Browsing articles in "Technology"

Our App Development Process

Aug 11, 2014   //   by Courtney   //   eDOT Related, Tech Findings, Technology  //  No Comments

phoneMobiles are the present and future of technology for ministry.

With that in mind, eDOT has been steadily increasing its presence into this realm over the past several years. We began by looking at how to harness text messaging for ministry follow-up and interactions, moved to “mobile first” web design, and we are now designing smartphone apps.

However, smartphone apps are not cheap. Even the smallest, most simplistic app can cost at least $3,000 to $8,000 to make. These apps are generally in one language and don’t require a BaaS (Backend as a Service) or database. More complex apps cost between $50,000 to $150,000 – or higher.*

Our eDOT team is small, and our funding is limited. But we see the huge need for apps that encourage and accelerate evangelism and discipleship. Therefore, we could not be deterred from entering into the world of app development.

First we figured out some of our needs:

  • Apps needed to be for both iOS and Android with the possibility of other platforms as the demographics grew (like Windows 8)
  • The learning curve couldn’t be too great for our programmer (right now we only have 1 full time programmer)
  • We did not want to have to code in more than one programming language (so coding separately for each platform was out)

In our preliminary research, we discovered a mobile development framework called Phonegap (now open sourced as Cordova). This is a “wrapper” system that takes a mobile “website”, usually programmed in HTML and JavaScript, and “wraps” it into a native app for each desired platform. This was the result we wanted.

Initially, we began using Jquery Mobile to develop our mobile web apps. While it is a powerful and relatively easy framework to work with, it just didn’t have everything we wanted. It was then recommended to us by several different developers in the secular world that we look at Sencha Touch.

We’ve begun using Sencha Touch and are really liking its versatility. You can see our first published app at C2CStory.com. Here we created a type of Bible tract app that allows users to tell the story from Creation to Christ using visuals and a set script which is currently in 3 languages (English, French & Turkish).  We’re continuing to build on this app with several more in the works.

(Originally written for GEMeDOT.com)

* – http://www.astegic.com/cost-to-develop-a-mobile-app

How many languages do you know?

Jun 13, 2014   //   by Courtney   //   Humor, Personal Life, Technology  //  No Comments

I Speak GeekWhen you live overseas and travel a lot, the common question is “So how many languages do you know?” My answer is normally “Zero” because as I travel I realize how little I really know my mother tongue, English.

But my other answer is sometimes “Six – English, German, PHP, JavaScript, Basic, C++, and LotusScript (but it’s been a while for the last three). Throw in a little French, Spanish, Portugesse, Russian, HTML5/CSS, Java and pieces of a few others.”

Additionally, I get asked the question, “So what language do you program in? English or German?”  Well, code is code.  It’s its own language but usually does draw from English.  Normally I do document my code in English as that is the unofficial international business language of programmers however if I know the only other programmers that will look at it are German, then I try to document in German.

But in the end, the reality is that I speak “Geek”!

Using SMS in Ministry

Jan 26, 2013   //   by Courtney   //   eDOT Related, Technology  //  No Comments

In December, I had the privilege of speaking at the Mobile Ministry Forum on the topic of using SMS/Text Messaging in ministry.  They did a video of the presentation and you can find it below.  I hope it helps others think about how they can integrate this type of technology into their ministry.

Technology as a part of culture

May 11, 2011   //   by Courtney   //   eDOT Related, Technology  //  1 Comment

It’s obvious these days that technology is changing our world.  But just how much is it permeating our world?

  • The other day I was speaking with a missionary who was in rural Africa where he walked into a mud hut that had no running water, no electricity & no indoor plumbing – yet there sat (3) mobile phones! (Yes, there was reception in the village!!)
  • During the H1N1 (Swine Flu) scare a few years ago, Google Trends was able to predict where the next outbreaks were going to happen based on the different kinds of searches people were performing – it was as accurate as the findings by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) but instead of being published 2 weeks after the data was collected – Google Trends was updated nightly.
  • Facebook has over 600 million people on it (70% are from outside the US; almost 283.5 million are over 35 yrs old _*_) where people are interacting on a daily basis with people they wouldn’t normally see face-to-face on a daily basis & some that they do see in person daily as well.

I continuously have people coming up to me saying they’re not “technology people” but then I see the smartphone in the pocket or purse, an iPad under the arm and get a Facebook friend request from them later in the day.  They tell me that they don’t “text” (i.e. send text/SMS messages via their mobile phone) but then talk about following their stock portfolios using a web service.

Digital technology is now a part of almost every culture on Earth. It is a commonality that weaves the world into a giant quilt – each culture represented by a patch – held together by technology. Now each culture has integrated technology differently but it’s there all the same.  Banking in Kenya is done through mobile phones but in the US it’s done through web applications & ATMs for example.  However, both cultures use technology to handle a majority of their banking needs.

The idea behind our ministry, eDOT, is that we see technology as a significant way to reach into these cultures and reach people where they are.  We explore how each culture is using technology and help local churches & European-based ministries develop strategies that use technology as a way to engage their culture to fulfill their overall God ordained mission.

Join us in helping followers of Christ throughout Europe, North Africa and into the Middle East use technology to creatively engage their cultures.

 

 

Tricks for Kindle Users

Mar 9, 2011   //   by Courtney   //   eDOT Related, Tech Findings, Technology  //  6 Comments

My family got together this last Christmas and gave me one gift – a Kindle. (well, two – they included a case for it as well)  Now some of you out there (like my high school English teacher) are saying, “Wait, I didn’t know Courtney could read!?!”  It’s true, I don’t normally read novels or classics like Shakespeare or Judy Blume however I do do a lot of research reading.  I’m constantly having to read this whitepaper about a technology or a book about discipleship and I’m an avid reader of a special book known as the Bible and because I’m on the go a lot, a Kindle is a great way for me to carry a lot of different books and articles without having a pile of papers or a hernia.

Now if you want to know why I wanted a Kindle over an iPad or reading this stuff on my phone or laptop, just ask but here I’m going to show you some of the tricks I found very useful in making the most out of using a Kindle or just because I like to be different.

The Key:  The “Manage Your Kindle” page on Amazon
Go to Amazon.com and login.  Then click on “Your Account” and scroll down to “Digital Content” and there you will see a link to “Manage Your Kindle”.  On this page you’ll see a lot of info about what you’ve ordered (so if you remove a book from your Kindle, you can always re-download it without paying because it stays listed on this page).  Let me draw your attention to a couple of places:

Under your Kindle, you see the name of your Kindle along with a space called “Kindle Email Address”.  Make note of that address – add it to your Address Book with the name “Kindle Uploads” or something you can easily remember.

Now this email address allows you to send PDFs (as an attachment) to your Kindle.  This makes it very easy to get that white-paper or eBook (in PDF) onto your Kindle to read later.  If your Kindle has 3G capabilities, be mindful that this feature can cost you money so if you want to make sure its free, change the email address to be “@FREE.kindle.com”.  While it won’t automatically download until you are on a WiFi network, you can save a few cents.  If you have a WiFi only Kindle then don’t worry which email address you send it to as it automatically processes it under the “free” way.

Now this only works if you are sending it from a registered email address.  So scroll down to “Your Kindle Approved Email List” and make sure you have every email account you might send stuff from.  Maybe you add your spouse’s email address so that they can easily send you stuff that they find and think you might want to read.

If you are worried about doing this and having charges because you forgot to send it to the free address, then scroll down to the “Your Personal Document Charge Limit” area.  Set this to zero.  It’s the “Just in case” way to be safe there especially if you’re never going to receive personal files through the 3G connection.

Making my own screensaver
Personally, I couldn’t handle having all those author screen savers.  I feel really stupid with those super minds being shown to me repeatedly.  Plus, I wanted to make my Kindle my own.  That’s why I used this hack that allows me to use my own pictures as screen savers.  While this hack has no warrantee and could void your warranty from Amazon, it seems to work flawlessly for me (I was even able to seamlessly do an Amazon update recently with no negative affects or problems).  Follow the instructions closely and know that there’s two parts – first a hack to be able to install hacks and then a hack to replace screen savers –> http://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/Kindle_Screen_Saver_Hack_for_all_2.x_and_3.x_Kindles#How_to_Update_the_Screen_Saver_Hack

Web Articles to your Kindle
I read a lot of websites and sometimes there’s articles that I want to read later.  The Chrome plugin makes doing that real easy.  Basically, when you use Chrome as your browser and have this loaded, you can be on a website – click a button and it formats and send the file to your Kindle.  Real easy.  Its not a screen shot and clears out a lot of the “stuff” on the website but you’ll get the content which is what you wanted in the first place.  Check it out at LifeHacker –>  http://lifehacker.com/#!5736907/send-to-kindle-pushes-web-articles-from-chrome-to-your-kindle

Search the Amazon Store
I have a problem with impulse buying.  When I’m in a book store, I’m like – oh, I gotta get this and this and this.  Not good for the wallet or for my suitcases when I’m having to lug all that around.  Here’s some ways to help with that:

  • Samples:  Many of the books in the Amazon store allow you to download a sample of the book and read it.  Sometimes its a chapter – sometimes its more.  I’ve been looking for a good book on Android development and I’ve looked at probably 8 or 9 book samples before purchasing just one.  But I know I got the right one.
  • Free collections: If you go to the Kindle eBooks area of the website and look at the list on the left, you’ll see a link for “Free eBook Collections”.  Basically there’s two of them – one is the “Kindle Popular Classics” area which are books like Sherlock Holmes, Pride & Prejudice, etc where the copyright for them has expired so foundations have put them into electronic format for all to have.  The other collection is “Limited Time Promotional Offers”.  This is the area where you want to periodically check as there can be some real gems in there.  I’ve found leadership books by top leadership development people, language helper books, educational resources, the Bible, and many others things in there.  I’ve probably ordered most of my books from this area.  [WARNING:  This area also has a lot of smut books. - I really wish they would remove those but apparently they sell]
  • Check out the Newspapers, Blogs and Magazines that you can get automatically sent to your Kindle whenever there’s an update or new edition.  They’re fairly cheap and it saves trees going this route.

Outside  Amazon Resources for Books
There’s a lot of books out there being formated for the Kindle by various foundations like Project Gutenberg. Many of the books are similar to the ones found in Amazon’s “Kindle Popular Classics” but not all of them.  Doing a Google search for “Kindle books free” will give you a lot of places to explore.

Other than read books, what can a Kindle do?
There are many things the Kindle can do:

  • If the book is formated for it, you can have the Kindle read the book to you.  Great for car drives – just get a cassette adapter (if you car has a stereo that can play cassettes) and it makes for a great way to listen to a “book on tape” only from your Kindle.
  • You can also load some MP3s on it and listen to music while you read.  You just load the files while the Kindle is connected via USB into the proper folder and then you’re good to go.
  • Did you know it has a web browser?  While not the greatest (I much prefer my Android phone over the Kindle for web surfing), if you ain’t got something else, it works!
  • Synchronize your reading across platforms – I’m assuming you know that there’s Kindle Reader apps for Windows, Mac, iPhone/iPod Touch, Android, Blackberry, etc.  You can have books loaded on multiple platforms and haven them synchronize where you are so that when you stop reading on your Kindle and then later pick up your cell phone and open up the book there – it opens to right where you left off on the Kindle.  Nice, huh?

Ok, I’m not a Kindle freak (well, maybe a little) and I’m not paid by Amazon for this post but several people were asking me a lot of questions about Kindles so I thought I would post this.  I’m also not advocating a Kindle over other eReaders out there as they’ve got a lot of plus over the Kindle (and some minuses) so to each his/her own.  I have a Kindle and it works really good for me.

Got other ideas for how to use the Kindle even more effectively?  Comment.

Cool Android Roll Out [Video]

Mar 3, 2011   //   by Courtney   //   eDOT Related, Technology  //  No Comments

Smartphones are increasing throughout the world.  Here’s a cool video that shows a timeline of how many Androids got activated over the last two years on a pretty cool wire map.  Very fascinating.  To a geek like me, I see each of the spikes throughout this video as people who now have one more avenue to which we can connect and disciple them with the Gospel.

Be sure to check out starting at 2:04 when it shows the activations in Europe.  Wow, what potential.

Can’t see the video above? Go here

Eurovision Invaded

May 30, 2010   //   by Courtney   //   Personal Life, Technology  //  No Comments

As I’ve mentioned before, I love to watch the yearly Eurovision Song Contest since moving to Europe.  It’s not that there’s great quality music or something really moving about it – it’s just a lot of fun to see different takes of music all come into one place.  Last night was the finale and it was invaded.  In the 2nd out of 25 songs, a man jumped on stage and “tried” to be a part of the performance.  It was rather a lot of fun to watch and unlike sporting events, security didn’t just run onto the stage and taser him but did get him to leave the stage where he was quickly escorted out.  (here is a YouTube clip of it all and the invasion happens at about 1:08):

Now here’s the interesting thing that bring this back to what it is I do – do you know how fast this information got out to those that weren’t watching?  Within seconds, Tweets were going out and a few moments later we were able to watch it again on YouTube.com .  This morning I awoke to find out what happened to the invader (he was arrested) and what his real name was and that he does this all the time in mainly sporting events (bet he knows how to out run a taser now and avoiding a tackle).  Even his Wikipedia page was already updated with last night’s antics.

[Update:  Switched to another copy of the video as the other one died - plus here's a link to the whole show available until June 19th]

So I guess my question is that if something as benign as jumping on stage can make its way around the globe so quickly – why do more important messages about things like hope and love seem to take so much more effort? (or only seem to come to me in emails with some fluffy Powerpoint attached?)

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