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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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The future for Yahoo Widget Development? PDF Print
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A conversation with Harry Whitfield regarding the future development path for Yahoo widgets.

deanface-colour-tiny.png(me) Harry, in your opinion, what is the platform direction to point towards if you want to keep your investment in your widgets for the future. Conversion to which platform? What route would you take if you were forced?

(Harry said)
I'm not qualified to say, as I've not explored (m)any of the options.
Here are three links that you may find useful:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_widget_engines
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_widget
http://www.forevergeek.com/2006/05/yahoo_widgets_vs_google_gadgets/

I would guess that it really depends on your objectives - are you writing software to sell or for your own amusement? Either way, it is useful if the product is cross-platform - Windows, Mac OS X and (ideally) Linux as well. Professional (full time) programmers may find an IDE useful. For occasional programmers, like myself, it is important that there is not a large system to learn about and remember!

I've used (and taught) many of the major programming languages over my 50+ years as a programmer.
As a hobby programmer, I am more than happy to use javascript, which compares very well with most of the other languages I've used and is the major language of the web.

When it was available, I used HyperCard/HyperScript, which provided the ability to make simple desktop widgets. I found Konfabulator's  use of XML and javascript quite attractive, more so than using HTML/CSS/javascript in Dashboard. I have toyed with the idea of trying my hand at iPhone apps, but it's really too much trouble. When the Yahoo! Widget Engine stops working, I'll most likely call it a day!

Almost all of my javascript code is free for others to use under the GNU General Public License.
All of which does not answer your question.

You might like to look at the book "Building iPhone Apps with HTML, CSS and JavaScript" by Jonathan Stark,
Published by O'Reilly, ISBN 978-0-596-80578-4. For someone familiar with HTML, CSS and JavaScript, this is a zero cost introduction to iPhone Apps. I've looked at Adobe AIR Flash/Flex Builders, but they cost far too much for hobby use. You can get the XCODE development software for the Mac/iPhone for free, but there's a lot of learning to do. You could also look at Google Desktop Gadgets and Opera Widgets, but, I suspect, they don't match up to Yahoo! Widgets.

deanface-colour-tiny.png(me) I will do so, I will look at the book. I had also thought about the Google gadgets direction as there some linkage to the services that google provides but the ipad route appeared a difficult one, if the investment is carried on though it will make it all a lot easier.

(Harry said) It occurs to me that working within a browser is a fairly safe direction, in that they are unlikely to go out of fashion and the versions of javascript and their implementations will continue to improve.
However, they don't allow access to the local file system and many other features that can be accessed in Yahoo! Widgets. This is, of course, to prevent abuse, but is somewhat limiting.

If it were possible to tell a browser to hide all of its own window features and just show the contents specified by the html pages, CSS and JS files, you could get quite close to the appearance of a desktop widget.

deanface-colour-tiny.png (me) Agreed, my initial preference was to integrate my widgets into my website design as the skills and some of the technology are transferable, I just don't see quite how at the moment, integration with the desktop for extracting system information seems poor and as you say the ability to dis-integrate the surrounding browser elements would be nice...

Then these ipad/Android things have arrived on the scene and they seem to be growing in importance so it seems unwise to ignore them. If only the Konfabulator engine had not been acquired by Yahoo I guess that Linux and other o/s might have been covered in the course of time. As it is, migration is not easy nor is the correct path clear to me...

-oOo-

 Conversation continues... click read more
Last Updated ( Monday, 16 April 2012 )
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Steampunk Clock/Calendar widget now on youtube PDF Print
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mmsblog_00055_01.pngSteampunk Clock/Calendar widget is now on youtube. We've put it there so it can act as a demonstrator of the widget and as some documentation/training. View it here: 

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 18 December 2013 )
 
Steampunk Widgets on Sony SGNL PDF Print
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mmsblog_00055_01.pngJ.Wilhelm, a steampunker and brassgoggler, a member of the fine and upstanding Victorian Steam Calculation Engine Company has been featured by Sony on one of their web/TV broadcasts. The broadcast shows J.Wilhelm's latest steampunk laptop creation complete with the steampunk weather widget and the steampunk clock/calendar.

{youtube}jUxsCUVe5QU{/youtube}

The laptop is also featured on the Sony SGNL blog: here: http://blog.sony.com/sonys-vaio%C2%AE-f-series-laptop-goes-steampunk

Thanks to J.Wilhelm for making them so visible on the desktop during the recording.

J. Wilhelm's Victorian Steam Calculation Engine Company can be found here  and here on Etsy :

 

Last Updated ( Thursday, 05 January 2012 )
 
JPhotostack for Joomla 1.0 a nice image gallery tool for joomla 1.0.15 PDF Print
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jfotostack-example.jpg


I have just created the JFotostack Portfolio module for Joomla 1.0 module basing it on a module originally created by Shaon Bahadur called JPhotostack. The reason I have done this is to quickly knock together a pretty portfolio tool under Joomla 1.0.15 that is easily configurable and quick to display/operate.

The resulting new JFotostack Portfolio module provides gallery functionality but with a difference - as per the original the images are shown as a series of clickable photographs stacked on top of each other. Images are easily grouped under a specific album by simply uploading images into the appropriate album folder. A maximum of ten albums can be added to the slideshow. You can enable or disable each album as you require. I have called the new version JFotostack Portfolio to draw attention to the differences between the new portfolio version and the old gallery.

What are the differences? The original was simply a very pretty image gallery but this version has been modified to provide more configuration options so you can now specify the thumbnail size, the placement, width and number of galleries shown as well as the size of the stacked images in the gallery. The module also provides a configurable pop-up when you hover over the thumbnail complete with image and you can alter the position of the navigation buttons. The latest version will also allow you to link each gallery to an internal/external page allowing the module to act as a linking portfolio as well as an image gallery.

When completed I will make it available for download on the downloads page.

You can see an example of it working on the front page of this site. It has always worked well on Firefox and IE right from the beginning but in Opera and Safari it has required some serious tweaking to get it working as the navigation buttons were displaying correctly but for some reason, disabled.

A log of head-scratching and midnight-oil-burning and I eventually found the problem, it was obscure and quite hard to find. It turns out that yet another inconsistency in the way the Webkit-based browsers interpret Javascript code meant that binding the click event to the images just wasn't working. The offending line of code is this:

$ps_slider.find('.prev').bind('click',function(){ 

Which I simply changed to this:

$ps_slider.child('.prev').bind('click',function(){ 

A really easy change to fix it but a very hard problem to find when searching amongst many lines of code, especially when the offending code is actually meant to work. The new inconsistencies that the newer webkit-based browsers are introducing, means that "us poor old web-devs" have to code and test the code on four browser types when coming up with new code. It also means that good-old solid code that has always worked, now may not work at all. The problem is you only find out as the new browsers become more popular and only when someone complains...

The Joomla 1.0.15 /Joostina version is complete now and can be downloaded here. I have also created a J1.5 version but it is 90% complete. The slider works as it should as does the linking functionality. The only thing that does not work fully so far is the pop up image. This functionality was provided by the overlib function that is not present in Joomla 1.5. The tooltip functionality that J1.5 provides does not allow an image to appear in the tooltip. Instead of the overlib I am using the javascript  mouseover event to trigger an element to appear. It is working but the pop up image is not yet following the mouse. I'll have it fixed soon but I need the time... If you are keen on having it, leave a comment below. See it in action on the frontpage here:

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 01 February 2012 )
 
New Version of the Steampunk Weather Widget is available PDF Print
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In the latest Steampunk Weather Widget, version 1.0.3 the following changes have been made: Added 'vitality' to the dock icon, animated the temperature gauge switch-over, resizing fully functional, new graphic help display, stuff generally works now. In addition the main functions now have sounds that make operation a whole lot more realistic. Only one change left (which sounds easy but which is actually rather major) allowing the switch between millimetres of mercury (mmHg) & millibars/Pa to standard atmospheres, PSI and then even inches of mercury used in the USA. The reason this is difficult is that although it is displaying two units of measurement simultaneously I will have to create three new separate graphic displays for the next paired unit of measurements and then three more for the remaining units of measurement. It's a pain.weather-gauge-help.png

Newest version, full operating sounds and translations have been completed (for some reason I'm continuing the Romanian translations...)

There is full help for the widget here:
http://lightquick.co.uk/instructions-for-the-steampunk-weather-gauge.html  Visit this page first before asking questions on how to install it.

You can download the new version of the widget here:
http://rocketdock.com/addon/misc/39753

Please, if you like the new widget, leave a comment, it is really appreciated.

To view the widget in operation, click here:

 

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 18 December 2013 )
 
Developing for Joomla 1.5 can be a pain in the ar5e PDF Print
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magnifierJoomla1.5.pngOne thing I have learnt about developing for Joomla 1.5 is that parts of the Joomla 1.5 installation routines are a pain in the ar5e. In Joomla 1.0 you could add a lot of rich text HTML in the description field by wrapping it in a <[CDATA tag. This meant you can have a pretty description with links &c. In Joomla 1.5, this functionality is removed and you have to add language files plus an equivalent text tag for each line of rich text you want to appear. Frankly, it is overly-complicated and I can't be arsed... It isn't just me though, 
I looked at 40 x Joomla 1.5 plugins that were installed on one of my Joomla 1.5 sites and not one of the developers could be bothered to do this, not one had rich text in the description. I tried mind you, I tried to get it to work, I looked for documentation with examples and clearly because I have only half a brain, I failed. When the Joomla developers make something too complicated to be useful then implementing it just becomes a chore.

They added this line to /root/administrator/components/com_plugins/views/plugin/tmpl/form.php at line 15:

JFilterOutput::objectHTMLSafe( $this->plugin, ENT_QUOTES, '' );

This explicitly removes the capability to display HTML. I wish they'd have left some of this well alone or given us the option to use the previous method as well as language strings.
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 20 December 2011 )
 
Professor Elemental is looking for a fight - where's my fighting trousers? PDF Print
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professor-elemental.png I believe someone has been biting the Professor, not a good idea as you'll see if you visit here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iRTB-FTMdk or click play on the video below.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 18 December 2013 )
 
Facebook open graph incorrect url in blog articles PDF Print
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If you have a blog on a Joomla or similar site and you find the Facebook like this button is not working properly for you then read on. Facebook has implemented a new method for linking your site and articles to a visitor's Facebook page. It uses the open graph tags to identify your site or article, for example:

<meta property="og:type" content="article" />
<meta property="og:site_name" content="Lightquick Web Design - 
High Quality, Low Cost" />
<meta property="og:description" content="Work continues apace for those 
that want the Facebook button for Joomla 
1.0. The older method of sharing a page using the small facebook icon is
now deprecated, ie. Facebook don't want you to use it as they will turn
it off some time in the future. However it works for the moment and it 
is easy t" />
<meta property="og:title" content="Facebook like this button for Joomla 
1.0.15 content items" />
<meta property="og:url" content="http://lightquick.co.uk/facebook-like-this-
button-for-joomla-1.0.15-content-items-2.html" />
<meta property="og:image" content="http://lightquick.co.uk/images/stories
/facebook-example.jpg" />

So, when you click on the like this button, Facebook will add your a description of your liked link to Facebook dependant upon the information your site provides. In order for Facebook to show the right information these tags need to be populated properly. This is generally not a problem but on a blog it certainly is. On A Joomla site each blog item is an article in itself and a facebook like this button will appear next to the article. However, if you click that button then the open graph tags that will be supplied to Facebook will be those of the root blog and not the article itself. This means that the incorrect information is passed to Facebook, you will get the wrong URL, title, description and image.

The question is if you have ten articles displaying on the page then how can you supply the correct open graph tags for each article? With the current implementation of the Facebook API - you can't.

The only solution is to use the old Facebook share API for blogs (category or section views) and reserve the new API method for individual content items. The good thing about the old API method is that it does not rely on the og: tags but instead your site supplies the title and the URL of the article as parameters to the Facebook link at the time when the Facebook button is generated so each facebook button can have unique information associated with it.

You will notice the effect on this blog page. If you are looking at the individual article: "Facebook open graph incorrect url in blog articles" then you will see the new Facebook like this button. If you are reading it on the blog page you will notice the old blue 'F' button which shares the page. The plugin/mambot used on this site differentiates between blog pages and articles, if the page is a blog it uses the old API. The mambot that is used here is a Joomla 1.0 plugin and the old FB API version can be found here

The result of the introduction of the new Facebook API requirements is that it is having an negative effect of discouraging Joomla sites from having blog pages in general, Facebook API changes are causing unforseen changes to the structures of websites and website tools used to build them.

Last Updated ( Monday, 05 December 2011 )
 
Linky to the rescue PDF Print
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steampunk-snail.pngApologies if the site has been slow, I have been tinkering. I have been building two mambots, one for adding facebook iframe/xfbml like this links to all pages and another to embed the Facebook JSDK code on all pages. These have required some changes to various tools and settings that comprise/control the site. Firstly the configuration of Artio JoomSEF to prevent creation of duplicate SEF URLs with extra -2, -3 at the end. The new Facebook API must have tags automatically defined per page and one of these is the og: url tag. All the site's similarly-associated SEF URLs needed to resolve to the same place if the Facebook Open Graph URL tag is to work properly without reporting an error.

Removal of the unique URLs means that the itemid tag on the URL is now hidden and as a result certain components and functions don't work and they needed rejigging to exclude them from being processed by Artio JoomSEF, one of the affected components being facileforms. The other issue is that templates for different pages no longer work without the itemid being available to identify which page so the link on the front page to the sample shop has had to go. That is no big deal as the sample shop needs a rejig in any case as does the Frontpage. I could have told Artio to re-add the itemids but that would have meant that every URL in the site would now be fundamentally different and no existing external link to an internal resource would ever work again. Not good for SEO. That means no itemids so only one template per site and the loss of one facileform SEF URL, that is not so bad.

The reconfiguration of Artio JoomSEF links has caused another problem, namely that when you make a change to the configuration, Artio JoomSEf asks you, "do you want to clear the cache?" That sounds innocuous enough but when you do say 'yes' you will find that all the links in the SEF table have disappeared, so when someone clicks on a Google link to the site it will generate a 404 error. That is very bad for SEO.

However that is no real long term problem as all I have to do is click on every article in the site and Artio JoomSEF will re-generate the SEF link, trouble is that I have a hundred or more articles on the site and clicking each will take forever and in the process I am bound to forget some. So, to the rescue is Linky. Linky is a Firefox add-on that will open every link on your page. Once initiated Linky loads all the pages more or less simultaneously so be aware that the load on the site while it achieves this is quite great, hence the slowdown. Be warned, opening a hundred tabs in FF is also quite a memory drain on your PC so make sure you have no other apps running on your PC and plenty of memory to spare or swapping will occur. Once Linky has visited every article linked to on the site all the SEF URLs in the Artio JoomSEF table will be recreated. It helps to have a module on the page like "latest news module" showing all articles from the site. Linky will find each and every one and open it. The end result will be that your SEF table will be repopulated with all your links. Linky can be found here:

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/linky/

This tinkering has also discovered a problem with the default Joomla 1.0 cacheing in that the com_frontpage component is incorrectly handled. When the cached version of the page is shown it fails to call the $mainframe functions in /includes/joomla.php meaning that none of the meta tags or meta properties are created even though a cached version of that page should have these by definition. The cache does not seem to be working at all for com_frontpage, just screwing it up. This was discovered when a "view source" showed no meta tags on the FP from time to time, none from my mambot and none from any other extension.

Therefore, an installation of JRE cache, an alternative to the Joomla 1.0 cacheing mechanism was called for. When done the site runs considerably faster than before, even with my new mambots running. I am always amazed at how fast a Joomla 1.0 site can run in comparison to a J1.5 site. The front end and the back end are always so much faster. I have always struggeled with bloatware and directly because Joomla 1.5 - 1.7 can do so much more they have a lot more code to execute, Joomla 1.0.15 still does almost all that I need and fast too, that is why I am still using it here. Joomla 1.5 is great software but it isn't as quick. I run J1.0 sites and J1.5 sites on the same servers and the 1.0 sites are fast when compared.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 08 December 2011 )
 
What's the problem with the Joomla forum? PDF Print
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joomla-troll.jpgWhat's the problem with the Joomla forum? Where do I start? The problem is the same with all forums, they have a core set of experts that don't know how to communicate on a human level. The people who are looking for assistance are, by definition, generally not that knowledgable on the subject for which they are requesting assistance. They may not know how to frame a question in the context of the error they are reporting and may also not know how to supply the information required to fix the problem. The end result is that the experts understandably become frustrated very quickly by the visitor's inability to explain what the problem is and his/her lack of understanding or technical capability. The visitor is often defensive from the start being on shaky ground with regard to their perceived competence and can take up an aggressive posture when frustrated by the inability of the expert to resolve their poorly-explained problem. We have all found ourselves on one or other side of the fence from time to time.

A major issue is that the experts really do start to believe their own forum status (being the total number of posts they have made on the forum) which can lead them to believe they really are a "Joomla hero". They are technically competent people who think that their own level of competence is how they should gauge all others. They forget that we may all be very competent in our own particular field of knowledge and that they should not gauge other people's abilities using their own very limited experience.

Many of these people use the forum as their sole method of expressing themselves and they forget that the medium of a forum is deeply inadequate for the transmission of full and normal range of human emotion and communication. They get lost in the medium, express themselves in an an off-hand and dismissive manner in a way that none of us would do in a face to face situation. As a result they become what the forum world calls 'trolls' and a fair number of so-called 'experts' at the Joomla forum can currently assume that mantle with confidence.

I would have loved to have posted this on the Joomla forum but my recent experience tells me that if you "rock the Joomla boat" or say something that doesn't fit into the current way of doing things then the moderators will remove your post. You can also stir up a level of aggression from the experts that is not really desirable. At least in your own blog you can express yourself in the way that you want.

I recently decided that I didn't want to contribute to the Joomla forum anymore. My reason for leaving was because I asked a gentleman on the forum (who was having problems with his mouse and was looking for an alternative method of selecting a link) whether he was disabled. My post was removed for causing offence and a "forum warning" was issued. It is strange how someone else's political correctness can affect your ability to genuinely assist someone. The problem is that innocuous words posted on a forum (without the emotional wrapper that comes from face to face contact) can lead people to make incorrect assumptions as to the meaning of a simple well-intentioned phrase. A good example of a failure to communicate on both sides.

instant_messaging.jpgWhat is required to sort this out? Actually very little. A simple injection of human personality via an instant messaging chat function where a live image of the person you are interacting with is displayed. Simply being able to interact with the person assisting you on a normal level with eye contact, facial expressions and a possibly bit of laughter would really complement the experience. Those experts on-line could then assist those in their own country/region/timezone in real time whilst the full text of the Instant Messaging session could be retained within the post. A re-introduction of human-level communication could reinvigorate the Joomla community and cut down the perceived trolling.



Last Updated ( Wednesday, 01 February 2012 )
 
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