The latest smartphone from Motorola, fresh off their acquisition by Google, is the Moto X. While the raw specs are a bit behind the likes of the HTC One and the Galaxy S4, this phone has done a lot right. The highest praise you can give a phone is that it simply does everything you want it to do! The Moto X does this, with one minor exception. More on that later.
Let’s start with the screen. At a 720 x 1280 screen some would say that is an inferior resolution compared with the “modern” smart phones of today. If you were just looking at the numbers, yes. But in the real world 720 or 1080 makes no difference on a smart phone screen. It’s a beautiful screen and more than adequate for every kind of application (video, email, pictures, etc.). The benefit of the lesser resolution is improved battery life. Let’s go there next.
The 2200 mAh battery, again is not the largest capacity on the market today, but it is a nice compromise between performance and battery size. Larger batteries mean larger phones. Moto X doesn’t need the extra capacity due to some of the other “concessions” they have made to make this a complete phone and associated experience. One of those concessions and benefits, at the same time, is the processor technology the phone uses. Motorola has pioneers the “X8″ processor technology that takes less power and provides one of the best functions on the phone…it is always listening to you. The X8 processor has “just” two cores, but it is redesigned from the ground up to make the always-on speech awareness of the phone possible without the extra cores that other phones have. In laymen’s terms, one of the processors does only a few things while consuming almost no battery — I can get a day and half of regular use on one charge. I haven’t owned another Android phone that comes even close.
One of the most useful and admittedly “coolest” features of the Moto X is it’s handsfree operation. All other phones require you to “wake” it before it can respond to your voice. Even the almighty Siri on the iPhone peacefully rests until you physically wake it by long pressing the home button. Not so the Moto X. You simply say “OK Google Now” within earshot of the phone, can it now is ready to respond to your vocal commands. This is a wonderful feature, especially if you are in the car. A simple “OK Google Now, call Debbie on cell” wakes the phone, searches my address book and makes the call. The same works for navigation, general questions like weather, sports, etc. Competitors call it a gimmick. I just call it plain useful.
The Apple versus Google apps argument is pretty much mute now. The iTunes app store and Google Play stores are on equal footing, at least for the apps I need/use. The Moto X comes with the stock Android user interface which Google users will appreciate. The Google apps like Gmail, Google Plus and Hangouts are nicely designed and very useable on the phone. Just a word about Google Hangouts. If you haven’t tried it, you should. It basically beats Skype in almost every category — reliability, multi-video conference (for free), screen sharing, add ons, recording, live streaming. The list goes on. It is the tool I use for our WELSTech Podcast, for connecting with family members when on the road, and for meetings in general.
In The Hand
The final positive impression I’d like to provide is simply the physical phone itself. It feels well made. BTW, made in the USA is one of their selling points. The speaker is very good if you prefer not to use headphones (not provided). The build quality is much better, in my opinion, than my last phone, the Samsung Galaxy S3. While you don’t get a removable battery, you really don’t need to given the great battery life of the enclosed one. Call quality is excellent, and you can get it in many different colors and color combos.
While this is the best phone I’ve owned to date, it does have one rather major shortcoming. The camera. In a word, it’s “terrible.” If you are wanton to take a lot of pictures in various lighting situation, this may not be the phone for you. I have been unable to take a picture that even rivals the rather marginal camera on the Galaxy S3. Sad. The camera is fast, and the controls are easy to use, but those are irrelevant kudos if the picture itself is dull, grainy, blurry, etc. This is not a showstopper for me since I don’t take many pictures with my phone. I leave those I care about to my Canon. The news, however, may not be all bad on this front. Motorola has begun to roll out a “fix” for the camera that for some has significantly improved the 10 megapixel camera. I don’t have that update yet, as it is being rolled out by carrier. I will provide an update once the update is in place and I’ve been able to run a few comparison tests.
In The End
As you can tell my impressions of the Moto X are very positive (sans camera). But the true test of any phone is not it’s features or screen or camera on their own merits. It’s the package. Does the phone do everything you want it to do? Is it the productivity and communications tool you need it to be? In the case of the Moto X, it does everything I need it to do.
Some of you I’m sure are aware of a weekly technology/ministry podcast I do with co-worker Sallie Draper. This summer we are taking a show each week to “write” an ebook. So I thought I’d share that content here. The book is all about content for your website. Whether you maintain and church or school website, content creation is hard. Hopefully these morsels will provide some nourishment to you webmasters. Follow along at http://welstech.wels.net.
Here is Chapter One entitled The Home Page.
Your site Home Page is the most visited page of the site and often users make a split second determination to either stay on the site or “move on” based on their inital reaction to your Home Page. Attention to the page layout and content is critical to creating a good first impression of your organization.
Here are a few design components to keep in mind as you decide on your Home Page content:
Clean up your act – Consider a first-time visit you’ve made to a church or school, and think about the impression that you formed, even before you walked through the doors of the building. What does the external maintenance of the grounds and building say about a congregation? A LOT! I’m sure you remember some locations where grounds were maintained meticulously and, in contrast, some that were in need of some TLC. And I’m sure you remember how this external appearance caused you to form an opinion about those who worship at a location. In the same way, your Home Page causes people to form opinions about your congregation or school. Does it say you are … Christ-driven, member-focused or cheap?
Dynamic – Give your site visitor something new each time they visit to keep them coming back. Don’t bore them with the same content that was added to the site 5 years ago when it was created. Keep it fresh. Respond to events in the world and promote events in your congregation.
Less is more – Keep it short and to the point on the home page. Sub-pages are fine for lengthy content, but the home page should be sparse in content and draw visitors to explore the site further.
Simple navigation and few links – Just because your site is home to 100 or 1,000+ great pages, links to every one of them do NOT have to be on the home page or in the navigation.
Give ‘em what they are looking for – Audience is key. What do they want? Read more on churchm.ag
The User’s Eye
Websites are not newspapers…however some of the same principles do apply. Headlines are great! Big bold titles on articles or sections will help your visitor do a quick assessment of what’s there and what’s changed since they last visited. More on that “what’s changed” part later. Subheads can also be good, just like newspapers to give a summary of the content, if it’s written, or even audio/video content. A headline might not allow you enough space to provide a description that will be meaningful, especially to the first time visitor unfamiliar with your ministry.
Much research has been done about how users typically react with web pages. Like a newspaper, the first thing people will look at are the pictures. So use pictures for important sections of the page and make them appropriate and visualy appealing. After the “picture scan” then the user will move to the upper left hand side of the page. Or at least those who speak languages that read left to right. So consider where you put your navigation, feature stories, videos, etc. based on what you want them to interact with first. Finally the user will scan top to bottom. Never force your users to scroll horizontally. They won’t. Chances are, depending on your content, that stuff you put on the upper right hand quadrant of your screen will be seen less than any other part of the screen.
Your home page will be the most visited page on your site. People interested in your ministry or activity will go there, perhaps bookmark it, and return fairly frequently to see if there is any new content there that might interest them. So guess what will happen if the site visitor comes to your site each Sunday evening for three weeks and there is no perceptible change to the website? Correct! The third time will probably be the last time. Obviously not what you want.
So the challenge is to keep fresh content on your site EVERY WEEK in the case of most ministries. The good news is that in most cases there is enough stuff going on each week to at least make users aware of that, plus the wealth of content available from others sites that could be included on the site via RSS (Really Simple Syndication) Feeds. We’ll address the approach and technology behind that in a later chapter. The point is to keep things fresh. This can take a lot of work and will ultimately not be possible if the site is maintained by one person. Websites worth anything are team efforts…even just maintaining one page like the home page.
The Great Eight
There are many ways to divy up content for that all important home page for your church or school website, but in general there are eight key areas of content you should consider reserving a spot on your home page. So here we go…
1. The Welcome – Too many this may be a little obvious, but your webpage is a greeting card, so you should…well…greet the visitor. Take care in writing this important piece of content, perhaps along with a friendly image. The welcome message should be no more than two or three short paragraphs. No more. Your mission statement probably is not the best candidate to include here, but something in the message should clearly state what your church/school is all about. Don’t be too gushy, just geniune.
2. God’s Word – Another no brainer and there are easy ways to bring this into your site on a daily basis through the power of RSS. This really is why we exist…to share this precious and powerful gift. Look for ways to provide relevant texts and insights based on those texts. The Sunday sermon is not always the best opening message, if you are trying to engage a visitor who has no Christian background or other organizational context. But short devotions are excellent. They stand a better chance of being read and provide an opportunity to tailor a message for your visitor.
3. About Us – This would include a little more about your organization, directions to your location, links to related organizations like WELS.net if you are a WELS organization, and how to contact you.
4. What To Expect – As one of the main purposes of your website might be to encourage someone to visit your church or school, you want to give them a good idea of what that visit might be like. Write up some content that talks about what your worship is like, what to do with the kids, what about the offering, the singing, communion, etc. Put yourself in their shoes and answer the questions they might have BEFORE they visit. Remove some of the apprehension. All the same applies for schools. What’s it like for my son or daughter to go to school there. Use pictures, video, audio, whatever it takes.
5. Calendar – Statistics show that the most popular item on most church and school websites is the calendar. Make it easy to find and keep it up-to-date. The minute it gets out of date you have removed one of the main reasons why your own members or parents come to your website.
6. Social Connections – Today it is odd to find an organization that doesn’t at least have a Facebook page. We’ll be going into more detail about Facebook later in this book. For now just make sure that whatever social network your active on, either link to it, or embed it’s content on your home page. It shows that you are interested in a dialog and also that they are invited to peek into the conversations that might be happening.
7. Media – This might be technically the hardest of the eight, but might be the most important. Expectations of website visitors of today is that you have media in the form of audio and video files. Engage the visitor with quality video and audio of sermons, Bible classes, events, etc. Again, more on this later.
8. Images – Visually appealing and engaging website have pictures. Make sure yours are of high quality, relevant and integrated with your textual content. Articles should all have pictures as well as blog posts, welcome messages, about us, what to expect and so on.
So that’s it for the great eight things that you should have on your home page. There are more of course depending on need, but these serve as a good starting point.
The Summer 2013 WELSTech Church and School Website Content Series kicks off with Episode 292 on June 11, 2013 and runs through Episode 306 on September 10, 2013. New chapters of this book will be finalized each week to coincide with each episode.
This topic is scheduled for Episode 292 – June 11, 2013.
Is “tech” a part of your Thanksgiving? I’ve heard many say quite the opposite. Thanksgiving should be a time where we turn OFF our devices and tune IN to the friends and family around us. There is much wisdom in that approach as whatever we do we need to be 100% engaged with who God brings into our lives at the time. Technology can hinder that to be sure.
But that isn’t what I’m writing about. I don’t argue the point. What I would suggest however is that technology can have a place in your thanksgiving thinking. There are many with whom you will not be able to spend time this holiday. There are also probably many that you know that don’t feel they have reasons to be thankful…or don’t realize that what they have is a gift from the Lord. How do you share or model your thankfulness to them? Tech. Here are a few suggestions.
If you use Facebook…
- Share a prayer of thanksgiving with your Facebook friends.
- Create a list of the top ten things you are thankful for this year, and to whom you owe that thanks.
- Write on somebody else’s wall a brief message of thanks for something they have done for you, or how their friendship has been a blessing to you in some way.
- Post a picture of your family get together with a word of thanks to God for this wonderful blessing.
If you use Pinterest…
- Pin images of things you are thankful for…or create a “board” called “Thanksgiving” and place items there for which you can give thanks.
- Repin images that reinforce the source of your Thanksgiving. There are many examples of these types of images. See the recent Forward In Christ article about Josh Renner and the images he shares via his Facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/helovedusfirst
If you text or Tweet…
- A few words of thanks that highlight Christ’s work for us with a link to appropriate passages on Bible Gateway can brighten someones day and also witness who is at the center of your life.
- A text or direct message to a friend that simply expresses your thanks to God for your friendship.
- Text or tweet a link to an online devotion from WELS.net.
These are just a few small examples of how the tech that God has placed in your hands can make an eternal difference for those who don’t know or appreciate the source of all blessings. May God grant you a blessed and fruitful Thanksgiving both online and off.
In the ageless and beautiful hymn “A Mighty Fortress” the phrase “one little word can fell him” is particularly powerful. That phrase came to mind as Sallie Draper and I were talking with Josh Renner on our WELSTech podcast about his Facebook page “He Loved Us First.” In our chat with Josh, whose story was shared in a recent Forward In Christ article, we were amazed at the popularity of the site – over 89,000 likes – and even more amazed at the simplicity of the message and its effect. God is blessing his work.
Very simply, Josh posts a Christian image with a small amount of text that is suggestive of God’s work for us as a reminder of his graciousness. He indeed “loved us first.” He posts an image a day that, connected with the word, has the power to “fell Satan” in the life of that Facebook user. Praise God for the power of his word. To think that a small image, a quiet word, a gentle encouragement has the power to crush Satan and free the sinner. That’s big!
So the natural question for you, if you use Facebook, is does your online life afford you opportunities to “fell him?” I know mine does. I have Facebook friends who don’t know their savior. Who struggle with life…and death. Who don’t know that the love of God even exists. My prayer is that God can use my activity there to his glory and to share his grace. As you login next time, say a prayer, ask for guidance, and then through words and images and your very example witness to the power and love of God through Jesus Christ. What opportunities we have to share the comfort that comes from our Mighty Fortress!
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us. The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him. (A Mighty Fortress, vs. 3)
Where were you on 9/11? That is a familiar question today as our country remembers the terrible events of 11 years ago. It’s akin to questions like “where were you when Kennedy was shot?” or “do you remember when man first set foot on the moon?” I was working in my office on the 18th floor in downtown Chicago that day. I can remember the uncertainty and then the fear that the Sears Tower, which was only 3 blocks away, might be another target. I can remember deciding we should close the office both for safety reasons and also there wasn’t a person there who could concentrate on any task. I could remember the eerie feeling driving home not seeing a single plane in the air, which was normally crowded with traffic flying in and out of Chicago’s two busy airports. I’ll never forget.
Perhaps a question that we haven’t thought of as much on this 9/11 is do you remember the morning after? As you woke up on the morning after what seemed to be an endless day, what were you thinking about? How did you feel? Did you want to go to work, or just coil up in a ball and stay in bed? Were you glued to the television to learn of more details or what the president might say next? If you were like me you had lots of questions and no answers. You were scared, but not sure of what. You were thankful for life, but saddened that there were those who cared so little about it, and even sadder for those children who woke up without a mom or dad they had the day before. The morning after… not as memorable perhaps, but important to remember.
As I think back to the day after Good Friday, I wonder what that morning after was like…for Peter, for the other disciples, for Mary? Fear? Sadness? Confusion? All of the above? A life, a cause, that had so much promise was now over. No more Jesus. They saw him die. It was very public. It was no secret. He was alive and then he was dead! Now the survivors were left by themselves…to wonder.
As the disciples gathered behind locked doors they must have been trying to decide what’s next, if they were there at all. Perhaps some decided to coil up and stay in bed that morning. After all, what hope was there? All things that mattered seemed to come to a crashing halt – much like a New Yorker might have felt about their normal bustling schedule. What’s the use. It doesn’t matter. Things were different the morning after. Never to be the same. Jesus’ followers must have been choking on the dust and debris from a collapsed ministry, or a crucifixion that lasted about as long as it took for two towers to come down.
Fast forward three days to Easter however. Or better yet, the morning after Easter. What must that have been like? For Peter, for the disciples, for Mary? Wow. A very different morning. The rubble of mere days earlier was now resurrected. What looked hopeless, causing fear, uncertainty, sadness, now was replaced by inexpressible joy. It was such a 180 that Thomas couldn’t (or wouldn’t) even believe it till he saw for himself. That was a morning after that those people remembered the rest of their lives.
Now another question. What will the morning after be like the day AFTER you die? The Bible makes this kind of simple. Only two answers are possible. Answer one: Like the day after Easter for the disciples…only a 1,000 times better. Answer two: Like the day after Good Friday (or 9/11)…only a 1,000 times worse. It’s the difference between heaven and hell, right? What a gracious God we have, who decided we were his and he wanted “answer one” for us. His son had to die to make it happen, so that is what he did. He put his son to death. So every “morning after” we have can be one of inexpressible joy as we think back to THE morning of Easter. We simply can’t coil up in our beds. We have salvation. We have an eternal future of joy with Christ.
Let me ask one last question. What will the morning be like the day AFTER your brother, your uncle, your neighbor, your friend dies? Heaven or hell? If it is the later, you have a story to tell…the story of salvation. Morning afters can be so sad. But there is one morning after that doesn’t have to be.
1 Corinthians 15:50-58
50 I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
After taking a summer vacation from blogging, I’m back and picking up where I left off last spring…with news about Chromebooks. Just to recap, I believe Chromebooks are probably the best option available to our schools who want to put computers in the hands of the students and still keep the tech administrator sane. They are easy to set up, manage, and learn. They are also becoming more cost effective, thus an even smarter choice for a lot of our schools. Here are the details of a recent email I received from Google:
On May 29th, we launched a new Samsung Series 5-550 Chromebook with a faster processor, more memory and a sleek new design. Additionally, we launched the Chromebox, which is designed for a traditional desktop computing environment, and solely runs the Chrome operating system.
As a Google Apps for Non-profit subscriber, you are eligible to receive special pricing – an 80% discount on the management console!
Non-profit organizations such as the First Tee of Fort Worth have purchased Google Chromebooks due to widespread use in K-12 programs across the state. They’re effortless to setup and manage, and can help your organization take it’s educational programs to the next level.
Here are details on our special Non-profit pricing:
Samsung Chromebox desktop = $329 + $30
Wifi Samsung 5-550 Chromebook = $449 + $30
3G Samsung 5-550 Chromebook = $549 + $30
These figures include management capabilities, support for the lifetime of the device, and a one year hardware warranty.
If you are interested in learning more about how Chromebooks can help your organization, or if you would like to place an order please visit our Chrome website.
They also provided a link in the email to an interested Google Hangouts on Air demonstration of the Chromebook management console. Good stuff…