Church Tech/Audio/Video

Author Archive

Vendor Recommendations

by on Dec.29, 2009, under General

I use many vendors for different things and thought I would write up a quick post about some of them.

Web Host

A web host is a company that provides you with space for your website and can also handle your
e-mail. I have been using our current web host for around 10 years now. We use JaguarPC. As with any web host, there are occasional problems. However, with JaguarPC, they seem to have gotten fewer and fewer. I cannot remember the last time I had to contact support. Not only have they been very reliable, the pricing is excellent.

Computers

I am a Dell man. I order computers exclusively from Dell. Doing research has showed me you just seem to get more for your dollar from them. I order from the small business section as those computers seem to best fit our needs. My only negative with Dell lately is the ordering process. I have been unable to complete my orders online due to website issues with connecting my orders to our tax exempt certificate. SO I have had to call to complete my order which is a pain.

Bonus tip, with desktop computers I stick with the basic 1 year warranty that comes with the computer, With notebook computers, I ALWAYS get the 3 three warranty. Notebooks take a lot more abuse and those warranties will usually pay off.

Misc Hardware

I go straight to Newegg. They have a wide variety of computer hardware, electronics, networking hardware, cameras, etc. Typically, they are going to be one of the cheapest and most reliable legitimate vendors on the web. If you are hesitant to order off the internet, this is one company you do not have to worry about. Another great feature is the reviews. Practically all products have user reviews so it can help greatly in making a decision. When I am looking for something, I put all the items in order by price (low to high) and then start reading reviews.

Batteries

If you deal with sound systems, you buy batteries. I buy from BatteryWarehouseDirect. Seems like it might be a small company, but they have always delivered. Their prices are really good and they have a flat shipping rate of only $4.95 no matter how many batteries you buy. The shipping is US Mail, but they always seem to get to me within a week.

Non-Profit Software

I have recently started using Consistent Computer Bargains. I have purchased Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop and Illustrator) from them as well as our Microsoft Server software and a copy of Windows 7. They have special pricing for us churches so even if you do not use CCB, make sure you are getting the non-profit pricing from these software companies.

Worship Presentation Software

I did extensive comparisons many years ago and Easyworship was the best by far and I still believe they are today. Not only is the software easy (I have gotten people up and running on it in mere minutes), it is powerful and will do anything you need.

Audio and DVD Creation Software

I use Nero. Their package has all the tools I need for dealing with sermon audio files as well as creating DVD’s.

That is all I can think of right now. If other significant vendors come to mind, I will make additional posts.

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Windows 7 – I Like It

by on Nov.20, 2009, under Technology

I have been using Windows XP for many, many years. A year ago I needed to upgrade my workstation so I went ahead and ordered it with Vista. I figured it would be best if I was the guinea pig to see how it ran on our network and what problems would be encountered. I mean, we cannot run XP forever so I better start taking a look at it.

Vista was okay. It has some nice improvements and once you got use to where they moved things to, it was a good OS. I only had a couple of issues of old software not working.

After a year of using it, something went wrong and my computer was running quite poorly. I decided it was time to do a clean install. However, Windows 7 had just come out so I ordered me a copy to install.

Windows 7 was the simplest and most straightforward OS installation I have ever done. Everything that worked on Vista worked on Win7 so I had no software or hardware compatibility issues. The look and performance of Win7 has been outstanding. The new taskbar is really good.

I am not sure which versions of Win7 come with it (I am using Windows 7 Business), but the OS came with what they call Windows XP Mode. Now Vista would try to allow you to run programs in “compatibility mode” with XP and so does Windows 7. But this is something different. Windows XP Mode is basically a virtualized copy of Windows XP Pro running on your Windows 7 computer. Once you install it and run it, you will have a window where a full version of Windows XP is running on your computer.

image

Now, if you have some program that just will not run on Windows 7, you have got a full copy of XP that you can run on your Win7 machine (in a window) to run that program on. That could really be handy to some people.

imageThe start menu has a new feature that I like. Each program link has a little arrow next to it. When you hover over it, it opens a list of recently opened documents for that particular program. Windows has always had the recently opened documents, but all program’s documents were listed together. Win7 makes it much more usable.

One other thing that people made a big deal about in Vista is the User Access Control (UAC). That is the thing that pops up asking if you really want to do something (like install a program).  It’s purpose is to protect your computer from programs running things that you have not asked to run. While I never found it to be an annoyance in Vista, they have reduced the number of times UAC pops up. Not real sure how they have done it, but it seems to me where in Vista you may press a button that requires UAC, then it would pop-up asking if you really want to do that. In Win7, it seems that the act of pressing the button is you saying you really want to do that.

I have been running Win7 now for a couple of weeks and really, really like it. I can see this being our next OS for all of our users. Not sure if we will spend the money to upgrade people, but I will order any new computers with Windows 7.

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A New Server For Our Church

by on Nov.19, 2009, under Technology

When I started here several years ago, the church was running an old NT server. I updated that to Small Business Server 2003 (SBS2003). We did not have the money at the time for any real server hardware so I bought a Dell Dimension 8400 desktop to run as the server. It worked out well and I had zero hardware problems with it in four years. However, I got a little nervous after having that desktop machine run 24 hours a day for four years, so we recently upgraded.

image We bought a Dell PowerEdge T300. I figured since I was upgrading the hardware, might as well migrate to SBS2008 at the same time.

Here are the specs on the T300 we bought…

Quad Core Xeon 2.5GHz
8GB RAM
Dual Gigabit Network Adapter
56k Internal Modem
16x DVD Drive
SAS6iR Raid Controller
2 250GB Hard Drives setup as RAID 1 (mirrored)

What I did was to setup the OS on the RAID that came with the server and I purchased two additional 500GB hard drives to create a second RAID 1 (the SAS6iR can handle 4 separate Raid 1 though the T300 only has room for four hard drives). I would then put all user files on the second RAID.

The migration from SBS2003 to SBS2008 was quite smooth. I followed Microsoft’s manual. It was for the most part straightforward. Any problems I ran across were fixed by doing internet searches. The whole process took me two weeks, though I could have done it in one.

As for my backup plan, as I said both the OS and all user files are on their own separate RAID 1. That is the first line of defense. I use the built in SBS backup to do a daily backup of the OS drive. I use an external IDE drive enclosure that allows me to change out the drive weekly. I have three drives that I rotate through. Every Thursday I change them out and simply format the fresh drive and it is ready to go.

For the user files drive, I use a software I ran across many years ago called Genie Backup Manager Server 8.0. I like it a lot. Nice and simple. I backup onto an SATA external enclosure. Again, I trade the drive out on Thursdays and format the fresh drive. It then runs a full backup of the user file drive and a few other things around the network. After the first days run, it then only backs up files that have changed since the first run (incremental backup).

All backup drives are stored in an fireproof/waterproof safe box on site. I know people will say you need to take backups off site. I figure if that safe box is destroyed, we got bigger problems than losing our backups!

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Give this a go…

by on Nov.18, 2009, under General

So often I run into a problem here at my church. I end up doing much research and often come up with  a good and/or unique solution. So I was thinking, if God is going to lead me to these solutions and ideas, I ought to share them.

The result, this blog. Starting today I will post when I have something like this to share. Hopefully some will find it useful and interesting.

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