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!

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