iPhoneography

iPhone photography, or iPhoneography, has just exploded over the past few years and with the introduction of the iPhone 5 it’s only going to get more popular. I think it’s high time I started utilizing my blog more to showcase my own iPhoneography. So without any more hesitation, I might as well start with a bang.

I wandered out to the Grey Sauble Conservation Area a couple of days ago with Canon 60D in tow and started to photograph the Sydenham River. The overcast sky made for perfect shooting conditions. After a few shots with the Canon I took took out my iPhone 4S and opened a neat little camera app called Slow Shutter.

I’ve been waiting for a scene like a flowing river to try this app. I had another app that I tried on Indian Falls once but the results were less than satisfactory for me so I was really hoping for the best with this one. Slow Shutter didn’t disappoint. I was thrilled. The result is the image below. Literally no changes made to the image other than cropping to the 16:9 format. Yes, this is an iPhone photo.

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Why I Believe What I Do

Some very well known, very reputable celebrities have expressed their belief that there are many ways to get to Heaven. I believe there is only one way to Heaven. And that is through the Lord Jesus Christ. But what does that mean, “through the Lord Jesus Christ”?

The premise here is that Christ shed his blood on the cross for our sins, but that sounds like He did it for us. Well, yes, Jesus did indeed die on the cross for us, for our sins, but there’s more to it than that. And not too many people know the whole story here, myself included. But I think I have a better understanding of it now, especially after hearing a sermon from Dr. Charles Stanley from In Touch Ministries. His message about the death of Christ on the cross and what the cross symbolizes was most interesting and intriguing.

Jesus was put through the most barbaric, horrible torture anyone could imagine. He was treated like a criminal, or worse, because he told everyone that he was the Son of God, and His Father was not from an earthly place. Plus, He was betrayed three times by His own disciple, Peter. So what price did Christ pay for this? What did he go through?

The barbaric act of crucifixion was invented long before Christ was born. At the time it was the most vicious, cruel, painful form of punishment. The process was handed down from the Barbarians to the Greeks and eventually to the Romans. Crucifixion was so intense that the Romans could barely stand to perform it on their own people. Think about it; think about how Jesus must have been treated during His crucifixion. I mean, no, I obviously wasn’t there when these events took place, but research has shown that the Romans had little compassion for rebellious leaders, and Jesus was claiming to be the King of the Jews. I can imagine He was whipped, kicked, thrown to the ground, insulted, and struck profusely. And that was likely before He was given His sentence.

There was great misunderstanding of the messages that Jesus was presenting to His followers. His followers didn’t necessarily misunderstand His message of the Messiah, but rather His enemies most likely created their own version, or gave misdirected meaning to the prophesies regarding the coming of the Messiah. Whatever the case may be here, Christ was treated very cruelly, and He knew it was coming (Matthew 20:28).

When Jesus was presented to Pontius Pilate for sentencing, Pilate could not see where any law had been broken, and he had the authority to free Jesus, but, as governor, he also wanted the support of the Jewish leaders. However, Caiaphas, a Jewish high priest, was adamant that Jesus was blasphemous. Pilate even went so far as to send Christ to Herod since Herod was the ruler of Galilee, which included Jesus’ home town of Nazareth, but Herod passed sentencing back to Pilate.

Christ’s ultimate fate appeared to be determined by Pilate, who reluctantly gave in to Caiaphas and his peers. I say “appeared” because that’s how things looked to the people who didn’t believe in Christ’s deity. The fate of Jesus Christ was determined by God, and as mentioned earlier, Jesus knew it was going to happen. Jesus is often referred to as the “Lamb of God”. The lamb was used in sacrificial offerings to God since the time of Cain and Abel, and Abel’s offering of a lamb to God, the shedding of the lamb’s blood, was the remission for Abel’s sin. And through this sacrifice, Abel was acknowledging that he was a sinner. God accepted Abel’s sacrificial offering of the lamb, but the blood of that lamb, and the blood of the many sacrificial lambs that followed through history, could not save us from our sins.

Jesus Christ was God’s lamb, God’s sacrifice for our sins. Jesus was the last lamb to be offered to pay for sin. The blood of the Lamb of God flowed not just on the day of the crucifixion, but flowed back to the time when Eve disobeyed God, the first sin, and continues to flow up to the present and beyond.

He paid the ultimate price for us. All of us. No one was left out. But our acceptance into Heaven will not be granted unless we believe by faith that this is true. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Through, by definition, means passing from one side to another. We must make the journey from this world to Heaven through Christ.

I wear a cross around my neck as a symbol of my acceptance that Christ died for my sins. It reminds me daily of the torture, the pain, and the blood that was shed for me. And I can look at it as though it was done for me personally, just like each of you can. Because it was.

God Bless you all.

The New inPulse Watch from Allerta

The inPulse Watch

I’m a geek, I’m an early adopter, I ain’t afraid’a beta… well, you get the picture. I recently purchased a brand new-to-the-market device called the inPulse watch. This thing is sweet. It not only is a stylish digital watch, but it is also a companion device to your smartphone, in my case, the BlackBerry.

So, how is it a companion device? It connects to my phone via Bluetooth and alerts me when I receive phone calls, emails, text and BBM messages. It also displays upcoming calendar events. It won’t show any of the text in a BlackBerry Messenger message, just an icon, but it does show who is calling, and I can read text messages and email previews, plus it vibrates with each of these functions. This is really convenient for those times when you can’t get to your phone because you’re in meeting or you want to see who is trying to contact you so you can determine right then if you want to pull your phone out to respond. Let’s start with the out of the box experience.

The watch arrived in a neat little white box with the watch wrapped securely in bubble wrap, accompanied by a white microUSB cable and a simple card from Eric Migicovsky, the company’s CEO, with a couple of links to get you started. I should note that this device is very versatile in that you can hack it, which they encourage, to do a variety of functions. The watch comes in Black Anodized or Metallic Silver, both with a sturdy black rubber band, and the casing is a little on the large side (51mm x 38 mm x 12mm) but my thought on that is a lot of stylish watches are rather large these days, so this one stands out a bit because of its retro digital styling.

The first thing that needs to be done is loading an app for the phone that is used as a control panel for the watch. Once the app is loaded on your phone, you will need to add the firmware to the watch. They let the user do this because this watch is compatible with not only BlackBerry, but select Android devices as well. Once the firmware is loaded via the microUSB cable connected to your computer, you have to establish a connection between the phone and the watch.

To connect the two devices, the typical Bluetooth pairing operation is the first step. Once you have them paired, the watch will immediately disconnect and vibrate once. Now you need to go to the app on the phone where the first screen you have upon opening the app is the settings screen. At the top of the list is “Send Test Messages” which establishes and confirms a connection between the devices. Here you can send a test email, text, BBM or phone call to the watch. If you have trouble making the connection, a simple reset of the watch can be achieved by holding down the button for about eight seconds and once the time display returns, send another test message.

The 1.3 inch, 96 x 128 pixel organic light-emitting-diode (OLED) display offers fourteen different colours to use for the fonts and time display. This is cool. You have a choice of seven different styles for clock fonts and six different fonts for text. Customizing your inPulse is a breeze. In the Preferences section of the Settings just select the font of the colour from the drop down list in the app, hit the escape key to go back to the previous page and it changes in the watch within seconds. If you have multiple email accounts on your BlackBerry like I do, you can set it to vibrate differently for each one so you know which account is alerting you.

The time on the watch is set with the time on the phone and includes an alarm where you can customize the alarm message. When the alarm goes off, the watch vibrates, and displays a clock icon and your personal message. One thing I’ve found though is I’ve unchecked the “Enable Alarm” box in the alarm settings, but it continues to go off every day at the set time. It’s not a big issue but I’m sure Allerta will fix this in a firmware update.

For a device with such a light set of technical specs, it can perform a decent bit of functions. But, then again, the functionality comes from the application on the phone. The watch runs on a 52 MHz ARM7 microcontroller with 32 KB of programming space and 8 KB of RAM. The 150mAh lithium-ion polymer battery can last up to four days (depending on display and connection usage) before you need to charge it via microUSB. I just plug it in every night so I don’t have to worry about it.

Functions include email, calls, calendar, messages

The Allerta inPulse smartwatch is one sweet device that I’ve been waiting almost two years to get from the time I first heard about it. It’s designed by a Canadian company based in Waterloo, Ontario and is so new, most people will not have heard of it. I have definitely impressed a few people with it so far and look forward to continuing to do so. You can see more information about the watch and the company who makes it at http://getinpulse.com. They’re such a great group of people. Even the CEO, Eric, has been so helpful in my ordering process that he communicated with me personally via email. You don’t get that kind of service from just any company.

This is a very quick review of the inPulse watch. I may not have covered everything in great detail, but I think I can say that this is one device that any geek would be sure to love. And by the way, being a geek is cool these days.

Embracing Facebook

There was a time when I would say nothing nice about Facebook. I used to think it was such an invasion of privacy and I really couldn’t understand what the big draw was to the site. I was so put off by Facebook’s privacy polices that after numerous threats of doing so, I finally left the site.

But then I realized that once I was in a world without Facebook, I was kind of left put of the loop. I think a site with over half a billion active users says something. And it just so happens that most of the family members and friends I know are included in those half billion users.

So now, I’ve decided to embrace Facebook – albeit in a very careful and cautious manner – and use it as a more productive communication tool. It is becoming very evident that the people running Facebook are not just running the largest social network site on the planet, but they are honing it into a fully evolved web based platform. There won’t be much you can’t do online that won’t have Facebook’s touch added to it in some way.

I guess that’s a good thing, right? I mean, I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking. You click a Like button that Facebook has placed on a web site, and the next thing you know, you get an ad on your profile page that is relevant to what you liked. I guess that’s better than seeing an ad about something you don’t like. I was dead set against using that Like button but now I’m not so sure. I must say, three are ads on my profile page that I could care less about so maybe I should start “liking” stuff.

Facebook Places. There’s another thing I dreaded the thoughts of. But I thought what the heck, if I’m going to enjoy the Facebook experience, I might as well jump in with both feet. Its not like I’m broadcasting to the whole world my whereabouts, just those I care about. And if you’re on my Friends list, you’re cared about. Besides, if Facebook Places catches on and more of us use it, I could check into somewhere and find one of you there. It actually betters the chances of a – chance meeting.

In closing I would like to mention that I’m not afraid to admit I was wrong about Facebook. Sometimes you just have to give in to the masses. And when the masses are five hundred million strong, one little opinion like mine doesn’t stand a chance.

Cheers

Feel Safe in an Internet Cafe? No Way!

I’ve recently stumbled upon a story about a web browser extension that, in my opinion, is one of the biggest mainstream security vulnerabilities in existence right now.

The browser in question is Firefox, and although it’s been gaining in popularity over the last couple of years, it’s also becoming more prone to hacks. Firefox is a great browser and is popular among tech savvy folks because of its ability to be customized using extensions or plug-ins. This particular extension has been downloaded well over 600,000 times so it is definitely becoming an issue. Why? Read on.

Now don’t be too alarmed here. This issue only applies to areas with open Wi-Fi, such as a library or internet cafe; but some communities, such as my hometown of Owen Sound, are opening up Wi-Fi to be freely used to some capacity. And what most patrons of these places will do is check their email, go on Twitter or Facebook, or just about any other social site that requires a log-in.

Let’s use Facebook for an example here. You’re logged into Facebook, and when you do that, Facebook sends you a cookie, or token, which your computer uses during the length of your session. This is so you don’t have to log in to see each page you visit in Facebook; they see that it’s you each time you click on a link and think, “OK, it’s just you. You can access that page.”

Now, if someone can get in the middle of that session and grab that cookie, they can impersonate you for the duration of that session, which gives them the freedom to update your status, do friend requests, etc. This is scary, and was a non-trivial attack until someone named Eric Butler created the Firefox extension Firesheep. My research on Eric Butler tells me that he is actually a proponent of security and I think he did this to show sites like Facebook and Twitter that this is a big problem and need to make their sites more secure.

So how does Firesheep work? Once installed in Firefox, you can go into a coffee shop or someplace with open internet access via Wi-Fi and run the extension. This puts a list in a sidebar in your browser that shows all the people who are logged in to a secure site. You’ll see their profile pictures, actually, and will be able to identify them if they’re in the same room. You double click on their picture, Firesheep gives you their cookie, and logs you into their account without asking for a username or password.

There are a lot of sites that are vulnerable to session hijacks besides Twitter and Facebook. Flickr, FourSquare and other popular social media sites are also at risk. To put it simply, if the site URL begins with “http”, it’s vulnerable. Google has recently switched its Gmail service to “https” which stops Firesheep dead in its tracks and I suspect Facebook and company should follow suit as soon as possible.

Now, there are a couple of ways to protect yourself from session hijacking. A couple of blockers are currently available; Fireshepherd for Windows, and BlackSheep for Mac users. These tools trick Firesheep with fake cookies and detect when Firesheep attempts to hijack someone’s session. Venues offering free open Wi-Fi should turn on WPA2 encryption, which requires a password to access the network and will stop these attacks, but the proprietor would have to give out a password to each user, and quite frankly, if the hijacker is given the same password, the network is still at risk.

The best defence against session hijackers is to refrain from visiting any site that is not secure while in a public place. Behaviour is the best and easiest place to start protecting yourself online.

The Ruth Family Reunion

On Saturday, July 17, 2010 I was blessed with the opportunity to attend a large family reunion graciously hosted by my parents at their home, which just happens to be where the Ruth family grew up.

My Mom was a Ruth girl, and after witnessing the shenanigans at this reunion, she’ll always be a Ruth girl. See, she comes from a large family, hence the tag “large” family reunion. It was so good to see so many of my aunts, uncles and cousins. And for that matter, I met cousins I never knew I had. It was ten years since the last reunion and unfortunately I missed it due to work.

My Dad is a real trooper. He and Mom planned this event and I couldn’t thank them enough. A big thanks goes out to all who chipped in to make this one of the best days ever. Cousin Jerry and his sidekick Dr. Glen and their relentless determination to make sure the beef was cooked in a timely fashion did not go unappreciated. Aunt Anne, everyone, I can’t think of all those who lent a hand, Thank You!

My hero is Jesus Christ. But on this planet in this life my heroes are my parents. Thanks for a great time. I don’t know that its enough, but I tried to make some of the memories of the day last forever with a collection of photos. It was so hard to get a lot of photos but between gab sessions and re-acquaintances I managed to get 100+ pictures that are now up for viewing on Flickr. You can see them by clicking HERE.

Amazingly, and again with some well executed assistance, I was able to get most, if not all, in attendance at the time together for a big family portrait. Below is a sample, and soon I’ll have a version posted (somewhere with a private link) for family members to download and print.

God Bless this Family!

Ruth Family

Aunt Eleanor

Last year we lost a dear friend and a wonderful person. On what would have been her birthday in March, her son Rodney posted a video on YouTube as a tribute and a memorial to his Mom. Eleanor, or Aunt Eleanor as she was known to so many, was a fun, life loving, kind hearted person, and boy could she cook! I had the pleasure of knowing Aunt Eleanor for ten years and I cherish every one of them.

Click here to see the video on YouTube. Watch and enjoy a trip through Aunt Eleanor’s life as she waits for the rest of us to catch up to her.