Weeknotes: Saturday 19 June

It’s been a pretty quiet couple of weeks for the tech team as we settle into the long period of Ordinary Time between Trinity Sunday and All Saint’s Day, so we’ve used it to catch our breath, tidy up some loose ends and start planning for the future.

And then there were two

We now have two technicians capable of streaming services, giving our technical lead their first Sunday off in over a year. Over the summer we aim to get this number even higher so that we can rota our team in the same way that we rota readers and server.

Never skip documentation

We’ve improved a whole bunch of our documentation and checklists, making things more reliable and increasing our bus factor.

A place for everything

Our Community Centre Management Team generate a lot of documentation and paperwork as part of keeping our Community Centre up and running. We’ve helped them move this into a new online document store, meaning it’s better protected against disaster and more accessible for people who need it.

Boosting the signal

As we plan to reopen the bar in the Community Centre we’ve been doing some work to make sure we can support cashless payments more reliably and make them faster. To do this we’ve started putting together a solid proposal to revamp some of our network equipment.

Weeknotes: Saturday 29 May

It’s been a quiet week for the tech team. Quiet, but not silent. Here’s what we’ve been up to.

We supported the APCM

Every year we’re required (by law!) to hold some meetings with the parish. This year, as with last year, we held the entire meeting online, supported by the technology team and infrastructure team.

Hopefully next year we’ll be back in person!

We tidied up even more cables

On top of our tech desk is now tidier than before, but underneath still isn’t as good as we’d like. We spent some time this week getting things a bit more organised and cables more tightly bundled, which makes it easier to see what goes where, and by making things clearer it simplifies and reduces risk if we make changes.

We thought about our choir microphones

We’re never happy with “it’ll do”, so we identified some ways we could improve audio quality when it comes to our choir. We’ll be testing out an improved microphone placement in tomorrow morning’s service.

Weeknotes: Saturday 22 May

Another week has gone by, and the tech team have done some more stuff.

(Re)discovering the light

We did some investigation on how the church’s lighting is controlled behind the scenes so that we could make some recommendations on future improvements.

At the moment we don’t have any particular plans for this, but many things have been suggested including coloured lighting, more granular control, automation, and integrating our external lighting. Knowing how our existing system works means we can make more informed decisions about which of these are feasible, both in terms of raw cost and in terms of effort, so that we can decide which (if any) are worth pursuing.

Thinking about the North aisle

Possible future works in the church building would involve moving the tech desk, so we did some thinking about where it could go and the implications for how things would look.

Before anything happens here though there are plenty more hoops to jump through!

Weeknotes: Saturday 15 May

Another week, another weeknotes. Here’s what the tech team have been up to!

More technicians!

We’ve trained another video technician, increasing the number of people who can stream and record services.

As with other parts of the Church, it’s important that our technology is understood and usable by enough people to make sure the workload is spread out. Over lockdown this hasn’t been the case, so we’re trying to correct that as quickly as possible.

It’s also a great opportunity to revise our documentation and make sure that it’s clear and comprehensive.

Defeating the cable snake

Anyone who has ever put more than two cables in the same place will know how quickly they get tangled. Our tech desk has literally dozens of them, for audio, video, data and power. You can imagine how chaotic this can become.

One of our ongoing battles is making sure all our cables are kept as tidy and organised as possible. It’s not just for the look of things (although we all appreciate a clean desk), but also to help make faults easier to diagnose, make changes simpler, and make it less likely that moving one thing will disturb something else.

To help in this we’ve re-organised a chunk of our cables (with more to come) using some adjustable, re-usable cable ties. These haven’t just let us keep our spare cables from becoming tangled, but we’ve also used them to help bundle and distinguish cables between different parts of kit.

Weeknotes: Saturday 8 May 2021

Another week, another weeknotes! Here’s what the technical team have been doing:

Further audio refinements

We’ve made some more adjustments to how we pipe audio from our in-church microphones and into our video stream. This gives the technician more control over the different sources of sound, and hopefully will help to reduce some of the echoing which becomes apparent when certain combinations of microphones are used.

Moving the wifi

We’ve changed the position of our wifi transmitter in the church, which should now give better coverage across more of the building.

Weeknotes: Saturday 1 May 2021

Happy long weekend everyone!

The last week for the tech team here at Whitkirk has been all about configuring, optimising and planning. Here’s what we’ve been up to.

A bit of printer tweaking

We’ve changed how our printer is configured to connect to our network. This is a hangover from the days before we had a network spanning two buildings, and the printer was instead plugged directly into the office computer. The change makes it more reliable, more visible to our network management tools, and most crucially enables us to queue print jobs remotely using our VPN.

Optimise all the images

Following on from last week’s website tweaks, we’ve gone through our entire collection of uploaded images and run them through an optimiser, shaving an average of 60% off the size of each image we serve. These small changes add up, especially for people on lower bandwidth connections, making our site seems faster and more responsive.

Continue reading “Weeknotes: Saturday 1 May 2021”

Weeknotes: Saturday 24 April

Now we’re back in the church building we’ve had to make some tweaks to how we stream services, so here’s what happened last week!

Some new audio tweaks

We added two new bits of cabling to our audio setup – one which lets us bring audio from our new PC into the church’s sound system, and one which lets us bring a second output from our mixer into our video stream.

This second output gives us the ability to more cleanly separate the vocal microphones in the church – such as the lectern and altar microphone – from the organ microphone which picks up the music. By doing this we can reduce the amount of chatter which is picked up from the returning congregation at the end of the service, whilst still feeding our organ voluntaries out into the world.

Continue reading “Weeknotes: Saturday 24 April”

Weeknotes: Sunday 18 April

This has been a pretty uneventful week for the tech team, as we’ve focussed on building on last week’s fix for some connectivity problems.

A new router

We’ve switched our existing combination modem/router which connects the Community Centre to the internet into ‘bridge mode’, so it acts exclusively as a modem. To provide routing across our internal network, we’ve added a new, dedicated router.

This brings us a few extra goodies, such as better remote administration, better controls over how we handle data from various devices, and the ability for us to remotely connect to the Church’s network to perform maintenance and diagnose faults from anywhere.

Access point controller

To boost the reliability and flexibility of our wifi networks in the church we’ve added an access point controller, which lets us treat our entire wifi estate as one single managed entity. This helps give us a better image of how things are behaving, which is important as we encourage people to use their own devices to access the order of service.