Death of the land line

Eight years ago I hired a software developer in his low 20s, straight out of college. He had a cell phone but no land line at home. It was quite weird at the time, but was the start of a trend. The number of land lines in use in the US has dropped every year since 2000. Newsweek now reports that so far in 2008 the rate of decline has jumped sharply.

In an informal poll, the Newsweek reporter discovered that among his acquaintances under 30, almost none had land lines at home. I can understand why. My family of four has four cell phones and two land lines. Even though cellular service is still one or two orders of magnitude worse than land line service, I’m really wondering why I still have those two land lines at home. The fact that the cell service is worse probably isn’t enough reason to justify having land lines. What are your thoughts? Do you still have land lines at home? If you do, are you thinking of dropping them?

Life Church Internet Campus benchmarking day 1

I’m in Oklahoma City with Chuck Russell, Brian Slezak, and Andrew Conard to benchmark LifeChurch’s Internet Campus by observing them in action and by meeting with Terry Storch (Digerati Pastor) and Brandon Donaldson (Internet Campus Pastor).

Our day began with attending the 10:00 service (“experience” in LifeChurch parlance) at the Edmond campus where the Global Operations Center and Internet Campus offices are located.

worship at LifeChurch Edmond

After the 10:00 experience, Terry took us up to the Global Operations Center where we got a high-level view of what was happening at all Life Church campuses, including the Internet Campus, during the 11:30 experience.

LifeChurch Global Operations Center sign

Terry Storch discusses the Internet Campus while it displays on the lower monitor

We then went over to the Internet Campus offices to chat with Brandon Donaldson while the 11:30 experience was underway.

Brandon Donaldson (Internet Campus Pastor) with his DELL laptop!

Terry’s boss, Bobby Gruenewald, dropped by.

Bobby Gruenewald and Terry Storch

We learned many interesting things and I’m sure have much more to learn when we meet again on Monday.

After hanging out with Brandon, Terry, and Bobby, we grabbed some lunch and went downtown to see the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. In this photo you can see the 9:01 Gate with First Methodist Church in the upper right background. Being right across the street to the SE of the Murrah Building, the church was heavily damaged in the blast and played a key role in the recovery following the events of April 19, 1995.

01 Gate and First United Methodist Church

My apologies to Jason Reynolds and David Helbig of Christ Fellowship, who hosted Chuck Russell and me back in mid-June as we benchmarked the Internet Campuses of Christ Fellowship and Flamingo Road. Due to my laptop being stolen the night we arrived (while we were enjoying the beach), I never posted a single blog entry about our trip or what we learned there. I hope to correct that soon!

Should a congregation use technology?

Pastor Andrew Conard of our congregational care team at Resurrection is in a series of posts about the “business side” of the church.  I started to compose a comment to his post on technology and ended up with a post of my own.  So here are my thoughts in response to Andrew.

A local congregation isn’t a “business” in the sense of an organization that is operated with the objective of making a profit from the sale of goods or services.  Though its mission is quite different from that of a business, a congregation is an organization that should be just as purposefully operated as the most efficient and effective business.  We rightfully use different terminology when discussing congregational strategy, yet the parallels to business strategy are as numerous as they are obvious.  I believe God wants us to use our brains fully in pursuit of the mission He gave us.  When that means borrowing great ideas from business, we should do that to the fullest extent consistent with our mission.

So, to answer Andrew’s question, technology is largely created by profit-motive-driven businesses for the purpose of becoming more efficient, more effective, and more profitable.  Why wouldn’t a kingdom-driven congregation borrow those tools and techniques from business in order to become more efficient and effective in pursuing our God-given mission?

Once having decided to use technology, good judgment is required to apply it in a ministry setting.  Not every technology advances our Kingdom cause.  Not every shiny new thing is appropriate, effective, or affordable.  Even technologies that make a huge positive contribution commonly have a dark side that must be carefully managed.  WIth care, skill, and a willingness to invest, technology can be a major accelerator.  That’s why I feel called of God to use my secular technology skills in pursuit of Resurrection’s mission.  For a congregation to make optimal use of technology, it needs people like me to select, acquire, manage, and support it.  I am honored God has called me to serve in this way.

Not keeping up with the price of gas

I bought gas at the Phillips 66 station in Parkville last night.  The van tank holds approximately 23 gallons and it was nearly empty.  Price was $3.799, so that’s an $85 fill up.  Towards the end of the fill up, I noticed the flow slow and then stop exactly on $75. Apparently the pump had authorized my card for $75 and it wouldn’t allow me to pump any more.  I had to complete that transaction and then initiate a second one to pump the last $10.

At $2/gal, $75 would fill any tank except the largest commercial vehicles.  At $3.799, $75 won’t fill an ordinary Ford Freestar.  You think they should change the pump software to authorize a higher amount?

Free upgrade to Turbo

Those of you following me on Twitter know that my wife got a call at home Wednesday afternoon from Time Warner with the news that we were getting a free upgrade to Road Runner Turbo service, which is nominally 15 Mb/s down and 1 Mb/s up.  Most of you are thinking, "sweet!"  Very shortly after they called Laura, she called me to say that our Internet service was down.  My first thought was, "idiots!" 

You see, we still had our very first cable modem.  I can’t remember exactly when we got it, but 10 years ago is a pretty good bet.  It’s the classic 3Com "Shark Fin" modem.

IMG_1764-web IMG_1763-web

This surprise call on a Wednesday afternoon, while not entirely unwelcome, necessitated an unplanned trip to the Time Warner store to get a new modem.  They issued me this shiny Scientific Atlanta (division of Cisco) model.

IMG_1760-web

Upon installation, I was disappointed in the speed: 5,262 down/975 up – doubling the upload speed but only 20% faster down than I got on my Shark Fin pre-Turbo.  I tried a number of things that didn’t have any effect.  Then it occurred to me: my equally classic, also 10 year-old, Linksys BEFSR41 router (also a division of Cisco – heh) might not be able to go any faster than 5 Mb/s. 

IMG_1768-web

Sure enough, when I plugged my laptop directly into the new cable modem, I got a smokin’ 14,299 down/979 up

So what to do?  I have a very recent model D-Link DIR-655 Wi-Fi router that I’ve been running in access point mode because my cable modem and home network patch panel is in the basement and I wanted my access point in my office on the 2nd floor.

IMG_1765-web

Last night I decided, despite it not being optimal to have my Wi-Fi AP in the basement, to replace the classic Linksys with the new D-Link.  Sure enough, it handled Turbo speed, no problem: 14,423 down/982 up – hard wired, that is.  When wireless, even with the laptop right next to the router, I got 5-10 Mb/s down.

Here are the takeaways:

  • Though I’m grateful for the faster speed at no extra charge, an interruption like this can take you off down a rabbit trail.
  • Unintended consequences: Time Warner changes their service bundling and decides to upgrade me at no extra charge (good), taking my service down (bad), resulting in a trip to the cable store (bad), installation and troubleshooting (bad), network reconfiguration (bad), and ultimately a 3-4 times faster download speed and 2 times faster upload speed for all users at my house (good).
  • I’ve upgraded my computers 3-4 times in the last 10 years, while my basic Internet connection infrastructure stayed the same.  No more.  With the advent of these very high speed circuits to homes and businesses, your router and/or wireless connection can now be the limiting factor in download speed.
  • At least for download, WAN speed is now approaching LAN speed in many common applications.  We’ve already seen the leading edge of the disruption this will cause.