Frequently Asked Questions (tech.)

The following list of questions have been posed on social media and the responses are the latest view from the TAGB Technical Team

What do the Tournament Technical team do?

The team do several jobs:

  • Setup the tournament management system computers at the top table;
  • Connect in and start the announcement system to the arena PA system;
  • Run power to the Top Table, the Results computer and the Query Table;
  • Run power to the screens (and any areas that need them);
  • Setup the 2 LCD screens and the computers that drive them;
  • Liaise with the arena technical staff in linking in to their systems;
  • Setup local WIFI for the tournament system (not internet);
  • Arrange external internet connections for posting results or twitter feed (if used);
  • Prepare the tournament system, including website links, screen layouts etc.

What is the Tournament System?

The system consists of 3 parts:

  • Audio; announcements are automatically produced by the system when events are started. The current voice is Master Sergiew. We have other voice packs but having one voice all the time seems to be the most preferred option.
  • Visual; the screens display the allocation of events to areas and the running order. The system updates the screens when events start, finish, are cancelled or are put on hold.
  • Web; the system can (if we can get an internet connection) send the same information on the screens to a web page and the announcements to Twitter.

The system has other background functions which assist in the tournament management. The system is nothing to do with competitor entries and we cannot answer or reply to questions with respect to this.

What do you not do?

Fix weighing scales, sort out mobile phone problems, problems with video cameras, provide internet connections, provide WIFI or 'hotspot' access (please do not ask, the answer is currently - no). We have nothing to do with the fabric of the arena which includes toilets, lighting, fixed electrical wiring, fire alarms, speakers and PA systems (unless we bring one), vending machines or provide electricity.

How long does it take to setup?

About 2 hours from start to finish on a bad day. Less if the screens are fixed and provided by the arena. However, we prepare weeks in advance of any tournament which includes site visits, meetings and system updates back at the office.

When are the web based services available?

We aim to have the system operational by 9 a.m. on the morning of the tournament half an hour before the tournament starts. It will cease when the last event has been announced in the arena. The website may remain active for many weeks after a tournament so be advised it may show the previous tournament.

Why has it taken so long to get this service?

When the screens were introduced in the 2007 World Championships it would be fair to say that the smart phone and mobile tablet devices were not as widespread as they are today. Over the last 6 years this has changed dramatically and now it is unusual to see phones that are not fully web browser capable. Also, the TAGB website was not being maintained as frequently as it is now so there was no opportunity to link the tournament management software to the TAGB website. Today, the TAGB has the website, the software and you have the phones.

How long does the website take to update?

The tournament is controlled from one main computer and this feeds updates to a web content manager server every 15 seconds. The web content manager will then generate the updated page and send this to the TAGB website. Each page is set to refresh by a variable time (every few minutes or so) to give you a chance to read the page before it refreshes and you lose any zoom applied by your phone. If this is too short, let us know.

Will there be an 'app' for the TAGB competition service?

No. We have endeavoured to use HTML to ensure that we reach as many platforms as possible in a consistent manner. Using HTML is our best approach as the majority of handsets can render the competition web page without any problems. A device or operating system specific application would give no additional benefit other than ease of use on a handset and would introduce additional cost to the service to maintain. Unless of course the competitors and spectators were prepared to pay for this? Let us know.

Is there a WiFi service I can connect to instead of using my 3G/4G service provider?

No. The TAGB does not provide internet or WiFi access through the competition system. The arena may provide this, but it is not supported by the TAGB. Please use your 3G/4G service provider.

This service does not work on my phone, can you help?

Let us know the handset, the operating system and the web browser you were using. Obviously, if you cannot connect in the arena then there is nothing we can do to help. We do not provide support on individual handsets.

I cannot find my event or the information is wrong?

If you are in the arena, contact the top table, or the competition entry query table or a technical support official (blue t-shirt). If this is the evening before then please email the website administrator or let us know via facebook.

I have a complaint about the system, who do I contact?

On the day of a competition you can contact the technical support team or you can email the website administrator. Facebook is ok for general comments but if you have something you wish a reply to then please talk to us as soon as there is a problem.

Can I plug in my mobile phone/camera charger anywhere at a Tournament?

No. The use of electricity without permission of the bill payer is considered "theft" under English (and Welsh) Law and in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Chargers will be removed if found. If the arena provides mobile phone charging points then that is a matter for them. If you ask permission, then that is a matter for the arena to grant and not the TAGB. Even if a TAGB official tells you otherwise, your phone and charger will still be removed.

Do people interfere with the equipment?

Yes, they do. Recent examples (British 2012) include someone un-plugging one of the display televisions to charge their phone. In Wales in 2012 there was an incident of someone un-plugging a network cable connecting the competition system PC from the announcement system for an unknown reason. At the British in 2011 someone got round the barrier and began amusing themselves with the laptop and managed to rip the VGA cable out supplying video feed to the screen. We also have dealt with several people 'tripping' out the equipment through 'rocking' the screens or moving it and pulling the power leads out. Bearing in mind that most of the equipment is brought in and fixed up on the day of the tournament there is little we can do to hide cables, bury power leads and put locks on power outlets.

What is the 3G/4G connection like in the NIAC Arena?

It is variable. The most recent site visit (November 2013) the situation was Vodafone and 02 is very good with Orange and EE being particularly bad (to non-existent in certain areas). 4G was not looked into. Outside of the arena the signal strength is excellent for most networks.

So why bother with web based event lists and results if 3G/4G service is poor?

The results will need to be posted in any case. We feel it best to do it on the day when mistakes can be rectified. This service will also give instructors and fellow students at home some accurate information as to how their team and fellow students are getting on during the competition. For those that can get a signal, they can see where their event is. We will endeavour to get the system up before the tournament starts and advertise this on Facebook and Twitter. So, you will know before you go where you are fighting.

Why does the TAGB not provide its own internet and WIFI service for spectator and competitor use?

To do so in a manner that would provide a reliable service would involve the use of one of the following: 'Bonded 3G/4G' services with the cost of SIM, data use and the need for good reception; satellite based broadband which is expensive and would require fixing to the exterior of an arena; bringing in additional fixed DSL type connections. All of these are possible, but at a cost that would be seen immediately on the spectator and competitor ticket price.

Our experience is that in general any arena networks are provided for their office use only. Where access is granted to the TAGB some services (such as FTP and Twitter feeds) are blocked. When we have been declined access to an arena network it is because of issues of data protection, security and virus prevention. Bringing in temporary 3rd party providers to provide a temporary 'hotspot' brings yet more complexity and cost to events that last only hours.

It is simply not worth the expenditure and effort. The situation will be reviewed if a low cost alternative that was mutually acceptable to the TAGB and the arenas could be found.

You simply cannot compare what you can do at home to what you can achieve in an arena for temporary purposes. Most homes have direct wired connections to the main BT systems (irrespective of what telephone provider you use) and experience quite good service for relatively little cost, but the physical link has been there for years, the TAGB relies heavily on the arena to grant internet access (or not). To date, none of the arenas the TAGB has used have commercial fixed 'hotspots'. If they did, we would simply use that.

What do you prioritise?

We always prioritise the announcements and then the screens in the arena. The website updates, twitter and other channels take second place. We must prioritise what information is necessary to run a tournament. You will not compete over the internet.

My mate 'Dave' can get you internet!

Great, can we meet 'Dave'?

About this video streaming 'app'?

This is nothing to do with the Tournament Technical team and the TAGB Committee has not requested that we introduce one. What we would say to anyone thinking about it is to consider the bandwidth required to stream 18 areas simultaneously and who would watch them for that high network cost? The TAGB would not consider something if it was going to put additional cost on the ticket price where the paying spectators and competitors get no benefit from it.