18 April 2012

MySword: A Review


1: MySword
This program was originally written for the Windows Mobile operating system. In November 2010, the developers decided to port their program to the Android operating system.

Program Milestones

19 March 2011
Version 1.0
26 March 2011
Version 1.1
7 April 2011
Version 1.2
21 April 2011
Version 1.3
13 May 2011
Version 1.4
27 May 2011
Version 1.5
3 June 2011
Version 1.6
4 June 2011
Version 1.6.1
26 July 2011
Version 2.0
3 September 2011
Version 2.1
3 October 2011
Version 2.2
22 October 2011
Version 2.3
25 October 2011
Version 2.3.1
6 December 2011
Version 2.4
18 March 2012
Version 3.0
I used the gratis version of MySword. The Pro Version and the Deluxe Version offer slightly different functionality. These differences may provide for a better user experience.

Platform

This program should run on all versions of Android 2.1 (Éclair) through Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich).

There are three editions of this program:
  • The Gratis version;
  • The Pro version;
  • The Deluxe Version;

The standard version has the following minimum hardware requirements:
  • 600 MHz chip;
  • 1 GB SD card;
  • 256 MB Ram;
The Pro version is designed for a cell phone. It does not appear to have any additional hardware requirements.

The Deluxe Version is designed for tablets. Its hardware requirements are:
  • 1024X768 pixel screen resolution1;
  • Seven inch screen, or larger;

    Operating System

    MySword 3.0: Gratis Edition: Android 2.0, and higher; 
    MySword 3.0: Pro Edition:  Android 3.0, and higher;
    MySword 3.0: Deluxe Edition: Android 3.0, and higher;  

    License

The license can be found at “>Settings >About >About >License”.

The program is free to use. Source code is not available.

Paragraph five:
You can copy MySword freely for personal use and give it away to friends, relatives, etc. as long as you do not charge for it in any way.
Paragraph nine:
If you choose to redistribute the software as part of an “official” package (E.G.: your own custom CD compilation with a custom CD cover or label you must:
Contact the authors to obtain written permission. All valid electronic distributions of the software … on a noticeable area of the official website so users will known whether or not distribution is legal.
These clauses aren't mutually exclusive. However, for all practical purposes they might as well be.

Scenario # 1: Landmark Baptist Church2 decides to give a CD containing MySword to everybody who visits their booth at the local summer fair. Does the church need written permission every time they change the contents of the CD? More pointedly, does that listing obligate the church to provide a CD to all who request one?

Scenario # 2: 10-40 Missions3 notices that Android is very popular in the geographic area it serves. MySword is fairly easy to use. Oops, that listing at MySword.info just signed the death warrant4 for the entire staff and volunteers of the organisation.

Scenario # 3: The Abbotsford Home Church5, a duly registered unincorporated non-profit organisation decides on MySword as the Biblical software program it uses. Does any resulting distribution require written permission?

Considering the legal restrictions and prohibitions on Bible ownership and usage around the world, there is no rational for expecting Biblical software will always be obtainable from an app store. More pointedly, Biblical software in the 10-40 Belt has historically been from person to person, using floppy disks, then CDs, and then DVDs. I can't see any of those colporteurs voluntarily exposing themselves to any more risks than needed, to smuggle software into those countries. Indeed, at least one Biblical program in the Android marketplace recommends that users in those countries obtain resources through a source other than the Internet6.


One other clause that might be problematic is:
This license is designed  to ensure that MySword  remains free for everyone and is not used in any way to promote any profit generating activities that are outside the scope of the Software.
I'm not sure what that is supposed to prohibit. It could mean:
  • It can't be used as a premium to be used in premium-incentive marketing;
  • One can not distribute non-gratis resources for it;
  • One can not sell documentation related to it;
  • One can not conduct training sessions that have a fee attached to them; 

Cost

The gratis edition is free.

The Pro Version and Deluxe Version are available as gift for “generous” donors. For reasons best known to the developers, they do not want what they consider to be a “generous” donation publicised.

On 31 March 2012 iTunes store data indicated7:
  • 82.71% of the applications cost US$1.99, or less.
  • 97.69% of the applications cost US$9.99, or less.
  • 97.77% of the applications cost US$10.99, or less.
  • TThe average price of an application is US$2.03.
  • 631 applications (0.001054329%) are priced between US$48.99 and US$54.99, inclusive.
  • 69 applications (0.000115291%) are priced at US$449.99, or more.
In July 20108,
  • The average price of all paid applications for the iPhone was US$4.31;
  • The average price of the top 100 paid applications for the iPhone was US$2.31;
  • The average price of the top 100 grossing applications is US$8.93;
  • The average price of all paid applications for Android was US$3.23;
  • The average price of the top 100 paid applications for Android was US$4.57;
Average mobile device application price9:
  • Android US$3.27
  • Apple: US$3.62
  • Ovi: US$3.47
  • Palm: US$2.53
  • RIM: US$8.26
  • WinMo: US$6.99
Average Price of top 100 applications in different Android Application Stores10:
  • Handango: US$9.10;
  • MobiHand: US$8.87;
  • Handster: US$7.98;
  • PocketGear: US$7.67;
  • Android Market: US$6.47;
  • AndroidPit: US$3.30;
  • SlideME: US$3.17;
  • Appoke: US$2.68;
  • Amazon: US$2.52
On 16 May 2010, TechCrunch reported that the average total development cost of an iPhone app was US$6,543.  (http://techcrunch.com/2010/05/16/iphone-app-sales-exposed/).  I don't have comparible data for Android. 

By way of comparison, from 2002 (http://forum.beyond3d.com/archive/index.php/t-2832.html) we have the following figures for developing software for game consoles:
  • PlayStation €2,100.000
  • Nintendo 64 €510.000
  • Dreamcast €400.000
  • Wonder Swan €400.000
  • Game Boy Advance €350.000
  • PSone €170.000
  • Game Boy €34.000
 Fast forward to January 2010, (http://www.develop-online.net/news/33625/Study-Average-dev-cost-as-high-as-28m) and  we have the following quotes:
The average development budget for a multi-platform next-gen game is US$18,000,000 to US$28,000,000.
Development costs for a single platform project average US$10,000,000.
 I haven't found any reliable data on development costs for Android apps. Given the diversity of hardware for Android, I suspect that development are at least double that iOS development.

Points to ponder:
Given all that, one would be forgiven for assuming that a donation in the US$5.00 range would suffice for obtaining the Pro version. One would also be wrong.

In reading the reviews on the various Android Application stores, there is no correlation between the number of stars that are given, and criticism of this pricing policy.

As best as I can determine, a donation of US$10.00 should enable one to upgrade to the Pro version.(I've seen reports that as little as three dollars works.  I've also seen reports where twenty five dollars has not worked.)

Depending upon the informant, the minimum donation for the Deluxe version appears to be either US$50.00 or US$25.00. In researching this specific issue, I ran across some indicators that suggested that US$40.00 would be acceptable.

Quaker theology teaches that bartering is bad for both parties, because it belittles both parties11. The same principle applies here.

Intended Audience

As an e-Sword clone, the theoretical audience of the software is “new Christians who don't know how to use computers”. As a practical matter, the focus is upon those who wish to have a basic, portable set of Bible resources.

The components, for the most part, support its use for Bible Study groups, or Sunday School lessons.

Usable Features

Textual apparatus is not available with the gratis edition.
Module management is not available with the gratis edition.

Six note/journal resources are predefined.  If you want more, you'll have to migrate to the Pro version.

For some bizarre reason, maps are hidden in the journal section. 


For the initial setup, the device must have a working WiFi connection.

A premium function "Sharing" requires WiFi access, so that the content to be shared can be posted on Twitter, FaceBook, etc. 

User extensibility

Tools for users to create their own MySword resources are available.

No built in macro language is available. There does not appear to be anyway for users to write their own extensions, that hook into the program. 

Accessibility

Tablets, PDAs, and cell phones are not inherently accessible. Specific modifications depend upon the accessibility issue that needs to be met. For example, for blind individuals, a Braille display monitor needs to be included. For individuals with neuromuscular issues, a joystick needs to be included. For individuals with hearing loss, data needs to be displayed on a monitor.

Nonetheless, there are things that software developers can do, to make their program more accessible. I look at the six most common issues that are easy to fix, if one designs the software from scratch, with accessibility as a core concept. Retro-fixing software for A11Y usually results in something failing for everybody.

Colour-blindness:
>Settings >Preferences >Colour Theme” offers four basic options:
  • White with black text;
  • Light Gray with black text;
  • Black with white text;
  • Black with light grey text;

Whilst these aren't the ideal options, they are adequate for most forms of colour blindness.

The Pro version offers an additional six options. None of these options enhance usability for colour blind individuals.

Low Vision:
>Setting >Preferences >Text Size” offers six options:
  • Largest;
  • Larger;
  • Normal;
  • Smaller;
  • Smallest;
  • Custom;
Custom” allows one to select a text size that ranges from 20% of “normal” to 300% of “normal”. This range should be adequate for low vision users.
No Vision:
None of the screen readers from the Android marketplace, or other sources, functioned with this program.

Audio feedback provides no identifying data for icons, and other forms of navigation.

Hearing loss:
This program has neither a built in text to speech nor audio player. Basic accessibility functionality for hearing issues depends upon the hardware, and the installed audio software.

Muscular impairments:
This program does not appear to be able to accept voice input.

Several times, in selecting resources, or adjusting settings, I noticed that the program “jumped”, and what was displayed was not what I intended to select. I could not determine if that mis-selection was due to my neuromuscular issues, or due to the hardware on my device, or due to something in the program. When I've encountered unexpected actions in other programs, the usual result has been an adjustment of the screen magnification.

Inasmuch as I have neither an external joystick, nor external keyboard, I did not try using this program with that type of hardware.

Supported Canons

This software supports the 66 Book Protestant Canon. As such, it is not suitable12 for Anglican13, Catholic, Lutheran14, or Orthodox Christians.

Versification

This software recognizes the KJV versification scheme only. This eliminates the standard Hebrew versification, the standard versification of the Vulgate, and some of the Greek versification schemes.  A further side effect is that recent translations, such as the NIV won't be correctly rendered, because they have a number of small, but significant departures from KJV V11N.

 Supported Languages

The User Interface (UI) is in English. A request for help in translating the UI was made on the BibleSupport MySword forum, on 11 April 2012.

Biblical Language support

The official website offers resources in Greek and Hebrew. Breathing marks, diacritic marks, and nikkud appear to be correctly placed.

Resources in other Biblical languages are not currently available.

Arabic Support

There do not appear to be any Arabic resources for MySword.

I don't know Farsi well enough to say how well it displays. In comparing the text to what was displayed in e-Sword, it looked the same, and thus presumably is correct.

Hebrew resources are correctly displayed in Android 3.0 and higher. (Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich.)

Search in Hebrew resources requires a virtual keyboard that supports that writing system.

CJVK Support

Both Traditional Chinese and Simple Chinese display correctly.

I did not locate any Japanese resources for MySword.

The only Korean resource I looked at displays correctly.

CJKV search requires the use of an external IME. (The IME I tested search with uses a method I'm unfamiliar with.)

Offline/Online Usage

The program can be used offline.

Installation of new resources requires a connection to either the Internet, or a computer that can read/write the Android file system.

Resource Creation Tools

The official tool for creating user resources simply converts TheWord resources to MySword.

Rob Wolfram wrote set of PERL scripts for converting e-Sword resources to MySword. These scripts are available at http://www.biblesupport.com/topic/919-perl-scripts-to-convert-e-sword-9-bblx-and-cmtx-modules-to-mysword/. They run on both Linux and Windows platforms15.

Whilst both of these tools make migration to MySword relatively simple, they both an add an extra step to the process --- creating a resource for a different platform.

Users would also be helped if documentation describing the database requirements was publicly available. Whilst reverse engineering existing resources provides most of that data, not everything that is needed is available. (One example being the version of HTML that is supported.)

Official Resources

There are 139 official resources, of which 37 are English translations of the Bible.

Resources on the official home site:
  • 97 Bibles.
  • 12 Commentaries
  • 19 Dictionaries
  • 7 Books
  • 1 Devotional
  • 1 Sample Journal
  • 2 Maps 
For a total of 139 resources.

User Created Resources

MySwordModules.com consists exclusively of Baptist oriented resources converted  by Pastor David Cox.  This site is essentially a blog, so finding specific resources can be awkward.  He is porting resources he previously constructed for e-Sword and TheWord, to MySword.  What he hasn't yet ported, is his original content, which is the msot useful content on his site.

BibleSupport.com offers 366 (¿370?)16 resources. Of those, 137 are Bible resources17, and 128 are book resources. 
http://www.biblesupport.com/e-sword-downloads/category/26-mysword-modules/
Currently (20120331-00:00) the site offers:
  • 137 Bibles;
  • 76 Commentaries;
  • 19 Dictionaries;
  • 127 Books;
  • 3 Maps;
  • 4 Devotionals;
By my count, that is 366 files. The webpage claims 370 files.
Either way, these files have been downloaded a total of 31,840 times.

One reviewer wrote “you can now have all of your e-Sword resources with you”. Whilst theoretically true, there are three practical limitations:
  • Amount of space to put the resources on18;
  • The lack of support for the Anagignoskomena;
  • Components and functions in e-Sword, that are not in MySword;

DRM

The usual driving force behind DRM is copyright owners trying19 to prevent piracy of content that is commercially distributed. Inasmuch as the MySword developers current policy is to not commercially distribute resources, DRM is not present.

Search

The gratis version limits search to the first 100 hits.
The Pro version does not restrict the number of hits.

FT Search is the default search method. This looks only at the root of the word being searched. Thus, a search for “burn” will return “burn”, “burnt”, and “burning”.

Boolean Search is implemented in the Pro Version.
  • "OR" is Boolean OR;
  • "NEAR" is the proximity indicator;
  • "NEAR/#", where # is a number between 1 and 10, is the distance, in words, between the two words that are being searched for;
  • "-" is Boolean NOT;
These keywords are not always acted upon. One pitfall is that due to root stemming, inexact matches may be returned.

Proximity Search is implemented in the Pro Version. The words have to be within ten words of each other. By using “NEAR/#”, where “#” is a number 1 and 10, words an exact distance apart can be found. Book boundaries are not crossed.   Chapter and verse boundaries are crossed at whim.

Regex Search is not implemented.

Official Support

The official support forum is at http://www.flickr.com/groups/mysword/. Official support is also provided by email.

Official documentation is limited to what is found in the program. This information is also found on the official website.

User Support

An unofficial user web forum can be found on BibleSupport.com.

Video documentation:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7BH_epiS4M&feature=related is a 24 minute video on installing and using MySword. The text is in Spanish. There is no audio description.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fdyfjB2wjI&feature=related is the only other video about MySword that I could find. This video is 3 minutes and thirty one seconds long, and is in Tagalog.

Written documentation:
There does not appear to be any third party documentation. Considering that the program is barely a year old, that lack is not especially troubling. However, it does leave those unfamiliar with Biblical software in the lurch20.

Theological Orientation

The program is designed for Protestant Christianity. Considering the demographics of who purchases Biblical software, this is not unsurprising. However, the major Biblical software vendors do pay lip service to Catholic and Orthodox Christianity. e-Sword, upon which MySword is based, also provides for Catholic and Orthodox Christianity.

User created resources are dominated by Baptist theology. This won't change, until one can create resources for MySword, without first creating a resource for e-Sword or TheWord.

SBL Bible Software Shootout

For these criteria to be successfully completed, three things are needed:
  • Resources that have the required data;
  • REGEX Search functionality;
  • Built in morphological analysis;

Whilst it is theoretically possible to write auxiliary programs to work around those issues, you bump into hardware limitations:
  • Available space for resources;
  • Available RAM to run the program;
  • Chip speed --- can the search/whatever be completed before the user thinks the program has crashed?

    If one is going to go to the effort of writing the requisite resources and auxiliary software, then both Laridian's  PocketBible  and Olive Tree's BibleReader are more suitable option. (One can easilly create the required resources for the former.  The functionality is iffy, but appears to be doable. The latter has both the required resources, and functionality.)

Other things

Currently missing features are:
  • Bible Reading Plans;
  • Verse Lists;

Whilst those can be worked around, the inability to create resources on the Android platform hinders its usability in the field.

In the begining of April, I nearly suggested that the church I attend adopt this as their preferred Bible Study program for Android.  Within a week, I was extremely glad that I did not make that recommendation.  Between clause ten and the "pricing structure", the program is too risky for a church to distribute.

Deleted

I haven't yet deleted this program from my tablet. I probably will do so once I complete a program that migrates data from MySword to e Sword resources. I'm writing that program purely as a means of preserving the notes I made, when testing this software.
2: In Conclusion
The gratis version is tolerable for basic Bible study. For most purposes, it is too crippled to be useful.

Until the developers come out with an explicit pricing policy, I can not recommend this program.

At US$10.00, the Pro Version is adequate for Bible study by those who utilise the 66 Book Protestant Canon, and Bible translations that utilize the KJV versfication scheme.

The Deluxe version, at US$50.00 is overpriced for what it offers. The Pocket Bible Bronze Edition, from Laridian, at US$49.99, offers much better value for money.

This document contains twenty two footnotes22.
This document contains no end notes.

1 Scattered reports imply that a larger screen resolution results in a decrease in the usability of the program.
2 I am using this name as an example. It does not reflect any specific organisation whose activities I am aware of.
3 I made up the name of this organisation. Any resemblance to an existing organisation is completely unintentional.
4 Whilst the number of countries where mere possession of the Bible is a criminal offence, punishable by death, the number of countries that have made proselytizing by Christians a criminal offence, has increased in the last decade. The usual penalty in those countries is death.
5 I am using this name as an example. Any resemblance to an existing organisation is unintentional.
6 Given recent court decisions in Europe and North America, this advice probably should also be taken by residents of those geographical areas.
7 This data was retrieved on 31 March 2012 at 01:54 UT from http://148apps.biz/app-store-metrics/?mpage=appprice.
8 This data is from http://zapp2.staticworld.net/news/graphics/217805-appsprices_slide.jpg, which is part of a slide show published 27 January 2011 at 2:00 AM (TZ not provided) at http://www.pcworld.com/article/217788/smackdown_android_market_vs_iphone_app_store.html.
9 This data was published by Sarah Perez on 22 February 2010 at 8:19 AM. (TZ not provided) from http://m.readwriteweb.com/archives/the_truth_about_mobile_application_stores.php. Their source was Distimo. I could not locate the report on the Distimo website.
10 This data is from http://www.research2guidance.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/android-prices.jpg, which is part of an article posted 20 July 2011 by Egle Mikalajunaite at http://www.research2guidance.com/developing-effective-multi-store-app-pricing-strategy/.
11 In this respect, what vendors in those countries where bartering is the norm, have to say when the purchaser does not barter, is a useful reminder of why it hurts both parties: “The profit might be higher, but the sale leaves a bad taste in the mouth”.
12 The criteria I use is simple --- the ability to read both the Daily Office, and the Lectionary.
13 The Book of Common Prayer includes readings from deuterocanonical material for both the Lectionary and Daily Office. Alternate non-deuterocanonical readings are also listed for those days and times.
14 High Church Confessional Lutherans include deuterocanonical material in the lectionary. Other Lutherans do not use the deuterocanonical books in their lectionary.
15 Thus far, PERL has not been ported to Android.
16 The statistics page claims 370 resources are available. Adding up the number of resources listed for each type of resources gets the 366 figure.
17 This site splits Bibles into two groups: “Bibles” and “Foreign Language Bibles”. Hebrew, Greek, and English Bibles can be found in both sections.
18 I'm not aware of any Android devices that have 128 GB of space for user data. This is the amount of space required for e-Sword resources.
19 “Trying”, because DRM is a futile attempt to defy the laws of nature. It attempts to that which is physically impossible.
20 Whilst the Android Platform is not per se a non-Bible reading community, I wouldn't be surprised to see the same reaction with Biblical software as Xbox navigator found in the gaming community.
21 Whilst Olive Tree couldn't successfully complete the 2009 Bible Software Shootout at that conference, those issues have since been resolved.
22 This footnote is for tracking purposes only.
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