Friday, July 29, 2011

Lion - Showstopping "uh oh"

So I've had a bit of a rough go of getting Lion up and running this week, but I am now running Lion on my desktop, and my Laptop is about half setup. As we've begun testing, we have encountered a bug/feature that is a total showstopper for us at this point.

Here's how you replicate it.

(1) Place a photo on a server.

For us, this is where we recommend people keep important files. Their desktop may be backed up with time machine, but the server is RAID 6 with hot spares, and on top of that is backed up. Much, much safer.

(2) Open that photo in preview. Crop it so that you can print it. Close preview. Notice it didn't ask you if you wanted to save?

(3) Open that file again. It's still cropped. The original? Gone. Choose "Revert to Saved" from the file menu. Notice the large number of empty windows on the right? Yup, you can't get back to the prior version, even though you never saved.

Now, as a network administrator, imagine the consequences of this for your network. Users accessing shared files and making changes they need, but not saving them because they don't need to be saved. Yup, their version is now THE definitive version for the entire network.

The ability to do non-destructive edits is something that computer users have been doing since, well, the dawn of computing more or less. Lion removes this. Now, add on top of that user mistakes in a network environment. User accidentally deletes all the text from a 24 page document. They don't know what to do so they close the app. Unless the backup has run since that 24 page document was created, it's gone. Forever. And ever. Amen.

So you make sure time machine runs every fifteen seconds on the server. Problem solved right? Well, what if it's six months before that file is opened again (and discovered to be blank). Hope you have petabytes of backup storage, because you are going to need it.

Time machine is great. The idea behind versions is great. But as it exists now, Lion is a recipe for catastrophic data loss on the network. Auto-save of this type simply does not work in a share document network environment.

For years I've laughed at windows shops who clung to old versions of windows as long as they could because the new ones were so bad (I'm looking at you, Vista) that they didn't want to use them on their network. Suddenly I emphasize with them, because I don't see any way I can allow a Lion machine to access our server until this is resolved.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Things I'm Looking Foward to in Lion

Tomorrow I expect to receive a text. It will be from my cousin, wanting to know if he should spend the money to upgrade to Lion. It will be the first time of many I will have the conversation over the coming weeks. At $29 it's an easier upgrade than the old $129 prices we used to pay. Still, it's worth looking at what Lion will bring.

First up is a pretty significant upgrade to Address Book. For me the integration with iPhoto is long overdue, as is the ability to add yearless birthdays and connect my address book to facebook profiles. Once connected to the right profile, facebook is more persistent than phone numbers or email addresses, providing a way to contact someone if all the info you have is out of date. Others will find the Yahoo! integration awesome, but since I don't use Yahoo it's pretty irrelevant to me.

Versions is about being able to revert to old copies of your documents. I love this. When editing large documents versioning can help you recapture information you removed long ago and suddenly realize you need... The Vax had this by default years ago, it's nice to see it finally hit the mac.

If FileVault really can encrypt my data with an "imperceptible performance impact" I will definitely use this on my laptop. The value here is if my laptop is stolen, my personal data is secure and protected, even if someone connects to the drive via firewire or some other method. Sure, encryption is breakable given enough time, but generally I think the average stolen laptop buyer will simply format the hard drive rather than spend the time and effort to recover my data...

I'm really looking forward to simple things, like merge folders, keep both files, and the return of the drag files behavior from NeXTstep (yes, I used and liked NeXTstep long ago, and have a NeXT at home in the garage). These small changes in the finder will make day to day use simply better and working with files easier. Little fanfare, but real improvements.

Mail has a lot of changes on the way, and I think they will be good. I find that I prefer mail on the iPad over mail on my mac, hopefully Lion will change that.

Mission Control - Spaces was a nice start, but I think Mission Control will really help people who have lots of open windows manage everything quickly and easily. Only time will tell if this is as good as its marketing...

Preview - Add your signature. This is a long overdue feature. Hold your signature up to the camera on your mac, and it will add it to a PDF document for you. Finally signing PDF forms is simple and easy!

There are also some things about Lion I'm not as excited about. For example, Launchpad gives your mac an iOS interface. Not for me, thanks. Likewise, the multi-touch gestures are not likely to be high on my list of what I use.

Thankfully, the stuff they have marketed is not all that changed in Lion. There is a LOT of good functionality for the $29 upgrade price, and it's totally worth it. As soon as I solve my dependence on Quicken and get a solution for my Canvas documents (import to something else or a VM that can run Rosetta apps) I will be making the move.


How to Upgrade to Lion

A major upgrade to Mac OS X comes out tomorrow. If you are considering upgrading, here's what you should know:

The first BIG thing about Lion you should know is that Rosetta is no more. This means that any and all PowerPC apps you have will no longer work. This is not a big deal to some, but if you run Quicken or Canvas, this could be a deal killer. The very first thing you should do before buying Lion is choose "About this Macintosh" from the Apple menu and click "more info" and then click on "Applications" under Software. Sort by kind and look for anything labelled PowerPC. Unless you have only had your mac a very short time, there will likely be some things in there that will surprise you.

For me on my desktop it is mostly a realization that Office 2004 will no longer work, and I'll have to make peace with Office 2011 (never did like 2008). The other loss is Canvas X. Canvas used to be one of my primary tools, until it was purchased by ACD who dropped the mac product. Now it's a sorry sad sack of an app long in disrepair. Lion will finally deliver the coup de grace to that once proud product. ACD's solution is "use the windows version" which is a bit like spitting on the mac version's grave to me... My laptop has a larger issue, which is quicken 2006. I use features that are not available in the much maligned Quicken Essentials for Mac. The switch to Lion is going to force me to finally move to a web based online banking and abandon quicken forever. Perhaps its for the best, Intuit's heart hasn't been in quicken development in years. These things are manageable but important that they be considered BEFORE making the switch. Once Lion is running, these apps will not even launch anymore. If I want to convert old Canvas files or export things from Quicken, I need to do it before I make the plunge. (An aside: the licensing for Lion allows mac os x to run as a client os inside virtual machines on Lion. Hopefully this means that we can setup VM's of snow leopard to run Rosetta apps and possibly even Tiger to run classic apps, but since currently that isn't possible, we'll wait and see how that pans out).

But enough about the loss of Rosetta. Once I am ready to make the move I plan to do a total nuke and repour, which is my standard operating procedure for significant OS upgrades. This means: (1) Image off the entire drive to an external drive. (2) Test said image and make sure it mounts and reads properly. (3) Make a copy of that image to a second location because I'm paranoid. (4) Format my internal hard drive and install from scratch. In the case of Lion it means I have to install a copy of snow leopard and then install lion from the app store. By the time I actually do the install, I hope there will be a way to skip the install snow leopard step, but that hasn't been announced or promised. The official solution for macs that can run snow leopard might always involve an install of snow leopard first. (5) Download Snow Leopard from the App Store and install. This is not trivial, as it's going to be a LARGE download. Plan a lot of time for this step.

If I have the time, I like to reinstall EVERYTHING on my machine after a major upgrade. This is by most accounts, insane. But I like to insure that, at least for a short period of time, I have all of the latest versions of everything and there is no data corruption anywhere to worry about. I haven't done this for a while, so Lion is probably a good opportunity. It's a lot of work, but the reward is a machine that runs trouble free for a long, long time. Once I'm done with this I don't expect to do anything to my machines until 10.8 is released, whenever that is.


Monday, July 18, 2011

App Store Volume Purchases

Apple announced the App Store Volume Purchase program for businesses. This is great, as it's something that is a hindrance to use of apps in the enterprise and even for organizations like ours.

However, the announcement, as with many business-centric announcements lately, provides more questions than answers. If I read it right, it means that I can buy as many copies of an app as I want and I will get redemption codes for those apps. That's good, but as soon as the employee redeems the code they own the app, not the business.

While not a big deal if you are buying everyone Angry Birds or MPG, it becomes a much bigger deal with more expensive apps. What if you need multiple copies of iRa pro for your facilities team? At $900 each, is that a taxable benefit to the employee? Even though it's useless when they are not at their job? What about other expensive apps, or if you buy a large quantity of apps that can be used outside your current place of employment?

This also makes no mention of the Mac OSX app store, which is problematic. The original announcement on how volume licensing would work for mac app store purchases was underwhelming. For example, a 20 copy minimum. Fine for Lion, not so great for Final Cut Studio...

Furthermore, using redemption codes is cool, but creates another batch of issues. What if I buy 100 copies of something, and a user sends that redemption code onto his friend who posts it on facebook. Within minutes all of my licenses have been used and the company is out the money...

As I said, more questions than answers. I'm just grateful that Apple is trying to tackle this stuff to make the iOS and Mac App Store more business friendly.


Friday, July 8, 2011

ChMS - ConnectionPower / FellowshipOne Webinar

I've been listening to the webinar (despite the fact that I general despise the things) about the acquisition of ConnectionPower by ActiveNetwork. The short version: ConnectionPower has been acquired by ActiveNetwork and the distinct strengths of ConnectionPower will be integrated into FellowshipOne.

There was one question that was asked during the webinar that really caught my attention, because I completely disagree with the answer. The question: "Churches that are currently new customers to ConnectionPower {and} are still in the implementation process, should they continue that process or do they have the option to move over {to FellowshipOne}?" The answer was "My encouragement there is to go ahead and implement ConnectionPower..."

This is a very bad suggestion! Here's why: Implementing a ChMS is a HUGE process. It takes a tremendous amount of staff time, volunteer time, vendor time, and ultimately congregational time as everyone learns the system. Not only is our entire staff trained on Arena, but our small group leaders have all been trained on how to use the tools available to them, our congregation has learned how our online giving works etc. In the same call ActiveNetwork stated that ConnectionPower will be end of life as a separate product by the end of 2012. This means that if you spend the time now to complete your implementation of ConnectionPower, you will have to go through ANOTHER transition in eighteeen months.

The very reason I spent so much time researching which ChMS product I wanted to implement here at HDC was because this is such a massive undertaking. Getting your data moved to a new product and the staff trained is a lot of time, but it's only the tip of the iceberg. Once the product is in place, it takes time to learn how to learn the new functionality and get everything working with your organization. To do this with a product that is going to be gone in eighteen months is a very, very bad idea.

If you are on the front end of a ConnectionPower implementation, you should absolutely stop right now and make the switch to FellowshipOne. Although you might not have access right now to a few things that excited you about ConnectionPower, you will save your staff and congregation a HUGE amount of headache by not having to do it all over again in a year. The idea of continuing this to preserve momentum is a bad idea, as you will waste a lot of staff hours and adapt your congregation to a system that is going to go away within 18 months.

If you are already implemented and live with ConnectionPower, well, that's the group that these guys are working hard to make your transition as easy as possible as well. Step one is creating a bunch of videos that show you how to replicate ConnectionPower functionality in FellowshipOne. Step two is for them to integrate the stuff that isn't there yet, and once that is online, the transition of longtime ConnectionPower churches should happen in earnest.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

ChMS - ConnectionPower Acquired by ActiveNetwork

I received an email today that ConnectionPower has been acquired by ActiveNetwork. If this sounds familiar it's because these are the same guys who snatched up FellowshipOne a few months back. While I'd never heard of ActiveNetwork before they bought F1, it's pretty clear they want to be a major presence in the church management software space.

According to the announcement on CP's site, the "unique ministry capabilities" of ConnectionPower will be rolled into FellowshipOne and it will all eventually be branded ActiveWorks | Faith.

I don't know if it's fair or not, but I have had a general feeling that ConnectionPower was having a tough go of it in the marketplace. This confirms that to me, as this is likely a customer base acquisition on the part of ActiveNetwork.

I'm still nervous about ActiveNetwork because I don't know them at all, but I think this is a good thing for customers of ConnectionPower. It gives them access to FellowshipOne and the ongoing technology development that is happening there, and hopefully the things that make CP unique are integrated nicely into that product.

The downside is that a significant player has been eliminated from the marketplace, and that reiterates the need for FellowshipOne, Arena, CCB, MinistryPlatform and others to innovate and push forward.

It will be interesting to see where the market is in a year after these changes fully shake out.