"Christians And The Internet" newsletter CATI, Vol. 3, No. 5: February 1, 2002. _______________________________________________________________ TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. EDITOR'S LETTER: COMPUTER CHANGES AND INTERNET IMPROVEMENTS 2. THE DISCERNING READER: P & R "BEST PUBLISHER FOR 2001" 3. NEW: DOWNLOAD, UNZIP, & INSTALL FILES FROM THE WEB (#3) 4. FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: INFORMATION ON CATI NEWSLETTER _______________________________________________________________ The latest revision of this issue of "CATI" can be accessed online at http://traver.org/cati/archives/cati68.htm. The Web page edition makes it especially easy to visit the links. Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is Copyright (C) 2002 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved. See the end of this issue for more information on "CATI." _______________________________________________________________ 1. EDITOR'S LETTER: COMPUTER CHANGES AND INTERNET IMPROVEMENTS Three little words: "hard drive crash." It didn't happen to my computer (at least this time), but it did happen to my wife's computer, so the two of us have been sharing the same computer at home until we get a new computer (since hers is five years old and it's at about the stage where it makes more sense to replace than repair). We've gotten to see just how much each of us uses the computer. By the way, the question is not a matter of whether your hard drive will crash: it is only when it will crash. All hard drives wear out eventually, which is why it is important that you not trust everything to your hard drive. Make sure you have backups for important files! Pennsylvania decided that it was not going to charge state sales tax for computers (or computer accessories) purchased between February 17th and February 24th, so that's when we'll be getting a new one. It was a difficult choice (we tend to alternate between Gateway and Dell); in the end we went with Gateway this time around, because of the new 18" flat-screen monitor, double memory, and an Editor's Choice award in PC Magazine. In the meantime, our sharing the computer is one reason for a delay in the appearance of this issue of CATI. I do have some good news, however (in addition to the fact that we'll soon have another computer in this household again). After having limped along at a rate of 26.6k bps (yes, I have a 56k modem, but the phone lines here are very bad, and I'm too far from a central station to get DSL), I will be able to access the Internet via cable by this coming month. This means that I'll be able to do many things in a fraction of the time it takes me to do them now. At present, I spend a lot of time waiting for Web pages to load in. Equally to the point, downloading larger files may take a fairly long time, especially compared with Internet cable access or, if it were available to me, DSL. These two high-speed means of Internet access (as well as satellite access) are sometimes called "broadband." "Broadband" access is somewhat similar to "wide-lane" highways, where having several lanes allows for more traffic to pass through an area quickly. Since I publish a newsletter devoted to "Christians And The Internet," this change in my Internet access should mean a benefit to CATI readers. I'll be able to do my research in less time, allowing me to spend more time on thinking through the best manner in which to share the results with you. You may even get to enjoy shorter articles! <grin> In some ways, writing for CATI is like preparing a sermon: It takes twice as long to prepare a 20-minute sermon as it does to prepare a 40-minute sermon. (Yes, you did read that right.) Double the length does not necessarily mean double the worth. Often, the opposite is true. "Multum in parvo" (Latin for "much in little) can be the best situation for imparting information (or entertainment, for that matter). In short, we're looking forward to the new computer and to faster access of the Internet. Be reassured that I will not assume that the majority of CATI subscribers will have the advantage of new computers or broadband Internet access. I will continue to keep in mind the variety of situations that exists for CATI readers, and my goal will continue to be to provide material that will be useful and/or enjoyable to a wide range of people. --Barry Traver, editor of "CATI" _______________________________________________________________ 2. THE DISCERNING READER: P & R "BEST PUBLISHER FOR 2001" "... Of making many books there is no end...." (Ecclesiastes 12:12), and just as there are many Web sites that are not worth visiting, so there are many books that are not worth reading. Just, however, as there are Web sites which offer rich resources for the Christian, there are treasures to be found in the better and best books. The 17th-century Puritan pastor Richard Baxter put it this way: "It is not the reading of many books which is necessary to make a man wise or good, but the well-reading of a few, could he be sure to have the best." For the Christian, of course, the "Good Book" is the very best book, beyond comparison with other books, since at best they are humanly inspired, whereas the Bible is God-breathed and God-spoken (see 2 Timothy 3:14-17). Even so, we may profit from other books as well, provided that we are discerning in our reading and take care to include "the best books." Back in the late 1960's W.J. Grier of the Evangelical Bookshop in Belfast, Ireland, published a book titled The Best Books: A Guide to Christian Literature (Banner of Truth, 1968). It is a book that I myself found tremendously helpful in building my own personal library. Unfortunately, Grier's book is now out-of-print and (somewhat) out-of-date, and I have not seen anything come along to adequately take its place. (Sinclair Ferguson's Read Any Good Books? is a helpful book, but it is not as systematic and comprehensive as Grier's book.) Your local Christian bookstore as well as online Christian booksellers are often not helpful at all, because most of what they stock is at best frothy and ephemeral and at worst actually harmful rather than meriting the description "the best books." For example, CBD (Christian Book Distributors) often offers great discounted prices, but equally often the discounts may be on books that represent weak or bad theology. If the book is a good book and the price is great, go ahead and purchase it from CBD, if you like, but recognize that many of the books carried by CBD are not the best books for Biblical instruction and edification. In the past, another bookseller of religious titles, GCB (Great Christian Books, earlier known as Puritan-Reformed Book Discount House), did exercise some discernment in the titles they carried, but, unfortunately, GCB is no longer around to help in that area. Well, there are some online booksellers today which do provide some assistance to the person who wants to be a "discerning reader." Here's one which I have not previously mentioned in this newsletter (but one with which you may find it good to become familiar): The Discerning Reader http://discerningreader.com/ If you're already familiar with The Discerning Reader, you probably knew where this article was going as soon as you read the title. Since The Discerning Reader, however, is fairly new on the scene, I expect that for most readers this article may be your first introduction to what looks like a very worthwhile source of Christian books. Here is how they approach Christian bookselling: "The Discerning Reader is focused on helping you find THE RIGHT BOOKS. We strive to provide the very best Christian literature: books that provide a Biblical framework for you to discover, think, live, enjoy, and understand the truth A Christian Worldview. Our goal is to help you perceive all of reality from the perspective of God's revealed truth." http://www.discerningreader.com/welcome1.html The Discerning Reader is actually a discerning bookstore for the discerning reader: "All of our books are independently reviewed, evaluated, and recommended based solely on their biblical-theological content and practical usefulness by our editors. We then pass on our evaluations with each book we sell. We respect your decisions about what to read. We want to help you make better-informed decisions. That means less marketing and hype, more real analysis and thought." http://www.discerningreader.com/welcome1.html Rather than attempting to carry everything (including the bad and worse books carried by some "Christian" booksellers), they choose to carry the better and best books: "We take great care in selecting the items we offer for sale. We generally take a more critical look at books that are written for a more "popular" audience, or for younger readers and new Christians. Our assumption is that these readers tend to have less of a discerning mind at least at this point in their Christian experience. These readers are easily confused and/or led astray if given a book written by a well-meaning but seriously ill-informed author. Books that are of a highly technical nature that assume some undergraduate or graduate education are given a less critical look. Our assumption is that those who wish to avail themselves of these types of works are somewhat knowledgeable of their potential pitfalls. (In some cases, we remind them!)" http://www.discerningreader.com/reviewing.html When books are reviewed, they are rated using a five-star (or five-diamond) scale: "Poor - Please Avoid," "Fair - Not Recommended," "Good - Recommended," "Excellent - A 'Must- Read,'" and "Prized - A Standard." Authors generally rated highly include John Calvin, J.C. Ryle, Arthur Pink, Francis and Edith Schaeffer, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, C.S. Lewis, Jim Packer (that's what J.I. now calls himself), Anthony Hoekema, John Murray, Os Guinness, Rodney Clapp, Marva Dawn, Michael Horton, Jerry Bridges, John MacArthur, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, Gene Edward Veith, James White, and Douglas Wilson. You may not agree with all of their assessments, but I think you will appreciate their goal of trying to be neither too narrow nor too broad in their offerings, but rather to offer those books most likely to be of genuine benefit to Christian readers. By the way, here's a policy that may be of interest to those who want to be good stewards of the money God has provided them: "We will match the selling price of any of our competitors on any of the items we sell. Furthermore, if you find a lower price on the same item within 30 days of your purchase from us, we will refund the difference.... It's that simple." http://www.discerningreader.com/info.html There is some very reasonable "not-so-fine-print" specified: "... This offer does not apply to 'seconds' and 'closeout' merchandise. Offer must be from a legitimate online retailer no auctions or sales from private parties. Offer does not apply to used books, or personal sales at sites like half.com or Amazon marketplace." http://www.discerningreader.com/info.html The Discerning Reader is owned and managed by Antithesis LLC, a "Limited Liability Company," about which you can learn more at this address: Antithesis LLC http://www.antithesis.com/ In particular, check out their statement of faith here (stated in a contemporary fashion, but traditional in content): Antithesis: What It Means to Be a Christian? http://www.antithesis.com/info_desk/faq_christian.html Antithesis: What It Means to Be Spiritual? http://www.antithesis.com/info_desk/faq_spiritual.html Antithesis: What It Means to Be a Fellowship? http://www.antithesis.com/info_desk/faq_fellowship.html In addition to sponsoring The Discerning Reader, "a virtual bookshop offering the very best books at the lowest prices on the Web," Antithesis LLC is responsible for a number of other Christian Web sites, including the following two: Christian CounterCulture ("a bi-weekly electronic newsletter serving our various Web offerings as well as keeping people informed of 'happenings'") http://www.christiancounterculture.com/ Good News for Postmodern Times ("an introduction to Christianity, setting forth the Bible's message of hope") (Half a dozen more or so are "in development.") Our focus at the moment, however, is on their "virtual bookstore," The Discerning Reader, which I invite you to explore at your leisure: The Discerning Reader http://discerningreader.com/ I also recommend that you consider subscribing to their newsletter, "The Right Books." You can browse it online here: The Right Books http://www.therightbooks.com/ And you can sign up for a free subscription here: The Right Books: Subscription http://www.therightbooks.com/newsletter/index.html For the final part of this article, we turn our attention from discerning booksellers to discerning publishers (which are also more rare than they should be). Following is a recent "news flash" from P & R Books (which was formerly known as Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company): ______________________________________________________________ / The Discerning Reader, promoter of thoughtful Christian books, has named P&R the "Best Publisher for 2001." Of the Discerning Reader's top ten books for the year, two are from P&R: No Other God by John Frame and Whatever Happened to the Reformation? edited by Gary Johnson and Fowler White.... The Discerning Reader credits P&R with turning out "an amazing number of quality books in 2001--more than any other [publisher] on our list." ... The Discerning Reader exists to encourage the publication and distribution of "thoughtful books," a category often overlooked in the Christian market.... \______________________________________________________________ For the sake of full disclosure, I should perhaps mention that I occasionally review manuscripts for P & R, so I may not be entirely unbiased in my commending The Discerning Reader for their honoring of P & R. (But then again, the reason why I now review manuscripts for P & R is my high regard for them as a publisher, a respect that goes back at least four decades, a long time for such a company to maintain such consistently high standards for publication.) I am not at liberty to provide details of that work (usually even the manuscript's author does not know the identity of the reviewer, so that the review can be fully honest and unaffected by outside pressure), but I was surprised (and pleasantly so) to see public recognition of my work a few years back in the "Acknowledgments" section of David G. Hagopian's Back to Basics: Rediscovering the Richness of the Reformed Faith (P & R Publishing, 1996): "I also extend my thanks to the many people who reviewed the manuscript, in whole or in part, offering their encouragement and constructive comments along the way, including Jay Adams, E. Calvin Beisner, James Montgomery Boice, Jerry Bridges, Sinclair Ferguson, John Frame, D. James Kennedy, Ronald Nash, Marvin Olasky, Barry Traver, and G.I. Williamson." My identity was apparently given to the book's editor, since he intended not to lynch me but to express appreciation for my "constructive comments." When I saw my name in that list, I was flattered (and much humbled) to find myself in such august Every person on the list except for me is a well-known Reformed author who has written several books (whereas I have yet to write my first!). Anyway, Back to Basics is an excellent book (in spite of my being mentioned in it). I strongly recommend it to you, the discerning reader! And here are some other (more important) people who also recommend the book: 'An excellent, concise presentation of the essence of Reformed faith.... a much needed wake-up call to the church." --R.C. Sproul "Newcomers to Reformed thinking will be introduced to the wonderful majesty and unity of the great doctrines of the faith. Long-time members ... will be able to fill in gaps in their understanding." --Marvin Olasky "Magnificent.... Great stuff." --Jay E. Adams "[The book's] organization ... its clarity, and its fidelity to the basics of the Reformed faith are excellent, and I can readily imagine its becoming a standard text." --E. Calvin Beisner "... to the point ... useful and intriguing ... well suited to reach out to people in our age." --James Montgomery Boice "... indeed impressive.... would seem to have a place in the catechetical programs of Reformed churches.... an excellent source-book for pastoral study and for refreshment in the basics." --D. James Kennedy "The writing is splendid, and the format (topic selection, organization, study questions, bibliography) seems excellent .... I would recommend it." --John M. Frame " an outstanding presentation of the main doctrines of the Reformed faith." --Jerry Bridges "... addresses many of the urgent needs of our churches today." --G.I. Williamson "If you are looking for a very good and comprehensive overview of the Reformed faith, this is it." --Steve Brown And, finally, here is what The Discerning Reader has to say about the book: "Hailed for its scope, insight, and clarity, this enlightening introduction to Reformed theology calls us to rediscover the richness of reformed faith in four crucial areas: conversion, covenant, the church, and the Christian life. But this book is more than a comprehensive overview of Reformed faith; it also addresses many of the urgent needs of our churches today." http://store.yahoo.com/discerning/bactobasdavh.html In short, they see it to be "The best overall introduction to Reformed Theology in print" and "An excellent foundation for building a sound theological vision in postmodern times. Must reading!" At another time I may say more about choosing good books, but I did want the discerning reader of CATI to be aware of these two great resources for good books. Here is the address for P & R Publishing as well as (once again) the address for The Discerning Reader: P & R Publishing http://www.prpbooks.com/ The Discerning Reader http://discerningreader.com/ _______________________________________________________________ 3. NEW: DOWNLOAD, UNZIP, & INSTALL FILES FROM THE WEB (#3) Before you read this part in the series on the subject, you should read these articles: Updated: Download, Unzip, & Install Files from the Web (#1) http://traver.org/cati/archives/cati66.htm#3 New: Download, Unzip, & Install Files from the Web (#2) http://traver.org/cati/archives/cati67.htm#1 In fact, some of what is said here is dependent upon your having done so. In the first article, I gave instructions on how to download and install a program called Freezip, a free and easy-to-use program for unpacking files that have been packed in a "zip" archive. In the second article, I gave instructions on how to download and unzip two MIDI archives from the Internet. One of them -- which was a "self-extracting zip file" -- included all of the more than 700 hymns in the old Trinity Hymnal. The other (which covered only one letter of the alphabet, the letter "A," leaving two dozen or so more hymn archives available for you to download from that site) was a traditional zip file. If you tried out the suggested exercises step-by-step, you saw how easy it is to download zip archives from the Internet and how easy it is to unzip them using Freezip. In this third article, you will be invited to download, unzip, and install a program to play the MIDI files you were invited to download in the previous article. The program is called Traver Mini MIDI Player (although it also plays MP3 files). It has a couple of advantages to such programs as Microsoft Media Player, MusicMatch Jukebox, and Winamp: (1) it doesn't take up much space on the screen, and (2) it's easy-to-use. It looks more like a detached menu than a program (it's small enough that I often place it over an unused portion of my Microsoft Word toolbar area), and it has an "always on top" option which means that it will always be visible, even if you are actively using some other program (like Word). After you "Open" a music file, with just a single click of the mouse you can "Play," "Pause," "Resume," or "Stop" the music. You can create, use, save, and reload a Playlist of songs, if you like. You are also given options for "AutoNext" (if you want the program automatically to go on to the next song on the Playlist when a song is finished) and for "AutoRepeat" (if you want automatically to repeat the playing of a song when it is finished). If you choose both "AutoNext" and "AutoRepeat," the program will go entirely through the Playlist and will automatically repeat the Playlist when it is finished. If you're using a Playlist, clicking on "Next" will start the next song on the list (the one right after the one currently playing). Double-clicking on a song in the Playlist is all you need to do to start that song playing. I mentioned a moment ago having the program running while I'm working in Microsoft Word. Another feature of the Traver Mini MIDI Player is that if you're working in a program and then click on a Traver Mini MIDI Player command (such as "Next" or "Stop"), the focus is immediately returned to the program you were just working with (e.g., Word), with the cursor blinking just where it had been moments before, so that you can return right away to what you were doing. You can create and/or edit a Playlist from within the program itself. There are two ways you can add files: (1) you can choose "Open" to choose the file(s) using the usual Common Dialog Box or (2) you can use "Drag and Drop" to add it (or them) to the Playlist. (Just pick up such files from, say, "Windows Explorer" or "My Computer" and drop them anywhere on the Traver Mini MIDI program.) You can also select a file on the Playlist and move it up on the list (using ctrl-up arrow), move it down on the list (using ctrl-down arrow), or remove it altogether (using ctrl-Delete). When the Playlist is exactly the way you want it, you can "Save Playlist" to disk. Later, at a different session with the computer, you can use "Load Playlist" to bring in that list from disk. (I suggest your storing your Playlists right in the Traver Mini MIDI directory on your hard drive so that they're easy to find.) Except for the option to "Set Tempo" for a MIDI file, that is about all there is to it (e.g., there are no fancy graphics that move with the music, etc.), but it includes everything that most people want to do most of the time. It is simple to use, is immediately available, and (did I mention?) is free to CATI subscribers! Even though it's not a condition you must meet after having been allowed to download and install the program, I hope that you will seriously consider sending me a short email message containing a comment or two about the program. Constructive criticism is all right. (Or if you want to send a question, that's fine also.) I would really like to hear from you. Did I mention that the program also remembers its settings from session to session? For a miniature program, it does include a useful feature or two you may not see in fancier programs. It may not be perfect (it's the first release of this program, which, by the way, I wrote using the professional edition of Visual Basic 6), but you may be able to help me perfect it by your comments and suggestions. So at this point, you should have lots of Christian songs you can play. Let's download, unzip, and install the Traver Mini MIDI Player to play them with! (You can use the same method to download, unzip, and install Traver Jigsaw, if you have not already done so, but within another week I expect to upload a new version with many new features, such as the incorporation of sliding-tile puzzles, including a Scripture verse with a separate word on each tile.) Go to the following location on the Web: CATI: Downloads http://traver.org/cati/downloads/ Click on the "MiniMIDI.zip" (which is underlined). All right. Here are the steps to follow after clicking on "MiniMIDI.zip" on that Web page when you're ready to download: (1) Choose "Save this program to disk." (2) Click on "OK." (3) At the next display, keep clicking on the icon at the top right with the arrow in the yellow box until it says "Desktop" to the left. (The yellow box at this point probably turned gray.) (4) Double-click on "My Downloads." (If you deleted or never created such a folder, you can create one at this time or cancel the download to do the download at a later time.) (5) Now we'll create a folder in which to put the download. So at this point click on the box icon to the right of the icon you just clicked with an arrow in it. (The icon to the right that you're clicking now is there so that you can will be able to "Create New Folder.") Instead of "New Folder," type in, say, "Minnie," to replace the highlighted text, and then press Enter. (If you don't like the name, don't worry -- we'll be getting rid of it by the end of this article. I just thought it was appropriate for our "Mini" program, and it also is appropriate for the computer "mouse" you've been using. I promise not to slip you a "Mickey" <grin>.) (6) Now double-click on the "Minnie" folder, and then click on "Save." When the download is finished, you may need to click on "Close" to close that box or window. Congratulations! You're one-third of the way there. You've downloaded the program. Now all you need to do is unzip it and install it. (Before you do that, however, you will probably want to disconnect from the Internet.) With FreeZip, it's easy to unzip the file. Here's all that you need to do at this point: (1) Double-click on "MiniMIDI.zip." You're done! That's all there was to unzipping the file. In addition to the MiniMIDI.zip file you now have in that folder three files that were unpacked from the zip file: SETUP.LST, setup.exe, and MiniMIDI.CAB ("CAB" is Microsoft's own version of a packed file: this is the file that gets unpacked when the program is installed.) So you're now two-thirds of the way there. You've downloaded and unzipped the program. Now all you need to do is install it! Installing the program is also not difficult: (1) Double-click on "setup.exe," and accept the defaults as you go through the installation process. (If you're running Windows XP, you may be told that you have a newer version of one of the files already on your computer. Yes, you do want to keep the newer version.) You're not done yet, however. Yes, you have downloaded, unzipped, and installed the program on your computer, but you have some "housecleaning" to do. If you don't get rid of what you no longer need, your computer can get rather "cluttered." The four files in "Minnie" are no longer needed, so you can delete them and the directory which they are in. (If, however, you want to store them somewhere for backup, feel free.) If you're in the "Minnie" folder, click on that icon with the up arrow on it to go "Up" one level. Then right-click on the "Minnie" folder, and choose "Delete." If you don't do house-cleaning like this on a regular basis, your "My Downloads" folder can get very messy. Important: To do things in an orderly way, we made a special folder for our download ("Minnie" for the Mini MIDI Player), and when we no longer needed it, we deleted it. (The actual working program was put someplace else on your system, most likely C:\Program Files\MiniMIDI\.) It's good to "unclutter" your hard drive (and your life!). Although Traver Mini MIDI Player was also placed on your Start menu, the easiest way to get it running is to look for the appropriate icon on your Windows desktop (it will have a "smiley" face on it) and double-click on it. There is no documentation at this time for the program, but it's pretty straight-forward, and the description earlier in this article should answer most of your questions. (If you have additional questions, feel free to send me an email. I may perhaps have some more comments for you in the next issue of CATI.) Whether or not you like my Mini MIDI Player program, if you have worked through these three articles you should now know what you need to know in order to download, unzip, and install other programs from the Internet. Enjoy! _______________________________________________________________ 4. FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: INFORMATION ON CATI NEWSLETTER Like to know what this is? This is the sixty-eighth issue of a free newsletter devoted to "Christians And The Internet" ("CATI," pronounced "Katy," but spelled with a "C" and an "I" for "Christians" and the "Internet"). Like to subscribe to this free email newsletter? Just send an email to email@example.com (but be sure to include your name in the note). Like to read past CATI issues and articles (or even search CATI for a particular subject)? Go to http://cati.org and you'll find an archive of past issues (arranged in reverse chronological order), a partial index of articles (arranged alphabetically by topic), and a search engine specifically for use with CATI. Like to pass along this issue to others? You may. Permission is hereby granted to pass along any issue of CATI to someone else, provided that it is passed along in its entirety with no changes made. (For now, I prefer that you send the complete issue, although I may in the near future provide guidelines for passing along individual articles.) Like to use material from this newsletter (say, on a Web page or in a publication)? For permission to do that, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org (explaining what you'd like to use and for what purpose). Reasonable requests are usually granted. Like to unsubscribe? That's also easy. Just send an email to email@example.com (but if you decide to unsubscribe, you'll be missed, so any thoughts about the newsletter that you would be willing to share at that time would be much appreciated). Like to tell your friends about CATI? That is not only much encouraged, but also an encouragement to the editor! CATI is a lot of work (albeit a labor of love) and (since it is a free newsletter and I intend it to stay such) provides no financial income, so what keeps me going with this personal endeavor is knowing that people are finding it to be helpful, instructive, and enjoyable. (Comments from readers are always welcome, so let me hear from you!) Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is Copyright (C) 2002 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved.