Writing a grant for booth-y things.

curtis73

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Mar 2, 2019
Location
Harrisburg, PA
Our tech booth (lovingly named John Wilkes) is pretty pathetic. I have a Mackie 24+4 analog console, an older ION that we just got a couple years ago, and (believe it or not) a reel-to-reel tape machine. I added a CD player, but I left the R2R in place just to show the executive board how pathetic our tech is.

So we're finally writing a grant to upgrade the following:

  • our office computers which are currently a mixture of Pentium and Core i2 towers running Vista :oops:
  • our network which consists of a router, a switch, and cat5 hanging from the drop ceiling
  • our booth tech. We're not pushing for a digital console in this particular grant, as this charitable fund focuses on smaller office/computer grants, not arts/production
There will be 6 office computers and I mostly have them figured out. We will more or less let each of the 5 employees have an allowance for the computer of their choice, and then we'll likely do a Mac Mini for box office. As TD, I will want a laptop with all the processor and all the video for CAD stuff. The ED will likely want a laptop/workstation so he/she can take presentations on the road for meetings/lunches/etc. AD wants a Mac for graphic design.... you get the idea.

Can you tell me if I'm off base with my booth desires? I think I'll ask for an iPad for future digital sound console reasons, a Mac Mini for running Qlab and video, and a touchscreen laptop/Nomad dongle, plus additional touchscreen monitor, plus ION keyboard for programming/cueing. That will prevent us from carting the ION up and down from the elevated booth for designing/tech. The wireless I can figure out later or on my own. Heck, for that matter, I can just drop a cat5 for now.

1) does this sound like a logical direction for booth things?
2) anything different or additional?
3) am I missing something with the ION client? Should I do the whole laptop/monitor thing, or should I do something simpler like a R-pi to be a client (keep in mind, I'm not even sure what those words actually mean, I'm just coughing up phrases I've heard from people who actually know computer things.)
 

DrewE

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Mar 18, 2019
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Vermont
Do you have a decent (i.e. laser, maybe color/larger format/higher speed, depending on your needs) printer somewhere? Do you need another decent printer?

Will the mac mini be sufficient for whatever video you need to run? If it's just playback to a single projector, quite possibly; but if you have some sort of on-the-fly rendering stuff, or multiple projectors, or other fancier needs, I'd think you might want something a bit more powerful...but I also could be way wrong, as I'm not super well up on such things.
 

TimMc

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Feb 15, 2017
The new M1 based Mac Mini are pretty spiffy in the performance dept. but video outputs are... interesting; likewise the Thundercat/Lightning/whatevery Apple calls them now connections are not created equal (caveats du jour). That said, they've got the best price/perf ratio in the Apple computer lineup. A $kilo will get you a lot of Mini in Apple's build to order store.

As for what machines, where... unless you have specific reasons to let office users pick the actual computer, I think for administrative purposes they should be at least in the same model line and let users pick their UI devices - keyboards, mice, monitors. As for which machines to use for task-specific uses, get the machine that the software requires. You did that for the Qlab, so does your box office software require a MacOS or is there another reason to put a Mini there?
 
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curtis73

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Mar 2, 2019
Location
Harrisburg, PA
Do you have a decent (i.e. laser, maybe color/larger format/higher speed, depending on your needs) printer somewhere? Do you need another decent printer?

Will the mac mini be sufficient for whatever video you need to run? If it's just playback to a single projector, quite possibly; but if you have some sort of on-the-fly rendering stuff, or multiple projectors, or other fancier needs, I'd think you might want something a bit more powerful...but I also could be way wrong, as I'm not super well up on such things.
We have a brand new Kyocera monster printer thing. It's a lease, but a good one. We play the "poor" card really well. I don't know the model number, but it's one that collates, folds, staples, the works. I really would LOVE a 24" plotter though to print out blueprints for set designs. Thanks for the memory jogging.

For video, the most we have used in the past is 2 for any given production. On shows where both projectors were showing the same thing, I just split the signal and use Powerpoint on a PC laptop. We did do a show where two separate signals were used on two projectors, but the LD brought his own Mac and honestly not sure how he did it or what software he used.
 

curtis73

Active Member
Joined
Mar 2, 2019
Location
Harrisburg, PA
As for what machines, where... unless you have specific reasons to let office users pick the actual computer, I think for administrative purposes they should be at least in the same model line and let users pick their UI devices - keyboards, mice, monitors. As for which machines to use for task-specific uses, get the machine that the software requires. You did that for the Qlab, so does your box office software require a MacOS or is there another reason to put a Mini there?
The main reason for letting folks pick their own was due to job descriptions. Our AD does all the designs for our show posters, puts together our playbills, and a bunch of other artsy stuff for which a mac would shine. Laptop would be preferred since that position can a lot of work-from-home. I do lots of CAD and (me personally) I don't want to have to relearn an entire vectorworks platform without a right-click button. Yikes. I'm sure I could, but I would complain a lot. ED does a lot of lunch meetings to pitch a donation, or presentations of things to local arts organizations. I would imagine a laptop would be beneficial, and if I were choosing, it would be a PC because powerpoint, but Mac would do fine for a seasoned user. Our current costume designer is an old analog guy who is retiring next year, so buying him a computer he won't use and expecting the new CD to want the same thing is a hard guess. I could imagine a CD wanting something like a surface/tablet, or a Mac for design things.

For me, something like my home laptop would be perfect.... ASUS republic of gamers. Plenty of everything. I use it at home for home studio stuff like editing video and recording audio. In the theater I can imagine that PCs would be used for the more intense math-y/office-y stuff, and Macs being better at the arts-y/design-y stuff. But I think if you asked me to convert to Mac, I'd complain a lot, and if you asked our AD to convert to PC, she'd likely kill us all. (exaggerating, but not much)

Re: box office, sort-of requirement for MacOS, but I'll explain. We currently farm out our box office. We do six productions in our black box each season and we are the resident theater company at a large proscenium house downtown where we do three shows. Part of our contract with that other house is that they handle all of the box office for all nine productions and it is very clumsy. Patrons call us for tickets and we have to redirect them to another phone number. We basically get daily reports on ticket sales via email and we try to save some seats for walk-ins and it's just awful. Their box office closes hours before our curtain, half the time someone forgets to send the manifest, tracking ticket sales is anyone's guess, and our walk-in sales are basically pre-printed tickets and a cash box/credit card machine. It just sucks. The nod to Mac for our box office was because we could then run the same software as the other box office and they would talk to each other. It would basically be installing a client on their ticketing portal so either one of us could sell tickets for our shows at either house at any time. Their software can run on PC with an emulator, but it is designed as Mac-only.
 

curtis73

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Mar 2, 2019
Location
Harrisburg, PA
I also forgot to add that I put in for a NAS with this grant. Our current file sharing system is Google Drive which is not only terrible, it's not the most secure. I figured since we don't have a dedicated IT person, I figured server maintenance was not something we wanted to tackle.
 

DrewE

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Mar 18, 2019
Location
Vermont
I do lots of CAD and (me personally) I don't want to have to relearn an entire vectorworks platform without a right-click button. Yikes. I'm sure I could, but I would complain a lot.
You do know that macs have had right-click ability for many, many years, correct? The magic mouse right clicks just by clicking using the right side of the top (which is a sort of trackpad/button combo thingy), and scrolls about with the middle portion, among other things. It really doesn't feel weird after maybe thirty seconds. On a mac laptop track pad, clicking with two fingers is a right click (among other ways).

There are plenty of other things to get used to if changing platforms, and various good reasons why one might not prefer a Mac, but lacking mouse buttons is not among them.
 

TimMc

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Feb 15, 2017
Good to know about Macs.

I'm one of those guys who disables tapping on a PC touchpad. Can't do it. To complex for me. :)
That's why they have those options. :)
 
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Aaron Becker

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US - East Coast
The main reason for letting folks pick their own was due to job descriptions.
Food for thought. I do some IT consulting on the side. Have had multiple clients not want to bulk-order the same PCs all in one shot. They now have an organization filled with 12 different PCs for 14 different users. Another has 6 different models for 10 users. Supporting them and keeping things consistent if you're looking for any type of central management down the road or anticipate any staff changes... makes this annoying.
I went through the same "we all do really specific stuff" dance with them, but ultimately I realized that what they were doing wasn't actually *that* special. No offense intended, but you really may want to consider getting consistent workstations where possible. /end-soap-box-rant.
 

TimMc

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Feb 15, 2017
Right now the only OS-specific applications are Qlab and the box office software your ticketing agent uses. Buy the Mac Minis for them (16GB RAM for the Qlab machine). Everyone else? If the facility is MS-Office based, it's a no-brainer to go Windows as the Mac version of Office still doesn't really work the same (it's close but you'll find the places where it's not... trust me). If that's not an issue either way, the new Mini are a great value in Apple-land.

For years I purchased off-lease Lenovo computers for my use but lately I've switched to Dell's official refurb store. The current "holiday" coupon (SUNNYDEAL4U) is 45% off any item >$599 with 35% off items below that price. Free FredEx Ground shipping (a division of FredEx does the refurbishing for Dell). While you may not wish to spend grant money on previously owned goods, I've found these to be budget savers.

 
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macsound

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Jun 15, 2018
Location
San Francisco, CA
I'm always a fan of Macs. I have lots of them and they're easy to support, both short and longterm.
They also have a far higher resale value than PCs and in a pinch, you can pick one up at a local Apple store that is identical to a broken or misplaced one.
A big reccomendation is get that wired ethernet sorted. Ubiquity gear is amazing and in line with consumer stuff. And buy the dongles for the mac laptops so you have them when you need them. Wifi is ok but not when the box office is backed up, there's a Zoom call in or whatever.

My biggest gripe with PCs and why I try to not support them anymore. Drivers, windows updates, quirks with specialty software, it's all a headache.

I have a couple virtual Windows 10 machines on my macbook pro and I use them in snapshot mode so that every time they reboot they are in the exact same state, no updates, no viruses, no changes. All the data is on a separate partition. (can't do that with the M1, only downside)

And as much as support is annoying, if you have 5 identical mac minis and 5 identical macbook pros, support is far easier. You can use a 3rd party management system like fleetsmith or do it manually, but your spreadsheet will look far simpler than with a dozen mismatched machines.

Also Microsoft stuff, its fine. I use the web and installed version of excel, word, outlook, powerpoint, whatever, everyday. Maybe its not the same as the PC version but you'd only know if you had a PC sitting next to your mac. And the web version is (for obvious reasons) 100% identical, PC to mac.

Biggest upside for Macs - they don't restart to do updates on their own. Windows starts a countdown if you ignore the button for too long and then poof.
 

jad17555

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Nov 10, 2015
Location
Willow Grove, PA
As an IT Guy who works with non-profits, I fully agree with @Aaron Becker. Every non-profit I have worked with are either as he described or had someone give them a grant for computers 5-8 years ago and are in the same boat as you now are. Rather than let everyone roll their own, the greatest bang for the buck long term is to establish a standard desktop environment for the back office. While Mac has it's place on the artistic side, I am a Windows fan for back office functions. If your AD is creating brochures and programs, then publisher (which only runs in a Windows environment) is really the right application for him though he may want to have a mac available for some of the artsy stuff.

If you are a 501C3 organization, take a look at Tech Soup (techsoup.org) for their office365 donation programs. For a very reasonable monthly fee, you can get a desktop license the full suite of products for your in office folks and the online version for everyone else for free. The functionality of G-suite apps cannot compete.

Local NAS for big storage is a good idea IF you are religious about having 3 copies of everything - Real time, local backup, and off site backup.

For ticketing and other development related back office things, have you looked into Tessitura?
 

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