DeeEmm

Pragmatism in code

Michael Percy AKA DeeEmm - Waxing lyrical about life the universe and everything software related since lunchtime 2006.
DeeEmm AKA Michael Percy is an industrial software engineer specialising in language based programming. A long time supporter and contributor to the open source community, he can mostly be found tinkering about creating web sites and writing code for various CMS platforms as well as maintaining several websites of his own.

EasyBlog - Display list of blog titles using the Latest Blogs module

When recently migrating the DeeEm.com site I needed a way to be able to organise the tutorials section so that each tutorial was easily accessible. This meant creating an index of blog posts so that visitors could browse through each category so see if there were any mods that applied to their site. Whilst EasyBlog makes provision for listing category titles, there is no way to list the blog posts without additionally showing an intro portion from the post itself. This is achieved using the 'Latest Blogs' module, and whilst there is a setting to control the length of text displayed, even setting this to the minimum possible value, you will still display a couple of newlines in the output.

Whilst digging though the code to see if there was a way that I could modify the CSS or core code to force the list to display as I wanted, I discovered that there is a hidden value within the administration settings for the module that hides the intro text. The solution is to manually apply this value by directly editing the database table.

The value in question is for the 'introtext' variable: (Content be taken from). This will only allow you to select between 'introtext' or 'main content'. What you cannot see is there is a third value 'Hidden'. I assume that this does not display, due to it having the value '-1', or at least it does not display in the browsers that I am using.

The solution is therefore very simple. 

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Jcomment to EasyBlog comment migration

The recent migration from Joomla 1.5 to Joomla 1.7 left me without a comments system for the tutorials section of the site. Previously this was handled by Jcomment, a great component that allows you to easily add commenting to standard Joomla articles, its only drawback, is that the Joomla 1.7 version is still some way from release.

After having taken a look at various options, including several other commenting systems, I decided that the best solution would be to import the tutorial articles into EasyBlog, mostly as this would help keep some continuity on the site. The migration of the posts went flawlessly, as expected, but this still left me with the actual comments to migrate. I briefly considered a manual migration, but then discovered that there are actually quite a few comments on the site.

After a bit of digging around I discovered that EasyBlog creates a table that cross references the old article ID's to the new ID's. This is created during the migration process and the values are stored in the '#__easyblog_migrate_content' table. Perfect for migrating the missing comments across.

Using this table I was able to change the object_id in the original jcomments table to match the new post_id for EasyBlog. I simply ran the following SQL statement from within phpMyAdmin. (You will notice that I've made a copy of the original table into the table h0ahq_oldjcomments, just in case.)

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Black Wednesday

If you are a regular internet user, or even a regular user of other more traditional media, you probably couldn't fail to be aware of the blackout of several well known websites. Amongst the most reported was the blackout of Wikipedia. It's actions receiving a lot of media coverage here in Australia on the radio and television, coverage that was no doubt echoed around the rest of the globe...

 

 

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Busmans Holiday

You would think that working on websites all the time i would have an up to date site myself, the problem is, that by the time I've finished working on everyone else's stuff, i don't really feel like working on my own.  Contrary to popular belief, there is actually a life outside of the internet (it's true :D ), and whilst it can be really hard to drag myself away from the monitor, I make a point of doing other (real and tangible) stuff wherever I can. This is especially true since having children. The upshot of this is that time is at a premium and my own sites suffer, nothing gets updated.

So with new abandon, I'm setting out to update DeeEmm.com. It's been long overdue, but the time has come to give the site a bit of a spruce up. i did take a bit of a look at this some time back, but as the site is still running from the old 1.5 version, the main reason for wanting to update was to upgrade to the newer 1.7 code. Unfortunately the jUpgrade code prescribed by Joomla for migrating to 1.7 did not seem to want to work, however, there is now a new version, and the test migration I performed last night worked flawlessly.

At this time I'm planning to migrate the info over, spruce up the template a little, and maybe (maybe), add a few new features in.

One component that I've been using quite a bit on other sites is EasyBlog from StackIdeas. This will probably see it's way into the update as it's much easier to use than publishing these posts via the Joomla interface. Plus, it comes with all of the bells and whistles that you would expect from an up to date blogging platform.

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New OHS Community

I'm just about to embark on the start of a new project to build an occupational health and safety web portal for engineering professionals. The new site, ohs.eng.pro will provide community tools for OH&S professionals and engineers engaged in safety related roles. The goal of the project is to provide a think space where safety professionals can collaborate on safety related projects, get peer advice and share in discussions realting to all aspects of safety, safety management and safety related products.

The portal will be open to all who wish to join and contribute and aims to provide a central repository of safety information for all to share in. With a focus on improving current safety knowledge and sharing best safety practices, the portal aims to be a truly global endeavour.

Dedicated discussion forums will be provided for a variety of safety related subjects and industries, and each forum is available to be sponsored by comercial entities.

We are currently looking for content contributors. If you are interested in contributing editorial articles relating to any aspect of safety for inclusion in the new site,  please contact us using the contact form below. Contributors will be allowed to promote their own product or company by way of a short 'bio' included at the end of each article.

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Beta Migrator now available for testing

Good news for all those waiting for migrate to JomSocial, you can now download a beta version for testing.

Instructions are included in the file simply view the source code. IMPORTANT - MAKE SURE YOU FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS !! Please note that this is a beta, and still has a few issues. Also not all modules are migrated. The following have been tested and are working Users Profiles Avatars Friends Photos Videos Forums Events Support is also included for Modzzz Points totals Still to finish are... Blogs Sites Groups Other Content Known issues are as follows... Video migration throws error message for embedded videos Events avatar migration throws error message when moving files Forum migration needs to be updated for latest version - it's partially working (was working okay on 1.6) No doubt there are other issues too. Please, please, please, report back your findings HERE so that I can improve this and hone out the issues for RC1. There is still a way to go, but things are moving in the right direction.

Download nautilus version 0.7 (updated 21.09.11)

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First steps

If you are one of those visitors who is expectantly waiting for the release of the Dolphin to Joomla migration script, you will be happy to know that things are moving along nicely and the script will be released before the end of the month. In preparation for this imminent release I have started to prepare the documentation for the installation, including the scope of operation and the requirements for getting it up and running.

The documentation will be provided in a series of articles in the tutorials section which will walk you through the whole process in a step by step manner. It will also cover the setting up of Joomla and Jomsocial, as well as providing installation help for the required third party modules.

The first of these articles is now available to view and is an introduction that covers what you can expect from the migration. To view the article visit...

http://www.deeemm.com/resources/tutorials/60-dolphin-to-joomla-migration.html

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Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day

It's very nearly here. The Dolphin 'Fish Script' to JomSocial migration script is just around the corner.

To continue on with the theme so affectionately adopted by Boonex, I have decided to give the script a nautical name. So with respect to Jules Vernes Twenty thousand leagues under the sea I have named it the Nautilus.

For those of you who have been patiently awaiting me to pull my finger out and get the script written, you will be happy to learn that I only have a few more tables to migrate and it will be finished (after testing of course).

So, just to raise the tension a little, and build the anticipation (in the best Boonex style - LOL)

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Finish What You Started...

I had to laugh to myself when I took a look at the Boonex website earlier today. True to form, and as predicted by me many months ago. It would seem that Boonex are preparing to move on from their Dolphin 7 script and replace it with... you guessed it... Dolphin 8.

As predicted, Dolphin 8 will not share functionality with the earlier version rendering all purchased modifications, templates etc useless. Those choosing to update to the new version will be at the mercy of the vendors when it comes to updating and it is likely that many vendors will use this to force users into purchasing products again. This was certainly my experience when I upgraded from Dolphin 6 to Dolphin 7.

Another issue that I faced when I upgraded was that the URL schema was changed between D6 and D7, this was a major headache as it had a huge effect on my sites SEO rankings, and was something that was not fixable. It would not surprise me to find that Boonex will change the URL schema again on the new update.

The dolphin community are anxious with the news of the upgrade, especially those members that have been around long enough to have experienced this before. Amusingly Boonex seem to be using similar excuses about D8 being the next best thing, and so much better than the last best thing. Quite rightfully there is a lot of frustration amongst the older community members.

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Free Stock Icons

http://icons.mysitemyway.com/icon-banners/black-ink-grunge-stamps-textures-icons.jpg

Occasionally I need to use icons in an application or website, generally I favour the 'standard' stock icon sets like the fantastic and widely used FamFam Silk icon set or Bitcons by Somerandomdude which I utilised in earlier versions of DMCMS. but recently I needed a larger icon set to create buttons for an admin panel that I was putting together for a web based application.

After the usual google search I stumbled across http://icons.mysitemyway.com/ which offer 66 different themed icon sets each based on the same basic pictographs. Each icon set is divided into several categories, such as business or social media and can be downloaded separately. In total there are 128,743 royalty free icons and clipart images available.

The quality and variety of each icon set is fantastic and diverse enough that there is a style available to suit pretty much most application and website designs. I managed to find a 'safety' themed icon set called yellow road signs that perfectly suited the application I am working on. But what was even more impressive was that the icons set included enough of a variety of icons, that I managed to cover every single icon type that I required, without having to create additional icons myself.

A big thumbs up to mysitemyway for their generosity in giving these icons away, if you need an icon set in the near future, be sure to go check them out. I will definitely be considering them for future apps that I write. A big 10/10 from me.

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Last post for LastPass?

Xmarks is a great cross browser bookmark and password sync tool. I've been using it for years to sync my bookmarks between the variety of browsers that I use, which is a boon for those of us who develop for the web.

In January I received an email that Xmarks had decided to discontinue their service. This was also posted to theĀ xmarks blog The reason given was that charging for the service was not part of their original strategy, but their business model was not working for them, and the service was costing too much to maintain.

Fortunately, in stepsĀ LastPass an established password management tool, and save xmarks from their planned demise. They take xmarks over, and continue the service. Great. Except for one thing. Xmarks also syncs passwords, and this conflicts with LastPass. So they decide to phase out password backups from xmarks.

I recently lost all of my passwords and had to retrieve them from my xmarks account - something that I have had to do a few times in the past (computer fails, all info is lost, thank goodness for backups). This is where xmarks really comes into it's own, and before we had time machine, was the only way to successfully retrieve browser based settings.

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Sneak Peek at Dolphin to JomSocial migration script

http://www.deeemm.com/images/jsmigrator.jpg

Progress on the Boonex Dolphin to JomSocial migration script is underway, with the basic dolphin module mapped out and user data already handled by the exporter.

The module is named Js Migrator and will allow migration of user data, and all compatible data available from the standard Dolphin modules. In addition support will be provided for the IBDW wall module.

More to follow...

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iJoomer JomSocial iPhone app trumps Dolphin oo

Whilst surfing the other day I stumbled across iJoomer an iPhone that connects to the joomla platform. Being a recent iPhone convert, and an avocate for Joomla / JomSocial I decided to check it out.

To work with your site, there is both a plugin to install and also a small code modification that needs to be made to two files. The code mod is relatively straightforward, and just involves adding a line of code to each file. With the plugin installed, and the mod done, you can test the application out by downloading it from the app store. Simply search for iJoomer.

Out of the box, the app is configured to connect to the iJoomer demo site. You can easily join the site and test out it's abilities all from the app. I initially did this, whilst checking what was happening on the site from my laptop browser before installing it on my own site. To connect to your own site simply choose settings from the log in screen and add the url of your site.

First impressions are that the app is very well thought out, and much more intuitive and functional than it's nearest rival, the 'oo' app offered by Boonex. The biggest difference between the two apps, is that the iJoomer app reports all wall activity, and with the latest JomSocial update, this even includes comments and 'likes'. It is also possible to add comments or like wall posts right from within the app itself. This is one massive failing of the Dolphin platform, decent wall functionality has to be added as a third party application, and so there is no support for it from within the iPhone app, but even so, the Boonex version does not even report the basic wall stream that is included by default, an epic fail in my opinion. Especially when you consider that it is this activity stream that has become the cornerstone for all social sites.

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Dolphin to Joomla (JomSocial) migration

It's been a while since I've finished the Geeklog to Joomla (JomSocial) migration, and with a new update released by Boonex, I've decided that it is about time to look at migrating my sites away from the Dolphin platform.

With even a mildly modified site, Dolphin updates are usually a nightmare. It is rare that something does not break, or mess up in some manner, so I've decided that instead of wasting time updating third party addons to work with the new Dolphin core, it is much more cost and time effective to write a migration script.

The target platform will be Joomla, running the JomSocial component. This is a comparative product for those who are using Dolphin as a community site, and pretty much, all standard modules have an equivalent Joomla component.

At the moment the project is at the drawing board stage, but the basic outline is complete.

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Migrating from Geeklog to Joomla

[UPDATED!]

Now that the New Year is under way, I've turned my focus back to the Joomla project that i have been working on. This is the migration of an existing Geeklog site over to the Joomla (JomSocial) platform. The basic site design and functionality has now been finalised, and the next stage is to start migrating the existing data across.

The migration away from Geeklog is due to the lack of development on both the Geeklog and GLFusion platforms. Although there have been releases in recent times, these have been little more than security updates. GLFusion promised to take Geeklog into the current Web 2 age, but after over a year, it has failed to really pick up any momentum, plus, with many features missing from the core and requiring non-existant third party plugins, the decision was made to migrate away from Geeklog, to the better supported Joomla.

Unfortunately, it does not appear that many (any) have trodden this path before, and so i was not able to turn up any suitable info from the usual Google, search. This meant a bit of DIY hacking to get the data migrated. I did manage to find enough info on user authentication to be able to figure out how to migrate the users across without needing to get users to change passwords, which is a boon for a site like this one, which has some 1600 odd members.

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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all of our customers and visitors, and best wishes for the new year.

/DM

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WD 10TPVT 1TB Macbook Upgrade.

A short time ago I upgraded the drive in my macbook pro as I had filled up the stock 250GB drive that came with it. After a little research I opted for the WD scorpio blue WD10TPVT 1 TB, as I had found out that even with it's increased height, it would still fit the macbook. But, after only a few months of use the drive has failed.

Fortunately the inbuilt S.M.A.R.T. check threw up an error message informing me of the impending doom, and advised me to back up my data pronto. As I could not get to a store until the weekend, I carried on using the drive for the rest of the week with no issues except running a tad slow.

One interesting thing that I noticed, is that, even though using OSX's 'Disk Utility', showed a S.M.A.R.T. failure (S.M.A.R.T. is a hardware check carried out by onboard diagnostics within the drive unit), Tech Tool's S.M.A.R.T. test passed as okay.

So, I went out at the weekend to buy a replacement drive, and to post the failed unit off for warrantee repair, as it is covered for 3 years. Unfortunately the store did not have a 1TB unit, so I purchased a WD 500GB black unit instead. Interestingly the store owner commented that they had stopped stocking the larger drive due to the high failure rate. It seems that this is one of those cases where bigger is most definitely not better.

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DIY Maps


With the advent of Google maps, it's now very easy to add a map to your website, a few lines of code, and you have added a nicely styled map. The style is of course pretty much fixed, and you have to retain the Google logo, but it's free and easy to use. But what if the style does not fit in with your website, or what if you want to show some geographical data, like highlighting a specific area or region?

 

 

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JomSocial v's Dolphin

A current project that I am looking in to is an update for an existing community site that I run. The site is based on the Geeklog platform and is a typical community site with forums, photo galleries, blogs etc. The problem that I have found with Geeklog, is that the plugins are not really actively maintained. Geeklog used to have a very active community, but a period of stagnation saw many of the contributors leave for other platforms.

I have updated the site a few times in the past, and each time I have ended up having to re-write the integration scripts for things such as the gallery, to be able to update them to the latest versions.

So a recent discussion with the other guys involved in the site has spurned me to take a look into alternatives.

Joomla has always been a candidate for migration, it's perfectly suited to running a site migrated from Geeklog, and has enough pugins already available to the community to be able to replicate our existing featureset. The only real problem, is that there are no migration tools, so this will have to be a custom migration job. Not really an issue, just a little more work.

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Just for fun

Boonex regulars will know that there is soon to be a new policy put in place in Unity, instant bans for anything spoken out of line. There will be no opinions about Dolphin allowed, unless they are positive, and no critiques.

Of course, this will probably mean that i will not last too long, I am, of course, very outspoken when it comes to Dolphin and their developers, and it is only my good nature that prevents me from saying more.

So in response to a forum post, that I am sure will get deleted, and more than likely get me banned, i posted the following.

It will never change, you can disappear for 2 years and then come back here and things will be exactly like they were when you left. (except that the version number will be different) . On returning, at first things may appear to be different, as they will be dressed up in a different way, but the same issues will persist, the same complaints will be made about how the issues are handled, the same regulars will be in the forums complaining about how crap the support is, the same webmasters will be holding out, waiting for the magic version that will allow them to take their sites live, and the same core developers will be selling mods that should be core features.As I know that this will be deleted - I've also posted this on my site - to prove a point. Come back and check in 2 years - It will be the same - I will stake money on it.

To put it in context, it's a thread complaining about Dolphin, how buggy it is, and how Boonex handle management of it. My response is just some thoughts about how it always seems to be the same.

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