21 September 2011

Selecting Biblical Software: Data Portability

PDAs, as stand alone devices are, for all practical purposes, dead. Arguably single function electronic devices, such as GPS units, eBook readers, and mp3 players, are dying.

Phones have become multi-function devices.  Carriers differentiates between three types of phones:
  •     The dumb mobile phone;
  •     The feature phone;
  •     The smart phone;
Mobile cell phone carriers are phasing out the "dumb mobile phone". This phone can make and receive phone calls and text messages. The feature phone is the low end version of a phone with PDA functionality. The smart phone is the high end version of a phone with PDA functionality.

"Mobile Device" is a catch all phrase that refers to any device that has Internet connectivity, does not require an external power source, and can be easily carried. It includes, but is not limited to mobile phones, PDAs, Tablets, netbooks, ebooks, and laptops.

Tablet: These are mobile devices that have a touch screen.  The most common tablets run either Android Operating System, or iOS.

Netbook.  The original definition of a netbook was a low cost, low power device that could be used anywhere.  Microsoft, in a self-admitted abuse of its monopoly, redefined the term, to try to prevent the widespread adoption of Linux.

Laptop: These are computers that do not require an external power source. Mac OS X is the most common operating system in this space.

Desktop: These are computers that require an external power source. Typically, they have more RAM, and more disk storage space that laptops. Desktops are sold with Windows Operating System due to contracts that grant extremely unfavourable terms to OEMS that ship systems without a Microsoft operating system.

Cloud Server: These are computers that serve up applications to you. Typically, the server is controlled by a third party. Linux is the most common operating system in this space.

Game Console: This are units that are specifically designed for playing games. Examples are the Wii, x-Box 360, and Sony Playstation 3.

Are the same resources available for your:
  •     PDA
  •     Cell Phone
  •     Mobile Device
  •     Tablet
  •     Netbook
  •     Laptop
  •     Desktop
  •     Cloud Server
  •     Game Console
Can content be synchronized between two, or more devices?  

Whilst the question is aimed at users of, say, a tablet, and a desktop, it also applies to users with a desktop at home, and a desktop at work.

Ideally, the tool resides on one device, and enables transmission to the other device, without going through any network that is not owned, controlled and operated by the user.

Does that synchronization require the assistance of a third party?

With the rise of third party vendors such as DropBox, it has become fairly simple to synchronize between devices of the same type.

The problem with third party vendors, is that your data may not stay private.  Whilst a copy of the NIV, or KJV probably won't be damaging, personal notes could be extremely damaging.  The things that an individual struggles with.

Laridian offers tools to ease the migration between devices.  These tools can also be used to synchronize between devices. The downside is that Laridian confines itself to the mobile device space.

Olive Tree
offers a clear migration between devices.  They also appear to offer synchronization between devices. However, like Laridian, they confine themselves to the mobile device space.

Logos: The 800 pound gorilla in the Biblical Software market.  They offer a version for Windows Operating System, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android. Their current expectation is that one will use either Mac OS X, or Windows Operating System, on one's major device.   Android and iOS devices are viewed as secondary devices. Whilst it is possible to use Logos exclusively on one of the two latter, one loses a number of the virtues of the desktop edition.  Furthermore, some copyright holders have not allowed their content to be distributed on specific platforms.

The Sword Project offers more front ends, for more platforms, than any other organization that delivers Biblical software. It does not provide tools to migrate between platforms.  It does not provide tools to synchronize between platforms.  The documentation does cover ways to easily do both functions, using basic command line operations.

The need for data portability is driven by the number of platforms that are available to one.  If one only has one device, then there is nothing to synchronize with.  One either has the device, or does not have the device.

The problems occur when one has two or more devices. The resource may be on a device that one does not have with one.  Transferring notes may require rewriting them by hand. How frequently these issues occur, depends upon how frequently one uses two or more different devices.

There are two different ways that data portability can be defined:
  • The same file format is usable on all platforms;
  • The same content can be converted between platforms;
The Sword Project is an example of the same file format being usable on all platforms. This approach usually restricts software to the limitations of the least powerful hardware that it can be run on.

Laridian data portability is achieved through the use of vendor supplied and based conversion software.

Pocket e-Sword/e-Sword data portability is achieved through the use of user provided conversion software.

I have a desktop computer, and smartphone. These devices run different operating systems.  I use e-Sword on the desktop, and Pocket e-sword on the smartphone. However, if it was not for the availability of Ben's e-Sword Tool v 2.0, I would not be able to migrate resources between e-Sword, and Pocket e-Sword. I was given a Xoom for my birthday. I have to use yet another Biblical software program for that device. There is software that  converts between e-Sword and MySword. It can run on either the Xoom, or the desktop. This is data portability by using user provided conversion software.

Were I to switch to Bible Time or Xiphos on my desktop, SwordReader or Bible Time Mini for the Smartphone, and AndBible on the Xoom, then the data portability is achieved through the use of the same file format.
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