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Author Topic: Interfaith Explorer (FREE) - Mini-Review  (Read 3609 times)
IainB
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« on: September 25, 2013, 08:41:15 PM »

Originally posted:2013-09-26
Last updated2013-12-30

Basic Info
App NameInterfaith Explorer
DescriptionReligious text repository and referencing system, available in 20 languages.
Thumbs-Up Rating Thmbsup Thmbsup Thmbsup Thmbsup Thmbsup
App URLOnline version: http://bahairesearch.com
Download the client: Interfaith Explorer
App Version ReviewedSeveral versions, up to and including v2.4.0 (current)
- trialled by me in English and also with the French plugin. There are 20 language plugins in total.
Test System SpecsMS Win7-64 Home Premium
Supported OSesPC Windows (various) andiPhones, iPods & iPads
Support MethodsRegular updates and access to feedback to/from the application developers.
Upgrade PolicyAutomatic updates.
Trial Version Available?Not applicable (This is FREEware.)
Pricing SchemeNot applicable (This is FREEware.)

Intro and Overview:
I maybe should apologise, as this review is probably long overdue. I knew I should do it, but had kept putting it off because it takes work to do that, and I am essentially lazy. However, because I thought the software was good, I have occasionally posted positive comments about Interfaith Explorer scattered over a few years' worth of discussions in the DC Forum. (If you do a search, you will find them.)

However, yesterday I made a long post about it in a Basement discussion thread, and in response, @Renegade commented:
Holy shit! Wink That looks awesome! Running out to download and check it out....
That really should be posted in the General Software forum. Looks like a very cool piece of software.
______________________

So I am guiltily rectifying matters now.
Rather than write an introduction out from scratch, here is the post from the Basement thread God's Server that I had made in response to someone else's earlier comment. This should suffice as an introduction, as long as you appreciate that context:
It is said that God is infinite, omniscient and omnipresent - and for all we know that could be true - so by definition he probably can't be "too busy". That is, there would arguably be no queuing involved.
However, that doesn't mean that you can't use computer network servers to spread the word. Previously largely a purely manual process and the domain of "holy men" (rabbis, vicars, priests, imams or their acolytes) spreading the word involved preaching to assembled congregations and reading out passages of various bibles and sacred texts for students/worshippers to recite and learn by rote.

Recite no more. Automation of the manual process and some subsequent enlightenment can now be easily distributed across the network, relatively painlessly. The best example of this that I have come across is via the Bahai faith's website - http://bahairesearch.com
There they have the online Interfaith Explorer, and you can read and cross reference the main books from the main religions.
You want it offline too? No problem. From this superbly informative website, you can download the local client application (for various languages) Interfaith Explorer
Once you have that you can read and cross reference the main books from the main religions on your laptop/PC.

Prepare to be somewhat amazed. Well worth at least an exploratory read.
I reckon that's as close as you are likely to get to an earthly God's server, until you get to go to that Ultimate Data Centre in The Cloud - so make the most of it.


____________________________

Examples - screenshots/clips:
  • 1. A typical startup screen


    (Enlarged startup update window)


    (Main User Interface - English)


    (Left-hand pane showing partly-opened books list)


  • 2. Menu examples - French/English - different coloured backgrounds.

    ________________

    ________________

    ________________



Who this software is designed for:
Anyone who might be interested in expanding their knowledge of theology, religions, religious books/bibles and comparative theology.

The Good:
Incredibly useful and excellent collection and indexed search capability of the important religious texts from the different major/old religions of the world. Various versions/translations are provided - e.g. there are at least 6 English translations of some of the different versions of the Koran/Qur'an. There is only one version of the Christian bible  - the King James Version.

Needs Improvement:
(No notes on this as I have not seen any drawbacks in the software or its content, though I would like it to include some other religious works - e.g., Swedenborg's profound religious philosophy.)

Why I think you should use this product:
If you are interested in expanding your knowledge of theology, religions, religious books/bibles and comparative theology, then Interfaith Explorer will be of great assistance in this.
Gives you the ability to review and compare a pretty full range of biblical texts in a way that you might not otherwise have been able to do.

How it compares to similar products:
(No notes on this as I have not trialled any similar products.)

Conclusions:
  • As I said in the above quoted post.
    Quote
    Prepare to be somewhat amazed. Well worth at least an exploratory read.
  • Incredibly useful, and it's FREE.
  • No-fuss, simple and quick download and installation.
Last, but not least, this software and its resources are made accessible to speakers of (so far) 20 different languages: (per http://bahairesearch.com/...inApp/Pages/Download.aspx)
« Last Edit: December 29, 2013, 09:34:09 AM by IainB; Reason: Added languages list and details. » Logged
Renegade
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« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2013, 10:01:09 PM »

Ooops. Didn't mean to make more work for you! But good job on the review!

It's heavy on Baha'i texts, but it looks like you can manually add more relatively easily as the files are all nice, simply flat text files. (Looks like you could add in just about any text file and extend it to something entirely new, like a philosophy and religion comparative reader, etc.) I've not tried that yet, and haven't read the docs - just played with it a bit so far. But it looks pretty damn slick for what it does.

It doesn't look like a replacement for something like SwordSearcher, but gives a higher level overview across faiths.

The lack of notes in there is a bit of a drawback, but not really a big one.

It also stems words, which is really nice. e.g. You can search for "<X>ment" and it will turn up "<X>", etc.

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tomos
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« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2013, 01:02:35 AM »

Thanks Iain, I had read your original post about it, and downloaded it.
This might give me the impetus to install Thmbsup
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Tom
IainB
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« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2013, 01:15:46 AM »

@Renegade: You could reasonably expect that it would include all the Baha'i texts, since it is a Baha'i-created repository, after all, but actually it seems pretty comprehensive over the other faiths' texts too - though that is only what I observed from the English translations, so I am unsure whether it might be true for translations in other languages.
For example, having six (6) English translations of the Koran ("Qur'an") is quite impressive, but the French version ("Le Coran") looks pretty limited in that regard, by comparison.

Another impressive thing: the principles of the Baha'i faith make it genuinely inclusive - and seem to make it and its representatives independently take up the mantle of responsibility for accepting, embracing and accommodating all those other religions, and for providing this sort of central, safe and "Open technology" repository for their religious texts, for posterity.
Given that Bah'ism is a branch of the Islamic sect, I find that inclusive aspect of the faith a most hopeful sign for mankind, though it apparently marks Baha'ists out as blasphemers and unbelievers in the eyes of many of the orthodox and exclusive Wahhabist form of Islamicism, whose acolytes have apparently decreed that Baha'ists are all going to have to die and burn in Hell for eternity for their blasphemy, or something. It must take real faith/conviction and guts to be a Baha'ist (or a Christian for that matter) in the Middle East.

You might not know this, but I am pretty skeptical of religion (and religious belief and religio-political ideology) in general. However, I have to say that I rather like the Baha'i faith - it seems to me that it really does deserve the name of "The Religion of Peace"™. Certainly more so than an orthodox older sister/bother who might falsely try to lay claim to that title - e.g., Christian or Islamist.
For evidence, you only need to look at the example of that website (http://bahairesearch.com) and the Interfaith Explorer - all apparently pulled together by two guys -  Ian Vink and Runa Ali. A seriously inclusive and dedicated effort and a work of faith and (I suspect) of love.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2013, 01:24:26 AM by IainB; Reason: Minor corrections. » Logged
Renegade
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« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2013, 01:38:06 AM »

I did get the impression that the author was Baha'ist, but didn't look into it any deeper than the initial GUI.

And heck yeah, gotta credit him for making it free and inclusive like that. A fellow I know makes Bible study software, and he sure doesn't do it for free! smiley (Gotta put food on the table somehow.)

A good friend of mine is an Orthodox Christian, and from talking with him, they seem extremely open to a lot of things and encourage questions much more so than you get in a lot of other religions.

When looking at a lot of religions, there's a lot of good in there. It seems to sometimes be a minority of people that help ruin things though. Meh, that's par for the course though. It's nice to look and find some good.
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IainB
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« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2013, 12:12:56 PM »

^^ Yes, orthodox Christians generally seem to have become pretty well-behaved and peaceful this century, but nevertheless they have suffered and continue to suffer persecution in different parts of the world.
The Baha'i faith is an interesting sect, relatively very young, not barmy, and seems to have been "made up" starting from 1844:
Quote
23 May 1844 – Siyyid Ali-Muhammad, a 25-year-old merchant in the city of Shiraz, Persia, announces that He has been sent by God to prepare humanity for a new age and the imminent appearance of another Messenger even greater than Himself. Source:  - http://www.bahai.us/welco...ders-and-history/history/
________________________
I guess because Mohammed had earlier proclaimed himself to be the absolute last true prophet of Allah, and that any subsequent prophets would thus be false, was probably a major reason why the Baha'ists were/are persecuted (for their "heresy/blasphemy").
By comparison with olden times, making up a new religion nowadays seems to be a relatively very easy and safe thing to do, and can apparently be highly profitable, especially if they are granted tax-free charitable status - and it seems the barmier the better (e.g., Scientology, the Moonies).
Still, I'd give the Baha'ists top marks for their apparently wholesome principles/ethics and lack of fascist religio-political ideology/dogma.
I do think there is a lot of truth in the old saw that:
Quote
By their fruits ye shall know them.
- just look at the Interfaith Explorer, for example. That's evidence of benevolence and good curatorship and good curatorial practice, right there.
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TaoPhoenix
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« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2013, 09:26:13 PM »


My remarks will have to wait a few days until my project machine comes back online.

I will test out the Buddhism section because that's a bigger faith than most people realize.

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IainB
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« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2013, 12:16:25 AM »

My remarks will have to wait a few days until my project machine comes back online.
I will test out the Buddhism section because that's a bigger faith than most people realize.
Yes, that's what my Thai (Buddhist) wife just reminded me.    smiley
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« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2013, 12:19:38 AM »

My remarks will have to wait a few days until my project machine comes back online.
I will test out the Buddhism section because that's a bigger faith than most people realize.
Yes, that's what my Thai (Buddhist) wife just reminded me.    smiley

Guess I'm not the only one with a (mini) altar at home. Wink
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TaoPhoenix
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« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2013, 12:25:15 PM »

Okay, my project machine is up and I have full strength internet, so les'see this thing again...

Ongoing notes:

1. Save your experience to only trying this program out with a good internet connection. Some of the downloads are rather large and/or it needs processing power. For example it's maxxing out my CPU doing the index updating on my at least medium grade project machine, which clarifies why my old laptop didn't stand a chance.

2. Between the cpu and a memory spike over 400 megs, I did crash once so far. (My XP box, 2 Gigs ram.) I tried setting the process "below normal" to see if that helps.

3. Slightly Very unintuitive status info! For example you can think you have completed your update only to find not so much is there. So then when I clicked around and went to "scan for new" it seems to have found more documents. As of this note I am trying to find the Buddhist update, and it's not quite easy. I keep trying to click "Buddhist" and add documents and I keep getting more Bahai ones. So it might only have an example shell of the other faiths!

... Continually doing "scan for documents" seems completely unclear! It seems to be doing some mix of adding only a few docs at a time in sweeps, and repeating some. The names click by pretty fast. I'll try a few sweeps.

4. I found a bug! I "Hard-Closed" the program during a scan and it lost its database! I am re-scanning it back!

« Last Edit: September 29, 2013, 01:52:21 PM by TaoPhoenix » Logged
TaoPhoenix
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« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2013, 01:51:36 PM »

Final Opinion:

A really good start as far as it went!

But it does seem to lack some important things around the edge!

1. Really weak Buddhist section! There's really nothing there.
2. The power is that it runs off source documents. But that is also its downfall! Once you have the basic materials, I am finding I don't need the explorer! Instead, just use more typical text processors of your choice (see the various threads) and then you can do anything else you normally would to a text file!

And so I leave it!

« Last Edit: September 29, 2013, 02:00:20 PM by TaoPhoenix » Logged
Renegade
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« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2013, 09:29:41 PM »

Instead, just use more typical text processors of your choice (see the various threads) and then you can do anything else you normally would to a text file!

Kind of, but not really. Check this:



You search for "murdered" but get "murderer" returned. Stemming is a great tool that you won't get in a text editor unless you are searching through files using regular expressions and know how to properly stem words yourself. It's quite a bit more effort to go through. It was one of the first things I noticed in there as it's such a great feature to have.
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IainB
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« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2013, 09:32:51 AM »

UPDATE 2013-12-30:
The initial Mini-Review was for Interfaith v2.2.1
I only just now updated it to Interfaith v2.4.0
There were also updates to the documents (for several faiths) in the database, which latter then needed re-indexing.
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