DeeEmm

Pragmatism in code

Pragmatism in code

Waxing lyrical about life the universe and everything software related since lunchtime 2006.
This tag contains 4 private blog which isn't listed here.

New JomSocial and Hikashop Plugins

New JomSocial and Hikashop Plugins

I've been busy tidying up and publishing some of the plugins and extensions that I use across my sites. Most of the plugins are simple extensions for JomSocial that add a bit of extra functionality that is not included within the core but there are also a few for Hikashop and Virtuemart as well.

I still have some other extensions and components planned for release over the coming weeks / months and will release these as they are finalised and tested. Most are simple but there are also one or two fairly complex components that I may also decide to publish.

So far the following plugins are available for purchase within the webstore:

 

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EasySocial, raising the bar for Joomla social extensions

EasySocial, raising the bar for Joomla social extensions

If you are familiar with Stack Ideas products, such as the blogging component that you are reading from right now EasyBlog, you might have noticed that on their site they have been promoting a soon to be released social networking component called EasySocial. I first noticed this a few weeks back and I must admit I got a bit excited. Not one to usually get emotional over such things, the idea of a social networking component written by the excellent Stack Ideas team definitely has appeal.

I have a love / hate relationship with most extension vendors and products but my experience with Stack Ideas has been great, the support is excellent, the products are intuitive and of the best quality, and what's more they just work. No fuss, no hacking, no convoluted setup, they work with the minimum of fuss and continue to do so. So when I received an email that there would be a webcast on the upcoming EasySocial, I signed up right away. 

Watching the webcast last night I was blown away by the quality of component. There has been a years worth of development so far and there are still features that are being held back for the next release (Boonex please take note). The component includes many ideas and suggestions from the Stack Ideas user base and whilst it was said that the component was not designed to specifically compete against JomSocial, it certainly raises the bar. 

In many respects it is similar in functionality to JomSocial, it follows the standard format for social networking components - that of a facebookesque type of site with an activity wall, profile pages, messaging capabilities, etc. Where it differs is how these components have been executed, it's the fine details that really set it apart. There is a liberal use of AJAX for all functions resulting in what appears to be a very nice user experience, the interface also appears to be very intuitive, although this is obviously hard to really get a feel for from just watching on a webcast.

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JomSocial CSS Maxification - less is actually more

JomSocial CSS Maxification - less is actually more

Just been putting a site together on the new JomSocial version 3. One of the first things I always do (as you should) is create a new template - a clone of the original one. This way I can hack away at creating the site and develop the template as I go along without changing the default.

Changing the style of elements by CSS is a pretty normal act and one that I prefer to do with the original CSS and not by overrides as is always suggested by vendors. Normally I use Coda to de-minify any minified CSS and then re-minify it once I have finished. For some reason I was hitting a few issues when de-minifying the standard templates style.css file, it seemed to be replacing any reference to images with an ASCII reference instead of the path and filename data. Guessing that this must be due to the method used to compress the file (something other than the normal whitespace stripper) I went on a hunt to find out what was up with the new CSS file format.

Not finding too much I stumbled across This Post which simply suggests that the CSS files should not be modified but does not say how they were compressed and how to de-minify them. It does however give a clue - 'use less compiler'.

So I goggled 'useless compiler' and came across the http://lesscss.org/ website. I say 'useless' with my tongue in my cheek, for on the first page there is a bit of a breakdown showing some examples, one is the use of variables.

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Running CRON for JomSocial

To enable your JomSocial site to communicate with it's members you need to set a CRON job up to pop messages off of the mail queue. This is done by calling the following script. "http://yourdomain.com/index.php?option=com_community&task=cron"

Normally this can be easily achieved by adding a cron via cPanel or whatever your flavour of web admin interface happens to be. If, like me, you are running a virtual or dedicated server you might need to add a CRON via the command line.

My particular flavour of linux happens to use the crontab function to run CRON tasks. To add a cron job its simply a case of running the following command

sudo crontab -e

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JomSocial Group Discussion Exploit

Been getting spam for quite a while in a few of my JomSocial sites so decided to take a look into why. Spam messages were somehow being left by guest users even though guest access was disabled and permissions were set to members only for group discussions. After a short while I was easily able to replicate how to to do this myself.

So wanting to the the right thing and not publicly post the exploit for others to see and abuse I emailed JomSocial support with details of the exploit and how to fix it. After waiting for a while I got absolutely no response whatsoever. I then posted a message to their Facebook feed, same thing - absolutely no reply whatsoever. Pretty ironic considering that thier Facebook page is pretty active lately telling us what a great job they are doing improving JomSocial.

Hmmnnnn what to do?

So next I post a support thread on their forum. After a couple of weeks of not receiving any official reply I gave up any expectation of ever getting a reply and simply fixed my sites myself. I eventually received an email requesting that I give examples of the exploit, screen grabs and a whole bunch of other stuff that would take up heaps of my time. I politely declined saying that they had missed their chance but offering that they could engage me professionally if they wanted me fix their code. Not surprisingly there was no reply.

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Allow guests to view JomSocial activity stream comments

I have recently migrated a site from Dolphin to JomSocial and needed to modify the way that the activity stream was displayed to visitors. By default the replies and likes of activity stream posts are only displayed to friends of the original poster. This means that the comments are very limited in their reach.

The overall effect of hiding activity stream comments and likes from guests is that this valuable activity is wasted. I wanted to show this activity to guest visitors so that they could see how active the site is. This in turn encourages them to join and hopefully encourages them to comment. 

Of course, this may not be suitable for all sites, but in the case of this site, there was no activity that is 'secret' or 'private'; the activity stream is public viewable, and so should be the comments.

The modification you need to do this is pretty straightforward, it simply involves removing or commenting out two lines of code. 

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Nautilus: Dolphin to JomSocial migration script - Latest progress.

After restarting work on the migration script a few weeks back I have made great progress on getting it finished. I have gone through a few revisions and am now on version 0.10. The bugs are slowly getting addressed and the end is nearing.

The current version 0.10 is still in progress. I'm currently working on migrating the group forum posts into the discussion section of each group, but this is proving to be harder than originally anticipated. Still to go before I release the next version are to migrate articles, navigation structure and IBDW Spywall entries. I finally decided to migrate Spywall posts as the user profile pages look very bare. Plus the transition from old to new will be a lot smoother for members.

One major change is that I decided to flip the way that the migration is carried out. Originally I opted to install JomSocial and copy the Boonex files into a sub directory. However, after some thought I decided that it would be better to do the opposite. Now the migration is carried out by installing JomSocial into a sub directory. This means that you can get the whole migration up and running before going live. It also allows you to easily retain or switch between both sites by using htaccess rules.

The other major change is to move away from the corePHP Wordpress plugin and use EasyBlog. EasyBlog is much more user friendly and comparable with Wordpress on a basic level. OK so it doesn't have the plethora of plugins available to Wordpress, but on a community site this is probably a good thing. I do Have one JomSocial site that uses the corePHP Wordpress plugin, and whilst it works well, it is generally too complex for most users to get their heads around. If anyone really wants / needs a specific blogging platform I would be happy to write a custom script, although I would not do this for free.

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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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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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