Life Almost Entirely Off the Grid

In 1998, a year after my first mission trip to Brazil, my ministry program at Harding University went to Brazil on an “International Campaign”.  One classmate didn’t make it to orientation and also had to go to Brazil a couple of days after the group arrived.  We were in downtown Belo Horizonte walking back to the church building after lunch when we met up with him.  He was grinning from ear to ear and looking up at the buildings.  I told him it was good to see him, and he continued grinning and looking around.

“Wow.  I didn’t know there’d be all these buildings here.  This is a city!  I thought we were going to be in a village in the jungle somewhere!”

Sigh.

The year before I moved to Brazil and got married I went to a teaching supply store.  I was preparing to teach English in Brazil, so I needed some items to help out.  Looking around I found a series of books for elementary school teachers about different countries around the world.  There was one for Germany, another for the United Kingdom and still others for South Africa, China and Australia.  Sorting through them I found “Brazil."  I took a deep breath and opened the book.  Jungle.  Amazon.  Canoes.  Native American villages.

What comes to the minds of most Americans – if anything – when they hear the word "Brazil” are images of jungles.  They think “Amazon."  This inaccurate association may well be corrected over the coming years as the 2016 Olympics to be held in Rio de Janeiro approaches, but I’m not sure.

The trouble is that although I want people to understand that Brazil is much more than jungles, and in fact most of the country is not jungle and the vast majority of the popluation lives in urban areas, we really shouldn’t forget that there are jungle areas in Brazil.  They make up part of what is Brazil.

Seth Kugel can generally be counted on for an interesting first-person view of life in Brazil from the perspective of an outsider (non-Brazilian).  He doesn’t disappoint with his recent article for GlobalPost, Soccer and soap operas in the Amazon.  In it he shares about a small fishing village where there are a handful of TVs and a generator that sometimes has fuel to power them.  The locals are hooked on soccer games and soap operas, and through these they absorb the larger Brazilian culture that exists thousands of miles away.

Some may consider they way of life idyllic and the TVs an intrusion, but I wonder about their health care and education situation.  The report doesn’t tell us.  That wasn’t the point.  It seems to me though that there are definitely "benefits” to civilization which, without coercion, these folks would love to embrace.  Television and electric lighting is just a beginning.

You may call me evil, but I’d like these people to have the opportunity to be “on the grid.”

Church Website

Using simple online tools and a $10 domain, I’ve got a functioning website up for the Igreja de Cristo em Newark. This is the congregation my family has been a part of since moving to New Jersey. Of all groups you’d think Christian churches would strive to have the most updated, informative sites out there. I mean, don’t they want to attract people? Static websites that aren’t regularly updated are unappealing to people nowadays and, rightly or wrongly, leave an impression that the church is inactive. Worse still are floater sites that someone set up before moving on, leaving no one with access or expertise to continue maintaining them.

Check out the new church website. You’ll notice it’s in blog format. This facilitates keeping the site active with fresh information, as multiple people have access with posting privileges. The rather odd mix of Portuguese, Spanish and English you’ll see on the church site is representative of our congregation. We are a Brazilian congregation and a Hispanic congregation sharing the same building. The first Sunday of every month we worship together in Portuguese and Spanish. Most of the youth seem more comfortable with English than the language of their parents. This is who we are.

Android Could Have a Problem

Originally Published on the Igneous Quill Xanga blog.

Mike Elgan thinks Android could fail.  I’m afraid he might be right.

When the iPhone first went on sale back in 2007 it made an enormous impact on the smartphone market.  Really, it took “smartphones” mainstream.  Up until it came out, what we now call smartphones were devices primarily for business people and geeks.  Rank-and-file mobile subscribers were content to talk and text with dinky flip-phones like the Motorola RAZR.  My, how times have changed.  Actually, a year ago I actually predicted that smartphones would be the future for most folks, and so far I think I’m being proven correct.  On the train to work and in the streets I’m seeing more and more of these devices in people’s hands.  I believe this process of moving to smartphones was inevitable, but greatly accelerated by the iPhone.

The iPhone’s a great device.  It has a strong brand, an overflowing app store and hardware that was good to begin and has only improved.  It may not be to everyone’s taste (call me old-fashioned, but I really like my Blackberry), but it’s clearly a powerful and fun device to use.  The only real drawback I can see to it is the unevenly built-out mobile network it has to depend on in the United States.

What about Android?  Well, it’s a mobile operating system, not a device.  Many different smartphones are being made to run with Android.  So the brand is split up in a way, between the mobile OS and whatever hardware and carrier it is on.  The iPhone doesn’t have this problem.  It’s the iPhone on AT&T, and that’s it.

Problems are arising precisely because there are many different hardware types running Android.  Android app developers are struggling to make their apps compatible with the myriad different smartphones running Android, and no guarantees can be made as to functionality, except regarding specific devices.  For iPhone app developers this really isn’t an issue, given that the hardware is consistent.  The iPhone OS is only intended for the iPhone device.  No strange hardware configurations to be concerned about.

To mix things up even further, there isn’t even a single Android OS in circulation.  There are three versions of the OS in active circulation  (Android 1.5, 1.6 and 2.0) and manufacturers and carriers often install their own custom firmware.  For app developers this can be a major headache, and end-users are none-too-pleased when the app they download for Android doesn’t work properly.

Having said all that, I’m sure there’s a way forward.  Android is a Linux-based, open source mobile OS.  Any problem can be solved with enough eyes looking at it.  Carriers could begin developing their app stores to differentiate better between different Android versions and mobile hardware, allowing downloads of only what is truly compatible with a particular device.  Branding should be done from the device side, emphasizing the phone’s brand rather than the OS on board.

Some matters need to be resolved to make Android a success, perhaps including the absense of the name “Android” from marketing.  Could Android “fail”?  Yes, it could, in a manner similar to the failure of Windows Mobile.  The strength and weakness of Android is its open-source model.  Proprietary has worked well for Apple and has been employed poorly by Microsoft in the mobile market, but only time will tell how well open source mobile development will do.


See Also:

Why Android Could Fail (Datamation.com)

Android’s rapid growth has some developers worried (Wired.com via CNN Tech)