GeekRev | Advancing Small Church Technology. http://geekrev.com Advancing Small Church Technology. Thu, 11 Jun 2015 18:09:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.5 iGlasses + Google Hangouts http://geekrev.com/iglasses-google-hangouts/ http://geekrev.com/iglasses-google-hangouts/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 17:53:30 +0000 http://geekrev.com/?p=4016

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I recently started pursuing my master’s degree in architecture through an online program. One of the requirements is an occasional video chat. To get properly prepared and equipped for this endeavor, I also upgraded my home computer to one with a much larger screen (27″ iMac). The idea was that I could push the display further back on my desk so that I could lay drawings in front of the screen to work on. This worked very well until I started a video chat and realized that being pushed so far back on my desk was also giving way too wide a view of my office. After some searching I found a tool to fix that. I’ll tell you more after the break.

iGlasses ($19.95) is an app by ecamm that let’s you take control over your iSight or Facetime camera.

It does several things:

Screenshot 2014-03-10 12.37.17iGlasses allows you to apply preset filters & effects to your camera’s image.

For example, you can apply an “infared heat” effect, or even an “ascii art” over your image. There are several pages of effects to choose from. Most of these effects are adjustable. Honestly, this is stuff I will never use, except in rare personal conversations, but it’s there.

 

Screenshot 2014-03-10 12.36.52

iGlasses allows you to adjust the image quality.

You can adjust things like exposure, contrast, white-balance, hue, saturation, sharpness, etc. This is stuff that I definitely will use after seeing how dramatically I could improve the image quality. Granted, the image that comes from the FaceTime camera is pretty good, but these adjustments allow you to compensate for lighting and other issues.

 

Screenshot 2014-03-10 12.36.38iGlasses allows you to crop the video image.

This is the holy grail for what I was hoping to achieve. As you see from the brighter rectangle in the image to the left, I was able to select the specific area of the screen that I wanted the camera to broadcast. I could even flip the image to compensate for the mirror image that the FaceTime camera captures. You can rotate the image if necessary as well.

 

Screenshot 2014-03-10 12.48.26iGlasses acts as a second webcam.

To use the iGlasses image instead of  your FaceTime camera’s default image, you need to select the iGlasses camera from your video chat programs camera settings. Conveniently, if the iGlasses “camera” isn’t already associated with a video chat application, it provides a preview window that also gives you convenient help for connecting iGlasses to various popular apps, including Google Hangouts.

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No More Free LogMeIn http://geekrev.com/no-more-free-logmein/ http://geekrev.com/no-more-free-logmein/#comments Tue, 21 Jan 2014 19:08:23 +0000 http://geekrev.com/?p=4013

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One of my favorite tools is going paid-only. LogMeIn is a great service that lets you get remote access to your computers in a very clean, yet robust interface. LogMeIn is cross-platform (mobile too) and works very well. I have used both the pro and free services, but had settled on the free service since I did not really need any of the features the pro service offered – even though they are excellent features. Having used LogMeIn for so long, it is now indispensable, so I’ll be forking over the subscription cost when the time comes. Here’s the email I received from them regarding this change.

As of January 21, 2014, LogMeIn Free is no longer available. To continue using remote access, you will need to purchase an account subscription of LogMeIn Pro.

As a loyal LogMeIn user, you’re entitled to a complimentary six-month account subscription to Pro for your computers. Your new account includes our signature remote access with premium features like remote printing, file transfer and cloud data access, plus desktop, iOS and Android apps to improve your experience.

While your existing Ignition app will continue to work as it always has, it will no longer receive updates and bug fixes. However, you may switch to the new LogMeIn for iOS/Android app at any time. It’s free to download and will work with a Pro account.

After your six-month complimentary license expires, you will need to purchase an account subscription of Pro for continued service. Subscription packages start at the discounted introductory price of $49/year for two computers (50% off regular price)*.

For more information on this transition from free to paid remote access, please visit our blog.

Thank you for your continued support. We look forward to serving you for many years to come.

Sincerely,
The LogMeIn Team

 

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Getting The Most Out of Your Website | 78p.tv http://geekrev.com/getting-the-most-out-of-your-website-78p-tv/ http://geekrev.com/getting-the-most-out-of-your-website-78p-tv/#comments Mon, 22 Jul 2013 20:57:52 +0000 http://geekrev.com/?p=3969

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I was interviewed by the Amazing Jeremy at 78p.tv about some website stuff… check it out…

Getting The Most Out of Your Website | 78p.tv

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w00t! w00t! http://geekrev.com/w00t-w00t/ http://geekrev.com/w00t-w00t/#comments Wed, 17 Jul 2013 14:35:22 +0000 http://geekrev.com/?p=3963

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I Cant; Keep Calm Because It's My Birthday!

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Review: Worship Media Creator http://geekrev.com/review-worship-media-creator/ http://geekrev.com/review-worship-media-creator/#comments Tue, 25 Jun 2013 01:35:58 +0000 http://geekrev.com/?p=3939

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I was asked by Jordan Mederich of WorshipMediaCreator.com to review Worship Media Creator, a church worship presentation creation tool. For disclosure, they sent me a copy of the program free of charge in exchange for an honest review. It’s taken me a while to really get into the nuts and bolts of it, (no fault of the software) but I finally have a good feel for the capabilities of this tool and wanted to let you all know what I’ve found. Catch my review after the break.

What does it do?

Worship media Creator lets you create presentations for worship services. You can also create media to use in other presentation software, like a video countdown, in which case you would probably export to video. You can also export to a stand-alone executable presentation. Not only can you create presentations, but you can use the software as a presenter, either in single screen mode, or on a separate screen if you have the computer connected to another screen or a projector. Currently, the software only runs on Windows PC’s, which is probably fine because the target market (smaller churches), probably would more likely have a Windows PC than a Mac. Since we use Macs at Thrive Church, I’ve been trying to get a handle on this software on a PC after hours where I work.

What’s it like?

This is the start screen. The layout is pretty straightforward. The top-bar controls are self-explanatory. Hit the green “+” icon to get started, or you can use the file menu to grab a presentation you’ve already saved.

wmc_01

Worship Media Creator has a number of template slide types to get you started, or if you prefer, you can start with a blank slide.

wmc_02

Once you are in the slide editor screen, you get more tools at the bottom of the interface. From left to right: Pictures, Movies, Standard Text, 3D Text, 3D Cube Effect, Text Countdown, 3D Countdown, Delete Selected Object. Note some of the tools I mentioned are hidden because I squeezed the window size down.

wmc_03

Here’s a simple slide I made with a custom image and standard text. Pretty simple. There is another row of controls just above the slide view, in the form of tabs. You can use these tabs to control the background images and transitions. You can also include audio files and control how they play back.

wmc_04

Here’s another screenshot with a video and a countdown timer. Notice on the right, every object has an properties inspector on the right side. The properties that display are dependent upon what type of object you have selected. For instance, a countdown object will let you set the amount of time to countdown, but this property would not exist for an image.

wmc_06

Here’s a view of the presentation control panel. You can only open/present one slide set at a time, but you can freely roam between slides.

wmc_07

The program is really simple to use. They have a ton of helpful tutorial videos on their site that do a much better job showing you how the system works than I felt like I could, and they have a user forum for even more help.

Who’s it for?

I’ve been corresponding pretty regularly with Jordan as I’ve been reviewing the software. While I am sure he would love churches of any size to start using the product, he made the point often that they designed this software for churches that could not afford the more expensive church presentation products out there. I did a check on current prices for these other products and Worship Media Creator is definitely priced significantly lower than these other products. So if you are a smaller church, trying to get started with media presentation, or if you are needing to step up from an office presentation software, Worship Media Center may fit the bill.

What’s awesome?

First, the software is REALLY EASY. I had absolutely no trouble creating slides, and presenting them. The interface is very straightforward and intuitive. And, if you need help, the video tutorials are concise and helpful.

Second, the ability to export to video is quite an awesome feature. Even if you never use this software to present, you can use it to create custom countdown videos. If you’ve ever purchased these from a stock media site, you know you can spend anywhere from $15 – $25 per video. You’ll probably use this feature so much that you’ll pay for the software in no time. They also have an add-on pack called the Loop Builder Stack Pack that gives you a ton of extra content to use for making awesome countdown videos or back ground video loops. it contains particle effects, lens flares, grains, textures, etc.

Third, I really think these guys want to make an awesome tool for churches. I mentioned earlier that I had been in contact with Jordan often. He was very open to listen to feedback that I had (see below), some of which will make it into a near-future release.

Fourth, it remembers what you do. When you create a slide or a text object, etc., the system remembers your last settings for that object and using that setting as you create new objects. Saves a lot of time!

What’s not awesome?

I do have a few “issues” with the package.

First, it is Windows only. Jordan explained that they want to be able to make a Mac version, but they need to see how well this initial release is received before they do that. We use a different product at my church, but I can honestly see myself using this product for making countdown timers – seriously. The problem is that I really do not want to run to my day job, after hours, to get to a Windows box to do this. So… windows people, BUY this so they can justify a Mac version (grin).

Second, there is no “show” management feature. In other presentation products, there is a part of the program where you can string many separate presentations (i.e. sermon slides, various song slides, announcement slides, etc.) into a control center, where you can choose from different presentations and control each one individually without having to invoke the file system. Unfortunately, there is no such control center in Worship Media Center. You have to go to “File” then “Open” on the menu bar to get to other presentations. Granted, they give you the ability to import presentations and create sort of a master presentation, but this is not an ideal process in my opinion.

Third, standard text handling shortcuts don’t apply. I am pretty handy navigating text using keyboard shortcuts. I was annoyed trying to navigate text entry boxes, not being able to do things like CTRL+A to select the entire text-box contents, etc..

Finally, imported video quality is lacking. This final issue has to do with the item of feedback I mentioned above. When I was trying to create a countdown video, I noticed that no matter how high I set the bit rate, the video quality was lacking from what I am used to. It turns out that the video resolution was standard def, not high def. For the churches in their stated target market, this is probably fine as most probably won’t have high def gear. But for me, this was a deal breaker as my church, even though small and budget-limited, is full of videophiles and gear heads. Fortunately, Jordan’s team is open to feedback and let me know that a soon to be released iteration will double the video resolution. That’s awesome. Bravo, guys.

What’s the verdict?

If my church were a small church (we are), if we had a tight budget (we are), if we weren’t already use a higher-end projection software (oops), if we didn’t expect HD video display (oops), and if we were a windows house or wouldn’t mind getting a windows machine (oops), then I would suggest this software to our tech team. Apart from the few not-awesome items above, I like Worship Media Creator. It is definitely more affordable than the other options, has some unique features, and they are going to address the video issue. Sweet if you ask me.

I already have some great ideas for countdowns, and I look forward to the update (addressing video resolution) to do a “second look” review, as I try to actually produce some countdown videos for church use. I might even do a tutorial/review sort of thing. We’ll see.

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Improving Your Church’s Search Ranking – UPDATE aka Part 2 http://geekrev.com/improving-your-churchs-search-ranking-update-aka-part-2/ http://geekrev.com/improving-your-churchs-search-ranking-update-aka-part-2/#comments Sat, 25 May 2013 16:42:23 +0000 http://geekrev.com/?p=3931

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So I wrote an article a couple days ago about improving your church’s search engine ranking. The strategies there worked for us for 6 years, keeping my church on the top page of search queries for our local area. I know the track record because I check it once a month. Well, in a case of ironically poor timing for my article, at present the church is not ranking high at all, in fact it is several pages deep now. That was since the first of this month! So what happened? Well, I am in the process of sorting that out. Read past the break to see what steps I am taking to troubleshoot our recent ranking drop.

1. Take a deep breath.

I am focusing on Google mostly, because that is where the majority of our incoming search traffic originates. Google is notorious for constantly tweaking their search methods, and dropping support for certain technologies. So, I have to take a deep breath and realize that it’s not the end of the world, and I can most likely fix it.

2. Analyze your listing.

The first step is to really see what Google is doing with the web site. I decided to directly search for the church by name. Even here, the church is ranking low, but there are some back links showing up from social sites. What that tells me is that Google has for some reason, lost interest in the site itself. The keywords I am hunting are producing, just poorly. Of course, there has to be a logical reason for this automated system to be putting less priority on the site.

3. Check your META “description” tag.

Google relies on the META “description” to understand what YOU, as the site owner, think your site is about. I was using a description string that included the name of the church, and our geographic location – the terms I used to search. I decided to check if I had a misspelling. Well, what I found was a BLANK tag! Turns out, something was broken with my theme. Luckily, there are plenty of plugins for my CMS (WordPress) that let you insert a working meta tag. Now it is working as I want it. But, we’re not done.

4. Check your Google Analytics connection.

I am going to assume that you’re already an avid user of Google Analytics (GA). If not, well become one. Guess what? I found that was broken too. Somehow GA and my site had stopped talking to one another. I disconnected the existing link between the two and recreated it -then verified it was connected and picking up stats again. But, we’re still not finished.

5. Check your Google Webmaster Tools settings.

Again, I am going to assume you’ve been using Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) with your site. Again, if not, get to it! GWT has a ton of tools that help your site communicate with Google better. I especially paid attention to the site map. I recreated one within my CMS, then relinked it to GWT and manually requested a re-crawl.

6. Wait.

Unfortunately, nothing you’ve done above will get immediate results with Google. You just have to give it some time and let things propagate through their system. In other words, now you just have to wait and see.

 

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Improving Your Church’s Search Ranking http://geekrev.com/improving-your-churchs-search-ranking/ http://geekrev.com/improving-your-churchs-search-ranking/#comments Tue, 21 May 2013 21:47:31 +0000 http://geekrev.com/?p=3926

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A question was asked on Google+ about a “back-link” strategy for a new church’s website. This is a little different than what is commonly thought of in terms of blogging back-links. For blogging, one strategy for improving overall search ranking is to get other bloggers to link to your articles. For a church website, the strategy is different. For my church, we got our church page consistently on page one of searches on our demographic area. See how we did it after the break.

1. Use geographic aggregation sites to your advantage.

The first place we started was to actually do a search on each of the major search engines for “churches in Jackson, TN” and “Jackson, TN churches” because our church is located in Jackson, Tennessee. When we did that, we saw a number of churches there, obviously, but we also saw church aggregation sites that list churches by geographical area. We submitted our church’s website to each of these. To be honest, these aggregators seem kind of lame. But the truth is, people use them to find churches because they rank high. You really need to get your church site listed in these since they register really high, a characteristic important to most of the SE’s. Usually these sites have an “add my church” link somewhere to make it easy.

2. Tap into your local news market.

Next, try to get your local papers to publish “An interview with the pastor of XYZ Church, a new church coming to our area.” If you can’t manage that, try the event route. Sometimes papers will write a showcase article for an event if it seems like something their readers might find unique or interesting. Hopefully they’ll publish the article on their website and include your church link. This strategy also works if your local area has special interest websites.

3. Tap into relocator searches.

The first thing people do these days when they are going to move to a new city is to search for that city/state in their favorite search engine. So, do what they would do and search for your city/state in all the major search engines. See what sites rank high in that search. Try to get linked in those top results. You’ll be surprised how many people can find your church this way.
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Google Reader Shutting Down – Sad Face http://geekrev.com/google-reader-shutting-down-sad-face/ http://geekrev.com/google-reader-shutting-down-sad-face/#comments Thu, 14 Mar 2013 16:18:51 +0000 http://geekrev.com/?p=3911

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Very sad for me…. anyone know of any web-based alternatives?

Powering Down Google Reader
3/13/2013 04:06:00 PM

Posted by Alan Green, Software Engineer

We have just announced on the Official Google Blog that we will soon retire Google Reader (the actual date is July 1, 2013). We know Reader has a devoted following who will be very sad to see it go. We’re sad too.

There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.

To ensure a smooth transition, we’re providing a three-month sunset period so you have sufficient time to find an alternative feed-reading solution. If you want to retain your Reader data, including subscriptions, you can do so through Google Takeout.

Thank you again for using Reader as your RSS platform.

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Old Faithful Flash Drive, You’ve Been Good To Me. http://geekrev.com/old-faithful-flash-drive-youve-been-good-to-me/ http://geekrev.com/old-faithful-flash-drive-youve-been-good-to-me/#comments Thu, 28 Feb 2013 19:47:27 +0000 http://geekrev.com/?p=3898

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Today I say goodbye to a faith friend. In April of 2009, I bought the LaCie itsaKey 4GB flash drive (they don’t even make that model anymore, but here is the latest Lacie itsaKey). At that time, I really thought it was the best choice and value. I paid just under $20 for it. I chose it because I was looking for an all-metal, rugged flash drive that would take the daily abuse of being attached to my key-chain. And boy has it seen some abuse, as evidence by the many dings and dents in the metal housing. I’ve used for so many things and inserted it into so many USB ports!  Well it’s time to retire it for more space. Find out what I replaced it with after the break.

Introducing my new buddy: the Kingston Digital DataTraveler DTSE9 (16GB)! (LaCie top, Kingston bottom)

IMG_2568

For half the price of my 2009 purchase I get 4x the storage! Woot!

The size comparison against the LaCie astounds me.

The Kingston sports a monolithic, single-piece, all metal housing, with a large hole on one end to attach to my key-chain.

I feel really confident it will last me at least 4 years like my faithful LaCie did. I sure hope so anyway!

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5 Ways To Simplify Your Life By Simplifying Your Site http://geekrev.com/5-ways-to-simplify-your-life-by-simplifying-your-site/ http://geekrev.com/5-ways-to-simplify-your-life-by-simplifying-your-site/#comments Tue, 19 Feb 2013 22:53:58 +0000 http://geekrev.com/?p=3889

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One thing will always be true for every pastor who pours himself/herself into ministry – there is never enough time to do it all. Maybe I am biased, but I think this is especially true of small church pastors who find themselves doing more than they probably should. One thing I’ve come to value as a pastor is simplicity. The more things you can simplify, the better – even important things can be made simpler. By now, most of us know how valuable a website is for your ministry as it has become the first-stop people make when exploring your ministry. But being important does not mean that a website also has to be complex. Here are my strategies for keeping our church website from becoming a time-management monster.

  1. Guard the essentials. Make sure that you protect the integrity of the essential content on your website – that means you have to prioritize what is essential. If you have more than 5 things you think are essential, then re-think it – you have too many “essentials.” I’ve previously written about what I consider to be essential content for church websites. These essentials are also going to get high-priority when work needs to be done on the site. Everything else can wait or just not get done – and be content with that.
  2. Be intentional about what features you add to your site. There are so many cool things we can add to our websites. But honestly, a lot of these things can be better handled elsewhere. For instance, instead of embedding Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ content on your site, just add icons for these services and let your users interact with you directly at these services’ websites. Another example could be small groups databases – they are nice to have – but they are also time consuming to maintain. Instead, create a small groups display at your church, where each small group can leave fliers and announcements. Incidentally, limiting site features translates to fewer things that could be left undone per item #1 above.
  3. Reduce time-sensitive content. The goal here is to reduce the content which forces deadlines upon you. For instance, instead of posting pages for every sermon, you could use categories, or some other method of grouping sermons that do not require writing a new page for every sermon upload. If you preach in series, you can do one page for the whole series, although you need to keep up when you change series (something I am guilty of not doing very well). Another example could be events pages. Consider not handling these items on your website – or consider handling events per item #4 below.
  4. Use an online shared calendar service. Another example of time-sensitive content is the church calendar. Instead of updating a page to keep your events updated, consider embedding an online shared calendar, like Google Calendars. Make sure you give all event coordinators the ability to edit that calendar so you aren’t left doing it yourself. At our church, we use Google Calendars exclusively, so everyone is updating the same calendars.
  5. Use a good CMS system. There are tons of ways to do church websites. You can hard-code everything or you can use a CMS. I’ve mentioned several times why I think you should use WordPress for your church website, so I won’t go into that here. But, the idea here is that a CMS handles the formatting, allowing you to concentrate on content.
  6. Get some help. (OK so this makes my list 6 items long instead of 5 – be honest, who caught it?) While this isn’t directly related to the level of complexity of your website, it does help with the level if complexity that you, as the site administrator, perceive to be there. Even a relatively minor task (like changing a service time) can seem daunting when it is one more thing added to a long to-do list. Getting someone to help you manage the site can go a long way to keeping the site up to date. Now, let me go heed my own advice here!

I hope these items help you get your website management under control and at the same time help you keep your site up to date. In fact, as I was writing I was thinking about how my church’s website could use some of this advice. Do you have other suggestions? If so, leave a comment!

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