the last decade. Today was an example:

About a month ago I placed an order for a Manfrotto 522C - it's a remote zoom control handle for our Canon XL1 video camera - the C is important it specifies that it works with the Canon cameras and not the Sony cameras. Because we're in Cyprus I got it delivered to a colleague who would bring it out. When it arrived I found the company had supplied a 522A not a 522C. So I got in touch with them, firstly they claimed that the 522A works with Canon - I referred them to the Manfrotto website.

Then they came back and told me Manfrotto no longer made the 522C and so I would have to have a cheaper and not so good one. No that wasn't what I wanted. So I researched the Manfrotto website again and found a better version which was slightly more expensive... yes they could get that for me and deliver it to the international office in the UK in time for the filming I am doing next week. I also ordered 40 video tapes for that filming and FAXed them delivery details.

Today the people from the office are going to the venue where the conference will be held and phoned me to confirm everything I had got sent to them had arrived. Everything had... except... yes you guessed, the remote zoom control and the 40 tapes I had ordered for filming. So I phoned the company [yes, these are all International phone calls] and eventually spoke to one of the managers who apologised profusely and said that the piece of paper with my order was sitting on his desk and he had forgotten to sent it out!

After a whole series of phone calls he is now sending it overnight to arrive before 9am tomorrow at the international office, when one of the team will hopefully collect it and take it to the conference. and all of the sellers I have used through, on the other hand, delivered everything on time and on specification.

We're not a commercial company but I wonder how much it costs european industry [we have the same problems out here in Cyprus] with people spending hours and many phone calls chasing orders, sending back stuff that is wrong, re-ordering what they should have supplied in the beginning and waiting till it arrives late.

My youngest son came in today to try to build a new video edit computer, and, no he didn't complete it because the Cyprus company that faithfully promised to supply the RAM failed to do so. That too ended up with numerous phone calls and wasted time chasing it up. One wonders why europeans don't have a word like the Arabs do - maleesh - which is close to our 'whatever' but much more expressive.

Teaching or learning?

In the old days there were craftsmen, master-craftsmen and apprentices. People learnt by working alongside others who had been doing the craft for many years. In recent times we have schools and training colleges and universities. It almost appears like people want to open their head like taking the lid off a kettle and pour in knowledge. All over the world this seems to be the modern way. But you don't gain skills that way.

One of the things that we are trying to do is improve the skills in media of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. But often we have found they come approaching it as if they want the knowledge without the skills. The website we are developing as a way of encouraging learning now has this as its motto “This is not the place where you come to train. This is the place where you come to learn.”

I spent part of today with a colleague trying to get the right style for this site. Its important that its friendly - not just a load of facts. People from the Middle East are very relational so it has to have the feel of a workshop with people working alongside each other and learning from each other. Well, we'll have to see how it turns out and if the people we want to encourage find it helpful... as they say 'watch this space'.

Most of the day was spent editing, and programme 5 is nearly finished now. It was left rendering over-night.

This evening I wired another mobile phone into the system and then wrote the extre program code to make the system work with multiple phones. Tomorrow another colleague will test it.

Monday, August 01, 2005

T shirts with slogans

The Christmas before last my oldest son gave both me and my other son t-shirts. He had added slogans to them. Mine said 'Don't ask me... it's a hardware problem!' and my son's said 'Don't ask me... it's a software problem!'

This is the last week before I go to the conference so I set myself two targets:
  1. Finish the editing of a training series so I can take it to the conference
  2. Finish the programming of the SMS gateway so we can use more mobile phones on the system
I spent some of the day editing part 4b of the training series and left it 'rendering' - rendering is the process of converting one file type to another file type. We edit video programmes at full broadcast quality, the files are very large and we have special hard drives to do it with. When we distribute them we want to get a whole hour on a CD-ROM. This means compressing the video a lot, and is called 'rendering' It takes about 3 hours to render a 15-20 minute programme.

In between that I was back and forth to the computer shop we use. My youngest son has been helping us by building the second and new video edit computer [it's a hardware problem!]. Only it has proved more difficult than we hoped. We use a Matrox 2500 system which is somewhat old technology but works very well and we managed to buy one new recently for about 15% of the cost.

However, it is very fussy with the other hardware that it is connected to and my son spent a week trying various things in the office before we decided that the motherboard would never work with this system. So today he was in at the computer shop trying another one... and other pieces of hardware to work with it. We finished there around 5pm having finally sorted out what we need. That's the good news. The bad news is that it will cost about 400 pounds more than we expected.

In between going back and forth to the shop I taught another colleague how to use the new wiki I mentioned and in doing so found that we needed another application on the wiki site to allow him to upload images. I got that working this evening.

What I had hoped to do this evening was to do a bit of the programming for the SMS gateway [a software problem!]. The SMS gateway allows listeners to send SMS messages [also called text messages] from their mobile phones and they get put into a database system here. Then the people from the radio stations who respond to listeners can read the messages and type a response which is then sent out by our system. I wrote the software that takes the SMS messages in and sends them out.

Currently we have one phone connected to the system, but we want to have a number of them, so that many of the radio and tv stations we work with can use this facility. And what I have to write is the bit that swaps from phone to phone sending and receiving messages. I can only program when I have peace and quiet - like in the evenings - I'm not a terribly good programmer and get distracted easily [that's a plug by the way that we need a programmer out here full time, someone who knows Perl, PHP and UNIX].

The system is being used by one of our partners and we didn't realise just how critical it was till last Monday when three of us from the office went to a meeting in another town with them. When we got there we found that during the time we had driven to the other town a small problem had developed such that they could no access it. Normally had one of us been there it would have been a 5 minute [or less] job to fix.

In the process we found that they were receiving 15-20 messages a day and that they were using them every day for a programme that was broadcast later in the day - responding to listeners questions. Without the live facility the production team were having to go back over old messages to find some to respond to. It showed us that everyday people in the the Middle East asking questions about Jesus and want to know more about Him.

Anyhow I didn't get started even tonight as one of my colleagues is away on holiday this week and one of the servers out here went wierd, gobbling up all the free space on one of the hard drives and stopping it working in the process. I tried everything to find the problem and eventually rebooted the machine. This is drastic, we try never to re-boot unless necessary... and ... it didn't restart. Which meant at 9.30pm I had to go into the office and sort out the problem.

We use a system called RAID on our servers. RAID means that we use 2 hard drives every place that you would normally use 1, and all the data is simulaneously written to both hard drives. The logic for this is that if one of the hard disks fail [as happens to all hard disks, the only question is when... bit like human beings and death I guess] then you have not lost your data. It appears that one of the hard drives had partially failed and the server was sitting there when it re-started saying 'Press Control-D to enter maintainance mode'. Which I did and fixed the problem.