<bitRip>

Frequently Asked Questions

So what's this all about?

BitRip displays selected bits from web sites. Once you defined how to get them, you may access them directly with a single link. Saving this link in your bookmarks will give you quick access to the desired information. Presented clearly, up to date and lightweight.
There are two main views of bitRip. The one you're watching right now, together with the overview of the existing rips and the possibility to edit them. This view is meant for managing and creating bitRips and requires a bit of learning on how to build such bitRips. It is possible to combine several bits of information on one resulting page, even if they origin from different web sites.
The other view is the result you get from a bitRip and is usually accessed directly. The layout is very simple and contains a minimum of distraction. The focus is on directly spotting the required information without the need for any preceeding navigation. This view is also optimized for mobile devices.


And everybody gets to edit everything here?

Uhm, of course. Why build a user registration, verification and data collection system, if you can have the same service without that? Every bitRip created may be viewed and extended by everybody. This supports collaboration and cooperation instead of solitary people. And, as bitRips have a complete history and cannot be deleted (only moved to a trash), nothing will get lost by overriding.


What the heck is XPath and how does it work?

Let me spare you some of the details here. For bitRip, XPath is used to find the bits you want to rip from a web page. Every web page is build with a simple markup called HTML. A basic web page with a title and some paragraphs would look like this in HTML:

  <html>
    <body>
      <h1>Hello there</h1>
      <p>This is an example.</p>
      <p>Even with two lines.</p>
    </body>
  </html>
As you may have noticed, everything in HTML is surrounded by funny keywords in pointy brackets. These are called tags. Tags may surround other tags again, and they never overlap. Now, what has this to do with XPath? A XPath defines, as the name says, a path to a certain element. It does so by joining all the tags from the beginning down to the desired element with slashes. In above example, the XPath for the paragraphs would therefore look like /html/body/p. Easy, isn't it?
Well, the hard part is to figure out the XPath for your bits in larger web pages. First, you have to open the HTML source code of the corresponding page. This should be achievable somewhere in your browser menu. Then, with a simple text search, you have to identify your desired element in the source. From there, follow the enclosing tags upwards and voilà, you have the required XPath.
In certain cases, one XPath might match more than one element. In our above example, which one of the two paragraphs is matched? Well, both are. If you want to exactly specify which paragraph to use, you have to count and give the corresponding position in the XPath as well: /html/body/p[1] is the first, /html/body/p[2] is the second. Please note that positions may be defined for every tag in the XPath, not only for the last one.
Ok, some much for now. Of course, there are many more options and ways to find your bits with XPath. There is a quite a good overview and also a couple of links at Wikipedia. As you should be surfing with Firefox anyways, there are two plugins, XPather and Firebug, that let you easily find the XPath of any HTML element. Should you be interested in scientific specifications, check out the stuff at the W3 Consortium.


Why does my XPath not work?

In most cases, your XPath does just not match anything in the ripped page. Please consider the following possibilities:
- The page fetched by bitRip is not exaclty the same as you see in your browser. Many web sites detect which browser you are using and what language is set in your preferences. Some even try to detect your geographical location. If possible, figure out a location independent address of your desired page (e.g., http://www.google.com/ncr for the plain, unlocalized Google start page). It's important to make sure bitRip really gets the same page as you expect. You can achieve this by defining a bit with the XPath set to '/', which will display the entire page.
- If you use a browser plugin to look at your source code or to extract an XPath, they do not necessarly display the source as returned by the web server, but a fixed version. This is actually a good thing, but as bitRip will use the source as returned by the web site, it may get a little confusing. For example, the Firefox plugin Firebug will add <tbody> tags inside all tables, as well as in generated XPaths. If you get your XPath from Firebug, make sure to remove additional tbody elements from your path.
- Last but not least, web sites may just return invalid HTML code. This is usually fixed by your browser, but not by bitRip. Try using a different XPath. For example, it is sometimes possible to ignore the first couple of elements from your path. So instead of /html/body/p, you would get the same result in above example just with /p.


You say accessible with a single click but still ask me for input when a bitRip uses forms?

So we do. Instead of filling the forms with a predefined value (which is possible as well), we think bitRips may be used more generically like this. For example, a bitRip that questions your location to display the corresponding weather forecast can be used for all possible locations. Once you are viewing the results of such a bitRip, there is a link containing all the information you entered. With this link, you have the single click access for your location. And your friend from the other town may re-use the same bitRip, just with his location.


Is bitRip secure?

NO, IT'S NOT! We do not use encrypted connections, so all forms you send over bitRip will be transmitted in plain text. This also goes for your passwords. It is your decision if you want to enter your sensitive data here.
Also beware that it is possible to include malicious scripts in the rip result. Do not accept any download prompts or such. All in all, bitRip is just as secure as the rest of the world wide web is. Please report misuse at webmaster/at/codez.ch.


Why do I need JavaScript to edit bitRips? Don't you know it's Satan's work?

Sorry about that, but without wanting to start a religious flame war, we believe it's time for a decision. As a rather complex service, it would be a pain to edit bitRips without JavaScript. We only use widely known and approved libraries such as Script.aculo.us and Prototype. So: no JavaScript, no editing bitRip. Still, all the other functionalities should work without. It is no problem to just view a bitRip in a simple browser without JavaScript.
By the way, as firm believers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, we adore JavaScript for its wonderfull possibilities to write delicious spaghetti code and would therefore never abandon it.


Why is everything so slow?

While bitRip returns only the desired bits of information, it still has to fetch the complete web page in the background and extract these bits for you. Plus, if some navigation is required to get to the selected bits, these intermediate pages have to be loaded as well. So there is quite a lot of traffic going on, and this takes its time. But still, bitRip should be a lot faster than you to perform these actions. Especially if you have a slow connection, as it's still the case on mobile phones today.
Nevertheless, our servers are not the fastest either. Any donations for buying more hardware are greatly appreciated. Please see the contact information below.


But is bitRip Web 2.0?

Don't worry! BitRip IS Web 2.0. It's all about mobile-user-enabled-wiki-style-meta-meta-mashups, plus a slight taste of piracy.


What is this site made of?

Basically, bitRip is Scrubyt on Rails. The first is a library for extracting arbitrary parts of websites, written in Ruby. The interface is pretty similar to what is provided here. So you might find some further explanations, ideas and solutions on their website. The later is a big time hyped web framework and provides the functionality to build this bitRip editing website.
Furthermore, there is a good foundation with PostgreSQL, Apache Httpd, Phusion Passenger, a hand full of CentOS and some selected spices. All together, bitRip is completely built on Open Source Software.


This bitRip thing is soo toatally awesome, I wanna dedicate all my life to you! What is your bank account number?

How about you contact us about this one on webmaster/at/codez.ch? We're sure we'll find a decent agreement. Of course, plain comments, raves and hugs are welcome as well.


What are the terms and conditions?

Ok, there always must be somebody asking this... BitRip is provided to you at no costs. All copyrights belong to their owners. All data copyrights belong to the respective providers. BitRip provides no guarantee of service, nor of correctness of the displayed data. A created rip may be removed at any time without notice. We reject the responsibility for any damage done in relation with using this service. There is basically nothing you can expect from bitRip. Except maybe the answer to life, the universe, and everything.



Top