Website Workshops

We’re heading off in a new direction regarding my job. God has been tugging at me to do something “different” but it wasn’t until this week that He’s told me what that is.

I’ve been thinking that I need to help small churches, and maybe small, struggling businesses to setup their website. I’ve also felt that God would show me how I can do this without sacrificing making a living and supporting my family. These two things appear to work against each other though.

I had thought at first that I could help others as a website consultant. But doing the math, I think I would need to charge $80 to $120 per hour. This is pretty much on the lower side of the pay scale for website consulting. Medium to large businesses can afford this, but I can’t see how I can help poor struggling churches and businesses this way.

I woke up the other night worrying about this, and prayed to God asking Him to show me how this was going to work. The answer came almost immediately. I’m going to start running “Website Workshops”. I’m already planning on doing something similar for the folks at my church. I’ll be teaching them how to edit the church’s web pages. Each team leader will need to maintain their own team pages.

I’m going to start offering workshops to individuals and small businesses that want to create and manage their own websites. Attendees will need to bring their laptop computer with them, and I’ll walk them through each step in creating and maintaining it. When the attendees leave my workshop, they will have a working, simple website and the knowledge on how to maintain it.

I expect to be able to do this in a half day session, but might extend it to a full day if I am underestimating things. I’m not settled on a price yet, but I’m thinking either $99 or $199 for a half day session. Every time I tell folks about this I get a very positive response, and a comments like “Ok! I’m your first customer.” I have a lot of first customers 🙂

So I’m not really job hunting anymore. I’m trying to get “Ron Lisle d/b/a Website Workshops” going. I’ll be having some free, trial workshops at the church over the next month, and hope to have real, paying workshops running by the end of March. This approach is going to allow me to work from home, eventually running workshops 2 days a month.

God is amazing. I knew that He had something really great planned for me, and I have been hanging in there waiting for Him to show me. I am so excited about this new venture. My head is still spinning. There are still those nagging doubts in the back of my head, but I’m trying to just pray those away.

God is awesome!

Web Design Consulting

After much prayer and discussions with friends and family I have decided to hang up the web design shingle. I’ll be looking at specializing on websites for small churches with limited budgets. It isn’t at all clear at this point how I will support my family, but this is the direction that I think God is leading me.

I created a website awhile back to try to help other churches with this, so I will be focusing even more on this effort. It occurred to me last night that I should include a section on open source tools also: Gimp and KompoZer for starters.

Installing Win 7 in Boot Camp

This morning I replaced my Macbook Pro’s internal optical drive. Back when it went out, I opted to be cheap and use an external drive at about half the cost of replacing the internal drive. Since then I had tried to install Windows 7 into Boot Camp using the external drive, and kept running into problems. I had attributed the problems to the optical drive being external. Now with the fixed internal drive I gave it another try.

I’ve been running Windows 7 under Parallels for awhile now. Parallels allows installation using the raw .iso file, so this was easy.

I’ve also upgraded my Macbook Pro’s internal hard disk to 500G, so I thought I’d recreate my boot camp partition since I have plenty of space now.

It turns out that the problems that I’ve been having were not caused by the external drive, but by the .iso format used by MS (this is an MSDN image). So after searching around a bit, I came across various instructions for fixing it. All of the instructions I found however required a Windows system, which I currently do not have.

I have a Parallels Windows simulator on my Mac, so I considered running the instructions in Parallels. I also found some blogs commenting that this approach had worked. However, while searching this it occurred to me that if running things within Parallels worked ok, then why did I need to bother installing boot camp, which is really quite inconvenient anyways.

The only real reason that I have for wanting to run boot camp is to get better performance for running my C&C style games. So I decided to reinstall them into an XP Parallels session and see how the performance compared to running the Mac version of the games (which isn’t very good). The results were quite good. I can run the PC version of C&C3 KR full screen at 1680 x 1050 with medium rendering settings without audio hiccups or obvious video glitches.

So I deleted my boot camp partition and will simply use Parallels 5 for running Windows XP and Windows 7. I also have a Ubuntu session. I’m a happy camper.

Back from the Holidays

The past few weeks I’ve been studying and working with WordPress and Joomla!

I’ve brought up our church and band websites on the latest WordPress, and am somewhat unhappy with the user experience that is presented to other authors (eg. my wife). This prompted me to take a look at Joomla! Lynda.com provides a tutorial on it, so I went through it. There is a steeper learning curve on Joomla! but it appears to be much better suited to supporting multiple, less skilled authors. There doesn’t appear to be as much information available (yet) on how to create and modify templates and plugins, but I’m diving in anyways.

I going to convert my BuildAChurchWebsite website to Joomla! and see how that works.

Chords and Lyrics WP plugin Public Release v1.3

I’ve submitted the form to WordPress.org requesting access to their svn to release the Chords and Lyrics publicly.

I’ve removed the old widget, and replaced it with an options page in the Users admin menu. Since this is per-user configurable, I thought that the Users menu was the correct place. But upon rethinking this, I think the correct place is under Appearance. I can easily move it if someone explains to me why another menu would be better 🙂

I’ll post an update when it goes live.

Next To You, Next To Me

By Shenendoah, this is Shelley and my song.

Verse 1

G 
Ridin’ down the road in my pick-up  
C 
truck
 
ya  
G 
better get ready ’cause I’m pickin’ you  
D 
up
 
with a  
G 
full moon a shinin? and a little bit a  
C 
luck
 
we’ll  
G 
run out outta gas and maybe  
D 
get 
 
 
G 
stuck
C 
we could get lost baby  
G 
I don’t care
D 
I ain’t worried as  
G 
long as you?re there
 
there ain’t no place that I’d rather  
C 
be
G 
next to sittin’  
D 
next to  
G 
me
 
there ain’t no place that I’d rather  
C 
be
G 
next to you,  
D 
next to me  
G 

Verse 2

Barbecue chicken in aluminum foil

just enough money for my gas and oil
who needs your shrimp and your caviar?
I’d sooner have you just the way you are
Rich people got their money to hold
mansion on the hill ‘n diamonds and gold
well, it can’t compare as far as I can see
next to sittin’ next to me
there ain’t no place that I’d rather be
next to you, next to me

Verse 3

Radio playin’ our favorite song

I’ll change the station if the news comes on
when the signal ain’t comin’ in too strong
we’ll make our music honey all night long
if the Good Lord’s willin’ when we’re old and gray
the kids are grown up and moved away
well, it can’t compare as far as I can see
next to sittin’ next to me
there ain’t no place that I’d rather be
next to you, next to me

WordPress Development

I’ve been working on revamping the church’s website. I’ve been doing a lot of searching and reading.
I must say that I’m pretty shocked at how expensive a lot of the church solutions are. Understand that my church is operating on a shoe string budget, so any recurring expenses need to be small.
On the other hand, I’m also very pleased to see the work that some folks have done in this regard. There are several pretty good sites that are advocate using WordPress to create maintainable church websites. It’s been awhile since I’ve dug under the covers of WordPress, but I’ve got the itch to do so again. I’m going to launch a new site targetting the use of WordPress for church websites. Since I’m in the midst of updating my own church’s website using WordPress, this will be a good place to post my own themes and plugins, provide suggestions, and link to other good church related sites.

iPhone Development

I’m going to use this time between jobs to learn how to program the iPhone. Since I’m already familiar with Cocoa development, I believe it is going to be fairly easy.

On Tuesday I picked up a copy of the “iPhone Application Development for Dummies” book by Neal Goldstein. I’m already on chapter 11. This book is great, especially for someone like me that already has some Cocoa experience. The coding information is minimal which would probably bother me if I wasn’t already familiar with Cocoa. But it is perfect in my case. It gets me right to what I need to know.

There are a couple example applications which are real applications that the author has submitted to the App Store. I’m going to customize the first for use on my own iPhone by including my picture in it, and making some other cosmetic changes.

The iPhone development environment is amazing. This reminds me of how things were when Microsoft first released Visual Basic. A big difference is that although simple applications can be very easily and quickly created and deployed (like VB) there is a professional strength language beneath it (Objective-C vs. Basic) which will allow full blown application development.

I am really loving this! Thank you God for giving me the time off to go learn this.

Diving into Planning Center Online

First Impressions

My first impression of Planning Center Online (PCO) was “OMG! This program does everything that I’ve wanted to do with my custom band website”. So I registered for a free account to give it a spin.

Unfortunately the free account does not allow uploading chord sheets or MP3 files. So I upgraded to a 30 day trial of the $14.95/mo ‘lite’ account.

Creating a Lineup

At this point I’m a bit stumped. What I wanted to do was create a lineup for next Sunday’s service and enter the 6 songs that we will be doing. I entered the list of band members no problem. However it became confusing when I tried to create a lineup.

First I created a new ‘Service’ which I called ‘Sunday Service’. Then I selected ‘create a new plan’. This displayed a dialog with a dropdown list that included only ‘No Template’. There is also a ‘Quantity’ dropdown. I’m not sure what this is for. I guess you can create multiple, duplicate plans here.

No Template Plan

Ok, so I guess that it is ok to create a plan from ‘No Template’, so I click on ‘accept’ to create a plan from ‘No Template’.

Step 1: Add Times

This displays what appears to be a very helpful prompt which states “Step 1: Add Times…” with an arrow pointing upwards to the left to a small blue dot with a triangle in it. I would guess that this means that I should click on the blue dot. However, doing so only causes the triangle to alternately point to the right or downwards. So with confusion setting in, I read the message all the way to the end where there is a line of smaller text which says “Hint: Do you like keyboard-shortcuts? If so hit Ctrl-Alt-T to add a time!”. So I hit Ctrl+Alt+T and nothing happens. I’m wondering now if this isn’t working because I’m on a Macbook Pro. In any case, I’m stumped at this step so I’ll go over to help.

Help

I click on the ‘help’ link in the upper right. This gets me a list showing ‘Tutorial Videos’, ‘Support Forums’, ‘E-Mail Support’, or ‘Phone Support’.
I’ve already watched all of the videos, although I’ll guess that my question might be answered in one of them but I’ve forgotten or didn’t notice this particular step. But the videos are pretty long, so I think I’ll try the forum to see if I can get a quick answer to ‘Add Times”.

Online Forum

After clicking on ‘Support Forums’ I get a page which says ‘There are no current topics in this discussion group’. This is a bit confusing, but I ignore it and enter my ‘Add Times’ search in the ‘Search this group’ textbox. This gets me a couple of pages of hits, none of which appear to address my question. I’m guessing that it searched for the individual occurrence of the words “add” and “times”. So I retry my search, this time putting “Add Times” in double quotes. This yields a smaller list of 9 items. One of these items is labeled ‘Keyboard shortcuts’ where I learn that “If you are on a mac, the Alt key is the Option key…” so I’m guessing that Alt-Option-T is supposed to work on my MBP.
I check out another entry labeled ‘same service, two times’ and I get the answer that I need to ‘Just click add a time and enter …’. So now I go back and look at the dialog, and sure enough, further over in the left column is a ‘Times’ box with ‘+ add a time’. This allows me to enter my lineup date and time.

Adding A Time

So now I select my date for next Sunday from a helpful calendar widget, and enter my times for 11:00 and 12:00. I make the common mistake of leaving 12:00 as ‘am’. I get a helpful message informing me that my ‘Starts at must be before ending time’. So I change 12:00am to 12:00pm.

Step 2: Adding Items

Now I get the helpful message informing me that step 2 is to add items to the plan, and gives me the keyboard shortcuts. I’m thinking that I’ll need a header for each song category (Intro, Congregationals, etc). Once again the keyboard shortcuts don’t appear to work for me (Ctrl+Option+H), but hovering over either ‘add an item’ link displays a list of items to add, so I elect to add a header and call it ‘Intro’, and then select ‘add an item’ and select ‘song’ to enter the Intro song.

Add A Song

The Add A Song dialog that is displayed is blank. This makes sense since I haven’t added any songs. So I click on ‘add a song’ and I get a ‘New Song’ window. Our first song is ‘Not to Us’ by Chris Tomlin, so I enter the song title into the ‘CCLI # or Title:’ field. After typing just a few characters, I’m presented with a list of songs matching the characters typed so far. Very cool. I love Ajax. By the time I get to ‘Not To’ the only option is the song that I want, so I stop and click on it. This fills in the CCLI number for me, and lists a single arrangement in the key of B. I click ‘Save’ and nothing happens. So I click on the ‘plans’ tab and it returns me to the plan I’m working on.
There are several icons that appear to the right of the song name whenever I hover anywhere over the line.
The first icons looks like a cartoon balloon. There’s no flyover help, so I click it to see what it does. This displays a window ‘Not To Us Comments’. There is an option to subscribe to comments about this item, or this plan, or this service. Very nice. So I elect to subscribe to all comments for the service type, and enter a simple comment. This creates the comment, and a new field to add a new comment forum-style. Upon closing the window I see that the balloon icon now has a number 1 in it indicating that there is 1 comment regarding this song. Extra very nice.
The 2nd icon is a pencil, and as one would expect this displays an edit window. Lots of stuff here, a little confusing. There’s a place to link media, select arrangements, and add various notes. I’m going to leave this alone, and cancel back.
The 3rd icon is a red X which I can guess is to delete the song from the lineup. I try this, and sure enough I get a confirmation window. I cancel this.
The 4th icon is a musical note. Clicking this takes me to the ‘songs’ tab and the dialog which I saw when I originally added the song.
I notice now that the comment ballon is displayed now even without hovering over the line. This is another nice touch.

At this point I’m quite impressed with PCO, having worked through the few stumbling points. I continue to add the other songs in similar fashion as above. Now that I’ve done one already, the other 5 songs enter in under a couple minutes total.

Adding MP3 Files

This turns out to be fairly simple. Files can either be uploaded to the PCO site
or a link established from PCO to a separate site. Since I already have a lot of
MP3 files on my band site, I’ll establish a link to them from within PCO.

The only tricky aspect to this is the fact that an MP3 can be associated with the song itself or with a particular arrangement. This is a nice feature, but does make it a bit less simple.

Adding Chord Sheets

PCO has a very nice facility for adding chord sheets.
Standard chord sheet text can be cut/pasted into PCO, and PCO will
intelligently parse them to recognize the chord lines. PCO will then allow
transposing them.

iPhone App

PCO has a free iPhone application which makes it easy to view the current
week’s lineup. I was a comment in the App Store complaining that the MP3
files couldn’t be played, but it works for me, so maybe that is an outdated
comment, or maybe it depends on how the MP3 file was posted/linked.
PCO does have a switch to disable file downloads, and allow only streaming.
So maybe that was the cause in that particular case.

Conclusions

I love it. I’m going to switch over to using PCO for our band’s weekly
lineups. I’ll probably revamp the existing band website to provide a link
to PCO, as well as provide the MP3 files which PCO will link to.