Google still has a long way to go

August 25, 2008 in Mark, Bible translation, Language, Swahili

Google now has a homepage for its search engine in Swahili:

According to this page Google has translated at least 1% of its main site in 152 languages. Not bad, especially considering that these languages are spoken by several billion people worldwide.

According to Wycliffe Bible Translators, the most translated book of all time, the Bible, has been translated into 438 languages. Another 2,016 have at least some of the Bible translated into them.

But that leaves over 2,200 with a need for Bible translation and no project yet started. Many of these languages don’t have a written form, so in order for the Bible, Google or any other text to be translated and written down, an alphabet and writing system must first be developed.

The efforts of Google and others (like Ubuntu, who are currently translating into 189 languages) are to be applauded, and will make their products accessible to the vast majority of people worldwide. But for the Bible, a message from God’s heart to man’s heart, it’s not enough to translate into the 150 or 200 most major languages in the world.

Rather, the message of God’s good news to all nations must be made available to each and every person in the language of their heart, however uneconomical it may seem. No businessman would ever translate his product into a language spoken by 100 people in a village in Papua New Guinea – it just doesn’t make business sense. But then not many shepherds would leave 99 sheep on their own in order to search for the one sheep that wandered astray.

Which is why the Bible will always be the most translated book. God has created each and every person uniquely and loves them just as they are. He will stop at no lengths to draw each person to himself. If we are to reflect God’s character as we join in with his mission to the world, we must make the Bible available to every person in their own heart language.

7 reasons why we use (Ubuntu) Linux

March 31, 2008 in Mark, Computer

For the past 2 and a half years, I (and now we) have been using the Linux Operating System on our laptop. For the last year and a half we’ve been using Ubuntu – probably the easiest version of Linux for people like us who have been used to Windows.

Why do we use Linux and not Windows? Here are 7 reasons:

  1. No viruses / spyware / malware. The security on Linux is a lot better than on Windows. On a new Windows computer, the first thing you have to do is install anti-virus software and a firewall. On Linux, it is very difficult for a virus (or any other program) to run itself without you asking it to, so your machine is much more secure (and as a bonus it tends to do a lot less annoying things that you haven’t asked it to do).
  2. It’s faster. Obviously different programs are different sizes, and some can make your machine go slow. But at least with no anti-virus and no additional firewall software constantly running, Linux has a big headstart over Windows.
  3. It’s free (in terms of cost). No Windows licenses. No paying for updates for programs. I hate paying for things when there’s a free equivalent (especially if it’s better).
  4. It’s free (in terms of the licensing). Linux is open source, meaning that it’s not only free in terms of cost, but that you’re free to do whatever you want with it – copy it, change it or whatever. OK, most people don’t want to go fiddling around with the inner workings of their computer, but if there’s something that you would like to change, chances are someone else has already done it and written up about it online.
  5. It does what you ask it to. No more, no less. One of the annoying things that I find about Windows is that when a program crashes, I invariably have to open Task Manager, click on End Task about 10 times, and then wait several minutes before the program actually stops, the taskbar disappears and reappears, and eventually I can continue working. Even then the computer often keeps doing funny things until I decide to reboot. In Linux, if I stop a crashed program, it stops, no arguing or answering back (or asking me if I want to send a report to Microsoft).
  6. It’s completely customiseable. I can easily reorder the windows in the taskbar, have multiple virtual desktops and add “applets” showing the weather and any number of other things. If I want to do more than the (extensive) desktop options allow, it’s just a matter of searching on the internet to find someone who’s already done it, and following their instructions!
  7. It’s the way forward for Bible Translators in developing countries. All of the above (particularly 1, 3 and 4) mean that it is very well suited to developing countries, especially given the fact that most people in the developing world aren’t used to using Windows. I’m not sure that the One Laptop Per Child project is necessarily a good use of resources, but I’m convinced that where computers are needed in the developing world, Linux is the solution. One of the reasons I started using Linux was because I thought it had great potential for mother-tongue Bible Translators, and so I wanted to be familiar with it.

OK, it’s not all plain sailing on Linux. Sometimes there are issues with hardware (parts of the computer) not being easily compatible (almost always because they’re designed for Windows). For example our wireless card was difficult to get to work for a while, but it’s worked fine with the last two Ubuntu releases (April and October 07). And we have some issues with the graphics driver – mostly when I connect it to a data projector to do a presentation, in which case it only works at 800×600 resolution.

But, especially with Ubuntu, Linux is now easier to use (and try out) than ever.