23 August 2015

Why I Switched to a Chromebook

I haven’t written a post about technology in a long time so I thought I’d give an update.

As most of you know, I’m a big proponent of Open Source Software (OSS). And I’ve been a user of various Linux Distributions for a number of years. Most recently, I’ve used Xubuntu, LinuxMint, and elementaryOS. Everyone of those Operating Systems (OSes) has their strengths and weaknesses, and the weaknesses are easily fixed. The biggest issue for me, wasn’t the software; it was my hardware.

Almost seven years ago I was given an Aspire 4730z by a colleague and it’s been a fantastic computer. Recently, however, it started freezing up. Then I thought the wireless card was failing. After about 30 minutes I’d lose connectivity to my router, so I bought a micro USB card. But then the USB ports started to go out. At this point it seems to be more of a motherboard issue, which is a whole other level of repair. It’s doable, but it’ll take time and money.

The problem was I was in the middle of a huge writing project with a fast approaching deadline. I really couldn’t shelve it to do the proper troubleshooting on my laptop to isolate the issue and repair it. I needed a new laptop and I needed one soon, so I started shopping around. My search quickly led me to look more closely at Google Chromebooks.

I’ve been a fan of Chromebooks since they were introduced in 2011 (we bought one for my wife a couple of years ago). The idea of having an inexpensive laptop that allowed someone to access the Internet with a full browser and web-based applications would be perfect for some people. You know the ones; people who check email and Facebook, write documents, listen to music, watch videos, etc. Heck, I think most people fall into that category! And the latest numbers show that people are realizing this. For the first time ever (and probably not the last time), Chromebook laptops have out sold Windows laptops.

What is a Chromebook and Chrome OS?

Chromebooks are (mostly) inexpensive laptops, starting at less than $200. They’re fast, lightweight, quiet, and have an extremely long battery life. They come in different screen sizes—ranging from 11.6” to the more standard 14” or 15”. While their internal storage is relatively small (starting at only 16GB), they come with at least 100GB of cloud storage in Google Drive. But, if local hard drive space is a factor, almost all Chromebooks come with a standard size SD card slot so you can expand your local data storage for music, pictures, or whatever.

If you needing something for desktop replacement, there are options for you, too! A Chromebox would be an excellent choice if you already have a great monitor—you just plug in your existing monitor, keyboard, and mouse. If you’re needing to replace everything, there’s the Chromebase, an All-in-One device with a huge monitor and an external keyboard and mouse. Prices here also start at less that $200.

Chromebooks (as well as Chromebases and Chromeboxes) run the Chrome OS, an operating system specifically designed for web applications and built on top of the linux kernel (based on the Open Source project, Chromium OS). With most of the data stored in the cloud one doesn’t have to worry about losing any data if the computer crashed. The OS is always up-to-date with the latest patches and upgrades because they’re automatically pushed down from Google. Furthermore, since it’s linux based, it’s virtually virus free!

Like a lot of people, though, I thought I needed something more than “just a web browser with a keyboard” (a phrase a colleague used to describe Chromebooks). While I do all of my writing in Google Docs, I have large music and picture collections. But those have all been uploaded to the cloud so I can access them from anywhere, so a Chromebook seemed like a really good solution for me.

“But,” someone will interject, “you have to be connected to the Internet to use a Chromebook. What are you going to do when that’s not available?”

To which I reply, “If you can’t connect to the Internet, what do you do on your laptop?”

“Uh...write documents…”

I can do that.

“Um...edit some pictures…”

I can do that, too.

In fact, I bet if you don’t have an Internet connection you don’t even turn on your laptop—you’ll grab your smartphone to check Facebook or update Twitter. That’s what I do. That’s what most people do.

You see, we spend most of our time online—whether that’s good or bad is for each of us to figure out. But that’s just how it is now. And since most of us do that, a Chromebook would make perfect sense for most people.

Certainly, there will be limitations, but that’s true no matter what OS one uses. If you’re someone that needs specialized, proprietary software, then a device running the Chrome OS isn’t going to work for you.

But with a Chrome Web Store boasting thousands of apps and extensions—many that can be used offline so you won’t need an Internet connection (they sync up when the connection is reestablished)—I’m sure you could find an app to do what you need to do. Don’t want to use Google Docs and want to use Microsoft Word? The free, online version is available through the Web Store. And for editing pictures, there’s a great app called Pixlr that will do just about anything you can imagine. But, if you just need to use Photoshop, Adobe has on web based version of that, too, called Photoshop Express Editor.

After looking over the latest best sellers, I chose the Toshiba Chromebook 2. It has 4GB of RAM, a 13.3” full HD display with a 1920 x 1080 resolution (which is great when watching Netflix), a sound system by Skullcandy, USB 3.0, a full HDMI out port, 720p webcam, over 8 hours of battery life, and more. I picked one up at Bestbuy for $280. I signed in to my Google account and everything I use in Google Chrome was there—bookmarks, extensions, apps, etc. And Android apps have been integrated, too! Plus, I got a 100GB of space added to my Google Drive.

It’s been fantastic! Because of the SSD (solid state drive) my Chromebook boots up in just a couple of seconds. With the 4GB of RAM, I can have multiple tabs open without any type of performance hit (but really though, how much multi-tasking does one do). My new system is fast, lightweight, and looks great!

If you’re in the market for a new computer, I highly recommend checking out a Chromebook. Seriously. I just might be the last computer you ever get.

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

27 July 2015

Day 14: 2 Corinthians 2:14–3:18

It’s day 14 of our 30 Days of Paul Reading Challenge and things took a weird turn. As you can see by the title of this post, we’re staring Paul’s second letter to the followers of The Way of Jesus in Corinth. However, for some reason that I can’t seem to figure out, we’re reading 2 Corinthians 2:14–3:18, instead of the first couple of chapters. I suppose the belief is that this section was written first (?) since we’re supposed to be reading these chronologically. That doesn’t make sense to me, but there it is nonetheless. So, let’s get to it!

Starting at the beginning of chapter 3, Paul talks about the two different covenants; the two different ministries. One covenantal ministry brought death and the other brought life. Paul states that the ministry that brought death was written on stone tablets but the ministry that brought life is written on hearts (3.1-6). This is an obvious reference to the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. He even says as much in verse 14, “But their minds were closed. Right up to the present day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. The veil is not removed because it is taken away by Christ.”

What’s remarkable, though, is verse 6, “G‑d has qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not based on what’s written but on the Spirit, because what’s written kills, but the Spirit gives life.” Again, Paul’s context here is the Old Covenant, the Mosaic Law.1 What Paul’s saying here — and saying it rather boldly, I might add — is that he and the others ministers of the New Covenant were doing things based on the Spirit and not the Jewish Scriptures.

But let’s extrapolate that out to include the Bible as a whole. If our only knowledge of Jesus is “what’s written,” then does that, too, lead to death?

If we’re constantly saying, “The Bible says…” as some sort of legitimacy for our harsh and hateful words and actions toward others then it’s quite true, “what’s written kills.” I think Paul would be mortified if he saw that we’ve made the Bible into an idol, the “fourth person” of the G‑dhead.

At the end of Matthew’s telling of the Jesus story, Jesus tells the disciples, “I’ve been given all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28.28; GNT2; cf. Daniel 7.13-14). Notice he didn’t say, “All authority has been given to the letters and stories you chaps are going to write about me.” And yet, that’s exactly the way we treat the Bible! But Paul wrote that what’s written kills. And while he was specifically meaning the Torah (which, for a Jew must have been a very shocking thing to say, let alone read!), could the same be said to many of us today and our handling of the Bible? What would it look like if we stopped using the Bible as a legal document full of facts and started seeing it as a living guide full of truths? What if we insisted on being led by the Spirit instead? What would that look like in our world today?

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

1. To be fair, the “stone tablets” were only part of the Mosaic Law. As we know, they were the Ten Commandments. Kind of an interesting spin given all of the news here in Oklahoma about removing a monument of them at the State Capital. Not to mention those people who insist that followers of Jesus must keep the big ten!

2. Scripture quotations marked (GNT) are from The Good News Translation in Today’s English Version — Second Edition. Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society. Used by Permission.

21 July 2015

Day 13: 1 Corinthinas 15–16

As we continue our 30 Days of Paul Reading Challenge, we’re finishing off 1 Corinthians with chapters 15 and 16. Let’s get to it!

As we know, chapter 15 is the most concise teaching we have from Paul or anyone else on the resurrection. For some it’s one of the most challenging. So, let’s try and break it down.

First, what does Paul mean by the word “resurrection”? Some think he was talking about a spiritual (i.e., non-material) being; that Jesus didn’t have a material body but was some sort of spirit energy. Others think that the apostles and others were so distraught from Jesus’ death that their emotions got the better of them and they started seeing things. Others contend that they just meant a new sense of G‑d’s presence within their hearts. Others believe that Jesus was resuscitated. That is, he died (or was really close to death) but was brought back to life. Can you imagine Jesus coming to his followers after he’d been beaten nearly to death by the Romans and trying to convince them he’s been raised from the dead? “Yeah, you look it!”

None of these explanations fit the meaning of the word as it was used in Paul’s time. Resurrection always meant a reimbodiment of the soul. Whenever we see the word “resurrection,” that’s the intended meaning — the soul of someone who has died now has a new body; a new physicality (see Acts 17.29ff).*

Paul starts out by stating that he and all of apostles teach the same thing — “Christ died for our sins in line with the scriptures, he was buried, and he rose on the third day in line with the scriptures” (15.3-4). Now, when Paul says, “in line with the scriptures,” he’s not thinking about a couple of verses from Daniel or Ezekiel. No. When quoting a passage (or alluding to one), the Jews of his day intended the entire context. So when Paul states that “Christ died for our sins in line with the scriptures,” he’s meaning that the overall context of the Old Testament story was that the Messiah would have to die and be raised.

We can see now why he then asks the Corinthian followers his question. If the old story’s about the resurrection, and all the apostles teach the resurrection, then “how can some of [them] say, ‘There’s no resurrection of the dead’?” (15.12). It’s a valid question. The resurrection of Jesus is the lynchpin for the whole story. Without it, the story of Jesus and what he was about all falls apart. And that’s exactly the position Paul takes (15.12-19).

Paul then goes through a lot of explanation about death and resurrection. But the verse that sticks out for me is verse 22, “In the same way that everyone dies in Adam, so also everyone will be given life in Christ.” Paul’s clearly talking about life for everyone here because of the work of Jesus. It’s right here, my friends, where the true hope of the gospel comes in. “Everyone will be given life in Christ.” This is truly “good news.”

In the remaining bits of chapter 15 (15.35ff), some people think Paul’s dabbling with dualism again, what with all his talk about physical and spiritual bodies. The problem is we think spiritual is only immaterial. But Paul’s point is that the “spiritual body” is a different type of material body! A trans-material body, if you will. That is, it’s beyond our categories of what a material body means. It’s more than our understanding of a material body, not less.

In 15.50-55, he seems to make this quite clear. He doesn’t say our current body must be removed so that our true body (the immaterial soul) be set free from it’s shell; it’s prison. He states that our current body “must be clothed” with what can’t die; what can’t decay. So the idea is not to be bodiless, but to replace the current material decaying body with a trans-material body that doesn’t decay.

In other words, a person is made up of their entire self — soul and body (or spirit, soul, and body). G‑d’s reconciliation of creation is the entire creation, not some supposed immaterial part that’s the “real” creation. That’s one of the points of the incarnation and the resurrection — the material creation is “supremely good” (Genesis 1.31) and has been redeemed and reconciled to G‑d.

That’s why what we do in the world matters. In fact, that’s the way Paul finishes off this chapter, “As a result of all this, my loved brothers and sisters, you must stand firm, unshakable, excelling in the work of the Lord as always, because you know that your labor isn’t going to be for nothing in the Lord” (15.58; emphasis added; cf. 3.12-13). The idea that G‑d will destroy creation and start over (as some people maintain) is not the biblical story! G‑d’s story ends with G‑d’s Realm and our realm becoming one (Revelation 21). That’s why our “labor isn’t going to be for nothing.” It matters in the implementation of G‑d’s Realm.

We now turn to the last chapter of this first letter to the Corinthian followers of The Way of Jesus. Paul talks about gathering a collection for relief in Jerusalem (16.1-4), his travel and visitation plans (16.5-12), and his final thoughts (16.13ff). There one thing I want to touch on here — “Everything should be done in love” (verse 14). Love should be the foundation of everything we do. Love should also be the starting point and the goal. Love should be the motivation for every action we have. When we’re at our jobs and serving others, it should be “done in love.” When we spend time with our families and friends, it should be “done in love.” When we pay our bills, shop for food, take our pets for walks, whatever it is, it should be “done in love.” If we don’t know what love looks like, look back to chapter 13; Paul explains it there. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if our actions don’t look like 1 Corinthians 13, then we aren’t acting out of love. Can we see that our actions, our intentions, look like 1 Corinthians 13?  Can we say that we do everything for love?

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

* For a very in-depth study on the resurrection, I highly recommend N. T. Wright’s book, The Resurrection of the Son of God.