computer

Building me up

The internet has contributed much to the world in which we briefly live. Some is, of course, undesirable to say the least, but there is much good on the internet. For the Christian it is a fantastic resource giving us sermons, articles, blogs, books, and just about anything else we could want to build us up as Christians. Much of it is even free of charge. But is this the way God intends us to be built up in our spiritual lives?

We read nothing of the internet in the Bible, of course, but we read much about the church. We know it is the church which God has ordained to be His vehicle for helping His children grow more like our Saviour Jesus Christ (among other things). It is in a church context that Christians are expected to encourage each other to live holy lives for God

What, I wonder, is the proper place of the internet in Christians growing to be more like Christ? As we are being sanctified before God, how much should we rely on the many wonderful resources afforded to us by it? With so many sermons, blogs and videos available online from mature Christians, it must surely be possible to get more spiritual input in a day than previous generations have had in a month. How much impact such input could possibly have on your life would be quite another matter, of course.

So how much should we listen to online sermons? How many theology articles should be read online? How many Christian blogs should we read? I daresay we can all agree that these would be poor substitutes for hearing our pastor preach on a Sunday, reading theology books and having face to face conversation with mature Christians. But we can have them as well. We should use them as much as possible, for there is no downside to them!

But is that statement true? While it cannot be denied that the use of the internet enables ordinary Christians to access a great variety of teaching and discussion more quickly than has ever been possible before, it could be argued that as quantity has increased, quality has decreased. I am very aware that I really do live in a soundbite generation, feeding off short snippets. Has this propensity of short snappy sayings replaced the time consuming act of Christian meditation, filling the mind with the glory of God for a long period of time? Do we study God’s word in the same depth we used to? I say ‘we’ – I of course have never known a time without the internet, and wouldn’t know how saints acted in years gone by, but this is a serious question. Are Christians such as myself inadvertently reducing our growth in Christ by removing the work of it? It is obvious that we get less out of reading someone else’s analysis of a Bible passage than we do from writing our own – does the same principle hold to more general Christian growth?

The internet has also changed where Christians look for encouragement, edification and rebuke. Once very definitely the preserve of the local church, now that there is free and easy access to all of the above on the internet do we rely on them? I certainly do not think it is a bad thing to grow because of something read, watched, or listened to on the internet, but a more mature believer who knows us can surely do a better job of telling us what we need to hear. It is easy to avoid a rebuke if it is on a stranger’s blog, or a sermon delivered by a pastor you’ve never met. It is easy to reject the advice of someone you don’t know. Is this not one value of a local church member, or pastor, telling you what you need to hear?

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Pleasing progress

I have previously mentioned on this blog my desire to learn to touch type, for greater speed and efficiency when using a computer keyboard (which, of course, I often am). When I started out I did a typing test using my normal haphazard manner, and achieved a speed of 53 wpm with 3 mistakes. (wpm stands for words per minute, and a word is defined as 5 characters on a keyboard).

Today I retook the test twice, and scored speeds of 72 and 68 wpm, with no mistakes on either test (because the recorded time included the time it took me to correct several mistakes). I was surprised to find that I now type faster than I used to, I had the impression I was still slower than I used to be. Doing a test without bothering to correct any mistakes gave me a speed of 78 wpm with 4 mistakes.

I’m pleased by my progress, but I still have some way to go before being as fast or as accurate as I would like to be. Sadly I don’t think there is any shortcut to practice, so I’m sure I’ll gradually speed up and become more accurate as I type.

Spotify unlimited

Today I bought something I never expected to buy – a subscription to Spotify.

I didn’t go for the full premium version. Instead I went for the atrociously named Spotify unlimited, which at £4.99 per month is the same as the free version but with no adverts. I don’t get other bells and whistles like offline and mobile listening, just unlimited listening on my desktop computer. Do I think this is good value for money, paying a fiver every month to remove a few short adverts? To be honest, no, I don’t. But I do appreciate the product which Spotify give me, and I’d rather pay them than not have it. Spotify is a young business, and it isn’t exactly floating in cash. In the words of someone very dear to me, the labourer is worthy of his wages. I’ve been making heavy use of Spotify for quite a while, and it seems fair for me to pay for what I take.

If you want Spotify but can’t get it because you don’t know anyone with premium to invite you, you can now try Spotify open. This gives you 20 hours of listening per month with adverts so you can get a taster of the product.

If you want to compare the different versions of Spotify, there is a handy comparison table available.

Portal

A while ago a game called Portal was released, and a few days ago the kind people responsible for making it decided it should be available as a free download on steam. Who am I to refuse an offer like that?

The basic concept is nice and simple. You have a gun which can fire portals. One is blue, one is orange. What goes into blue comes out of orange, and vice versa. And, in the words of the in-game explanation, “speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out”. The aim of the game is to complete a series of puzzles by using the portal gun to cross otherwise impossible gaps.

It’s a very short game, taking only a few hours to complete. It introduces the gameplay gently, as it is very unusual, but quickly lets the player get on with doing their own thing. Throughout the game there is a narrator character who livens up proceedings with dark humour and a complete disregard for the player’s safety. The plot is basic to say the least, but simultaneously wonderful. And in case the game wasn’t good enough, the end credits are run to a fantastic song written specially and performed in the character of the narrator. Simple things.

If you want to play it, download Portal before the 24th of May and it will be free. But the cake is a lie.

More touch typing

This touch typing lark is slow going but still rewarding. This post is typed using my new found skills, but whenever I male a mistake I re-type the whole word. It’s especially irritating knowing that my primary motivation for learning is that the increased accuracy will lead to increased efficiency, but of course while I’m still learning my accuracy is way down. Still, if it was easy I wouldn’t put as much effort in, and I expect it’s the effort which is so valuable.

For reference, the title and the above paragraph took 5 minutes and 18 seconds to type and correct.

A very satisfying ‘thock’ noise

As I blogged yesterday I have recently purchased a new computer keyboard. So far, my usage has revealed one good feature and one bad feature. It doesn’t have a number keypad, so it has a button which turns some other keys into the number pad. Annoyingly this is switched on whenever the computer boots up, and I invariably forget to switch it off before typing my password so I invariably fail my first logon attempt each day. On the plus side the keys (and the ‘Enter’ key in particular) make a very satisfying ‘thock’ noise when pressed hard.

Thock!

A type of touch

I came back to university on Saturday and the wireless keyboard I use on my computer died soon after I started using it. I assumed that the batteries were flat, but that soon turned out not to be the case. I took it apart to check for loose wires and the like, but (as expected) couldn’t find the problem. I finished off what I was doing using the windows on-screen keyboard and dealt with emails from my mobile phone. The keyboard now lies dead next to my desk waiting to be thrown out (I’m not just being lazy, the outside bin is full and the second bin is the other side of lots of snow).

The keyboard is dead.

Long live the keyboard!

It wasn’t realistic for me to work without a keyboard, so I purchased one pronto and it arrived on Monday. It’s an ergonomic keyboard, which serves to highlight that I can’t type properly. I can manage a reasonable speed, but I’m still really just a two finger typist (though depending on where the key I want is I might use any finger or thumb).

Touch typing is virtually always faster than typing like I do, but it takes time and effort to learn. As I googled for a website that would teach me I came across one which also listed some extra benefits I’d not previously considered. Touch typing is more efficient once you’re proficient at it, because you can have confidence that what you type is the same as what you mean to type. This allows you to avoid wasting time looking at the keyboard or screen when typing something from a paper document, and means you don’t have to break your train of thought if you’re authoring the content as you type. The typing should not only be fast, but accurate.

Typing tests take both into account, measuring speed (measured in words per minute, wpm, in which a ‘word’ is defined as 5 key presses) and accuracy (reporting the number of mistakes). Using my usual typing style I took a typing test and was asked to type this:

“My name is O’Kelly, I’ve heard the Revelly From Birr to Bareilly, from Leeds to Lahore, Hong-Kong and Peshawur, Lucknow and Etawah, And fifty-five more all endin’ in “pore”. Black Death and his quickness, the depth and the thickness, Of sorrow and sickness I’ve known on my way, But I’m old and I’m nervis, I’m cast from the Service, And all I deserve is a shillin’ a day. Shillin’ a day, Bloomin’ good pay, Lucky to touch it, a shillin’ a day!”

My result was 53wpm, with 3 mistakes (though I could only find one, even though they were highlighted in bold – two looked to me like they were identical to the desired words!). The challenge now is to invest the effort to learn to touch type and see how much I can improve.