Saturday, January 14, 2006

Support problems

The only thing that is reliable about computers is that they are unreliable! And trying to do everything we do within a very very limited budget only makes it more difficult. We have Internet radio stations that operate 24 hours a day, Internet TV programmes for viewing, websites, e-commerce sites, email systems etc etc etc

We have a system that monitors everything and sends a text message to the mobile phone of the person on duty, in theory, within 15 minutes of a problem developing. As you know from following this blog we have tended to have problem after problem after problem with systems. This week we had a minor problem with one server. Sadly the problem became greater because the person on duty ignored the alert thinking it meant something else.

What we realised as a result of this is that sometimes we get so many messages from 'clients' reporting faults that we cannot see the wood for the trees. I say messages from clients reporting faults... but what we found out is that only about 25% of the messages we recieve are reporting faults. The rest fall into the category of either administrative messages or personal support messages [where the 'client' has a problem, but the problem is not ours but theirs!] or where the client is asking for a new feature rather than reporting a problem.

So... how to manage things? Administration is not my strong point. And we have just come to the end of another year, which means I/we have to do an end of year report including the end of year finances. We always find the end of year reports a pain to do... and yet find when they are completed they are really helpful in seeing how much we have actually achieved. So... coming up is going through the finances and going through the logs to see what we have done.

Friday, January 06, 2006


Since Christmas, as before Christmas, the biggest thing I have been doing is editing a training programme. Training programmes are always difficult as they have to be 'interesting' but often the material is somewhat abstract and trying to make them interesting can be difficult.

In the early autumn we installed a new computer for editing - the old one was now four years old and very slow by today's standards. We thought we could do the upgrade cheaply by just buying a new motherboard and keeping everything else the same. No chance sadly, we ended up building a completely new system... and what was worse we were supplied with a faulty component [cheap 15 pound component]. Sadly that faulty component did significant damage to other parts... the supplier replaced the faulty component but not all the other parts it damaged.

Anyhow... my son is into hardware for computers and he came in to do the building of the system. Computers for video editing are complex beasts and he installed the system about 4 times before saying it was working. So I started editing with the computer. It was not 100% working. Every so often it would crash. I know some people say 'What do you expect, it's a computer?' and others might be demeaning of Microsoft, but I do expect computers to stay running longer than a couple of hours.

Having started the editing and having a deadline of early January, we could not stop and try sorting out the problem, which would have required a complete re-install again [maybe more than once] and we had no real idea how to stop it crashing. So I persevered. And persevered. And persevered. And got angry with it. And wished we could have a Mac editing system [which is what we would have gone for it we were starting fresh today]. And got even more angry with it.

This is time for an aside, because it's from this that some thinking came about... There is a strand of Christianity called the 'prosperity Gospel' - people from that strand teach that since God created the whole universe he can sure provide all we need in abundance all the time. And there is some truth in that teaching. Some truth. But not whole truth. Anyhow people who teach from that strand tend to drive Mercedes, live in big houses and have the latest and best of everything.

There are some groups within Christianity that value austerity as the way forward. That group tend to have bicycles, live in apartments and re-use tea bags. And there is some truth in that teaching. Some truth. But not the whole truth.

So in times when I am struggling and getting angy with these stupid computers I tend to feel attracted to the 'prosperity' and wish for the latest, greatest, no expense spared... after all aren't we trying to share Jesus in what we do and so what we do must be valuable?

Had a meeting yesterday with someone and he said one of his gifts was fundraising. Often, when I am getting angry with lack of resources I feel that maybe I should do less and fundraise more. But that in itself is strange. There are some times when we have received really quite significant gifts, and one of our ex-trustees said that I was pretty good at it. Well... that's what's strange. There have been times when we have received sizable gifts but generally it has been God arranging it. Someone might come to our office and say 'what do you need money for now?' or take me out for coffee, and I share what we are doing and they say 'how can I give you money to help this?' It's pretty infrequent I will grant you but it does happen.

Other times I have tried to 'fund-raise' for equally valuable projects and got absolutely nothing! So I tend to end up carrying on using junk equipment because I can achieve more even with problematical equipment than with fund-raising. Of course, one might take into account my stress level too...

So there we are. Struggling with equipment, wishing I really believed the prosperity Gospel, feeling guilty I am not fund-raising, knowing that I would not get anything anyhow unless God brings the donors, and if He brings them then so long as I am doing what He calls me to do I don't have to do anything other that be there available. And I am still struggling with the equipment.

Yesterday morning the video editing computer was behaving even worse than normal. I was wishing we are back in the 'good old days' of shooting film not videotape - at least you could hold the film up to the light to see it and edit it! At lunctime we discussed it and my son did some research in the afternoon and then from about 8pm through to 1am we re-installed the system again...

It's better... lots better... but still not 100%. It's not crashing every hour or so now, but it is misbehaving, refusing to play back video perfectly. Struggle on. Struggle on.

So where does that leave us? As a team we talked and prayed today. Yes, I think we all have secret longings for prosperity, and feel guilty about not fund-raising, and are not gifted in it and... and...