Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Quick Notes: BibleWorks Mac Update and Logos Free Book for April 2014

Just a couple quick notes...

BibleWorks: BibleWorks has just announced an update of their Mac installer. According to their announcement, the update provides:


  • Clearer screen text
  • Touchpad scrolling supported
  • Numerous visual fixes
  • OS X Mavericks support
  • Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Japanese, & more Bible version display
  • Faster performance
Want to update your existing BibleWorks 9 Mac installation? Follow these instructions.

I can report that I have a number of students running BW on a Mac, and things have gone smoothly for the most part.


Logos:  The free book for the month of April 2014 is Steve Moyise's Jesus and Scripture. Moyise is a very good scholar, and his books are worth reading. This is a fairly new (2011) book and sells for $12-20 on Amazon, so if you have Logos, get this book now.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What's New in Bible Software

In case you don't subscribe to their free online publication, Kevin Purcell at Christian Computing Magazine has a quick update on what the major Bible software companies are doing. (That link will open a PDF.) As he notes, there isn't a whole lot going on. Mainly companies are doing minor improvements and working on getting their software to work on various platforms.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Google Maps Gallery and National Geographic Lands of the Bible Maps


Thanks to a post on the Bible Gateway blog, I see that Google Maps recently announced the Google Maps Gallery.
Maps Gallery works like an interactive, digital atlas where anyone can search for and find rich, compelling maps. Maps included in the Gallery can be viewed in Google Earth and are discoverable through major search engines, making it seamless for citizens and stakeholders to access diverse mapping data, such as locations of municipal construction projects, historic city plans, population statistics, deforestation changes and up-to-date emergency evacuation routes. Organizations using Maps Gallery can communicate critical information, build awareness and inform the public at-large.
Basically what is happening is that organizations can share maps as overlays on Google Maps. There is a transparency slider that allows you to control the visibility of the overlay and the underlying Google Map. With the Google Map, you have the choice of displaying it as a map--with or without terrain shading--or satellite view.

Among the maps are a number of Lands of the Bible maps from National Geographic from 1938, 1946, 1956, and 1967. The citations of biblical sites does not change much in those maps, but, as you can imagine, there is a tremendous amount of geopolitical changes that occur over those years.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Making a Custom Bible Map - Accordance and ...

David Lang at Accordance recently posted a fine 11 minute video on the Accordance blog showing how to make a custom map of Genesis 19 using the map module in Accordance. It is a great feature that I don't think any of the other Bible software packages can handle. BibleWorks does include a map module, but it would be very difficult to create the kind of map you see above with the labeling and highlighting. What's more, you don't have the 3-D option that Accordance offers.

Of course, you don't always want to create your own maps. Accordance offers a number of overlays illustrating biblical events, some even with animations. There are also atlas modules available. The map module in BibleWorks also uses a more extensive system of overlays to highlight periods or books of the Bible or particular events. They also include The New Moody Atlas of the Bible which has a very good collection of maps. Logos 5 has a Bible Places Guide that is very helpful, and they have a large selection of very nice maps. (Don't buy one of the old map sets. What you want are the Bible Facts: Places and the Logos and Faithlife Infographics datasets that are included with most libraries.) All three of these programs have integration of the maps with biblical text and related resources.

Still, only Accordance has the map creation possibility that's as nice as one that David Lang created. There are two other possibilities, however.
  •  One is using Google Earth. Lang's article partly caught my attention because I had occasion last fall to want to create exactly the same kind of map he did. Using this Google Earth KMZ file from the Geocoding page at OpenBible.info, I have quick access to all the biblical sites. Then I navigated around until I was able to capture the view above and put it into my PowerPoint. Compare it to Lang's map above!
  • Another option is a standalone Bible mapping program called BibleMapper created by David P. Barrett. You can use version 3 for free (no limitations) or get the improved version 4 for $37. The map of the Seven Churches of Revelation is one I created in BibleMapper. One of the great virtues of this program is that any map you create is your own, and you don't need to obtain any copyright permissions or pay any costs to share your map. (Accordance allows free usage of any map you create, but they appreciate attribution. If you want to use their maps for any commercial project, however, you should contact them.)
If I'm missing something, let me know!

Related to this topic, Todd Bolen on the BiblePlaces blog recently pointed out the availability of physical 3-D topographical maps for various biblical and modern periods. (When I was a kid and we visited the USA national parks, I always used to get one of those 3-D maps of the park.) The maps are 9" x 14" and about $30 each.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Hacking the Bible

This just popped up in my Feedly... "Hacking the Bible: Inside the world of the new Bible coders—and how they will change the way you think about Scripture" You can read it online at Christianity Today. It's a really lively and fine article by Ted Olsen, a managing editor at CT.

Steve Smith, whose amazing work I've admired at OpenBible.info, is featured. They talk about the "Franken-Bible" project which I previously blogged about. There's a bunch of good stuff on Logos that's fun reading. I like Logos' Eli Evans' comment about what Bible tech is enabling: ""What we're doing here makes it very easy to run with theological scissors." I also think Logos' CEO Bob Pritchett is right when he talks about what technology enables. He says, "I like to follow rabbit trails. But I want curated rabbit trails. I want to be taken to places I'd never go to." I agree that hyperlinking is indeed an invitation to follow an endless array of rabbit trails. It's usually pretty fun, but it often leads to dead ends and is only occasionally helpful. So, yes, curated rabbit trails are needed, but even there we need to curate the curators.

There are some insightful concerns raised about atomization of the Bible (a 'vertical' reading enabled by Bible tech but one that loses sight of the context of a Scripture passage) and the role of biblical experts from the academy and the democratization of Scripture made possible by the Bible tech available at everyone's fingertips.

Ah, just read the article!

BTW, the article describes and links to Vincent Setterholm's (also at Logos) The Toracle: Oxen Law. That's a rabbit trail worth checking out for a bit!

HT: OpenBible.Info

"Presence and pixels: Some impacts of electronically mediated communication on Christian living" by Tim Bulkeley

Tim Bulkeley reports that his article, "Presence and pixels: Some impacts of electronically mediated communication on Christian living," has just been published at Review and Expositor (111,1, 2014, 56-63). I think you can read the whole article for free (at least for now) on the Sage site. HERE is the PDF. Here's the abstract:

The cultural changes we are experiencing as progressively more of our lives are digitally mediated provoke strong hopes and fears. Among many potentially striking impacts, new technologies offer new possibilities in mission. In particular, past difficulties in making good culturally appropriate Christian teaching available in developing contexts may be overcome. Yet we have hardly begun to adapt our thinking and Christian practice to this new world. The public reading of Scripture from tablets instead of print books has recently begun to provoke discussion. As well as practical concerns, the symbolism of such actions needs consideration. Christians understand these issues in the context of faith in God incarnate in Christ. Yet digital mediation raises questions about the incarnation of human contact. For all conversation is mediated, often by technologies. Some of these are familiar and so “invisible” as technology, like the acoustics of a church building, or writing on paper. Different media communicate a sense of the person communicating in different ways (sound, vision, directly, or with a time delay), and different people respond differently to these media. Our understanding of real presence needs to accommodate not only differing degrees of presence, but also different media preferences.
To give you my take on the article, I'll adapt a comment I left there.

Helpful facts, even more helpful reflection. As you might guess, I lean to the advantages (and inevitability) of the technological opportunities. Like Bulkeley , I don’t see it being a simple matter of one being better than the other. Rather, old and new media and forms of communication are simply different with inherent and potential strengths and weaknesses. To paraphrase John 4.20ff, our ancestors may have read and used the Bible the old way, but you say we must use the new technology. Which is it? The hour is coming, and is now here, when neither of those is really the point of the matter!

As for the part about the Bible, I’m imagining a day when it will be possible to have a microchip embedded in our brains. Would you choose to have a Bible embedded and instantaneously available just by thinking it? (Is this a fulfillment of Deut 6:8; 11:18 or Revelation 14:9?)

As for the communication part, Bulkeley does a good job of showing the potentials and pitfalls of technologically mediated forms. In my own experiences, I’ve had both good and bad. In part, as you noted at the end, it works to varying degrees with different kinds of people. But in defining “presence as a measure of the sense of relating to a real person,” I think one needs to consider both quality and quantity. I’m thinking of Facebook in particular. There isn’t much quality interaction there, but the frequency of it has enabled me to reconnect and ‘keep in touch’ with friends and even family that would have disappeared long ago. It also greatly improves the quality of interaction when we do have something substantive to discuss or, even better, are able to meet face to face. So, thanks again. I’m with him. (Figuratively and in a presence kind of way!) 
If you would like to comment on the article, go to Tim's page.

BTW, as another way I'm trying to communicate, I'll be offering a free MOOC in the fall of 2014 entitled "Survey of the Lands of the Bible." Within a couple months I'll say more about it on this blog, but I'm hoping to catch people interested in this new technologically opportunity.
Helpful facts, even more helpful reflection. As you might guess, I lean to the advantages (and inevitability) of the technological opportunities. Like you, I don’t see it being a simple matter of one being better than the other. Rather, old and new media and forms of communication are simply different with inherent and potential strengths and weaknesses. To paraphrase John 4.20ff, our ancestors may have read and used the Bible the old way, but you say we must use the new technology. Which is it? The hour is coming, and is now here, when neither of those is really the point of the matter!
As for the part about the Bible, I’m imagining a day when it will be possible to have a microchip embedded in our brains. Would you choose to have a Bible embedded and instantaneously available just by thinking it? (Is this a fulfillment of Deut 6:8; 11:18 or Revelation 14:9?)
As for the communication part, you do a good job again of showing the potentials and pitfalls of technologically mediated forms. In my own experiences, I’ve had both good and bad. In part, as you noted at the end, it works to varying degrees with different kinds of people. But in defining “presence as a measure of the sense of relating to a real person,” I think you need to consider both quality and quantity. I’m thinking of Facebook in particular. There isn’t much quality interaction there, but the frequency of it has enabled me to reconnect and ‘keep in touch’ with friends and even family that would have disappeared long ago. It also greatly improves the quality of interaction when we do have something substantive to discuss or, even better, are able to meet face to face.
So, thanks again. I’m with you. (Figuratively and in a presence kind of way!)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Future of Bible Software

Kevin A. Purcell at Christian Computing Magazine has been a long time user and reviewer of Bible software. In an article in the latest issue (February 2014), he points to quite a few online sites for doing Bible study, but his main contention is that "It’s time for Bible study software makers to go online with all their tools using the power of HTML 5 and modern browsers." I partially agree...

There are a number of issues here, but the main one for me is the device I'm using. I'm living in Windows 7 and Android for now. I'm using Google services to link the two where I need to be linked. As for Bible software, I use it on my Windows 7 machines (I have both a home desktop system with two 21" monitors and a seminary 14" laptop which I drop into a docking station with two 19" monitors) and on my Samsung Galaxy Note II Android smartphone (with its beautiful 5.5" screen). I have lots of Bible software on all these devices, but here is what I use most often.

Windows 7 Android Browser
BibleWorks 9
Logos 5 Logos Android app Biblia.com
eSword MySword for Android
Olive Tree Olive Tree Android app
(YouVersion) Bible app Bible.com
Laridian PocketBible PocketBible app
BibleGateway

Of all of these, I'm using BibleWorks and Logos most often on Windows 7. I'm using MySword most often on the phone. When I don't have either available, I use one of the online sites in a browser.

What this shows first of all is that the operating system is not that significant. What is actually more important for me is having access to my resources regardless of the platform. That is why I am very happy with Accordance, Logos, and Olive Tree along with some others for making their software, and the resources I have purchased, available across various systems.

Secondly, what that table shows is that my usage is more dependent on the device I'm using. I do 'serious' Bible study on my Windows machines. I have multiple windows or tabs open with multiple language resources and secondary materials all handy. Even with an i7 processor at 3.4GHz, some of my searches still can take a bit to execute. It's impossible to do that kind of work on my smartphone even though I have a decent processor and one of the biggest screens available. I'm primarily using my smartphone simply to read Bible texts, and in these cases, MySword is the fastest way I have to get to original language texts with some ability to switch between English versions, Greek, and Hebrew. If I want to look up something, then I'll go to the Logos app (or Biblia) where I have access to BDAG or the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary among the other host of reference works.

I did have the chance to live with a tablet device (a Microsoft Surface running the full Windows 8) for a couple weeks while I was traveling in Israel and Jordan. I didn't always have internet access. With the limited drive space on the device and since I was only borrowing the tablet, I didn't want to put on a full program like BibleWorks or Logos. My solution? I used yet another program, The Word, which is rather compact but has numerous English, Greek, and Hebrew versions. If I needed more information, I used Biblia when I had internet access or used Logos or MySword with downloaded modules on my phone.

So, to summarize and to return to Purcell's desire for Bible software to move online with all their tools, I just don't need it yet. As I mentioned, I'm glad to have my library of resources available on the cloud when I have access, but I don't always have access. When I am doing 'serious' Bible study, I want to have screen real estate, which means I'm using a device that has sufficient computing power. I suspect that someday internet access will be ubiquitous (and affordable everywhere?), but in the meantime, I appreciate being able to run my programs locally.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Upgraded Version of Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library Launched

A second, upgraded version of the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library was launched today. Visitors to the new website (www.deadseascrolls.org.il) will be able to view and explore 10,000 newly uploaded images of unprecedented quality. The website also offers accompanying explanations pertaining to a variety of manuscripts, such as the book of Exodus written in paleo-Hebrew script, the books of Samuel, the Temple Scroll, Songs of Shabbat Sacrifice, and New Jerusalem...
The upgraded website comprises many improvements: 10,000 new multispectral images, improved metadata, additional manuscript descriptions, content pages translated into Russian and German in addition to the current languages, a faster search engine, easy access from the site to the facebook page and to twitter and more.
Follow that embedded link to check it out.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Exploring ancient Syrian trade routes in Google Earth

Using excavation reports and lists of coin hoards, Kristina Neumann at the University of Cincinnati has plotted the information to Google Earth to measure the influence and extent of Roman period Antioch. Fascinating...


HT: Google Earth Blog: Exploring ancient Syrian trade routes in Google Earth
Further info on the Univ. of Cincinnati page.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Online Backup and Data Syncing Options


Do you need online backup? The obvious answer is yes if you are concerned about having your data saved in case anything goes wrong with your system, but there are a other reasons as well. For me:
  • I used to carry USB drives around everywhere (and I still use them as an alternative backup), but with online storage, I can access my stuff from any internet-connected device, including my smartphone.
  • An online syncing service gets rid of the multiple versions of files. I work at home, and when I go to work, the latest version of the file gets synced. 
  • If you have a large file you want to send to someone, rather than trying to email it, it's much easier to store it online and share.
  • If I have taken a bunch of photos at some event that I want to share with a group, it's easiest to do it this way. (
  • I needed a way to keep the notes I make in BibleWorks in sync so that whether I added or edited something on one machine, it would show in the other.
For at least a couple years, I've recommended Sugarsync for online backup. The reasons for doing so were because A) it was free, B) you got 5GB free which was more than most were offering at the time, and C) and most importantly, unlike other such services, Sugarsync allowed you to choose which (sub)folders to sync rather than forcing you to put everything in a designated folder. With BibleWorks, that meant that you could do the normal installation, then use Sugarsync and point to the BW9 subfolders you wanted to sync. Sweet!

Sugarsync has now announced that they are discontinuing the free service and only offering paid services. You can't blame them, and it's not terrible expensive, but it is clearly geared for somewhat larger operations, since the minimum account starts at 60GB. If you are wanting to back up a bunch of pictures in addition to your data, it might be a good deal. For me, I'm backing up all my BibleWorks notes and some other related data along with all my daily working stuff, and I have less than 10GB. (I have external hard drives for backing up all the big stuff like pictures and music.)

So, if you are looking for a free online storage option, there are a few things you want to consider:
  • Cost
  • Amount of storage
  • Focus of service: Is it intended simply for backup up data (and not necessarily sync)? How easily does it sync? Is it mainly intended for online document collaboration? How easy is it to share documents or folders with others?
  • Does it have a desktop application to help make things easier to manage?
  • What other platforms does it support? All of these are available through any web browser, but some have apps for Android or Apple mobile devices.
  • How does the syncing work? This is important. Dropbox and Box have their own folder, and you need to put things in that folder to have them sync. Given the way you probably have your folder structure organized, this can be very inconvenient. SugarSync was easiest in allowing you to simply point to any folder in your existing structure to sync. Copy does have a different but still easy way to leave your folder structure intact.
If you mainly wait free backup and storage, consider these, and note that Google Drive and SkyDrive also work well for collaborative editing and sharing:

  • Amazon Cloud Drive – 5GB free - You can save any digital content here, but it is not intended as a syncing service. 
  • Google Drive – 15GB free - Not really a syncing service, but you can use Insync to do so. I have used Google Drive a lot in my classes for students to work collaboratively on documents, create forms and surveys, etc.
  • SkyDrive – 7GB free - Part of Microsoft's online suite. If you are using Microsoft Office, this is a good way to share docs and collaborate on them. It also is a nice way for letting students see your PowerPoint slideshows.
 If you are also interested in syncing your data, consider these:
  • Dropbox – 2+GB free - Dropbox really needs you to keep things in its Dropbox folder. (It is possible to make this work with the set folder of my BibleWorks note, but you would need to move your BW folders into Dropbox and then change a bunch of file paths by editing the bs900.ini file. Or, I suppose you could create symbolic links, but that's a pain too.) Apps for Android, Apple, BlackBerry, and Kindle.
  • Box – 10GB free - Like Dropbox, Box wants everything to sync in its own folder. You can set a different default folder, but it requires that you edit your Windows registry or do the symbolic links thing. Not ideal... (Looks to be similarly tricky on a Mac.) Android and Apple apps are available.
  • SugarSync - My old favorite... $75/year for 60GB of storage. Easy syncing; apps for desktop, Android, and Apple.
  • Copy - 15GB free - This works well and 15GB to boot! Has its own syncing folder, but you can create shortcuts (Win) or aliases (Mac) to other folders, and simply put them in the Copy folder. Apps for Apple, Android, and Windows.
How do I keep all these services straight? Here is the best tip of all for you.
  • Jolicloud – This is an online site that provides a way to aggregate all your accounts (including FB, Google+, Flickr, Picasa, etc.... but not Copy). You can even use it to view your docs or pics or listen to music right from that web page. Free (for now, at least!) and highly recommended.
BOTTOM LINE: I use GoogleDrive for collaborative work. For online storage and syncing Copy looks like an outstanding solution. Then use Jolicloud to keep track of where you've stored all your stuff!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Logos releases Biblia Hebraica Westmonasteriensis with Westminster Hebrew Morphology 4.18

Logos announced a nice upgrade today of Biblia Hebraica Westmonasteriensis which is free to those who already owned Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia with Westminster 4.2 Morphology. (Note: the 4.18 is 4.eighteen as compared to the previous 4.two.)


What’s new since 4.2?

Since the release of the 4.2—nearly a decade ago—a dizzying array of corrections and improvements have been made to the Westminster Hebrew Morphology. Here are some of the biggest changes:
  • Better integration with Koehler-Baumgartner-Stamm’s Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament
  • Significant expansion of the quantity and quality of textual notes
  • A review of accentuation and improvements in Hebrew accentuation throughout the text
  • And much, much more! Check out the product page for a comprehensive list of updates and improvements.

Nice!