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  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
Download a few chapters of the book here.
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Entries in technology (11)

Friday
Nov262010

Overcoming dualism - Spirituality with your cell phone!

Wow, Mynhardt is posting some REALY thought provoking stuff at the moment!  His question about whether one should switch off one's technology for a day made me think.

Please read his post here.

However, I would like to post my response to him below - it expresses some of my current thinking on an 'integrated' spirituality that does not negate or escape my daily life, but rather embraces it, filling it with greater depth and meaning.

I have a slightly different view - in one of my books 'An uncommon spiritual path:  The question to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity' I make a case for the fact that we far too frequently develop unreal, life negating, spiritual disciplines.

Simply stated, we entrench a dualism between life and spirituality.  We think, like the Gnostics did, that in order to truly discover God and ourselves in God we need to escape the world and its demands, intrusions and expectations. I'm not sure that this is healthy.

I think that they way of Jesus was to come into the world, not to escape it - this is the essence of the incarnation.  It is costly, difficult and requires great discipline to remain focused, committed and connected to God in the midst of the everyday hustle and bustle.

So, here's what I'm thinking - indeed, we need to find ways to manage our technologies so that they don't end up managing us.  But, my iPhone, blackberry, and iPad are all tools that I use to cultivate relationships, facilitate engagement and reflection, and even to consume life giving 'content'.

I think that it would be much more important for me to find ways to encounter people, places and the God of people and places within this daily rhythm, rather than escaping it...

That being said, I still take a 4 day directed silent retreat each year to 'silence the noise' in my spirit...

Conspiring for Hope!

Dion

As always I would love to hear your views, inputs, and perspective!

Friday
Oct222010

you google, you SMS, you chat... do you poken!?

Earlier this week a new friend @metaMeerkat dropped by the Cape Town international convention to give me a really cool gift!  She gave me poken!

Poken Cape

This super little social networking device makes connecting with people at social gatherings and conferences so cool and easy!

All that you need to do when you meet another poken user is give them a 'high five' and your details are automatically swopped.  When you next plug your poken into the USB port of your computer it will exchange your data with theirs (giving them access to as much, or as little, data as you want).  In my case I share my web page, phone number, twitter account, facebook details and linkedin profile.

It is super easy to use, much easier than having to swop business cards, as I've been doing here at the Congress all week.

So, if you've got a poken please give me a shout - I'd love to connect!

If not, then why not fire up your blackberry, iPhone, or Nokia phone and scan this QR code?

 

Thursday
Oct072010

Someone's been trying to hack into my website...

I watch the statistics for my website (mainly using the great little squarespace app for the iPhone).  

I normally get between a few hundred and a thousand hits to my site per day.

However, earlier this week I noticed a spike of traffic to my site - almost 6000 hits to my side on one day, and over a thousand on another day...

This evening when I went to check my logs I discovered that the page that was being 'viewed' was my login page!  In fact I have had 6200 visits to that page this week!  That can only mean one thing - someone has been trying to hack into this blog.

Why?!

So, if you're trying to hack my site, drop me a line, tell me what you want to post.

You may be surprised to find that I'm quite a friendly guy!

God bless,

Dion

Sunday
Oct032010

Half a year with the Apple iPad in South Africa

I have had my Apple iPad 16 gig WiFi for almost 6 months now.  It has become an indispensable tool in my workflow and entertainment!

I thought I'd post a quick update on what I use it for (BTW, you can read my other iPad related posts, see some video of its use etc, here):

Most common daily uses:

Take a look at my iPad screen shot below to see my most used applications.

1.  Because of its size (small and thin) and battery life (at least 10 hours), I find that I hardly ever go anywhere without my iPad and my mifi portable 3G base station. I wish I had a 3G iPad (like some of my friends), but I'm pleased with what I have!

So, the iPad becomes my most used daily computer.  I use it for:

  • My Bible - I use Olivetree for the English (NRSV, NIV) and Greek Texts, and YouVersion (Bible HD) for 'The Message' and other modern language translations.
  • Reading and answering emails (even longer emails can be answered with ease).  I have 5 accounts and get about 200 mails a day.  So it is very handy to have this device to keep me on top of the most urgent mails.
  • My contacts and Calendar.  The Calendar application on the iPad is truly superb! It gives a great overview of the day, the week or the month.
  • The built in Notes application is indespensible!  I have hundreds of notes on the iPad - they are very ease to create, and can be synced or emailed to back them up.  Pressing the home button on the iPad allows you to search for keywords very easily.  So, I have a whole stack of information on hand at all times.
  • Dropbox - this is an incredible FREE solution that works with the iPad, iPhone, Android, and even Mac and Windows PC's!  It is like having a 'flash disc' with you everywhere.  You get 2 Gigs of free storage if you sign up (please use my referral link, I get an extra 250MB). Any file that you drop into your drop box on your computer automatically shows up on all other computers, iPhones, iPads that are linked to your account!  So, if my secretary wants me to have a document on my iPad, or I want a presentation, spreadsheet or document on both my iPad and my Macbook, I simply drop it into Dropbox!  If I work on the document it automatically syncs the most up to date version to all the devices!
  • Twitter and facebook (both personal and for the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization).  I use the free Twitter application for the various personal and Lausanne related feeds that I monitor and update. I use Friendly to stay up to date with my 1000 and some friends on facebook.
  • Office applications - I often need to work with spreadsheets and MS Word documents (and even powerpoints) as part of my work.  So, Pages, Numbers and Keynote are indespensible tools.
  • I do a great deal of public speaking, one of the three most valuable purchases for my iPad was the VGA dongle so that I can use it as a presentation device via a data projector.  I carry my most used Powerpoint presentations in Keynote, and the Videos that form part of those presentations.  It is SO handy to have this small, simple to use computer with a super long life battery on hand at all times!
  • Skype - There is not yet a skype version for the iPad, but the iPhone version works perfectly! I have even made Skype calls while driving (some days are busier than others, and since I am working across various timezones, US, Hong Kong etc., it is a fantastic help to have this little skype client to run... Obviously it is ONLY skype voice, no camera for video).
  • For fun, I do a lot of reading (most in the Kindle Application), while I prefer the layout and design of iBooks it is just easier to buy books on Kindle in South Africa, plus the Kindle App on my Macbook, iPhone and Blackberry are all always up to date with the location to which I have read in my various books.  
  • I also love using Flipboard to get a visual overview of my twitter, facebook and other RSS streams.
  • Lastly, I fairly frequently have to explain how certain functions of the brain work - the free application 3D Brain is a superb tool to navigate through the brain to help friends, family and students to get to grips with the workings of the old 'grey matter'.
  • My kids love playing Plants versus Zombies and Angry Birds. A little hint with both of these games... Buy the iPhone versions at a fraction of the price!  They look almost as good and work exactly the same.  Hours of fun while driving, or to keep the kids entertained while mom and dad are watching TV.

I often get asked if the iPad can replace my computer.  No, it cannot.  I have to use my Macbook for many tasks (in particular anything that requires any level of skill in creation (longer or more complex documents, presentations etc.) - but, I find that my laptop is used a lot more like a desktop.  I seldom carry it to meetings, and even if travel to Johannesburg for a day I would only take my iPad with me.

2.  The three best add ons for my iPad:

  • mifi 3G WiFi base station.  This keeps me connected to the internet!  Oh, how I wish I had a 3G iPad!
  • The Apple VGA dongle. In my line of work the iPad becomes so much more useful when it can be used to share presentations and videos.
  • The official Apple iPad case.  I know some don't like this cover, but it works so well for me.  It protects my iPad, it is small, thin, light and very versatile.  Plus, it makes the iPad look understated!  Very important for a minister!  I can carry the iPad into any meeting or gathering in this case and it looks just like a black cover notepad.

 I am so grateful for this great tool!  It makes my work and ministry so much easier.  Just this morning I used it when I spoke at the Camps Bay United Church - I had my powerpoint, Videos, sermon notes, and Bible all on one small, unobtrusive device.

 

Sunday
Oct032010

iPad in South Africa - Vodacom and MTN 3G sim card conversion to microsim

UPDATE 4 January 2013 - If you are looking for the instructions for converting your regular sim, or micro sim, to a nano sim you can see my new post (with a very handy PDF for measuring and cutting) here.

Original Post

I am the very fortunate owner of an Apple iPad - unfortunately mine is not a 3G version.  You can read about my iPad here, and watch a video of how I use it here.

However, I do have a few friends who have bought 3G iPad's in America and Hong Kong.

The amazing thing is that the iPad is not carrier locked (unlike the early iPhones that were locked to AT&T - my iPhone 3GS is a US version that has been unlocked for use on MTN in South Africa).  But, back to the iPad 3G.  With the three iPad's that I have got working on 3G in South Africa it was a simple as putting in a 3G sim card.

But... There is one problem!  Micro-sim cards are quite rare in South Africa.  I have heard that Vodacom has some in stock (that one can purchase), and I'm sure that MTN must also have some now (since they have been advertising that they'll also be selling the iPhone 4 which uses this smaller sim card).

So, what to do if you want your 3G iPad to run on a South African Network?  Well, it's quite simple actually:

DISCLAIMER:  Do this at your own risk!  This is merely an outline of how I did it on a few iPads, your results may vary. 

1. Get a regular sim card (you can either purchase a prepaid sim card - which costs just R1 from Vodacom, and I would suggest Vodacom for pre-paid data since it is so easy to load data at a cheaper cost).

2. Resize the sim card to fit the iPad's microsim slot. I'll have a few photos to show you how to do this below.

3. Pop in your sim card and you're up and running!

Resizing your regular Vodacom (or MTN) sim card to fit your 3G iPad:

1.  Find the sim card slot in your iPad (it is on the bottom left of the iPad).  Open it with a paperclip.

2. Use a piece of paper to 'trace' the internal ridge of the micro-sim holder (I used a post-it note). Simply place the paper over the sim card holder and run your fingernail or some other hard surface over the internal ridge of the holder.  It will leave an imprint on the paper.

3. Next, cut your paper stencil to size.

4. Next, you'll need some 'Prestik' (not sure what it is called elsewhere in the world), the sticky stuff on the left of this picture.  Simply stick your stencil onto your sim card and get ready to cut!

5. Next, line up the contacts from your regular sized sim card underneath the microsim holder. NB, please note in my picture below the sim card should be moved about 2mm to the LEFT (to ling up the contacts). See the image below this one with more description.

 

5.a. Please see the image (from my friend Paul) of a microsim.  You'll notice on the microsim that the 'golden contacts' are more or less centrally located to fit into the sim card holder.  As long as you get the central 3 contacts lined into the centre of the holder you're fine.  When you put the card in, if it says 'No Sim' you know that the contacts have not lined up...

6.  Next, paste your stencil onto your sim card using the prestik, and cut carefully!  Don't worry about cutting through the outer gold contacts... As long as the three central contacts are in tact you're perfect!

7. Once you've done your first cut you may need to do some slight tweaking in order to fit the sim into the holder.

Here's a photo of the sim in the microsim holder.

8. Finally, slip your sim, in the microsim holder, into the iPad - within a few seconds you should see the 'signal indicator' on the top left hand corner of the iPad indicating either Vodacom 3G or the E (for Edge if your outside of a 3G area).

So, I hope this helps!  Feel free to drop me a comment or a mail if I you get stuck.  I'm not always able to respond right away (my day job does keep me rather busy!), but I'll respond as soon as I'm able.

Further to my instructions you can also watch this video http://allabouttheipad.tumblr.com/post/729237325/converting-a-sim-to-a-micro-sim-for-the-ipad

 

Sunday
Jun062010

A month (and a bit) with the Apple iPad in South Africa - a review

I'm privileged to be one of the few persons in South Africa to get my hands on an Apple iPad.  I got a basic 16Gig wifi version (you can read about that here) just over a month ago.
It is a remarkable device.  Having used it for a month now I can give a much more informed review of the iPad in everyday use.
I am frequently asked to comment on the iPad, and whether it can replace a laptop.  The simple answer is no.  It could not function as one's only computer (if you are a person who uses your computer for 'work').  You do need to have a desktop of laptop computer somewhere (whether it is at your home or office) in order to do some things (like print, get stuff off flash discs, CD's, DVD's etc.)
But, I have found that my laptop is now largely confined to my desk, and then also only used for 'heavy lifting' (like video editing, working between multiple documents (particularly when they're documents in different formats, such as working between Excel and Word for a presentation), printing, and recording my radio show).
That being said, the iPad works for just about everything else.  I use it to respond to email on my Microsoft Exchange account, on my gmail account and on my pop3 accounts.  It is my preferred device for web surfing, using facebook, twitter, and also for reading (I have only one book purchased in iBooks - the variety is just too limited at present.  I have numerous books on the Kindle).  It is also my preferred device for watching video (such as Ted Talks, youtube videos etc.)
My use case:
You may have inferred that I am a minister and theologian who works in a corporate environment.  That means that my work requires information on hand (my Bible, sermons, Bible studies, powerpoint presentations, reports, books etc.), it also requires me to keep a very carefully controlled diary (I have anything up to 15 individual appointments and meetings during the average work day - some involve meeting with individuals, others with groups etc.).  I have to keep notes in meetings (and have the notes and minutes from previous meetings on hand).  
I also keep the text from the books and articles that I've written on my iPad for reference during talks.  And, perhaps the application that I use most often is Mail (the email application on the iPad).  I have 5 email accounts and receive over 300 emails a day (excluding spam).  Every spare moment is spent replying to emails, following up with staff, volunteers and responding to requests etc.  
I also serve on the Lausanne Congress' digital communications team (heading up the social media strategy).  So, I spend a few moments throughout the day scanning RSS feeds, checking the Lausanne Twitter accounts, Facebook page, and the Lausanne Conversation site.
The iPad is perfect for all of these tasks since it is not obtrusive (it is smaller than a regular folder).  I can sit in just about any meeting and use it to stay on top of communication tasks and information.  Whereas others have to take notes, and then when they return to their office the notes are either filed (and so only accessible when they're near their files), or transcribed into a document.  My notes are done in the meeting.  They're searchable and always with me.  
They on screen keyboard on the iPad is fantastic for 90% of what I need to do.  If I have to do extensive text entry for any reason, I would take out my generic fold up bluetooth keyboard (an old one I bought some years ago to use with an iMate windows mobile phone).  It works like a charm!  I have written reports, blog posts (like this one), academic articles, reports etc. in Pages on the iPad and then either exported and emailed them for printing, or distribution.
Testing the iPad to its limits!
I used my iPad as my primary device during the Global Day of Prayer conference - I was the director of the program for the conference with close to 50 speakers in 13 concurrent venues, as well as a plenary for each day with multiple musicians, speakers, videos, powerpoints, dramas etc.  So, I had to have numerous spreadsheets with all the venue, speaker, and equipment data - email that to stewards coordinators, the sound and lighting people, etc.  The iPad worked like a charm!  It was light enough to ALWAYS have with me (I would never have carried my laptop around from before 5 am until after 11pm at night).  
The only down side was when I was given some media on a bluetooth stick or CD Rom / DVD that needed to be passed on to someone else.  In those instances if I needed the information I would dump it into my Dropbox folder (2 gigs free) and access it from there.  If someone else needed it I would carry it on my USB flash drive and pass it on from there, or log into my Dropbox account using a web browser on their machine and downloading the required file from the web interface.  The iPad simply went on and on working... I could switch it on (without the need to boot up), use it on any surface, or stand on the spot, and then switch it off (without fearing for a spinning hard drive) and drop it into my conference bag and go on.  Every bit of information was at my fingertips, as well as my emails.  It truly proved its worth!  
I was also one of the speakers at the conference (I spoke in one plenary session and two track sessions), so when I had a few spare seconds I would work on my Powerpoint presentations (in Keynote), check my speaker notes, create some 'buzz' about the talks on twitter etc. 
My book 'Transform your work life:  Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling'was also launched during the conference.  I was able to keep an eye on the guest list, respond to emails, and even had my notes for my talk, thank you list etc. on the iPad.
OK, one of the most common questions I get asked is whether my iPad is a 3G version.  Nope, it is not.  I use my Apple iPad with a Vodacom Mifi (a 3G data dongle that acts as a wifi hotspot for up to 5 devices).  The mifi lives in my iPad case.  The 3G iPad will NOT work in South Africa (until it is officialy released here) since it will need to be tied to a South African data provider, and the iPad uses a microsim which none of our cellular companies support (I believe Vodacom may get it soon, but MTN does not support it).  So, the only way to get it on the internet is to have a mobile wifi device.  I first used my Nokia E51 phone with a Joikuspot (which worked perfectly!  Except that it is quite heavy on the Nokia's battery life).  Then when I got my Mifi I use that on the road and my home wifi at home.
Pro's
- Battery life is a definite plus!  I am still amazed that I can get well over 10 hours of use WITH wifi activated.
- Instant on, instant off! It is amazing to have a hand held computer with incredible battery life that switches on and is working immediately (for appointments, spreadsheets, documents, contacts etc.), and then goes to sleep safely the minute you press the power button. While a netbook may have a similar size, some USB ports and a physical keyboard it certainly does not have the instant on, instant off feature!
- Size is a plus.  It is small, light, and very portable.  Yet at the same time the screen is absolutely amazing for watching videos, reading books and web browsing.  Also, as mentioned above, it can be used while standing (much like a notepad).  Because of the size (and light weight), I find myself using my iPad far more often, and taking it with me just about everywhere I go.
- Choice of apps!  The iPad section of the app store grows each day.  I have some incredible apps!  My favorites include:  Pages (Word for Mac), Numbers (Excel for Mac), Keynote (Powerpoint for Mac), Dropbox, Goodreader, Kindle, Twitterific, Squarespace blog app (for iPhone), Wordpress, facebook (for iPhone), Olivetree Bible reader (with NIV, NRSV, Greek and the Message installed).  Many persons have asked me how I can buy some of these apps (some of which are not on the South African iTunes store)?  I have a US iTunes account - I set it up when I was teaching at Duke University in 2005 and have used it since then.
- Using the iPad with the Nokia (and Joikuspot) or the Mifi for always on internet access.
Con's
- Lack of data input from US sticks and physical media. But, Dropbox is a great work around solution!
- The fact that the iPad 3G does not work in South Africa (see above).
- No multitasking...  No, I'm not just being grumpy... It is a REAL pain when you're going from a spreadsheet to an email and have to exit Numbers, open Mail, work on the message, save it as a draft, then go back to Numbers, open your document check it, close numbers, go back to your email, open your draft and carry on working...  Or, if you're on a skype call and get asked if you can make a meeting you have to exit skype (literally close the call down, exit skype), check your calendar and then start your call again!  It is frustrating!
- No camera.  Man, the iPad would have been great with even a simple 1.3 Megapixel front facing camera for Skype or iChat.  Perhaps someone will make one that plugs into the port at the bottom or connects via bluetooth at some point?
Must haves!
-  A good cover.  The iPad is a precious device and needs good protection (particularly if it lives in a backpack or bag, like mine does).  It also gets a lot of finger marks on it so make sure to carry a small soft cloth to clean it.  I also managed to get a cover that would let me keep my mifi with my iPad.
- The VGA dongle.  If you're going to use your iPad for presentations or showing videos it is pretty useless without the VGA adaptor!  If you're ordering yours from Amazon (like I did) be sure to get the VGA adaptor when you order it!  I had to find a friend who was traveling back from the USA to get my adaptor!
- Mifi or Nokia phone with Joikuspot.  The wifi version is pretty useless without internet access!  A secondhand Nokia E51, E90 or E71 should be quite cheap to get, then you simply ad Joikuspot and a prepaid sim card and you're on the road! Three of my friends here in SA are doing this  (just be sure to enable WEP on your Joikspot so that other users don't connect to your phone draining all your data).  The Mifi is the real answer, but not all of us are fortunate enough to be able to get one of those.  My data contract expired about two weeks after I got my iPad and so my mifi was my contract upgrade device.
- A free dopbox account (see above) - please consider signing up for drop box using the link in this post (I will get extra free space if you do so!  Your help is appreciated!)
- A US iTunes account. (again, please see above)
Conclusion:
The iPad is an incredible useful, very affordable, very stable, productivity device!  I would recommend it to anybody who needs constant internet access, a high level of productivity  in lots of meetings, doing lots of public speaking or someone who consumes lots of content (Kindle books, videos, audio books, web browsing etc.)  But, it could not be your only computer - if you're looking to own just one computing device that is small, inexpensive and portable then buy a good quality netbook.  If, however, you have a desktop, or laptop to use (e.g., if one is provided for you at work, or you have one to share at home) then the iPad could just be the device that you're looking for!)
Lastly, my kids love the iPad!  They watch videos in the car, play games at night... I have to wrestle it from them when I need to get some work done.
You're welcome to contact me to ask any questions about the device, how I use it, what apps I use, and how I ordered it from Amazon and had it delivered to South Africa.
God bless,
Dion
Tuesday
Jun012010

How technology is changing, or should change, the way the Gospel is shared

The June / July edition of the Lausanne World Pulse was released today.  I am so blessed that an article that I wrote has been published in this edition.

In the introduction to this edition of the Lausanne World Pulse Doug Birdsall writes of the fact that the unchanging message of the person and ministry of Jesus must be presented in new and effective ways to encounter the evolving expectations and experiences of people across the world.  He notes that technology, and particularly communication technologies, are having a radical effect on the globe, and so too on the way in which we can engage the people of the world with the Gospel of Christ.  Of course communication technology is but one small part of the changing landscape of the world - advances in science, medicine, economics and even warfare all have to be taken into account if one is to bring the Gospel of Christ to bear on the world in order to work for Christ driven healing and transformation.  

There are some wonderful scholarly and popular articles to get one thinking and praying along those lines.

My article is entitled 'How technology is changing, or should change, the way the Gospel is shared'.  Here is an excerpt from the introduction to the article:

The German theologian Helmut Thielicke once commented, “The Gospel must be constantly forwarded to a new address because its recipient is repeatedly changing his place of residence.” This is a very challenging yet true observation about the nature of mission and evangelism.

One of the most significant Christian books of our era is Philip Jenkins’ The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. Jenkins quotes Philip Yancey, who notes that:

As I travel, I have observed a pattern, a strange historical phenomenon of God “moving” geographically from the Middle East to Europe to North America to the developing world. My theory is this: God goes where he’s wanted.

There is no doubt that the geographical movement of Christianity throughout history has radically changed the manner in which the gospel is shared—from its birth in Israel among disenfranchised Jewish peasants; to a state-sanctioned religion under the emperor Constantine; through Europe and the Reformation; taking a detour via the dominance of media and mega-church-driven North American Christianity of our recent history; to where Christianity seems to be finding its place among African, Asian, and South American believers. Each new context presents challenges and opportunities for the gospel and the faith.

The Next Shift in Global Christianity 
But what if the next shift in Christendom is not merely a geographical shift, but in fact a shift into cyberspace—a movement of a completely different kind?

Have you given much thought to the way in which the 'next shift' in global culture is reshaping the way in which to Gospel should be shared? I would like to encourage you to read this month's articles on the impact of technology on Christianity and the world.

If you have some ideas, or maybe some examples or more compelling statistics to share, please drop a line in the comments below.

 

Tuesday
Jun012010

Gigapixel image of Newlands Rugby stadium 22 May 2010

This is an incredible technology! I had heard about the Gigapixel technology, but hadn't realised how impressive it truly is!

Gigapixel image of Newlands Rugby stadium 22 May 2010 from Dion Forster on Vimeo.



In this video you'll see an image of the WHOLE of the Newlands Rugby stadium on the 22nd of May at the Stormers semi final match. It opens on our company's Box, I then zoom back and go to the half way line and zoom in to a picture of myself (just above the flag in a blue Rugby shirt). Incredible! 

Here is the URL for the image.

 

Sunday
Apr112010

The first Apple iPad in South Africa! (Perhaps?)

The 1st Apple iPad in South Africa (perhaps!) This is my friend Cois' iPad. I'm sorry that the video is taken sideways (and upside down!) please tilt your head ;-)  It could be user error... It's the first time that I've taken a video with my iPhone where it hasn't autocorrected the aspect ratio...

The iPad is amazing!  It would be an incredible tool for someone like myself who attends far too many meetings during the day (needing to have access to my schedule, my 5 email accounts, all my documents and spreadsheets, have a Bible and of course the ability to show promotional videos and copies of my books).  If I had one of these I could simply carry the one piece of hardware with me everywhere and have everything I need to get my job done!

Watch the video if you can and let me know what uses you could have for a device like this.  Who else wants an iPad!?

Sunday
Feb142010

My 3 year old iPad! Still going strong!

The Apple iPad is attracting a lot of attention. I know that there are a few VERY exclusive people who have iPad's to try. However, the ordinary consumer will have to wait 60 days before being able to get their hands on one of them. Let alone those of us who live in places like South Africa where it will probably take another year before Apple releases the iPad with 3G! Still, I love my iPhone 3G and would LOVE an iPad 3G!

If I had the money I would pre-order one! However, there are a few more pressing priorities at the moment. So, I have come to appreciate what I already own - I have a 3 year old iPad (in South Africa.... Sort of!)! And, what I own is Sony Vaio UX 180 P.

This photo was taken when I was attending the Oxford Institute at Christ Church, Oxford University in August 2007.

My little portable computer is a Sony Vaio UX 180 P. It is a Windows XP device with a touch screen, a 30 gigabyte hard drive, 512MB or ram, wifi, bluetooth and a 3 hour battery life. It is the perfect travelers computer! It is smaller than a DVD case, in fact small enough to put into a big pocket on one's 'cargo pants'!

It runs a 'normal' operating system and 'normal' versions of MS Word, MS Outlook and the google Chrome browser. This means that I can simply plug in my backup USB flash disk that has copies of all of my documents and files on it and work away! Moreover, since it has a USB port I can connect to the internet using my 3G modem wherever I am and get my email, browse the web, and even use MS Outlook to connect to corporate server.

In this picture you'll see the iPod I owned in 2007, my old Nokia phone (a great big brick!), the UX 180 is docked in its docking station (that adds a VGA port, firewire, ethernet, and 4 USB 2.0 ports). You will also see my batterygeek external battery (this battery gives me an amazing 20 hours of battery life for the UX 180! On my Macbook Pro it gives me an additional 5-6 hours). I also have a cheap foldable Bluetooth keyboard that I can use with the UX 180 P.

So, until the iPad arrives, (and of course until I get some royalties for my books and don't have a washing machine to fix, kids school activities to pay for, a car to service and a few other pressing things to pay for), I shall be using my UX 180 P as a 'road warrior' computer!

Just as a final note - if you have not yet used dropbox it is a MUST HAVE for a person who uses more than one computer. Dropbox is a free service (for 2 Gigabytes of backup, after which you can choose to upgrade your space for a fee). You install a small application (which I have on my Macbook, my iPhone and my UX 180 P), then it creates a folder in your documents folder. Any file that you drag into that folder gets updated on Dropbox (you can even log into dropbox if you don't have your computer with you, and download the file you want to work on and then update it!)

While I was working on my most recent book 'Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling' (Struik Christian Media, 2010 - the book is due out in May), I used this little tool (in conjunction with my Macbook and my UX 180)! If I found that I was waiting to go into a meeting and the person I was meeting was running late I simply connected did some editing and knew that when I got back to my office the most up to date version of the file would ALWAYS be on my computer! Moreover, if my computers got stolen, or my house burnt down at least I would have backups of these (and other) critical documents 'in the cloud'.

I would suggest you consider using dropbox - it is free! OK, back to work for me! And then when I've done editing the article I'm working on I'm going to hop into bed with the Amazon Kindle application for Windows on my UX 180 P and continue reading Malcom Gladwell's new book 'What the dog saw'!

Tuesday
Mar042008

Singularity and the Matrix... Spiritual Machines... Mmmmm... Contemporary crazies!? Maybe not?

John van de Laar gave an interesting persepctive on a 'religious movement' that has formed around the central ideas of the first Matrix movie.
I can certainly understand the appeal - after all, throughout history generations have always attempted to locate the sacred within the tools, symbols, and nomenclature of their contemporary culture. The Matrix seems to be so expressive of some of the existential questions, queries, and framing aspects of our reality (these include such issues as the relationship between humans and our technology, eternal existence in terms that we can understand, issues of good and evil etc.)

Some scientists have suggested that these issues may have a far greater influence, and in fact be truer than just sociology, theology, and psychology, could explain. Some others have suggested it is in fact nothing more than 'wish projection' (along the lines of Feuerbach and Freud's theory).

In short, every generation has a built in need to believe that there is more to life than just being born, living, and dying - we seek a transcendent truth (which you can read about in my Doctoral Thesis, by the way - please see the chapter on Neuroscience (chapter 3 I think it was) where I discuss the holistic and transcendent a-priori neural operators that are present in the human brain from birth). In our generation the 'mythology' of our time is intrinsically linked with technology (particularly those technologies that make our lives easier, and in some sense bearable).

A final perspective, which I think is the most rational of them all, is the perspective offered by Professor Cornel du Toit, who suggests that any duality that we create between ourselves and our technology is a false duality. Just think about it, your cell phone is not just an object that performs technological functions, it has become an integral part of your life. For many of us it extends our ability to communicate, it offers us a sense of security, connection with others, and for some (like myself) it even regulates how one lives one's life (e.g., my cell phone has a diary function that alerts me to appointments etc.). Another example cited by du Toit is contemporary banking. We have created both a hard technology (notes, coins, cards, ATM machines) and a soft technology (values, exchanges, commodities etc. which cannot be felt or weighed, or seen, but which have value). Just try to live your life without money and you will soon see how we have allowed a 'created' technology to become an integral part of our identity. How many people do you know whose identity is formed by what they earn, what they drive, and what they use?

I tend to agree with this - faith and technology are not separate realities that are discovering one another, they are complex interwoven system of creating and forming meaning. Both are dependent upon each other.

Anyway, enough of my 'ramblings'....

Read the article below for more on the concept of 'singularity':


Science fiction writer and mathematician Rudy Rucker takes a running swing at the idea of the Singularity, the moment in human history when we disassemble raw matter, turn it into "computronium" and upload ourselves to it, inhabiting a simulation of reality rather than real reality. It's a fine and provocative turn from our Mr Rucker, who has a fine and provocative and deeply weird and wonderful mind.
Although it’s a cute idea, I think computronium is a fundamentally spurious concept, an unnecessary detour. Matter, just as it is, carries out outlandishly complex chaotic quantum computations just by sitting around. Matter isn’t dumb. Every particle everywhere everywhen is computing at the maximum possible rate. I think we tend to very seriously undervalue quotidian reality...

This would be like filling in wetlands to make a multiplex theater showing nature movies, clear-cutting a rainforest to make a destination eco-resort, or killing an elephant to whittle its teeth into religious icons of an elephant god.

This is because there are no shortcuts for nature’s computations. Due to a property of the natural world that I call the “principle of natural unpredictability,” fully simulating a bunch of particles for a certain period of time requires a system using about the same number of particles for about the same length of time. Naturally occurring systems don’t allow for drastic shortcuts.

Link (via Futurismic)

 

By the way, my own doctoral research considered some of the theological issues in relation to these notions - you can download a copy of my Doctoral Thesis here (please see chapter 2). Two other superb books to read are:

The age of spiritual machines, and Are we spiritual machines. By Kurzweil.
Wiredlife - who are we in the digital age? By Jonscher.

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