Thursday, June 15, 2006

Operation Telly

Today (as if you didn't know already) was the day of England's second group B game in the World Cup, over in Germany. I could not get the time off and the option to perhaps swap shifts with a colleague never really occurred to me. To my surprise most of the football fans on my floor had opted to work late into the afternoon for various reasons. So in the morning, our Financial Controller asked how we would get to watch the game. Of the variety of plans hatched, the acting IT Team Leader, perhaps had the best. He was going to bring in his television from home. Great. However, when he arrived at 9.30am, with a small bag, we realised this would not be ideal viewing for a football match. Then our PA explained she could get an aerial from home and we could hook it up to a plasma screen in the conference room downstairs, only to discover there was no tuner device. Next plan? My colleague on the helpdesk explained he had a USB TV adapter and antenna at home we could use. He went home at lunchtime to get it. Hauppauge produce some fantastic kit, but their software is what lets them down, often not being as initiative as the hardware. Grabbing a spare support laptop from the cupboard, I booted it up, only to discover it was our test Vista machine, so had to grab an another laptop from somewhere. In doing so I logged onto the web, downloaded and installed the drivers. Plug and play, worked. Well kind of. Windows detected the device and installed the drivers. I then installed the viewing software, WinTV2000, just as I have at home. However, no image was being displayed. Actually no signal whatsoever. Adjusting the aerial did little to help, not a single channel was picked up. The Finance guy, kept asking me for updates and I kept responding with bad news. Then the IT guy walked through the door exclaiming, 'Plan B!' In his hand he had a 14" television video combi. We tried to use this but without the remote control, it was fairly useless, no functionality to tune in the channels. One of the developers hunted down a forum, where someone else had already asked the question. Can I tune in this television without the remote? There was no response. It was well and truly back to the drawing board.

Our accountant is perhaps the most outspoken person, no correction character I have ever met. He brings our office alive, with his candid moments often just by saying the most outrageous one line. He was frustrated now. Frustrated by the fact he could be missing a crucial game and there was no where to go, as his house was out of bounds until at least 7pm. He called one of the big boys in off the bench. His job title is 'Technical Architect' but it was Development Team Leader a few months back. He detests football, but was willing to help get the TV tuner working. Positioning the aerial outside of the window, another search to hunt down a signal failed. He gave up. We were heading for injury time and there were no more substitutes left. Or were there?

My colleague realised that he had a old PCI WinTV card and magically produced it, not from a black hat but a plastic supermarket bag. Right, we needed a PC. Off went my manager downstairs and within a few minutes bought back an ancient Compaq machine, which had been used by the development team a few years ago (before they were all issued with laptops) Ripping open the case, I dropped in the card and then dumped the machine on a spare desk, out of the way. Within minutes there was a scramble as a member of the development team, firstly downloaded the drivers onto a USB key and rushed his new 17" flat screen onto the desk with the computer. There were cheers of encouragement all around. Powering everything up, we logged in (eventually) installed the drivers and software. I slowly realised I had spent far too much time on this and returned to my desk to do some work, while the developer fiddled. I was merely a spare part now and you know the saying about too many cooks spoiling the broth. Meanwhile our IT guy and got another television from somewhere and began trying to tune it in. We were down to Plan D. He was able to tune in BBC2 and Channel 4 (which was showing Countdown) but no ITV1. Back to the drawing board again? Meanwhile, a member of management had found a site, which screened the games live for a mere sum of £3.85 and after careful consideration paid for his account. The final two options available were going to watch the game in the car of a colleague. Unfortunately one had left early and the other didn't have his BMW. While we had been trying to get the television up and running our developer had got the PC working and just needed to move the antenna to get a better reception. With perfect timing he tuned into ITV1, as the opening sequence was being shown. Shutting down and logging off we moved our kit over to the meeting room and hooked everything up to the projector. Not bad quality reception being displayed on a 48" screen. There was only one last thing to do, so we could enjoy the game. Release the blinds so from my seat I could look into the room and directly at the screen. Perfect.

It took us over three hours to get ourselves sorted. As my manager commented at the end of our successful mission, it would have been easier going down to Argos ad buying a television. How strange is it, that in 2006, working for a technology solutions based company it took us this long to come together with a master plan to watch a World Cup game. I am sure some other IT departments out there were far more inventive. Or alternatively you just pulled a sickie, but what would have been the fun in that?

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