Free upgrade to Turbo

Those of you following me on Twitter know that my wife got a call at home Wednesday afternoon from Time Warner with the news that we were getting a free upgrade to Road Runner Turbo service, which is nominally 15 Mb/s down and 1 Mb/s up.  Most of you are thinking, "sweet!"  Very shortly after they called Laura, she called me to say that our Internet service was down.  My first thought was, "idiots!" 

You see, we still had our very first cable modem.  I can’t remember exactly when we got it, but 10 years ago is a pretty good bet.  It’s the classic 3Com "Shark Fin" modem.

IMG_1764-web IMG_1763-web

This surprise call on a Wednesday afternoon, while not entirely unwelcome, necessitated an unplanned trip to the Time Warner store to get a new modem.  They issued me this shiny Scientific Atlanta (division of Cisco) model.

IMG_1760-web

Upon installation, I was disappointed in the speed: 5,262 down/975 up – doubling the upload speed but only 20% faster down than I got on my Shark Fin pre-Turbo.  I tried a number of things that didn’t have any effect.  Then it occurred to me: my equally classic, also 10 year-old, Linksys BEFSR41 router (also a division of Cisco – heh) might not be able to go any faster than 5 Mb/s. 

IMG_1768-web

Sure enough, when I plugged my laptop directly into the new cable modem, I got a smokin’ 14,299 down/979 up

So what to do?  I have a very recent model D-Link DIR-655 Wi-Fi router that I’ve been running in access point mode because my cable modem and home network patch panel is in the basement and I wanted my access point in my office on the 2nd floor.

IMG_1765-web

Last night I decided, despite it not being optimal to have my Wi-Fi AP in the basement, to replace the classic Linksys with the new D-Link.  Sure enough, it handled Turbo speed, no problem: 14,423 down/982 up – hard wired, that is.  When wireless, even with the laptop right next to the router, I got 5-10 Mb/s down.

Here are the takeaways:

  • Though I’m grateful for the faster speed at no extra charge, an interruption like this can take you off down a rabbit trail.
  • Unintended consequences: Time Warner changes their service bundling and decides to upgrade me at no extra charge (good), taking my service down (bad), resulting in a trip to the cable store (bad), installation and troubleshooting (bad), network reconfiguration (bad), and ultimately a 3-4 times faster download speed and 2 times faster upload speed for all users at my house (good).
  • I’ve upgraded my computers 3-4 times in the last 10 years, while my basic Internet connection infrastructure stayed the same.  No more.  With the advent of these very high speed circuits to homes and businesses, your router and/or wireless connection can now be the limiting factor in download speed.
  • At least for download, WAN speed is now approaching LAN speed in many common applications.  We’ve already seen the leading edge of the disruption this will cause.

Apple II nostalgia

Justin Moore writes:

Clif,

Wasn’t it you in one night at a restaurant in Kansas City last fall telling those at your table about how you used to create graphics in assembly on old Apple’s? For some reason I’m thinking it was, so I immediately thought of you when I saw this video.

Even if that wasn’t you, I think you’ll appreciate the geekiness of the clip…

Yes, Justin, that was me.  Here’s the story.

The Apple II did nothing out of the box except flash that lonely cursor.  It was 1979 and we had one computer in a high school of 1,800 students (Abraham Lincoln High School in Des Moines, IA).  There wasn’t a single teacher who knew anything about it so it represented a great challenge and opportunity for discovery.  There was one other guy, Mark, geeky enough to stay after school every day with me and play with the computer until the teacher kicked us out of the room so he could lock up and go home. 

Our first idea for something to do with the graphics mode was to draw our school logo.  That took some doing because the pixels were not mapped into memory sequentially from top left to bottom right.  Steve Wozniak had simplified his graphics chip design by laying out the memory to follow the interlace scheme of NTSC video.  Steve was famous for building ingenious, brilliantly simple hardware that made the software more complex.  So, with a lot of trial and error and many re-reads of the Apple manual, we eventually were able to turn on the right pixels to form the ALHS logo.

Our next idea was to print the logo.  We had a 4-pin dot-matrix printer.  Consulting the printer manual, we wrote a BASIC program that would print whatever was on the screen, with each pixel on the screen becoming a dot on the page.  Again this was tricky because we had to convert from the video interlace pattern in memory to four vertical dots for each pass of the print head.  We eventually got it work but it took more than 30 minutes to print one screen because it would print a pass and then think a long time before printing the next pass, doing just four rows of pixels on each pass.  

To speed it up, Mark and I taught ourselves 6502 machine language.  With nothing more than a 6502 programming card, paper, pencil, and a well-used eraser, we wrote a program that would print the screen and then we hand assembled it into a series of 8-bit codes like the program you saw loading at the start of the video.  (We didn’t even have an assembler, for crying out loud!)  That program would print the screen as fast as the printer would go, finishing a page in under a minute. 

Looking back, it’s hard to believe how creative, resourceful, and self-motivated we were to do things like that as high school students with no one there to teach us.  Good times.  Thanks for taking me back, Justin.

Arena end user training

We began end user training on Arena today as we hurtle towards go live on May 6.  Since we need to train 130 people and our class size is limited to 8 students, we’ll be training all day Monday through Friday for the next thee weeks.  Jeremy and Leo are sharing the teaching load.  Here are some pictures from the 2nd class of the day today.  That’s Leo in the front, just as he’s wrapping up the class.

Arena Basic class Arena Basic class

Leo and Jeremy are trying to build excitement about Arena and have some fun with the end of Shelby V5.  To that end, Leo made the following (awful) trophy that’s sitting on a table in the training room.  Note the Arena gorilla choking the Shelby chicken and the slogan at the bottom: "Chicken chokin’ fast!!"

Leo's Arena trophy

Not sure what that means.  Maybe Leo can explain it?

MinistryTECH/RoundTable Day 4

Quick notes:

1. Tony’s session this afternoon raised the bar.  He was funny and engaging.  My mind was too cluttered to live blog it, so I just listened.  Good talk.  IT does present a lot of paradoxes.  Tony thinks success involves holding a lot of things together that seem to be opposite or contradictory.  Sounds a bit like Seeing Gray.

2. Paul Braoudakis: God chose a craftsman.  Ex. 31:1-5.  We’re the craftspeople of our era.

"The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."  – Apple "Think Different" ad

MinistryTECH: Users or Customers?

I presented a break out session at MinistryTECH this afternoon.  Jim blogged it.  So did Jason.

Ian started playing around with his webcam and realized he could live stream my talk through Ustream.  Cool!  Brian back at the office got in on the act.

Why do we need advance planning and real-world testing when we can just make this crap up on the fly?  Actually, if you watch the video below you’ll notice a problem with this attitude.  The mic in the webcam went wonky, resulting in continuous, loud white noise for a bit.  Ian realized it was happening and switched to the laptop’s internal mic, but there’s a definite disruption in the viewer experience around the 7:30 mark.  You’ll need to skip ahead to where the counter reads approximately 22:00.

If you haven’t seen any of the Nick Burns sketches, here’s one on CNet.

I’ll put up the PPT slides when I get home.

MinistryTECH: Be an Idiot

Presenter: Terry Storch, Digerati Pastor at LifeChurch.tv here in Oklahoma City.

Are we idiots for making the transition from secular work to low-paying church work?  He was labeled an idiot in 1991 when he became the preschool pastor at Fellowship Church (at that time Fellowship of Las Colinas).  Jesus was (and is) looking for idiots.

Jeff Hook is an idiot.

Idiots are comfortably uncomfortable.  Processes sometimes drive toward designs intended to make us more comfortable, stable, etc. rather than more effective.  Make my life easier.  Don’t worship the process.

Now Discover Your Strengths.  Your strength is your weakness.

Life balance – seems like a myth.  Has failed over and over.  Gives Jesus, family, work all 100%.  What are your boundaries?

Accountability.  Lived the lie of accountability.  The last 10% of our stuff is the hardest to share because it’s the stuff that will seriously jack you up.

Idiots are changing the world.

We are at a unique time in history.  Technology is influencing our culture.  Over 1 billion people connected to the net out of 6 billion in the world.

What faith risk are you avoiding because you’re scared?

MinistryTECH/RoundTable Day 3

Quick notes:

1. This is the first time I’ve ever connected to an access point at N speed.  I’ve had this laptop for two months and supposedly have N access points at home and the office, but I’ve never actually connected at N speed.  Too many other things on my plate to try to troubleshoot why.  Intel PROSet reports a data rate of 144 Mb/s.  I just now got 4868 kb/s down and 3629 kb/s up.  Cool!  I’m stylin’.

2. Matt says I wasn’t merely to use the word "hullabaloo" but I was to find some way to use it creatively.  Just linking to the dictionary.com entry hardly qualifies.  The problem with this assignment is that it assumes I am gifted in such creativity.  Turns out I’m not.  ;-)  I can only appeal to Tony’s theological understanding of mercy and grace.

3. Met Barry Thomason, VP of Business Development for Daxko at lunch.  He’s exploring the ChMS marketplace.  I hope I didn’t scare him too much!

4. Jeff Hook: "Brand" is your promise to deliver.  IT should avoid brand confusion – don’t promise one experience and deliver another.  He said lots of other interesting stuff too.  Check out his full presentation here.

MinistryTECH: The I in IT

Presenter: Jon Edmiston, Director of IT and Communications at Christ’s Church of the Valley.

  • More time on solutions, less on infrastructure.
  • Unlike corporate IT, we can focus just on the customer (congregants).  Few mission-critical applications.
  • Membership system is the core application.
  • Member data must drive the website.
  • Single platforms trump disparate but integrated solutions (best in class)
  • Your membership system is only as good as the data quality
  • Skills you should have: reporting, scripting, statistics, graphical design
  • Key technologies: geographical information systems, data analysis tools, data visualization tools, unified messaging, social networking, mobile technologies
  • Strategic prioritization: plan ahead, start with solutions not infrastructure
  • Don’t seek staff approval – it limits our impact to the ministry.  Staff service is critical but not at the expense of impacting the congregation through technology.
  • Infrastructure should be simple.  Don’t overkill the reliability.  Stay away from the bleeding edge of infrastructure unless it directly provides the solution (e.g. Asterisk).  New technologies that save $ rarely do.
  • Be aware of opportunity cost.
  • Let big ideas stew.  (This is Jon’s variation of my "discernment stew" idea.  Can’t believe I’ve never posted on that.)
  • MapPoint is incredible. 

Books mentioned:

My counterpoint:

  • Integrating multiple, best-in-class systems vs. a single, integrated solution is a classic IT tradeoff that’s been around for at least 15 years.  I didn’t see any special insight in Jon’s view on that.
  • Of course, our default answer is "yes".  Enough said.

MinistryTECH: 10 reasons techies scare me

EVDO is 704 kb/s down, 197 kb/s up.  Ian says the WiFi is 8 Mb/s down and 4 Mb/s up.  That actually might be enough for all these laptop-bearing nerds!  CORRECTION: Ian says it’s starting to suck wind.  We know about that from the Fall 2007 RoundTable!

Presenter is Tony Morgan, Chief Strategic Officer from New Spring Church, and formerly Jason Powell’s boss at Granger.  The secret code word for bloggers and tweeters is "hullabaloo."  Tony said to check dictionary.com for the spelling.  Heh.

  • Assume everyone thinks like a techie.
  • Don’t bend on standardization.
  • Hire the best geek rather than the best leader.
  • Always want more staff.
  • Always want more stuff.
  • Don’t document processes.
  • Implement technology without considering strategy.
  • Don’t communicate their solutions with the team.
  • Focus on implementation without creating systems for training and support.
  • Let technology drive the ministry rather than vice versa.

Tony says we need to get three things right: technology, people, and strategy.  True, but he got it in the wrong order.  If you have the right people, they will determine the right strategy, buy the right technology, communicate with all the stakeholders, and get everything else right in the above list.

Aside: Jason Lee said we should give an award to the first person here who jumps up to go handle a tech support emergency.  Great idea.  I seriously wonder how many of the people here have already this morning faced a technical issue they need to resolve back home.  Even sitting here listening to Tony, some of us are getting e-mails, pages, or other alarms.  Ian just now got alarmed on a wireless access point going down.  Of course it’s the one serving our senior pastor’s office. 

MinistryTECH/RoundTable Day 2

Quick notes:

1. Jason Lee posted a bunch of pictures from the church tours today.  I’m featured prominently in a few.  😉

2. Jim Walton put up a Picasa set.  This image features Ian gesturing expansively.

3. Driving from Henderson Hills to lunch we were in the van for around 15 minutes.  During that time Jeremie, Matt, and Ian were on the WiFi from their laptops.  Jason Lee was on his cell phone.  They were answering tech support issues, getting e-mail, etc.  These guys are so nerdy, they make me seem almost normal by comparison.  The RoundTable is a serious geek-in.  Also, it begs the question: Are we too connected? 

4. Great to reconnect with Terry Storch today.

5. Equally great to meet Brad Coats, IT Director of LifeChurch.tv, Michael Foster, IT Director of Crossings Community Church, and Heather DeShazo of Church of the Servant.

6. There is something very special about the CITRT.  I’ve been involved in secular trade organizations where people come together to network with their peers.  Of course the CITRT is similar to countless trade associations, yet it is much more.  We aren’t ignorant of the differences in our histories, traditions, styles, and even theologies, yet we choose to overlook those differences to see the essential unity of the Body of Christ and the commonality of our mission.  I believe God is bringing us together.  We truly are on the same team.  This group lives that out in a way that is unique in my experience.

7. Ian and Matt agreed with me that the trip down here would have been worth it just for what we experienced today.  It’s awesome that we have four more days ahead.  Bring it on!