Most Pennsylvanians think that fairs are fun places to enjoy the kinds of food that can make a cardiologist weep – unless they are seeking new patients. The people of our communities look forward to the fun and relaxation time with friends, exhibits, shows and sales. We in Ag IT know that for many extension professionals it is one of the most stressful times of the year.

One of the best ways to reduce stress and the threat of stress for extension staff at fairs is to assemble and test your fair network a week or more in advance. And, coincidentally, one of the best ways to reduce stress and the threat of stress for AgIT Support and Consulting staff is to assemble and test your fair network a week or more in advance! This local network is a fairly straightforward combination of computers, printer and router - and you've set it up a dozen times (over the last dozen years, of course!). You have likely used the same computers and a printer and router that were bought specifically for this use.

We strongly recommend getting all the pieces and parts out of the shed, the closet, the trunk - any and all of the hiding places that you use to keep your stuff together. Then, connect it all together and test the network and the printing, maybe even using last year's show data. You'll want to allow time for the computers that are rarely used to get updates, and you'll want to discover - well in advance - that your colleagues have 'borrowed' all of the network cables that you securely hid for the show. Test to be sure the printer has ink and that the power adapters for the router and the printer are still available. Remember that Ag IT strongly suggests the use of a router (not a switch) and a USB connected printer, not the networked printer from the office. Strongly suggests, yes…because it will make the setup and use of the network so much simpler, easier and reliable for you and for Ag IT!

If you have it all set up in your conference room, and it all fails, we're just on the other end of the phone and there is no need to panic. Lost items have time to be found or replaced, doohickeys can be upgraded to thingamabobs and a smoothie can be substituted for Maalox.

Once you've verified that the network performs as expected, take it apart and hide the pieces until you get to the fair. Assemble the network again before you need it and test again. Nobody on either side of the phone likes to say or hear, "We are at the fairgrounds, the cell phone battery is dying, the auction is in an hour and nothing is working…."!

Information Technologies

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401 Ag Administration Building
State College, PA 16802