Sunday, January 30, 2011

Communications becoming too impersonal?

When I was but a lad going to Elementary school in the 60s, the major method of communication was face-to-face. Rotary telephones were available (I'm not THAT old) but it was not a device kids used very often other than to talk to your relatives on holidays. Our concept of social networking was passing little handwritten notes in class or playing the 'telephone game'.

Then, in the seventies came two more devices: the Walkie-Talkie and its big brother, the Citizens Band Radio (CB). I remember getting my first set of Walkie Talkies and giving one to my best friend who lived two houses down the street. The ability to talk to each other like secret agents was just SO Cool!

And, later when in high school, talking to friends across the Los Angeles area using my neighbor's CB Base Station was equally Cool! In fact, at my high school, the VP of Student Affairs had a Base Station in his office and used to talk to students driving to school in the mornings (there was no 'talking while driving' concerns back in the 70s).

Then in the 80s, we had Bulletin Board Systems where if you had a 300 or 1200 baud modem (analog), you could text chat with friends or use rudimentary messaging systems where you could leave someone a message (the beginnings of electronic mail).

Later came answering machines, physical devices connected to your phone or build into the phone, that took messages for you while you were out. remember those?

Then we hit the 90s and thought we reached the pinnacle of communications with the Internet. We had electronic mail that sent messages across the nation. We could send documents, images, and began to publish content electronically using Gopher, Mozilla, Cello, and Netscape.

And Motorola gave us the StarTAC flip cell phone. The first time Trekkers everywhere started to feel like we were finally catching up to where Captain Kirk and Picard were with their communicators. Truly, we had arrived!

But now we are in the new Millennium and we have progressed so much further. We have digital phone services over the Internet (VoIP). We have cell phones that not only deliver calls, but take voicemail, allow direct text messaging (SMS), manage our email, deliver video and web pages, conduct commerce, take and organize photos, and fits in your shirt pocket. We have wireless internet (WiFi) networking that connects almost all of our computers and handheld devices to the world. And most of us can watch broadcasts using a variety of sources while we take the commuter train home from work.

And then there is today's Social Networking with more services and providers than I can list here (FaceBook, Ning, MySpace, Foursquare, LinkedIn, etc.)

What will the next communications revolution be? Will our children's children laugh at what we use today (in much the same way we laugh at the 'party lines' and Lily Tomlin's switchboard operator)? Will we even understand how to use their cool new devices?

As much as I love new technologies, I have real concerns about how our communication has become so impersonal. We use phones, but often to text or email or 'post' messages rather than delivering them verbally to another human being. This very blog, while being a method of mass distribution/publication, is still an example of impersonal communication.

As a society, we need to remember that we are in essence social beings that need to be in community and interact with one another. We need to embrace IRL (in real life) relationships and foster/maintain interpersonal connections while we continue to embrace the benefits that our emerging technologies provide.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What would Jesus do?

As Christians, we are called by Jesus Christ to minister to those less fortunate than ourselves and to plant the mustard seed of faith through the gift of His Love and Grace. We are called to serve others, following Jesus' example. "For He came to serve, not to be served." (Matthew 20:28)

An Example

In January 1992, Grupo Amor de México, A. R. initiated one of its most desired projects, the creation of: The Home Of Love and Protection For Children. This association was founded with the desire to help orphans, homeless and mistreated children, giving them all the support that they should normally have in their own home, support not only in their physical needs but also in their spiritual and emotional needs as well.

With this in mind it was planned to provide for every 15 children, a couple to take care of them, by supplying them with all their basic needs such as: love, security, acceptance and identity, which will enable them to develop normally. Many of the children have never been to school; others have been sick or have been abused, so each one of them needs to be attended to according to their own personal needs. This ministry has expanded since its inception to include nine orphanages across the country. The original orphanage now houses almost 80 children in a multi-building facility.

A Response

Five years ago, I took a group of 32 high schoolers and adults on a mission trip to Colima, Mexico to work at that orphanage. It was a week-long servive project, helping with the children, working on their facilities, and preparing land for a new facility being built. It was a phenomenal, life-changing experience for all of us.

The youth in my parish have decided we should return to Mexico this summer to work at a different orphanage -- this one in Puebla, Mexico. I am very excited about returning to Mexico and serving the abandoned and/orphaned children in that country. The Mission Team, comprised of 10-15 youth and adults, will work at the orphanage for 1 week where they will be doing landscaping, vacation bible school, and sharing love and companionship with the children. The Mexico Mission Trip is scheduled from the end of July to the first week in August.

The Call

Servanthood in a world that is hurting. That is why we are here. Servanthood manifests itself in how we care for others. Making sure that other peoples' highest priority needs are being met, often ahead of our own. We need to instill this value in our youth so that they grow up apreciating that there is more to life than making money, moving up the corporate ladder, and obtaining symbols of success.

What have you done to support those less fortunate than yourself? You don't have to go to another country. There are needs right in your own neighborhood/city. Take a moment to find out how you can make a difference in the lives of families, children, and adults who have been on the fringe of our society. They need our help. And we can no longer expect someone else to respond.

Servanthood. It is how Jesus answers the question "What would Jesus do?"

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I love my iPad

A touchscreen tablet? I did not think I would get one, having purchased a Dell NetBook back in 2009. But then I played with a friend's iPad and ended up buying one for myself in May 2010. I haven't looked back and I have been all smiles since!

Don't get me wrong. I am a PC guy. I have used Macs over the years but I love my PCs. But I have to give Apple the props on their design for the iPhone (I have a 3Gs) and the iPad. I use these devices all day long and have been very pleased with how reliable, functional, and 'cool' they are. With the release of iOS 4.2, about the only thing I wish they did was support Flash (other than just for YouTube).

But let's focus on the iPad. The thing just works. I can do about 90% of tasks I used to use my NetBook/Laptop for but now with a device that is much lighter, easier to carry around, always online (with 3G), and whose battery lasts for over 10 hours. (And yes, it looks like a handheld PADD device from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Who doesn't want one of THOSE!)

The key to the power of the iPad is the wealth of applications that have been developed specifically for its screen size and faster processor (compared to the iPhone). The 'apps' give the iPad a level of flexibility that allows me to accomplish what I need for business, hobby work, entertainment, social networking and collaboration, and task management.

So what apps do I use the most? Well here are some of the 70+ apps in my arsenal. Some are free, many are not. But since the average price of an app is about $3.00, you can pretty much give up the soda machines and fast food for a week to be able to afford anything you will need to be productive.

1) Cases
Okay, so these aren't apps but I have two cases that I love. One is the Apple Case which also serves as a stand for the iPad (both landscape and portrait), and, the ThinkGeek Bluetooth Keyboard case which also becomes a stand and includes a built-in keyboard for when you need to do some serious long-term keyboarding work.

2) Osfoora HD ($3.99)
If you are a Twitter enthusiast, then you need a client that will use the screen real estate well. Osfoora does that and a lot more. It provides the full-featured Twitter publishing environment you need to keep on top of the Twitterverse. There is a version of TweetDeck for iPad as well.

3) The Weather Channel (FREE)
This app is great for tracking weather conditions, severe alerts, etc. and offers good doppler radar displays, video weather reports, and forecast information.

4) Appigo ToDo ($4.99)
If you are a busy person who needs to track 'to do' lists for multiple categories like work vs personal, then you need an app like this. ToDo can organize your tasks and supports task types like checklists, simple tasks, contact tasks, and multi-step tasks with ease. And, it will synchronize over WiFi with Outlook and several 'cloud-based' solutions. It also supports Notifications for upcoming tasks, etc.

5) FaceBook (FREE)
Yes, I am addicted to FaceBook. So if you are a FaceBook fan, this is a very helpful app to use. Sure, you can surf to the FaceBook web site itself, but this app can help you do most FB actions more quickly and supports Notifications for activities happening on your page. Note: This app is an iPhone app that runs on the iPad.

6) Evernote for iPad (FREE)
This is one of the best notetaking apps for the iPad (and iPhone). It integrates seamlessly with the web site, allowing you to create, view, and manage notes from various sources into 'notebooks' that are stored both locally and synchronized on the 'cloud'. Your notes can be shared with others and are accessible across multiple platforms/devices. This is a great tool for meeting notetaking. And if there is no Internet available, it will store your notes locally and sync them when you are online later.

7) Max Journal ($1.99)
This is a wonderful application for journaling (business, personal, etc.). It supports multiple journals so you can keep business and personal reflections separate. You can also assign passwords for security. You are able to not only enter text but also include embedded photos and categorize each note with multiple tags for searching purposes. Journal entries are tracked by date and can be backed up to another computer via iTunes.

8) BlogPress ($2.99)
This is a great tool for managing your WordPress, Blogger, or other blogging site. There are several apps for this type of work, including specific apps for WordPress. But I find this tool very easy to use and it allows for both the creation and management of your blog posts as well as being able to announce new postings to Twitter, FaceBook News Feed, etc.

9) Skype (FREE)
Skype is great on the iPad (and the iPhone). You can conduct both voice and text chat with your Skype buddies and even conduct a video chat (albeit for now the video is one way -- you can see the other person but obviously you cannot transmit video cuz there is no camera on the current iPad). Certainly when iPad 2 comes out this year, the video chat will become two-way.

10) Office2 HD ($7.99)
This is the second most expensive app I have installed at the moment. This app allows the creation and editing of Microsoft Word and Excel documents. It can handle the basic word processing features but cannot handle complex documents yet. It supports cloud storage which is a big plus. There are other products out there, notably Documents to Go and Quick Office Connect but they are more expensive.

11) Wyse PocketCloud Professional ($14.99)
This is the most expensive app I have. This is for all the IT and business folks out there who need to access a server on their network or the cloud using the Microsoft Remote Desktop (RDP). This is an excellent tool that provides all the functionality you need to be successful. If you work in IT, and you have Microsoft Server technology, this is a must-have.

Other apps by Category

Communications: VNC Viewer, IM+, WebEx, GoToMeeting
Office Automation: Numbers, Keynote, Google Docs, PDF Reader Pro
Shopping: Amazon Windowshop, eBay, Best Buy, CraigsPro, Groupon
Entertainment: ABC Player, PBS, Hulu Plus, NetFlix, Pocket Tunes, Pandora, UStream, Fandango
Travel: GPS Drive HD, FlightTrack Pro, Kayak HD, Google Earth
IT Stuff: IT Tools, FTPontheGo
Cloud Storage: Box.Net, DropBox
eReaders/Audiobooks: iBooks, Kindle, Audible


I won't even get into Games in this posting because that is a topic unto itself. Suffice to say that if you like gaming, you will have a plethora to choose from. Angry Birds, Need for Speed, Words with Friends, Cut the Rope, Jeopardy.... Oh wait, I said I wouldn't go there...

Bottom Line

If you are considering getting an iPad, my only suggestion as of right now is wait until March/April when Apple announces the iPad 2. It supposedly will be faster, have dual cameras, be lighter and thinner, have a louder speaker, and perhaps an even better display. But official specs have not been published at this time.

The iPad is a fantastic tool -- very useful, very flexible. Are there other devices out there right now that compete? Nah. But the recent Consumer Electronics Show promised a bunch of competitors coming in 2011. So we will see. But for right now, the iPad is the trendsetter and leading the pack.

Looking for information about the iPad as far as what apps are out there? Looking for recommendations? I watch a weekly video podcast produced by TWIT.TV called iPad Today. It is an excellent source for app reviews, iPad features, discussion, and ideas. You can watch them LIVE weekly on Thursdays at 3:30pm CST or download their podcast from their site or subscribe to it via iTunes.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

iTunes and disk space woes

Ever wonder where all your disk space goes? I have a 350gb hard drive on my laptop. And while it isn't one of the largest drives in the world, it is fairly decent for a laptop system. So imagine my concern when my drive showed that 2/3 of the space was already in use!

Okay, so for most people this is not a big deal. But for me, with all the video and music and photos that I carry around, space is a premium. I keep terabytes of external storage around, but I like to have space for those times when I am authoring content while mobile.

Well among many other areas that suck up drive space for no decent reason, I found that iTunes is one of the culprits. Especially if you listen to a lot of podcasts. Did you realize that then you subscribe to a podcast, those podcast files never go away? Even after you have listened to them and they are no longer appearing on your 'i-thingy' (iPod, iPad, iPhone, etc)?

Well I guess I knew that. But I never really did anything about it. So last week I went into my podcast category and looked at all of my podcast subscriptions. Each subscription contained dozens of podcasts I listened to in 2010. I have no real reason to store these beyond my initial 'listen' so I decided to delete them all, saving only a few that I really felt were worth keeping. This was especially relevant to the video podcasts I watch.

I freed up about 40gb by doing this! Oh, and when you delete files from iTunes of any type, choose to Remove the file, not keep it. Choosing to keep your files just makes it harder to find what you need to delete later.

So, I suggest to everyone who listens to a lot of podcasts to periodically go through and remove what you no longer need. You will be happy you did!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Resolutions for 2011

Let me first state that I do not believe in New Years Resolutions. Usually they are not well conceived, frequently ignored after January, and are frequently negative rather than positive.

And, I guess I just don't like the word 'resolution'. What is it, anyway? The word brings legislation to my mind. "Be it resolved,..." is just not my style for personal goals. In point of fact, I like the term 'goal' much better. I understand what a goal is. So here are my goals for the coming year.

Lose another 75 pounds
2010 has been a mixed blessing on the health front. After a wake-up call for me to get serious about my weight and diet, I joined Weight Watchers which is one of the best ways to learn how to change your eating habits for life. I have lost 54 pounds in 2010 and I have no intention of slowing my progress. It really feels good to be that much lighter on my feet!

Make exercize part of the regular routine
Now that I have lost a good amount of weight, I need to add more exercise into my daily/weekly routine. Walking was a definite starting point but I need to do more of it. Some weight training will be a goal for 2011 also. Gotta tone these poor muscles!

Post a blog entry each week
Well seeing as how this is the first posting I have made since my daugher started college in 2009, I have to say that blogging has been a major #FAIL for me. Outside of FaceBook and Twitter, I am just not sure I have anything worthwhile to share! But I am going to give this 'personal publishing' thing another try in 2011. If anyone has ideas on topics, I am all ears.

Improve my spiritual discipline
This is a lifelong journey, right? I am always looking for ways to gain a deeper understanding of God and what His goals are for my life. Sometimes I have a clue, often times it is just beyond my reach. But I am going to keep reaching and finding ways to stay in relationship with The Holy.

So there they are. The proverbial guantlet has been thrown. We will see how 2011 unfolds.