Category Archives: Java

Datasoul and Powerpoint

Following 42: Datasoul rocks :-) Gasreth asks (via twitter):

@dave42w Does Datasoul link with PowerPoint? Can't tell from the website.

140 characters on twitter does not allow a full reply :-)

Except that we could say "No at the moment, but partially soon".

Datasoul comes from a big Church background (the Prado's Baptist Church at Curitiba, Brazil). In that setting you have a Datasoul operator and in such a situation integration with Powerpoint was not an issue. You have both loaded and simply hide datasoul at the appropriate point to reveal the powerpoint presentation below.

However, my own needs are a little different. In most situations the preacher or worship leader uses a remote presenter to move from slide to slide. In this mode you lose flexibility but reduce the size of the worship team and gain precise control over slide changes (can be significant for sernons in particular).

So in the development version of Datasoul we now have support for remote presenters (and it works better than any other with sensible logic on the back slide button in particular).

Also Samuel is working on support for displaying slideshows of images. This will give the first support for powerpoint (actually we are working with OpenOffice as that is free software and Impress is better than powerpoint).

The way this will work is that you can export slides to images (one at a time with OpenOffice Impress, but we are going to have automation for that). So to integrate powerpoint with Datasoul you would get Datasoul to use OpenOffice to convert the presentation to a set of jpegs (one per slide) then you would use these jpegs as a slideshow in Datasoul. Obviously you would lose any animations, but as a first solution we think it will be helpful to many people.

Later on we are looking at automating OpenOffice Impress so that Datasoul has an Impress service element with the filename and calls OpenOffice to launch the presentation. This will work with many powerpoint presentations (again complex automations may not work and powerpoint's horrible mangling of font sizes can cause some layout issues).

So if you want to get ready for datasoul and powerpoint then I recommend you

  • Ditch powerpoint and use OpenOffice Impress.
  • Try using little or no animation (for example if you must add bullet points one at a time then start with a full slide and then duplicate it. Go backwards deleting a point at a time. You then get the same effect by changing slides).
  • Either wait or start using the development version of Datasoul and contribute (bug reports are a good start).

On the other hand if you think I am an idiot for suggesting that powerpoint is not the centre of the universe then if you provide code to support powerpoint from Datasoul I am sure Samuel will consider it.

The last solution is of course to focus on building your Church so that you have the resources to have a datasoul operator in the service. Actually I think that is the best option :-)

Datasoul rocks :-)

Tonight (Tuesday) I was using Datasoul again (see 42: Datasoul – Free Open Source Church Presentation Software & 42: Datasoul: my first live use).

This time for a fresh expression of Church called AbodA in Thrapston. In preparation I again found adding the songs very quick and easy.

However, when it came to the actual worship I found another useful feature. I ran Datasoul on my laptop running Ubuntu 9.10 with an extended desktop onto the projector. Datasoul makes that very easy but also gives control over the monitor screen. By positioning the monitor screen on one side of the laptop with datasoul itself on the other I got a great layout for the lead singer. She had the words and could also see what was coming up and so could control the worship with the remote presenter.

All I need next is a foot pedal and any of the musicians could control the service.

Mind you another option to try is connecting a screen via HDMI, maybe I can then run the monitor on multiple screens for the band.

Very cool!

Datasoul: my first live use

I wrote about datasoul for the first time in 42: Datasoul – Free Open Source Church Presentation Software.

Today was the first time I have used it live. It was at 42: Launching Hope 10 in Thrapston and I was running the latest development source code within NetBeans and so had a number of improvements from version 1.3 (remote presenter, ui improvements, initial support for image displays).

As St James was setup in cafe style we used three projectors and screens so that people could sing without squirming around in their seats. I was running on Ubuntu 9.10 and besides the songs had a dvd to play.

I did not have the songs entered into datasoul before I arrived but it was extremely quick to copy and paste the words in. In fact much much quicker than it is in SongPro, Powerpoint or OpenOffice Impress. The main reason for this is that you don’t have to paste each verse/chorus in separately. Instead they go into a single text block with the slides separated by === which are nice and quick to add. The simplicity of datasoul also helps, you don’t have to specifically mark choruses and bridges, instead you repeat them as you actually want to sing them (you can modify this for a specific service after adding the song).

I still think it would be good to provide a syntax to identify song elements such as verses, choruses and bridges (partly for display purposes). But I would need to find a really simple way to do this that would not make things more complicated because that would lose this really time saving feature of Datasoul.

Another feature that works better than any other service presentation software I have used is the preview of songs and control over what is actually on the projector. I have not used anything which so reliably allows you to preview the slides for the next song while still moving through the current one. It is an area we have been discussing on the mailing list but this afternoon made the advantages of the current system very obvious. In the same way switching the projector display on and off is really simple and reliable.

Configuration of multiple screens is a little more fiddly (you have to type in co-ordinates and resolution) but the result is much more reliable and resilient than other methods I have used. The display and focus just work correctly all the time even when switching between datasoul and other software using the projector (such as the dvd player).

So while datasoul does have a few limitations at the moment (lack of image support probably being the most significant) there are other things besides the price that make it stand out against others. In particular

  • Speed of adding and editing songs
  • Control over what is on the projector and preview
  • control over multiple monitors
  • multi-platform (Windows xp, vista and 7/Mac/Linux etc)
  • A development team that welcomes contributions

As a result I highly recommend datasoul.

Datasoul – Free Open Source Church Presentation Software

What a nice surprise. I have been doing some setup on a replacement laptop (after much abuse all 3 USB ports have given up on my old laptop which is a big problem for mobile internet access, presentation remotes, external hard disks and cameras).

Anyway I decided to have another look for free software for Church services (I can't yet find my SongPro CD and anyway would prefer to use open and free software, plus it helps if it runs on Linux).

Anyway, good news. I found Datasoul – Free Open Source Church Presentation Software. It is already excellent, written in Java and immediately ran on my new Dell Laptop running 64bit Linux as well as on Windows.

I have spent the last couple of days exchanging emails with Samuel and Jean-Philippe with some ideas for making it work a little better for our small Churches (Samuel is in Brazil in a Church of 4,000 so has rather more complex needs than the Churches of 40+ that I serve).

I have already been able to download the source code and start making some sense of it. Java coding has changed a huge amount in the several years since I did any (especially when it comes to designing forms in Netbeans – wow!). So the learning curve is a bit steep.

I am very hopeful that I'll be able to use it for services very soon (my needs relate to not usually having an operator and so needing to move through the whole service using a remote presenter with next and previous buttons. I think it is going to be great for several of our churches and of course the fact it is free software produced by a worshipping congregation is very attractive too.

There are some really nice features of Datasoul that are better than the commercial stuff I have found in the past.

  • One is the very simple text files used for service plans which are self contained and so contain all the song words.making it much easier to move them between machines.
  • Another is the way a song can be changed, either in the library for all future uses or in just this service (eg miss a verse out).
  • The interface is very simple and straightforward so it is really easy to use (and from our conversations going to get better too).

This is a great find and I am really excited about it. If there are any other Java programmers in your churches who would might like to get involved that would be fantastic and your Church could then get something really good at the best price.

Moving 42 onwards

At the start of another calendar year (by the way: Happy New Year everyone) I have decided to make a few adjustments to the way that 42 works.

Some of these are simply acknowledging what is already happening and others are new directions. Some will take effect immediately and others will take time to filter through.

None are particularly radical and they should not radically change the nature of 42 from what it has already become.

Firstly, I want to recognise that the content on 42 has changed considerably since it started back in August 2003. There now a far greater focus on Christianity and on Cycling with all the IT technical areas in significant decline. I’ll probably write a "state of the category" post for each existing category outlining the future of that category within 42.

Secondly, I am going to do a split. Initially I am having a separate cycling blog called Cycle Life at I will have more cycling content on there than I have had on 42 recently and it will have a slightly wider focus. Not just recumbents or fixies but also news and wider implications of cycling (environment, health etc).

Thirdly (eventually) there will be a design update to recognise the lack of recent content in some categories (Java, Python etc) and hence the overall change in focus that has already taken place.

Fourthly, I may move 42 (complete with all existing content) over to WordPress (or possibly another weblog application) running on my TextDrive hosted server. I am just upgrading my Lifetime hosting there for an awesome price and will have enough capacity to run 100′s of blogs like 42 (oh and also close my other hosting accounts).

That’ll do for now (but don’t forget to go a subscribe to Cycle Life to catch all the good stuff about to come there).

Feed tidy-up

Just done a little tidy-up.

  • You can now see proper feed icons, all over 42
  • The feeds that were not working are now
  • All the old RDF feeds are gone for ever, I have not been able to redirect them so if you are subscribed to them, in which case you probably won’t see this message anyway ;-)
  • You can now subscribe to 42 by email

Has Sun blown its chance?

Has Sun blown its chance? | Open Source |

H’mm, methinks this is jumping to conclusions rather soon. Every other project that has moved from closed to open source (Mozilla,, Solaris) has taken a long time to do so but the rewards have been good.

Oh and by the way notice that 2 of those big examples are from Sun – they have done this before and know what they are doing.

Oh and also I am quite happy if the timing means that Harmony gets more chance, two compatible open source Java implementations will be very good news.

Hat tip: Linux Today – ZDNet: Has Sun Blown its Chance?.