Archives For technology

I’ve been reading a very interesting book of late—interesting, at least, to me:

William Germano, Getting It Published: A Guide for Scholars and Anyone Else Serious about Serious Books. 2d ed. University of Chicago Press, 2008.

This is a handbook for academic authors, but written with the verve and style that make it not just a reference book, but an enjoyable read. One of the final chapters deals with the issues of electronic publication, the e-book. As part of that discussion Germano has this to say (excerpted from a 2-page section):

The electronic environment is about searching, and searching is reading’s dark side…. Select any fully searchable text and you will encounter ample opportunity not to read the book the author wrote.

Grateful though we may be to have this digital option, “Advanced Search” narrows possibilities in two senses: it homes in on the researcher’s subject, but it also turns reading into looking for.

The modern repertoire of electronic search mechanisms now enables prodigiously accelerated, highly selective reading … and what the technology enables it also endorses. The kind of reading I’m describing—today’s ordinary, lightning-swift, scholarly browse in a digital environment—is purposeful, goal-oriented; yet the technology’s availability reframes the very idea of reading. In the electronic universe, to look is to read. It may be purposeful reading, but reading with a purpose isn’t always reading for the plot, or reading with an appreciation of your book’s hard-won architecture (182–83).

Although framed in terms of what an author needs to consider in the context of an e-book publication, it also points out effectively, and from a different perspective, the issues involved in the increasingly popular world of digital research, whether that be via the (potentially massive) libraries of Bible study software or on the web. Such tools are touted for their search ability—and they certainly provide that. Germano rightly points out that it enables and even encourages reading without context.
That is dangerous with most e-books*; doubly so with Scripture if we are seriously concerned with its message.

(*Some reference works like dictionaries may be exempt from this caution since they are not intended to be read contextually over multiple pages.)

If you’re interested in serious writing for publication, this book is well worth your time on many fronts in addition to the thoughts I’ve summarized above.

New releases of Bible software

November 23, 2008

At ETS this year all 3 of the “big guns” in Bible software released major new updates.

Accordance released v. 8.1 just ahead of the conference and announced major new modules at the conference. Read a very helpful review here (which I noted earlier, including a chance to win a free copy). Check preview videos here.

Note added later (12/1): Accordance has now posted an official list and description of their updates on their site.

And here’s another posting, this time on the Accordance blog with more detail (12/2).

BibleWorks released v. 8 with many new features and modules (including, e.g., Wallace’s, Waltke-O’Connor’s, and Joüon-Muraoka’s grammars—all included in the base package, not modules you have to pay extra for).

Logos has now released the Mac version for which they floated a teaser a few weeks ago as due “before Christmas.” They tell me that was a “just in case” timeframe. The web page has not yet been updated to indicate that it is shipping. The final pressed copies have not yet arrived, but they manually duplicated enough DVDs to sell at the conference. I have a copy tucked in my laptop case to install and try out when I get home. (I didn’t pay much attention to their Windows info, but I think I heard they either have a new version out or that one is coming soon which promises to be much faster than the current version. My major complaint has always been the extremely sluggish behavior of the Windows version, even on a fairly fast machine with lots of RAM.)

(I’ve now posted a few observations of the Mac Logos after a few hours playing around with it. See the previous blog topic.)

While at ETS I got the Logos Gold for Mac DVD. Here’s a running diary of my notes from the first two hours I spent installing it and taking an initial look. This is not a formal review, just first impressions. I may have more to say later.

So you know my perspective, I’ve used Accordance on Mac for many years (prob. 15+?). I have Logos installed on my school owned Windows box in my study at the seminary, but rarely use it (it’s too slow and the interface does not see at all intuitive to me for the sort of things I want to do). I also have a copy of Logos Gold on my Windows box at home—courtesy of Logos from whom I received it gratis. I’m sure they would like for me to become a Logos convert and write nice reviews. The Mac Gold version is also gratis. You can decide if it colors my comments or not! 🙂

There are few notes re. the install process. The installer on the DVD says it will take 58 meg—obviously not enough to install the gold version, but that’s the only clue that it’s only part one of the install process. When it finishes there is no comment or explanation as to what to do next. So I launched the program. Turns out that the program itself does the major installation. It opens with the Install Resources window listing (in the Gold version) over 700 titles. If you want to install only some of the items (and I see no reason to install all of them! the scholar won’t want the fluff and the layman won’t want the Aramaic, etc.) you must manually uncheck each item individually. It would be very nice if these were grouped so you could turn related items on or off together (e.g., Wiersbe’s Be series, the Cairo Geniza, or the Pulpit Comm). I installed only 361 items (= 401 mouse clicks to deselect the ones I didn’t want!).

Installing these items took a while at that point, but you can’t make a DVD go any faster, so that’s expected.

First thing I usually do when installing a new app is go to pref dialog to specify how I want things to run (at least where I have any choices). Most are obvious, but the KeyLink tab is puzzling. If I’d had no previous exposure to Logos I’d have been totally stumped. As it is, I have only some vague ideas. So I opened Logos help—and read “Mac Beta help” for which no support is provided. Looks like the help system is still awaiting attention; it’s pretty minimal. The entry for KeyLink explained what KeyLink was, but said nothing about how it was configured or what I ought to do in the prefs window, if anything. The default entry in the KeyLink tab is for [‘nt Texts] —whatever that is—followed by two blank lists.

I poked around enough to guess how it might work and experimented a bit. Changing the default ‘nt Texts to Greek in the pop up gives a long list of resources already marked. Since I don’t have a Logos coy of BDAG (I don’t think I’ll be shelling out another $125 for a fourth copy!), I faced the dilemma of what Greek lexicon to use as the default (that’s basically what the KeyLink is—I think). The standard setting defaults to an analytical, obviously not desirable as a standard lexicon, not just because Greek profs detest analyticals, but because the point of a lexicon is meaning and usage, not parsing. The choices are very minimal, and none satisfactory. If I can’t access BDAG, then I’d prefer to go to Abbott-Smith or even Thayer (!), but neither are included. Louw & Nida are useful, but they are not a first-stop lexicon. The abridged Liddell & Scott is less than satisfactory for NT work, though useful at the tertiary level. Surprisingly, Thayer is not available even as a purchased add on, though the “Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon” apparently has definitions drawn from Thayer. But that’s not the same as having a full-fledged (if long outdated) lexicon available. So I settled for Newman for the time being.

After Prefs, I looked for a tutorial of some sort. Nothing. Not in the help menu. Not in the help system. And no reference to anything online. So I guess that’s not finished yet for Mac either.

I poked around a bit and explored via the default window. That is apparently called “Home” but there is no title to the window that opens by default. It has Logos’ trademark “Let me do it for you” searches with the Passage and Exegetical Guides, Bible and Commentary, word or topic searches, etc. Those seemed to run quite a bit faster than the equivalent on my home Windows box—though I’m running on a much faster Mac (MacBook Pro only a few mths old) compared with a Dell that’s at least 5 years old.

I decided to try an Exegetical Guide search. So I typed in Mark 5:1 and clicked Go. It opened a new, blank window. And a few seconds later the app crashed. I had a dialog offering to relaunch, so I did, and this time the same search worked fine and it hasn’t crashed since.

The default search results are a bit puzzling. In the verse specified four words were hi-lighted with details below. Why these 4? Since clicking other words in the Greek text (N27) hi-lighted them and added the equivalent info to the lower portions, I couldn’t see any rationale. Some poking around just to see what was available in that window eventually led me to a tool bar button labeled “Properties” (though no indication as to properties of what). Experimenting with these settings suggests that the default is to hi-light only nouns and verbs, but not adjectives. Perhaps understandable in some sense, but it was puzzling in this example since there was an adverb (πέραν) functioning as a noun.

The links in this window are not all active. E.g., in Mark 5:1 ἐφοβησαν is listed with 5 lexical resources, but the first two (Newman and Louw & Nida) are grayed, not linked, even though this word (φοβεω) does occur in both. In Newman it’s listed a φοβεομαι rather than φοβεω, but that is no excuse in a tool designed for biblical language study. (Newman, BTW, is listed three different ways in the library window with different combinations of initials, etc., and all three have different titles listed! Not helpful when trying to find something.) The same is true of Louw & Nida’s lexicon—not listed because it uses φοβεομαι.

Just noticed there is a floating tool palette in the upper right of the screen that cannot be closed. I keep juggling it to get it out of the way when I need to use a scroll bar in a top right window. There needs to be some way to turn this pesky thing off!

I then noticed that I had a pop up text box floating on the right edge of the screen—with selectable text in it—a left over from a map I’d opened earlier. But I’d opened and closed multiple windows since then. It’s gone now as I type up this summary, but it hung around for quite some time.

In the Library window s.v.: [Bible/NT/Grammar], only Chapman is listed, but if I look under [Greek Language, Biblical/Grammar], then I also find Nunn (3 titles) and Kantenwein. Likewise for OT/Hebrew. Under [OT/Hebrew Reference], I find Van der Merve, but [Hebrew Language/Grammar] adds Futato and Gesenius. Under [Bible N.T. Mark./Commentaries] only Bratcher’s comm on Mark is listed. But if I look under [Bible. N.T. Mark/Commentaries] (note the punctuation!) I also find Brooks (NAC) and France (NIGTC). This is terribly confusing and probably reflects carelessness in proofing data entry in the database that drives this program. These inconsistencies must be fixed. (I’d guess they are the same in the Windows version.) Perhaps I notice these things when others don’t since I don’t use a program like Logos with a “hand holding” mentality in which the programs designers are assumed to know what the user needs. I usually know what I want and intend to access specific items. If you let Logos do the thinking you may get the specific items in its grocery list of things assumed to be relevant even if they are entered differently, but that aggravates some of us who are database-oriented, consistency-driven.

Window management is lacking. No menu command to tile or arrange windows. It’s all manual, and with Mac’s poor choice to allow resizing of windows only from the bottom right corner (one of the few interface choices where Windows is much better!), this is very clumsy.

Well that’s enough for a few hours. Overall the program is in much better shape than it was last spring when I say a demo of the alpha version (or at least saw it crash repeatedly). It’s fast (though not as fast as Accordance). Much faster than on either Windows box I’ve tried using it on. The language tools are severely limited in this release. The “syntax tools” are totally missing. The only language tools I can see are the parsing and lexicons. No diagrams. Whoops, just found a morphological search option. So tried a quick search: Verb, perfect ptcp nom [=V??R?P??N]. The initial search value quickly reported 342 occurrences, but it took perhaps a half min. (I didn’t time it) to list those texts with the verb hi-lighted. By comparison, the same search in Accordance was nearly instantaneous (and returned the same number of hits).

Whoops! I now have another pop up text box on the screen. It disappears when I close a window, then reappears under the cursor the next time I click! Weird. Maybe it will go away… 🙂 Oh, I see, not sure how it first appeared while I was in the Search dialog, but the “reappearing” box is the parsing details from the Greek text open in the other window. So there was a stray box that did not belong in the Search window, but it did disappear when I closed the Search window.

Enough for now. And tomorrow I need to get some work done, so its back to Accordance. No time to experiment further just now.

– – – – – –

Later note:
I’ve posted a 2d round of notes in the comments.

Accordance news

November 18, 2008

For all those of you who are Mac users, whether you use Accordance or just wish you did (for that matter, Windows users also since it is possible to run it under emulation), here’s a very detailed review of Accordance that helpful even if you’ve used Accordance for some time. There is also an opportunity to get a free copy of Accordance basic ($100)–on which you could build and save some significant money. (See the info in the very last paragraph of this long review.)

The review was based originally on v. 7, then 8 was released before the review was finished. And now v. 8.1 has just come out with some nice improvements, esp. in the interface.

The “free” details:


Oaktree has kindly offered one free Library 8 Introductory Level collection worth $99.00 (the 8.1 upgrade is free to Version 8 users) as a giveaway prize. The winner will be selected randomly from among those who comment on this review here at World of Apple. Each person will only be entered once. This giveaway will take place on December 5.

Here’s a wise assessment of the current status of using computer technology for biblical studies by Robert Yarbrough. It’s part of an interview on the CT site.)

How has computer technology contributed to our understanding of 1-3 John?

One can also do word analyses and various grammatical and syntactical searches of the New Testament or related writings with a speed, ease, and comprehensiveness previously undreamt of. Ease of access to reference works eliminates tedious book hunting and page turning. A downside is that every decade we move farther into computer technology, the greater the danger becomes that younger scholars will lack the hands-on intimacy with the text that pen and paper demanded, and the ingrained, deeply intuitive grasp of the text that a trained memory can arrive at. Voluminous information easily accessible can not only obscure but actually stunt creative and historically responsible scholarship.

HT: Andy Naselli