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MinistryTech Colorado Springs Hotel ~$55 per night

ministrytech2009coloradospringsWell there are just 34 days until MinistryTech 2009 in Colorado springs!  If you haven’t registered what are you waiting for?  If the 40% discount on the conference registration wasn’t enough to make attending a reality for you I have some more good news.

The Hampton Inn in Colorado Springs has agreed to give us a rate of $59 per night or even $55 per night if you pre-pay your stay. This rate is for the Church IT Roundtable and will be available until April 1st.  To book a room at this rate you must call the hotel directly and mention “Woodman Valley IT Group”.  We can’t guarantee availability at this rate, but the hotel will offer this rate to as many guests as possible until the deadline or the hotel is full, so don’t delay call them ASAP!  If you have already made reservations at the Hampton please call and move your reservation to “Woodman Valley IT Group” to get the discounted rate.

Hampton Inn Colorado Springs 1-25 North
7245 Commerce Center Dr., Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA 80919
Tel: +1-719-593-9700
$55 per night when you mention “Woodman Valley IT Group”

****UPDATED 3/26/09**** DISCOUNT OFFER EXPIRES 4/1/09

The Hampton Inn also offers FREE WiFi (bandwidth is a commercial T1 incase you were wondering) as well as free hot breakfast each morning.

If you plan to stay with us at the Hampton Inn leave a comment below so we have an idea of who all will be at the hotel.  Also leave a comment if you want to share rental car, or need to share a rental car with someone and we’ll try to help make those connections.

 

Airfare rates are dropping out of the sky, we booked our roundtrip tickets for $150 per person from Chicago Midway to Denver… so this trip is affordable even when travel budgets are small!

Join your peers from churches from across the country for this unique peer learning and sharing event!

See you in the Springs!


hotel For ACS Convention ~ ONLY $55 per night

ACSConvention

 

Our team has booked our travel for the ACS National Convention in Jacksonville Florida.  This is my first time to go to convention, but our continuing partnership with ACS made it a must do this year.  This event is in late may, but we have already booked the Airfare and Hotel.  Nothing too exciting about the airfare, but the hotel rate is GREAT!

If you haven’t ever used Priceline.com, Downtown Jacksonville Florida is the place to give it a try.  There is a process of “free rebidding” that can be used on Priceline (documented here) which depending upon the location gives you the ability to bid for hotel a bunch of times without waiting 24 hours between every bid.

What makes Jacksonville so special? There are 7 of 9 zones which don’t have the 3 1/2 star hotel level like the downtown zone.  This gives you almost a possibility of 125 free rebids. In the 3 1/2 star category  bidding for travel notes 3 hotels you might get: The Omni Hotel, The Hyatt or the Crown Plaza Hotel.  All the reviews of each hotel reported good things…So we were willing to stay at any of the 3 hotels.

I started with a ridiculously low bid of $25 and we got the Omni Hotel Jacksonville for $55 per room per night.  Yes, I hear you saying but that isn’t the official convention hotel… but it is only a 10 minute walk or a .7 mile drive. Another note the Omni has Complementary WiFi (very important). Save some cash, give Priceline a try. 

One note: when you are bidding and the site says “your close for $– you can have this hotel.” DON’T do it… all that means is you should start increasing your bids by just $1 until you get your rate (assuming you have enough bids left).  For me this “greeting” started at $47 and they wanted me to pay $65 to lock in the room.. by continuing the bidding process that dropped what we paid by $7 per room per night.

Now if you want to take a chance, my guess would be that you might have a good shot of getting the Hyatt hotel which is the official  convention hotel after the ‘hold’ on the rooms at the $105 rate expires on May 5th.

See you in Jacksonville!


Apple Help file says “From a Windows machine…”

EntorageWe recently updated our Communications Director’s machine to Leopard (yes almost a year after it came out because of various reasons).  This upgrade included moving him to Office 2008 and Entourage 2008.

I have said since Office 2008 came out that I didn’t care for Entourage, and wondered why it was so difficult for MS to create a Mac version of outlook that functioned the same way… Entourage just doesn’t.

One of the funniest parts of this migration was when Kirt called me to explain he wasn’t able to accept or decline events in Entourage, the buttons were there by grayed out.  He could login to his virtual XP machine and Outlook worked without any issue but no dice for Entourage.  Then Kirt reported he found in the online knowledge base the following:

Cause:  When you receive an invitation in an Entourage account that is synchronized with an Exchange account running on Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, Exchange adds a tentative event to the Calendar.   

Solution:  Change your preferences for the Calendar in Outlook Web Access. From a Windows-based computer, log in to Outlook Web Access, and then click Options in the upper right corner of the screen.”

What you can’t control the settings from Entourage but you have to login to a PC?  And not just login to a PC but in to OWA how crazy.

 

Long story short the problem wasn’t the above issue, as funny as the solution may be, but a known bug in Entourage.  If you have someone in the organization selected as a delegate Entourage assumes you don’t want the ability to accept or decline meeting requests.  By changing the delegate to just a Calendar Editor then the Accept/Deny buttons function properly.


New Cool Windows Messenger Feature

LiveWriterSo this week I updated to the most recent versions of Windows Live Writer and Windows Messenger…  One cool feature that I was completely unaware of until I left the house and forgot to disconnect my laptop from Windows Live messenger and expected to get the error “you are logged on to another computer” when i connected on my desktop but didn’t.   I saw something new on the top of the application window reading “available in 2 places”.

You can now be logged into Messenger in two places at once.  This can be a mobile device or a laptop and desktop. The features are noted here

This removes the need to have two Live Messenger logins for multiple places…You can be online both places at once and even continue conversations from the other device or location…. Start in the office, continue the conversation on the Windows Mobile device and finish the conversation on the laptop at home. From the Live Messenger Site: “If you receive a message while you’re signed in on multiple devices, the message will appear on each device that you’re signed in on. Also, if you perform an action on one device, such as open or close a conversation window, the action will occur on all devices.”

 

Really Cool!


ACS Desktop on a 2008 Terminal Server

Microsoft’s Terminal Server 2008 has a lot of new features which includes RemoteApp publishing.  This allows you to place icons on a user’s desktop and start menu and run with the same look and feel as the application being installed locally… but really running from the terminal server.

Set-up of ACS as a remoteapp was quite easy and has worked fairly well in our sandbox environment.

In our situation, we have datacenter licensing for Microsoft so adding multiple virtual servers isn’t an issue, so we have elected to Install the ACS database on one server and have the terminal server function strictly as an application server.  This changes some settings for the terminal server that I will note below.

The steps to deploy ACS as a remoteapp are as follows (assuming that you have already completed the Terminal Server 2008 installation):

1. Use the Install Application on Terminal Server option in Control Panel to install the program.

2. Install ACS Workstation by running the installer found in the Database servers ACSNet folder.

3. Browse to the WINACS directory on the Terminal server and give all domain users full read write permissions to the entire contents of that directory.

4. Next Add ACS People Suite and ACS Financial’s Suite to the RemoteApps by going to Server Manager > Roles > Terminal Services > TS Remoteapp Management

5. Add A remoteapp and select ACS People Suite and ACS Financial’s Suite in the list.

Add RemoteApp

 

6. After you have added the application you need to create the Installer file to add the shortcuts to the workstations that will be using the RemoteApp

Create Installer

 

7. Next Choose a location to save your.msi installer.  This can be a UNC path to a network storage location.

RemoteApp Wizard

 

8. Update the Start menu folder and select to add the desktop icons.  Note there are no files to associate with this remote application, so that box stays unchecked.

Shortcuts

 

After you run the .msi installer you created with the wizard, the workstation will have the icons for ACS People and ACS Financial.  On first run it the terminal server will prompt for network credentials to access the Terminal Server.  Save these credentials for future use and the application will start up with no user interaction next time they launch the ACS application.

Once the user is logged into the terminal server the ACS login screen will display on the desktop as if it was a local application.

ACS People

 

Now there were a couple "got-yas":

1. The permissions have to be configured for full read/write for all users on the Database ACSNET and WINACS as well as the Terminal Server’s WINACS directory.

2. When you use ACS via a remoteapp on a dual monitor system the login and application splash screens land in between both monitors.  This is due to the application’s programming to center on the screen when they start up and Terminal server sees the desktop as one spanned desktop.  You can use the configuration "span monitor:i:0" to disable monitor spanning but this limits the users from running the application on the monitor that isn’t the local systems primary monitor. I have contacted ACS and this is a item that is being addressed by the programming team.

3. As part of #2, you can move the running application to another location on one of the monitors if you allow spanning (enabled by default) and it will remember the location where you closed the application… it just won’t remember the location of where you had moved the login or splash screens.

4. When ACS is closed, the session on the terminal server is not logged off, rather the users session is left in a disconnected state.  We are looking at options of lowering the default logoff settings in the Terminal server to be sure that all users are logged off during backups on the Database server.

5. First login to the Terminal server when launching the RemoteApp the local profile has to be created and the login time is quite a bit longer than subsequent login times for the RemoteApp.

As always your mileage may differ, If you have tried this installation and have had other experiences let me know I would be interested in hear your experience.


CheckPoint Training

Less than a month away we will go live with the new Children’s Check-in system and the preparations are in full swing.  This weekend we hosted another training for Discoveryland volunteers (children’s ministry volunteers).

Our Project timeline is:
Pre-Registration Weekend Feb 28 – March 1

Go Live March 21-22

Electronic Check-in Required April 4-5

The pre-registration is required to capture the finger scans so once the system is online parents will be recognized by the system. Most families were very surprised how easy the scanning process was and it took at most 45 seconds to a minute for each person’s scans to be captured.

We are using ACS CheckPoint as well as M2Sys BioSnapOn to facilitate the finger scanning and family lookup.  The biometric lookup is almost instantaneous and the families don’t have to remember to bring a bar code card or key fob since its impossible to forget your finger prints.

Here are some photos of the IT team in action during the Training and Pre-Registration.

 

Jeremie, Linda and our IT volunteer Mark did a great job assisting parents to capture their finger scans.

CheckPoint Demo

 

Capturing a finger scan and testing self-service check-in

CheckPoint Demo

 

Linda showing what the Child ID badge and Parent Security badges look like.

CheckPoint Demo


A Field Trip with the Ret. Lt. Col.

As some may know our operations director, Jerry Croegaert, is recently Retired Lt. Col. Jerry Croegaert (ANG), Commander of the 169th Air Support Operations Squadron.  Well today we took a field trip to see the old stomping grounds of our new leader.  The 169th shares a base with the 182nd Airlift Wing (a C130 Unit). Jeremie, Linda, Melanie and I went along with Jerry to the Air National Guard base in Bartonville, IL.
The primary reason for our visit was information sharing with the Coms personnel on base.  This was a great opportunity to see how they are doing all things IT as well as share our successes at Northwoods and the ANG as well as our struggles.  It was interesting to learn that their operations are very similar to ours (well except people don’t die if we mess things up) and they struggle with many of the same issues as those in the CITRT community… Limited Budget, Expectations to provide cutting edge technology and support and train our users to utilize that technology.
One take away from our trip was the accountability from the top down of the organization of Technology Continuing Education. MSgt George Garcia will be sending over some samples of their online Education tools that I hope to digest and reuse in our environment.
I would share some photos from the DataCenter but we had to turn our cameras/phones in during that part of the tour.

Here are some photos from the rest of the base where we were allowed to take photos (Jeremie and I asked several times if it was ok to take photos in specific areas we didn’t want to see anyone get tackled like in the Terry Tate commercials.)

 

A C130 Taking off
ANG Tour

 

A C130 in the Hanger

ANG Tour

 

Our Team inside the belly of a C130

ANG Tour

 

ANG Tour


It says it all

Living in a state that has been heralded as one of the most corrupt state governments (giving New Jersey) a run for its money, I have become annoyed by our politicians antics… well as you know our "Beloved" Rod Blago is now our former governor since he was removed from office by our state senate last week. 

A Chicago based retailer expressed their frustration in a recent ad and thought it was worth sharing.

Blogo


New stuff From ACS Technologies

ACS Workstation Install with UNC Path

One of the frustrations with ACS desktop software on local machines was always having to map a drive back to the server for the desktop application to work… well not any more.  With the 10.0 update ACS did away with needing a mapped drive to connect to the database.

When you install the application, install it from the UNC Path to your ACSNET directory on the database server.  This path is "remembered" by ACS desktop and utilized by the application and there is no longer any need to map network drives.  Yea!

Note: If you are using the Old scheduling applications Ministry Scheduler this product is destined for End of Life and will not be updated to utlized the UNC rather than a mapped drive.

 

ACS Broadcast

I have talked about ACS Broadcast in the past and just got word last last night that the Beta is now publicly available. Broadcast will pull data directly from Facility Scheduler and display the days’ events on a monitor. 

 

There are a couple views (summary and tabular) and custom video and still backgrounds can be added.  Here are a couple previews from ACS:

Summary View

 

Tabular View

More info to come as we dive into the beta.

Check out the ACS Product development bog for more information


Efficiency or Laziness, either way job done.

How often have you needed to remote into a system that is on the other side of the campus to fix an issue and found that Remote Desktop isn’t enabled and the remote management application’s service bombed.  Resulting in (Heaven Forbid!) getting up from your desk and walking to the machine and working on it locally…. (gasp! you might have to interact with people!)

Well no more friends do you need to leave the comfort of your chair, your beverage and your snack…and risk human interaction, here are the lazy steps (blatantly copied from  mydigitallife.info).

I have to admit I spent about 5 minutes, quite possibly more time than walking to the machine I needed to fix, searching steps to remotely enable Remote Desktop on a workstation…. But it is ok since it was during a work night and the building was closed and I wasn’t avoiding anyone by my working remotely!

To remotely enable Remote Desktop on another computer, follow these steps:

  • Login to the workstation with administrator credentials.
  • Run Registry Editor (regedit).
  • Click on File menu.
  • Select the Connect Network Registry in the pull down menu.

    Regedit

  • A “Select Computer” dialog search box is opened. Type the host name of the remote computer in the text box, or browse Active Directory to locate the remote server, or click on “Advanced” button to search for the remote computer.

   select computer

  • Click OK after the remote computer is selected. A node for the remote computer network registry will be displayed in the Registry Editor with HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE (HKLM) and HKEY_USERS (HKU) hives.

     RemoteComputer

  • Navigate to the following registry key for the remote computer:

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlTerminal Server

  • In the right pane, locate a REG_DWORD value named fDenyTSConnection. Double-click on fDenyTSConnection and change the value data from 1 (Remote Desktop disabled) to 0 (Remote Desktop enabled).

    Edit

  • Reboot the remote machine by issuing the following command in Command Prompt:

    shutdown -m hostname -r

    Replace hostname with the actual computer name of the remote host.

  • Remote Desktop for the remote computer has been enabled, and listening on default Remote Desktop port for any incoming Remote Desktop Connection.

 

Another option that works is via this handy application Enable Remote Desktop-Remotely by Intelliadmin.com


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