Speeding Up a Slow Computer

Computer issues are hard enough to endure but when you live overseas and face the prospect of having to allow  technicians to change the language settings to work on the computer…and you have no idea what they are doing or if you will be able to even operate the computer after it is returned…then computer issues can be maddening (although I was once reminded by my pastor when I was helping him with his computer, that computer problems can contribute to your sanctification if you allow them too).

Recently, my husband and I fixed laptops for a couple of “family” members who had “issues” with them.  In the process, we used a tool that has a “free” version that is very helpful at cleaning up “trash”  that accumulates on a computer overtime as one uses the internet and moves around files and programs. The program also can detect known viruses. If your computer seems a little slow or you have owned it for more than a year or two, then your desktop or laptop might benefit from a “spring cleaning”. The wonderful program is called CCleaner. Listed below are instructions for downloading  and running CCleaner on your computer.Read more

Google SMS

If you do not have a smart phone with a data plan, Google SMS may be a useful tool to check flight arrival times, get definitions, search for local restaurants, do basic web searches, and more.  Simply send a text to 466453 (GOOGLE) and you will receive a reply that is similar to a typical Google search.  View an interactive demo.  Here are some keywords you can use.

  • Airline code – “aa101”
  • Restaurants – “pizza 94040”
  • Web search – “web free sms tools”
  • Sports – “score red sox”
  • Definitions – “define missions”
  • Weather – “weather atlanta”
  • Currency – “5 usd in eur”
  • Time – “time nairobi”

Bookmarks for Kindle

The Amazon Kindle is a great tool for missionaries for several reasons, including its web browser.  One limitation is that the browser does not allow you to order, sort, or group your bookmarks or favorites.  There is a simple solution.  Simply create a DOC file (Microsoft Word document) with your bookmarks and email it to yourself.  Then open this “book” to access your bookmarks.  Here is a list of common sites.  Most of these are mobile versions of sites that load faster and display better on the Kindle.  You can download a DOC file , add your own links, delete those you do not use, and then email it to your Kindle.  You may also copy it below.

Start | Google | Twitter | Facebook | Kinstant
Email | Gmail | Yahoo | Hotmail
Google | Mobile | Calendar | SMS | Voice | Talk
Travel | Kayak | TripIt | FlightStats | XE
Travel | Maps | Weather
Work | Dropbox | RTM | Evernote | gDocs
News | CNN | BBC | GNews | NYTimes | Fox
Read | GReader | ESV | YouVersion | Wiki | mhelp

Amazon Kindle: A Tool for Missionaries

The Amazon Kindle is a popular electronic reading device. It has several unique features that will make it an interesting option for missionaries.  If you want to travel light and save some money, take a look at the Kindle.

In comparison to the popular Apple and Android tablets, the Kindle is a “poor man’s tablet.”  While it cannot do everything a tablet can do, it can do several important things for less money.  The Kindle costs half of the price of most tablets, is half as thick, and the battery lasts more than twice as long.  You can browse the internet and use online services like Gmail, Google Maps, Google Calendar, Google Talk, Google Docs, and Remember the Milk, as well as read news, blogs and other websites without paying for a monthly data plan from a mobile phone network.  Amazon uses the AT&T wireless network for either 3G or EDGE service for free.  If you live where the power is limited and do much of your reading outdoors, the Kindle is a good choice.  As a missionary visiting the US, you can use the Kindle as a free internet browser while traveling, as the battery lasts several days and the display is readable in direct sunlight.  You can keep reading material handy for down time and have your sermons ready to go.

Reasons to get a Kindle:

  1. Digital Library – The first thing people think of an e-reader for is reading.  This small device can hold over 3,500 books.  If you are a reader and a traveler, you will welcome the space, weight, and shipping cost savings.
  2. Personal Documents – The Kindle can receive your files three ways.  File types include DOC, DOCX, PDF, HTML, TXT, RTF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, PRC, and MOBI.
    1. USB cable – Plug the Kindle into your computer and transfer files to it without any special sync software
    2. Wi-Fi – Email files to username@free.kindle.com and they will be delivered to your Kindle for free when you have Wi-Fi coverage.
    3. 3G – Email files to username@kindle.com and they will be delivered to your Kindle for a small fee when you have Wi-Fi or 3G coverage.
  3. Long Battery Life – The Kindle is very energy efficient and boasts a one month battery life with wireless off and 10 days with wireless on.
  4. E Ink Display – The Kindle is readable in sunlight because it uses an E Ink display.  This looks very similar to a printed page and is easier on your eyes that a laptop or tablet display.
  5. Free 3G connection – The Kindle can download books and visit Wikipedia in many countries, while in the US and some other countries it can also browse the internet for free. More Coverage Maps
  6. Internet Browser – The Kindle includes a simple “experimental” internet browser.  It can browse most common internet pages, but I would recommend visiting the mobile version of common websites.  In the US, you can visit any site (Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, etc…).
  7. Audio – The Kindle can play MP3 files and read your books to you.
  8. Notes and Highlights – You can enter notes about the book you are reading and underline important passages.
  9. Search – You can search a book, your entire library, or the dictionary.
  10. Size – The Kindle is so small and thin you may forget it is in your backpack, briefcase, or purse.  You can even put it in your pocket in a pinch.

User Tips:

  • Email DOC files (Microsoft Word documents) to your username@free.kindle.com to transfer articles to your Kindle
  • Send your sermons and college notes in a DOC file to your Kindle
  • See the Kindle Active Content for apps like a Notepad and Calculator
  • Bookmark the mobile websites as they load faster and are better formated
  • Several Bibles are free (ESV, HCSB, Message)
  • Use Google Voice to send SMSes (text messages)
  • Use Google Talk to chat online
  • Use Kinstant as a page with fast load links
  • Use Kindlefeeder for RSS feeds

How To Keep Computing Simple with a Netbook

Do you have a netbook?  Are you considering a purchase of a netbook or tablet?  A netbook is a lower power version of a laptop computer.  Good netbooks costs about $300, which is less than any quality tablet, as of this writing.  If you are a mission administrator looking for a simple way to equip your team with basic computers in an affordable way, without becoming a computer repairman, netbooks are worth your consideration.  I buy a Asus model with 2 key features – a quick booting alternative operating system, and an easy restore feature.  The alternative OS allows you to be online in seconds, and the easy restore feature allows you do do a factory reset, anytime anywhere.

To keep things simple I use Portable Apps – normal, often free, computer programs that are designed to be run from a USB drive.  Installing these programs on the SD card, which lives in the netbook, makes things simple, as I don’t have to install a bunch of programs when I re-install the computer.  My portable apps include Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, AbiWord, (Word alternative), Gnumeric (Excel alternative), Foxit (PDF reader), Skype, and others.  Basically, after a re-install, all I need to worry about installing is my anti-virus program, my PDF printer, my printer drivers, and Dropbox.  The other programs are there on my SD card, along with the installation files for these programs.  If I need Microsoft Office or other programs they can also be installed from my SD card.  This way I can easily and regularly reinstall the netbook to its factory state, which is easier than spending all day working on slow computers, viruses, or software problems.

Asus EeePC 1005PE-PU17

  • 14 hour battery life – great for travel or power outages
  • SD card
  • F9 Restore
  • Express Gate – a rapid-booting non-Windows operating system with basic functionality
  • Atom N450 1.66Ghz processor
  • 250 GB hard drive – plenty big
  • 1 GB RAM – I always upgrade this to 2GB right away – buy the Crucial 2GB 200Pin DDR2 SODIMM PC2 6400
  • Webcam
  • 3 USB ports
  • LAN port
  • VGA port

Learn How to Use Your Computer by Watching Videos

468x60 24 hour free pass

Are you trying to learn a new computer program or just keep up with the technology?  Lynda.com is an online video-based training tool.  I recommend Lynda.com to missionaries regularly as they have quality videos that teach many standard applications.  While many computer programmers and graphic artists use Lynda, they also have a good selection of videos for the rest of us.  Videos cover the changes between Office 2007 and Office 2010 and advanced topics such as mail merges and Excel macros.  The cost is $25/month for unlimited classes.

Topics include:

  • Excel
  • Facebook
  • Gmail
  • Google Docs
  • Google Apps
  • OpenOffice.org
  • Outlook
  • Picasa
  • PowerPoint
  • QuickBooks
  • Quicken
  • Twitter
  • Windows 7
  • Word
  • WordPerfect

Technology: Is It Changing Missions?

The June/July 2010 edition of Lausanne World Pulse has several good articles on the theme of the way technology is changing missions.  Follow the links below or download the entire edition as PDF.

How Technology Is Changing, or Should Change, the Way the Gospel Is Shared
By Dion Forster
Social media and networking are challenging us to transform the way in which we engage the world with the love of Jesus.

The Inseparable Bond of Technology & Mission
By Nick Nicholaou
The trends of text messaging and Twitter point in the direction of things to come—namely, mobile computing. What does this mean for the Church and how it fulfills its mission?

Ten Ways the Internet Is Changing Evangelism and Missions
By John Edmiston
The very heart of how we minister is being changed forever in at least ten significant areas.

The 21st Century Roman Road: How Technology Is Changing Missions
By Troy Carl
The digital “Roman road” has been built. The Lord has provided a way to spread the good news to places otherwise unreachable.

The Challenge of Keeping Up with Technology for Ministry
By Robby Richardson
The Church needs “pioneer missionaries” who understand the culture and can use current media and technology to effectively communicate the gospel.

Buying a Netbook

Do you need a netbook?  A netbook is a small laptop computer that provides the basic aspects of a laptop (or notebook) computer, but is not as powerful.  By removing non-essential parts and reducing the size, manufacturers are able to deliver a machine that is small, lightweight, and “good enough” for basic computer tasks at an affordable price.  A netbook is ideal for travel and does a good job for writing email and browsing the internet.  A netbook is not adequate for running more sophisticated applications or running several common office applications at the same time.  Most netbooks include a SD card reader and a webcam, but do not include a CD/DVD drive or a multitude of ports.  Here are some things to look for when purchasing a netbook.

  • RAM memory – most netbooks are only sold with 1GB of RAM; make sure you can expand this to 2GB and do this right away – it will make a big difference
  • VGA port – make sure you can connect it to a larger monitor or video projector
  • Keyboard size – make sure it is not too small to type comfortably
  • Battery life – most people use netbooks while traveling or at other times when they are not plugged in, so make sure you have good battery life.

A recommended model is the Asus EeePC 1005PE.  It boasts a 14 hour battery life.

Laptop International Surge Protector

You know you should always use a surge protector for valuable electronics, but most conventional power strips are bulky and are either 120V or 240V, not both.  So instead of traveling with two power strips for just a laptop, you should consider a special surge protector for your laptop.  This multi-voltage model plugs in in-line between the two parts of your power cord and attaches to the power supply with a velcro strap.  Once you plug it in you never have to worry about forgetting a surge protector again.  It also provides protection for LAN and phone cables.

2-pin model 3-pin model

Use Dropbox to Sync Your Computers and Gadgets

Do you wish you could have your important computer files on your different computers and backed up online?  Dropbox is a service that places a special folder on all your computers and synchronizes  the contents of that folder constantly so you have your files regardless of which computer you use.  You can also access your Dropbox files online as they are stored securely on Dropbox’s website.  Dropbox works on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers and Apple, Android, and Blackberry mobile devices.  Another feature is the ability to easily make a file or photo album publicly viewable on the internet  for family, friends, or co-workers to view.  Your files are actually on each device and on the internet, so this works great in situations where you are offline and need access to your files and when you are away from your computer.  The free service is limited to 2GB, so you will not be able to store everything on Dropbox for free.  Premium accounts start at $99/year for 50GB.  Visit Dropbox.com to learn more and sign-up for free.  More ways to use Dropbox.