Month: ה׳ בתמוז ה׳תשע״ז (June 29, 2017)

Leining (Torah reading)

We are building a Tikkun app to help Torah readers. To make it worth using, it needs to support the ways that Torah readers (leiners) like to study. I found a good discussion about how leiners practice at the judaism.stackexchange.com website. In case you are not familiar with it, this website (also called “mi yodeya”) is a very interesting discussion group for all Judaism-related topics.

Here are some of the recommendations from that discussion:

Chunking: Break the reading up into chunks, and master one chunk at a time. The size of the chunks depends on the reader’s skill level, the section being read, and perhaps other factors.

Understand Hebrew grammar and vocabulary: The more that the reader knows, the easier it will be to get the vowels correct.

Understand the trop system: Knowing the trop patterns and how they are typically used simplifies memorization.

Record/listen: Recording yourself (after you have practiced for a while), and then listening to yourself, can help identify tricky problems.

Schedule: Set up a practice schedule and stick to it.

As we look at what features to build into the app, we will be thinking about how to support as many of these approaches as we can, in addition to the file sharing features that we have been working on to support tutors and their students.

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Deeper into Google Drive

This week I want to update you on our efforts in integrating Google Drive into our Tikkun app. As I wrote last month, we decided that Google Drive provided the best solution at present for giving iOS and Android users a way to share content with each other directly through our app. It will also give users a way to sync their own content and app preferences across multiple devices. In order to make sharing and syncing “just work” for our app, we needed to get a deep understanding of how Google Drive operates, and then how to program the desired functionality. So we have been doing a lot of reading and experimenting, learning how to securely log in and out of Google Drive, create, find or delete a particular folder or file, how to use our own custom file types, and so on. (For those with a technical background, we are using the Google Drive REST API.) We have been able to log in and out of Google Drive on both the iOS and Android versions of our app. We have so far only tested out the various file and folder operations on Android. We will soon move on to doing the same operations of iOS.

Another critical aspect of integrating Google Drive into our app is handling any error conditions that might occur. In particular, the app will need to respond reasonably if a file or folder that is requested is not available. This could be because the item was deleted, or because there is no network connection. Further, if a network connection is metered (i.e., it uses data on a data plan), the app should not make that connection without the explicit permission from the user.

Once we have the level of control that we need in both iOS and Android, we will start looking at how to present information about the user’s content on various sizes of screens. We also need to refine exactly what data we need to store for the user, and how best to organize it. User data management is at the core of what will make the app really useful, and it will, undoubtedly, take some time to get it right.

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Unusual Letter Forms in Tanach

As I wrote about in my previous blog post, one of the reasons that we are developing our own STaM fonts is to better handle the various unusual letter forms in Tanach. Examples include the enlarged bet that begins the Torah, the enlarged ayin in the word שמע, the small alef in the word ויקרא, and the inverted nuns in Numbers 35. It would, of course, be a lot of work for me to research all of these unusual letter forms, were it not for a number of very thorough papers that have been published on the subject. So if you are interested in the subject, here are the links to resources that I have been using:

Typographic details in the Hebrew Bible (Andries E. Brouwer): This paper collects examples from many different sources, and provides extensive, categorized lists of unusual letter forms.

Typesetting the Holy Bible in Hebrew, with TEX (Yannis Haralambous): This paper is concerned with typesetting Biblical text, and provides lists of typographical oddities and how to typeset them using the TEX system.

Also, this chart list all of the unusual letter forms just in Torah: טבלת השינויים בספר תורה (הראל לוי)‏‏

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