March 25, 2008

Check In system integration

Ian posted today about the work he has done over the last few months to select and integrate hardware and software for Arena check in, preserving a lot of the hardware we bought for Shelby V5 check in.  It's partly shiny and cool, and partly ghetto-tastic!

If you would like to get an overview of the technology that needs to come together in a working check in system, or if you are interested in real-world applications of thin clients, Ian's post is a good read. 

March 17, 2008


I'm pretty sure jealousy is a sin.  God, forgive me, but I want to have what Andrew has.

March 10, 2008

Testing candidates before hiring

In our conversation last week, Jim Edwards mentioned that KCBT had recently changed their hiring process for all staff going forward.  They now require candidates to take a test to verify their computer skills prior to the final hiring decision.  Computer proficiency isn't the only consideration and IT doesn't have a veto in the hiring process.  The test results are just one factor that the hiring manager weighs in the decision. 

I thought this was a very interesting idea to add to the ongoing conversation, frequently revisited by Tony Dye, regarding computer skills and training.  I suggested to Jim the he should blog it.  Read his post here.  He's already drawn a comment from someone with a different perspective.

What do you think?  Is this an idea other church IT departments should consider?

March 08, 2008

Adam Hamilton is blogging

Resurrection's senior pastor, Adam Hamilton, started blogging in December in connection with his sermon series on faith and politics.  I'm excited to say that although the series ended several weeks ago, Adam has continued blogging

He brings a unique theological perspective to his ministry and now to his blogging.  He is as concerned about the kids at one of the poorest performing schools in Missouri as he is about leading people to Christ.  (Which is saying a lot since he has led thousands of people into a deeper relationship with Christ.)  He is as passionate about sharing the gospel as he is about building a new Methodist church in Honduras.  I think you'll find what he has to say to be both challenging and inspiring.  He's an amazing man that I'm proud to work for and with.  You can add him to your feed reader here.

Chuck in Israel

Chuck Russell, our fellow Resurrection staff member and Appian Way blogger, is in the Holy Land right now with a tour group lead by a couple of our pastors.  He created a separate blog for his daily travel posts.  Check it out here.

March 07, 2008

Microsoft is in trouble on the client

I'm coming to the conclusion that Vista sucks.  I've played with it on a second computer since the release candidate days, but haven't relied it as my main machine, so I withheld judgment.  Until now.

Some of you IT professionals are like me.  Your laptop is so integral to your work and life that you have it with you nearly all the time.  You use it for normal office stuff, specialized network management functions, line-of-business software like Shelby or ACS, web browsing, instant messaging, VOIP, hobbies, worship graphics, editing audio, photos, and video, syncing with your PDA ... the list is nearly endless.

Five weeks ago today I took delivery of a shiny, new Dell D830 laptop with Vista Ultimate pre-installed.  I applied SP1 as soon as Ian could get his hands on it.  When I get a new laptop, I don't just grab it, log on, and start using it.  I move on to it.  It's practically like moving to a new home.  In the past five weeks I've installed and configured more than 30 software packages and moved many gigabytes of data.  I've explored and decided on dozens of operating system preferences.  I've installed drivers for a digital still camera, digital video camera, outboard sound device, Windows Mobile cell phone, and various printers.  Let me tell you, I've put this thing through its paces.

I'm shocked at some of the decisions made by the product managers.  Example: why would they downgrade the defrag and backup programs?  Seriously,  how could I have Vista Ultimate and have less capability than I had in XP Pro in any area?

How could they break compatibility with so many routine applications from PDF generators to downloaders to photo editing software, forcing you to run in compatibility mode, set up an XP virtual machine, or upgrade the software?  (I cut them slack on low-level things like anti-virus, but not routine applications.)

How could they think it makes sense that can't in certain circumstances delete a file I created on my desktop without running the delete operation in an escalated privilege mode?  (To an unsophisticated user it appears that the OS won't let you delete a file you just created.)  Or, for another example, how can it be possible that I could create a file on the laptop under Vista, move it across the network to a Vista desktop, and yet not be able to pull it back to the laptop due to some kind of obtuse security issue?  It's me on the laptop, it's me on the desktop, but I can't routinely move files back and forth?  Come on, Microsoft.  That's ridiculous.

I'm also shocked after five years between desktop OS releases, and now more than a year later with the debut of SP1, that I'm having annoying instability with certain features.  By now you'd think they would have dock/undock, sleep/wake, and hibernate/unhibernate working correctly.  You'd think that they would have Sync Center/Active Sync perfected. You'd think that they would have switching between wired and wireless networking down pat.  You would be wrong.

Having been through all of this, I can officially say Vista sucks.  Am I going back to XP?  No.  That would be WAY to painful at this point.  So I go forward.  Since I'm not going back to XP, why the rant?  Unlike most end users, I look at software not only for myself but on behalf of the user community I serve.  The bottom line is I have decided we will be a late adopter of Vista for our end users.

There are things I definitely like.  Some things are slicker and/or more stable.  Since this is a rant, I'll save those compliments for later.

And then there's Office 2007.  Why did they think it made sense to have a document close button in Excel but not in Word?  Why did they think it made sense for me to have to customize my button bar just to get the quick print button back?  And how could Outlook 2007's UI not match the rest of the suite?  Amazingly bad stuff.  I mean, did Bill G ever personally use Office 2007 on Vista?  I can't imagine he would let this happen if he did.  But I digress.

What happened to Microsoft?  Where did they lose their way???

Discussing this with Ian, he reminded me that at the same time they have lost their way on the client side, Microsoft has been doing some incredibly good stuff on the server side.  I have to say he's right on that.

And then, before I could even press Publish on this post, word comes from Mix that Microsoft is on the verge of some major advances in the web area.  Maybe Microsoft as a whole hasn't lost its way.  Even so, why can't Vista and Office 2007 just make sense and work?  Is that too much to ask in the year 2008 with brand new, high-end hardware?

End rant.  Feel free to comment and disagree.

Lunch with Jim Edwards

Brian, Travis, and I had lunch with Jim Edwards today.  We wanted to heard about his experiences with Arena over the last year.  He was a very early adopter of Arena at Kansas City Baptist Temple.  Their implementation strategy was quite different from ours.  They continued to run Shelby V5 for months as they systematically converted ministry teams to Arena one-by-one.  This is possible with Arena by taking advantage of the available two-way database triggers that keep Arena in sync with V5 and vice-versa.  By contrast, we're planning a more traditional "big bang" cut over where we will be running on V5 one day and Arena the next.  It was very interesting to learn how Jim made his approach work.  I'm sure there are lessons in there for us and other churches implementing Arena.

Jim filled us in on a few specific Arena "gotchas" that we need to manage.  That alone made the lunch worthwhile.  Jim was also quite complimentary of the Arena tech support team.  Very good to hear.

Finally, Jim told us about a new strategy they have to improve the quality of new hires at KCBT.  I encouraged him to blog it.  I'll link to his post when he does.

Thanks, Jim for a very helpful conversation today.  We're already rethinking some important things.

March 05, 2008

24: The Unaired 1994 Pilot

Remember 1994 before widespread cell phone use?  Remember when you used dial-up services such as Compuserve, Prodigy, and AOL?  Remember what happened if someone in the house picked up a phone while you were online?  Remember a time before digital cameras?  If so, you'll love this fun parody of what 24 would have been like if it had been created in 1994.