I’ve been a pretty huge fan of the NLT Study Bible – and still am…but the Faithlife Study Bible by the folks over at Logos is garnering some of my attention as well.
Logos is primarily known for its Logos Bible Software – some of the premier software for academics and ministry “professionals” studying the Scriptures.
The Faithlife Study Bible (FSB) isn’t a book you can purchase – rather it is available digitally – on the web, on iOS, Android, or the Kindle Fire. It integrates with Logos Bible Software and Vyrso eBooks – so anywhere you can use these, you can use it.
What I love about the FSB – and what I’ve been saying needs to happen for some time now – is that the FSB keeps growing. It isn’t a static entity. They are constantly adding new resources and notes to the Bible!
Ohh, and did I mention the Faithlife Study Bible is free? Yup, no strings attached, free. They are giving away 2.5 million copies – which I hope is a “gimmick” to get folks to download it now and that when they hit 2.5 million copies that they will continue to give it away for free…It would actually make business sense for them to do so imho, as individuals who come to love the FSB will be much more likely to purchase their Logos and Vyrso products.
And in fact, the stinkers make the FSB a non-annoying advertising tool for their Logos products already. You get tons of information in the FSB, but if you want an even more in-depth look at a topic they link out to various resources they have available that contain more in-depth information – but those you have to pay for. See, sneaky…but a great way to win new customers – and they aren’t giving a crappy product away just to get additional product purchases – the FSB is a robust resource in and of itself.
So what exactly does the FSB include? First off, it uses the Lexham English Bible (LEB) as the underlying bible translation. This translation is part of Logos’ publishing arm – which creates “digital first” products. The LEB is a new English translation of the Scriptures. The LEB is included free with FSB, but the FSB can be used with other translations as well (including the ESV, KJV, NKJV, NRSV, NASB95, and NIV2011).
It currently includes (and remember, this is always expanding) over 240 photos of biblical locales, over 35 videos, and over 120 infographics, timelines, and tables…and let me tell you, these are not you sub-par infographics, timelines, etc. one finds littered across the internet!
It also includes the Lexham Bible Dictionary (another “digital first” publication by Logos) which has over 2,700 articles on a variety of biblical topics.
There are a bunch of other features I haven’t explored too much – including some powerful community options to facilitate group study of Scripture (e.g. by a church or small group). Hopefully this has been enough to whet your appetite – go get your free copy of the FSB now. You won’t regret it.
A long, long time ago (okay, I really don’t remember how long ago – but in internet time, it has been a long time) I signed up for a program called HitBliss. It allowed me to watch a few videos and earn cash. I think I could cash out back in the old days, I’m not sure if that is still possible…but they do still let you earn money which you can then use to purchase various items they have available. Sounds pretty lame, right? Nope.
The HitBliss store contains a wide variety of movies and TV shows – and no, I don’t mean old or B movies – I mean real movies, many recent blockbusters (Star Trek: Into Darkness, Gatsby, After Earth, Oblivion, Thor, Now You See Me, The Croods, The Help, Inception)…and real TV shows – and not just from network TV either (BBC, HBO, FX, The History Channel). Many of these films/shows are not available via Netflix or Hulu Plus.
This is how it works. You let HitBliss run a little app on your computer that analyzes your web browsing habits (it can be easily turned off for a period of time and by default disables itself if you are using incognito browser sessions). It uses this analysis to determine what products/services you are likely to be interested in. When you want to earn some money – you open the HitBliss application and choose earn. Click on HitBliss Earn and HitBliss will begin playing advertisements it believes will be relevant to you. You can save or bury ads – if you bury an ad you won’t see it again. As the ads play you’ll notice little blue bars at the bottom right being filled. This indicates the amount of money you are earning – you can earn up to $5 at a time. Then go back to the HitBliss Store and use the cash to purchase/rent TV shows/movies. $5 isn’t a lot – but it is enough to purchase two TV episodes or one movie and one TV episode. When you’ve used up the cash, go back, earn some, purchase show/movie, rinse, and repeat.
The niftiest feature they’ve added recently is integration with Amazon. They have numerous movies available via Amazon’s Video on Demand service (no, I don’t mean the ones you get free with Amazon Prime) and you can purchase Amazon through HitBliss.
Right now it is a fairly primitive implementation. It looks like when you click on purchase for something via Amazon, HitBliss purchases a gift certificate to Amazon, automatically purchases your selected show/movie on your behalf using the gift certificate, and then launches in your web browser the page for the particular movie/show you selected – from whence you can begin instantly watching your purchase (that you made without having to spend any real cash).
Now the problem with these sorts of programs is two-fold. Those who have been around the internet will remember the madness pre-2000 when any idea that was internet focused was having huge amounts of money thrown at it – including ideas that involved paying people cash for their time such as AllAdvantage. Most of these programs went belly up after burning through their cash.
Those programs that did survive brought to the surface another problem…in order to remain viable the programs had to reduce the payouts so significantly that you couldn’t make any significant cash…unless you were the “referrer” for literally hundreds of other users (changing these programs into a form of multi-level marketing (MLM)).
It appears that HitBliss has landed upon a sustainable model. Its use of video ads means that they are worth more per view than traditional image/text ads…their use of random checks to make sure you are actually watching the ads help reducing the prevalence of gaming the system, and their restriction of purchases to items in the HitBliss store allows them to control what is being purchased based on how affordable it is for HitBliss to offer the product.
In addition to the movie and tv options, HitBliss also allows you to purchase a Pandora One subscription for $3.99 for one month. Pandora is a well-known web-based, custom radio station – Pandora One is the same but with premium features including no ads, higher quality audio, a desktop app, and so on.
One last item – what about the earn rate? I mean, is this like so many other programs where it takes years to accumulate the necessary points to earn cash? No. I’d guesstimate it takes around 10 minutes of videos to get a full $5 credit…working out to around $30/hr. spent watching ads (which are usually decent entertaining in and of themselves).
Well, that is all I’ve got. I hope you’ll give it a try…and use this link. I’ll get $2 for each person who joins via it and you’ll get $1.
When working around the house we oftentimes want to move from room to room cleaning, organizing, resting – but we feel limited because the music is playing off our laptop or stereo system and if we leave the room we won’t be able to hear the song anymore. If it is a laptop it isn’t too much hassle to move it to a new location – but sometimes you need to go back and forth between rooms or floors quickly and it would be silly to carry the laptop dozens of times between these rooms.
The standard answer is, “Go buy a Sonos. Then buy wireless speakers for each room in the house you want the music to play in.” This gets a bit pricey – and Bose and Samsung aren’t offering budget line items either. At least for me, Sonos wasn’t an option.
So what else? I’ve tried turning the music up real loud but two problems remain. First, if I enter the room where the speakers are my eardrums scream out in agony and second, at least my sound system can’t overpower the noise of a vacuum cleaner or other electric household tool that insists on making loud noises and which family members always seem to insist on using just as one is sitting down to relax and watch TV or talk on the phone.
For a while I didn’t have a solution…but then my sound system (which I’d picked up at a garage sale for $10) died (due to a mischievous cat loving to eat cables) and I was waiting for my new sound system to arrive (Logitech Surround Sound Speakers Z506)…so I became creative (it isn’t that I actually needed speakers at the moment – but that I don’t like my electronics to be broken…so that when I do need/want to use it, its ready to go) and did some searching around the Google Play App store. I found a nifty little application by William Morrison called “WiFi Speaker.” I installed it on my phone and then another little app onto my laptop. With a few mouse clicks my computer was now sending the audio over WiFi to my smartphone. I turned on Spotify, put in ear buds, grabbed the vacuum, and merrily went about my way.
The application is available in both free and pro versions. The pro version costs $3.99. Yes, I bought it. You can see the official website for the software (and links to download) here. There is also a helpful guide for those who might be struggling getting WiFi Speaker up and running.
I wondered if this could also be used to setup a smartphone (or phones) as speaker(s) for the laptop when watching a video (movie, TV, YouTube). I didn’t make any configuration changes and just started playing a video – but the mouths weren’t in sync with the conversation on the laptop.
I have tried making a few configuration changes since then with bad results. Sometimes the laptop began hissing static at me, other times it gave out little bleeps that I think where supposed to be music, and finally, I couldn’t get it to work at all.
What is the first thing you try when fixing a technology problem? Reboot the device. So I took my own advice and rebooted my Windows box and when everything came up, it worked just fine again.
I suspect that if I had closed out the server application before making these changes on the phone and then opened it again after making the changes, the problem would not have occurred. I’m planning to shoot the developer an email letting him know about the issue and hopefully a patch can be quickly produced.
iPhone: Airfoil for Windows/Mac
I don’t use an iPhone – haven’t for years and I’m not looking back wistfully either. I know many of you still insist on Apple technology (I really don’t have a problem with Apple, I just like to goad my friends and family who are Apple fans) – so here is what I found for you (and not surprising, it is more expensive).
Rogue Amoeba Software has written “Airfoil for Windows” and “Airfoil for Mac” application which runs on your Windows computer. The application costs $25, you can download a free trial before purchasing. This software is installed on either your Windows or Mac computer. Don’t forget to grab the free app for your iPhone! If you do purchase this software and have the opportunity to utilize it, I’d love to be able to share some firsthand experiences about the iPhone app.
PDFs are a wonderful and horrible invention. PDF means Portable Document Format and they essentially create a document that displays consistently no matter what device you view it on. You’ve probably been sent a file from someone and opened it only to see a document that looks like it was formatted by a fourth grader. This (usually) doesn’t reflect on the sender’s document composition skills but on the differences in how documents are displayed on different devices/systems. The PDF standard is meant to be a way around this issue.
PDFs are wonderful and horrible for many reasons – but today I want to talk about just one: copy and paste. Many eBooks are available in PDF format as are many academic journals and other scholarly documents. When you view said documents you may find content within them you want to copy and paste into another document (always with appropriate citations, right? right?!). For example, when I read an electronic book I “copy and paste” the content I consider key, interesting, humorous, etc. into a Google Drive document and then I can easily search through a library of everything I’ve read and thought is important (rather than the entire works, which oftentimes say the same thing over and over in slightly different words…but I’m just looking for the one time they said it perfectly). This is an easy task right? It isn’t with many PDFs.
I haven’t taken the time to look into why PDFs do this (I don’t really care), but for whatever reason PDFs insist on inserting hard line breaks all over the place. This means the text
your paste may look
something like this,
which is very annoying.
When you want it to look something like, “your paste may look something like this, which is very annoying.” Now, you can just delete out those hard breaks and reformat the text yourself in a few seconds – but if you read a lot (I do) you’ll get tired of this repetitive and stupid task that is slowly consuming your life. How can you escape this annoying problem?
ClipboardFusion by Binary Fortress. It is a free and small application which can be configured to modify text you copy in various ways – one of those being automatically removing hard breaks from text you copy.
ClipboardFusion can do all sorts of really complex and crazy stuff to copied text if you want it to…but in this case we just want to remove the hard returns from copied text. Once you have ClipboardFusion installed you can configure it to remove the hard breaks by going into Settings–>Text Replace and creating a rule. The match text for this rule is “\n” (this is the computer code stating there should be a line break) and the replace text we leave empty (b/c we just want it to remove the hard break, not put anything into the text in place of \n). Just that easy you are off to the races – err, escaping from PDF copy and paste hell.
A few important caveats to remember:
ClipboardFusion has to be running if you want it to clean up the line breaks.
If you are copying and pasting and your text looks all funny – this is probably because ClipboardFusion is running when you don’t want it to. Exit out of the program and try again – your text should now paste in with line breaks and all.
This is only a very small feature of what ClipboardFusion is capable of. Check out the ClipboardFusion website to learn about other powerful processes you can utilize.
Binary Fortress is a pretty nifty company. I’d encourage you to take a look at their other applications as well. DisplayFusion looks pretty sweet for those with multi-monitors and they have a number of other free and for sale applications that make life easier. Glad I could gain you a little of your life back…but the real credit goes to ClipboardFusion…Now if only I could find a way to write posts without consuming any of my life…hmmm…I’ll let you know when I get that one figured out.
According to The Daily Beast the United States Government has spent $118 million to build Healthcare.gov and another $56 million in fixing it…and based on the fact that the site isn’t expected to be fully patched for some time yet I wouldn’t be surprised if the total cost in “fixing” exceeds that of building the system in the first place.
I’m not going to take a position on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – I try to avoid speaking publicly on controversial issues…but I would like to suggest a lesson we can learn from the ACA that I don’t think will be (very) controversial across party lines – that the Government should utilize open source in the development of applications as a standard rule.
Now, I’m not particularly interested in arguing that every government project should be open source – I’ll be happy if 95-99% of them are. I understand that some people rightly or wrongly believe that using open source in sensitive areas could cause security risks. I’ll let Kevin Clough and perhaps Richard Stallman argue that point. But for the vast majority of projects (Healthcare.gov for example) I can see no reason why the development should not be open source and believe there would be significant advantages to such a course of action.
Lets take a look at the specific ways in which open source development could have reduced or eliminated the issues involved in the Healthcare.gov launch:
The government (not just one department, but its entirety – e.g. the white house and congress) and the public could much more readily have seen that issues were arising, deadlines were slipping, etc. and made necessary adjustments.
It is a constant problem within organizations that individuals at higher levels make decisions without the proper knowledge base upon which to make such decisions. This can result in unrealistic timelines and even if the timelines are realistic, if unexpected issues arise and there is slippage, there is a temptation to “gloss over” the setbacks and “hope” that the timeline can still be met.
This oftentimes results in extreme pressure on those actually working on the application as they are pressured to produce more, quicker – which, especially in the case of programming – is unwise. The more you pressure programmers the more likely they are to make mistakes, to take shortcuts and the more hours you demand of them the less productive they will become and, again, the number of bugs will grow exponentially.
Open Source software is oftentimes very stable and secure because of the number of eyes looking over the code. Further, individuals who are amateurs can make small contributions that allow the programmers to development on system architecture and bigger issues instead of stomping out bugs and making aesthetic improvements.
It would make sense for the Government to take a similar approach to Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo! on this front – each offers cash rewards for the discovery of issues. This is a relatively inexpensive way to get folks to pour in their energies – and individuals receive (for them) a significant compensation (hundreds to thousands of dollars – depending on the issue discovered).
The failure to properly load test the Healthcare.gov site is shocking. An open source project still needs robust methods of load testing performed by the core team – but it also benefits from other individuals and organizations implementing the application and discovering bottlenecks.
An open source, distributed team, also could have easily simulated the significant load that the site experienced upon launch – exposing the load issues early enough for remediation.
When a project is open source the code can be reused by others for all sorts of purposes. The code to this project would certainly have applications in other government projects as well as the private sector. Reuse of code can significantly streamline development timeframes and even if someone in an entirely uses a portion of code for an entirely different project in a different industry – they will oftentimes contribute their version of the function (with enhancements/bug fixes) back to the original project (resulting in better, more flexible, secure, and robust code).
I really am just spitballing here – but I have a hard time believing that the development of an open source system to perform the Healthcare.gov functions would have cost anywhere near the costs expended thus far upon this closed source system. I’d guess that $10 million could have completed the project in a more robust and timely manner via open source.
Please, let us take a lesson from this fiasco. We want more affordable healthcare – we can start by not wasting millions developing an application as a closed system which lacks robustness and stability.
I know some areas of the Government are already working with open source (and that is great) – but this needs to be a greater emphasis. Perhaps (I don’t know) there should even be some legislation that makes the (required) standard for new applications be open source and any applications which are desired as closed source systems should require review by a panel to determine if there is actual, substantial reasons for developing in a closed source system.
Though Stallman would argue for free software rather than open source, but I leave that semantics argument, however important it may be, aside for the time being to focus on an area in which a relatively minor change in procedure (moving to open source development) could make a significant change in cost and efficiency.↩
There are some excellent arguments on how and why open source technology can be more secure than closed source technology. Specifically, the additional security in closed source systems usually isn’t b/c the systems are actually more secure but a function of “security by obscurity” – in other words, security holes exist, no one knows about them (including those who wrote the software). But I digress…↩
I wrote some time ago (April) about why I don’t use Evernote and how I had moved to Google Keep – though I wasn’t entirely happy with the product.
I’m still not entirely happy with Google Keep – but I am also still using it all these months later – so that says something.
Google Keep provides an easy way to keep notes. You can take them on the web, via a Chrome App, or on your Android phone using the Keep app. Recently they had the beautiful feature of geolocation reminders – in other words you can tell Keep, “When I am within x of x location, reminder me that I need to do x.” So, I might say, “Remind me next time I am within 500 ft. of the post office that I need to buy some more postage.” It is pretty nifty functionality and I’ve successfully used it to remind myself to do things that usually go undone b/c I continually forget to do them when I’m nearby (e.g. pick up some x from the grocery store).
The killer feature of Keep for me over Evernote is its Google Drive driven versioning which allows one to go back in a documents history as necessary – something which is extremely limited in Evernote (at least last time I used it).
So, what keeps Google Keep from being perfect?
The pace of development has been horrifically slow. Come on guys, if you even devote a few folks to full-time development this application could be amazing.
The clunkiness of the desktop app (actually a Chrome App) is frustrating (you can’t reorder tasks, it doesn’t minimize to the tray).
Google has burnt me and others too many times by shutting down services. While I don’t think Keep will be one of them (it is too much of a data mine for Google to abandon, imho), it still makes me hesitant (though I feel a little more comfortable knowing that my notes are essentially Google Docs, so they’ll still be available even if Keep goes away).
This might be seem strange – but I use this application in tangent with Asana, rather than as a replacement for or alternative to. Asana manages all of my responsibilities, Keep is my “loosey-goosey” form of data collection until it is input into Asana and also a quick reference for tasks I need to do asap.
You can see the web app here. The Android app is available here. The Chrome (desktop) app is here.
On a semi-frequent basis I am asked by individuals for recommendations on software programs that they can use for some purpose. I have a fairly large knowledge of software applications – but as the years pass, the ability to “stay on top of” even the major products in most categories has become difficult if not impossible…this is where AlternativeTo comes in (and can serve as an alternative to talking to an IT geek like me if you don’t have one lying around).
AlternativeTo allows you to type in the name of a piece of software in the category you are researching and it will then display that application’s information along with alternative options.
I use AlternativeTo almost every time I’m looking for a new application. It makes finding the major alternatives easy – and it makes gauging their popularity easy as well.
AlternativeTo doesn’t just cover Windows applications – it includes categories for Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, Linux, Web-Based, Blackberry, and Chrome OS.
Adobe Flash has allowed for a lot of innovative and interactive web applications over the years – but it can also be a frustration for the web user.
Some sites (including Yahoo) have full page ads that fly out when you load the page. These are extremely annoying and sometimes are difficult to close.
In general, having a site with Flash enabled components on it means that the site is going to take significantly more memory than a “normal” website. If you open tons of tabs simultaneously (e.g. while reading Feedly), the browser oftentimes becomes slow, unusable, and crashes.
FlashControl is a small and simple Google Chrome extension I stumbled upon that I love. By default it blocks all Flash components on a website – leaving a gray box instead. If I want to view the Flash component, I just click on it.
There is also an icon in the URL bar at the top of the browser which if I click allows me to exempt this specific page from being filtered for Flash or to whitelist/blacklist the entire site.
This significantly improves my web browsing. 90% of the time, I’m not interested in whatever the site wants to show me in Flash. When I am (e.g. Hulu), I can whitelist the site easily and everything works as normal.
I have run into a few small hiccups. For example, on Hulu the ads sometimes don’t work which causes the video to stop – b/c Hulu refuses to return until the ad has played (understandably). I think this is because the site is pulling the Flash video from another site, which has not been whitelisted. In this case, I temporarily disable the FlashControl extension and then reenable once I’m done on the site.
Laptops are great. You can take them with you wherever you go – but they tend to lack in the speaker department. Between the cooling fans in the laptops and any background noise in your environment, watching or listening to anything on your laptop can be a real chore.
Sure, you can wear headphones/ear buds and that is often an excellent choice – but what if you want others to hear as well? At some juncture you may need to plug in external speakers – but that sort of defeats the idea of a laptop. You could buy wireless speakers but they are pretty pricey. So is there any affordable option that will allow you to maintain your mobility and increase your laptop’s sound? Yup – and it isn’t just affordable, its free.
In Windows click on Start, then Settings, then Control Panel. You should see a window like this:
Yours may appear a little different. If it only has a few icons or looks significantly different, look in the top-right corner. Note how in the window above it says “View by: Large icons” – change whatever it is currently set as to Large icons and your window should more closely match the one above.
Once you’ve done this you’ll need to open the Sound application, so click on Sound. You should see a window like this appear:
Now we need to select the speaker we’ll be working with. In my case, I have three different options – Speakers (High Definition Audio Device), Headphones, and Speakers (USB Multimedia Audio Device). We’ll want to select the Speakers (High Definition Audio Device) and then click Properties at the bottom right of the window. Now a new window should open that looks like this:
Great! We are almost there. Click on the Enhancements tab. You’ll see a window like this:
Ensure that “Loudness Equalization” is checked. Note the description under “Enhancement Properties”: “Loudness Equalization uses understanding of human hearing to reduce perceived volume differences.” In other words, if you are watching a movie and people are speaking normally and you can hear them fine but then the movie moves to a scene where individuals are whispering, this option will automatically boost the volume of those whispers so they can still be heard by the human ear.
Click OK at the bottom to close out the Speaker Properties window and then OK at the bottom of the Sound Properties window to close it out. Now give it a try – you should notice that your computer’s volume has “appeared” to increase.
The actual max volume your laptop speakers are capable of hasn’t increased, it is just that Windows is now increasing the volume of sounds that previously were being generated at a lower volume.
Sorry folks, I’m not familiar with the process, if there is a process, for doing the same on Mac OS X or Linux.↩
As I share somewhat frequently, prayer is difficult for me. I think this has a lot to do with my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), but that is really neither here nor there for the current topic. All you really need to know is that I am always looking for ways to facilitate my prayer life and one of those ways was through a mobile prayer list application that would allow me to keep track of prayer requests, note when and if they were answered, and allow me to record “less important” requests alongside requests I wanted to pray for on a daily basis and not have the latter get lost in vast sea of needs.
I couldn’t find one fitting my needs currently available, so I created specifications for the application and contracted Karan Rawat, a programmer from India, to develop the application. Prayer Keeper is the end result. The application was primarily designed for my specific use case and needs, but I’m making it freely available in hopes that others may find it a blessing as well.
Feel free to comment on this post with feedback on the application, feature requests, etc. I’d like to keep the apps development going, though this will be constrained by available resources (namely time and money).
You can get Prayer Keeper through the Google Play Store (for free) here.
Create a list of individual prayer items.
Mark prayers as answered and they are added to an answered list so you can look back and see how God has answered prayers in the past.
Mark prayers as archived if they haven’t been answered but you aren’t still praying for the request and they’ll be moved off your current prayer list to the archives list.
Have a prayer item move back to the top of the list every x number of days (no matter how many other items are on the list).
Marking a prayer as “Prayed” will move it to the bottom of the list – ensuring you are always praying through the items you haven’t prayed for in a while…or the items you consider really important and want to move back to the top of the list.
The ability to export one’s current prayer list and answered prayer list to a CSV file, which can be edited on almost any smart device (e.g. tablet, smartphone, computer, etc.) using a text editor or spreadsheet application.
New main program icon which will also appear when the application launches.
An aesthetically pleasing UI design.
A startup splash screen.
Move the about information out of settings.
Attempt to make UI responsive so auto-fits on various screen sizes.
Keep a timestamp of when an item was last prayed for and how many times it has been prayed for.
Keep track of how many times items have been prayed for cumulatively.
Maintain statistics over time of answered vs. non-answered prayers.
Allow for selection of multiple prayer list items and management at one time (e.g. mark as prayed, delete, mark as answered, mark as archived).
Allow for long-hold on prayer items to open an options menu to manipulate an individual prayer item rather than needing to go into the detail view.
Rename the detail view.
Write a web user interface which syncs with mobile app, to allow prayer lists to be utilized and maintain from mobile or web interfaces.
There are a few other prayer list applications out there. Here are a few I’ve stumbled on, in case this one doesn’t meet your needs: