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As the title of this page suggests, I volunteer at the St. Joseph County 4H Livestock Auction. I have been doing so for the last six years.

Initially, I was brought in to help the previous technical director, Mr. Gary Brooks. After the second year, he decided to retire from it all and hand everything off to me.
That third year had one hell of a learning curve, as not only did he leave with his expertise on what was going on, he also took all the equipment we had been using with him as well. From then on, I have been steadily improving the auction and gaining a reputation for knowing what’s going on.

On the more technical side of things, their have been many different network schemes to run the auction. The first was a distributed database architecture, where every computer synced together with a set of database locks. This worked fine when Mr. Brooks was there because he brought powerful mobile workstations with him. The year after, I had a problem of power. The auction committee had rent XP era laptops to run the event. I almost quit right then. I ended up using my desktop at the time, Watson Mk5, to run 14 instances of the same program and serve data to the laptops so they had to do the minimum amount of processing possible. It was a bodge, but it worked. I’ll skip a few years, because 2019 is the year I am most proud of:

I used Laplace’s Demon as the main server with the 14 other laptops in a bus topology (connected via wireless) all querying the main database off of Laplace. It worked so well, there was not a single data glitch or significant lag. We have been using the same (admittedly sub-par) software this entire time, Grand Champions. As a side note, I think before the 2020 auction, I will try my hand at writing a new program, because all Grand Champions is, is a wrapper for a database. Its almost laughable how buggy the software is for how simple the operations its doing are.

Now, no offense to the people running the fair, but volunteering there has helped me gain the ability to explain complex computer topics to those who are technically illiterate. That skill is not easily attained. I have only touched the surface of proper communication after six years. The obverse is true as well, as I still have no idea of the complexities that goes into farming.

A set of people at the fair always ask me why I come back, because I do not have any actual connection to it, plus all I do is get yelled at by angry people. (Nobody notices IT until it breaks) I do not actually have a good answer for this, other than I get to work on something that’s exceptionally challenging for only two weeks out of the year. It helps out the kids, yes, but I guess I enjoy the challenge of completing such a large event without a hitch.

I am not much for pictures, let alone standing still during the auction, so there have not been many over the years. I’ll include some here from 2019.

If anyone reading this is trying to set up an auction for a non-profit, just email me, I would be more than willing to help.