– Ben Martens


Microphone Light

arduinomiclightA few months ago, I bought new wireless microphones for church. They’re simple but they work well. The old ones were dying so it’s nice to have some that work well. The only downside is that the old ones had a nice flip switch on the top so you could tell by feeling the box whether the mic was on or off. These new mics have a button that you press once to turn on and another to turn off. Pastor turns his mic on and off throughout the service and it’s really easy to get mixed around with the on/off state.

After thinking about this for quite a while, I decided I could turn this into a project. There is a light on the mic receiver up in the balcony that goes on when his mic is on. I taped a light sensor on top of that and ran that to one of the analog input pins on an Arduino. If the light is off (meaning his mic is off), the Arduino sends a signal to a relay to let power flow to a light bulb. The bulb is red so if Pastor sees a red light, he knows his mic is off. I’ve only been testing it for a couple Sundays but so far, it works great!

This was the first time that I’ve ordered from but I was really impressed. Each product page has lots of examples and documentation to get you going. I also really liked their “Power Tail 2” product. It has all the relay stuff built into a short extension cord so you can skip all of those pieces. It’s way more expensive than doing it yourself, but “it just works.” And obviously I didn’t need an Arduino to do this simple logic, but again, it was easier.

This was a fun project to research and build. I love these Arduino projects, but I don’t have a lot projects on my list that require one.

Church Website Updates

When I stepped out of the property manager role at church at the end of last year, I stepped into the IT role. After a network and PC update, it has been going pretty smooth so I decided to look for something else to break fix.

We had been using a service for our web and email hosting that catered to churches. It’s a great way for non-technical people to get a church website going. Unfortunately it’s pretty limited. I got control of our domain name from them, switched to a new email provider and then moved our web hosting to SquareSpace. I literally spent 15 minutes copying and pasting the old content into a new design template and it already looks so much better. BethH is going to take it from here and actually spend some time with the design, layout and content to make it even nicer.

You can see it at or check out the before and after below. I don’t love the long domain name but we’re kind of stuck with it now. I might purchase a shorter one and forward everything to the longer one but we’ll see.

It’s really nice to have control of all the various pieces and to be using a top-notch web host like SquareSpace. If you need to create a website, you need to check them out. While they will hold your hand for a very simple setup, you can also get really geeky and dive deep into lots of different options.


WiFi Access Points

unifinetworksOn January 1, I took over as the IT guy at church. We had a pretty bare bones set up and I was given the funds to spruce things up a bit. Once I got our internet speed upgraded from 1.5Mbps to 20Mbps (for the same price with some billing fixup) and got new computers installed, the next task was to get better WiFi coverage.

A bit of searching around led me to these UniFi Access Points. They’re simple looking devices that can be managed from a central server app. These are slightly more complicated than your typical home networking gear but well within the reach of any aspiring nerd.

There are tons of complex features that you can enable like zero handoff switching between access points so your VOIP calls don’t stutter, but even just setting it up with the defaults gives you a great experience. I need to do some more testing, but it appeared that my devices were automatically connecting to the strongest signal instead of waiting until the first signal completely died out to grab a new one. The range was good and now with three access points, we can cover all of the buildings with a strong signal.

I’m tempted to install these at home too. Our house is just big/complex enough that we get a pretty weak signal in some parts. Two or three of these would make a big difference.