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"I am Jon Pierce, the crewNeckTech. I am employed full-time at Crossroads Community Church as the Technology Specialist. Fulfilling this title pretty much makes me in charge of anything with current flowing through it... This ranges from our 1 electronic stapler, to our 6 servers, to our 8 Rooftop HVAC units, and to our 64 input video switcher."


    MS SQL calls Wednesday, August 20, 2008 |

    Well, We're progressing in our CCB implementation.. On my team I've got Susie Fowler: data migration specialist, Carol Darling: implementation specialist, and of course still my awesome sales guy, Steve Caton... atwixt the three, I'd guess I've spent an average of 2 hours in communications back and forth per day over the course of the past week. Believe it or not, it's great fun for me to discuss implementation priorities, scheduling, data migration and future data strategy.

    Calling to attention data migration, I'm currently knee-deep in MS SQL statements in an attempt to pull out data from our current Shelby database and into a generic spreadsheet. For the most part all of these statements were setup for me and e-mailed to me from Susie Fowler. However, as I'm sure is always the case, we've got a couple of exceptions to the 'norm'. We stored item x, y, and z in section a instead of b. Also, we appear to be on a different version of Shelby than those calls were written for... Which pretty much means that I have to find and remap where those items are stored. So I get to figure out how to make b turn into a.

    I've gotten it mostly figured out at this point, however, I need to start weighing some time factors. For example, I know that we track "child-work-approved" status in our database currently by belonging to certain organizations in our org tree in shelby. I know that there are about 8 different organizations that indicate that approval. I also know that those organizations are based on 2 different organizational levels within shelby and therefore reside in two different relational tables to two different id tables for those level structures. On the other hand, I have a paper report sitting beside my desk that was run from Pam Ervin, Family Ministries Assistant. I know that this report is only about 300 names long... So is it quicker to find, modify, and check 300 cells in a spreadsheet or code the above conditions into a SQL statement to modify those cells for me?

    Probably, based on my knowledge level of the Shelby database structure and how I constantly try to code mySQL style in the MS SQL query box, it will be quicker to just modify the cells. The geek in me wants to take the time to figure it out... but there's just too much going on to justify the "pretty" solution.

    I'd love to say I spent the last 15 minutes writing this post prior to actually making the decision... but I didn't... I've probably blown 2 hours finding relevant Shelby tables and mapping appropriate SQL statements to pull it all together, but I feel like it's going to be another 4 or so till I get it just right... I know I can find, key in, check, and recheck 300 cells in less than 4 hours, so that's where I'm heading!

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    Decisions, decisions... Thursday, August 14, 2008 |

    I've spent some good chunks of the last several months researching church management systems. We were more or less 100% split, in my opinion, atwixt the 2 best church management systems out there: Church Community Builder (v 2.0), and Fellowship One.

    I frankly feel as if I've got to be the most educated person on the planet (approximately for the next two weeks, as each system just keeps evolving...) on the good, the bad, and the beautiful of each of these two systems. They both have strengths and weaknesses...

    They both take what we have now, and make it sooo much better. They both provide an excellent/accessible user interface that just plain doesn't exist in other packages with similar feature sets. They both come with a long list of features (CCB's list and F1's list). To summarize, they both manage people, groups, finances, check-in, web-related API stuff really well.

    They're both extremely secure, well-protected, and well-backed up. They both have an excellent track record of little to no service outages.

    I've had excellent, productive, thought-provoking discussions with both of my primary "sales" contacts at each company. In fact, we've both got each others' cell numbers just to keep conversations going outside the office... Dedication... They both have an incredible passion to see their product revolutionize our church.

    But there are some differences. So much information on the differences in their feature sets was floating around in my head, that I just had to get it down on (virtual) paper and analyze it without anything else popping up. What follows is a dump of my brain on those ups and downs (bold is really good stuff):

    I could stay in research mode forever, literally.. There is so much to each system, it has taken a long time to understand the benefits of one vs. another. And once you go with one, there is great value (both in implementation costs and longevity of data) in sticking with that choice for a long time. But I had to stop researching/talking, and start doing. With some excellent help from my dad (the executive pastor) we finally did make a decision. We ended up going with CCB pretty much because we ranked the online community the top priority amongst the differences, and the calendaring/resource management second. 2 big items currently in CCB's favor.

    I can see that list above having gone either way depending on priorities, but for our church, CCB was the answer. I am really excited about partnering with Church Community Builder, and can't wait to start implementation! I hope our ministries get to work together for quite a long time. Fellowship, I know many great churches using your system, and I have no doubt many more will flock your direction as well!

    *8/15/08 1:16 AM Update* I will try to make changes to the above spreadsheet as more details & features are made aware to me... already the sheet has changed!

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    Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Wednesday, August 13, 2008 |

    So, if you look at the "about me" you'll notice I have a blurb about taking care of everything that has current flowing through it... Guess what? That includes taking care of our church's HVAC system (well, the electrical side anyway). After a week of heat in the nursery and pre-school areas, we're working like crazy to get our controls guys down here to take care of our system which seems to have belly-flopped in the last week or so.

    HVAC has been one of those ongoing battles ever since we moved into our renovated Phar-Mor building a bit over a year ago. The issues range from really old Roof Top Unit's (RTU's) that just kept working (at first) to bad communication amongst our 3 different vendors (controls programming, controls wiring, and mechanicals) that were involved in the install to continuing bad communication with our controls programmer currently. The result? After just replacing 1 full RTU, 1 Compressor and 1 Fan in another, many many relays/fuses/motors/random-tiny-hvac-parts; we're still looking at having to replace 1 unit prior to winter (hopefully, or the offices may freeze..) and maybe a compressor or 2 in a couple of other units... The other result? A controller that hasn't been controlling for about 2 weeks, meaning: units that are running when they shouldn't be, and units that aren't running when they should be (i.e. a hot nursery). Call me back you controls programmer vendor you! The other other result? I know way more about HVAC than I even knew existed: "That Static Pressure Analog input update interval is throwing the bypass damper closure rate off enough to ruin our constant air time throughout that RTU's zone definitions"... yeah, I can take care of that problem... ;)

    The really great thing is we didn't have to sink 20 some thousand dollars per unit when we renovated our building. The bad thing? Well, the controllers still not working right and I can't get service down here in tiny Mansfield, Ohio...

    I'm just hoping it doesn't hit 80 degrees tonight like it says it's going to...


    the dreaded BSOD |

    Blue Screen of Death... one of the most dreaded occurrences in any techs time at a computer. I can't imagine the fear/shock/lack of cardiac movement going on in the techs behind this highly unfortunate BSOD.

    As I mentioned in my previous post, Steve, my techie counterpart at crossroads was running a camera at a micky dolenz concert last Saturday night. This put me in charge of tech for the night as one of us is always around in the event of a tech emergency. (Everything is run by our excellent team of volunteers (9 per weekend!), Steve & I just watch over the flock and call important cues and lead the tech meeting). However this night turned out a little differently as our Senior Pastor (the speaking pastor for this weekend) was dealing with some really bad back pain. You can catch the deetz here, here, and here... To sum it up technically, we had a great recording (on DVD & a Final Cut Pro Recording) of Saturday nights' service, but we weren't sure if Tim would be able to push through it again on Sunday Morning.

    So... Saturday night after services were over, and a brief production meeting, I began to prepare for Sunday morning. Basically we had a great recording on both DVD and Final Cut, but we had a couple of minor CG mistakes that I knew I could clean up in post, and a couple of references to "evening" and "tonight" in the message I thought I could eliminate too (since it would be played the following morning). We've got an old G4 Graphite that we use strictly for recording purposes, but it's slow as molasses for anything else, so the first order of business was dumping the file off that old machine and over to an external drive to move back to my office's Quad Intel. Once it was loaded up in Final Cut Pro, I just had to drop in the graphics to cover up the mistakes, and slice and dice a couple of lines to reduce the night-time related references. After that, it was a full-quality quicktime export for DVD studio Pro, and a full-quality AVI export for our Inscriber INCA playback source. A DVD burn later, followed by a file transfer, and we were ready to go for the next morning, just in case.

    As it turned out, Tim was unable to preach and ended up in the ER due to the intesity of the pain. Thankfully, Steve took over the next morning, made a couple of changes to our lighting programming, and reviewed with the volunteers everything that was changing, and we were good to go.

    So, assuming we had a BSOD on our INCA, or a read error on our DVD player, or who knows what, we were well prepared with 2 sources of playback ready to go...

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    Whirlwind of a week Saturday, August 9, 2008 |

    So, it's been one crazy week... or has it? Do you ever go home Friday after what seems to have been a busy week, and wonder why you didn't get anything done the last 5 days? That's what I was thinking as I finished my 20 minute drive home today.

    As I was pondering what to put up on my blog tonight (as opposed to actually going to bed and sleeping), I was trying to remember the projects I worked on this week. Well, I started to list those projects, and went back through the ole' e-mail system to remind me of a few more, and here's the list all compiled and numbered for your pleasure.
    1. hung out at the Magnification Picnic/Party
    2. setup & trained 3 new staff member on computer network stuff (profiles, drive structure, email system, phone system...)
    3. configured 1 new dell desktop for above
    4. troubleshot HVAC with mechanicals genius, Chris from standard plumbing and heating
    5. called Johnson Controls for issues with the controls system from above troubleshooting
    6. researched Fellowship Technologies roadmap video on their experience site
    7. began talks with Michael Garrison Associates regarding a survey of our existing sound system/acoustics in our main auditorium
    8. setup loribiddle.com and did a brief overview of blogger for Lori to start blogging about our programming meetings
    9. setup crewnecktech.com so I could join the crossroads blogging craze
    10. setup a camera aggregator to pull the 3 ustream feeds we will be (and did!) send out for our live programming meeting
    11. Troubleshot webcammax issues on our mediashout computer, gave up and ended up running the cuesheet feed from a secondary laptop
    12. attended a webinar on digital audio transport technologies hosted by sound and video contractor
    13. attended our monthly staff meeting - free food!
    14. created a seperate "midweek" only podcast feed for audio and video - really excited, this took all of like 5 minutes - I love the power of a simple WHERE statement in a mysql query on a well structure database!
    15. with help from an awesome volunteer, Tom Doclovic, added a hanging mic to our control room
    16. put together my visa statement, where I track all my church-related expenses
    17. helped Lori with her blog and added some valuable sidebar content, including an all important link back to my own blog!
    18. unpackaged some gear I ordered from full-compass to hang some lighting with in the next week or two (Dave Cradler is the best sales guy there, if you can get him, he'll treat you right!)
    19. Called Johnson Controls again..
    20. hooked our uber-pulpit back up (1 pulpit, 3 flat screens, up to 3 different video feeds to one pulpit... woot!)
    21. troubleshooting an issue with our whirlwind e-snake (ended up swapping out an MLI card that apparently has a few burnt out channels, a trip to UPS anyone?)
    22. had a couple of great IT-related conversations with Mark (my dad)
    23. some training on blogger/youtube integration with Tim on his blogger account
    24. attended a management team meeting to review status of website/church management system - free food!
    25. some conversations with Errol Coner at Fellowship One and Steve Caton at Church Community Builder to further our decision in the great church management system debate of 08... (move aside McCain and Obama, this debate is much more important!)
    26. ...which led to a final decision after months of research... we're all yours Church Community Builder!
    27. fought with RTU-1 to try to get it running during wed. night services (no luck, sorry Charlene!)
    28. Called Johnson controls again...
    29. a wee bit of research on Element Fusion (and their Sky management system) for a possible site designer for the new crossroadswired.com - nice portfolio!
    30. a wee bit of research on bludomain web design services for another, secret project ;)
    31. a small, but way overdue update to the front page of crossroads' home page
    32. and then of course, the regulars: the server backups, the website (media) updates, 7 helpdesk tickets
    33. then I called Johnson Controls
    34. going to be running saturday-related weekend services (as far as tech goes) since my cohort Steve Browning is going to be running camera at a micky dolenz concert...
    35. oh, and then I will probably call Johnson Controls again...
    for the Live programming feed... Ok, so, maybe it was more for my pleasure, but the whole point of continuing to type this post is the value of reflection. I was thinking how much I wish I were more organized/productive/task-oriented and less chatterboxy/cluttered/scatter-brained (if you take a look at my office, you'd probably think the same thing)... But after a little bit of thought, I'm really remembering the accomplishments me and the team here at crossroads have finished this week. And it feels good, and I feel that we honored God through the work, and that feels really good.

    Also, it seems to me that just about every item represented above could be a nice juicy slab of prime rib for my next blog posts...

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    Analytics Thursday, August 7, 2008 |

    I know I'm way late to this party, but google analytics rocks! If you don't have it, get it!

    I've only had my blog live for a couple of days, but in those couple of days, google can tell me where my visitors are from, how long they stayed on my site, whether they drilled down past the first page, how many pages they viewed, what browser they're using, whether they support flash and/or javascript, their screen resolution... oh and it tells me how many people have visited too.. 17 unique visitors so far!

    If you go through their product tour, it doesn't seem particularly applicable to a lone little blogger like myself.. they spend a lot of time talking about keywords and finding revenue streams and trending and analyzation and (insert other managementy, pointy-haired-boss-style buzzword here)... but for me, it's just a lot of fun to click through and see the stuff I mentioned above on some nice easy to read graphics that are really well laid out.

    Oh yeah, did I mention all this is free? It used to about $500/month, but when google gobbled it up, they made it free. Google rocks.


    Shelby "Contributions Inquiry" Wednesday, August 6, 2008 |

    Wow, Found a real problem today. I was poking around Shelby EZ-View trying to find a nice easy way to export a vCard or something to jump into my Outlook contacts. So I was right-clicking here and there, and what did I find? Something called "Contributions Inquiry." Hmm... I thought, that's odd, I don't have rights to contributions. (I should know, I set the rights...) So looked up myself, and went for it. Bam! There it was, my contributions history. I dash into Shelby and log in as the system supervisor, check my "security group", and sure enough no rights at all to anything in the contributions module. Wanting to rectify this immediately, I give Shelby a call, and they quickly let me know about an option under membership and prospects entitled, "Contributions Inquiry"... So I zap those Inquiry rights from those two modules from that "group" and lo and behold the option for the inquiry is removed from my EZ-View.

    I hate to think how easily that could've turned into a big mess, but I am left with these 3 thoughts.
    1. I need to read more documentation.
    2. I need to try and "break" into the system more.
    3. Why would Shelby put contributions permission stuff in the other modules security sections? OR if it makes sense to them, maybe a link to it from the contributions module's security sections?
    Please note that these are in order, I have no doubt that if I was more careful in my setup I would've caught it before it had the ability to become an issue.

    By the way, the reference to security groups is really a little, fun poke because security groups don't exist, but there is an option called, "Set security equal to", and that's what I use for my "security groups." I create an "individual" with the name group combined with a name for the group, and set permissions for that "group" on those security settings. Then on actual individuals, I set their security permissions equal to that "group." Not beautiful, but it's certainly a lot easier to manage than 30 users permissions individually.

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    Recovering Outlook items that have "really" been deleted Tuesday, August 5, 2008 |

    So, I get a call a while ago, 8:00 am, Sr. Pastor's assistant. 8:00 am calls are never good for me. 8:00 am calls mean they've been waiting since 6 or 7 to call me because they didn't want to wake me up (I value my early morning sleep)... But anyways, apparently something was deleted from outlook that wasn't supposed to be deleted. Not great, but I've tackled this task many times before via the "recover deleted items" tool in outlook. I'm in the car, on the phone, still parked in the driveway, I give the assistant the option for me to remote in and do it over the VPN, or wait 20 minutes until I can get to the church and do it by her side. She opts for the "by her side" option.

    I get in, pop in her office and find out some more information, it was an e-mail on the Sr. Pastor's account that was deleted via her machine. So, I go to "recover deleted items" and lo, and behold, it's greyed out. Hmm... not great. Google, here I come.

    Found this article on the Microsoft Knowledgebase, got the lone e-mail recovered, and slept till 8. Yay.

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    Hummer @ the picnic Monday, August 4, 2008 |

    One of our Sound Guys, Ken Schonauer, has a Hummer... He gave us a little demo of its"hummerness." It was cool, but it got stuck. No worries though, a couple of trucks later it it was pulled back out of the creek.

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    Magnification Picnic |

    the Magnification department, one of the 2 departments I work with, had a picnic last night... The following is some of what happened:

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    Jon, the crewNeckTech Sunday, August 3, 2008 |

    Here I am, we'll see how this goes...