More tips for faster browsing

This week Adam explains how downloading some simple software can increase your browsing speed.

Download accelerators. Some programs claim to be able to speed up file downloads by splitting the file into several parts and downloading them simultaneously, increasing the overall speed of the download, or in some cases compressing the page data to increase speed of download.  One such program is Ashampoo Internet Accelerator, in testing, it showed a significant improvement.  I will be detailing how to use the software in a later post, but for now, you can download the program here, it is free, and clear of malware.

Download managers. Most modern browsers incorporate some kind of basic download manager, allowing interrupted downloads to be resumed, which can be very useful.  But if you download a lot of files you may wish to use a proper download manager, these can queue downloads to take place after you have finished browsing the internet, so your surfing is not slowed to a crawl, by downloads happening in the background.  My favorite download manager is WackGet which you can download free from this source.

Paying a little to boost your dial-up connection. It is possible to give your dial-up connection a boost by using a content compressor such as the popular Onspeed program (£24.99).  This gives you a faster connection by compressing some components of web pages before they are sent to your computer.  Tests using pages from various sites showed that the html code is compressed to about a third of its original size.  Images are reduced in size by reducing the quality. I found that dropping the quality/speed slider lower than halfway made the images too poor, even by my lax standards, but on the middle setting quality was acceptable.  Depending on your browser, it is possible to reload images at full quality forsaving, or viewing.

Note: Using Opera it is not possible to reload individual images; you need to disable Onspeed and reload the entire page.  Onspeed also does something strange to the reported sizes of gif images, increasing them in size.  Onspeed can also block banner adverts and compress Flash files though file downloads are not speeded up by Onspeed.

The Onspeed advertising claims increases of up to ten times on dial-up; this is
a bit misleading, it is probably possible with images set to the lowest quality, but they are then so poor, they might as well be absent.  With the images set to a reasonable quality there is a noticeable speed boost of perhaps twice normal speed in general surfing, although if your ISP or phone line does not support modem compression, you may notice a larger increase.

After my trial period with Onspeed, I definitely noticed its absence and missed it, particularly if I downloaded a file while surfing.  I did have one problem with Onspeed initially: I could not access Google, but a quick email to the support desk, gave a solution the very next day – nice to see a company with good customer care!

If you are on pay-as-you-go dial-up, I would definitely recommend Onspeed, as the increased page loading speed will cut your time on the internet, thus
effectively paying for the program.

The Onspeed web site: http://www.onspeed.com

Removing page content to boost speed. As mentioned, Adblockers are a great way to streamline your browsing speed. Most modern browsers have Ad blockers as additions to them, the best of which being AdBlock Plus.

Adblock Plus is available for Firefox and Google Chrome, offering automatic blocking of all adverts while browsing the web.  This will remove non useful content from your web pages (adverts,banner ads etc) therefore reducing the page load and speeding up your download.

Adblock Plus for Firefox:

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/firefox/addon/adblock-plus/

Adblock Plus for Google Chrome:

https://chrome.google.com/extensions/detail/cfhdojbkjhnklbpkdaibdccddilifddb

Next time: Why mission workers should be maximising their use of social media!

Adam Brown, Technical Director

Enculturation or resistance – a dilemma for Nepali believers

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” Hebrews 12.14

In a country where 95% of the population is Hindu, we live in an environment where almost all our Nepali neighbours, colleagues and friends are Hindu.  This weekend was Holi, one of the multiple Hindu festivals that punctuate the calendar here on an almost weekly basis.  Like many such festivals, its origins vary greatly, but in Nepal it is associated with the god Krishna who is known for his playfulness and his charm with women.

The festival, appropriately known as the festival of colours, is celebrated by showering friends and family with water and coloured powders.  Excitement builds as brightly coloured water pistols of different sizes appear in the shops.  Many find it hard to wait for the day itself, and for up to 2 weeks beforehand children and teenagers will delight to throw water balloons at unsuspecting passers-by.  Our boys were thrilled when visitors left a gift of two water pistols for them.  We were less thrilled at having to face the issue as to whether or not they should be allowed play Holi, even as several other missionary families from school planned water parties for the day.

These festivals however raise serious questions for many Nepali Christians.  Their frequency and their interwoven-ness with social life here are a significant challenge to separating oneself from Hindu religious practice and ritual, something the church feels is essential to its identity.  Hinduism is a religion that embraces multiple deities, religious teachings and practices, and many Hindus are happy to include Jesus Christ in their pantheon of gurus and leaders.  The church feels it is important to take a stand that clearly reflects their faithfulness to Christ as their one and only Saviour, without the confusion of practices that may have Hindu origins.

Weddings are an example of an occasion that is steeped in Hindu rituals, and thus it is that Christians not only marry in a church ceremony, but that the brides also generally wear a Western style pink or white gown. The fear is that the traditional red and gold wedding sari may carry some significance for Hindu observers and prevent them from clearly distinguishing the Christian faith.  Dashai is the largest Hindu festival in Nepal, lasting several days and involving much animal sacrifice and the exchange of Hindu tikka between family members.  Associated with long holidays and much socializing, non-Christians tend to liken it to our Christmas (we beg to differ!).  But for many Nepali Christians, it is a time of real conflict, feeling isolated from their community and being torn between their family and their faith.  To borrow the allegory, imagine if you as an individual had to choose not to participate in any aspect of the Christmas festivities your friends and family enjoy: the parties, decorations, meals, gifts, let alone the religious ceremonies.  The church is aware of the immense pressure and sense of isolation that many feel at this time, and so usually organises several days of events at churches for Christians to attend and enjoy together, including meals served with meat (butchered, not sacrificed) as a treat.

Some outsiders criticise what they see as the church’s inability to distinguish between cultural and religious practice, and its failure to explore a truly Nepali expression of Christianity.  They fear that this attitude only reinforces the concept that Christianity is a foreign religion and that Nepali Christians are not truly Nepali, an accusation frequently made by Hindu fundamentalists.  But I am not sure that any of us non-Nepalis can fully understand their experience as a minority (at times, persecuted) faith in this country, nor their struggle for recognition in a land where the ‘secular’ government provides massive subsidies for Hindu sites and festivals.  Many Nepali Christians report that even in this day when Nepal is supposed to have freedom of religion, some Christians experience being cut out of their inheritance, denied land that is rightfully theirs, or being thrown out of their families because they have converted.  It is not an easy or light choice that people make, and they usually endure far more than we ever will for their faithfulness to Christ.

So what to do about our boys valid hopes to try out their new water pistols, and join in the water fights and fun outside our apartment for Holi?  At church, we referred the matter to our Nepali pastor, who gently but unwaveringly stated that none of the other children from the church would be playing Holi.  After the service, the church showed a film and provided snacks for the congregation as alternative entertainment for the afternoon.  Our family instead braved the streets again and went home for our ‘traditional’ sabbath nap.  When the boys woke up, the children next door were already out on the empty lot waiting for Mark to start a game of baseball.  Grabbing mitts and bat, the boys headed out, water pistols left lying in our storeroom, waiting for another day.

This blog is an edited version of an article by Deirdre Zimmerman, a long-term development worker in Nepal, where she lives with her husband Mark and two sons.  To read the full version, follow this link.

Featured Ministry – Project Gateway

The old prison in the South African town of Pietermaritzburg was a notorious place.  Its sturdy 1860’s construction spoke of a grim determination to detain the body and break the will.  During the apartheid years, not just criminals but many activists were imprisoned there, in overcrowded conditions, and many of them were executed.  When it was finally closed in 1991, few would have shed a tear.  It was a symbol of brutality and oppression.

But a group of local Christians had a bold vision – they wanted to turn a place of darkness into a place of hope.  Operating under the name Project Gateway, they took over the abandoned premises and began to restore them.  Using this place of darkness as a base, they began ministering to the needy.  In the two decades they’ve been working, things have gone from strength to strength.  They have set up feeding programmes, an orphanage, a women’s refuge, homeless shelters, sewing clubs, HIV and TB support programmes and many other initiatives which support and empower needy people throughout the region.

Keen not merely to help people in a crisis, but help them out of it, they have set up business empowerment initiatives, skills training workshops, and a primary school.  They also have a school of fashion supported by UK designer Karen Millen!

In an effort to make the project self-funding they are using the central cell block – which is a National Monument because of its architectural significance and its notable former residents – as a tourist attraction, and they even provide accommodation in the cells!  While the rooms are now comfortably decorated, the original doors and high, barred windows remain, and the resident often wonders who else slept in that room in the past, and why.

One former inmate of the solitary confinement block is one of the few men who escaped from the prison and lived to tell the tale.  Curiously, he came back – voluntarily – having become a Christian, and is now employed as the premises manager.  He takes great delight in showing people his former cell, which along with that entire block has been left unrenovated so visitors can see exactly what it would have been like when the cells were in use in earnest.

The dynamism behind this project is truly inspiring.  And, amazingly, the project is not sponsored by a narrow community, but by a very broadly-based coalition of over 20 different churches, from different backgrounds, and representing many different races.  The reconciliation and hope that has taken birth in this previously horribly location is a powerful witness to the transforming power of Jesus at work in South Africa.

You can find out more about Project Gateway by visiting www.projectgateway.co.za

Researching mission in Europe

Despite the prevalent perception that Europe considers God is dead, and that churches are in terminal decline, there is much going on in Europe for us to be excited about.  Many postmodern young Europeans have a willingness to explore their spirituality and engage with God in a way that would puzzle the preceding two generations, who have mainly felt that Christianity is increasingly irrelevant and discredited.  A new generation however, being largely unchurched, has no such reservations and is often interested in the Christian faith while being untouched by the cynicism of their predecessors.

The upshot of this is that there is a great deal of evangelism, mission and church-planting going on right across Europe.  Much of this is carried out by small mission organisations, simple churches, independent mission workers and informal networks.  Often focussed tightly at specific groups – young people, bikers, Moslem-background believers, ethnic minorities – these many, diverse operations add up to an evangelistic explosion across the continent.  While established denominations and sending agencies also see significant growth, diversity and informality have been particularly effective.  More evangelistic activity is taking place now than at any time over the last 50 years.

The result is that the picture of evangelism in Europe has become so localised and complex that no single person or organization has an overall picture of all the developments, initiatives, networks or new organizations even in an individual country, still less across Europe as a whole.   For this reason Syzygy is pleased to be co-operating with Eurochurch.net, Nova Research Centre and Springdale College: Together in Mission to undertake research that will identify the significant missional organisations and networks functioning within the nations and across the continent of Europe, and determine in what ways they can be more effective either by being part of an existing network or by tacit co-operation with other networks.

It is our conviction that this information is crucial to academics, church leaders, networks and agencies for forging strategic alliances which will facilitate the work of mission throughout the continent.  The objective is to produce a comprehensive directory of all churches, agencies and individuals involved in church planting in Europe.  That knowledge will be used to form a map of activity which will then be made widely available to denominations, churches, organisations and individuals who would find it helpful to know what it happening.

The preliminary results of our research will be presented at a seminar at Hope II in Budapest in May and there will continue to be follow-up consultations in a variety of European locations to determine with other participants how better to foster cooperation between the various agencies, individuals and groupings involved in this massive task of taking the good news back to the least reached continent.

If you are involved in any way in European missions and are willing to spend just five minutes completing an online form to help with our research, please contact me on tim@syzygy.org.uk.