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Tech Snobbery

April 15, 2007 8 comments

Oh dear. I’ve been declared a Tech Snob of the highest order by Jim Walton.

I’ll admit it. I’m a snob when it comes to tech, particularly operating systems. But I’d like to think of my comment on his blog as more of a confession than a proud boast. It’s a statement of my sinful nature.

I got to thinking. We, as ministers in “emerging” churches, are church snobs. We tend to think that the contemporary methods of doing church pioneered by the likes of Saddleback and Willow Creek are much better than the old ways. There may be some truth in that, but that doesn’t excuse the snobbery.

So how do you defeat snobbery?

Categories: Uncategorized

Firefox Isn’t Perfect

September 20, 2006 3 comments

I just spent about 3 hours trying to figure out a bug in Firefox. Pages on our newly redesigned site were not printable – they run off the bottom of the page without going to the next page.

The problem? Most of the document is contained within a div that has position set to absolute. Setting this to static solves the problem. The solution was to set up a separate CSS file for print media that overrides this setting.

Categories: Uncategorized

IT Roundtable

September 20, 2006 1 comment

Hey all of you guys out at the IT Roundtable at Granger today. I wish I could be there but I’ve got a tight deadline on an upcoming release of our main product and can’t afford to lose a day of work here at my day job. Have fun and I hope to hear about it on your blogs.

Categories: Uncategorized

Budget Server Pt. 3

Start with part 1.
Now here comes the fun part – getting a thin client to boot. Here are the simple steps I went through.

  1. ssh -X 192.168.0.101 (the future LTSP server)
  2. gksudo synaptic
  3. search for ltsp
  4. choose ltsp-server-standalone, click apply.  (Alternately skip the entire synaptic thing and: sudo apt-get install ltsp-server-standalone)
  5. sudo ltsp-build-client (according to the Ubuntu LTSP Quick Install Wiki page). This will build the client environment.
  6. sudo /etc/init.d/nfs-kernel-server restart (starts or restarts NFS)
  7. Configure a client machine to boot from the network using PXE in the BIOS.
  8. Boot it up and watch it work!

I haven’t used one of the disk-less clients yet. I just used my son’s WindowsXP machine that sits next to my Ubuntu workstation in our home computer room. Now I can dual boot his machine without having to actually install anything on his computer.

Categories: Uncategorized

Budget Server Pt. 2

July 22, 2006 2 comments

Start with part 1.

I finally got this machine setup in my basement. Since I don’t actually need physical access to the machine during configuration I just put it in my tool room next to the furnace. I had to hook up a monitor to it to get it ready for remote connections.

The first thing I did was switch to a non-gui console screen by hitting Alt-Ctrl-F1. I logged into the console and used scp (copy over ssh) to copy my default Apt configuration (sudo brian@192.168.0.100:/etc/apt/sources.list .). I then updated (sudo apt-get update) and installed OpenSSH server (sudo apt-get install openssh-server).

From upstairs I ssh’d into the machine (ssh -X 192.168.0.101) and ran services-admin (sudo services-admin). The -X option says to pass X11 through ssh so any GUI tools will display locally instead of on the server. Using services-admin I disabled the GUI desktop by turning off the Gnome Display Manager. The fewer unnecessary things running the better for this low-budget server.

The next step will be to install LTSP and get some disk-less clients to boot.

Continue reading in part 3

Categories: Uncategorized

Old Testament Laws Pt. 12

July 7, 2006 1 comment

Start with part 1.

Question 4: If we don’t need to follow the 10 commandments, then what are we supposed to follow? Is there a different covenant for us?

One thing the Old Testament was designed to teach us is that individual human beings cannot follow long lists of rules, regulations, and guidelines. The Old Testament devotes entire books to nothing but rules and regulations but the people who were given these laws were never able to keep them. They were continually getting into trouble and crawling back to God for forgiveness.

In Galatians 3:24-25, Paul explains that the law was there simply as a teacher to show us that we need Christ. Now that Christ has come we no longer need a teacher.

Colossians 1:25-27 reveals God’s mysterious plans. These plans were hidden from the very beginning until Christ came to save us. Now that Christ has come we have the privilege of being reconnected spiritually to God. If you’ve every watched Star Trek the Next Generation you’ll understand me when I say I think this is something like the Borg. Oh, the Borg were evil and nasty and all that, yes. But the connectedness they had was a shadow of the real thing. I believe that when Adam and Eve sinned, they disconnected themselves from the collective. They lost the spirit that formerly lived within them. This is when they began to die. Christ has made reconnection to that collective a possibility once again. We can once again have Christ living within us, and it is Christ living within us that is the hope of glory.

As we saw previously, 2 Corinthians 3:1-11 compares the letter of the old covenant to the spirit of the new covenant. The new covenant is based upon the spirit of God living within us. God’s spirit living within us is what will make us adequate, not the following of a set of laws. As the old covenant fades away, the new covenant of spirit shines on.

While the spirit replaces written laws as our guide for living, there are also useful guidelines made in the New Testament for some of the issues we have talked about. We’ll talk about these next.

Continue reading in part 13…

Categories: Uncategorized

I Want One

Categories: Uncategorized

Micah’s First Ride

June 20, 2006 1 comment

Last night Micah succeeded at his first bike ride (see video) without training wheels. We're proud of him. I promised him a new bike once he made this step so we'll be going shopping sometime in the next couple days.

Categories: Uncategorized

Blender Desktop Publishing

May 26, 2006 1 comment

This is truly bizarre. Most people who have never used Blender find Blender's interface anything but intuitive. Those who have used it for a while tend to love it.

Now Alexander Ewering has forked Blender to create a desktop publishing application with a Blender style interface. It's called DTPBlender. Now that is truly cool. Sorry, no Mac version yet.

Categories: Uncategorized

Where do Dead Mathematicians Go?

May 16, 2006 1 comment

At Mathematical Reviews we review mathematical research papers. We sometimes invite authors of papers to become reviewers. It turns out that a dead author got invited to become a reviewer.

I was charged with modifying the application that allows our editors to invite authors to become reviewers. I looked through our data dictionary trying to find a flag or something that would indicate whether an author is dead or not. I couldn’t find it. So I asked our resident expert on these things where I could find that information.

It turns out that when an author dies, they are assigned a new institution (instead of say, the University of Michigan). The institution is called DCD for Deceased. We’re still contemplating if the “Deceased” institution for mathematicians is in a hot place, or somewhere much better…

Categories: Brain Fart, Uncategorized

Desktop Pet Peeves

May 5, 2006 4 comments

It's Friday so…

  1. Full-screen windows – Why have windows if you're going to make all your applications full screen. DOS was good enough. Most average users I know do this the instant they sit down at a computer. Arggghhhh!
  2. Low resolution – I've had many people request that I change their monitors back to 800×600 – "The fonts are too small." Why have a nice monitor if you're going to waste it. You can read small type on paper, why not on the screen?
  3. Really big fonts – if you need really big fonts it's time to get some glasses. Stop wasting screen real-estate. You can't be productive with only one application on your desktop (unless it's Blender ;)
  4. Icons on the desktop – the desktop is a temporary workspace. Don't leave stuff on it. A trash-can is the most I want to see. Use menus for applications.
  5. Click-to-focus – I want the window focus to follow my mouse without having to click on the window. Linux Window managers have settings for this. I think Microsoft had a program called TweakUI to make this happen.
  6. Systems with out virtual desktops – Most Linux window managers come with these out of the box. Even when I used Windows I had Vern. It looks like Mac has one too (and another). You're not productive until you have virtual desktops.
Categories: Brain Fart, Uncategorized

More on Alfresco

After playing around with Alfresco some more, I concluded that my previous thoughts on its CIFS (i.e. SMB) feature were not entirely fair.

Yes, while browsing through the filesystem I've mounted from Alfresco, the CPU get's pegged. I really don't like that. There were some comments on the forum that this is a known issue and will be worked on for a future release. That's good.

Some of the slowness was due to the fact that Nautilus creates thumbnails for all of the images. When you browse a directory for the first time, thumbnails take a while to create. After Nautilus caches the thumbnails browsing is fast – even in Alfresco. On a native filesystem Nautilus displays the directory even without the thumbnails and adds them as it creates them. With the Alfresco filesystem it seems to want to wait a bit longer.

I'm still not sure I'd put an entire off on this. 

Categories: Uncategorized

Dead Puppies

March 29, 2006 1 comment

This is demented, but good for a laugh. Very Pythonesque.
Dead Puppies

Categories: Uncategorized

Web Design Guages

March 28, 2006 Leave a comment

In our last meeting for Crossroads' web design process, we discussed Andy Stanley's 3 questions (see Web Design Team Process). These questions are in fact gauges for knowing evaluating what you have produced. Think of each question as something akin to a speedometer or tachometer.

You need to find your own gauges. We decided that Stanley's gauges were a very good starting point, but that we should refine them just a bit for our circumstances. Our strategy follows Northpoint's strategy of creating irresistible environments. We have a tendency to use Granger's terminology of "Next Steps." So we're trying to create environments in which people are more likely to take their next step toward Christ – be that coming to Crossroads for the first time, joining a small group, or any other step.

So, the gauges we established are:

  • Does it look nice?
  • Does it draw you in? (i.e. does it cause a click?)
  • Is it a step?

The key is to keep things simple and not do anything that doesn't end up being a yes for each of these questions. We hope to reduce the noise.

We also discussed pre-production vs. post-production gauges. Essentially, the gauges are the same, but answering the questions takes a different method. In pre-production, deciding if some feature will cause a click is a matter of educated guessing. In post-production we can measure visit length from our site statistics.

Categories: Uncategorized

Linux on a Mac

March 26, 2006 Leave a comment

This story is unusual. Usually you hear stories of people migrating from Windows to Linux. Here’s an interesting story of a teacher reformatting all her classroom Macs and migrating to Linux.

Link: Switching art students to GNU/Linux

(We Linux people are hardware agnostic. Buy what you want. We’ll run Linux on it.)

Categories: Uncategorized

Pete Bishop: Tagged

February 21, 2006 Leave a comment

Link: Pete Bishop: Tagged. I’ve been tagged by Pete. I guess I’m supposed to cough up the following information…

Four other jobs I’ve had:

  • C programmer for Simulation Resource, Inc.
  • system Administrator at Andrews University CS department
  • computer lab assistant at Andrews University
  • Music department assistant at Union Springs Academy

Four movies I can watch over and over:

  • The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
  • The Matrix Trilogy
  • The Village
  • Pleasantville

Four places I’ve lived:

  • Onsted, MI
  • Terre Haute, IN
  • Berrien Springs, MI
  • Union Springs, NY

Four Shows I like to watch:

  • I don’t watch TV

Four foods that I like:

  • General Tzo’s Chicken
  • Barbeque ribs
  • Pizza
  • Cheese cake

Four sites I visit every day:

  • bloglines
  • linuxtoday
  • newsmax
  • google

Four things I’d like to do before I die:

  • do ministry full-time
  • take my family on a multi-day backpack trip
  • Go to Norway
  • Become a Tai Chi master

Four people I’m tagging:

  • Nobody. This is an insidiuos form of chain spam.
Categories: Uncategorized

Google Strategies

August 29, 2005 1 comment

Link: STLtoday – Business – Columnists.

The company employs a concept known as “Twenty Percent Time,” whereby every Google engineer is encouraged to spend 20 percent of their working time developing ideas that interest them, not just those affiliated with larger projects. The Google News headline compiler and Gmail Web-based mail program (now available to anyone) grew out of this concept.

In churches, when we have a volunteer doing ministry for us we tend to let them contribute as many ideas as they can. We’re just happy to have someone to help. However, once a volunteer becomes a full-time employee do we continue letting them brainstorm or do we try to squeeze all the work out of them we can?

Allocating 20% (or more) of staff time for brainstorming and development of ideas – without fear of accusations of wasted time – is something we need to make sure we keep doing.

Categories: Uncategorized

YouTube

August 25, 2005 Leave a comment

Here’s my (probably) final KC and The Flip animation.

I’m trying out youtube, which seems to be pretty cool. I was using videoaddon to do the previous videos in my blog. Videoaddon on is cheap (about $5/mo), but YouTube is free. The concepts are a bit different though. YouTube is a video sharing site like Flickr is for photos.

Videoaddon is a little easier to customize, offering different sizes of video. We’ll probably keep using it for our Crossroads stuff. But for personal stuff YouTube seems cool. I had to tweak the HTML to get it to show this size. It wants to do things at a fixed resolution. The Typepad editor didn’t like it and wouldn’t do the WYSIWYG thing so I had to use the HTML editor.

Categories: Uncategorized

Novell Linux To Be On 1600 Indiana High School Desktops

August 15, 2005 Leave a comment

Link: LinuxElectrons™ – Novell Linux To Be On 1600 Indiana High School Desktops.

This is where Linux needs to go to win mindshare. If the students of today use Linux, the professionals of tomorrow will.

Categories: Uncategorized

Technology Ends…

… Then what?

I’ve seen a number of items in recent news indicating the possibility of impending nuclear weapons use. There’s the possibility that Al-Qaida has already smuggled nukes into the US. They also might be looking for nukes hidden in the US by the Soviets during the Cold War. Theories have arisen that Iran or North Korea is planning to detonate a nuke over the US at high altitude to cause an EMP which would destroy much of our technological infrastructure. And now China is claiming they would use nukes in a US/China dispute over Taiwan.

Suppose something like this actually happens. I’ve centered much of my life, knowledge, and skills around technology. Supposing I survive such a catastrophic event, what would I do in a world whose technology was 50-100 years behind where we are now?

I would still be a Christian and I would still be called to ministry. Technology is just a means to that end. But It’s oh so hard to remember that when you’re
playing with the latest gadget.

How would your ministry change?

Categories: Uncategorized
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