DeeEmm

Pragmatism in code

Waxing lyrical about life the universe and everything software related since lunchtime 2006.

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 the 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 steps 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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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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Time Out

After 6 months of Dolphin development, I have decided that it is log overdue, to take some time out. The change in bias for the site from personal tech Blog to business site, alongside the change in business direction has proven to be a lot less profitable than anticipated.

The focus on Dolphin as a platform for which to develop was seen as a potential with high returns, and so some effort was spent in writing up some simple mods and providing support and development work for it's users. The idea was to test the water and see how the market lay. The reality is that the active userbase is relatively small, as are the returns.

The effort taken to write up even relatively simple mods, is a fairly big undertaking. Testing is required to ensure that mods function correctly, database scripts need to be written to add in additional database fields, and with every update, each mod needs to be tested and updated again. All of this amounted in an inordinate amount of time being required for developing, and maintaining a suite of mods.

The reality is that even with a selection of mods available, there is simply not enough of a turnover to be able to earn a living from, plus there seems to be a massive underground movement in ripping off mods - more so than with any other community that I have been involved with. People rip off your work, and pass it out like it is their right to do so. For someone trying to make a living this sucks.

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Syntax highlighting code in TinyMCE

After a recent tutorial a member mailed me to let me know that the code snippets were not displaying correctly. A quick look told me that this was due to my use of the pre tag, which prevented the text from breaking when it reached the bounds of it's containing element.

The fix was relatively easy - add the following hacks to force the text to wrap for pre formatted text...

word-wrap: break-word; /* Internet Explorer 5.5+ */ white-space: -o-pre-wrap; /* Opera 7 */ white-space: -pre-wrap; /* Opera 4-6 */ white-space: -moz-pre-wrap !important; /* Mozilla, since 1999 */ white-space: pre-wrap; /* css-3 */

But this got me thinking, and jarred my memory to something I was working on a little while back.

I had previously taken a look at syntax highlighting for WYSIWYG editors, this was for use in the DMCMS project where i wanted to allow full editing of template files from within the Admin panel. This is something that I had implemented on an earlier development version but had then abandoned. (For some reason that i can no longer remember)

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FREE RMS Service

For those of you who have been using Dolphin for a while, you will remember that Boonex used to offer a free RMS hosting service for it's free licenses. This service has long since been discontinued, leaving users to either ensure that they find a combined Web / RMS hosting package, or look for a third party RMS host.

Smoge over at ModMySite, has recently introduced a free RMS hosting package on their own servers, for small low bandwidth sites. There are also a variety of paid packages that should support all sizes of sites from small to large.

ModMySite, are a long time Dolphin support site that has been around since the original days of AEDating, way back in 2003, so they certainly know their stuff.

If you're interested in ModMySites RMS services, click HERE

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Boonex Blogs Gone

Well, maybe the title is not strictly true, but for all intents and purposes, the user blogs over at Boonex Unity are now dead. Andrew Boon, in his infinite wisdom, has decided to remove the user blogs from displaying in the blog index, leaving this solely for Boonex team posts. Whilst there is (some) merit in this, from a commercial perspective, it leaves the user blogs with no index, and no way of knowing if there is a new post.

So whilst the blogs still exist, you now have to navigate to each blog individually, via each members user profile to view them. Needless to say, I cannot imagine anyone bothering to post any more.

It's ironic that the focus on the community at Boonex has always centered around their core philosophy of 'Unity', it seems that this is far from uniting people, in fact I woud go as far as to say that it has the opposite effect.

If I were to be blatantly honest, I think that it is Andrews way of dealing with opinions that do not agree with his. I am probably one of the contributing factors in this respect, as i have often made very pointed statements in the Blogs, but if you do not want people to have opinions, why have blogs in the first place? I guess that is what has now happened.

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Boonex Dolphin Security Vulnerability

It seems like this week is a bit of a strange one so far. Not only is it National Cyber Security Awareness Week here in Australia, but first the Boonex site suffered a massive DDOS attack and then my own dolphin site suffered a similar fate. I believe that the two events are probably coincidental, as the attack on my site was not particularly well formed, and was easily defeated - most likely just some kiddie with a script. I managed to get the service that the attack was coming from terminated due to a violation of the providers TOS - they're probably in big trouble with mom and dad now. The attack on the Boonex site continued over the weekend, and there are still some services out of action.

I believe that the main source of the attack on my site was to take advantage of the exploit recently published on Boonex's site, and reported about here on DeeEmm.com in an earlier news article - http://www.deeemm.com/news/154-dolphin-7-security-vulnerability-exposed.html Whilst the noise about this issue seems to have been muted a little, after the attack on my site I am pretty convinced that the solution given by Boonex is no solution at all.

The main crux of the problem was claimed to be the DB_FULL_VISUAL_PROCESSING or DB_FULL_DEBUG_MODE settings, which caused the debug backtrace to be echoed directly to the browser in the event of a fault. Boonex's comments were simply that these were disabled by default and so the issue was a non-issue. This glaring oversight caused an obvious embarrassment to those who made the claims that the issue was with the DB_FULL_VISUAL_PROCESSING setting, this then caused them to promptly back off a little.

Whilst Boonex's solution has seemingly pacified the masses, it does not address the initial issue - that the debug back-trace is getting echoed to the browser in some error situations. The fact is that the issue has been reported by many, and until now no one had been sure of a definite cause, unfortunately the DB_FULL_VISUAL_PROCESSING setting was little more than a red herring, and whilst easily dismissed by Boonex, their solution does not actually fix the issue.

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Dolphin 7.0.1 and beyond

The latest release to Boonex's CMS system - Dolphin 7, has now been out on the wild for some time. Released at Christmas, the much anticipated Dolphin 7 was to be heralded as the latest in web tech, offering an advanced platform for social networking sites that was far ahead of the competition. With several public beta releases, the anticipation was fueled by the glimpses offered in each release, building up the expectations to a massive level. Also adding fuel to this fire, was the long overdue update and bugfix release due for Dolphin 6. As a result, Dolphin 7 had a lot to deliver.

With the release of Dolphin 7 finally made a year later than expected, it was unleashed into the public with a massive amount of issues, over 300 bugs to be precise. This left the Dolphin community a little abashed, with many users having stuck with Dolphin, through the extended development period, now feeling disappointed. Lots of these users had put development plans on hold, with the expectation that the promised release would be the answer to their needs.

It is now a further 5 months down the line, and the recent update release 7.0.1 has addressed many of the problems that plagued version 7. The problems are not completely fixed however, and there are still many issues surrounding how development and releases are handled, but it seems that Boonex are moving in the right direction with a shorter release cycle, and prioritisation of bugs addressed for each release. I previously touched on this issue with one of my blog posts over at unity - http://www.boonex.com/unity/blog/entry/Product_release_cycles

Based on past performance at Boonex, and anticipating the issues and extended wait with version 7, when it was originally announced, I decided to stick with version 6  - This is a choice that i am glad i made. Not only as the expected release date slipped way beyond the original estimate, and there were more issues than even I anticipated, but also as it has meant that I have managed to build my user-base over the past year, and develop the community for which the site serves.

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BoonexNerd Update

Just had a bit of a chat with James Tadeo, who has recently updated his successful Boonex support site BoonexNerd.net to run from the latest Dolphin version - 7.0.0. James blogged about the migration which he said went fairly smoothly using the migration tool that comes with D7, great news to hear for those of us who have still yet to update.

This got me thinking about the update to my own Dolphin site. I started to have a look at this a little while back - i set up a fresh D7 installation, which had a few issues as I had to reconfigure the server setup to suit D7. then I made a start with the data migration tool. I got as far as transferring the user-base over, but have been pretty busy since, and so have never progressed any further.This is something that I really need to make some time to go and sort out.

My main concern was that my D6 site is fairly modified, and whilst D7 does have greatly improved functionality, it does lack some of the mods that my members have come to expect. These mods are a mixture of purchased mods and mods that I have developed myself. There are also a large number of minor enhancements and bug-fixes that are hopefully now covered by the new D7 feature-set. the site has been developed over the past year, which is a nice and comfortable time frame to have developed a site this modded. Unfortunately with the upgrade, time is not that plentiful.

At present I think I will wait for the D 7.0.1. update to be released before revisiting the upgrade. I will have a look into rewriting the current mods for D7 and see how much work is involved, maybe I can temporarily drop a few of the mods to buy a bit of time.

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Delete .DS_Store files

Whilst recently packaging some files for distribution, I noticed that that the folders that i was compressing contained .DS_Store files. These .DS_Store files are hidden files used by OSX to store metadata such as icon position and view settings. They are similar to the thumbs.db file used on windows, and are equally annoying when packaging files up for viewing on other systems.

By default the .DS_Store files are hidden in OSX, unfortunately this is not so for other systems where they are displayed alongside whatever content you packaged Not wanting to have to manually drill down through various folder levels to delete each and every instance, I decided to have a quick google to see what I could find.

First page up led me to Ryan Grier's site, where he has an application called the 'DS_Store Cleaner v1.5' listed. The app has not apparently been updated since January 2005, but this is not an issue, as the app works perfectly.

Basically after unzipping the app, place it somewhere on your mac (the application folder seems like a good spot) and then drag it to your dock to create an icon. Now simply drag the folder you want cleaned onto the DS_Store Cleaner icon. After chugging away for a little while, you will be notified by an alret box as to how many .DS_Store files have been deleted.

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Times a Changing

The site migration is pretty much finished, with just a few small odds and ends to fix up. One of the things that I have left to do is to add in some re-directions for the old content. When moving content it is always a good idea to redirect visitors to the new location with a 403 error response to the users browser. This will in turn be trawled by the web crawlers and your new location duly noted. As the old content locations followed the navigation structure of the old site code, I can add in one or two rules in my htaccess file using mod_rewrite and regex to redirect users from specific areas of the old site.

You may have noticed that the new site no longer runs from DMCMS, and whilst I do feel more than a little guilty about this, I simply did not have the time to integrate shopping carts, trouble ticket systems, forums and user handling into the DMCMS core. It was much quicker and easier to use existing products. Plus, the idea with DMCMS is that it is a simple and easy to use CMS, so integration of additional third party software does not fit with the idea behind it.

The online store is now up and running, although there is currently only one product (DMCMS) this is just for testing purposes. I will add in the premium mods as I develop them. All mods are instantly downloadable on checkout. There are one or two mods for Dolphin 7 already in the works, with more planned to come.Purchasers of premium mods also get access to the helpdesk system for dedicated support.

There are free mods available from the Resources > Tutorial section, this is basically the 'How To' section from the old site, that has now been categorized, I will add hints and tips here as I get time. There are a bunch of mods I developed for Dolphin 6 that I need to convert into proper mod format. My ultimate idea is to strike a balance between free mods and paid mods.

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Mac Database Client

http://www.sequelpro.com/assets/images/g-notebook-header.png

A recent project using a remote database server forced me to go looking for a suitable database client for my Mac. Previously i had used EMMA on Linux, but as I only has my macbook to hand I decided to have a look into what was available.A quick google turned up Sequel Pro - an open source project - http://www.sequelpro.com/

Sequel Pro is a very capable tool, that works flawlessly, it supports SSL connections and had a wide range of encoding options. The layout is instantly familiar to anyone who is used to using phpMyAdmin, and the interface is pretty intuitive to use.

The query editor allows easy query management with both a history feature as well as a favourites menu to keep track of your more frequently used querys, this alone is a great feature for anyone who needs to use the same querys over and over. The query editor also provides basic text editor functionality and syntax highlighting to make life a littel easier, it also includes auto complete.

Overall, if you need a remote database client, or simply want to use something other than phpMyAdmin, I would reccomend Sequel Pro. A great application, at a great price.

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UEX Ultraedit For Linux

uex.jpg

 

It's a very exciting time in the DeeEmm office, we have been made part of the beta team for UEX - yes, that's right - UEX - the Linux version of Ultraedit - the long awaited port of Ultraedit to the Linux platform.The new Ultraedit for Linux is nearing the release date and a few lucky users have been chosen as beta testers - We were lucky to be one of those.

First impressions of UEX are exactly as expected. UEX is very similar visually to UEDIT and UEStudio. It differs in that there are a few features that are missing or different, but it likely that these will appear with the final release.We've been using Ubuntu 9.04 to run the UEX beta on, and we've been using it for the current re-write / tidying of the DMCMS version 1 release. So far our findings with UEX are pretty much as expected with a beta release, mostly the code works as expected, but with the occasional bug / hangup. Hopefully our dilligence with reporting the errors will mean that RC1 will as robust we have all come to expect Ultraedit to be, and that the final release of UEX is not too far behind it.

There are also rumors of a mac port of UEX, although there is no timeline currently available for it. My guess is that once UEX is up and running it will be little matter to port it to the mac platform.

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