scroll-scraper FAQ


Q: What's the purpose of this website?
A: It's a "virtual tikkun" which lets a Torah reader extract a section of Torah which they're planning to study and read in a service.  This extracted section can either be printed, saved on the computer for review, or transferred to a handheld device for future study.


Q: Why not just use the bible.ort.org Navigating the Bible website directly?
A: It's a great website, but it only lets you view a few verses at a time before you have to click to subsequent pages.


Q: May/can I link to a Torah selection on your website?
A: You bet ... that's part of the idea. For example the person who assigns some Torah readings by email can mail instructions to the readers, including these links.  For example, to link to Exodus 15:27 through 16:9, use the link:

    http://scrollscraper.adatshalom.net/scrollscraper.cgi?book=2&startc=15&startv=27&endc=16&endv=9

Note that you should be able to cut-and-paste the URLs from your web browser into your email program, so you shouldn't need to compose these URLs manually in most cases.


Q: I've tried clicking the checkbox "Hide unused sections of readings" but the resulting display is incorrect.
A: This feature won't work if you use an older web browser, e.g. Internet Explorer 5 or Blazer on a Palm Treo 650. If it works for you with most readings, but fails for a particular reading please let me know. This feature is pretty complicated, and it's likely that there are a few special cases which won't work.

If it's working correctly, it should obscure the unused regions of your Torah reading by overlaying those unused sections with a dark shade.



Q: The second column of my printout is split between two printed pages.
A: I've only observed this with Internet Explorer 6.  Your best bet is to ditch IE and use a more-secure browser such as Firefox or Mozilla for most or all of your browsing, and fix your scrollscraper printing problems at the same time :-).  Alternatively, you can go to File->Page Setup and select landscape mode prior to printing, or try IE7 which is reported not to have these issues.


Q: I have trouble printing the light blue/dark blue colors on the right side of the tikkun display.
A: Try selecting the solid-black training-text coloring radio button (it should be the second radio button). If you have other color schemes that you'd like to see, please let me know. Note that selecting a color scheme other than the default light blue/dark blue will result in slower display times, and may be slightly fuzzier than the original images.


Q: Why is the word "scraper" part of the program's title?
A: It's a member of a class of programs called "screen scrapers", because they electronically scan web pages and "scrape out" the desired portions.  By the way, these programs are prone to break when/if the target website changes or goes offline.


Q: What strategies can be used to view these images on a handheld device?
A: A reasonably high-resolution device is required, preferably with a color display.   E.g., the 320x320 display on a Palm Centro is adequate, but the 160x160 display on a Treo 600 is not. Scrollscraper looks very nice on an iPhone.

I've had good success printing to a PDF file from my PC using Adobe Acrobat Professional, and then viewing that PDF using DocumentsToGo Premium Edition on the Palm.   But it would be nice for users to have workable cost-free options; your suggestions are welcome.

Suggestions are also welcome for viewing on PocketPCs and other PDAs.


Q: Which features will you consider adding in the future?
A: In no particular order, prioritized based upon request-frequency and effort required:
  • Add excerpts from Mechon Mamre's website, which has crystal-clear fonts
  • Generating HTML more suitable for specific devices or software (e.g., using explicitly resized images)
  • A fancy Javascript input form which dynamically restricts input to valid chapter and verse numbers
  • Alternate user inputs based upon reading # and assignment style:
  1. traditional (full sedrah),
  2. triennial cycle,
  3. or abbreviated triennial cycle from the Reconstructionist  Kol Haneshamah siddur
  • Other requests


Q: Why do additional verses appear at the beginning and/or end of my output?
A: Better too many than too few :-)  The images from the ORT website are always three lines long, so they will frequently include a verse or two more than was requested.  I recommend that you manually validate your reading's start-point and end-point by one of the following methods:
  • using the provided transliteration excerpt
  • looking up your reading in a Chumash or Bible
  • clicking on the two graphics ("Check reading start" and "Check reading end") which are (optionally) provided on the ScrollScraper output page.


Q: What's with the ugly colors in the transliteration excerpt?
A: The intent is to show the entire first verse and last verse of the reading, but to draw your eye's attention to just a few words which you'll need to validate your reading's start-point and end-point.  The color scheme is based on traffic signals; green to start, yellow when it's almost time to stop, red when it's time to stop.


Q: Why are there restrictions on MP3 creation?
A: Unlike the RealPlayer recordings, the MP3 recordings require significant scrollscraper system resources (processing, disk and bandwidth). While no abuse of this capability is anticipated, some reasonable constraints have been established.


Q: What are the restrictions on MP3 creation?
A: These are subject to change. Currently a single IP address may generate a maximum of 8 MP3 recordings per calendar day, totalling no more than 30MB. All ScrollScraper users combined may generate no more than 100 recordings per day totaling no more than 300MB. No single recording may exceed the formula (audio repeat count) * (verse count) > 72.


Q: What's with that robotic-sounding introduction to each  recording?
A: The introductory voice is indeed robotic-sounding, but was easy for me to use within ScrollScraper.  It seemed important to include a label identifying each recording, and also to explicitly acknowledge WorldORT's copyright.


Q: The recordings don't properly represent sof-aliyah for the reading that I'm preparing.
A: The ORT recordings follow the canonical full-kriyah sof-pasuk and sof-aliyah conventions.  For many of us who prepare non-standard reading excerpts, there's no solution for this.  You must make the mental correction while practicing for your Torah reading.


Q: How can I "capture" the RealPlayer audio recording from my computer and carry it around on my iPod or other MP3 player?
A: (This issue has been mostly rendered obsolete since MP3 output is now supported by ScrollScraper) There are a number of solutions, many of which will work best if you purchase a 3.5 mm audio patch cable:
  • capture the audio from your computer while it plays through your speakers, using software such as Audacity in conjunction with LAME.  For some computers you will be able to directly capture your system's audio as it plays, while for others you will need to connect a patch cable between your "line out" and "line in" ports.
  • if your MP3 player has recording capabilities, then you may find it easiest to record directly from your computer onto your MP3 player


Q: Is this really the only online virtual tikkun?
A: I'm not sure.  I've heard rumors of others but haven't been able to locate them.  The only exception to date is the experimental and ambitious Tanach on Demand website which I found in Wikipedia, but this is much harder to use and definitely in an experimental state.  Then there's the excellent Mechon Mamre, which has much clearer fonts than what ScrollScraper is able to provide, but is not very tikkun-like.   Also, here's a nice clearinghouse with multiple sources of Torah texts, including ScrollScraper itself.


Q: What about proper disposal of printouts?
A: The paper-free electronic versions don't require disposal, and seem to be permitted by most halachic authorities.  In any case, these same issues exist with the ORT website itself.   If you make a printout, it might need to be disposed of in a genizah; consult your rabbi.


Q: Is the source code available?
A: Absolutely.  Here it is.  Don't forget to obey the license restrictions stated near the top of the file.



Q: I love ScrollScraper and don't know how I ever managed without it!  What can I do to show my appreciation?
A: Drop me an email (ScrollScraper is "thank-you-ware").  Also if you feel moved to make a contribution to the organization which provided the underlying technical resources, WorldORT, that would be very nice.



Contact: Jonathan Epstein (jonathan.epstein@adatshalom.net).   Comments, requests and bug reports welcome.
Last modified 02 September 2009