iPaddio Daddio

John Saddington, purveyor of the fabulous ChurchCrunch, posted the question – “Is there any practical and realistic use for the new Apple iPad in a ministry context and environment?” – and the followup question – “Are you going to get one and why?”.

First, here is the response I gave in his post’s comments:

1. I can give my pastor one and repurpose his woefully underused MacBook Pro.
2. The PCO and ProPresenter Remote iPhone apps will rock, especially when optimized for the iPad.
3. The welcome center idea from Alex Tillman is right on – how cool would that be?
4. POS at ministry counter for book and CD sales; registration signups; online giving help.
5. Another iPhone app that will be immeasurably easier and fantastic on the iPad – LogMeIn.
6. I agree that this is not a device to help creatives create – but this will be perfect for presenters to present.
7. Preaching and teaching directly from this while controlling my presentation video? Absolutely!

But I don’t plan on buying one for me – I’m desperate for a new MacBook Pro to replace my obsolete Powerbook, because I picture myself as one of those creative types. But for 90% of my computing tasks and 90% of my users, this will be perfect.

Having said that I don’t plan on buying one for me, let me qualify that: I don’t plan on it now. Or exactly for me. Although I hope to enjoy one.

The iPad is going to be a phenomenal device, I hope. No one really knows. Except that the iPhone is already changed many things for me, and I expect that the iPad will do something quite similiar.

My 13-year-old daughter – who was previously saving for a laptop – is completely thinking iPad now. Laptop is overkill for her, but iPad is right in the sweet spot. My wife is also contemplating selling her MacBook and moving to an iPad. I can’t think of anything she does on her laptop that she couldn’t do on an the new iDevice. One of the biggest things is that for $499 or even $599, this is a great entry-level computer that does everything they could think of.

I was one of the ones who paid $599 for the original iPhone (which has since moved to the possession of Trudi). $499 for something that is multiple times faster and more powerful, with twice the storage of that original iPhone?

Easy decision. I believe it will be equally easy for many people – and the church needs to be there.


Going mobile

There is a fantastic new plug-in for WordPress blogs that lets you easily offer a mobile phone-optimized look to your site. It’s called WPtouch, from BraveNewCode. Yes, this is one of those geeky, computer-talk posts. But if you want to see what I’m talking about, try viewing SarcasticMonkeys on your iPhone, iTouch, Blackberry or other mobile browser.

If you have a WordPress blog, you really need to try this. It’s easy and makes your site look great on a mobile device without changing the way it looks in a normal browser.

I’ve installed it on my church web site and on our church’s Scrooge blog, too.

As an added bonus, the plugin points to another site – Flavor Studios – that allows you to create free icons that work beautifully and look great on an iPhone.


A place for everyone and everyone – eventually – in their place

Welcome to the relocated and renamed blog, formerly known as RevMcGator.

The original RevMcGator blog was an experiment. It was a way to see if I could run a blog and what it would become. It wasn’t my first attempt at a blog. Back in…the day…I signed up for AOL’s initial offering of weblogs. I created one on my AOL account, but I didn’t know what to do with it. It still exists, as an empty place on AOL’s servers I suppose.

Then I learned about Google’s Blogger system, where you could set up a free blog and easily give it style and structure. What I’ve learned the last couple of years is that blogs are easy; content is hard.

Most of the blogs I subscribe to have a particular theme and I read theme for one purpose. For instance, I am subscribed to Jon Acuff’s Stuff Christians Like. It is a humorous blog built around one theme.

I’ve tried to give RevMcGator some structure by categorizing my posts in three categories – Rev, Mc, or Gator. Rev is the pastoral side of my life. Mc pertains to the family and personal things. Gator posts have to do with sports, hobbies, and the like.

That’s still pretty broad, so I’m continuing to cast around for the right theme for this blog. In the meantime, I’ve transitioned to SarcasticMonkeys. Let me tell you what you’ll find here and why.

The big idea for having this site was to have one place for the whole family to have their own space. Whether or not they ever use it, I wanted Trudi and each of the children to have their own webspace. So far I’ve only got Sam’s up and running, but in the days ahead I plan to have a blog for Trudi, Shae, Summer and Sawyer, too.

“What would I do with a blog?” Anything you want. Or nothing. The point is to have to the option. Sam likes creating videos, so his site is video-oriented. Trudi, Shae and Summer like to write, so I will be creating a more traditional writing-type-blog. And Sawyer…I’m not sure, but we’ll do something.

Look around. See what you like and don’t like. Feel free to comment (although the comments are moderated and we might not post your comments.) I’ve been playing around in this web space for awhile, trying to find what will work best. I installed Joomla and WordPress and uninstalled them both and came back to WordPress.

The name was a family consensus. I gave everyone their choice of some names, and they all liked Sarcastic Monkeys the best. Our humor tends to be a little sarcastic. And we’ve always referred to the children as “our monkeys.”

We hope you enjoy our new home.


FinallyFast = FantasticallyStupid [Gator]

File this one under “Commercials I Can’t Stand”.

If it was just dumb, I don’t think I would mention it. If it were crass or boring, I wouldn’t be writing about it. This crosses the line, past stupid, almost to criminal.

I just saw it again, and immediately said to myself – that’s it, I’m writing about this.

The commercial is for It begins with a guy complaining that his new computer is really slow. Then…well, watch this two-minute version, then we’ll talk…

Did you hear the announcer? “Make any computer fast.” Of course, he says that while the text on-screen tells you that FinallyFast is for PC computers only. That means, not Macs.

But, wait…what was it the first guy, the one complaining about his slow computer, was using? An old iMac. And the second person in the commercial was using…a MacBook.

On further inspection, Ascentive, the company touted as having been featured in BusinessWeek and Forbes, WAS indeed featured in Forbes…in 2002…for its program that lets users spy on supposedly private instant messages. That’s right…they were featured for…spyware.

Nice. And evil. And a site and company to avoid.


That criminal software thing [Mc]

Trudi said something the other day about “that criminal software thing you posted about.” She was talking about a status update I had on Facebook concerning the latest MacHeist.

If you don’t know, MacHeist is a promotion involving a number of Mac software developers who are offering there software at a greatly reduced price as part of the MacHeist 3 Bundle. This version of the Bundle includes a wide variety of utility and specialty applications. Some of them are very useful, such as photo editor Acorn and recording utility Wire Tap Studio. I was really excited about Kinemac, a professional 3D animation app, which regularly sells for $299.

At present there are nine applications with a total value of $601.80, available in the Bundle for only $39. That’s the price for all nine together, not the price for each one. That’s an incredible value, especially if you have a need for a few of these applications.

And the catch? Actually, I wouldn’t call it a catch – just a bonus. As I said, at present there are nine applications in the Bundle. When the Bundle was released (a few days ago) there were only eight. The catch is that when total sales of the Bundle reach a certain pre-determined point, they unlock more apps. Currently, we are waiting for the next unlock point, which is $400k. When sales hit that point, BoinxTV will be released.

That’s why I’m writing this post, because I really would like that program. It’s actually something I looked at for the church, but at $199, it was a little too much. But it looks great. So, if you have a Mac, and you like really good software at insanely cheap prices, go take a look.

The other thing about MacHeist is that 25% of every sale is donated to charity. You get to pick, from a list of 10 charities, where your donation will go.

Of course, if you’ve never heard of MacHeist, then you probably have never heard of the MacHeist controversy. In a nutshell, the people don’t like MacHeist think it’s unfair to the developers, that they are being robbed, and by purchasing the Bundle, consumers are being mean and dirty and cheap and favoring the big, bad marketer over the innocent, pure developer.

One blogger actually said, “Put it this way: would you rather pay $10 to Universal Music Group for a music album, or $15 directly to the band in question?”

This might not be obvious to you – as it wasn’t to me – but his answer is that we should spend more because the creator would get more.


So…I’m not going to link to that blogger, because he offered that piece of advice to me for free. Instead I’ll link to Apple, since his blog is hosted on their servers and they paid a lot of money for those servers so that he would have the ability to post idiotic, link-bait, gibberish like that. (And I’ll also link to John Gruber, where I got the link to the blogger’s blog.)

In the meantime, I’m going to download SousChef and see how Trudi likes it.

[Update: I should also mention that the applications in the Bundle aren’t trial, demo, or previous versions of the software. They are full, up-to-date versions. In fact, SousChef is a new version as of the release of the Bundle, as are a couple of others.]


A library in your pocket [Gator]

One of the coolest gadgets out there is getting updated. The updated Amazon Kindle, now version 2, was announced today. The first version was widely criticized for its clunky appearance, but actual users seemed to love their Kindle.

Version 2 actually looks kind of cool. What is it, you ask? It’s a web-enabled, anywhere, anytime, book-reader. It allows you to download books and magazines and other web content quickly. It will even read it to you.

UPDATE: 2/10/9…new links.


Live and Learn [Rev]

[Warning: The following post is technology-filled and totally about me. I mean, even more about me than normal. Really. You’ve been warned.]

The beginning of 2009 has been almost completely about software for me. I am in the middle of editing the video for last month’s Gospel According to Scrooge. This is a time-consuming project for a couple of reasons.

We shot video from four cameras on two different nights (Sunday and Monday). That means there was 16 hours of video to import and work with.[1] On top of that, I’m not experienced with video editing, nor with the editing software. Most of my video editing experience has come from the last few years of editing the Scrooge video.

During that experience I have been using Apple’s Final Cut software. Because of some software and operating system issues, I was forced to upgrade[2] to the latest version, Final Cut Studio 2
. It’s very powerful software with many cool and wonderful features. That’s what makes software powerful – cool, easy-to-use features, that give great depth and complexity to what you can accomplish. It also means there is a lot to learn. So, I’m learning.

One of our choices[3] this year in Scrooge was to use some pre-recorded video as part of the production. We used four different video segments this year: the opening montage, taking us from the opening titles to the opening song; the bedroom sequence, which shows Scrooge entering the bedroom, undressing, hearing the voice, then encountering Angel #1; the graveyard, with the Cratchit Family; and the final bedroom scene, where Scrooge discovers he is still alive. In order to accomplish some of the effects used in these segments, I used a trial version of Adobe After Effects CS4. After Effects is widely used by video professionals, but I had never used it. I quickly had to learn some key features in order to have the video ready for Scrooge. But, as I said, it was a trial version, so I had to purchase the full version in order to finish the edit of the DVD.

I ended up ordering Adobe Creative Suite 4 Production Premium, which includes After Effects. Again, it’s another powerful program with many wonderful features. More learning.

Both of these programs are more than one program. They are suites that include several programs, each with many parts and pieces.

With so much to learn, I’ve turned to a some internet sources for instruction and help. The first is MacBreak Studio, a podcast from Pixel Corps. These are short video podcasts that cover one specific feature for video producers in each show. Usually these are features specific to Final Cut Studio. Some of these shows originated in Pixel Corps’ original podcast, MacBreak.

Another great podcast is ChurchMediaDesign, or CMD, from the media guys at Watermark church from Grand Haven, Michigan. This is a phenomenal show that gives a lot of great how-to’s. (They also give some free resources to use in your own ministry.)

A third informative podcast (can you tell I love podcasts? It’s because they’re free!) is Creative Cow’s Creative Cow for Photoshop Video podcast. As the title says, it’s video help for Photoshop users.

After I wrote the previous paragraph, it got me thinking, so I searched iTunes and – duh – it turns out that Creative Cow has a range of podcasts covering the range of both Adobe and Apple products. I’ll have to check them out when I’m done posting this.

I’m also exploring It has a tremendous amount of video tutorials on all of this software and more. Unfortunately, it’s not free. However, it’s not that expensive, and they have a trial period.

Although it’s not theologically correct, it does bring to mind something I often quote from my dad…

Live and learn.

Die and forget it all.

I hope to work on the first part…and delay the second part for awhile.
[1] Okay, not exactly 16 hours. One camera didn’t film the first act on Sunday. Very disappointing. But the import of the video was only the beginning. Two cameras shot in LP mode, which our JVC was unable to replay. I didn’t discover why until after I spent most of one day trying to use the JVC. Editing will mean going through all of the captured video frame-by-frame.
[2] When I say “upgrade” or “bought”, I mean that I did it on behalf of Faith Assembly. This software is more than I can personally afford. Although the upgrade to FC is cheaper than the full version, and, since I’m a homeschool dad, I can get the education version of CS4.
[3] And when I say “our choice”, I mean “my choice.” Yes, I asked the opinion of everyone in the leadership team of Scrooge, including Pastor Goss. Those that liked the result can thank them for their decision. But those that didn’t can blame me, since it really came down to me pushing this through. More on that later.