Churches and Technology

Last night I read a CIO Insights article titled Megachurch Megatech. As a sometimes web designer for my church’s praise and worship service site, I was intrigued by the technology being used at the larger churches. According to the article, there are an estimated 1800 megachurches. Some of these churches have technology budgets of over $1 million. At my church, we get excited over simple things like a new sound board, lcd projector, and the like. Just this year, we’ve added some streaming videos on our site…I’m still politicking for live streaming of Sunday services. What I wouldn’t give for WiFi in my church. I wonder if the pastors in these megachurches get distracted by the clicking of keyboards as people surf the web on their laptops during the church service? Also, exactly what would people be using their laptops for during the service? Maybe they are setting the lineup for their fantasy sports teams.

More Video Streaming

After months of experimenting with several streaming technologies, I’ve finally settled on one I like, Flash, as in Macromedia’s Flash FLV files for small video files and the Flash Communications Server for larger files. Why Flash? Simply put, Flash has become one of the lowest common denominators with browsers. In other words, most browsers support Flash and most corporate firewalls do not block it. The same can’t be said for some of the other streaming technologies I’ve used. While the servers may allow one to change the streaming port, I’ve found that some corporate firewalls do not allow for downloading the client required to play the video. The bottom line, if you want to stream videos (and audio files) consider using Flash…either FLV files or the Flash Communication Server (Macromedia offers a free developer version). For more information visit Macromedia.

Darwin Streaming Server

A few months ago I began researching Java Media Framework and streaming. This research ultimately led me away from Java Media Framework to Apple’s open source streaming server Darwin. After some experimentation, I’ve got Darwin up and running on Windows 2000. The biggest issue I’ve found is that Darwin’s web based administration server interferes with the streams. No big deal really, just turn off web administration. If anyone has a solution to this problem, I’d love to hear about it.

If you would like to view a sample stream click here (Quicktime Player 7 is required). You should see a short video of me and some friends playing the song “In The Jailhouse Now” at my son’s school. That’s me on the left playing the banjo. Jamey Ratzlaff is playing the mandolin. Next to Jamey is James Cole singing and playing the guitar. And, next to James is Steve Dodson on the bass.

My apologies to Jimmy Rodgers and the creators of the “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack. 🙂

Enjoy.

Less Java Media Framework

After a few frustrating weeks spent playing with the Java Media Framework (JMF), I give up. It’s not that the player doesn’t work…it does. It’s not that you can’t stream files…you can. It’s just too much trouble.

Tonight, I spent about 30 minutes installing Apple’s Darwin Streaming Server (an open source implementation). It can be found here. The only drawback to Darwin is that it requires Perl. Since I’m running a Windows server, I chose the ActivePerl implementation found here. Over the next couple of days I’ll provide a link to my streaming server so you can test it yourself.

Now for the reason I needed a streaming server in the first place. In my spare time I’m working on a little experiment involving Java, a microcontroller, servo motor, and a webcam. Assuming that everything works out like I think it will, you will be able to remotely control the webcam’s direction via a web page. Why you ask? Because I can.

Even More Java Media Framework

I’m taking the week off to spend Spring break with my family. Hopefully as you are reading this, we’re tooling around the Indiana countryside on dirt bikes, fishing, exploring caves, or just hiking in the woods.

I’m also working on a little Java project while I’m out of the office. I can’t tell you much about it yet (don’t want to spoil the surprise), but it involves JMF and other Java APIs. By the way, I discussed this project with my wife and kids and they think it is really “geeky”.

More about it later this week. Until then have a great week -Rick.

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