A Well-Oiled Machine Print E-mail
Written by David Parra   
Thursday, 30 July 2009

Every week hundreds of young men, young women, and seniors around the world gather with their families to read a letter calling them to serve as full-time missionaries. The letter includes an assignment to labor in one of 348 missions around the world.

This sacred piece of correspondence is customized to each missionary candidate with specific information and instructions for the assignment. The Missionary Call Letter System was developed in 2008, and it is currently used to generate hundreds of missionary letters every week. Some may think that creating a one-page letter programmatically would be a matter of adding a few merge fields to a document, but the system does a lot more than that.

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Pretty Good Privacy Print E-mail
Written by Jonathan Eicher   
Tuesday, 21 July 2009

To scriptorians, PGP means “Pearl of Great Price” but to cryptographers, it means “Pretty Good Privacy” and refers to the safe-keeping of personal information. PGP is a type of encryption the Church uses to communicate securely with other organizations, such as banks and businesses. Each day we depend on encryption to act as a computerized safe-and-key system for managing access to our data.

Phil Zimmermann, the creator of PGP, developed and released the first PGP software in 1991. He published his source code and freely gave it away for anyone to use. The software is simple to use and is designed to encrypt files and e-mail transferred over the Internet. PGP is now the most popular e-mail encryption software in the world.

How does PGP work?

PGP requires entities or individuals to create their own individual pair of encryption keys. The key pair contains a private key that is never shared with anyone and a public key that is shared with everyone. Anyone can use a public key and encrypt a file or message with it. However, only the entity or person with the corresponding private key will be able to decrypt it. This is known as a one-way function. The technical implementation of a one-way function is brilliant but simple.

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XHTML Prototype Management Print E-mail
Written by Clifton Labrum   
Thursday, 16 July 2009

Here at the Church, we develop projects of various sizes that require designing and building prototypes of varying complexity. Much of my experience has been with large prototypes, and I wish to offer three suggestions for handling 20+ XHTML pages and numerous other assets.

#1: File Organization

A good Web application will have a domain structure that mirrors the content structure. This allows users to see where they are both on the Web page and the address bar of their Web browser.

For example:

“domain.org/temples”

is much cleaner and clearer than:
“www4.domain.org/webservices/construct/pagecontent/pageGenerator?id=temples&mode=981ASDFKH171ASDKFJ19”

In my projects, I like to separate page structure from assets like this:

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The Advantages of Collaborative Interaction Design Print E-mail
Written by Jed Grant   
Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Usually an interaction designer works to understand and implement project requirements in a way that allows users to most effectively accomplish their tasks. In this model, team members review designs and offer feedback, which leads to valuable improvements in the product design. Various iterations with the team happen before the design is even presented to the client.

When you present the design to the client, the client usually requests additional changes, which in turn leads to further iterations of design. The whole process to complete a design varies in the number of iterations—it can be excessive or light, depending on the team and client.

However, I’ve recently discovered several advantages to collaborative interaction design—that is, working alongside another designer on the same project. Collaborative design can reduce the number of iterations it takes to reach a high quality of design.

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Employee Spotlight: Jim Adams Print E-mail
Written by Cassie McDaniel   
Thursday, 09 July 2009

QuestionJim_Adams

What do you do at the Church?

Answer

As a member of the Information and Communications Systems department (ICS) Mobile Device Team, I help coordinate cellular communications for Church headquarters. That includes ordering cell phones and mobile broadband data cards for laptops, helping employees with an array of phone issues, and generally safeguarding the Church’s investment in this popular business tool.

Question

What role do you think the Mobile Device Team plays in the Church organization?

Answer

We try to make the employees’ mobile device experience as smooth and trouble-free as possible. For example, a lost, damaged, or stolen cell phone can represent a minor tragedy in the life of a citizen of the 21st century! We resolve problems as painlessly as possible by having a small stock of lightly-used surplus devices available for immediate replacement. This minimizes “phoneless” down-time. Without this service, hundreds of dollars would be spent on each replacement phone, so we feel we save the Church significant dollars as we help maximize employee productivity.

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Meetinghouse Webcast Software Beta Begins Print E-mail
Written by Jacob Stark   
Friday, 04 December 2009

Meetinghouse Webcast is the official solution for local units of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to broadcast meetings over the Internet to other locations. Webcast technology provides an alternative to travel for stake conferences, regional conferences, firesides, and training meetings.

In February 2009, the Church released the Meetinghouse Webcast Communicator. The Communicator includes the hardware and software needed to encode and send a webcast stream. To meet the needs of those with custom hardware configurations, the Church is now beta testing a software-only solution for use on Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, or 7.

To learn more, please visit the Meetinghouse Webcast Software Beta page.

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Participate in Community Development Print E-mail
Written by Nathan Dickamore   
Tuesday, 30 June 2009

I recently attended a keynote presentation given by Michael Tiemann, Red Hat’s Vice President of Open Source Affairs (listen to Michael Tiemann’s presentation here). Michael's talk focuses on "exonovation" (a word he made up), or innovation from an open community, and how it can make a product even better than a closed, controlled, proprietary effort. Exonovation involves creating a more open, positive, and productive environment, leveraging the innovation of people external to your organization and is a common practice used in the open source development community.

Listening to this presentation as a software engineer for the LDS Church, I could see how exonovation and the community could really benefit the work here at the Church. We have found that as an organization we have many software dependencies, yet we do not have the funds or resources necessary to meet all of these dependencies. Exonovation provides a way for us to extend our resource cap to a possibly unlimited amount.

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Mormon Channel iPhone App Now Available Print E-mail
Written by Cassie McDaniel   
Thursday, 25 June 2009

The Mormon Channel iPhone App is now available for free in the iTunes store. This is the first LDSTech community collaboration project to be released.

Community collaboration is ongoing at the LDSTech Wiki. The purpose of the wiki is for Church employees and community members to collaborate on various documents and technology projects sponsored by the Church. We invite all to participate. New users, please review the Requirements for Participation and wiki Guidelines pages.

We can still improve the Mormon Channel iPhone Application. There is immediate need for quality assurance to find and fix bugs. You can suggest new features and report bugs in Jira.

To learn more about helping out with community collaboration projects on the LDSTech wiki, read about getting started.

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Finding Creative Inspiration from the Creation Print E-mail
Written by Richard Moore   
Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Looking to the work of the Master can help enhance our own creativity.

Everything Was Created Spiritually Before It Was Created Physically

    And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also; nevertheless, all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word. (Moses 3:7)

There are many scriptural sources of the initial spiritual creation of all things. The importance of a plan is apparent in this fact. Nothing was thrown together haphazardly. Every blade of grass, every insect, every tree and flower, and every one of us were fully realized first in spirit and then in flesh.

In our own creative works, taking the time to plan allows us to test ideas, work out the kinks, and define the best solution before we begin the actual creation. We save time, energy, and money—and end up with a better product. Planning allows us to make mistakes without fear and to refine the best ideas while letting the weak ones fade away.

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Working in a Small Church IT Shop Print E-mail
Written by Hyrum Haynes   
Thursday, 18 June 2009

When someone thinks of IT and the Church, they probably think of the large, complex environment at the Church’s downtown SLC campus, with a staff of dedicated IT professionals in many different specialties. Or perhaps they would think of the more modest technical needs of local units, area and mission offices, seminaries and institutes, MTCs, or temples. Indeed, the Church has technical needs wherever it has a presence. Those needs vary according to the function and size of the particular location.

I am privileged to have worked at LDS Philanthropies (formerly LDS Foundation) for the last 18 years, first as a Technical Service Representative (TSR) and now as a software engineer. I have seen this department grow in size and change in technology. LDS Philanthropies (LDSP) is a department of the Office of the Presiding Bishopric and is responsible for philanthropic donations to the Church and its affiliated charities, including the Church’s educational institutions. We maintain the donor records for these charities, as well as the alumni databases (but not educational records) of BYU, BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii, and LDS Business College. The database resides on an IBM System i (AS/400) located in the BYU Data Center. The AS/400, along with the Ascend database, was chosen in 1990 because it was the best system then available to support the needs of LDS Foundation.

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