Saturday, March 31, 2007

Sitting in an airport...waiting to be delayed

I'm supposed to be in San Jose today, but because of terrible weather yesterday my flight was canceled.  So now I'm sitting in Chicago's lovely O'Hare, waiting for a flight that is supposed to get me into San Francisco at 6:40 so that I can speak in a church in San Jose at 7:00 PM.

Wishful thinking, you say?  Oh, I'm sure you're right!  But this is the best our modern air traffic system could manage.  I was thinking that I'd be running through the airport as it is, but then I checked with my favorite flight tracking service, Flightstats.

Here's what Flightstats tells me is the historical performance of this this Chicago--San Fran flight:

The AVERAGE DELAY is 66 minutes?  I'll be lucky if I make to the church before everyone has left and is safely tucked into bed at home!!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Prescient post - Flight's canceled

Yesterday I posted about Google's flight information service (courtesy of which allows you to send a message to Google and receive back your flight information.

I had occasion to use that very service this morning.  I showed up at the airport at 5AM for a 6AM flight to San Jose.  I got that uncomfortable feelings as soon as I saw the long lines at check-in.  Having only a carry on, I walked to the self-check-in kiosk and started the process.  A minute later the screen told me that I should talk to an couldn't complete my request.

I texted Google my flight number and found that my flight had been canceled.  Since it also returned the airline reservation number, I was off and (trying) to get rebooked almost immediately.

Good stuff...except I'm still supposed to be somewhere else right now...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Flight info with Google

Google is now providing flight status information via any cell phone through text messaging.  Simply text your flight numbers to 446453 (GOOGLE) and you'll be texted back information from

If you don't know the flight number and want to find an 800 number, simply text the airline name to the same number and you'll receive back their reservations phone number.

Right now this is only for flights arriving to, or departing from, the US.  However, flightstats also covers international flights so Google may up the ante in the near future.


via DownloadSquad

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Computer-aided language resources

Learning a second language takes a lot of time, a lot of patience and a lot of plain old study.  Sure, there are books a plenty to help you parse that odd verb, or help you conjugate that key verb in your sermon to give it just the right tone, but why not let software help.

I stumbled upon Verbix quite by accident a few months ago.  I couldn't believe the treasure that I'd found.  Here is their purpose, from their website:

Verbix is an independent non-profit organization that aims to promote and protect linguistic diversity [UNESCO Observatory: Multilingualism]. This site contains verb conjugations for hundreds of languages, ranging from national and international languages to regional and even extinct languages.

Verbix comes in four flavors, two that are web-based and two that are applications for your computer.  Both come in free and paid varieties.

Web-Based Editions

The first is their free web-based application.  You'll find verbs from 81 languages available, not as many as the desktop edition, but quite a few!

I can't vouch for how complete each languages' verbs are presented, but I've been fairly impressed by the set for Albanian, my adopted language.

All you need to do to get started is pick a language and enter a verb.

The resulting return will parse out the verb of your choice into the tense, voice and mode that are available.  Verbix doesn't have the parsing for every single verb available in its database.  Instead, like the above verb, it matches the many verbs by their conjugations.  Most of the time it seems right on, though I've found a few that I've differed with.

The web version has both a free and paid version, the difference being that the paid version provides lists of synonyms and antonyms, additional information about each verbs, etc. (version comparison).

Desktop Editions

The desktop edition is good sized (12MB) but very, very easy to use when your Internet goes out.  It too comes in a free and paid version (version comparison).  The desktop edition boasts up to 316 languages in its database.

Like the web-based edition, you first pick the language you want to work in.  You can browse languages either alphabetically or by the language family tree.

After selecting your language you're presented with the desktop.  Again, we'll use Albanian as the sample language.

You can either enter the word you want to parse, or browse through the verbs alphabetically.  Verbs and extra information appear on the main window.

This is a fantastic program for reference or study.  There is a lot more functionality here than I've covered.  Verbix's web-site was obviously not built by a marketer, but a quick glance at the help file will give you an idea of else this application is capable of.

Whether you only need to verb-form once in a while or you're a serious student, Verbix has a lot to offer.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Free 10 minutes with Skype

Everyone once in a while Skype offers freebies; in this case it's 10 free minutes to normal landlines and mobile phones.  Get yours here.  This offer will probably disappear shortly.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Gotta love Lenovo...

Okay, these are just concept videos....but I'm glad I'm not the only one whose thinking about dropping his laptop.  This feature is a MUST for the always-on-the-go missionary.


If you live in a country where coffee is ALWAYS near by, you'll want this feature.



Just concepts...I'd just be happy to find a way to quit roasting motherboards over the poor power grid in my country.


via GottaBeMobile

Monday, March 19, 2007

Comparing web-based mail: Hotmail, Gmail & Yahoo

A lot of missionaries rely (unfortunately in my opinion) on web-based mail services.  I say unfortunately because many missionaries live in Internet-slow countries and they spend countless hours waiting for pages to reload.  Using Outlook, Outlook Express or Thunderbird is a much better solution, and a couple of the below solutions give you that flexibility.

If you're going to use a web-based mail service, why not use the best?  Last month TechCrunch compared the top three mail services, Hotmail, Gmail & Yahoo.

Their conclusion:

Overall we prefer Gmail over all other webmail applications because performance (speed) is consistently fast, and emails can be tagged making search much more effective. They also offer more storage and other features, and it’s free. However, Yahoo and Live Hotmail offer more mainstream Outlook-like user interfaces (although Live Hotmail does not allow you to access other email accounts from their application), whereas Gmail takes some time to get used to. If you are looking for speed and tagging is important, Gmail is for you. If you are looking for the closest thing to Outlook online, go with Yahoo Mail.

Read the post for more details.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Missionary Slide Show: the next generation

I haven't posted any eye-candy here in forever, so today is the day.  I've given various PowerPoint presentation between 1-3 times a day for the last two months or so.  For the most part, people seem to stay engaged with what I'm presenting.  But PowerPoint sure has its limitations.

Check out Jeff Han's demonstration of his new touch screen technology.  It runs on a a regular computer (though its a six figure version) and looks distinctly "Minority Reporti-ish."  You can read more about it here.  Sorry I can't embed the video right won't embed for some reason.

I would be awesome to have that kind of technology for missionary presentation!  Give us another 15 years and we'll be there.

via DefenseTech

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Remembering all the names!!!

Light posting lately.  I'm still out visiting the churches of my parent organization, the Christian & Missionary Alliance.  What a privilege it has been to meet so many people that make my organization a great one.  I'm traveling around North Carolina at the moment, a five week tour that will take me to twenty churches when I finish.  Each one of the those churches has around 60-150 in it.  Each one of those people have a name.

So many names. 

Remembering people's names is challenging for many people, yet no sound is as sweet to someone as the sound of their own name. 

The folks over at the Ririan Project have a great post on how to remember people's names.  They list nine steps which were a great review for me last night.  Honestly, I'm slacking in the mental discipline necessary to remember 10-15 new names each day.  This post was a good reminder, encouragement and refresher on how to do it more effectively.

I'd list those nine steps briefly here, but then you wouldn't read the post.!  If you are in a position that involves regularly meeting people and learning names, this post is worth your while.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Online collaboration: skrbl, nice online whiteboard

 If you've read this blog for any length of time you know that I have a thing for tools that let people collaborate at a distance.  Maybe that's because I'm frequently far away from the people with whom I want to collaborate!

Skrbl is a very nice online whiteboard that can be created almost instantly.  In their words:

The complete web whiteboard. Just start skrbl, give out your URL and instantly share online.  Use skrbl to collaborate with others or, keep it your own private web space. Write notes, sketch drawings, upload pictures, share files...
Everyone sees the same screen,
Everybody stays on the same page.

It really is about that easy to use.  In about twenty seconds after launching the web site I was doodling on the whiteboard.

You can write with a mouse or with text.  You can insert graphics and communicate very complex information very simply.  As a tablet use I love inking right on the screen.

  You can use this for your self, as an online bulletin board or more valuably, invite others to participate in an online brainstorming session.

Registered users (free) can add people to the session either by sending them an invitation email from within skrbl or by IMing them the URL for the session. Either way it's about as simple as it gets.

On the DOWNSIDE, I sent a link to a friend who was on a 3 meg broadband connection and after about 15 minutes, he still hadn't seen anything drawn on the screen.  Whooops.

Skrbl is still in beta but watch out for this little app.  It's got a lot to offer.

via Lifehacker