Monday, May 28, 2007

Not All Smartphones are Created Equal!

I hate carrying multiple devices when I'm off work. So I have been watching with great interest the growing options that combine cell phones and PDAs. In fact, last year one was available that I was very excited about!

Motorola Q
The Q is a smartphone based on the Windows Mobile platform that is light, thin, and cool looking. (Yes, "cool looking" is a necessary feature!) So I bought one of the first. It's a love/hate relationship... here are the details:
  • Love the Phone Features: The phone features are good! Excellent reception, great speakerphone, and fairly easy to use (though the dialing buttons are a little on the small size for my medium-sized hands).
  • Hate the PDA Features: I am an advanced-- or at least intermediate-- PDA user. I use a number of programs to take notes, organize thoughts, track information, and so on. Unfortunately, Microsoft installed a very limited subset of its Windows Mobile OS on this phone, and it doesn't allow most of these programs to install. And those that do have limited capability because of the lack of a stylus and touchscreen.
What Have I Learned?
When shopping for a smartphone or PDA phone, decide what programs you'll want to run in the PDA OS and make certain they will run in the version loaded on the phone you're considering. If you use your PDA for little more than a calendar and contact list, a limited OS will work fine. If you depend on additional programs that don't come pre-loaded on the phone, you may have difficulties. Make sure you try loading them and testing their functionality while you're still in the timeframe in which an exchange is possible.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Harmony @ Home for Geeks

What true geek doesn't need at least three remotes to watch TV?!! And, since opposites attract, many of our spouses aren't as good with technology as we are... which frustrates them when they want to watch TV. ("What remotes do I need to turn on the TV? And how do I do it again?")

While speaking on a What's Hot / What's Not Panel at a conference last year (click here to listen to podcast), a panelist recommend getting a Harmony Remote by Logitech to bring all of the remotes into one very easy to use device. He said these bring harmony into our homes! He was right!

I purchased the model 890 because it uses RF transmission, eliminating the need to point at the devices I want to control, because we use a projection system and all our components are actually behind us. (The same feature set without RF is available in the 880, costing considerably less.)

The device is easy to program and works great! To watch TV, we press the "Watch TV" button and it activates and configures all of our devices (Dish, audio tuner, projector) for that mode! To watch DVDs, we press the "Watch DVD" button, and the system changes to that mode (Dish off, DVD player on, audio and projector re-configured)!

One caveat is that when programming the remote, we learned that the online client is better than the locally installed client.

Our pastor just bought a refurbished 880, and he and his wife love it! You gotta check these out!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Making Office 2007 More Better

In my Office 2007 blog entry I mentioned that I minimized the Ribbon Bar and added shortcuts to the Quick Access Toolbar to regain my functionality. Here are screen shots of what I did in Word and Excel along with quick instructions on how to do it.

If you'd like to help your entire team in this way, once you've done this for yourself, just move the base files to everyone's startup folder!

(Click on the graphic, which will open it to your full browser screen, and then you can print it for reference.)


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Get IT Out of the Driver's Seat!

The IT Team is often perceived as the "No!" Team! In church and ministry offices, staffed mostly by entrepreneurial people, we are often asked about things folks want to try or do that we know may cause problems on the network. So we explain why they can't do that.

We also fix a lot of things because someone didn't ask first. When that happens, we try to educate the person, again explaining why they can't do something they want to.

Changing the "No!" Team
So we're the "No!" Team. How can we change that? At a recent CMA conference a colleague shared his solution that was both simple and effective.

First, keep a running list of the projects, short and long term, that are on your plate. This should include who originated the project and the priority assigned to it by your leadership during their periodic review of the list.

Then, when asked by members of your ministry team to prioritize some new project, don't say yes or no. Instead, show them the list of the projects you're working on and ask which one(s) they want bumped so you can get it done within the timeframe they need.

Sometimes it's The Boss!
This is especially helpful when the new project comes from your senior pastor or CEO! Since they're the ones who have helped set your priorities, they more fully understand your constraints. This lets them make the prioritization decision and gets IT out of the driver’s seat, a.k.a. the hot seat.

What works for you?


Monday, May 7, 2007

What's Different about Business Continuity?

Many of us in IT focus on the quality of our system backup-- or, at least we intend to. System backups are essential, but are they enough?

Disaster Recovery vs Business Continuity
Good backups are a way to be certain we can recover from a disaster. This is an IT strategy essential. In recent years, however, we've begun to learn that there is an added dimension to disaster recovery that is easily overlooked: business continuity.

Simply put, a business continuity strategy helps ensure that we'll be able to continue doing what we're supposed to while we're recovering from a disaster.

When Katrina hit (that's what this post's picture is from), church members and staffs evacuated in all directions. Very few had a plan that would allow their staffs to access their database and accounting systems while they were dispersed throughout the U.S. Those that did had a business continuity strategy.

How About You?
Do you have a business continuity strategy? While we pray that we'll never need one, the reality is that we might. And being a good steward may require that we had one in place.

I've written an article on this topic that has more details about what we recommend.


Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Productivity Suite Discussion

Barry Buchanon wrote a post about the various options available for our teams to use for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, etc. Most of us think of Microsoft Office for these programs. I usually refer to these programs as productivity software.

Barry's post sparked a dialogue between us about the whether or not Open Office, a free competitor to MS Office, could work in a church or ministry office. I told him:
I don’t think staff would stand for Open Office or any other solution than MS Office. Though I hate many aspects of MS Office (see my blog entry), one of the things I've learned over the years is that church staffs are vociferously dedicated to it. I have seen executive and IT staff members lose their jobs over this issue!

I could tell you story after story about situations like this. And the money spent (some would say wasted) on MS Office and many other programs doesn't matter! Many staff members won’t stand for anything else. Sounds almost cultish, doesn't it!
He responded with:
I think you are totally correct, the staff would revolt before giving up Office. My article was really for users having a solution for home or ministries starting up.
Barry makes a good point. If someone is starting a new ministry and isn't already a full-fledged member of the Microsoft tribe, Open Office is a great way to go. It will save lots of precious ministry-launch dollars, and could always be abandoned in later years if desired.

There's an interesting Wiki list and comparison of productivity suites that might be worth looking at if you're considering your options.