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Obstacles and difficulties

One of the biggest problems encountered by the team was trying to organize our ThinkQuest work while keeping in mind the downtimes. Jen, Simon and Debangsu all had rather busy summers - all three team members were doing a lot of travelling, losing contact with each other, and Jen and Simon were both also preparing to go to college in the fall. But even before that, in May and the first half of June, the team found it hard to stay focussed on ThinkQuest due to the scheduling of important final exams for Simon, Jen and Debangsu, in that order.

snapshotDuring the summer, all three team members had to travel for various reasons. Debangsu had to travel to Asia from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, West Africa to visit his home country, India, from June 28 to July 27. During this time, he didn't have Internet access while he was in New Delhi, and lost contact with his teammates. In the latter part of July, he managed to obtain Internet access while he was in Calcutta, India and regained contact with the team. Moreover, Jen was unavailable for ThinkQuest from July 2nd-July 21st, as she was on a college tour and later on, camping in Maine, USA at the time. Even Simon had his own share of traveling. He had to travel to France (25th July - 12th August) and get involved with college introductory activities in Groningen, Holland (13-18th August and 25-27th August). Moreover, Simon's coach Vikas Sonak was also unavailable for some amount of time in July because of his travel to Italy from Holland. During this time, he had no contact with his team members. It was quite a challenge for the team to arrange ThinkQuest work to match traveling schedules.

Moreover, collaboration over the Internet proved to be quite challenging due to a number of reasons. The three team members were in 3 separate continents (4 including Debangsu's travel to India, Asia), which ruled out face-to-face meetings. As a result, all communication had to take place using the Internet as the sole medium. This wasn't easy, considering that each of the team members had been away for some of the time. Moreover, time zones also had to be dealt with. Jen, Debangsu and Simon were separated by multiple time zones - there was a 6 hour (7 while switching between summer and winter times) difference between Jen in New Hampshire in the west, and Simon in Holland at the farthest east. This made team meetings tricky to organize at times - more often than not, someone had to stay up really late in the night to communicate with their team mates. However, as we all agreed, keeping the communication clear was extremely important. This situation was compounded further when Debangsu traveled to India - there was a difference of 9:30 hours between Jen in the US and Debangsu in India at that time. This meant that someone had to stay up in the wee hours of the morning to communicate. When it came down to a choice between sleep and completing the ThinkQuest web site, sleep obviously had to take second place.

Another problem was the difference in the platforms and computers used. While Simon used a PC running Windows 98, Debangsu started out with Windows NT4 running on his server. He quickly discovered that his video (frames) capturing card was incompatible with Windows 95. For that reason, he was forced to install Windows 95 on his system as well so that his video editing software would run. Jen worked on this project using a fast Macintosh computer. This created a challenge - all content files needed to be converted to plain text to enable sharing of files among the different platforms. However, the disadvantage was that the formatting in the documents could not be retained. Moreover, there appeared to be serious discrepancies between Netscape's interpretation of font sizes for the PC, Mac, and UNIX platforms. This created a lot of designing problems, which had to be corrected by keeping in mind that the Netscape font sizes for PC's tend to be much bigger than that of Mac's. Browser incompatibility caused further problems - there were major differences between Netscape and IE, and different versions 3&4 of Netscape and IE in their interpretation of tables, complex html, Javascript, and layout among other things. To ensure compatibility between the different browsers, versions, resolutions and platforms, the team agreed to forego a few of the powerful, cutting edge technologies (like advanced Style sheets) for producing 'clean' pages.

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