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Central Illinois Church IT RoundTable

Do you serve a church in Central Illinois and intretested in participating in a Regional ChurchIT RoundTable?  I am currently working to connect those in Central Illinois for such a gatherings, if you are intersted or know someone who should be intersted leave a comment.


HTC Touch Review

The big brown truck arrived at 6pm to deliver my new SmartPhone, I had almost given up hope that it would get delivered.

First impressions count right, well it doesn’t help when the UPS guy smokes like a chimney and your little box smells like smoke.  But after that I cut the box open and was happy to see the smell hadn’t infaltrated the product packageing.

The packaging of the HTC touch is quite nice, the box slides out of the outer shell to reveil a black mat box with a magnetic lid.  Opening the lid there is the great little device.  Inside the box multiple USB attachments, stili, headphones and the power adapters.

Booting the phone up after installing the battery is simple and clean.  The phone has already been activated and I imediatly make a test call, very clear and good quatlity.  The data provisioning failed, so a quick call to Sprint support and after provisioning the data we are on our way.

Installing ActiveSync was easy and quick, and my contacts and tasks were uploaded from my laptop to my phone.  This quickly reviels a new task of going thru my contact list and cleaning up old contacts and catagories in Outlook.

The applications the a came with the phone include: SprintTV, Office Mobile and several other basic applications.  After syncronizing to my laptop OneNote mobile was installed and works very well.

My initial thoughts on the on-screen keyboard weren’t great but after several days of working with the phone it is easy to get aquainted to.  The T9 is very very good and makes entering text a breeze. 

Battery life is good, learning your new handset causes the backlight to be on more than normal and I haven’t yet run the battery down.  One additional nice feature is the charging over USB even from the laptop.

Call quality is quite amazing for a PDA, I have had 4-5 other PDA devices in the past and call quality wasn’t always great.  The Touch has great clarity, good volume and good pickup of your side of the call with limited background noice.

One of the best features of this phone is the size, granted no hardware keyboard allows this to happen but it makes carrying this phone like a non-pda candybar style phone.

Dislikes so far are only the location of the camera button which is frequently getting pressed when on a call. 


FatPipe or Radware Round 2

Our demo of the FatPipe and Radware continues,both vendors have extended our 30 day trial a few more weeks.  The primary reason for the extension is the delay in Insight - now Comcast getting our static addresses assigned.  The demo day from Radware was good except we had to ‘steal’ several DHCP addresses from Comcast since they haven’t assigned us addresses yet.  This worked on one of the boxes, but we didn’t yet test the redundant box because we couldn’t keep the number of needed addresses from changing.  The lag in getting the IPs is because of the Comcast/Insight switch over.  A little frustration is setting in since Comcast has had 20 days to resolve this and they haven’t.  Our contact has communicated they are working up the chain at Comcast, but really how long should 5 Static addresses take…. I digress back to the review.

In the process, Jeremie and I concluded on the 15th of January that we were going to proceed with Radware not FatPipe and we contacted our sales rep and let him know.  He was heading out of town so we reconnected this Monday.  Quickly after we let them know we wanted to send their boxes back the the executives at FatPipe frequented my blog and read our round 1 reviews of the demos.  Our rep called on Monday and asked that we continue the eval of the FatPipe and said we need to do what ever possible to see if we could make the sale… I said I wouldn’t guarantee anything, but we would be willing to continue the demo… he agreed so Jeremie unpacked the Fatpipe.

So we continued our testing with the FatPipe.  The units are easy to configure and Jeremie got them working fairly quickly.  We have added our old SOHO2 Sonicwall firewall and VLaned this connection to a couple test workstations. 

Test One  is focused around a web-stream we receive.  One of our ministries have requested a continuous 1.2mb web-stream, which obviously was just choking our T1.  I have to say, wow a web-stream at that bit rate when you have the bandwidth is quite nice. To simulate a normal user load and the stream we started testing by pulling in the web-stream on three machines at the same time while i downloaded several 100mb files from several sites.  We quickly notice issues, the Fatpipe was routing all the connections out Wan3.  A quick call to FatPipe support and we corrected the routing issue from our configuration.

Thoughts from Test One:there are only 3 choices for routing options on the FatPipe Hardware including Round-Robin, Fail-over.  These options resulted in our testingWan3 to be over loaded with just a little on Wan2.  Granted in a larger deployment you would have more than 3 computers accessing the Internet, but in our scenario the Round-Robin isn’t performing as we would like.  We will test this on the Radware box to compare.

We have learned that QOS (Quality of Service) on the FatPipe is an add on.  Radware includes this out of the box.  From the start of our demos we have told both companies QOS is a must have to help balance the video stream and the other inbound services across the multiple ISPs. Fatpipe is checking into this for us.. we test QOS with radware tomorrow.

More to come… We are working on a matrix of our evaluations and I’ll post those results.


ME part deux?

For the past 12 months I have been saying that Vista was going to be the next Windows ME, granted I haven’t used the OS much.  But my hunch may become more of a reality now that Service Pack 1 is out and includes a upgrade of the kernel. 

APCMag.com reports:

One of the “big” features discussed in early speculation of Windows Vista SP1 was the kernel upgrade, which was supposed to bring the operating system into line with the Longhorn kernel used in Windows Server 2008. And yet with Vista SP1 going RTM, there hasn’t been so much as a peep from Microsoft about the mooted kernel update. Has it happened?

Well the answer is yes it has, and presumably the main reason for Microsoft’s silence on the subject is that as they’re keen to promote the improvements and enhancements to Vista, rather than placing emphasis on a kernel upgrade, which some people might see as a risk of newly-introduced instability.

This might be the back breaker for Vista, since many enterprise environments have been waiting to deploy Vista until SP1.  Changing the kernel might be too much for many environments and will further delay the migration from XP to Vista.  Our environment will be one of those waiting, we had waited until SP1, but most-likely will continue to wait.  While the update to the kernel may result in wonderful things… I just wonder if the PROs  might be become CONs for the credibility of MS’s Vista…  So we will wait and see the facts when Windows 7 becomes the successor to Vista in 2009ish; will we look back at Vista as the solid OS, or the experiment by Redmond?


Funny Phone call…

So recently I have been ‘helping’ our campus services guys remove the snow from our parking lots.  I say ‘helping’ because I think it has been helpful, but I enjoy the snow, and I enjoy trying to assist these guys since they have worked really hard over the past few months keeping things clear during all the snow.

skidsteer

A little background, while plowing yesterday in the Skid Steer (pictured above) every time I tilted the bucket down and lifted the front wheels to put pressure on the bucket a little beeping would start… when I dumped the bucket it would stop.  Mark, or Campus Services Director told me when I asked that was the low fuel alert… Duh, sure enough the Fuel gage had just two bars remaining…

  Fast forward to today….I get a call from Mark and he tells me he is out of fuel in the Skid Steer..I said “Ok… we’ll then why are not refueling and calling me”… he then tells me that the arm for the bucket was up when he was scraping the parking lot, and he couldn’t get out.  What you have to know is the bucket lifts in front of the door, and (by safety design I am sure) you can’t open the door to get out when the bucket is in the air.  Well engine off, bucket up in the air, no get out.  So I came to Mark and Isaac’s aid only after snapping a few photos.

davidsons1

davidsons-2

Makes me think… what if… You didn’t have your cell phone, it was 10 pm and you run out of fuel in the Skid Steer… the roll cage would not let you crawl out the windows… Note to self when plowing always have your cell phone charged and in your pocket.


Spring RoundTable Registration Open

Spring 2008 Church IT RoundTable Registration

The Spring Church IT RoundTable will be April 5th hosted at Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City.  This RoundTable will be a great follow up to your attending the MinistryTech Conference on April 3rd-4th

Michael Foster and his team are preparing a great location and we will be able to accommodate a large group for a great discussion.  If you have attended a RoundTable in the past, then you shouldn’t even have to think about registering for this RoundTable, and if you haven’t attended in the past you are missing out if you don’t register for this one! 

The RoundTable will be Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm, but make plans now to arrive early for check-in at 8:30am so the discussion can begin promptly at 9 am.

Date:
Saturday, April 5, 2008

Time:
9-5, check-in 8:30 am. 

Location:
Crossings Community Church
14600 North Portland
Oklahoma City, OK 73134

Attendance:
100+.  If we get a lot of early registrations, we’ll figure out how to raise the limit.

Registration:
Pre-Registration is $15 and includes Lunch and Snacks. 
Registration will closed March 15th, a late registration option will be made avaliable if space permits.

Host: 
Michael Foster

Moderator:
Jason Powell

Room setting: 
Retrying some variation of the “at the table” vs. “in the room” concept we used last year in Houston, but we’ll attempt to step it up a bit to give more opportunities to get to the table.  How?  We don’t know yet!  Expect power, WiFi, and audio in the room, somehow or another.

What about vendors? 
*IT* people from vendors are welcomed, just like any other IT person.  Vendor marketing teams will have their chance during MinistryTECH.

Free Stuff:
There’s a good chance some of some goodies or door prizes from the non-ChMS vendors.

Register Now


Cool Tool – LED Patch Panels

After our recent DataCenter tours several have asked about the LED Patch panels we installed for our Telecom Rack.

These patch panels have a little LED above the RJ45 jack used to identify the port .  You plug a little device into the patch cable then into the wall jack and the LED on the Patch Panel lights up to identify the port.  No need to disconnect from a switch, the LED is green if not connected or red if connected to a switch. The little signal transmitter is $20.00 and runs on AA batteries.

We purchased these from a company called FireFold.com in North Carolina.  We frequently purchase random network ‘stuff’ including bulk cat5e or cat6 from FireFold because historically their prices are really hard to beat. And when you do find a place that is less expensive on an item you normally are guaranteed the lowest price with with the “Lowest Price Guarantee” program on applicable products. FireFold.com will not match the price of any competitor they will beat it by 5%! So after finding a lower price and the price guarantee we paid $4 per patch panel over the normal patch panel price…

Now one note:  These patch panels are intended for Data wiring not telco wiring because the LED requires 2 pair to work.  So from the wall jack to the patch panel they don’t illuminate the LED on phone wiring.  But the value for us, is the ability to trace wiring from the PBX to the Patch Panel without having to go thru almost 200 extension’s patch cables.

Another cool tool firefold sells that I might buy if i knew worked as advertised and might be worth its weight in gold is the Magnepull – Model: 800A-KC.  Its a magnetic fish-tape… The claims even say you can fish wire under carpet with it.  If you buy it let me know if it works.


Quotes of the Day

Kirt Manuel, our Communications Director asks “So how was your weekend?”  The funny thing he was dead serious, he was thinking it was Monday already. 

Linda Cleveland “I hope I am prophetic or anything, but I had a dream you passed out today… in some random room.”

Well with that I am wondering if we had a little more than snow falling from the sky last night.  It is going to be an fun day!


44 Billion??

Microsoft is offering an ‘unsolicited’ bid to buy Yahoo for 44 Billion Dollars, as reported on CNet today.  The offering comes out to about $30 per share… not bad for share holders who’s stock was just worth $15 yesterday on the stock exchange. 

I have to admit I am only a little surprised by this.  Our recent SharePoint training  gave me a better knowledge of Microsoft’s wanting to be THE player in ‘searching’.  Additionally we all know the major search competitor is Google, and how else for MS to better position themselves to compete but to keep acquiring their competition. I thought it was just a matter of time before they would buy someone.  The catch I never thought it would be someone as well known as Yahoo.

Granted the deal isn’t done, this is just an offer, and Yahoo hasn’t agreed.  This will be an interesting story to follow.


“There is no way to retrieve the messages”

Those words are all to familiar to the Staff at Northwoods who survived the Great Crash of 2006, but now those words are being heard… by customers of Charter Communications. 

Fox news reports that Charter Communications  was performing maintenance Monday night to their systems and inadvertently deleted over 14,000 email accounts that were used by their active customers.  And oh yea there was no way to recover the data… but they are giving the affected customers $50 credit.

My favorite quote in the article “It’s never happened before. They are taking steps to make sure it never happens again.” Duh, you think?  Talk about a credibility killer.

Maybe its my total lack of compassion and I should feel sorry for the poor staff at Charter Communications…. for whom I dare assume this was a resume generating maintenance night, but I have to admit it makes me chuckle when it happens to the big guys. 

I should have some minor compassion especially when we experienced the crash of 2006 the second week I was on campus at Northwoods. But while there wasn’t a backup of the data we were able to recover the mailbox store we thought was a complete loss… 
Note: We don’t use that Backup Strategy anymore…

Learning Moment: Is your backup plan configured in a way that you can recover from any dumb admin error any of us could make during a maintenance window at 2 am?  Not to mention have you tested the plan? 

We learned our strategy is sufficient to have a complete failure and not lose data, but we are still tweaking the system for the future…  We learned in our recovery we had covered the basics but we need to improve the recovery window.  So we to need to test some more. (Note I use the word ‘test’ assuming a test is not a recovery of data in a actual failure :) )

We all should take note.. this could happen to any of us… we all make mistakes maybe not on this grand of scale, but we all make mistakes.  We should have systems in place that can tolerate not just our users but US too. 

Just because we don’t support as many users but a proportionally sized event in our organizations would be as catastrophic and equally as much a ‘credibility killer’.. what say you?


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