Lightquick Web Design - Elements of the past and the future combining to make something not quite as good as either

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We have just created a site for New Venture Products for their anti-climb paint product here. The new site features the standard navigation and menu layout of all NVP's websites. The Joomla 1.0 site will have search engine optimisation tools installed to ensure it has a high Google page ranking.
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Joomla 1.0 should be re-released as Joomla Lite PDF Print
(1 vote)

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I have been watching the progression of Joomla for years now and I am of the firm opinion that there is room for a CMS that Joomla used to be. I mean, of course, Joomla 1.0. A pretty, good-looking, easy to use, straightforward CMS with no frills, none of the later features that grown-up Joomla has today. Most of the core hacks have been discovered and locked-down. There are still a lot of extensions available that need no re-engineering to function.

It could suit the purpose well. It would have no overlap with the core mainstream Joomla, so no disturbance or friction would be caused between the two. JoomlaLite might require minimal development and simply just maintenance. It could become the feeder project to its bigger brother. As people require more functionality then they simply migrate upward.

Mambo and Joomla 1.0 were both good CMS and as simple website-building tools they are still unmatched. I recently visited a few of my old websites (totally secure and hosted under PHP 5.3) and was amazed at the speed and functionality of the things. The back end flies in comparison to the current Joomla offerings, the front end is practically instant, with no cacheing. All the tools work beautifully.

Big grown up Joomla is not a tool I would use now for small sites nor for bigger ecommerce sites. I would use a blogging tool or any smaller lightweight alternative for a simple site. For an ecommerce site the combination of VM and Joomla 3.0 is too risky due to potential unscalability and the slow running of Joomla. My experience of the new Joomla back end has been unsatisfactory (slow and weird-looking). For ecommerce Magento or OScommerce would be my target of choice.

Do you remember those days when you had a fairly simple shopping cart in a fairly simple CMS? It all ran quick and was easy to knock them out? I want something like that.

Resurrect Joomla 1.0, give it to a smaller team with a mandate to maintain, only develop within strict defined boundaries to avoid duplication of effort and competition (tools only) and call it JoomlaLite.

I know that others have tried and failed/succeeded in making a Joomal 1.0 clone (Joostina and Elxis) but that was due to them taking the wrong path (Russian language CMS rather than an International CMS) but the work they did on the improved tools proved that it can be done and their best work is available to port back. They also didn't have the Joomla name, a guarantee to success for a 'lite' version of Joomla.
 
The new Steampunk Orrery MkII PDF Print
(3 votes)

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At last I've managed to get the steampunk orrery into a reasonable shape, good enough to release in any case. The memo taker which worked in the old version does not work in this one, it is still waiting for me to finish re-skinning that part of it. However, the animation and the general 'prettiness' of the thing have been enhanced somewhat to match the functionality that you will see  in this video :

 

This is the orrery plasmoid - The functionality isn't quite the same but it pretty much brings it up to scratch and it is now on par with the plasmoid. I will post a new video soon, same music but showing the enhance functionality in the yahoo/konfabulator version of this widget.

You need to have all three widgets installed:

1. The Steampunk Orrery Widget
2. The Steampunk Moon Phase III Widget
3. The Steampunk Underwidget

If you install all three of these they will work together and will allow you to look at the moon phases in an animated fashion, good grief the thing is actually useful! The Moon widget will automatically position itself on top of the orrery widget when it is called into operation. The Underwidget needs to be layered underneath the Orrery and then the Orrery's glass panel needs to be made translucent using the opacity slider.  You'll then be able to see the underwidget showing through the glass.

Please try them out and test them and if you have any problems do let me know. If you like them all working together do also let me know as this stuff has taken a long while to do. I've taught myself a lot in the process and I do love designing these steampunk thingummybobs.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 15 July 2014 )
 
New idea for a widget in place and ready to go PDF Print
(3 votes)

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My collaborator, Harry Whitfield is like a Victorian steam-powered brass coding engine, you only have to feed him a good idea and a method of doing it then all of a sudden he's done it. The result is compact, perfectly ordered and logical code, beautifully done, no spaghetti, all created with years of experience and wisdom.

I had a simple magnifier widget that did nothing at all. I was disappointed with it as I could find no function for it other than to run a command to initiate a utility of some sort, a simple launcher, a big icon as it were. When I created the magnifying glass image I had intended to add code that would allow the widget to identify what was beneath it and give an enlarged version just as a real magnifying glass would do. However the widget engine does not give the widget the power to identify what is beneath it, it does not interact with the windows desktop in any way so that idea was gone. We cannot magnify the Windows desktop.

Another thought was to magnify the other widgets in the Konfabulator engine, However, the widget engine does not give the widget the power to identify any other widget above or below it so it cannot interact with or magnify any other widget in a graphical sense. There is some inter-widget communication allowed but it would not be fast enough to allow real-time magnification of another widget, it would also be horrendously complicated, so, that idea was gone too.

I sat on the idea and deliberated with Harry and he confirmed all the above, in fact he confirmed it several times but the idea would not leave my head. The magnifying glass sat there on my desk saying "use me, use me! but only for magnification purposes..." and I absorbed what it was saying but unable to do anything about it. It also said "Twiddle the basset pipes" - but I ignored that as it was rubbish.

So, the day before yesterday, a germ of a thought grew into an actual idea as to how to overcome this problem and then I had it. It could be done. Simply put, if the magnifying glass and the image it needs to magnify, sit within the same widget, they can find information about themselves, size, position &c and the therefore the magnification can be achieved. All that needs to be done is to drop an image into a window and then the magnifier can interact with it as they are all within the same widget.

This was the idea, I put it to Harry and a day later the widget was designed and coded and released for testing. Crikey he's fast. Using the graphics from my widget and the code from one of his previous image display widgets he banged in his new code and hey presto! we have a lightbox into which we can drag/drop any image. The magnifying glass is slidable and moves around the image by dragging the handle. The glass lens magnifies the image underneath! It is done, it works.

desktop-magnified-650.jpg


Testing it now. Adding some steampunk controls and completing the functionality. We have a new widget.

 

Last Updated ( Thursday, 03 July 2014 )
 
New Steampunk Orrery Timekeeper Widget PDF Print
(3 votes)

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It is ready, I have coded it and I'm currently testing it on Vista, then Mac OS/X, then I will release it here and a few other places... if you have any suggestions as to good places to submit widgets and the like, to increase its profile, then I'd appreciate the suggestions. You lot always seem to know a thing or two.

new version here The new widget works in all respects except for the memo taker which, well frankly, doesn't work yet. It will do in the end but at the moment the memo taker is secondary functionality to me as the orrery is all about "steampunk eye candy". That means everything works, rotates, whistles, thumps, jangles and creaks &c. I think that the visual improvements are what it needed, the enhanced animation suits the style of the thing and it now has a real use beyond the note taker.

It now acts as a moon phase calculator for those of us who like to know the phases of the moon (werewolves, astrologers, astronomers, abducting aliens and the like). All that needs to be done is to set the date using the date ring and click on the moon. The moon phase will be viewable to the hour and it is quite accurate too.

The new orrery uses two additional widgets to provide 'extra' functionality. It uses an under-widget to provide some background cogs visible through the now semi-opaque glass. The second is the moon phase widget originally created by Mark Crossley and steampunked/amended by me.

I'll test the three new widgets on Vista (NT6) and Mac OS/X and then I'll submit it here. The memo taker changes will come a little later. Frankly, I've been working on this long enough now and if I continued to be a complete perfectionist the release might take months more.

If anyone wants the new graphics for their own version of the orrery (rainmeter &c) I'd be happy to provide.
Last Updated ( Thursday, 03 July 2014 )
 
How to secure windows XP for the future PDF Print
(1 vote)

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If you are running Windows XP for any reason then please don't be shy - just let us know here. It could be on a secondary machine or as your main machine. Please tell us what you plan to do to secure that system for the future.

The reason being that I will post here the tasks that I intend to perform to secure any XP systems that I run and I'd be happy to post your own suggestions here too and create an 'Deviant XP protection blog' that will be useful in the war against malware and the nastiness that is out there. Excuse any typos.

2nd-tabulator.pngI'll start listing the software that I run to secure that XP system and the mindset that you need to continue to successfully run an operating system like XP. I'll also add some facts/opinions as to why running an 'older' o/s might be a good or bad idea with regard to security or functionality. We won't be arguing as to why you should run this o/s or that, all are useful in some regard. This is meant to be a helpful post for XP users rather than being a rant as to why you should run 'this' rather than 'that'.

If this might be useful to you then please feel free to comment, if you just want to add your penn'orth then please do. If you just want to repeat what you've said elsewhere then please do too! Your opinions are sought and I will personally find them useful and interesting. They may well be good grist to the mill in this continuing battle against the barstewards that daily try to infect our systems.

-oOo-

PULL the internet cable - No seriously, the first thing to do is to determine whether you need to be connected to the internet. If you don't then life is a lot more simple for you. You can run without the daily/weekly/continuous testing for malware and only need to perform any security checks around the time when you are installing new software or letting anyone near the system with a USB stick, SD card, CD or floppy. If you can transfer your browsing habits onto a cheap tablet device then you are 80% of your way into securing your XP system. This latter point is a really important recommendation and I strongly suggest a table for any 'dodgy' browsing.

-oOo-

If you are committed to the internet then an obvious improvement to security is to simply NEVER use Internet Explorer except for when you are visiting the Microsoft Windows Update site. IE in any form is a route directly into the operating system. IE is integrated into the core of Windows and as a result the o/s is even more susceptible to IE hacks. IE has proven itself to be the most insecure of the major browsers and a major target for hackers to infect your PC. Run Firefox as your default browser as all the tools exist to secure, monitor and analyse the sites you are visiting. Chrome is an decent browser but I avoid it as it reports back all your browsing habits to Google.

-oOo-

Recommended software to run to secure your XP system:

These are all streamlined services that run with the minimum of intrusion. Unlike some security solutions (Norton, Mcafee) that slow your system drastically. The following are tried and tested solutions to help you keep your system safe.

1. Sygate Personal Firewall download: http://www.tucows.com/preview/213160
2. Malwarebytes anti-malware download: http://www.malwarebytes.org/mwb-download/
3. Clamwin Anti-virus download: http://www.clamwin.com/content/view/18/46/
4. Adblock Plus for Firefox download: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/adblock-plus/
5. Noscript for Firefox download https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/noscript/

firewall.pngSome words on the above: Sygate needs to be trained to block/allow apps that you want to be enabled to access the internet. Malwarebytes sits in the background and just runs. The free version must be run manually to provide protection, the paid-for version starts automatically. Clamwin needs to be scheduled to run at a frequency that is suitable to you, a scan slows the system during the duration of the scan. It also needs to be enabled to scan your browser downloads as they occur.

Adblock will block malicious pop-up ads and noscript is another Firefox plugin that should prevent malicious scripts from affecting your system. Noscript is a bit harsh though and needs to be trained to block/allow certain sites from running any scripts at all. Initially, it may stop the prettier sites from displaying correctly but it will protect you though, a confirmation being required to run any scripts that exist on the page.

In addition to this you may need a general purpose anti-virus tool such as Avast. It will provide you with extra protection but it will slow down your browsing, watching online videos &c. I only use it when accessing any 'unknown' and potentially dodgy areas of the internet. It is easy to switch on and off again.

-oOo-

One important way of securing an XP system is to let your children NOWHERE near your desktop/laptop. Children are trojans that malware writers need to have in place in order to infect your PC. Children are intelligent bypassers of security that will take any chance to play any game that takes their fancy even if infected. If they can't read then all the better for the malware writers as it means they will bypass messages and install anyway! Keep your kiddies away. Give them a tablet instead.

-oOo-

Remove Dodgy software you already have on your system.  Many pieces of software act as trojans for hackers. Filezilla has unencrypted passwords in plain text and should NEVER be installed on a Windows system. Successful hackers check first of all whether programs such as Filezilla are installed, they home in on the plain text password file and steal all your site passwords in seconds. Solution - Uninstall Filezilla now!

It is really difficult to determine whether you have any other software that acts like this, vigilance and research is the only method of finding out whether you have crapware installed on your system. No a/v tool will single out Filezilla as a vulnerability but a large number of sites that are hacked have their passwords stolen through Filezilla.

Remove anti-virus tools like Norton and Mcafee as they can be said to act like viruses themselves. They slow down your whole system, interfere with the core running of the o/s, slowing browsing and other operations right down, they can cause some functionality to simply stop working, are really difficult to remove and they nag you into continuously sending more money for updates... all this sounds like a virus. I prefer anti-malware tools that run at intervals and are controllable by the user. Removing them will speed up your XP system considerably and as long as you replace them with the tools listed above you should be just as safe.

-oOo-

antiquesafe01.pngPassword security is a trouble to everyone and difficult to implement. The method I am going to suggest is reasonably secure, not impenetrable but an certainly an improvement on most people's complete lack of security. The idea is to increase the security of your passwords and then move your password storage to a secure location. The first step is to use secure passwords of the form "hk:FHK%@_$%67".

Password generators are available to create these for you automatically. This form of password is much more secure than the usual "porsche71" and "pussycat" style passwords that most people use. Very hard to crack and impossible to remember, the only practical way of using these passwords is to let the computer manage them.

So, I let firefox remember all my passwords. In tools - options - security there is an option for "remember passwords for sites" - enable it. Then enable "use a master password". Firefox then stores all the passwords in a master password file which is encrypted to prevent access from anyone who does not know your  master password.  So, now all your sites can be secured by a complex password and you only have to remember ONE password. That's a lot easier.

Obviously, you must NEVER forget your master password. Firefox uses TripleDES as its encryption algorithm and is very hard to crack but the strength of encryption is entirely dependant upon the strength of the Master Password you choose. Something like "Tantivy_1357:-)" is a secure password - it mixes uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and characters and would be hard to guess. The word and numbers can be devised from things that are important to you. In the above case Tantivy is the name of a cottage and the number is the date it was built. The two are separated by an underscore and followed by a smile :). That is a secure and memorable password. (Note that DA converts the combination of the : and the ) into an emoticon here whether I like if or not.)

The following Firefox plugins are installed to supplement the password functionality:

Saved password Editor here: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/saved-password-editor/
Startup Master here: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/startupmaster/
Password Generator here: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/secure-password-generator/

The password editor allows you to view all of your stored password so that you have access to all your centrally stored passwords - just in case you need to confirm or renew your memory.

The Startup Master requires the master password to be typed in only once and only at browser startup. Much more convenient.

The password generator is essential to generate secure passwords in the first place.

There are other even more secure password options such as KeepPass. I'm not a user of KeepPass yet so I can't offer advice here other than to say it is an even more secure option.

-oOo-

typewriter-with-screen2.pngThe next step does not directly concern XP but is related to the extension of your system's security features to your tablet.  Don't synch. your browser passwords from your XP system to your tablet. The browser synching feature is incredibly convenient but as soon as you synch. your secure passwords to a mobile device you are distributing them to the outside world. Very few tablets are secured sufficiently, the tools simply don't exist in the same number and quality as they do on the Windows platform. Android devices are inherently vulnerable to hacks and of course all tablet devices will at some time be dropped, lost, thrown away or stolen during their lifetimes. Once again, if you want to stay secure, don't synch. passwords to your tablet device. Use the tablet for casual browsing, porn &c but don't use it for serious work. Sounds counter intuitive doesn't it? The trouble is convenience does not often match well with security.

-oOo-

The correct mindset is an important condition in maintaining an older o/s. Time to take things seriously.

disc-read-icon.pngFirst of all, secure the system through backups. This means a full o/s backup followed by multiple backups of your data, whatever it is. A full system backup is best taken disc by disc as disc storage is as cheap as chips at the moment and getting cheaper and cheaper. Every few months I backup the boot drive, the windows o/s. I do this by buying a new drive every six months, each slightly faster or slightly bigger in capacity than the previous model. Therefore each backup is also an upgrade (this gives me an incentive to do the backup too). My laptop has two drive bays (the reason I bought it) and this means I can perform a disc duplication by simply plugging in the new drive and using some disc duplication software to transfer the whole contents of the old drive to the new. My first boot drive was 160gb 5400rpm unit, the current drive is a hybrid 7200 rpm model with 500gb and 8gb flash SSD memory. It runs 5-10 times faster than the original device. The old drive is simply taken out of the machine and placed on a shelf somewhere very safe.  It then acts as a backup for my newer device, all the data therein is safe and can be placed back into my machine at any time as a direct bootable replacement. The important thing is that you never use that drive. It seems terrible to take a recent-ish technology drive and not use it but you MUST resist the temptation. As a newish and relatively unused drive it will store the data safely for months and possibly years.

If your system drive ever crashes you will have a bootable drive ready to go with your whole o/s and software already installed. If you keep a note of the software you have installed over the last six months it will be easy to bring the disc up to speed.

My data drive is a separate disc and is backed up the same way. My data drive started its life as a partition on the bootable disc and has now migrated to a separate hybrid drive of 1tb with 8gb RAM SSD. Each backup has meant the drive has improved in storage and speed. The price of a 1TB hybrid drive with 8gb SSD is now approx. £50 - that is £2 per week for a solid backup per disc.

The above approach is simple and makes running of an XP system easy to achieve, regardless of any  threat that might be encountered, if you can restore the system easily then you are basically secure.

-oOo-

Daily, weekly and monthly backups can be easily taken by purchasing USB RAM sticks of an appropriate size - they don't need to be big, 1-4gb may well do. Just name them: Mon, Tues, Wednes &c, Week 1, Week 2 &c, month 1,  month 2 &c. You'll need 18 in all, put a ring in each and hang them from hooks somewhere in your home. Backup all your personal data to your USB sticks. Use them on the correct day and only re-use them when that day re-occurs again.

-oOo-

photoshop.pngPhotos seem to take the majority of space on a user's disc these days, raw data photographs being anything up to 30-40mb in size, each. Cameras these days can take hundreds of images and there is a need to store and backup them all. The cost of backing up all these images can be prohibitive as a good and solid family album can easily use up 100gb of disc space. There are on-line solutions for backups but they are expensive, year on year and the transfer time can be very, very long. Discs have an MTBF (mean time between failure) measured in only thousands of hours, this means your family album will be completely lost every two/three years if you continue to store them on disc. There is a really simple solution that has been available for a hundred years, that is the traditional photo album. Filter all your photos and get the most important photos printed immediately. Don't print them on your own laserjet or on a poor quality book - However you choose to get them printed do insist on 100 year ink and 100 year paper, otherwise your images will decay in just a few years.

You wouldn't believe the number of heartbroken parents that have come to me asking to recover their lost photos from the last 4/5 years. To get a specialist to even look at recovering a severely damaged hard disc costs £400-£500, the recovery of those photos can cost the same again. An old-style photo album costs nothing to store and is proven to last at least a hundred years. No technology required and a hell of a lot cheaper.

The above approach to photos simplifies backup of an XP system enormously when you don't have to worry about the majority of the data.

-oOo-

No security is impenetrable but we are simply adding layer upon layer of improved security that will make it really difficult for any hacker to exploit us. When it becomes too difficult to hack your system, all but the most determined of hackers will simply give up. Remember not to be too paranoid, you and I are not the most important people in the world and so hackers won't spend all their time trying to hack us... we just need to make it difficult for them, to be secure, closing the doors whilst we are out, securing the windows and bricking up any holes in the walls.

Follow the procedures set out above and your XP system should be much more secure for the future.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 03 July 2014 )
 
ReactOS Thorium - a kickstarter project to fund ReactOS PDF Print
(2 votes)

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It is URGENT - Reactos needs your pledge now - The only real alternative to the Windows operating system has a kickstarter project goal of $120,000 in donations that it needs to reach by Friday 21st Feb 2014. So far $11,000 dollars pledged and the kickstarter has only just started.

The idea is to raise enough money to allow development of Reactos as the force behind an iCloud solution for all our desktop and mobile needs. In short, your Windows desktop environment would sit on the internet running on ReactOS instead of locally on your old Windows PC. Your desktop would look like Windows, run like Windows, it would run all your Windows applications and it would be accessible on any device you choose. All your data and your operating system would sit on the net. This online project is known as 'Thorium'. The ReactOS team are going to develop this combined operating system and icloud solution and will need your donation to complete their goal.

 http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thorium/thorium-core-cloud-desktop The ReactOS operating system is already in an alpha stage, it boots in seconds, runs and looks just like Windows, it runs Windows applications. Work is required to complete the memory manager, provide device and support for alternative file systems, in short, to finish the thing off.

The remote access to ReactOS also needs to be built in order to complete Thorium but the end result will be an open source Windows compatible operating system that is completely free for you to install on any device that currently runs Windows.

Why is this good? Well, Windows costs actual real money, every desktop or laptop PC that you buy costs an extra $50 because it has copy of OEM Windows on it. A real set of Windows Professional installation discs can cost hundreds. With a free Windows compatible o/s you can have as many windows PCs as you like. Every few years or so Microsoft makes your operating system obsolete just so they can charge you more money for the new version, plus all the new software you will need. That will not happen with ReactOS, it will just keep on working. All your old software will just keep working. All your new software will work too!

When you buy a new o/s from microsoft do you really believe it is a brand new o/s? Of course not, it is the old o/s rehashed with a new GUI and some cosmetic changes. XP was NT, Vista was based upon XP with some additional junk and Windows 7 is Vista without all the Vista bad bits, you could call it XP+. Windows 8? well, at the moment it is a tablet o/s running on a desktop/laptop - which suggests it is an o/s to be avoided...

Windows is run by an organisation that needs to make money, that is why they make their o/s regularly obsolete. That is why they change the GUI mechanisms regularly so that everyone has to start from scratch and send lots of money to Microsoft for the privilege of doing so.

ReactOS won't do this - ReactOS could be the solution to all our o/s problems.  I cannot recommend more strongly that you contribute something, anything to this kickstarter project. Do it to help the ReactOS team, do it to help yourself to a free o/s. Do it to help break Microsoft's unhealthy stranglehold on the Windows o/s market. Just do it.

Contribute here:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thorium/thorium-core-cloud-desktop

The Thorium Group's Website is here: http://www.thoriumgroup.com

ReactOS website is here: https://www.reactos.org/

reactos-screens.png

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 08 January 2014 )
 
Elxis 2009 CMS a review PDF Print
(4 votes)

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I'm not sure why someone would choose Elxis as their default CMS. At first glance it seems to have great potential, based on Mambo 4.5 you'd imagine some compatibility with Mambo and Joomla 1.0.15, after all why would you create a CMS that does not have compatibility with all those hundreds, nay thousands of Joomla 1.0 extensions, templates &c. If I were creating a Mambo based CMS it would surely be my most important aim. You could attract so many ex-joomla 1.0 users with ease if you could guarantee future compatibility of components, modules, mambots. Imagine a fully supported Joomla 1.0 compatible CMS, what's not to like?

steampunk-console.pngThe trouble is that although they have gone to great lengths to create a quick, elegant CMS that is incredibly familiar to Mambo/Joomla 1.0 users, is quicker than Joomla 2.5, it does NOT have the compatibility that you'd expect. I built an Elxis 2009 (Aphrodite) test site and attempted to installed a major SEF tool that is an essential component for all my Joomla 1.0 sites, I also installed one or two mambots that I have written myself and a template from Joomlart, featuring an elegant javascript menu. I built the site with the multi-language options enabled and test data.

The component failed to install at all, generating errors with regard to a tmpr folder and with relation to incorrect information within the component XML files, the mambots installed one generating XML compatibility errors but when the page was refreshed the site was broken. The mambots added JSDK code required by Facebook and added the FB like button to the content area on each page.

The template installation succeeded but having failed three other installations I decided to bypass Elxis installation and install usingsignal.png a method I knew would work, just by simply FTP'ing the appropriate files to the templates folder. The JA_Fagus template installed and looked good but the in-built horizontal menu just appeared to put junk on the screen. A bit of investigation showed that all code that refers to menus needed to be language aware, checking the menu items, extracting the language code and comparing that to the system wide setting for the default language. Once this understood then I was able to create a good looking page using the JA_Fagus template.

I knew I now needed to research why my mambots had failed to function but then I realised with the sheer amount of work it would take to test install, debug and fix all the components, modules and mambots that are on my site that the work involved would be greater than a Joomla 1.5 migration/site rebuild. There is simply no point.

What the Elxis developers have done is create a world-class CMS that only a few people will be able to use. Elxis has an advanced built-in directory encompassing components, templates, modules and mambots. Unfortanately, the number of these extensions is a mere fraction of those available to Joomla 1.0.15 so anyone looking for extensions will soon realise the paucity of choice and will be deterred straight away. None of my familiar tools was available, none of the extensions that would be essential for a site migration to Elxis were there.

At the end of my analysis I came away disappointed, what a chance had been lost! The possibility of keeping my Joomla 1.0 sites up and running on a supported multi-lingual platform all blown away. Elsewhere, the Russian based Joostina team had at least kept Joomla 1.0 compatibility as one of their main strengths but had failed at the last hurdle due to their Russian-centric support and development teams abandoning the English language community that might have helped them survive. In comparison the Elxis team seems to have it all, a massive technical improvement on Mambo/Joomla 1.0, English language forums, continued support for the Mambo based CMS, what's not to like?. Well, the total lack of Joomla 1.0.15 compatibility.

What's the reason to choose Elxis as your next CMS? Elxis is Mambo based so it will be familar territory to you, it has advanced features such as in-built SQL database viewing tool, an embedded version of the Elxis JED, multi language support, an auto updating tool. Anti SQL injections tools built in. The underlying code that accesses the databse is heavily optimised making Elxis very quick, even without advanced cacheing. It even has built in SEF. Sounds great.  

The trouble is that Elxis is not designed for Joomla 1.0 migration as nothing at all from Joomla is plug and play, significant effort is required to get each and every element of your site to work.

Conclusion - Elxis 2009 (Aphrodite) is a massive opportunity missed and is only useful as a new but familiar CMS. The developers have a new version of their CMS that is entirely new and has no Mambo compatibility whatsoever. What this shows me is where the developers hearts lie. I perceive they wish to abandon the Mambo legacy and work on newer more advanced CMS. This quite laudable but unfortunately it doesn't bode well for me and my Joomla 1.0 sites. Elxis just becomes another wannabee CMS and I have to say I wouldn't automatically jump into their camp. If Elxis had inherited Joomla 1.0.15 compatibility by default then I would have chosen it for any old Joomla 1.0 sites I would be asked to migrate.

For new sites, well it seems an interesting choice but due to the paucity of extensions and because the newer version is entirely unfamiliar to me it wouldn't be my first choice.
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 24 December 2013 )
 
Is Joomla dying a slow death? PDF Print
(2 votes)

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What has happened to the popularity of Joomla is very easy to explain. Back in 2009 Joomla 1.0 was popular due to having complete functionality, a friendly back end and plenty of stability through regular upgrades. From Mambo to Joomla 1.0.15 it was a good CMS for anything from simple to complex sites.

With 1.5 the Joomla team wanted to dump the old mambo legacy and did so at the expense of stability and continuity. This is the approach they used for all upgrades from this point on. Each upgrade became a migration with a virtual site rebuild from scratch. They abandoned and closed support for the older product leaving those that could/would not upgrade in the lurch. With each upgrade requiring a rebuild it became harder to justify building a site in Joomla knowing you would have to tell your client that he'd need to rebuild it in 18 months. This is a sure-fire way to alienate even your most loyal adherents. Anyone looking to choose a stable technology for a client would simply look at Joomla and say - AVOID. You'd be sacked if you told them they'd have to migrate their whole site in 18 months, in fact you wouldn't get the job in the first place.

If you were looking for a tool to build a quick site for a small organisation, Joomla 1.0 was perfect as it was stable and easy to build with future stability in mind. But that was all blown away. Would I suggest building small sites with Joomla 2.5/3.0 - NO!. I hate to say it, but I would choose wordpress.

-oOo-

scissors.pngThe Joomla team are a bunch of developers who work on the things they want to, and as a result priorities are decided by individuals with the result there is no corporate goal. That is why we only get piecemeal end user changes from seemingly major structural upgrades. I personally have never been asked by any client for any of the new features that have been added since J1.0. Better categories and ACLS are really the only changes that have made any external difference, the rest has just been smoothing processes here and there and adding minor functionality. I realise it has taken a lot of work to recode, rejig frameworks but frankly the end result of all that means little to end users. If I log in to a Joomla 2.5 site, then to a Joomla 1.0 site do I see major improvements over the old system? The Joomla 1.0. site is snappy, much quicker, easy to use, less corporate looking and is so much easier for a PHP/javascript programmer to modify/hack. All these years of change and the end result does not 'seem' to be that great.

The problem is the development team who are very clever but caustic and opinionated bunch whose presence on any other forum would have them named and shamed as trolls. They have been far more involved in arguing incessantly (and viciously) as to the best method of doing things, whereas it might have been better to choose what was the best thing to do for the end user and simply choose any method to achieve it. Anyone who browses the support and development forums of the Joomla world will see that is a deeply fractured and unhappy place to be. The dev forums are almost disfunctional.

Joomla will fail, it is failing now, strangely Joomla is dying because of the developers involved who are doing most of the work. The Joomla dev team has spent a lot of time achieving a lot. The trouble is, it just isn't what anyone wanted.

It is time for a FORK.
Last Updated ( Thursday, 19 December 2013 )
 
Windows 7 a complete steampunk makeover PDF Print
(4 votes)

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Ladies and Gentleman, we present a complete steampunk makeover for your PC windows 7 system. Some of it will also apply to Mac OS/X, at least the Yahoo widget bit will. the end result is probably the bsusiest desktop you've ever seen. Enjoy the video created by Christophe Maanebarth.

If you enjoy the video do please open it on youtube and 'like' it.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 17 December 2013 )
 
Virtuemart Product flypage not changing PDF Print
(1 vote)

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Virtuemart can be one of the most painful shopping carts to configure, a first time shop-builder would do well to consider starting elsewhere or leaving it to a professional to set one up for you.Virtuemart throws up problems from time to time that can stymie even a seasoned web administrator. When I get an on-line cart just 'right' then I tend to copy it and use it as a template for other web-shops. I also try to keep things roughly the same - This way I do not have to encounter the pain of regular new issues that can prevent Virtuemart from operating. Virtuemart has problems with child products, producing blank screens during shopping carts, confusion during setting up shipping options, hard-to-find and illogically placed configuration controls, clunky sign-in, failing to operate as expected with Joomla cacheing enabled, can cause severe and unexpected errors when running themes. However, it does have a good forum, it is free and it integrates very well with Joomla, so I persist with it.

vmtickerupdate.pngOne rather peculiar error in Virtuemart 1.1 is the failure of Virtuemart to change the product display page when you have explicitly made changes to the product flypage. FYI - the Virtuemart 'flypage' is the name that Soeren the developer, applied to the product page template. You can select a different flypage and refresh the cache any number of times and what the site displays is entirely different to what you expect. I experienced this a few years ago and had assumed that virtuemart had its own internal cacheing mechanism that prevented the changes from being shown, as shortly after, the flypage changes would appear. However, regardless of any setting change I could not trigger them manually.

The default product flypage is defined in the Virtuemart configuration and the confusing thing is that it is also set at product category level in the product category configuration. It would seem that the product flypage overrides the default flypage in every case so I am unsure as to why there is a default flypage at all. Even changing these at category level seems to have no effect.

A solution is to be found by changing  four Virtuemart files (solution originally found on the VM forum). The change is simple, involving swapping a lowercase variable for an uppercase one.

Navigate to this directory within your Joomla installation:

\public_html\administrator\components\com_virtuemart\html\
Look for these files: 
shop.ask.php  
shop.basket_short.php
shop.pdf_output.php 
shop.product_details.php 

Edit each and change the indicated instance of 'flypage' to 'FLYPAGE' in upper case. Make sure that in your copy 'flypage' is not already in uppercase (as in the example below) or your problem is most likely different):

shop.ask.php (line: 24): $flypage = vmGet($_REQUEST, "FLYPAGE", '' );
shop.basket_short.php (line:30): $flypage = vmGet($_REQUEST, "FLYPAGE", null);
shop.pdf_output.php (line:20): $flypage = vmGet( $_REQUEST, 'FLYPAGE');
shop.product_details.php (line:115): $flypage = vmGet($_REQUEST, "FLYPAGE" );
shop.product_details.php (line:422): $tpl->set( 'FLYPAGE', $flypage );
Clear your Joomla cache and see the product flypages change.
Last Updated ( Saturday, 24 August 2013 )
 
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