Archive for category iPhone

OliveTree BibleReader appears on iPhone App store

The news keeps getting better for those of us looking to carry the Bible on our iPhones as I just stumbled upon OliveTree’s BibleReader on my iPhone in the App store. I installed it and found several translations available, but none I particularly prefer. There doesn’t seem to be anyway to add or removed translations from your device either. At this time it is only a reader with no advanced functionality like the Mantis one I mentioned earlier (notes, bookmarks, etc.). It us free though so the price is right to give it a go.

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Picked up an iPhone 3G in white

I resisted for a couple of weeks, but after a more detailed look at my actual mobile usage I figured I would try out the iPhone 3G. I had to drive on to work on Friday anyway so I went to the University Village Apple store at 7:55 am and found about 40 people in front of me. I was amazed that there were still lines like this after almost 3 weeks. They had employees outside handing out vouchers so you could get one and come back by 6 pm if you had to go off to work. I chose a black 16GB model and was ok the store after about 35 minutes. I then saw black and white side by side and switched to a white one, which made someone happy since they ran out of 16GB black models. I wasn’t quite sure if this was a good choice, but now I find I really like white.

I have been hemming and hawing about whether or not I was going to keep the device, but I have to admit it is pretty amazing in many respects. The RF signal is a bit iffy, battery life is not great, and I have had some issues with 3rd party apps. However, it is easy to use, quite responsive, and the large display is awesome.

I picked up the tether app when it was available so I do have that ability. I found I rarely copy/paste and wonder of this missing feature really is that big of a deal. I am pretty fast ok the keyboard and need to test my speed against the E71 and other devices.

I was very happy to find that Mantis offline Bible with notes support and this made the iPhone much more valuable to me. I am also using it instead of my Sony Reader for eBook reading. Give me background app support for IM and Last.fm and I will be very happy.

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All right! We finally have an iPhone offline Bible app

I love using Laridian’s iPocketBible, but I need an offline app that let’s me take notes so I was pretty excited to see the Mantis Bible that supports offline text and notes. I asked about syncing or backing up notes because I would hate to lose all my sermon notes with an iPhone crash.

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BTW, I created and posted this from my iPhone, but had to make final edits on a PC since it doesn’t appear that the iPhone utility supports HTML code, hyperlinks, etc. and still need some work. It is good for a quick post here and there though.

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WordPress mobile iPhone client

I just downloaded the WordPress client for my iPhone and am posting this from the Sounder train. I was hoping to be able to blog for ZDNet with this tool too, but you need to have WP 2.5 and I don’t think their custom version is that new. It does now emphasize the need fir copy paste and Bluetooth keyboard support.

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Mobile phones landing daily and I can't catch my breath

Wow, if you have been reading my ZDNet blog you will have seen that I have been inundated with mobile phones to evaluate over the last month. The phones I have received to evaluate have included the HP iPAQ 910 Business Messenger, Palm Treo 800w, Nokia E71, the Nokia N78, Nokia N82, Sprint BlackBerry Curve, HTC Touch Diamond, HTC Advantage X7510, and Samsung Blackjack II with Windows Mobile 6.1 . I am still expecting the MWg Zinc II soon and there is a possibility an iPhone 3G may be in my near future.

The iPAQ 910 is going back tomorrow and then the other will be sent back soon too. It is almost a relief to box things back up and send them back since it reduces the phone clutter around my house and actually gives me a bit of a sense of freedom since so many can get overwhelming when trying to figure out what to pick up and take along.

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Laridian enhances bookmark functionality and adds sync solutions

My favorite mobile Bible solution, Laridian`s PocketBible, has been updated with some enhanced categorized bookmark functionality and synchronization to your mobile device from the Windows version. I saw this in action at BibleTech08 and cannot wait to install and take advantage of this functionality. I think this will enhance my Bible study practices since I can now bookmark and make notes and then sync them across platforms. Visit the sync providers page on the Laridian site to download these sync conduits.

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BibleTech08: Day 2 – Session 06, Beyond Mobility: Synchronizing User-created Data…

… Between Platforms, Readers, and Vendors. The final session I was able to attend (there was one more presentation that I could not stay for due to obligations at home) was given by Mr. Craig Rairdin from Laridian. I will start my blog post off by letting you know that I was blessed with an invitation to be a Laridian VIP (very influential person) back in 2005. Nothing is required of me, except for honest feedback in response to their products that I often get a first look at in advance of public releases.

Craig started off his presentation with a bit of his history related to Bible software that goes back 20 years when developed QuickVerse and eventually co-founded Laridian. He mentioned that 20th century Bible software focused on massive and expensive libraries contained on a user’s desktop PC. Today’s 21st century Bible software user is not tied to the desktop, wants their Bible on a portable device in many cases, and uses “disposable” products. User expectations include portability of their content and the ability to backup, print, and share the content they generate, such as notes, highlights, and bookmarks.

In regards to portability, Craig talked about the challenges of the different mobile operating systems (similar to what Olive Tree explained earlier). Like Olive Tree, Laridian has negotiated portable content licenses to help users that switch platforms. He posed the question about a possible universal content license that could be shared across vendors. The idea sounds plausible and as we move away from a world dominated by DRM this may become a real possibility. This could mean you buy the NIV version of Olive Tree’s Bible and then make a move to Laridian’s Bible application with the capability to receive a free or low-cost license to the NIV Bible compatible with Laridian’s application.

Laridian slide: Content portability

I found the next portion of his talk very informative as he explained the current situation at Laridian in regards to the different platforms. Laridian has eight readers from four different sources. The readers for Windows Mobile (touch and non-touch screen), Apple iPhone, iPod/MP3 player (audio), and Windows PC are in-house developed readers. The Palm OS MyBible application was actually written by a Palm employee who then moved on to Google and sold the code to Laridian. The BlackBerry reader is from Noah and Laridian only provides the content for the BlackBerry platform. This reader is also licensed non-exclusively so it makes for an interesting partnership. Laridian also purchased the Theophilos Windows PC desktop software last year.

The primary focus of Craig’s talk was on the synchronization of user-generated content. He showed a slide with columns for notes, bookmarks, and highlights to show what platform supported each of these types of generated data. If you have tried the Laridian PocketBible Windows PC version since mid-December then you may be familiar with their new synchronization provider and Sync Manager solution. The Sync Manager is PC-based and works with the sync provider plug-in to sync your user-generated data between mobile devices and the desktop. The current sync providers are available for Windows PCs and Pocket PCs (touch screen Windows Mobile devices). The current plan is to provide sync providers for other platforms in this order:

  1. iPocketBible (preliminary version was demonstrated at BibleTech 2008)
  2. PocketBible for WM Smartphone
  3. MyBible for Palm OS

Craig gave demos of the PocketBible Pocket PC version and iPocketBible version. I am personally quite excited about how slick this tool works and didn’t think it could be done so well with the iPhone. Laridian is solving a MAJOR issue that I have been frustrated with for years. I used to backup my data, but I would either lose it or forget about integrating it when I switched devices and it just wasn’t a simple and easy solution. This new synchronization worked extremely well and I highly recommend you give it a try.

Laridian slide: Synchronization solution

Craig went into the details of the logic behind the synchronization process and everything is related to time-stamps so they can determine what data is the latest and greatest. There is sound logic behind most all of the sync processes and Laridian includes a conflict resolution stage if there are apparent conflicts caused by data being changed in both locations or having time stamps different than the last sync time. Laridian may want to consider a skip or keep both conflict resolution option so that you can merge or edit your data if you previously added content on both the PC and mobile device. As a user of Windows Mobile, desktop, and iPhone Laridian applications it will be interesting to see how sync works with a PC and multiple mobile devices with different operating systems.

The Laridian Sync Manager utility can be used with providers other than Laridian as well so it may serve as a global data synchronization methodology. The details of the individual databases are isolated in the sync providers and provision is made for syncing of different formats. There are opportunities for synchronization across vendor products and any developer interested in this syncing functionality should contact Craig to discuss the future possibilities.

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BibleTech08: Day 2 – Session 04, The Challenges & Future of Bible Software in a Mobile World

I met Stephen Johnson at the beginning of the conference, after introductions, and learned he worked in Spokane for Olive Tree Bible Software. His presentation was taking place in room 1, which was primarily for the very techy people such as developers, but since he was talking about mobile then I made it a point to attend. I am glad I did as I found Stephen to be one of the most dynamic and energetic speakers of the conference who really knew his stuff and even a user like me appreciated his talk.

While Drew touched on some of the global challenges in the mobile landscape, Stephen went into more detail in regards to the programming challenges faced by developers. Olive Tree currently supports 14 builds of BibleReader on 5 platforms (4 for the Palm OS, 2 for Windows Mobile, 6 for Symbian, 1 for BlackBerry, and 1 for J2ME). If you haven’t visited the Olive Tree Bible Software site in some time, then I highly recommend you check it out as they have completely redone it and made it MUCH easier for you to use and find resources for your particular device.

Stephen stated that he spends more time on cross platform development than on Bible software development. I personally appreciate this cross platform focus as it allows me to use BibleReader on S60 and Windows Mobile devices. BibleReader is actually one of the only options I have on S60 so I appreciate their work. I also learned that Olive Tree acknowledges and understands that many of their users switch platforms and devices regularly so nearly all of their Bible translations and texts have a common database shared across all platforms. I talked with Stephen after his talk and this means that you can buy a translation or text and then “own” that forever so if you switch devices or platforms your purchased content goes with you. This was a GREAT relief to know so I can now purchase content without any worries about which device I am using.

Stephen presented possible solutions to the issue of cross platform development and the large number of mobile devices. Some possible solutions were a common database layer, common text rendering engine, shared data structures, and the use good cross platform coding practices. A vendor could limit themselves to one or two platforms and avoid this cross platform issue, but it is good to hear that Olive Tree plans to continue their multi-platform support.

There are also many challenges when it comes to development tools since there is a wide range and quality of tools available. He mentioned that 3rd party software developers have less priority for wireless carriers than getting a new phone out the door. There are issues with tools (such as Metroworks and PRC Tools) and issues with emulators. I mentioned before that Windows Mobile offers good support for the developer with Visual Studio. Testing and debugging are issues to address since emulators don’t always emulate the actual device and it is quite costly to purchase all of the latest and greatest devices for thorough testing. Olive Tree does add debugging information into their software so they can try to address any issues that may arise on your particular platform.

The different programming languages and content delivery methods were mentioned in my coverage of Drew’s talk, but Stephen did go into a bit deeper detail. Often a problem is that users do not even know what device they have so they do not know what software to purchase or download. Stephen also mentioned that there are issues rendering complex scripts and fonts (like Hebrew).

Stephen had some thoughts on the future of mobility that included the merger of the desktop and mobile device. Hey, has Stephen been brainwashed by Nokia and their idea that their phones are really mobile multimedia computers? (Just kidding) Will social networks have an impact or serve as a mechanism for sharing in the Christian environment? The “in the cloud” strategy may be the future, but Stephen said it will most likely take a while since getting data over the air is not as fast, is expensive, and coverage is not universal. However, I have been using Laridian’s iPocketBible that works over the network and Laridian has optimized the functionality for the iPhone and the web to make it a very similar to a stand-alone experience that I am enjoying.

There are new UI paradigm’s such as touch (thanks to the iPhone and Microsoft Surface) and Nokia gestures. There are different display technologies to consider, like eInk and foldable displays.

I completely agree with Stephen that the mobile world will continue to explode and there will not be a clear winner that captures more than 50% of the market anytime soon. Olive Tree may have to create 3 to 4 more platform versions over the next couple of years. Collaboration between software vendors may help with some of these future challenges, but that too will be a challenge moving forward.

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BibleTech08: Day 2 – Session 03, Electronic Publishing & Bible Software in a Fast Moving Mobile Landscape

Drew Haninger was the presenter for the next session I attended that was the first one fully focused on mobile devices. Drew is the president of Olive Tree Bible Software and began by talking about their goal at the company. He presented the very crowded mobile landscape and I am sure that surprised many who spend most of their time in the Windows PC or Mac standardized world. There are device trade names, various operating systems, various device and display sizes, and different programming languages.

Olive Tree intro slide

Drew then spent some time talking about the history of Olive Tree, which he started as a student project back in 1984. In August 1998 the first version of BibleReader for Palm OS devices was released and they have since moved on to supporting the Pocket PC/Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, Symbian (both UIQ and S60), iPod (text only), and other cell phone formats. It is currently available on 12 platforms and they see something like 50,000 downloads a month of their texts.

The common theme in regards to programming language was that C or C++ was on many platforms (Palm, Windows Mobile, Symbian, and maybe the iPhone). I was a bit surprised to hear that development support and tools were the best for Windows Mobile and wonder if this fact has helped propel Windows Mobile past Palm these last few years.

Drew talked about some challenges that they face in development and selling mobile Bible texts. These challenges include:

  1. Different programming languages
  2. Data location (local, external memory, “in the cloud”)
  3. Installation methods (over-the-air, SMS, desktop syncing)
  4. UI systems (touch, stylus, non-touch)
  5. Publishers and licensing content
  6. Customer expectations (desire a desktop experience, users move to different devices often)

I enjoyed listening to Drew and learned quite a bit about the perspectives of the mobile market from a developer/vendor working in this space. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to keep up with the latest operating systems and the various programming languages used by so many different platforms. Unfortunately, I am afraid it will just continue to get even more complicated as Symbian, Windows Mobile, and Apple (with the iPhone) continue to evolve while Google’s Android joins in along with the possibility of a new Palm OS based on Linux. I doubt there will be any consolidation of mobile operating systems and platforms anytime soon as there are too many dynamics in the market with wireless carriers, hardware vendors, software developers, and much more that are not going to go away or combine.

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BibleTech08: Day 2 – Session 02, The ESV & Bible Usability

Stephen Smith led this next session in room 1 that I attended and you can view the slides he used in this pdf document. Stephen works for Crossway Books and Bibles and also writes the ESV Bible blog. After visiting the blog I learned there is even an iPhone-optimized ESV Bible that I plan to add as a bookmark in Safari on my iPhone. The ESV has actually been my preferred translation for the last couple of years and I was happy to find these additional resources.

Stephen asked the question, “How do we keep the Bible usable as we bump into technology?” He presented a bit of history and where we are at now and then had several slides (that you can see in the PDF document) showing their usability map that captures the demographics of people who read the Bible and then presents a multitude of answers for questions about everything related to people reading the Bible, such as:

  • What are they reading?
  • How do they annotate?
  • What are the physical features of the Bible they read?
  • Why did someone buy the Bible?
  • Where do people keep the Bible when it is not in use?
  • and many more questions…

They use these multitude of responses to try to figure out how to make the Bible usable for people. Stephen said that Bibles should work how people expect. This is the real challenge for electronic Bibles and the different tools we use to read these texts. You can check out the results and findings from their usability study at this site. It is definitely worth a look as it opens your eyes to all of the different situations involved with people reading the Bible.

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