Back stage business   |  The tech behind the Aus 3 Days
By Christo Peters - Mon 1 Jul 2024 7:35pm
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Back stage business   |  The tech behind the Aus 3 Days

A re-printed article with permission from the Orienteering Australia e-news and the Orienteering South Australian magazine. This is a detailed log of all the tech activities tracked before, during and after the Aus 3 Days including the preparation, setup, running, adapting to changes and keeping track of entries and results. It is a dedicated description on the functions of tech as part of orienteering…

Well it’s done! The Aus 3 Days is over and we are all well pleased with the way it ran. The complexity of these events is often overlooked when it all seems to run smoothly. It runs smoothly thanks to the planning and effort that goes in “behind the scenes”. So for those interested, I have put together an outline of some of the technology (download and results) behind the carnival.

In the early planning, there was discussion over whether the large “Living it Live” screen was sufficient to display results or an alternative bank of TVs would be required. Attendees at other events where the results scrolled over the large screen suggested that the bank of TVs would be a preferred solution. The opportunity to gather around screens, discuss the margins and errors on course was thought to be part of a carnival atmosphere and so it proved to be. Great to listen to the post mortem comparisons of times and placings. In addition, results screens enabled attendees to graphically see splits where you were ahead and then you weren’t when the route to “that” control proved to be less than optimal.

At national events, there is also a requirement to have a continuous backup of results at the download station. Historically in SA, two versions of OE software were run to achieve this. Dianne and Colin had experience with results screens produced by OLYNX software from Philip Herries in NZ. It was decided to purchase Phil’s system and run both OE and OLYNX for the carnival. Phil is keen to see more clubs in Australia considering OLYNX software. In the lead up to the carnival, Phil released several updates to the OLYNX system specifically to make our carnival easier and we are immensely grateful to him for his responsiveness. Just one example was the plan at Narrinyeri Hills to have the Elites undertake two crossings of Maurice Road, a main thoroughfare out of Murray Bridge. OE already had un-timed, voided leg capability but OLYNX did not. Phil modified his software to add this capability. This voided leg meant the difference between Zoe Carter (SA Arrows) and Nea Shingler (NSW Stingers) winning at Narrinyeri Hills in the elite W20E category.

Technology translates into two main elements though: the software AND the hardware. For the observant, there were three laptops running at the download stations and two at results. In addition, there were monitors, TVs, routers and the need for power to all these devices. Historically, that meant generators with the inevitable transport of fuel and the concerns for safety in its use. EV to the rescue. The OHOC team were already familiar with Dianne and Colin’s Hyundai Ioniq5 EV powering events through the past year. Could it cope with a calculated up to 10 amps of current draw and 7+ hours of operation and still get them and their equipment to and from the event locations? The answer was a resounding “Yes”. In pre-event rehearsals and at the carnival, the power impact to the car’s 77kW battery was of the order of 5%. The car being parked next to the download tent meant no long treks from the car park with equipment as a bonus!

The PCs were a mixed bunch with three Dells from the Burnett-Bergen supply, Wallaringa Club’s ASUS and a newly purchased HP upgrade for OSA with OSA’s current, intolerably slow, laptop in reserve. That was five Windows 10 laptops and one Windows 11 all running the latest releases of OLYNX and OE. One machine daily was designated the OE “master” and one the OLYNX “master”. To be “master” was to be the repository of data for that system with all other laptops networked to you and reading or writing to your database. Networks, argh! Who would want to be a network software engineer? Certainly not Dianne or Colin. Three switches linked the five PCs in the network to “Living it Live” setup in the Commentary tent. Despite much Google searching for reasons why/why not, only the Windows 10 machines could “see” each other and not the Windows 11 machine. This was variously tested in three rehearsal sessions in the Burnett-Bergen garage in Marino. Only in the days before the carnival though did we recognise that the home wifi network in Marino was influencing the network. Turning wifi off on all the machines meant a rapid replan of where in the network that new OSA Windows 11 machine could be used! 

What about all those TVs? A huge thank-you to OSA e-news readers who responded to a request for unused 32-40” TVs that could be used. Who doesn’t have an older model TV in the garage that hasn’t yet made it to the e-waste disposal? Turns out quite a few, as all 7 TVs were acquired for free. Seven you say, but attendees only saw six? One was held in reserve in the Sankauskas 4WD in case of any failures. Hence we had a Panasonic, sharp, two Sonys, two Kogans and something else. Each laptop was connected to three TVs in a specific configuration. Did you know that a Windows 10 PC can have more than 4 concurrent screens using its Extended capability? If you ever want to try and find your mouse across all that screen real estate, you will realise why we reconfigured the mouse size to be so large! The diagrams were not just for wiring, it was a visual reminder of which way the mouse needs to travel to get from one screen layout to another! HDMI Page 3 of 6 connection could only be used for one TV per laptop, the others were connected through a hub either via VGA or a VGA-USB adapter.

Rehearsals were essential to prepare, tailor and save results screens for each TV’s size, resolution and scale to enable as many results to be displayed concurrently as possible. Dianne Bergen and Al Sankasukas undertook this preparation and then tweaked the screens each day of the carnival. Prep was done after entries closed early March as some classes had so many entries they couldn’t fit from top to bottom on a single screen. Rehearsals also prompted us to look at the screen backgrounds as an opportunity to showcase the 50 year anniversary of Easter 3 Days. Leila Henderson, OSA’a marketing manager, sourced photos from every year and annotated with commentary to generate a 154 slide show of Easter events. This was variously displayed on results and large screens throughout the carnival to add to the atmosphere.

Prologue, Day 1, Barry Wheeler had the trailer on the Heathfield High School oval loaded with TV stands (originally built for the 2017 carnival), tables and other equipment ready for unloading bright and early at 8:15am. The Wallaringa and OHOC tent teams were ready for setup. Event organiser, Rob Dickinson, was off unlocking school gates so setup teams took on putting out the arena in his absence. Heavy dew on the ground wasn’t expected so lots of wet feet all around. The first run through of equipment setup and wiring is always the slowest. Nonetheless, it was all up and running just ahead of the first elite start times of noon. Glitch no.1, as always was the network with download PCs struggling to “see” each other. Just as Al was finishing tweaking his screens the download masters decided a reboot was necessary and all Al’s design work was lost! Lesson 1: Download, please tell Results BEFORE you pull the network so results layouts can be saved! Lesson 2: Save the results layout immediately after each “tweak” so they can easily be reloaded. 

“Living it Live” pointed out that there were early punches ahead of the start time. Oops said Colin, test punches in the system. I will remove them and in the process, Colin took out all the attendee Start times. Easy fix. Just reload the event on the master PCs. But no matter what they tried, the Prologue event would not reload on the OLYNX master laptop. Runners had already started and the pressure was on to have a fix. It was decided to just create a completely new event on the OLYNX master and restore the event called “Prol Test”. No one noticed the odd title on the results screens…although the commentators did have a challenge as the start punches were not available from the radios and they had to wait until the first elites actually finished and downloaded. Page 4 of 6 The plan was to have two phases of results displays during the prologue. A feature of the elites for the first two hours whilst they ran and then a switch into three course mode as attendees ran the three public courses. A challenge for Course 2, as the most popular, with 180+ participants. The screens were formatted with 6 scrolling columns! Good luck finding your result if you haven’t checked your split printout for finish time.

Lesson 3 was to not leave your mobile phone in a locked Hyundai Ioniq5 as it cooks the phone battery and it shuts down. Windows open on the car for the rest of the weekend, thanks. The shade of the results canopy was extremely popular with little respite from the SA sunshine on the Heathfield High School oval.

Day 2 setup was targeted to commence at 7:30am, just after dawn. Folks setting out from Adelaide for Pymton ran into the early birds queuing in the dark in their cars for the Oakbank Easter picnic enroute. Later attendees ran into a full-scale traffic jam, we heard. Still the day dawned gorgeous and the Sankauskas crew trailing the Bergen-Burnetts had to stop to take a photo of a glorious sky. The results tent was already up, the finish run taped (thanks Wallaringa), CFS on the job cooking up a storm and the toilets lined up and loaded (thanks Yalanga).

Lots of new screens to put up with the multitude of classes and an outline of the Sledge class shorts for those interested in this Easter tradition. The costumes were awesome. The more so as the temperatures soared over the 30oC mark making the onesie Batman, Superman and Easter Bunny a cooling nightmare. Barry Wheeler was pleased that the tiresome loading of many reels of carpet proved worthwhile in keeping the dust down around the download and results equipment. The tarpaulin from the Ioniq5 was enlisted to shade the download team staring full on into the Northern sun all day.

Pre-event radio checks had highlighted that mobile phone coverage in the area was sketchy so radio controls using SIM technology were always going to be a question mark. So it proved, with a number of the radios dropping out from time to time. The nature of the courses meant that live tracking of the elites couldn’t start until after 12:30pm but nevertheless it was great to be able to see the first sets of GPS tracks replayed and the route choices on the elite courses on the big screen.

Glitch of the day was course 16 having had a late change and competitors stumped by different control descriptions listed on their arm from the one printed on the map. Course Controller was called Page 5 of 6 and the decision was made to terminate the course at control 8 with the results adjusted accordingly (across two systems). 

Meanwhile, Presley Scouller-Evans (Newcastle) from M12A, showed the spirit of orienteering when he deviated from his course to check in on an older orienteer who had run into a kangaroo. The SI team was asked to investigate an adjusted time for Presley and the controller supported doing so. A special award was presented to Presley on Day3 for his commendable action. Colin had his own wildlife encounter collecting the first radio repeater at the end of the day when a koala in the tree above was disturbed by the strange chap taking in the pole that had been attached to his tree.

Despite being well fed and watered by the Rockleigh CFS crew, the end of the day waiting for radio control collection before being able to finish packing the car with IT equipment was tedious in the extreme. Dianne was very scratchy when the tarpaulin protecting the car floor had been zealously packed away with the download canopy and already taken to Ngaralta for the next day.

Both days 1 and 2 were World Ranking Events (WRE). For those not aware, elites competing overseas are assigned unique IOF ID’s which, thanks to the Australian use of 20E and 21E classes for effectively Junior and Senior elites, do not directly align with IOF standards. Technically, this means the tech teams need to deal separately with two versions of Eventor – the Aus one and the IOF one, unloading and reloading data from each. This would be simpler if the IOF ID’s came with the data easily. Turns out none of the Aus tech gurus have been able to get a one step process to work so behind the scenes there is much late night manipulation required to get the results up.

Day 3 and the same early start, although with a little more shade than at Pymton. Long courses across open ground meant runners were actually deviating to water controls. The allocation of one cup of water per competitor was probably optimistic in the conditions. An out of bounds (dark green) area across a fence near the start also proved alluring to some competitors with many reports of folk in the area.

Technology wise, Windows network came in for more abuse at start up with combinations of switch changes and PC reboots needed before a working solution was “up”. There were offers of split time requests at the results download with Cooper Horley wanting to see the elite splits extended from top 5 to top 6 so he could check out where he lost time. 

Backup results guru, Al, was reassigned to bread-buttering duties as event organiser, Evelyn Colwell, rushed to the rescue with the Rogaining barbecue when the catering van for Easter Sunday broke down en route. 

Cumulative results for Days 1 & 2 were displayed so runners had a chance to decide how much to push on the last day to make that elusive podium placing.

Late starters beginning after noon and out for 2-3 hours in 35ºC was not expected with average SA temps meant to not exceed 30ºC. A number of runners were still on course in the heat beyond the 2:30pm course closure including some SA stalwarts who pushed past 3 hours on course in the heat. Thankfully, remote radio control collection was reassigned with Carnival Organiser, Jenny Casanova, stepping up to collect them and charge overnight ready for the final day at Narrinyeri Hills.

Radio news confirmed that Easter Sunday 2024 was the hottest SA Easter in 73 years! 

With a chasing start for Sledge competitors and a reverse chasing start for Elites to be merged into start lists for Day 4, it was home to print another half ream of lists for rego and start teams.

Day 4 and the last run through of unloading six TVs, three monitors and five PCs and setting up download and results. A 60% chance of rain didn’t eventuate but the mid 20’s temperature was much appreciated. Being April 1, results had prepared a special event which was put up adjacent to the women’s under 50 results. After several hours of it being ignored, Dianne took to pointing out this special event to observers. Generally, the prompter, “Read the names”, was enough to raise a smile. Some folks needed to be pointed to the results heading: 2024 April Fool!

With a full day of results to show and much interest in the cumulative 3 days results as well, both the TV’s AND the PC screens were required to show all elements of the event people were interested in seeing. The men were given a TV but elites and ladies had to squint at laptop screens to see the cumulative 3 day results ahead of final prizegiving. The screens were swapped between PC and TV later in the day when only a few classes still had runners yet to finish.
A disappointed Al Sankauskas missed his third place podium presentation (and kudos) in M65AS when OE failed to correct for his later start whilst OLYNX clearly presented this outcome on the cumulative 3 Days results screen! Another reason to maintain two systems across a carnival as a check and balance of results!

With results posted nightly onto Eventor systems, that is what we call ‘a wrap’ from the tech team. Now just to remove dust from all the equipment and return it to its original owners, and we can call it quits. Good luck to the next major carnival organisers: the nationals in Armidale, the Christmas five days in Sydney and next year’s Easter hosts, Bendigo.

Thanks to your Carnival tech team: Colin Burnett, Ben and Marcus Cazzolato, Jack Marschall, Art Hussnain, Chris Simmonds, Dianne Bergen, Al Sankauskas with Jim Russell and Michael Loughlin from the “Living It Live” team. 

By Dianne Bergen (vetted by Colin Burnett)

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