Weekly Roundup

UPDATE:  In case you missed it, Vladimir Putin recently wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which he offers counsel to the United States.  Yesterday “President Obama” responded with his own op-ed for the Huffington Post


Katelyn Beaty writes at Christianity Today about our Hunger for Outrage (specifically on the internet):

Outrage begins to eat us alive when it is not channeled into creative love. It does not produce the righteousness we rightly seek (James 1:20). And there is only so much love you can demonstrate in 140 characters on a glowing screen.


Wednesday was the twelfth anniversary of 9/11.  Here are 9 Things You Should Know About the 9/11 Attack Aftermath.


From National Journal:  Syria Tells You Everything You Need to Know About Barack Obama.


Peggy Noonan at The Wall Street Journal on Syria and Why America is Saying ‘No’:  “There is something going on here, a new distance between DC and America that the Syria debate has forced into focus.”


Our fearless leader James Arnold has written an article for Biola University’s Center for Christianity, Culture and the Arts on Giving Grace to “Crossover” Artists.


John Mark Reynolds responds to a friend’s question about Vocation and Money.


Digital Times argues that Part 2 of the Hobbit trilogy will be better than part 1 (but not by much).  The article is short, snarky and repetitive, so here’s the only paragraph you really need to read:

No, seriously. “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is going to be the best part because hello, all the best stuff happens in it. “The Hobbit” Part Three-ie (out on December 17, 2014) is going to be the worst snooze cruise since Helm’s Deep. That’s because certain dragons are going to get whacked in the first of many hours and the rest is just going to be a big battle and then a long walk home.


Speaking of The Hobbit, here is JRR Tolkien singing “Chip The Glasses And Crack The Plates”:


One should always be careful about giving too much weight to “scientific journalism.”  Still, these developments are worth noting:  Global warming? No, actually we’re cooling, claim scientists.


Love it or hate it, the very colorful (and very plastic) new iPhone 5c is probably here to stay:  Forget “Cheap”, The iPhone 5c Is Clearly The iPhone Jony Ive Wanted For iOS 7.


Book nerds, time to geek out!  “Harry Potter” Gets Seven New Illustrated Covers.


From The Atlantic:  Why Sequels Will Never Die: Hollywood’s Summer of ‘Flops’ Was Actually Its Best Year Ever.


Mali, Syria, Obamacare, Detroit;  2013 has seen many debacles…all of which Mitt Romney warned us about during his 2012 presidential campaign.  This recently prompted Buzzfeed to ask:  Was Mitt Romney Right About Everything?  (The truth, of course, is that this is not about Romney.  He was not a visionary or a genius.  He was just saying what conservatives have been saying since long before 2012).


If World War One Was a Bar Fight…


Help Kickstart World War III!  Why?  Because Obama:

Can Microsoft Play with the Tech Giants?

Spoiler alert: I think Microsoft is one of the tech giants.

When characterizing the technology wars of our age, I suspect many of us come up with the right wars. We think PC vs. Mac for home computers, we think Google and Apple for smartphones (though Microsoft is coming up in this area rather nicely), we think Google and…Bing? Well, we think Google for search, at least. Google pits itself against Firefox (and Microsoft is trying so hard with Internet Explorer 10) in the realm of web browsers. Tablets are primarily a war between, again, Apple and Google, though others have tried to break in, some with outright failure (HP Touchpad, Blackberry Playbook) and others with some success, and a lot of hope (Microsoft Surface).

Once upon a time, Microsoft was a seemingly undisputed leader in almost everything related to computer software: everything ran Windows, even mobile operating systems. RIM broke in and stole the mobile field, at least for business-minded-consumers, and Apple has kept Microsoft on their toes in the desktop OS arena. The giant from Redmond is getting smaller year by year, or so it seems. Their latest move, which is to introduce a whole new design for everything they make (from Office to Windows, from Xbox to Windows Phone), at times feels desperate, but it also feels intelligent. There’s something here to win hearts over, and something quite powerful.

Why, then, are they left out of technology war articles?

Take this article, over at The Economist. After describing the technology war as a Game of Thrones-esque battlefield, they have this to say about Microsoft:

And there is an ancient empire to contend with, too: Microsoft, which recently launched its first tablet computer, is trying hard to get back into the game, having been profitably preoccupied with PC software. But it is the battle between the big four that will have the greatest impact in future on the way people find information, consume content and purchase all kinds of stuff, and on who takes their money in return.

The article talks primarily about Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon. While the focus is on content management and our intake of information, it still seems odd to include Amazon and Facebook. Don’t get me wrong: I use both of these services, and there are lots of things I love about each. Amazon single-handedly changed the way I shop online, and Facebook helps me keep in touch with people from all over the world. Amazon may have the power to strong-arm something in the future (they’ve got a market for a digital library rivaling Apple, and probably has a stronger movie catalog), but Facebook is a social media website, like Myspace or Google+. Granted, Facebook is doing extremely well; it’s so ubiquitous at this point, it’s shocking to find people who aren’t on it. My Grandma uses Facebook, for instance.

But Facebook is hardly a tech giant, any more than Tumblr or Twitter. Whether you’re posting pictures of your kids, reblogging an endless sea of memes, or microblogging just about anything you want, the web is a wide place with plenty of outlets for your information. Facebook is hardly unique on that front, even if it is the most populated. It does what it does well, and maybe even better than anyone else, but the main complaint with Google+ (as an example) is how empty it is.

So why does Facebook get included in the Great Tech Wars story, and Microsoft barely gets a mention? It’s an odd shift from the days of the Mac vs. PC commercials. Microsoft, in the eyes of many, was stagnating. No one really liked Windows Mobile, even if people are willing to admit that they love the new Windows Phone platform, save for a ‘lack of apps.’ Then there was that whole Vista debacle, which goes to show how much of an impact a poor launch can have on the long-standing value of a platform. Vista was actually a solid operating system, once it got through the first service pack. But, of course, Vista is one of the most hated editions of Windows.

But are Vista and Windows Mobile really enough to damage Microsoft as a contender in the world of tech? Is it now just an ancient empire, vying for years gone by?

In short, yes. Well, sort of.

Microsoft damaged itself, but it wowed the world with Windows 7. The shift from Vista to 7 was grand, in a lot of ways, and it really has paid off. But damage was done, and Apple worked their way in. Suddenly a stylish decision from Microsoft was surprising. Read any review of Windows Phone 7 when it was first released, or even the initial impressions of Windows 8, and you’ll find a tone of surprise: Microsoft did something cool. And this mentality has stuck: the iPhone is a symbol of ‘cool,’ an Android phone is a symbol of ‘not following the sheep who love Apple products,’ and Windows Phones are just ‘surprisingly cool,’ but mean little to many observers.

And so Microsoft has to fight an uphill battle that I’m not really sure they even should have to fight. They’re striving for perceptions, even though reality says they still hold the majority of desktop OSes, particularly in schools and businesses. The trick now is convincing users that they can run with the cool tech of today, with tablets and smartphones and peripherals. They’ve done that with Windows Phone, and most people who have used the platform agree on that front. The risk is on their home desktop, Windows 8. Time will tell if it will land Microsoft in a place of success or having to fight yet another battle.

But know this: the ancient empire is hardly squashed. It’s not even missing, it’s just not lit up quite as bright.

Image via Microsoft.

Mirror Mirror: the iPhone 5 and Introspection

Well, Apple did it again. They’ve announced and detailed a phone that will come out within the next couple of weeks. The pattern is predictable, which is far from a bad thing in the usually-in-flux world of technology, but there is something underwhelming about a lack of surprise. It comes with the next update for its computer-based software, iTunes, and happened to include an update to its little brothers, the iPod Touch and the iPod Nano.

And yet, I found myself underwhelmed. Continue reading Mirror Mirror: the iPhone 5 and Introspection

Which walls do you prefer?

This past week or two I’ve had the fun of playing with my new Google Nexus 7 tablet. I can now read all of my books and news feeds without having to either remain in bed or drag my laptop to the deck. What impressed me even more was how simple the setup process was, and the environment that was established for me. I’m a pretty heavy Google user already, so I went ahead and linked up my Google account when I placed my order. When my tablet arrived, I started it up, verified my account, and instantly all of my apps, e-mail, music, and books were synchronized to my device. There was a handy widget on the home screen directing me to what I have, and where I could go to get more (that is, the Google Play Store). All of this gave me a few moments of pause and reminded me that as much as we say we hate them, we still love walled gardens. Continue reading Which walls do you prefer?

Microsoft’s Surface: The Tablet to Compete with the iPad

If you had eavesdropped on any of the conversations I’d had this last week about technology, it was probably about Microsoft’s future. With their unveiling of SmartGlass at E3, Windows 8’s Release Edition, and my general love of their Windows Phone platform, there was a lot to talk about. And then, late last week, there was a rumor that Microsoft would be releasing a tablet that would be self-branded, rather than simply licensed. This was a big rumor, and initially many people had doubts. Was the event related to Nokia? Perhaps to Barnes and Noble? When both of them denied any involvement, people began to go forth with the rumor. Continue reading Microsoft’s Surface: The Tablet to Compete with the iPad

Microsoft vs. Apple: Things Just Got Interesting

Okay, I admit the title is a bit misleading: the ‘war’ between these two tech giants has been interesting for years. The developments over the last week, however, warrant some commentary.

I’ve already argued that our mobile and desktop experiences would be converging, and it seems that Microsoft and Apple have both made big moves towards this just in the last week. Microsoft has unveiled what they are calling “SmartGlass,” which functions as an answer to both AppleTV and Nintendo’s Wii U tablet controller. Microsoft is fighting a battle on two fronts, in this case, but it gives them a unique chance to combine different services in an unprecedented way; if Microsoft can turn the Xbox 360 (or its follow up) into a competitor for Apple TV (such that it is used by non-gamers, as well), and then integrate both its Windows Phone 7 (and by this fall, WP8) and its Windows 8 Desktop platforms in a simple and useful way, then I can only see success.

But there is a trick to this, of course. You don’t want to force people to purchase an entire new ‘library’ of tech just to get some benefits. Including iOS connectivity with the SmartGlass is smart, and probably necessary at this point. Microsoft needs to leverage the fact that tons of people are using Windows on their desktops: if they can convince people that an Xbox will enhance the experience they are already having, in addition to giving them something new (gaming, streaming onto a TV, that sort of thing), then expect a different future.

Here’s the thing I find most fascinating: as someone gets more entrenched in a particular ecosystem, it seems less and less likely that they will make the switch. Once I’ve got a Windows 8 computer, perhaps a tablet, an Xbox, and a Windows Phone, anytime I go to upgrade, I’ll likely want to stay with what works well with the rest of my system. Of course, iOS integration for SmartGlass makes a difference here, since an iPhone could interact with this whole system, at least somewhat. We’ll see how comparable the experiences are, however, once the service comes out this fall.

My biggest takeaway from E3, however, is that I was underwhelmed with Sony. I’m hesitant about Nintendo’s Wii U, for a variety of reasons, but at least it is something I haven’t really seen before. Microsoft is pulling in their power from other markets, but Sony just seems to be coasting right now. Maybe that’s enough, since they can always fall back on television and other electronics sales; Nintendo is banking on gaming, and Microsoft is banking on a fully integrated digital system. I’m not really sure what Sony’s solution should be here, either. They’ve stepped it up in the mobile gaming world, yes, but I’m less convinced that they will have long term success. I hate to say it, but I actually am starting to think that world will be dominated by the likes of iOS, WP7/8, and Android. Lack of physical input aside, people are already carrying these devices. For everyone who has a smartphone (and kids are getting them younger and younger), this solution makes a lot of sense.

Apple held their WWDC conference yesterday, and we are seeing the combination of various iOS devices. If you own an iPad and an iPhone, they will connect seamlessly, which is a smart move. Further, OSX is beginning to look more like iOS, to the point where my previous sentence may apply to it, at least partially. Apple, too, is investing in their own cross-platform ecosystem. The price of entry is high (have you priced Apple’s computers?), but the integration has already proven powerful; we’ll see if Microsoft can match it this fall.

Image via Flickr.

The Bible Is the Seed, Not the Fruit

In Romans 10 we learn that the word of God is how people come to faith. God’s word is the seed that is sown and blossoms into faith in people’s lives, but what comes out of a seed is overwhelmingly stuff-that-is-not-more-seeds. There are the roots, trunk, and branches of a tree; then there is the fruit, the flesh of which is often more massive than the seeds inside. Essentially I want to say that we should not reject other products of the tree simply because they vary from the seeds in quality. Continue reading The Bible Is the Seed, Not the Fruit

Windows Phone 7: Why I Left My iPhone

I seem to still be finding my niche for blogging here at Evangelical Outpost. I’ve become the local guru on hip-hop, which doesn’t surprise me too much. Looking through my history, the only other topic I’ve written enough about to warrant a conclusion about my interests would be technology. Continue reading Windows Phone 7: Why I Left My iPhone

Grooveshark, Free Music, and the Future of the Music Industry

That title may be a bit much. More specifically, the title may sound like it is speaking to a lot of things, but I think it may actually all be one thing. With the recent lawsuits against Grooveshark by all of the major music labels, the folks over at Gizmodo sat down with the CEO of the little company, and came up with Six Reasons Why Recorded Music Should Be Free. And, actually, I think they may be right. Continue reading Grooveshark, Free Music, and the Future of the Music Industry

The Next iPhone: On the Love of Technology

In case it isn’t already clear, I’m definitely a fan of technology. In fact, I probably read about technology more than I read about most other things, with the exception of philosophy (since I am a graduate philosophy student). Later today, Apple will announce it’s next iPhone–whether that is an iPhone 4S or an iPhone 5 is anybody’s guess–and the blog-world is filled with speculation and questions. There are a lot of significant things happening with this release: this is the first release where it is likely Apple will release a phone that will work with all major carriers (the iPhone 4 is available on both AT&T and Verizon, here in the States, but the Verizon release came later). This is also the first iPhone released since Steve Jobs stepped down. People are wondering if Tim Cook can fill the shoes of Steve Jobs–not an easy task–but only time will tell. Continue reading The Next iPhone: On the Love of Technology