The Northern Spy
A Tale of two Classes of Tale
The best of companies (the upper class)
1. Logos Bible Software (Feature of the month)
CEO Bob Pritchett, describes this as a family business, though it now has over 160 employees, and regularly sends the Spy's other mailbox (in the TWU computing science department) ads for programmers who want to write "code that matters". Located just across the bump at the forty-ninth parallel and down to Bellingham WA, it's got potential for a relationship, though none of his students have taken the bait as yet.
For years Logos has been offering the PC world an ever elaborating library of Bible study software, but the Spy has steadfastly ignored same, as he'd always rather run real software on a real computer, and never mind the cheap imitation machines that crash daily. Things are looking up, for Logos products are now available on the Mac.
He was sent for review the Scholar's Library (standard level) on disk for $629.95 (no printed manual included). This is one of a series of products available in five versions, ranging from the Bible Study Library at $259.95 to the Scholar's Library: Gold at $1379.95 (W*nd*ws has two more versions including one at $149.95)
The program installs as Libronix DLS, which, as readers will recall from a couple of months ago, confused the Spy, given that the packaging just mentions Logos Bible software, and Libronix appears only in the fine print copyright notices. Apparently Libronix is a Logos subsidiary, which makes sense, as it could be marketed as a standalone eBook library manager and used in other contexts.
At the Scholar's Library level the customer receives a vast number of Bibles, Bible MS fragments, lexicons, reference materials, study tools, and a considerable collection of history, theology, ministry, leadership, and other resources. At the very top end (:Gold), a number of additional works are added into the mix, including critical apparatus, apologetics works, more references, and multivolume sets such as The United Bible Society Handbooks and the journal Semeia. The Logos site has a detailed comparison chart of the various products along with a large number of supplemental offerings that can be added as one-ofs (for a price of course).
When you first fire up Libronix you get a news (home) window and an alert box (can be turned off). This gives Logos two opportunities to upsell to new library materials, upgrades, and the like. For instance the latest alert wanted to know if I would like to upgrade my Nelson unlock (if I had it) to over 500 works, including additional materials by John MacArthur and new reference works the company publishes.
For Christians, the Living Word means everything, and the Written Word (mediated by the Holy Spirit) that reveals Him is their only source for doctrine. Getting it right is therefore critical. (Aside: some travelers found in Christian churches tend to extend this to being right about everything else as well, an unfortunate side-effect, but one that will pass when both faith and self-righteousness become sight.) However, this means one needs to know: 1. What the word says, 2. What it means in the original context, 3. How to apply it in the current and personal context.
Bible software handles the first of these and assists with the second. The third may be aided via an extensive library of commentary, apologetics, and Christian living advice, as well as an uncommon dose of common sense, though it is always amazing how much light the scriptures themselves throw on the commentaries.
Thus, the heart of any Bible software is the search engine, and Libronix, as befits a library manager paradigm, places this menu immediately after Apple's obligatory File and Edit menus and approaches the function liberally. (Should he use that term here?) The user has the option of a basic search (defaults to all available resources), a Bible search (defaults to all available Bibles but can be specified down to specific versions, Bible books, or even MS fragments), and Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic morphological searches (type the English word and specify the conjugation or declension).
A morphological search will produce a list of results with the tagged original language context, paralleled in what ever texts the user has specified. The default for Greek is all the Logos-supplied texts that come with their morphological tags. It took the Spy a couple of tries and a trip to the help files to determine how to use this tool, but it is quite powerful, even if non-intuitive.
Crossing the bar, the "Go" menu offers the choices "My Library", "Topic Browser", and "Reference Browser" for direct access to the complete indexed text of specified or selected resources. For instance, one can pull up the complete eBook text of, say, a specific John MacArthur title, if it is available in the purchased collection. Using the View: menu, one can then display a hyperlinked contents pane for navigation through the book in question.
The "Favorites" menu allows one to maintain a list of commonly accessed texts, partly for restricting searches, if so desired.
The "Tools" menu allows one to manage the contact details, set up an account and purchase additional books and resources from Logos, define "collections' do some library management, do Bible study with a passage or exegetical guide, a word study, or a parallel version (KJV, NIV and NASB) comparison. For instance, Typing John 1:1-2 in the passage guide gives a list of all the resources (commentaries, etc) with material available explicating that passage. The exegetical guide for the same passage (you can switch back and forth from either) gives a word by word breakdown of the verses hyperlinked back in to the context. (It would be better if the hyperlinks were to a Greek Lexicon, though.)
Logos earns an A+ from the professor for the web site, which not only has detailed product and individual resource info, but support, blogs, RSS feeds and a wealth of information.
In all, the Spy has only minor quibbles. First, as previously noted in this space, installation was confusing, with a customer ID, a customer code, an activation code, and a serial number to consider. It required an email to complete the process. If this arcane installation process is a PC world staple, it's no wonder the Mac side harbours so many refugees. Second, personal information is requested multiple times--when installing, when setting up an account, in the program info, when asking for the widget (Bible lookup), etc. Once is enough. Third, the Tools/Account Management menu item has nothing to do with the user's account at Logos, and is merely yet another repository of personal information sent to them for who knows what purpose. Fourth, some information of the website is not coordinated. For instance, the product info says that the Scholar's Library: Silver is the lowest to have the Vulgate, but the product comparison shows it is now in all versions. Fifth, and perhaps most important, there is no obvious way to add works to Libronix except through Logos. Finally, two products, and a few of the site tools, such as software update, are still PC only.
The bottom line: The Logos product is not (yet) the thousand pound gorilla of Bible study software. That honour goes to Accordance, available only on the Mac, and for many in religious Studies, sufficient reason by itself to buy that platform (their killer ap). On the other hand, for scholars it is light years ahead of, say, free software such as the late Ken Hamel's Mac version of Online Bible--not that the latter isn't a useful program for casual study, but it's future is perhaps unclear.
However, the Libronix/Logos product is, nonetheless compelling, especially for a first version of an initial Mac offering. The UI is well done (doesn't look like a port), searches are fast and comprehensive, the morphological mark up excellent, and the web-based support superb (contact support not tested enough to say). If what you want to do is manage a large library of related materials, this is the product for you. It would be interesting to see Libronix as a standalone eBook manager, at least allowing user materials to be added, and perhaps as a university textbook container. (Somebody has to do it, so why not?) Buy at least the scholar level, if you can spring for the bucks. Highly recommended.
earns another mention in this category, at least at the date of this writing, when the company released financial results for fiscal 2009's third quarter ending June 29. iSteve's little outfit earned revenues of $8.34 billion and netted quarterly profits of $1.23 billion, or $1.35 per share. These results compare to $1.19 per share, in the corresponding quarter a year ago, and represent their best non-holiday quarter yet. Other figures appear to show Mac shipments up, against the market trend, iPod touch and iPhone sales leading that sector's way, and Apple one of the most profitable telephony enterprises. Can't complain about all this if you're either a customer or a shareholder.
The worst of companies (the under class)
Reports on the once-great and now fading diva of the smartphone business suggest that large numbers (as high as a scarcely believable 40%) of Palm Pres are being returned. If even half true, it may be the final death knell for a company that lost its vision somewhere along the road. Pity.
Another once-important icon of the industry seems to be fading. Few people are interested in Vista Service pack 2 (er, Windows 7), and the lumbering behemoth seems mired in the tar pits of despond, sales declining, unable to either polish its one old idea or create a new one. Maybe the U.S. of A will have to come up with a rescue package.
3. Rogers (clunker of the month, perhaps of the year)
Readers will recall the Spy's misadventures last month trying to buy an iPhone, ones that ended with Rogers in contradiction over whether he was eligible to do so, and if not, why not.
After some contradictory debate with ill-equipped and poorly trained low level service types over a supposed contract the Spy was under (one he had no knowledge of) he was passed to a higher-level "management" person, who thought himself better informed.
Following one or two more non-information-containing messages, he finally advised the Spy that when he'd taken the phone over from his employer he inherited the tail end of a service contract that was in effect to October 7, 2009. Advised that this was news, the service fellow blamed the employer for not telling him. Questioned further about the date, whose only obvious significance was the day the Spy had taken over the contract (and therefore irrelevant except by extraordinary coincidence to any preexisting agreement) the service rep changed this story, now claiming the employer's renewal date for this five and a half year old phone had been October 1, and was valid to 2009.
Further advised that not one but two Rogers reps at the time (and one more since) were specifically asked and replied there was no extant contract and the relationship was to be month-to-month, he ducked and evaded, but would not reply to the point or take any responsibility. The Spy was under contract, it would cost $200 to cancel, no there was no recourse, tough--all his employer's fault. The lack of any evidence for a written or oral agreement at the time was of no consequence. If Rogers said there was a contract, there was, and per its terms. Pull it out of thin air, why not, as far as the Spy was concerned. 'Course, the Spy cannot prove he was told there would be no contract any more than Rogers can produce his name on an agreement to anything. If he lived in the U.S. of Litigation, some lawyer could have fun with this.
The Spy finally gave up and ordered a cancellation and severance (without prejudice) of all relationship as of whichever magical October date they arbitrarily imagined a contract to exist. It wasn't worth a lawsuit. Besides, the incident does provide fodder for entertainment in this space, as well as a cautionary tale on corporate intransigence, stupidity, deception (possibly not deliberate) and single minded evasion of responsibility. Perhaps it's worth tracking down more senior management or making a complaint to the CRTC, but the Spy has many other fish to fry, and Rogers seems already quite cooked in its own incompetent fat.
This bottom lines: First and obviously, the Spy will never purchase products or services from Rogers again, and must advise his readers to avoid the company like the plague, and therefore to boycott iPhones in Canada until there is competition (second source Fido is owned by Rogers).
Second, he has learned that in the absence of something in writing, a telephone contract is whatever the company says it is, so if and when he obtains a new cellphone from someone else, it will be a purchase only, and he will require in writing an undertaking that there are nothing but month-to-month obligations. Who knew you need a written contract to prove that there is no contract?
Third, he will purchase the functionality of phone and PDA separately, if at all. He uses a cell when traveling, but automobile use is about to be outlawed, he can't use it in an airplane, and an iPod touch will do everything else necessary, because all the places where he finds himself stationary have Wi-Fi.
Fourth, although per the Spy's First Law, one ought not to pass laws against stupidity, nearly all law is just that. In this case, it ought to be a requirement that all contracts for utility service be in writing, the term also stated on the bill (it was not), and with a thirty-day period to cancel if on reflection, the terms are not acceptable.
Finally, the more carefully considered bottom line. Tales like these are so ubiquitous, from nearly all providers, and including many that star land lines as protagonist, that the Spy is becoming convinced the days of telephony must be numbered. Suppose Wi-Fi (or some successor) were ubiquitous (as it is becoming in some cities). Wouldn't telephone companies be as obsolete as typewriter manufacturers? Would they be missed any more than the platen? What's a platen? Just so.
includes Freeway, the latest iteration (version 5.4) of the web site creation software from Soft Press. (Nice web site there. One assumes it was created with the product.) The Spy will move one of his many web sites into the product and try for a review in either September or October.
Strange incident of the month
is courtesy of Amazon, who on discovering that they were selling unauthorized editions of George Orwell's books reached into customer's Kindle eBook readers and deleted the files, then refunded the purchase price. They could, so they had to, but how 1984ish is this?
Medium Technology Product of the Month
is the Spy's new pressure washer, a BE product under the PowerEase brand name (they have others, such as XTreme) and purchased from incomparable tool store KMS (new Langley branch on the Bypass). BE is a local assembler combining Honda engines with pumps from various manufacturers on a small trolley, but produces products that are not at all bad. Good quality workmanship, does what it says, works like a charm. Would that high technology were always so. The only flaw: The inexpensive gun on the supplied wand locks up under high pressures and the trigger cannot be pulled to release it. BE doesn't have its own domain, but its site content is fairly professional looking, though slightly out of date.
Motivation for the project: Getting a machine that can easily handle a long extension-style wand, so the Spy can wash the whole two-story house standing on the ground. (A severed rotator cuff tendon makes it difficult for this old croc even to carry and set up his twenty-two foot wooden ladder, much less to hang on with one hand and wash with the other.) Worked, too. Son Joel now has his old pressure washer with the non-standard connectors and the shorter reach. Hmm. See some common elements here?
--The Northern Spy
Rick Sutcliffe, (a.k.a. The Northern Spy) is professor and chair of Computing Science and Mathematics as well as Senate Chair at Trinity Western University. He is also on the board of CIRA, operator of .ca. He's written two textbooks and several novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His columns have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers (paper and online), and he's a regular speaker at churches, schools, academic meetings, and conferences. He and his wife Joyce have lived in the Aldergrove/Bradner area of BC since 1972.
Want to discuss this and other Northern Spy columns? Surf on over to ArjayBB.com. Participate and you could win free web hosting from the WebNameHost.net subsidiary of Arjay Web Services. Rick Sutcliffe's fiction can be purchased in various eBook formats from Fictionwise, and in dead tree form from Amazon's Booksurge.
The Northern Spy Home Page: http://www.TheNorthernSpy.com
The Spy's Laws collected: http://www.thenorthernspy.com/spyslaws.htm
The Spy's Shareware download site: http://downloads.thenorthernspy.com/
WebNameHost : http://www.WebNameHost.net
WebNameSource : http://www.WebNameSource.net
nameman : http://nameman.net
opundo : http://opundo.com
Sheaves Christian Resources : http://sheaves.org
Arjay Books: http://www.ArjayBooks.com
Online Bible: http://www.online-bible.com/maconlinebible.html
Soft Press (Freeway): http://www.softpress.com
BE (Pressure Washers): http://bep.dreamhosters.com/
KMS Tools: http://www.kmstools.com/