Many Pies

Many Pies

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Advent as a time for getting things done

I recently gave someone a job to do, split into bits, one for each day in December, roughly. I called it an advent calendar. I guess the next time of year to do this would be Lent.

Also, on the advent theme, I'm enjoying reading 24 ways, and learning that there so much about web design that I don't know I don't know, as well as the stuff I know I don't know.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"Get satisfaction" customer service site

I came across the Get Satisfaction site a couple of months ago. It's a sort of customer service intermediary. I guess it would be useful for companies that don't want to set up customer support forums for themselves. I put a complaint on it about Oracle Discoverer Reports. It was encouraging to know that an Oracle employee was monitoring my complaint and put in a reply.

I didn't Get Satisfaction entirely as the answer I got from someone else was to hack the Oracle software, but maybe the Oracle employee will submit my complaint internally so my annoyance can be fixed in future versions.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Friday, November 23, 2007

Learning lessons from the Chandler project

I read a really good article called Software is Hard which starts with a summary of Scott Rosenberg's book Dreaming in Code a few months ago. It's about the Chandler project, an open source alternative to exchange, which seemed to go more pear-shaped than an orchard of, well, pear trees. I then started thinking about the next phase of a project I'm involved in and thought there were some lessons to be learned. However I couldn't find the article again.

Recently as I think about this project the background processing part of my brain turns up some words which should help located it in a google search, and after a bit of seraching I found the article. So I'm posting it here so I can find it again.

Here are a couple of good quotes as to the mistakes made:
Uncontrolled feature creep. Kapor originally conceives of Chandler as a complement to Microsoft Outlook targeted at "'information-intensive' individual users and small companies." But everyone on the Chandler team has a different vision of what that means, and in the absence of pressure to ship, Chandler becomes the union of everyone's ideas. Instead of borrowing from successful similar products like Outlook/Exchange, the Chandler team is determined to invent something entirely new from first principles. They want to support user plug-ins and scripting, built-in encryption, storage of messages in multiple folders and infinitely customizable user views. As the project goes on, the simple replacement for Outlook/Exchange grows more and more complicated.

No decision is ever final. Time and again, the Chandler team hashes out compromises on complex issues, only to hit reset when someone new joins the project with new ideas or when it turns out that someone wasn't really satisfied with the compromise. They revisit their choice of database layer, whether to use Mozilla's UI primitives or wxWidgets, and the whole design of their user interface. Eventually, the peer-to-peer architecture is abandoned in favor of a client-server architecture. Three years into the project, the team is still debating whether to turn Chandler into a web-based application like Google Docs & Spreadsheets.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Jumpbox - simple virtual servers

I've been investigating jumpbox, who give you downloadable virtual servers that do one thing well - e.g. wiki, bug tracking, Wordpress, Joomla. It seems a great idea. Normally I don't blog about things unless I'm using them in earnest, but I thought I'd share some details here in case you can't find out how the pricing works.

I couldn't find much on the site about what you get for free and what you pay for, until I'd downloaded a virtual machine and ran it. When I got to the register page there was an iframe pointing to this product overview which gives you the overview of what you get for free and what you get for registering (which costs).

Basically if you pay you get backup, customisation and support.

Ding! Procedures need skills

I was just doing some training on a procedure that I've written.

One of the things I've struggled with is what level to write them at. Which do you say?
refresh the spreadsheet
right click and choose "refresh data"
push the right hand button on your mouse. A menu will pop up. Move the mouse down until the line "refresh data" is highlighted and then push the left hand button on your mouse

What I just realised in a flash of inspiration, was that things like right clicking and choosing an option, or refreshing spreadsheets are skills that apply to more than one procedure. You don't need to give instruction on the skills in the procedure, but it would be worthwhile (even though a lot of work) to list the skills required to do the procedure. Then when teaching someone how to follow the procedure, you don't really teach them the procedure, you make sure they have all the skills to do it, and leave them to get on with it. A well written procedure will not need teaching if someone has all the required skills.

This is probably all in the standard textbook on procedure writing, but I don't have such a book.

Monday, November 19, 2007

"Jesus in my language" launches

A new part of one of our websites has launched - Jesus in my language. It has a selection of verses from Mark's gospel in various languages. I've had a small involvement in this at the start, sorting out some of the Unicode issues.

Although Unicode is the way forward when it comes to working in the languages of the world, a lot of the stuff in the archives isn't in Unicode, as it was worked on before Unicode was available, or the appropriate tools were available in Unicode. Instead custom fonts were created. Sometimes the archives contained these fonts, and sometimes they didn't so that was more of a challenge. Ventura Publisher was the favoured tool for typesetting the Bible in those days, and so sometimes the clues as to what the characters are is in Ventura format files.

In precomputer days sometimes custom fonts were obtained by filing off parts of some of the letters to get the character required!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

So many systems

I've just drawn a diagram of our systems that are to do with Finance. We have:
  • Sage MMS
  • Sage Payroll
  • Raiser's Edge for donations
  • A system used by hotels for our conference business.
  • Three (3) bits of software for interfacing with our bank.
  • A custom system for interfacing with the rest of the organisation outside this country.
  • Various spreadsheets for:
  • Reporting
  • Data entry
  • Bank reconciliation
No wonder we're so busy here in IT!

"The cell phone is the single most transformative technology for development."

A fascinating article on the
Called to Uganda blog about the cellphone in rural Africa.

One line that stood out was:
"some say has allowed the third world to skip over the use of the PC as a development aid"

I've been watching the One Laptop Per Child programme. Maybe it should be "One Phone Per Child".

Monday, November 05, 2007

Social software interesting times

panzerjohn is involved in the exciting stuff from Google about OpenSocial. I commented

"You know, I never thought this would happen. I've seen discussion about the Facebook walled garden, but I thought to have a social software equivalent which is like internet email as opposed to old-fashioned closed email systems just wouldn't fly. I thought that if Facebook added a thingy to their site which did a certain social software function, then everyone involved in the open standards would have to run around working out how to implement the thingy in the standards. But maybe although there are a rich number of things you can do (poke people, send gifts, write on walls etc.) the underlying functions, and most things that haven't been thought of yet, can be described in an API. Interesting times, in the good sense."

Friday, November 02, 2007

Clunky Oracle Discover reports

I've been using Oracle's Discoverer reports for most of the morning and they are very clunky.

I always thought it looked like a desktop app that's been converted to the web and as I was searching for some sort of tutorial I got a list of the options, one of which is a desktop version so I was correct.

My gripes are:
1. If you want to fill in a value that has to come from a list you get given what looks like a free text field and a torch/flashlight (depending on which side of the Atlantic or Pacific you are).
Rather than having a dropdown arrow if you want to see which values are allowed you click on the torch/flashlight. You then get a new browser window with a list of 25 values. You then have to click "next 25" repeatedly until you find the one you want.

2. You can't delete columns from the resulting report! You can add, but not delete. The workaround I found was to restrict the number of columns on the display to 5 say, and make sure that the ones you want are the first 5 going from left to right.

3. Bloat. It seems that in order to allow some clever stuff, like being able to highlight a column and make it bold, there is a lot of HTML bloat. Here is one single cell in a report:

<td id="dv_c176_0" class="x62" style="font-family:sans-serif,Arial,Helvetica,Geneva,sans-serif;font-size:11pt;font-style:normal;font-weight:normal;text-align:left;color:#000000;background-color:#ffffff;vertical-align:top" onmousedown="_bi_handleMouseDown(event,dv_smodel,-1,0);return false;" onmouseover="_bi_handleMouseDrag(event,dv_smodel,-1,0);return true;" headers="dvc0 dvr176" nowrap><div class="x5f" style="border-top:none;border-bottom:none 1px;border-left:none;border-right:none"><span style="vertical-align:top">cell contents</span></div></td>

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Popular Ubuntu packages

I posted a series of questions on an internal open source mailing list about evaluating open source software. One of the responses mentioned a site with statistics on Ubuntu package popularity. Interesting...

Wikis in plain English

I found this video from Common Craft a while back:

Those who've seen it like the uncluttered use of paper to explain things. I'd like to do the same thing for some of out internal training. Video is time consuming to produce, so I may even do still photographs with audiocommentary. If I get time...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Wikis vs meetings

A couple of weeks ago I went to Wycliffe International HQ in Dallas. It was for some meetings on our internal personnel system. Since our previous meeting in March we had introduced a wiki. When we were reviewing how the meetings went I made the point that despite working together on the wiki there is really no substitute for meeting face to face when it comes to thrashing out some things. Unless you get a very high-end video conferencing solution, but then you don't get the building of relationships outside of the meeting time.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Perl programmer wanted

I'm working on a project which is a website contain material for those translating the Old Testament. We are looking for a volunteer (i.e. you don't get any money for it) to help us out next year (2008).

We would like someone who has Perl experience. The sort of time commitment we would like is a week a month, say, from January, for up to a year. Alternatively a three month block of time, if someone were between jobs for example, would be great.

You can contact me at Paul underscore Morriss at wycliffe dot org.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Isn't email wonderful

I've just received an email from a company offering an "automated document distribution" product in light of the recently announced postal strike.

Smart spamming I guess, but spamming all the same.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Procedure writing and post-it notes

For a while I've had it on my mind, and low down on my to-do list to move our procedure manual, currently in Lotus Notes, to a different medium. Some of the criteria were:

- easily editable
- hyperlinking between documents
- web accessible
- version history maintained
- looks good when printed
and this is the one that distinguishes options
- users emailed when procedures they are interested in change

My conclusion has been to use a wiki. What I'm trying to get people less dependent on paper - though the "looks good" criteria recognises that it will never be got away from, certainly while not everyone has two monitors.
One thing paper procedures are good for, is when I've changed something, and I want to test that it worked in the real environment. In this case I email them saying "give me a shout when you get to step n". They put a post-it note on the appropriate point, and give me a shout. What I now need to think about is a good way of doing that, which is easy for all concerned.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Translation via Google groups

Here's a new thing:
Kusaal is a language of Burkina Faso (West Africa). A Google group has been created to help with the translation of Kusaal.

"We are inviting interested linguists worldwide to help with the analysis of Kusaal, using the Internet as a networking tool and this site as a collaborative working platform. Not only will your involvement lead to the development of an orthography and literacy materials for the Kusassi people, but you can help make significant contributions to the corpus of linguistic knowledge through write-ups of Kusaal phonology, grammar, and more (as we get the necessary data collected)."

Blogrush is not a pyramid scheme

I stand corrected.

I don't understand what referring gives you, but I'm sure I will one day.

ODBC aaargh!

I came across an ODBC error:

PHP Warning: odbc_exec(): SQL error: [unixODBC][Driver Manager]Driver
does not support this function, SQL state IM001 in SQLSetStmtOption

If you're googling looking for the solution, like I did, and you came here, the best I can say is that SQLSetStmtOption appears to be deprecated. So the php/odbc code is calling something the driver doesn't support.

Even after upgrading from PHP4 to PHP5, and MySql4 to 5, it still occurs. The most frustrating thing is that I haven't found out a way of finding which version of ODBC is being used in the php/odbc component/rpm/package thingy.

Any ideas?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Monday, September 10, 2007

Subversion fun

I'm trying to bring in source code control on a lot of existing code. Just for fun I right click on a directory and choose "create repository here..." (I'm using TortoiseSVN). I get a choice:
Native filesystem or Berkeley database
So I click help. On the help page is the warning:

Do not create or access a Berkeley DB repository on a network share. It cannot exist on a remote filesystem. Not even if you have the network drive mapped to a drive letter. If you attempt to use Berkeley DB on a network share, the results are unpredictable - you may see mysterious errors right away, or it may be months before you discover that your repository database is subtly corrupted.

I'm glad I clicked help rather than guessing the right thing to do, as this directory is on a network share. Why couldn't subversion just see that it's a shared directory and not give me the choice?

Friday, September 07, 2007

When It Just Works for you, but not for someone else

Follow up on my previous post where I said my virtual machine Just Worked.

The trouble with resuming a virtual machine is that it's got its IP address from the last time. For the person who's since got that IP address, It Doesn't Just Work, It Stops Working.

Lesson learned.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Pleased with virtual machines

I've got an Ubuntu virtual machine which I've used quite a lot recently. For one thing I can ssh onto other Linux machines (both real and virtual themselves), where my windows ssh client struggles with certificates.

I've got it mapping a windows drive via samba, and when I start it up when I need to use it it magically does the stuff behind the scenes so that I can access the files on the windows share without having to remap or anything. It's a bit slow for the first access, but considering the virtual machine has been suspended not shutdown, I'm still amazed at how It Just Works.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Perl/catalyst blog

Despite being a new blog, Jamie has got the name, and in it describes some woes with Catalyst installation.

Firebug equivalent for IE

I've been using Firebug for "debugging" web pages for a while now. I came across a sort of equivalent for IE - the IE Developer toolbar. Update: see below for IE 8 and above.

It's not quite as slick. I turned on the outlining of DIV elements and it spent the next half hour putting flickering boxes all over the screen until I killed IE. I won't do that again. At least IE7 remembers what was on each tab.

Update: This is by far and away my most popular blog post. So I figured I ought to update it for IE 8 and 9: IE 8 and 9 has built in developer tools, which look as good as firebug, though I haven't looked in depth. Press F12 to find them.

Shameless plug: Are you a Christian web developer? Why not work for Wycliffe? or find out more about IT in Wycliffe.

Shameless plug 2: You can find good answers to HTML, CSS and Javascript questions at, or webmaster type questions at

Thursday, August 30, 2007

evhead: Notes to self after time away/big changes

Ev writes in evhead: Notes to self after time away/big changes about things to think about doing in the future, e.g. "Unsubscribe from as many things as possible".

I've just got back after two weeks and my list is:
  • Try to do one thing well, rather than two badly.
  • Find ways of making boring things interested, rather than trying to do something else interesting at the same time.
  • Tackle the big rewrite a bit at a time alongside other stuff.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Blackbaud labs

In case you haven't heard from another source, Blackbaud have a labs website where they preview new stuff:

Very interesting.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Virtual hosting

I've been recommended for virtual hosting. Prices start at $20/month, so you for twice or three times what you may pay for shared hosting you get a virtual server to yourself. I haven't used them myself, so I can't personally vouch for them, but it looks good.

One warning though, you may have to wait up to about 5 weeks if you pay 3 months in advance - pay 12 months in advance and it should be less than a week.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Finding volunteers to write code

I've been pondering how to find volunteers to work on a project I'm looking after. I figured that there are thousands of people writing open source code (incidentally, if you find any good surveys or something that says what sort of people do that, I'd be interested - what are their day jobs? how much time to they spend? what's their motivation?) and as this project is for Bible Translation I'd look for some Christian open source coders. After a bit of googling I came across the Christian Open Development Network which has LightSys behind it, whom I've come across before. I also found, "Bringing Together the Christian Open Source Community".

Both sites have an air of abandonment about them, although the astute owners of these sites might come across this blog entry and beg to differ. Of course the coders don't have to be Christians, but they do have to be motivated to do the work.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Catalyst and dreamhost

Continuing my adventures with the Perl Catalyst Framework. I've spent a few days trying to get it to work on Dreamhost. There are references to it out there, and some pointers, but no sign that anyone's actually managed to get it working under FastCGI.

So now I'm pondering whether to risk another shared hosting company, or pay the extra for a virtual server, with more control.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Microsoft security newsletter

"The internet service certificate is not trusted. Do you want to take corrective action now?"
Do I trust Microsoft's security newsletter? Do I trust Lotus Notes? Hmmm.

Monday, July 30, 2007

EC2 pricing

The penny has just dropped with EC2 pricing. You don't pay by the CPU/hour, you pay by the instance/hour. So even if your instance is doing nothing you pay $0.10 per hour. That's $72 per month, which is much more than basic hosting plans. So it's worth it, if you want that much control over your virtual machine.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


My latest bit of playing around, er, investigation, is with Amazon's EC2 service. I'm thinking of using it for website hosting. I don't expect the website will get much use, but I'm hoping that I can just run up new instances if I need them, and use the simple DNS round robin load balancing to share the load.

From my research there are better ways to load balance, but this should be enough at the moment. Now I just have to pick a suitable distribution and try out my Catalyst application on it.


Monday, July 16, 2007


Darcs is a distributed version control system, a bit like Subversion, RCS, CVS, Visual Source Safe etc. but also different in some ways.

It's taken me quite a while to get my head round it, not because of the lack of introductory material, but because you need to think in a different way to non-distributed source code control.

Because you all tend to have your own repositories my first thought was that changes would clash a lot when you try and combine them. However from my reading
a) they may, but there are ways of resolving them
b) it probably wouldn't happen that much, unless you've got two people working extensively on one file
c) with central repositories you don't worry about that, but you do worry about branching and labeling and other different issues.

One thing that doesn't seem to be addressed is how you deploy your files in something like a web application which doesn't have compilation and the source files are the ones that are used by the "real thing". One way is to use the "darcs dist" command which packages everything up. It's also not clear how you keep two different environments going, e.g. live and QA and dev, where you may have different settings in some files.

The way I'm using on this project (still in stealth mode I'm afraid) is to have a repository on the live site and push patches (read the darcs documentation to see the specific meaning of this word) onto that. That seems to handle both of those problems.

tags: ,

Friday, July 06, 2007

Installing Catalyst part 3

After much frustration I'm getting somewhere with Catalyst. The source of my frustration was that I hadn't installed libc6-dev onto Ubuntu 6.10, but it took me ages to work that out. Once I did that things moved along nicely.

The instructions that got me to where I am now are:

Type cpan and accept all the defaults, apart from specifying your country at the end, and choosing mirror sites. Pick whatever is appropriate.

Copy to VM
sudo perl cat-install
sudo perl -MCPAN -e 'install Catalyst::Devel'

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Installing Catalyst part 2

Things were going well, until I found a Catalyst plugin needed compiling. The existing system I'm working on was developed under Linux. You can get C compilers for Windows, but I decided to go for the path of least resistance and I'm now downloading an Ubuntu virtual machine.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Adventures with Catalyst

So I've got this Catalyst project to pick up. Google analytics tells me that lots of people come here looking for Catalyst Framework. So far they haven't got much to read. Until now...

As the Catalyst Manual says:
One of the frequent problems reported by new users of Catalyst is that it can be extremely time-consuming and difficult to install.

It does go on to explain why though.

It points to instructions at which in turn points to repositories that don't exist any more. However one does, so I start PPM, tell it about the Theoryx5 repository, install it, and go home. More tomorrow...

Monday, June 18, 2007

How to get your own websites on a Raiser's Edge user's home page

The Home "page" that an RE user sees when they start up RE contains some predefined links, e.g. Go to, search the knowledge base.

Through the RE user interface you can't edit these to take the user to the web pages you want, for example your online procedure manual.

Here's how to do it through the backdoor method.

Disclaimer: this method involves modifying your RE database. This is a dangerous thing to do. Do so at your own risk.

Through the "organise favourites" option take a copy of one of the existing web links. Name it to whatever you want.

Then through the SQL Query manager run the following SQL command:
update userfavorites set linkid='' where description='Your description';

This will change all the favourites with that name. I haven't found a way of adding a favourite to every user without doing it one by one. Even if you set up a new user and copy user settings, it doesn't seem to copy favourites. So it's best to create them all and then run the SQL command.


Friday, June 08, 2007

Open Office "web" layout

Here's a lesson I learned the hard way: when you change to "web" layout in Open Office it doesn't just view it in a different way, it does strange things to your tables.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Wycliffe UK needs a new boss!

We need a new Executive Director as the current one will finish his term soon. Our website has a document with the details of the appointment.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Another pie - Perl Catalyst framework

As the strapline to this blog says, I have my fingers in many pies. One of the pies that's come my way is a project involving the Perl Catalyst framework. Although I haven't heard any talk of it outside of this project, it does get mentioned in the same breath as Ruby on Rails, Django, J2EE, Zope etc.

Another learning curve to ascend... It's fun though.

tags: ,

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Learning that Lasts

I was on a course we run called Learning That Lasts last week. I can recommend it highly.

One of the tenets of the course is that people learn best by doing, so the course teaches you how to teach in an interactive and hands-on way. Of course, the teaching on the course itself is interactive and hands-on. A significant part of the course is where every learner (as we like to now call ourselves - students study, but learners learn!) does a 40 minute presentation, which you then receive feedback on. It sounds scary, but isn't at all.

The course book is "Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach" by Jane Vella. Another book recommended was "The Accidental Trainer: You Know Computers, So They Want You to Teach Everyone Else". I think the subtitle says it all. I'm going to get a hold of that soon.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Sign language project details

More details on the sign language project I mentioned earlier.

It's called WoSP which stands for World Sign Processor. It's "an attempt to
provide software to help the Deaf and others as they work on recording
sign-language data".

The WoSP notation will be a computer readable notation which contains the
component parts of signs, and also allows computers to generate rough 3d
animation and SignWriting ready for final editing. It needs to capture the
essence of signs, without missing out on detail, such as facial movements
and body movement, and without over-complicating things, such as capturing
the position of every finger to the micrometre.
Getting signs into the encoding is another challenge. "Just use motion
capture" I said to a colleague when discussing it. The trouble is motion
capture isn't a simple technology and converting lots of motion capture data
to the sign encoding is another challenge. The preferred method may be a
combination of choosing an existing sign plus some keyboard input, though
things are at an early stage.

Getting the information out again is the third challenge. Ideally you want
- static diagrams, maybe with arrows
- animated diagrams
- computer animated figures
all from the same source of signs.

There are other, smaller, challenges on the way, such as how you move from
one sign to another without the hands suddenly jerking.

Here are some more relevant links:

There's an excerpt from our prayer DVD on the subject of sign language
translations of the Bible

For analysing sign languages for translation purpose there is Elan
- "a professional tool for the creation of
complex annotations on video and audio resources "


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Relevant prayer topics

From the current prayer page on (changes weekly) two items that are relevant to me:

Bible translation consultation for sign languages follow-up England. Thank you for praying for this April 16-20 event. Nearly 40 people attended, including Deaf people, members of Bible translation projects, and administrators from several agencies. Praise God for the enthusiasm and ideas that were generated as people shared their work with each other. Many important questions were discussed, such as, "What extra skills do translation consultants need in order to work effectively with sign language teams? Pray that God will continue to guide each agency and team into effective strategies so that his Word will soon be available in the heart languages of Deaf communities across Europe and West Asia.

Biblical Hebrew consultant arrives safely in heaven UK to Glory. Steve Bartram was focusing on the 'Key Terms in Biblical Hebrew' interactive lexicon project which will help translators who don't have a good grasp of Hebrew to understand how the important Hebrew words and concepts were understood by the original writers. It is especially aimed at translators who don't speak English as their first language as they have very few resources available to them. Steve was also part of a team that is trying to develop computer tools to help record sign languages. He went to be with the Lord on Monday April 30. Ask God to comfort his family and all who mourn his death."Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." Psalm 116:15

I would often see Steve at coffee break. :-(

tags: ,

Raiser's Edge: Good news, bad news

I sent this out this morning to our RE users:

Good news: I have a new version of Raiser's Edge to install.
Bad news: It requires a number of other bits of software to be installed before the new Raiser's Edge itself.
Good news: As a result of the changes made in the "shutdown week" before Christmas this installation can be done in an automated way.
Bad news: It takes between 10 and 20 minutes to do the installation.
Good news: err, you get to have a breather after you get into work.


Friday, April 27, 2007

I can recommend WinBatch

A post I put on the Blackbaud User Society (Blackbus) forum recommended WinBatch, so I thought I'd expand on it here.

It costs $99.95. It replays keystrokes to the screen using a scripting language. So you can get it open records, copy fields, manipulate them, paste them back and so on.

It's idea for repetative tasks that don't need the mouse. I mainly use it for Raiser's Edge but you can use it for most applications that can use the keyboard to do things.

So for example, this script takes a list of Funds in an Excel spreadsheet and puts an X before the fund name.
delaytime = 0.5
for i = 1 to 353
SendKeysto("Microsoft Excel","{F2}+{HOME}^c{ESC}")
SendKeysto("Microsoft Excel","{DOWN}")
SendKeysTo("The Raiser","!i")
SendKeysTo("Find", "^v~")
SendKeysTo("Find", "{ESC}~")
while strsub(WinGetActive(), 1, 10) == "The Raiser"
sendkey("{TAB 2}{HOME}X{TAB 8}{SPACE}")
while strsub(WinGetActive(), 1, 10) != "The Raiser"
next i

{SPACE} is the space bar. {ESC} is escape. ~ is return. ! means alt and then the next character. ^ means control and the next character. It can do many different things, we only use a fraction of its capabilities, but it's saved days of tedious work over the past few years.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sign language conference at the Wycliffe Centre

We have a conference about sign language here at the Wycliffe Centre. You can get a bit of info from the Collins who are attending.

There is some juicy technical stuff about representing sign languages on computers that I've heard about, but I haven't got time to get it written down now.

tags: sign language

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

New mission IT blogger

Paul Shaddick, who created the ETP website, and now works for AIM International, has a blog.

The strapline is terrible - "consider IT pure joy".
via Eddie

Monday, April 16, 2007

Animated Development Statistics

All sort of interesting (if you're into that sort of thing) development statistics animated on a chart or map at Google gapminder. You can watch the CO2 growth in India and China.


I found an article covering the same sort of ground as Simon Willison's talk on HTML5 at the Oxford Geek Night.

I wondered why none of the tech blogs I read had covered this news all last week, until covered it.


Thursday, April 12, 2007


Our new international umbrella site has just gone live. There are a few things yet to be filled out, but one thing is that the online jobs bit available on the Wycliffe UK site as well as the US and Canadian ones is also available on


Oxford Geek Night

I went to the Oxford Geek Night (number 2) last night. The place was packed, and arriving late didn't help. There was some pretty geeky stuff, you can see the titles of the talks on the link above.

Some stuff I knew a bit about, like web fonts and Second Life (I was in a minority of those who had an account, am I leading edge or sad?), but found out more. Some was new, like the ins and outs of what's been happening in the last 10 years since HTML 4 with XHTML and the W3C. Simon Willison had up to date news (well, as of Monday) on the Web HyperText Application Technology Working Group offering all their work on webforms and web applications to the W3C.

Several things to do more investigation on...


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sage Charity User group

When we started planning our installation of Sage MMS I looked around to see if there was a Charity User Group. A company called Intelligent Solutions mentioned it on their website, but they had no-one to run it, so things were dormant. Now, however things appear to be waking up. There's a page for the User Group on their website, though you won't find mention of the upcoming User Group meeting.


Press coverage of favourite verse survey

Our survey of people's favourite Bible verse got a mention in the Telegraph.


Friday, March 30, 2007

Unicode poster

We've just put up a massive Unicode poster at work. It's got all of the Basic Multilingual Plane. I think it looks great. Call me strange.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Reel to reel

As a little sideline for Wycliffe Associates UK I'm trying out some reel to reel recorders.

A Truvox:

A Wollensak:

And a make you may have heard of - Akai:

A number of people have come into my office and said, "my Dad/Grandad used to have one of those", and they go all misty eyed.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Getting gift information out of Raiser's Edge

This is a very technical Raiser's Edge post, which may be of use to a small number of people. You'll need to understand SQL.

We post gifts out of Raiser's Edge and they undergo a lot of processing afterwards. Despite all the information you can put into the reference when you post out (constituent id, name, fund name etc.) you can't get everything.

If you run the following SQL statement just after posting, putting in the date and times when the post ran, then you can get most of the gifts that were posted (see below for getting the rest). If someone edited a gift in the middle then that would throw it out, but either
a) have a bad on editing gifts or
b) do a reconciliation with the post file, crosschecking constituent ids with the Excel VLOOKUP function, for example.

SELECT GiftGLDistAccount.Debit_Number, GiftGLDistAccount.Credit_Number, GiftGLDistAcctProject.Project_Number,
GiftGLDistAcctProject.Project_Desc, GIFT.DATECHANGED, GiftGLDistAccount.GiftGLDistributionId, GiftGLDistribution.Amount,
GiftGLDistribution.AdjustmentId, GiftGLDistribution.GiftId, RECORDS.CONSTITUENT_ID, GIFT.DTE
GiftGLDistribution ON GiftGLDistAccount.GiftGLDistributionId = GiftGLDistribution.Id INNER JOIN
GiftGLDistAcctProject ON GiftGLDistAccount.Id = GiftGLDistAcctProject.GiftGLDistAccountId INNER JOIN
GIFT ON GiftGLDistribution.GiftId = GIFT.ID INNER JOIN
WHERE (GIFT.DATECHANGED > CONVERT(DATETIME, '2007-03-20 11:00:00', 102)) AND
(GIFT.DATECHANGED < CONVERT(DATETIME, '2007-03-20 12:00:00', 102))

What the above doesn't do is get the old values for adjusted gifts. For that you need this:

SELECT GiftGLDistAcctProject.Project_Number, GiftGLDistAcctProject.Project_Desc, GIFT.DATECHANGED, GiftGLDistribution.Amount,
GiftGLDistribution.AdjustmentId, GiftGLDistribution.GiftId, RECORDS.CONSTITUENT_ID, GIFT.DTE, GiftSplit.Amount AS Expr1,
GiftPreviousSplit.Amount AS Expr2
GiftGLDistribution ON GiftGLDistAccount.GiftGLDistributionId = GiftGLDistribution.Id INNER JOIN
GiftGLDistAcctProject ON GiftGLDistAccount.Id = GiftGLDistAcctProject.GiftGLDistAccountId INNER JOIN
GIFT ON GiftGLDistribution.GiftId = GIFT.ID INNER JOIN
GiftAdjustment ON GIFT.ID = GiftAdjustment.GiftId INNER JOIN
GiftSplit ON GIFT.ID = GiftSplit.GiftId INNER JOIN
GiftPreviousSplit ON GIFT.ID = GiftPreviousSplit.GiftId
WHERE (GIFT.DATECHANGED > CONVERT(DATETIME, '2007-03-20 11:00:00', 102)) AND
(GIFT.DATECHANGED < CONVERT(DATETIME, '2007-03-20 12:00:00', 102))

This query returns duplicate rows for the gifts, so will need tweaking to get just what you want.
Finally, if you want deleted gifts, then look in the GiftGLAudit table.

tags: Raiser's Edge

Monday, March 19, 2007

Update to "Reporting on the Cheap"

An update to my reporting method. Word RTF was too bloated, so in the end I used Open Office to generate the RTF. A by-product of this is that when I'm ready I can create PDF pretty easily too.


Friday, March 16, 2007

iTIM - Information Technology in Mission

I'm on a mailing list for a group called Information Technology in Mission (maybe it should be ITiM?). It's a very quiet list, maybe because not enough people know about it. So now you do, and maybe things will liven up if you join.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Andrew Walls visiting

Andrew Walls, a "Historian ahead of his time", according to Christianity Today magazine, is coming to visit.

According to them, "American church historian Mark Noll says that 'no one has written with greater wisdom about what it means for the Western Christian religion to become the global Christian religion than Andrew Walls.'"

He's going to be joined by Dr Lamin Sanneh. If you're interested in missiology, then this should be really interesting.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Trip to Orlando

Two weeks ago I visited Wycliffe US's headquarters in Orlando. No I didn't get chance to see any tourist sights, apart from a couple of restaurants. It was for meetings with some of our personnel people worldwide, working on future parts of our internal personnel system. I came representing Wycliffe UK personnel people. Because it's internal there's nothing to show for it, although while I was there the new Wycliffe US website was launched, in which I had a small part.

One of the things they've done is allow online donations and purchasing with a single transactions. It sounds straightforward, though if you know the way that those things are handled, each of which is completely different, with different internal systems, you'll know what an achievement that is. Near Christmas I was asked if we could handle the purchase of one item along with a donation. I said it could be done, but not without a lot of work, which probably wasn't worth it given that we were only selling one item.

While I was there I met someone, who used to work for IBM and is now working for Wycliffe, who was in on the meeting where it was decided that the internet would run on TCP/IP, not SNA. Quite a good geek credential.

One of the tools we used was "Results-based Management" (RBM). When I first heard of this I went to wikipedia, but I couldn't find it there, so I added an entry of to the list of entries that needs creating. One of the reasons I didn't create an entry is I didn't think I could do very well from my brief bit of research. However as this blog is more informal than the wikipedia I feel I can get away with this. RBM is
"a life-cycle approach to management that integrates strategy, people, resources, processes and measurements to improve decision-making, transparency, and accountability. The approach focuses on achieving outcomes, implementing performance measurement, learning and changing, and reporting performance."

It's used by the Canadian Government and the UN, so it has some pedigree. As you might expect it focuses on defining the results you want to achieve, and then working out how you are going to measure if you've done them or not. The latter part was the exercise we went through last week. That much was pretty straightforward, given the difficulty of measuring some less tangible things.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Fighting spam with the Sword of the Spirit

I don't often point to other blogs, as you might as well go and subscribe to them yourself, but this one caught my eye.
Fighting spam with the Sword of the Spirit.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Oscar blogging section

Oscar, the UK information service for world mission, has started a blogging section, with a directory and the latest items from the blogs in the directory. Before they started it they invited various blogs to take part, and asked for blogging tips. I searched around and didn't find a good list, though there are certainly many out there. So I came up with my own and they ended up using my blogging tips on the site.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Good to Great and the Social Sectors

This is a book accompanying "Good to Great", which I haven't read, applying it to non-profit organisations. At £6.99 its quite expensive for a slim volume, but it has some wise words.

As the title applies it takes the principles of the main book and tweaks them. The "pivot point" of the main book is the Hedgehog Concept, the essence of which "is to attain piercing clarity about how to produce the best long-term results, and then exercise relentless discpline to say, "no thank you" to opportunities that fail the hedgehog test". So its an antidote to violent swings of direction in the organisation.

There's a good quote about what makes non-profits different:
"In business, money is both an input (a resource for achieving greatness) and an output (a measure of greatness). In the social sectors, money is only an input, and not a measure of greatness."

It's a handy book for when strategic thinking is needed, or needs evaluating, and I'd recommend it.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

VB Express 1990

This amused me. Shaun Sullivan, CTO of Blackbaud, has uploaded a sample Raiser's Edge plugin. (Good news - you don't need to pay the large amount of money for the API module to use plugins.) So I downloaded it, and then installed Visual Basic Express to use it. I already had Visual Studio Express. I double clicked the .sln (Visual Studio solution) file and was presented with this dialog:

Bold text, white background, how very 1990.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Yahoo Pipes

I think there's a lot of potential in these.

Here are some pictures "inspired" by the weather near me.

I'd rather have some sort of regexp module so that the pictures more accurately reflect the weather forecast, but maybe its on its way.


Monday, February 12, 2007

ISO 639 - language codes

As you'd expect, being in the business of Bible Translation we're pretty interested in languages, and being a computer person I'm interested in coding.

So it's good news when SIL, one of our partner organisations, is involved in the latest version of the ISO-639 code for languages as Registration Authorities.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Presentations from Blackbaud Customer Briefing week

The Presentations from the Blackbaud Customer Briefing week are now available, though you'll need a login to the site to see them.


Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Official Wycliffe uber-blog

Cafe Wycliffe, the thing for "mission minded students or graduates" in Canada, has the beginnings of a blog.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Meeting Blackbaud

I've just come back from a Blackbaud seminar at their new London offices. We got a presentation from the new guy at the top showing that he's finding out what's going on in the "third sector". The last time I went to a similar thing from the then new guy the thing I remember was, "we're working on improving our support". The thing that stood out from this presentation is "we're going to make sure we add value, rather than consultants doing the same old thing". Both are good to hear of course.

Then we had a presentation on 7.81, some of which I'd spotted in the release notes, some which I hadn't. Then we got the Infinity presentation that was given at the US conference, with some differences - no demo, but a timeline.

There were some dates on the timeline slide, but we were told that they will be removed when we get sent it. From memory we're looking at the first product on the new platform at the end of 2007 (Bullseye - direct marketing) and RE 8 at the end of 2008. So lots of warning about how they may change, but one of the things they will change is being more up front about the future. I think we're grown up enough not to complain if they do change, so it's good to have an idea of what may be round the corner.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Unashamed link love 2

Return link to watfordgap - "Regional IT support, railway coffee and more". What's not to like?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Lausanne Bible Translation special

Lausanne, the people who brought you the First International Congress on World Evangelisation, have a Bible Translation focus in their current edition of Lausanne World Pulse. (If it's not there it will probably be in the archives.)

Very nice of them.