Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Shoestring Resources

August 7, 2009

I had such a great time at Echo. I love getting to talk with and be around creative people. The creatives are such an amazing community and I am glad I get to be a part of it. I know how hard it can be to accomplish your vision when you don’t have the tools and resources you need to make it happen, that’s what inspired me to come up with the class for Echo.

Thanks so much to everyone who showed up  for the session. I hope you think it was time well spent. Just in case you missed it or there is something you want to go back here is the session text and the slides along with the resources list that has been posted previously. Let me know what you thought of the class and if you have something to add share it with the class. We are all in this together and we are better together than alone.

Shoestring Principles Text

Shoestring Slides

Shoestring Resources


Cutting The Cable

May 21, 2009

It was march of last year (2008) and I had changed jobs and was moving into a new apartment. The apartment was a small one bedroom but well layed out and brand new (I like new). My new job meant that I’d be working from home so the place where my entertainment center would be going in the new place was suddenly the home office. My TV was a 12 year old 25″ tube TV. All the control buttons were gone off the front and the remote was begining to no longer work not to mention, the entertainment system wasn’t going to work if I moved to a flat screen TV anyway so it wasn’t hard to part with either in the subsequent garage sale. 

In addition to losing the space for my TV I had already decided to drop cable (in my case satellite) when I moved because being glued to the TV all day would be too much of a temptation when working from home 24/7. I’m the type of person who will channel surf until they find something even if they aren’t super interested in it, and there goes the whole day. 

But just because I was cutting the cable didn’t mean I was giving up my shows that I was really interested in. Three things online had made it possible to make this shift rather painless… 1., 2., 3. iTunes. With the introduction of full episodes online of practically all my favorite shows it assured me that I would be able to see them, I just had to wait a day (or in some cases 8 days-House!) The 24 hour delay was well worth the cash I was saving. My DSL bill was half of just my cable bill and now it essentially provided both and with far fewer commercials than I’d lived with before. 

I travel a lot with my new job and so iTunes is great as well for when I need to watch last nights episode of Grey’s and be on a plane to Portland all at the same time. 

With half of my living room now a home office and my powermac and 23″ cinema display right there  in the room I in effect had a 23″ HD TV sitting right there. At night I would simply swivel the monitor and speakers to face my couch and I was there! I got a USB IR sensor so that I could control the mac with my Apple remote while sitting on the couch. It wasn’t a bad set up to say the least.

The best thing about not having cable has been that I spend less time watching TV just to fill time and more time doing other things like work and pursuing creative endeavors. 

When I moved from Longview to Nashville I got a 2 bedroom apartment so I could have an office that wasn’t right in the middle of my living space. However this meant that my “TV” just got religated to the other room. I spent several months watching all my shows on my laptop. During that time I found an insane deal on a 32″ JVC LCD but I only used it for watching DVD’s, all my shows were still showing on my laptop (generally sitting on the coffee table so I could still sit on the couch). 

Then it was Oscar time and was trying to figure out how I was going to watch it live. I knew they would have it the next day online but live broadcasts are only worth watching if you know half the country is watching with you. To watch the next day would be pointless because I’d already know the results. So I scampered off to Walmart of all places and picked up a $30 amplified digital antenna. There it was ABC in all its HD glory. It was great! Not to mention that now, if I was home and could remember, I could watch my shows in real time and on my TV instead of my laptop. 

The final piece of the puzzle came a couple weeks ago when I finally got around to purchasing a Mac mini to connect to my TV. That was the absolute point of no return for me. I will never have cable again and I don’t miss it.

If you want to find out how I set up my Mac mini in the living room check out my previous post here.


Cable Free: The Mac mini and Me

May 17, 2009

The Mac mini vs. the AppleTV

Many have asked why did you decide to go with a Mac mini instead of an AppleTV. The answer is simple really, dvd and the internet. 

I’m not as hostile to commercials as some especially the ones during online shows because there is usually just one per commerical break. I can deal with it and in exchange the content is free (not a bad trade). The second is that I have amassed a decent collection of films and TV shows on DVD (I’m a sucker for the $5 bin in Walmart –bought two more tonight) AppleTV is really only good at one thing- facilitating the purchase and display of content from the iTunes store. For me I only purchase TV and movies from iTunes if I need it to be portable (say if I’m going to be on a plane). So in the end the Mac mini is the better choice for me because it can function just like an AppleTV plus surf the web and display content from and Hulu and lastly, it has a DVD player. 

The System

Mac mini 1.83Ghz Combo Drive 80gig HD

RCA Multi-Directional Flat Amplified Antenna


1/8″ Jack to RCA Audio Cable

DVI to HDMI Cable

iPodtouch with AirMouse App

My set up is pretty straight forward but it was not without some trial and error. I googled my heart out looking for someone to explain how to set one up but all anybody ever wanted to talk about was the part of the system where you get a tuner card so you can record live TV, I needed the step before that. Hopefully this post will help all those who come after me.>> 

I started out going DVI to S-Video into the TV, but no matter how I set up the display preferences the image didn’t fill the screen. I had substantial black bars on the left and right sides of the screen. The resolution was pretty low too. Only 1024 x 768 so it made the screen a bit grainy and hard to read. While discussing this with a collegue in the office we decided this was probably a limitation of the S-Video and I decided to try a DVI to HDMI cable and see if the results were any better. I expected it to be a bit better but the difference was dramatic! I was displaying in a wide format at 1920 x 1080 however it still wasn’t edge to edge. In fact the black was now on all 4 sides. Puzzled I clicked over to the Options pane in Display preferences and ticked the box for Overscan. When I did this on the S-Video connection it resulted in the loss of the Menu Bar and the Dock (not useful). However with DVI to HDMI this worked like a charm. It cut off all but a sliver of the Menu bar but I can still mouse up to it and click and the menus drop down so its still functional. The Dock is resting comfortably on the bottom bezel of the screen as it should be.

Eventually I’d like to switch from the analog audio cable to Optical Audio but since I don’t have a surround sound system and am simply relying on the built in speakers on the TV I don’t think I’d notice a difference.

Its All About Control

The Mac mini unlike the AppleTV is designed to be controlled with a mouse and keyboard. I originally had decided to go with a wireless keyboard and mouse that would live under my coffee table. I wasn’t keen on that solution nor the amount of batteries that would be used to keep them functional. Then I stumbled upon AirMouse. It is an iPhone/iPodtouch app ($5.99) that is literally a trackpad and a keyboard. It connects to the Mac mini over the wifi network in the house and it works flawlessly. There’s no lag time and becuase its Wifi instead of IR it even works through walls. With this app I can command my Mac mini while sitting comfortably on my couch. 

The Missing Link

The one component to this system is software and hardware that will imbue DVR capabilities on my Mac mini. I haven’t really had a chance to research the various offerings on the market and considering that the season finales have now all played I don’t consider it much of an issue. Perhaps by the fall I’ll feel the need to add that piece to the system. Right now I’m plenty happy with watching it live via my antenna or catching it the next day on the web. 

Cutting the Cable

If you’ve been toying with the idea of cutting the the cable on your TV service there has never been a better time to do so. In the next post I’m going to talk about my journey from the cable to the mini. 


Was just on the phone with a new friend who told me about a software called Plex that is media center software for OS X. I’m going to check it out this week and see how it goes.



January 26, 2009

When you are a freelancer there is no one looking over your shoulder. There’s no big brother keeping your nose to the grind stone. There is only you, and the millions of distractions swirling around you. This is even more compounded if you work from your home. It can be really hard to get started or keep at it when there are so many other things you could be doing. Andy Ihnatko posted a quote on Twitter today that is worth repeating: “Tip for freelancers: if a typical day is practically the same as being home from work sick with the flu, you’re definitely doing it wrong.”

How many of you have had days like that, where you didn’t get out of your pajamas and you sat on the couch and watched movies? I know I have. Those days once in a while can be good but when they extend on for multiple days and impede your productivity they are a problem. Laziness is an easy rut to fall into and its a pretty difficult one to climb out of. It requires retraining yourself, breaking bad habits and replacing them with good ones. Its not easy and it takes time. Like dieting or training for a marathon it’s about discipline. Getting motivated and staying motivated take effort. It begins with a choice, a choice that you will have to make over and over again on a weekly, daily, and even hourly basis. It isn’t easy and you won’t always feel like it, that’s why its a choice. The rewards of that choice are not always instant. Sometimes the payoff is weeks, months, or years down the road. You can’t be focused on the now, be motivated by the future, the long run. Short term pain reaps long term rewards.

Get motivated!



December 5, 2008

A couple months ago I moved from Texas to Nashville (Franklin, TN to be precise) and I took on another job in addition to working for iStock and freelancing. It’s the busy time for me at iStock and with the move and learning a new job, its been a whirlwind of a couple of months. There’s so much I still haven’t had a chance to do yet like get new license plates and drivers license. I still have boxes that aren’t unpacked (avoidance works for me on this particular issue).

One of the main things I’m doing at my new job is blogging, only you won’t know its me cause I’m a ghost blogger for the owner of the company. This process has taught me a lot about being consistent with a blog.It feels really good to have a schedule I try to keep and I think in the long run it will pay off. Here at Creative Fray I’ve been anything but consistent. It makes me mad at myself because I don’t take the time to update it like I should. I have things to say but I never seem to nail my butt to the chair and pound them out. Its a discipline issue that I’ve been working on via another life avenue but I’ve far from conquered. Soon I’m going to start applying here what I’ve learned there and also what I’ve learned working on the ghost blog.

Over at the ghost blog I’ve written close to 30 posts and have several more in the works. There are about 20 in the cue, approved and ready to go. 10 have been published. I’m pretty proud of them (its killing me not to link to them but that would blow the whole ghost part of ghost blogging). This process has taught me a lot about the writing process and I can’t wait to learn more and apply all that I’m learning. (“On Writing Well” is going on the plane with me to Vegas this weekend).

Anyway, consistency isn’t something you have to do when its just something you do for yourself but if you want to build a following consistency is a must. How consistent are you on your blog? Do you think it makes a difference? What keeps you going/motivated/on task/etc?


Off Topic – Voting

November 4, 2008

So I voted today, I hope you did too. I even got the sticker to prove it (they never handed out stickers back home. I thought only people on TV got I voted stickers. I must live in a real city now!)

Anyway, I know this really doesn’t have anything to do with creativity but I’m putting it here anyway. Here’s what I noticed about the voting process that kind of frightened me…. I never really had to show ID. I had my voter registration card (which doesn’t have my picture or anything on it just my name and address) and that was it. The thing about it is that I could have just as easily stolen that registration card out of someone elses mail box and impersonated them. I never had to show ID or in anyway prove that I was the person I said I was.

This fact in mind has me wondering why there is such opposition to voting online. The argument has always been that there is no way to prove that the person voting is the person in question and also that the system could be hacked. I grant that hacking could be a problem but so is someone else pretending to be me. With this election being as heated and crazy as it is why was I not asked to prove I was me? Honestly in 4 years I hope I have to prove I am who my voter registration card says I am.


Conference Websites

August 24, 2008

I go to conferences for a living (somebody has to right?). So needless to say I’m all to familiar with conference websites. I’ve encountered some that were so great and some that were just down right awful. For instance, last years Catalyst Conference website was so bad that they eventually posted the conference info on the Catalyst Blog and made it a downloadable PDF because the information wasn’t accessible on the actual conference site.

As someone who needed to refer to conference information several times it was a very frustrating experience and I was glad when they posted the information in other places. I applaud Catalyst and what they were trying to do. They are always trying to be on the cutting edge and aren’t afraid to try something new and outside the box. The thing about going outside the box is that sometimes you fail at what you attempt, but that doesn’t mean you stop trying. The website this year is much better and the conference itself is top notch. However, if you are putting on a conference I have a few tips for you on how you can make your conference as successful as it can be by making sure the website is all that is should be.

What needs to be included:
1. What is the conference purpose
. People want to know what the point of the conference is. The first page should tell them what the conference is all about and why they should attend.

2. Who should attend. This can be bullet points on that opening page. Make it as easy as possible for people to figure out if your conference is where they need to spend their time and money.

3. Speakers. People want to know who is going to be at the event, sometimes people will choose a conference based on getting to see a speaker they really admire. So tell us who is going to be there and at least a little about what they are going to be talking about.

4. Where and When. The date and location should be on the front page. People need to know if your event will fit into their schedule before they can get excited about attending.

5. Hotel and Travel Information. We aren’t from your area so tell us what hotels and airports are near by, tell us how much cab fare from the airport is or how much parking is at the event and hotels. Even better, include nearby restaurants too. Innovate does a great job of telling us what’s around and how far away it is, they even put a restaurant map in the conference book, however this year on the site that information is buried under a link titled “quick links” on the registration page (not the most obvious place for that info to live but at least its there and I have to say again, this is the best conference about church ministry you can go to all year!)

6. Finally, exhibitor and sponsorship information. A large part of what makes a conference successful and cheap enough for people to attend is the money that comes from conference sponsors and exhibitors. Do yourself a favor and make information about sponsoring or exhibiting at the event easy to access. Post a listing of who is already a sponsor. One conference I wanted to exhibit at put that information under the tab on their site titled “Speakers” needless to say I didn’t find it in time and the conference missed out on the money. Today in fact I looked up the conference The Sticks, but no where on their site does it give info about sponsorship or exhibiting opportunities. Exhibitors and sponsors are willing to give you rather large sums of money in exchange for the opportunity to speak to the people gathered at the conference, do yourself a favor and make it easy on them or you might miss out.

Final Thoughts
Make your site easy to navigate. Flash and wiz-bang are great attention getters but don’t sacrifice quick and easy access to pertinent information for them. Make the aforementioned critical information available without having to drill down, put it right on top where people can get to it quickly and easily and make the site look good so people don’t mind spending time there.

Below is a list of conferences I’m going to, have gone to or would like to go to. Check out their websites, what are they doing right, what are they missing what could they do better to make it easier on you the potential attendee?
Internet Ministry Conference
The Sticks
National Outreach Conference
For Next Year:
National Worship Leader
Willow Arts Conference
Biola Media Conference
National Religious Broadcasters
National New Church Conference

Do you have any conference site horror or hero stories? Did I leave something out? Lets hear it…