Category Archives: Computer

Bible Software Shootout

I could not be at the SBL Bible Software Shootout session between Logos, SESB, BibleWorks, Accordance and Olive Tree but I did follow some of the SBLtweets. So I’m putting a roundup of the tweets from that session here. If you were there and have anything to add, please leave a comment, thanks!

UPDATE (for a full summary of the session go to the blog This Lamp):
Continue reading

Notes from the road: Days 3 & 4

It’s been a whirlwind of activity here in Grand Rapids. Our consultation came to an official end this afternoon, and then we had a terrific dinner at the home of one of hosts. We had a Brazilian BBQ (the meat just kept coming) and Brazilian side dishes (that I can’t remember how to pronounce) followed by Dutch dessert (our hosts were Dutch, but had lived in Brazil for 15 years and 4 of the attendees were from São Paulo). Languages at the table: Dutch, German, Portuguese, Afrikaans, and a tiny bit of English.Tomorrow I leave early in the morning to drive back to Chicago and then fly to New Orleans. Then the SBL circus begins!

So, what exactly have I been doing in Grand Rapids? Well, the short description is that I was invited (at the request of my advisor, Christo van der Merwe) to participate in a three-day Consultation on Bible Software in the Classroom and Pastorate. There were approximately 20 attendees. All stakeholders, but from different vantage points. Some were data producers, some software designers, others professors, and still others represented “real world” situations in the pastorate. There were representatives from four continents. No final answers or results came out of this time, rather it was the opening of a discussion and an assessment of the needs, tools, methods, and future of digital biblical tools. In addition, relationships were forged, ideas exchanged, and experiences demonstrated. It was a privilege for me to be able to participate.

I think we are still contemplating the content of our discussions, so it may be a bit before I post any real reflections from these three days. However, I do think that the fruit of the consultation should be shared more broadly, and receive input and contributions from others. Stay tuned!

Notes from the road: Day 2

Today was a full day.

The alarm went off too early (or so it seemed). A quick breakfast (the Prince Conference Center had set out “the works” for us: omelets, biscuits, cereal, fresh fruit on skewers, pastries, juices, yogurt, and of course coffee). We walked over the highway via the enclosed pedestrian walkway which takes you from the Prince Conference Center to the rest of the Calvin campus. The seminary building was amazing. Beautiful lobbies (with mission oak furniture and fine art and artifacts). In the hallway outside our conference room there are two series of fiber art exhibits. You can read about them here, but the photos don’t do justice to the textures and brilliant colors. Classrooms are thoughtfully appointed and equipped with state of the art technology. Hospitality is something that all students, faculty, and staff not only talk about, but actually practice.

Best quote of the day was when a session began, “Lady and gentlemen.” Yes, I am the only female in the group of 20 at the consultation. I’m privileged to be a part of this “thinktank” session about using digital biblical tools in the classroom. Lots of great ideas, creative brainstorming, questions, challenges, and sharing of resources. Hopefully, I will be able to share more details in the future.

Hebrew Font Issues

I am pretty good at getting my Hebrew fonts to play nice on my computer. I use Mellel for wordprocessing most of the time. Scrivener does a decent job handling the mix of R->L and L->R text that I create. I’ve come to accept (after a great deal of weeping and gnashing followed by much counseling) that unless I am willing to shell out hundreds and hundreds of dollars for the Middle East version of Adobe’s Creative Suite, I will have to use workarounds for Hebrew in Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. Now, if someone wanted to send me a version of ME CS4 to review…

What I’m perplexed by is the sometimes funky way that Firefox (3.5.5) and OS X (10.6.1) render the SBL Hebrew font vowel pointing. I’ve got the font loaded on my computer. I’ve got my various preferences set correctly (at least I am pretty sure I do). Nevertheless, things like John Hobbins’ blog often do not look the way they should. Here’s a link to a recent post, and here’s what I’m seeing (this is a screen capture):

SBL Hebrew font sample

Last year, when I was first trying to track down the problem, I received this answer to my post on the Fontlab forum (remember, this was posted 5/2008, hence the references to Firefox 3 as beta):

This is a limitation of Firefox 2. The font rendering technology cannot deal with the font, and so it ignores the font (Microsoft Office does the same thing). Firefox 2 will almost assuredly never support fonts like SBL Hebrew. Firefox 3, of which there is a publicly available beta, does support the font, and it will display the page you linked in SBL Hebrew.
Like Safari, however, even Firefox 3 does not position the vowels and diacritics correctly. This has to do with the technologies that OS X uses to render text. The older technology, ATSUI, does not provide support for complex layouts of OpenType fonts like SBL Hebrew, so one is left with the garbled mess that you now see. There is however, a newer technology called Core Text that does the layouts correctly. You can see the advantages of this API, which does support OpenType layout tables, in TextEdit. If you paste (or type) Hebrew text with SBL Hebrew in it, the layout is generally correct. The major drawback of Core Text is that it is very new and only available in Leopard. As such, it will be quite some time before it is widely implemented. There is some discussion about implementing it in Firefox here , but I would guess it will be a while.

The frustrating thing is that Safari WILL display the font and pointing correctly, so it CAN be done! Even on my iPhone (which, to date, cannot handle SBL Hebrew), I can view John Hobbins’ post with vowel pointing correctly lining up.

What about it, Mac users? What are you experiencing? Will Firefox ever support fonts like SBL Hebrew correctly? What is your browser of choice?

PC users: can you see John’s Hebrew texts in SBL Hebrew with the vowels in correct alignment? What browser are you using?

My other source of frustration is was with WordPress. Not the online blog site, but the program itself. I use WordPress for my blog on a private server. Somewhere in the past I could type unicode for Hebrew and Greek and it would display just fine. Then, more recently, when I typed in Hebrew text, the Hebrew showed up fine in the “New Post” creation window, until I saved the draft or published it, then *POOF* the Hebrew would disappear and be replaced with question marks. Some of my commenters have experienced this problem too. I think I have finally found the solution!! I’m posting the instructions here for others who might be having trouble.
Andre Oboler suggested the following:

If your blog displays question marks instead of Hebrew characters, you may need to tweak WordPress a little bit.
In the root directory of your blog installation, there’s a file called wp-config.php.
Open it in a text editor and replace “define(‘DB_CHARSET’, ‘utf8’);” with “define(‘DB_CHARSET’, ”);”. That should do the trick.

And the proof…

‏שִׁיר לַמַּעֲלוֹת אֶשָּׂא עֵינַי אֶל־הֶהָרִים מֵאַיִן יָבֹא עֶזְרִי׃
עֶזְרִי מֵעִם יְהוָה עֹשֵׂה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ׃
אַל־יִתֵּן לַמּוֹט רַגְלֶךָ אַל־יָנוּם שֹׁמְרֶךָ׃
הִנֵּה לֹא־יָנוּם וְלֹא יִישָׁן שׁוֹמֵר יִשְׂרָאֵל׃
יְהוָה שֹׁמְרֶךָ יְהוָה צִלְּךָ עַל־יַד יְמִינֶךָ׃
יוֹמָם הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ לֹא־יַכֶּכָּה וְיָרֵחַ בַּלָּיְלָה׃
יְהוָה יִשְׁמָרְךָ מִכָּל־רָע יִשְׁמֹר אֶת־נַפְשֶׁךָ׃
יְהוָה יִשְׁמָר־צֵאתְךָ וּבוֹאֶךָ מֵעַתָּה וְעַד־עוֹלָם׃

So now, comments can include Hebrew, Greek, and other “complex” fonts that were previously being stripped out!

Snow Leopard 10.6.2 Is Out: Many Bug Fixes

Update for Snow Leopard: 10.6.2 is out! MacStories lists the full changelog:

The 10.6.2 Update is recommended for all users running Mac OS X Snow Leopard and includes general operating system fixes that enhance the stability, compatibility, and security of your Mac, including fixes for:

  • an issue that might cause your system to logout unexpectedly;
  • a graphics distortion in Safari Top Sites;
  • Spotlight search results not showing Exchange contacts;
  • a problem that prevented authenticating as an administrative user;
  • issues when using NTFS and WebDAV file servers;
  • the reliability of menu extras;
  • an issue with the 4-finger swipe gesture;
  • an issue that causes Mail to quit unexpectedly when setting up an Exchange server;
  • Address Book becoming unresponsive when editing;
  • a problem adding images to contacts in Address Book;
  • an issue that prevented opening files downloaded from the Internet;
  • Safari plug-in reliability;
  • general reliability improvements for iWork, iLife, Aperture, Final Cut Studio, MobileMe, and iDisk;
  • an issue that caused data to be deleted when using a guest account.

Another vocabulary resource: Davar

A few weeks ago I reviewed some Hebrew vocabulary resources (Part One, Part Two) that readers submitted for my first B2B contest. There are a few vocabulary resources that were not mentioned, but which I want to draw attention to. The first one is a project from The University of Auckland (that’s in New Zealand, folks). Davar is a “dynamic illustrated vocabulary resource” for Biblical Hebrew. The academic leadership for the project is Dr Tim Bulkeley and Dr Lynne Wall (I’m looking forward to hopefully meeting Tim at the upcoming SBL meeting in New Orleans). This project has been designed with a great deal of thought. Their design rationale can be found here. Basically, Davar is a database of web “cards” for Hebrew vocabulary. Each card has animation showing the word being typed from right to left, audio to hear the word, visual images illustrating the meaning, mnemonics to trigger a gloss, parsing, a verse with the word in context, and a semantic field (based on the domains found in the Louw-Nida Greek Lexicon).

Students can access the vocabularies online without registering (actually, anyone can access them). Teachers can register to gain access to the vocabularies in order to provide customized lists to their own students. The next step of participation is as a “contributor.” This level of access allows you to add or change information in the vocabulary database. A peer review process is in place to make sure all changes are appropriate before they go “live.”

So, what does it look like? Here are some screen shots from my MacBook Pro running OS X version 10.6.1 (and using Foxfire 3.5.5), the Hebrew vowel pointing is not quite lined up with the consonants. I’d be interested to hear how other people are viewing this resource.

This first image is the opening splash.

Here we have the vocabularies navigation page.

This final shot is an individual vocabulary window.

As far as I can tell, there are 554 vocabulary entries (so far). This is a work in progress, and they are definitely willing to have people come on board with them to help out. They also acknowledge that no project is perfect and that there is always a different way to do things–but this is somewhere to start!

Take a look, let me know your thoughts. Or, better yet, if you see Tim at SBL, talk to him about the project!
Here’s who to look for:
Tim Bulkeley

The voice behind the online Tanakh

Many of you are familiar with the MP3 files of the Tanakh that are available online at Mechon Mamre (if you are not aware of them, stop reading this and go to the site right now and start downloading some Hebrew to listen to!). Mechon Mamre links to the files made available at the Israeli Snunit Kodesh site. You can download individual chapters or entire books. Explore around the site for many more resources. The Academy of Ancient Languages also makes the readings available. But I digress.

Abraham Schmuelof
Anyone who has listened to these audio files will forever be able to remember the cadence and pronunciation of the reader. But do you know who that reader is? His name is Abraham Shmueloff and he has quite a story! I found a short biography online a few years ago and I quote it below (the full bio can be accessed here). In classes, we referred to the reader as the “rabbi,” but as you can see from his story, it’s a little more complicated than that! Continue reading