Monday, June 30, 2008

Why I now love Church (when I used to hate it)

This article fills me with joy. It makes me know that there are other Churches out there with the same philosophy that I have found here at APC.

When I first started coming here I remember telling everyone "They don't just talk the talk, they walk the walk." And they do. We do. :-)

I used to hate 'The Church'. 'The Church' drove me away from Christianity. I saw it as a place full of hypocrites who loved to pat one another on the back and laud their holier-than-thou attitude over all the rest of us sinners down there in the muck.

Yep, I'm a sinner, but I'm no longer down in the muck. I've been raised, and cleansed, and reborn in Christ Jesus, not by my actions or my will but by his grace. My purchase was not cheap. It cost him no less than his life and his very blood.

And if we can all remember that, then we're happy to get back out there in the muck again. It won't stick to us any longer. It can't, because we have been saved.

I want to live like Jesus. I want to rub elbows with the unclean, because Jesus is for EVERYONE!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Dell Problems, and Bashing

I've heard uber geeks complain about Dell before. But then they complain about any 'off the shelf' computer that wasn't put together by their own hands. I like Dell. I like that I can open up the boxes and work on them. I like that they are very reasonably priced. I like their warranties and the fact that they are quick to replace problem parts (if you can stand talking to their help desk people until you get one that understands and/or believes you.) But all in all I like Dell. I can live with Dell.

Until recently...

We were in the market for 2 laptops for 2 pastors who have been living with computers that I would have used as a frisbee long ago. I was watching the trade sites for a sale, and lo and behold Dell made me an offer that I couldn't refuse! Six hundred and forty eight dollars for this:

Intel Core 2 Duo T5270, 1.4GHz, 800Mhz, 2M L2 Cache
3GB, DDR2, 667MHz 2 DIMM (? but...)
128MB NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS
250GB Hard Drive, 5400RPM, SA160, for Dell Vostro 1500 Notebook
Windows XP Pro,SP2,Vista Business with Media,Notebook English,Vostro
And more...

Very good price. I ordered two on May 30, 2008. They offered delivery on June 6.

On June 6 I got an email saying that the order had been delayed until July 13, and on the 13th I got an email saying that it was delayed to the 20th. No biggie. I'm patient.

The 20th comes and goes, and on the Monday June 23, 2008 I got an email saying:

  • This email shows a specific Order Number within your purchase that has been impacted by the Federal Mail Order Rule. To view the status of the rest of the orders within your Dell Purchase ID, click here.
  • To obtain further information, please e-mail us at or call 1-877-868-3355.
  • Please include your Customer Number or Order Number with any correspondence you return to Dell.

I had to wonder what the heck the FEDERAL MAIL ORDER RULE was. I called, and was connected to one of their outsourced help centers. I was told that they tried to deliver the Dells, but no one was here, so they took them back and cancelled our order and no we can't have them resent.

I knew this was bogus because I had called Dell the Friday before and was told they were still in production. And we're a Church, we're here all weekend.

I insisted on talking to someone else, and by the grace of God was put through to a not only very efficient help desk employee but a very truthful one as well.

After some investigation, he told me that no, they had not mailed those computers, but there was a problem with getting the video cards that were to be placed in that computer, so someone from Dell had just cancelled them.

I plead my case in a gentle though firm fashion, and he did a work up on the same computers for me. The cost now: 978.00 dollars with Windows Vista, the XP upgrade would be extra. Again I plead my case in a gentle but even more firm fashion, and he put me through to the upper level customer care representive, whom I'm certain is reserved for only the most difficult of cases.

Her name was Venus, and while at first I was a bit worried about that, she made good on the entire deal. We're getting the two computers to spec XP and all, with a coupon for the difference in price.

So yes, it was a nightmare. My blood pressure suffered that day. But they did fix the problem. And that is really all you can ask from any company.

I still like Dell. I do.

Fabric Vehicles?

I love it when people think outside the box. That's when true innovation happens. This is am amazing example of that very thing:

BMW's Gina

I love how the headlights of the car can be exposed or hidden by the car's skin just like blinking eyes, and the hood opens from the center as the fabric parts to expose the engine.

I want one. Then I'd have a car with wrinkles too! It certainly bring quite a few questions to mind. When it rains does it get heavier, or does the cloth repel the rain completely? Do you have to wash it to get the salt off in the winter? Does dirt stick to it? What about road tar, which is awful on the metal of a car? Will I have to carry a gigantic Tide Laundry Stick?

It's weird but utterly amazing! I love stuff like this!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My kid sent ME a text message

CAUTION: Sappy post alert!

Okay this may not seem like much, but my daughter sent me a text message. Me. Not one of her bazillion friends. Me. And she sent it when she was very busy with her friends, having a great time helping out at APC's Kids Kaboom - our week of summer fun for kids age K-5.

She took the time to send me a text message. Just a little one. And she wasn't asking for money, or to be picked up. She didn't want anything at all, except to say hi to me.

And ya, it's a little thing. But it meant the world to me.

TIME SINK - Outlook Email Upload to Google Apps

I began the uploading of our users old email in Outlook 2003 to Google Apps.

They have a lovely little program called Google Email Uploader that works with Outlook 2003 and newer, Outlook Express and Thunderbird that will upload your mail and contacts from Outlook to Google Apps. They also have a users guide here.

The progam works fine, however I did not anticipate the time that it would take to upload all of that information correctly into Google Apps. :-)

I started with the worse case scenario, the pastor with 25, 542 emails and 3079 contacts to upload. The estimated time for this is 8 hours. :-)

I had 3059 emails and the estimated time was 1 hour and 14 minutes.

I am going to migrate the rest in the evening, after they have gone home. Live and learn!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hallelujah!! Successful Google Apps Migration

Today we went live with Google Apps! The transition went very smoothly, the MX records propagated instantly and there were no bounces.

I have been using Google Apps and I believe this is a good move for the Church. It's not only free, but it will allow us to have access to all our information from any computer at any time. I'm not certain how much everyone will use Google Docs, but Gmail, Calendar, and Sites will be used quite a bit.

And we get the high end Educational Package for free because we're a non-profit.

And I love 'Remember the Milk' and the Firefox plug-in that integrates the task list with Gmail! It's very useful. Combined that with the fact that you can call Jott to send messages to your task list, and also have your task list send text messages to your phone and you have a very versatile package.

The legacy system that was in place at the Church when I arrived was an internal MS Exchange server that housed all the internal mailing lists AND an external mail system with our domain name. There were plenty of problems with people in-house sending email via the exchange server,which the Pastors with Laptops could not receive until they physically plugged into our network, because VPN was disabled, and the Firewall Appliance was inadequate for our needs in general.

We're going to replace MS Office 2003 with open source OpenOffice on all our work stations. We were using 2003 on machines that don't have nearly enough Oomph for Office 2007, and we were running into compatibility issues already. We certainly could not afford to upgrade all the boxes. Even MS's non-profit pricing is high in my mind, especially when compared to FREE software. OpenOffice runs fine on our machines, and again, it's free, and totally compatible with just about everything, as long as you set the default save to .rtf.

I was very pleased with the way the change was received. The Lead Pastor had suggested it to me at the same time I was emailing him about the same subject, and I'm lucky that there are plenty of folks at the Church that are very tech savvy so I didn't have to 'sell' it.

The downside is that what is free today may not be free tomorrow and that putting all your data eggs in one Googley basket may not be wise. And I do wonder about the level of future support. But even if things go sour two years down the line we've still saved a bundle, still have OpenOffice, and we just jump back with another email provider like we did before. And I love Thunderbird.

Considering the ease of use, and the fact that Google Apps is very user friendly I'm positive that everyone will love it.

I'm just happy that the MX propagation went well!!!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Internet History Lesson

Here is a link to an article on Wired Magazine siting the first DNS (Domain Name System) test of the Internet in 1983.

Before that we simply used Arpanet and connected via IP address, or by dialing direct from computer to computer via the phone lines.

The article says that "DNS will lay the foundation for the massive expansion, popularization and commercialization of the internet."

Ugh. Now you know why we elder geeks are so cranky.

Submerged Computer

This is the coolest thing going!! It's a computer that utilizes a Fish Tank as the tower, then is submerged in liquid (Mineral Oil). I'll admit to being more than a little skeptical, but it works!

You can watch a video of them making it on YouTube here, and quite frankly it's astounding!

I'm going to make one of these someday for the Church Concourse!

Home Made Plastic

No kidding. Read about it here on Life Hacker.

The MYTH of Multi-tasking

I am as guilty of multi-tasking as the next guy, but recently I've become convinced that contrary to my intentions Multi-tasking has been cutting DOWN on my productivity. I've found my thoughts scattered when I should be concentrating on one thing. Phone calls, and email can derail me when I'm in the middle of something big.

Then yesterday, thanks to Slashdot, I came across an article in the New Atlantis Journal that addresses the issue of Multi-tasking. The evidence in the article against multi-tasking is rather shocking.

The article claims that "In 2005, the BBC reported on a research study, funded by Hewlett-Packard and conducted by the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London, that found, “Workers distracted by e-mail and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers.” The psychologist who led the study called this new “infomania” a serious threat to workplace productivity."

Whoa! Twice that of a marijuana smoker??? Is all this information creating 'Info Zombies'? I don't do drugs for a reason, but I've been multi-tasking with the best of intentions!!!

We legislate against narcotics like Marijuana, but extol the benefits of something that has been proven to be worse than a drug? Ouch!

And considering that I've just been spearheading a migration away from desktop applications to Google Apps utilizing their widget heavy start page, I became doubly concerned with this next bit:

"One of the Harvard Business Review’s “Breakthrough Ideas” for 2007 was Linda Stone’s notion of “continuous partial attention,” which might be understood as a subspecies of multitasking: using mobile computing power and the Internet, we are “constantly scanning for opportunities and staying on top of contacts, events, and activities in an effort to miss nothing.”"

Yes that's /exactly/ what my Google Start Page does. It's riddled with news sites, RSS feeds, and task lists that thanks to Web 2.0 are change in real time! With all this information bombarding me constantly it seems like the Information Highway that was supposed to help speed me up has suddenly become one huge gridlocked traffic jam.

Then I remembered a book that I read way back in the 70's, ancient history by today's standards. The book was called “Future Shock” and it was authored by a visionary by the name of Alvin Toffler. I quickly became a fan of this learned man. While I consider myself a technophile I also am wary of Technology for Technology's sake. I credit Toffler for that dichotomy.

In his book Future Shock, Toffler claims that in the future change will happen faster and faster until it begins to overwhelm. The accelerated rate of technological and social change will inevitably leave people feeling disconnected from that which they are trying to claim, and suffering from "shattering stress and disorientation". Future Shock. Toffler asserted that nearly every social problem of the day could be credited to future shock. Toffler coined the term "information overload".

Now I honestly don't want to be an alarmist but there is plenty of evidence, both theoretical and proven, that seems to point to the fact that we need to slow down. And given that I had been previously theorizing the same thing, I'm more apt to listen and heed the advice of the New Atlantean and Toffler himself.

You can read the New Atlantis Journal Article here:

Hello World

This blog is mostly for the passing of information from the IT department at Allison Park Church to staff and members who may be affected by it. However I may use this area to proseletize on occasion, and for that I apologize in advance.

The ideas and information within this blog belong only to me. They are not official and do not represent the views of Allison Park Church.