December 2nd, 2012 by bigjim
As Christmas approaches yet again, we will no doubt be hearing the Christmas story again ¬– not just at the pulpit in Mass on Christmas morning, mind you, as the priest reads the Gospel. Everywhere we look, there will be reminders of the reason for the season.
Now, we could turn this into a piece on how the actual reminders are diminishing, and how the reason for the season is not understood (or truly celebrated) by a growing number of people. But that’s not very geeky! So, instead, let’s focus on the ‘story’ aspect.
If Christ was born today, how would the scene in the manger play out? Would the Magi locate the manger via Google Maps on their smartphones using GPS? Would they ‘check-in’ on Foursquare or Facebook as they arrived with their gifts, which they bought on Amazon.com? Would the angels announce the arrival of the Messiah via tweets which the shepherds would pick up, all while Instagramming photos of the heavenly host for their Tumblr blogs?
Probably not. But, jokes aside, the increasing saturation of our digital lives with social media is changing a number of aspects of how we tell and share our stories. And at least one site – storify.com – is trying to ride that trend.
Storify allows you to catalogue, edit and arrange posts from various social networks centred on an event (often identified via a #hashtag). The resulting ‘story’ is a multimedia experience that captures what people were saying at the time, the photos they were sharing, and the sentiment or mood. Some recent examples include the visit of the Prince of Wales to New Zealand, and the solar eclipse.
So, why not make a “storify” about your Christmas experience this year, focusing on the Christ? Share it and see what happens when you do!
Posted in Cool tools, General musings | No Comments »
December 18th, 2011 by bigjim
Do you ever stop and think about what it must have been like when Christ was born? Thinking not just about the miraculous event itself and all that came after it, but actually thinking about what the world was like at that point in history, and how it would have been experienced by those surrounding the stable after Our Lady gave birth. Doing so really makes you appreciate how different (not necessarily better) our gadget-laden, technology-filled world is 2,000 years later.
Think, for a moment, about the Magi navigating to meet the Saviour without GPS. As more and more people have phones with GPS navigation built in, and/or access to free satellite imagery through services like Google Maps and Bing, navigating by using a map book is becoming as outmoded as the ancient ways of navigating by the stars!
Then, think about how the word was spread that the Messiah had been born. Granted, a few choirs of angels are a pretty effective way of getting the message across to those shepherds on the hillside, but remember that the news of His birth and all that means initially was really only shared with a very small group of people, globally speaking.
If the same event took place today, it would no doubt be captured from a hundred different angles on mobile phone video cameras, in high-definition, and uploaded to the internet within minutes. What’s more, tweets and Facebook updates would fly around the world at the speed of light, informing millions of people simultaneously that Christ is born!
And yet, with all the gadgetry and technology at our fingertips, the message of Christ’s birth struggles to be heard nowadays. How about taking a moment to use your social media network or technology of choice to proclaim ‘hallelujah’ this Holy Season!
Posted in General musings | No Comments »
July 3rd, 2011 by bigjim
You don’t have to go too far back in recent history to find a time where computers were very rare in the ‘average’ Kiwi home. In fact, as little as 20 years ago, they were still a pretty rare occurrence and, if present, probably confined to the study.
My how things have changed! Not only do more than 75% of New Zealand’s homes have access to the internet via dial-up or broadband, but an increasing number of the more than 4.6 million cell-phones have internet access…with all that that brings. The Post-PC world is upon us!
So, what does all this mean for the safety of Kiwis online? Because, without scaremongering, you have to admit that there is plenty of stuff available on the internet that isn’t healthy – for the body or soul. How do you keep yourself, or your children, safe when online?
One philosophy is that the best defence is a good offence. This translates to being very deliberate with your actions online. In other words, when sites like Facebook release safe browsing advice (www.facebook.com/safety) or Google shows what data they are storing about you (www.google.com/account), you should take the time to study those sites and be interested in your own information privacy. Don’t just blindly sign up to new services, or hand your personal information over to any site or email that asks for it.
In terms of in the home, the old practices are still the best: have the computer(s) in a ‘public’ place in the house, rather than bedrooms; encourage your children to talk to you about any disturbing or worrying content they see online; learn about the changing technology landscape so you’re not out of touch.
There’s no safety net built in to the internet, but with some effort, you can create your own.
Posted in General musings | No Comments »
June 19th, 2011 by fastmikey
At the end of May, the announcement that people suffering from slow internet across Godzone had been waiting for was finally made – the successful tenderers for the Government’s UFB scheme were announced.
Wait – U-F-What? UFB stands for Ultra Fast Broadband. This is a forward looking initiative that New Zealand is undertaking, similar to many other countries around the world, to ensure that New Zealand homes, schools, and businesses have access to high speed internet to make sure that we’re ready for what future developments hold.
The reason for this is simple – the way the vast majority of people get connected to the outside world today, the good old phone line, is based around technology that dates back to Grahame Bell. While comparatively recent innovations like ADSL have allowed extra life to be stretched from the existing archaic networks, the inherent limitations of a copper wire network ensure that there’s only so much that can be done to eke out more speed – and most solutions mean that speed is good for receiving, not for sending.
UFB promises to change all that. By running fibre optic cable to your front door, all the limitations of the old copper network will be taken away. Fibre optic cabling is what the backbone of the internet operates on, and the solutions are designed to ensure that everyone gets the same high speed connection, taking away the limitation of how close you are to the telephone exchange. Speeds will start from connections that are twice as fast as present ADSL connections, with speeds 10 times as fast also to be available.
So watch for the cable guy to come visit your street in the coming years – and get ready to be sped away by UFB!
Posted in General musings, Technology overview | No Comments »
May 22nd, 2011 by fastmikey
As we’ve spoken about before on Catholic Geek, Kiwis are well known for (historically at least) getting their sleeves rolled up and doing for themselves what most would just pay someone else for. While this has been a dying habit in the past decade or so, the internet has helped to trigger a bit of a renaissance in this noble profession.
Firstly, there’s designing your creation. Google Sketchup (sketchup.google.com) is a fantastic free modelling tool that’s perfect for designing plans for everything from a bedside table (my latest project) to full house models. With an interface that’s easy to get to grips with, it’s a great way to visualise your ideas and try different possibilities without having to get your hands dirty.
Once you have your design, if you’re a little short on the space, tools, or expertise, you might want to consider joining up to a local HackerSpace (hackerspaces.org). Contrary to the negative thoughts that the word hackers immediately conjure up, HackerSpaces are community-driven spaces for people to meet and work on projects in a collegial environment. Started in the US in the last decade, the movement has bloomed worldwide, and there’s even a number in New Zealand – and if there isn’t one local that suits you, the community gives you all the tools you might need to get your own space underway.
Finally, if you’re proud of your creation, keep in the spirit of the internet and share it with others. There’s a wide range of sites devoted to sharing instructions on how to build a variety of things – we’ve discussed sites like Instructables (www.instructables.com) and it’s ilk, but if you’re in to woodworking, a site with great plans and suggestions is ana-white.com – set up by a homemaker in Alaska who makes all her own furniture.
So, roll up your sleeves, (virtual or otherwise), and join the DIY renaissance!
Posted in Cool tools, General musings, Link commentary | No Comments »
January 30th, 2011 by fastmikey
As is tradition for Catholic Geek, we’ve come to the time of the year where it’s a perfect opportunity for a reminder on what’s important to keep your computers safe from the more nefarious denziens of the internet. While it’s important to be practicing these steps through the year, it never hurts to give a quick check over on a yearly basis.
To begin with, it’s always important to make sure you have the latest updates for your computer’s operating system – be it Windows or Macintosh. While things have improved in recent years, this is still an important thing to keep on top of. Windows users – visit update.microsoft.com and install all critical updates on a regular basis. Apple users- check the Software Updater under the Apple menu on your Mac.
Secondly, it’s now becoming more important to make sure that other programs on your computer are kept up to date – as operating systems become more secure the bad guys are resorting to other ways of getting to your computer. Some common holes come from programs such as Java (www.java.com), Adobe Acrobat and Flash (www.adobe.com), and Apple Quicktime (www.apple.com/quicktime). As part of your yearly tidy it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve got the latest versions installed.
It’s impossible to be perfectly secure at all times, so it’s equally important to keep your anti-virus up to date – for some excellent free options check out: Microsoft Security Essentials (www.microsoft.com/security_essentials) and AVG Antivirus (www.grisoft.com). Apple users should be protected too – check out Sophos (http://www.sophos.com/products/free-tools/free-mac-anti-virus/) for a free option.
Finally, it’s important to take sensible precautions when you’re navigating the seas of the information highway. Fortunately in New Zealand there’s a great organisation for advice – NetSafe (netsafe.org.nz). Make sure, when you’re stepping into the Internet frontier, that you put your best foot forward!
Posted in Cool tools, General musings, Technology overview | No Comments »
December 26th, 2010 by bigjim
As we near the end of the calendar year, technologists are often called upon to make some predictions as to what will be the big technology areas in the New Year. It’s always a daunting prospect to make such predictions when the industry moves as fast as it does. The last thing you want to do is make some wild forecasts that will seem like those ‘city of the future’ models from the 1950′s which, if accurate, would have us all living on the Moon by now!
That being said, it is a little easier to look a few months into the future and guess which trends that developed this year will still be strong next year. In that vein, arguably the biggest technology trend in hardware for 2011 is that of mobile alternative form-factor computing. That’s not the catchiest name in the world, so, depending who you listen to, next year is going to be the ‘year of the tablet’ or the ‘year of the smartphone’…or both!
The move to having increased computing power available on the go, wrapped in a touch-friendly user interface, is definitely a trend that has taken hold. Some analysts are even predicting that smartphones (i.e. iPhone, Android, Windows Phone 7 etc.) will outsell desktop PCs in 2011. PC shipment forecasts have only been cut further with the iPad/tablet market- the Apple offering alone expecting to sell 18-25 million units worldwide, or more.
The growth of these devices is changing the demands put on those who produce websites and other media, such as the Church. Being able to read the Sunday Missal on your phone is just the beginning: what will those in digital ministry need to do next year to ensure God’s message is still heard over the sound of text message ring tones?
Posted in General musings | No Comments »
December 19th, 2010 by fastmikey
The traditional portrayal of gamers in the popular press is not a positive one. Gamers are often portrayed as dark, dangerous denziens of this world who are a menace to society. While modern gaming technologies like the Kinect and Wii are making great strides in normalising gaming as a popular pasttime, at the same time groups of gamers are working hard to change the public perception of ‘hardcore’ gamers. An excellent example of this is Child’s Play.
Child’s Play (www.childsplaycharity.org) was started in 2003 by two gamers, Jerry Hoskins and Mike Krahulik, partly in direct response to an article in a Seattle newspaper about how video games were warping a whole generation of children, and to mobilise the gaming community to give something back to their fellow man. Child’s Play facilitates the donation of video games, toys, and movies to children’s hospitals around the globe, including Starship Hospital in Auckland. In its first year, US $200,000 was raised, and in 2009, that amount had risen to $1.78 million with the total raised over the 6 years a staggering $6.8 million dollars.
Money is raised by direct donations to the cause, a large charity auction and dinner held in Seattle every December, and by a number of community organised events – the most successful being Desert Bus for Hope (www.desertbus.org). This is organised by a group of Canadian gamers who play a terribly boring game live on the internet to raise funds. While this sounds rather futile, it’s been remarkably successful – this year in 2010 over $200,000 was raised by this event alone!
So, this year, when thinking of those less fortunate then you, Catholic Geek would like you to consider thinking of the children, and check out the Child’s Play charity – giving is child’s play!
Posted in Community, General musings, Link commentary, News commentary | 1 Comment »
August 29th, 2010 by bigjim
Ever since the launch of the iPhone, Apple has found itself in an interesting position. On the one hand, the success of the platform is universally acknowledged and, when coupled with the iPod and iPhone, has propelled the company to a new level of success surpassing even the early heydays of the personal computer. On the other hand, every move they make is scrutinised, analysed, dissected and commented upon, with the final result often being anything but positive.
Probably the single biggest complaint from the more technologically-minded consumers and commentators is Apple’s ‘walled garden’ approach to the iDevices. Never has this been more noticed than in the Apple App Store. To run an application on an iPhone or iPad, the application must have first been approved by Apple, since the only way to get an application to run on the device (short of jailbreaking it) is to install through the App Store on iTunes.
This may sound very dictatorial, but that’s the way that Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, likes it. He is quite forward in his reasons too, and while many of us techies may disagree, from a moral perspective you have to respect one tenet at least: no pornography. As he wrote to one customer ‘We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone’. So even the recently launched Playboy application for the iPad doesn’t have any nudity in it.
While this may just be tokenism since there is a fully featured browser on the phone, at least they are making some effort to hold on to the fast-fading idea that some content is actually not appropriate regardless of who you are. It’s not good business to do this, so they deserve some respect for at least appearing to take a stand.
Posted in General musings, Technology overview | No Comments »
May 9th, 2010 by fastmikey
In the past week, there has been an excellent Congress held on digital media in Italy, called "Testimoni digitali. Volti e linguaggi nell’era crossmediale" [Digital Witnesses. Faces and Languages in the Cross-Media Age]. For an insiders view of what the conference was like, check out our favourite priest from the Netherlands – Father Roderick (http://fatherroderick.sqpn.com) However, I’d like to focus this article on the closing address Pope Benedict XVI gave.
In his address, the pope talked about the challenge the world faces with the advent of the internet – the expansion of communication on a global scale and across multiple forms of media comes with the risk of both creating a new divide between those that have access and those that don’t, and also the risk of people becoming lost within the digital world – without a clear moral compass.
The attendees were called by the pope, as we are all called, to bring a human face to these new forms of media to counter the anonymity of the internet – thus helping the men and women of our digital age to sense the Lord’s presence.
To finish, in the words of Pope Benedict:
‘Let us set sail on the digital sea fearlessly, confronting open navigation with the same enthusiasm that has steered the Barque of the Church for 2,000 years. Rather than for technical resources, although these are necessary, let us also qualify ourselves by dwelling in this world with a believing heart that helps to give a soul to the ceaseless flow of communications that makes up the web.
This is our mission, the inalienable mission of the Church.’
Posted in General musings, News commentary | No Comments »