Online Living

Friday Features

I’ve been on a bit of sensory overload…what with the financial crisis, the apparently shoe-in victory for Barack Obama, and preparing for a trip to the most magical place on Earth.  However, I’ve found some really useful and interesting things that I’ve been incorporating into my life recently.  I’m a gadget junkie, but even more, I’m addicted to “productivity tools.”  I love simple things that make life easier…even if they’re not all that simple.

For instance, IWantSandy.com emails and text messages me reminders to pay bills when they’re due, so that I don’t forget them.  Apparently Sandy can do lots of other awesome things…but who has the time to figure this crap out?

And so today, I bring you several things I’ve found useful, and a few not so useful things.

  • Microsoft Live Mesh – this is something that borders on revolutionary . . . but isn’t quite there yet.  (I think that’s Microsofts mission statement -“Almost, sorta, kinda, New and Awesome, but not quite.”)  It’s a “Tech Preview,” which I assume means that it’s actually buggier than Vista on release day.  The remote desktop features don’t work with Mac yet, but the online storage is accessible from a Web Browser.  Basically, this is like DropBox (which I use and love) with social networking features built in.  I can see this being useful in business as well.
  • In the online storage world, I’ve been looking for a solution for backing up pictures online.  I’ve fallen in love with Picasa.  The desktop app is great (way better than iPhoto on Macs) for organizing and doing basic edits.  To me it’s much simpler to use than Flickr, which I still can’t figure out.
    Seriously . . . a lot of these things are supposed to save us time, but it ends up taking more time to work with than it’s worth.  I’m still trying Flickr . . . but I think I’ll be staying with Picasa for now.
  • Ubuntu 8.10 is coming out in 6 days, and has a lot of new usability features built in, with a supposedly much less confusing installation, especially if you are partitioning your hard drive for a dual-boot situation.  I highly recommend.  This website is run off an ubuntu server, by the way.  Check out my series on setting it up.
  • Skype – This is old . . . but I’ve just begun using, and plan on featuring it in a blog about business tech and cost cutting ideas.  It’s a great way to keep up with friends and family who are away…and a great way to save on long distance calls in general ($2.95 per month for unlimited!)

Most of my finds are typically courtesy of Lifehacker.  It’s one of my first reads everyday.  However, Mashable tipped me off to Wigix.  Wigix is awesome, let me say.  It’s like a stock market for things you own or want to buy / sell.  Just like the market, there are buy and sell offers on the table for tons of things, and you can take one (execute) if you want to buy or sell at that price.  If not…put your own buy or sell order out.  As an ex-con -broker, this makes great sense to me, and it’s got an MLM feature with it too.  If you are the first to add an item or category, you make money off all of that product’s sales.  You also make money on referring other people.  So go check it out, and get a good glimpse at the ground floor of the company that will destroy eBay.

christianity, Online Living

Christian Carnival CCXLV

Welcome to the Christian Carnival, CCXLV, which a handy Roman numeral converter tells me means 245!  Wow, I should learn Roman some day.

Before I get right to the posts, I want to thank you all for the honor of hosting the Christian Carnival here at my little site.  I’ve participated, off and on (mostly off), in the Carnival since 2004, but this is my first time hosting.  So, today I’m very pleased to present the following submissions, in no particular order:

And that wraps it up for this week!  Some great reads.  Unfortunately, a crazy week at work prevented me from submitting my own post this week, and also weighed in on the time it would take to properly categorize the postings.  Thanks for stopping by, and enjoy your Christian Carnival!

christianity, Online Living

Blogging for Jesus Me

My wife nonchalantly posed a serious question to me recently, as she looked at some notes for future blog posts, “You have so many good things to say…why do you sit in front of a computer and blog them, instead of going out and sharing them with people who need Jesus?”

I’m always up for some harsh self-examination, so I really pondered how I could answer this, and justify my relatively reclusive lifestyle.  I’m not reclusive because I blog, let me get that straight.  I don’t sit at home wishing I was elsewhere, but I just have to get this post written.  I blog because I find it enjoyable, and I like the web development aspect of it (I’m a geek, what can I say?).  And I just happen to be rather introverted.  But this got me thinking on how blogging fits in with God’s great commission to go out and win the world.

I believe if harnessed properly, the internet could be a tremendous tool in reaching the world with the Gospel.  I have yet to see anyone actually accomplish this, however.  Surely our blogs, much of which debate the finer points of religious doctrine, are not effective conduits for the Gospel of Salvation to reach a lost person.  On the contrary, I would submit that should a spiritually-curious non-Christian stumble into our blogosphere, they may find so many contradicting statements, arguments, and debates, that they would be turned off to the Gospel.  I’m not criticizing any one person here, as I’ve engaged in a few debates myself on the internet, for better or worse.  But do these benefit the Kingdom of God?  I don’t believe so.  At best, it seems like the proverbial “peeing contest,” and at worse is actually a divisive force in the church.

Those criticisms out of the way, I will also admit that there have been several times that I have read a blog and felt personally challenged to better my walk with God.  I have been convicted, encouraged, and enlightened on many different kinds of topics in regards to my faith, and living it out in this world.  More than once, I can probably even say that my prayer and bible study times have profited from some things I’ve read.  And many of us just write to share our thoughts, and experiences, in our Christian walk.  If we find something interesting while studying the Bible, we share it with other Christians through our blog . . . and I would even say that is very Biblical.  It’s the 21st century version of Acts 2:46.

For some people, I imagine, this online community is the only place they feel like that have that fellowship.  But is this a healthy situation for the Christian and the Kingdom of God?  I think not.  Our highest calling is to fulfill our Great Commission, to go out and win the world.  While theoretically possible, I find it highly doubtful that blogging will do that.  A Christian, full of love, caring and helping someone in need, and sharing the Gospel with them, will do that, though.  I’m not saying don’t blog, but I encourage you to keep it in its place.  Instead of debating, let’s all encourage each other to go out and win souls for Jesus!  Let’s keep sharing our experiences, encouraging each other, and growing together, but let the fruit of that be evident in our profitability for the Kingdom of God.

I’m very interested to hear your thoughts on this, as I don’t believe myself to be the authority on the effectiveness of blogging as a witnessing tool.  But I also want to issue a challenge to every blogger reading this post, which I intend to participiate in with you:  Witness to, or share the gospel with 1 person for each blog post you write this week.

I, personally, get very excited when I think about the great things that we can all accomplish together for the Kingdom of God.  Let’s make the Christian blogging movement responsible for souls being brought into the Kingdom of God, and not just a lot of interesting articles for other Christians.

If you’re taking the challenge, leave a comment, or trackback here with a story of how it went!

Online Living, Technology

eBay: more and more useless everday!

Back in the day, eBay was awesome.  Remember when you got super-good deals, from average Joes selling stuff out of their home?  I do…I bought an awful lot of electronics off of eBay, and sold quite a bit too.  Even back in 2003, though, I saw troubling signs, signaling the direction eBay was going.
I was selling an old laptop, with the intention of purchasing a new one.  Some guy offers me an extra $200 over my reserve if I end the bidding early.  Being quite naive about online scams, at the time, I said, “Sure!” and did just that.  I exchange the emails at work, and his final email instructs me, quite urgently, to ship it that very day.  I saw the money in Paypal, so I was planning on doing just that.  Thankfully, I had to stay at work a bit late that day, and didn’t get to the post office in time.  When I got home, I saw an email from Paypal, stating that the funds were fraudulent, and to not send the item.
I never heard from the guy again, obviously, but that was only the beginning of my troubles.  A near scam later on a purchase (took 2 weeks for the person to send it), and many many buyers who didn’t read the full listing concerning condition of a used item, and I was quite frustrated.
It’s been well over a year since I’ve used ebay, but when we found ourselves with a good deal of new-looking clothes that our daughter had outgrown, we decided to list them, and see what we could get.
Nothing.
We used to make this a regular habit, with most things selling, just a couple of years ago . . . but when I looked at the listings in the little girls categories, it’s mostly junk, mostly with no bids, and mostly sold by junkshop businesses with tons of other junk auction listings.
With eBay’s recent changes, (including allowing major businesses to list with no fee) it really isn’t the big neighborhood market it once was, and is either too pricey, or too scarey to deal with in any meaningful way.  We sold the books and DVD’s on Amazon.com, and are giving away the clothes.  Why pay fees when there’s little chance that anyone is even looking anymore? (Especially when other people don’t pay those fees to begin with.)
I declare eBay a has-been website…you heard it here first.  It’s already turned into that old shopping mall in town…the one with dollar stores, and cheap knockoffs, that’s really gone downhill since the newer and larger mall opened. . .  Only in this case, the newer mall is the increasingly competitive online retail market, which is more attractive now, than ever, considering eBay’s higher prices and fees.