A Fork in the Road

Some of you may have seen my tweet last Thursday, August 18, 2011. If not, let me repeat it for you:

‘For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give yout a future filled with hope’ – Jeremiah 29:11

Do you know that you know that you are on the right path for your life’s journey? Several times through the years I have been told by various people that I need to be in Ministry. Immediately my thought was “NO, I don’t want to be a pastor!” At the time, that’s all I thought Ministry was.

God gave me insight into Ministry by allowing me to lead worship in our church for over 10 years. I loved music. I loved God. I was allowed to combine my loves to serve Him! But, this was only the beginning.

Five years ago I began a journey combining Ministry and Technology when I embarked upon on a mission trip to Ghana, Africa. My sole purpose was to teach high school age students about computers. It was there that I saw my true pathway into Ministry. That experience opened my eyes to a whole new world of Ministry. Technology. Who knew that Technology could have a role in Ministry? Certainly not me.

For the past 3+ years, my role as the I.T. Director at Grace Family Church (GFC) has been and exciting step in that journey. I have learned so much about I.T., Leadership, and Ministry while here at GFC. We’ve virtualized our servers, we’ve changed Church Management Systems, we’ve integrated Macs with Active Directory, we’ve mobilized checkin, we’ve planted 2 churches, we’re getting ready to launch the Dream Center of Tampa Bay in Tampa’s inner city, and I’ve established so many awesome relationships with the staff ot GFC and also within the Church IT Roundtable (CITRT) community. So much has been accomplished and I’m thankful to the leadership at GFC for allowing me to polish these skills and build the while on their watch.

That leads to the next fork in the road along my Ministry Journey. I’ve had the opportunity to serve the church on a local level through 10 years of leading worship and now 3+ years as an I.T. Director at GFC. Through much prayer, unending conversations with my awesome wife, and the wise counsel of many who are close to us, we have decide to direct our Journey off of the GFC path and take the path to Fellowship Technologies, part of the Active Network. It is there where I will be serving churches all around the United States (and possibly the world) as an Implementation Manager. In this role I’ll be helping churches implement Fellowship Technologies’ Fellowship One Church Management Software. (The cool part… I get to do this from the comfort of my own home! We don’t have to move to the Dallas, TX area where their offices are located.) This software “helps churches become more effective in ministry and more efficient in administration.” For an overview of what they do, checkout this video:

With all of that being said, Grace Family Church will be looking for a new I.T. Director. If you are interested in applying for this position, please stay tuned. I’ll update this post with a link to the job posting as soon as it is available at http://gfconline.com.

I’m excited about what God has done in my life and I can’t wait to see what He has in store for me next. He knows what he has planned for my life! He won’t harm me! He will prosper me! He has already given me a future filled with hope! I KNOW that I’m on the right path for my life’s journey!

Finally – will you pray for April, our girls, and I as we begin down this path? We have already felt the prayers many of you have lifted up for us.

Oh, and #CITRT friends – I’ll still be in IRC… I can’t thank you guys (and girls) enough for your support and friendship! You have made my Church IT experience a true joy!

Installing pfSense on a Compact Flash card

I purchased a Netgate ALIX.2d3 to use for a pfSense Firewall.  It runs pfSense off of a Compact Flash (CF) card.  The trick is getting pfSense installed onto the CF card.  Once I got the process figured out, it was really quite simple.  I used a Windows 7 computer to accomplish this.

To Load it up…

  1. Download pfSense from one of the mirrors here. You’ll need the nanobsd version (depending upon the size of your CF card, you can choose to download the most appropriate nanobsd img.gz file.  Store it in an folder easily accessed from a command line like c:\pfsense.  I also renamed my download to something simple like pfsense-2.0.img.gz.
  2. Download physdiskwrite, unzip it, and place the physdiskwrite.exe in your c:\pfsense directory.
  3. Gather a CF card reader and plug it into your computer.
  4. Format your CF card.  This is necessary for physdiskwrite.exe to work correctly.
    • Open up a command prompt as Administrator and type “diskpart”, then hit “Enter”
    • Type “list disk” and hit enter
    • Type “select disk x” (where x = the disk number of your CF card from the last step)
    • Type “clean” and hit enter
    • Type “exit” when diskpart has finished cleaning the disk. Type “exit” to quit diskpart.
  5. In your command prompt navigate to your c:\pfsense directory and type “physdiskwrite -u pfsense-2.0.img.gz” and hit enter (be sure to use the name of your pfSense image at the end of that statement).
  6. You’ll see a listing of drives.  Make note of which drive number is you CF card and then enter that number after the question “Which disk do you want to write?” and hit enter.  (For example: PhysicalDrive1 = disk 1 so enter 1 and hit enter)
  7. If your CF card is larger than 2 GB you will be prompted with a “Proceed?” question.  Type “y” and hit enter.  (By the way the “-u” switch in the command line in step 4 allows you to write to a CF card larger than 2 GB.)
  8. You will now see the bytes begin to copy over to the CF card.  Once completed, eject the card from the reader and plug it into your Alix board.  Connect a null serial cable to the board.  Plug in the power.  Pull up a Serial Client like Hyperterminal or Putty and connect to the  Alix.  You may proceed from there to configure pfSense as your firewall.

By no means am I an expert at this.  It’s my first attempt!  Please feel free to share any pointers you may have come across if you have done or are doing something similar!

Migrating Calendars and Contacts between Google Apps Instances

I’m in the middle of a Google Apps migration project, moving users from one instance of Google Apps to a completely different instance of Google Apps.  I haven’t found a great free method to migrate Calendars and Contacts so I documented the process to move them manually.  Here you go…

Migrating Calendars

Since there isn’t a tool to migrate calendars from one Google Apps instance to another, this is a manual process done user by user.  The good thing is that it’s pretty straight forward and your users should be able to do this themselves.  Here we go:

  1. View your Calendars within the OLD instance of Google Apps.
  2. Click on Settings in the upper right corner of your screen and select Calendar Settings.
  3. Click on Calendars and then click on Export Calendars. This will download a .zip file to your  computer.  (Pay attention to the location that this file downloads to.  Mine downloaded to my “Downloads” folder.  Yours MAY download to a different location.
  4. Find the file you just downloaded and open it.  This will reveal your exported calendars.  Pay attention to the loaction of these files.
  5. Open your Calendars in the NEW instance of Google Apps.
  6. Repeat step 2 to open your Calendar Settings.
  7. You will now need to re-create your calendars so that you can import to them.  Click on Create New Calendar. Repeat for each calendar that you exported.
  8. After creating your new calendars, it’s time to import the old calendars to the new ones.  Click on Import Calendars.  Click on Browse.  Navigate to the calendar files from Step 4 above.  Select one.  Select the Calendar you would like to import to. Click Enter.
  9. Repeat this process for each calendar you would like to import.
  10. Done!

Migrating Contacts

  1. The user should login to their OLD Google Apps Email and click on contacts in the left-hand column. 
  2. Click Export in the upper right corner of the Contacts screen.
  3. Compare your settings to the following Screen Shot.  I recommend only Exporting “My Contacts”.  Also be sure to select Google CSV format.  Click Export.  (“All Contacts” is EVERYONE you have ever emailed, whether you have entered them into your contacts or not.  The email addresses imported on this setting may not have a name associated with it.)
  4. Clicking Export will download a file to your computer called google.csv.  Make note of its location.
  5. Open the email of the NEW Google Apps instance and click Contacts as you did in step 1 above.
  6. Click on Import in the upper right corner of your screen (same area as Export from Step 2).
  7. Navigate to and select your google.csv file that you exported in Step 4.  After selecting the file, click Import.
  8. Done!

Google Apps Directory Sync and AD Passwords

I’ve been working on our Google Apps deployment today and thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned along the way.

Google Apps Directory Sync

The Google Apps Directory Sync tool allows you to sync all of your Users, Groups, Profiles, and Contacts in your LDAP with Google Apps.  The latest revision of this tool also says it will do sync passwords from Microsoft Active Directory.  That’s true  – kinda.  Stay tuned for that…

The Google Apps Directory Sync tool is pretty self explanatory in it’s setup.  It is helpful to know a little bit about LDAP and Active Directory but with a little sleuthing, I was able to figure everything out.  Following are 10 screenshots of my setup in the tool.  The Yellow Highlighted text at the left of each screen shot shows where I am in the configuration and if a screen is skipped, the fields there have been left blank.

Password Sync

Active Directory doesn’t actually keep the user passwords in the LDAP, therefore when trying to sync the passwords – they don’t sync.  You have to get the passwords into an attribute field within Active Directory for this to work.  I found this link that helped explain why the passwords would not sync.  Near the end of the thread, you’ll see a tool referenced.  The tool can be found here.

This tool is basically a dll file that catches the password before it is hidden away, puts it in SHA1 hash format, and then inserts it into the “division” attribute field in Active Directory.  After following the installation directions and then changing my password, I saw the SHA1 hash of my password populate into the “division” LDAP attribute field.  In order to get this field to populate, YOU MUST initiate a password change for the user.  I plan on doing that as I migrate my users over the next few weeks.

Updates

So now, how does Google Apps stay synchronized with Active Directory?  Setup a Scheduled Task on your server to launch at whatever frequency you feel is necessary.  If you need to update in a more timely manor, just manually launch that scheduled task. On the Run line in the Scheduled Task I have the following:

“c:\Program Files\Google Apps Directory Sync\sync-cmd.exe -a -c c:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\My Documents\GAppsDirSync.xml”

I created an old fashioned MS-DOS batch file to launch the Google Apps Directory Sync from the command line.  This batch file is then attached to a Scheduled Task.  In the Batch file my commands are as follows:

cd “c:\Program Files\Google Apps Directory Sync”

Start sync-cmd.exe -a -c c:\GAppsDirSync.xml

Hopefully this helps you get started on syncing your Microsoft Active Directory with Google Apps.  If you see items that need to be clarified, please let me know so that I can make this easier for everyone!

Connecting with Others – Fellowship One Style

As I was sitting in our monthly Central Florida Fellowship One user group in January (yep – I’m very late in posting this), I was prompted to share what I felt is the meaning of “Fellowship One”.

Fellowship: community of interest.

As I sit in this room I am surrounded by other Fellowship One users, I’m noticing that we are a community of people who have a common interest with a goal of using Fellowship One within our individual ministries to further the cause of Christ.

One: of the same or having a single kind, nature, or condition.

We in this room are all in the same condition.  We’re all saved by the Grace of Jesus Christ.  Also, we are all users of the Church Management system Fellowship One.

Our user group comes together once a month to share, learn, encourage, and uplift one another within our “community of interest” where we are “of the same or having a single kind, nature or condition.”  In January we had 2 people from Warehouse 727 in attendance.  They are a church of about 200 people in St. Petersburg, FL and have never really fully embraced Fellowship One and all that it can offer them.

The other churches represented all have a weekly attendance of 2,000 – 5,000 people and are pretty well entrenched in Fellowship One.  What’s cool is that we were able to spend this time pouring our experiences, our findings, our struggles, our roadblocks with the Warehouse 727 crew.  We helped them see that they can’t eat the proverbial elephant all in one bite but that they needed to take a step back and begin with the features that have the most impact on their Church body and then once that happens, they should can take their next “bite”.

Ministry can be a lonely world, and when you are a church of 200, it can be even harder because your resources are limited EXCEPT when you have a Fellowship One User Group at your beckoned call.  Warehouse 727 can now take advantage of the knowledge, experience, and expertise of those of us who have been there and done that so that as they grow, they are prepared to shepherd their people through the use of Fellowship One.

Just a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of hosting the Warehouse 727 folks on our campus so that we could further discuss Fellowship One and how it can be used as a ministry tool for them.  It’s exciting to share with others the benefits of Fellowship One and even more exciting to see the benefits that Warehouse 727 will reap for the Kingdom because of our time spent together .

That is Fellowship One.

Sophos Anti-Virus and Windows 7

I’ve just begun testing Windows 7 on a few of our computers at Grace Family Church and as a part of the configuration process I install our anti-virus software, Sophos.  The Sophos client can be pushed to the machine from the Sophos Enterprise Console on our central anti-virus server.  The issue I have ran into is that the client would not install; it kept failing.

Sophos support was very helpful in referring me to KB29287 on their support site.

In a nutshell, on each Windows 7 client, you need to make sure that the following services are running in order for the remote install process to work:

  1. Computer Browser
  2. Remote Registry
  3. Server
  4. Task Scheduler
  5. Workstation
  6. Windows Installer

I hope that this saves you some time in the future when installing Sophos on a Windows 7 client.

Florida Church IT Roundtable

Following is an email I received from Jeff Suever and Jason Reynolds, hosts of the Florida Church IT Roundtable.  Simply, this is a gathering of Church I.T. employees and volunteers.  The purpose is to have open discussion about various topics which relate to our ministries.  You’ll gather a better understanding as you read below.

If you are in anyway involved with I.T. in your church and you work/volunteer for your church in Florida, then you NEED to attend this Roundtable.  Anyway – read on…

We would like to take a moment to excite and encourage you about the upcoming Fl.CITRT.

SCHEDULE CHANGES
We have made a few minor changes in the schedule, so please see that on the wiki.  Breakfast is still at 8:00 am, but it will need to end by 8:30.  This is NOT “continental”.  Our food services guys are putting together eggs, bacon, the whole works.  Please be there on time for this.  I’d suggest a couple minutes early.  Some of our participants can EAT!

Opening devotion and keynote are now at 8:30 in the auditorium.

The rest of the day remains unchanged.

LUNCH PLANS
Lunch will also be a REAL MEAL.  Please be sure to thank our vendors.  It is because of their participation that we are able to offer full, hot meals instead of a “box lunch”.

We are specifically structuring things for interaction.  Think “social networking” only in analog form. You will have a chance to talk with your peers as well as the vendors and get eye-to-eye contact.

YOUR CONFERENCE TO RUN

There are many breakout rooms available.  Much more than is listed on the wiki. As the need arises, we will open them up. All are adjacent to the auditorium.

With the exception of the opening, the Vendor Flavor, and the closing by FP&L, we hope all discussions will be in the breakout rooms.  If there is a topic that is important to you, please put it on the schedule.  Alternately, let us know by replying to this email and we will put it on the schedule for you.  Facilitating a discussion is easy.  We prefer no “speakers” or “leaders”.  Just us regular Joe’s.

TONS OF HANG OUT TIME

Sunday
We have several guys coming in on Sunday.  As we get a little closer, there will be more information on events posted on the wiki.  Feel free to bring your ideas to the site.  We are tech guys, not cruise directors.

Monday
The event is scheduled to be over at 5pm, however – do not think anyone will be giving us the “bum’s rush”.  The building itself will be open until much later to continue discussions.  Some of these guys can TALK!

WATCH & USE THE WIKI

Please keep an eye on the wiki for more information.  Also, you will be receiving a packet when you arrive with instructions on how to sign into the public wifi among other things.  I would highly recommend arriving 10-15 minutes early.  Bring a fully charged laptop and an appetite.

A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY
Originally, this event was conceived as a bunch of guys sitting around a table talking tech and ordering out for some chicken wings.  It has morphed into so much more.  By looking at the vendor list, this is truly a spectacular event.  Who would have thought we would have the largest ChMS provider, the largest event servicer, representatives from the second largest computer manufacturer, as well as Apple, Inc, and others?

The primary focus is Florida Disaster Recovery.  We deal with specific issues here. Issues such as:

  • Heat
  • Humidity
  • Power fluctuations
  • Humidity
  • Hurricanes
  • Humidity
  • New York drivers
  • Mosquitoes (yes, mosquitoes will kill a PC. Don’t ask me how I know)

However, topics such as cloud computing, Google apps, storage, network optimization, etc. are sure to be discussed.  This will be our chance to share what we have learned, what works, and what didn’t.  And if you don’t have at least one horror story of something that went wrong you can share-you aren’t trying hard enough!

Please pass this information along. Blog about it.  Tweet about it.  Forward the wiki site to your colleagues.  It really is for, and all about YOU, the participant.

Jason Reynolds jasonr at cftoday.org
Jeff Suever jsuever at pinkpres.org
http://fl.citrt.org
http://citrt.org

So… What are you waiting for?  Hit the site and sign up now.  I can’t wait and I’ll see you there!

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