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 finished a new web shop for Goodwood Antiques at goodwoodantiques.co.uk. The shop features a Joomla CMS front-end using a traditional template from Joomlashack. The on-line shop is provided using the well-respected & integrated Joomla shopping cart Virtuemart. Goodwood Antiques has a unique product range of champagne and wine racks.
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Apologies to IE users - bug in IE8's Lookahead Downloader PDF Print
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pith-helmet.pngIt seems that IE users have been having problems with the blog page caused by Artio JoomSEF creating a weird URL for any Joomla blog category page. It was creating the page http://lightquick.co.uk/blog/index.php and this meant that the base URL changed so that no images would display. Each image had an extra /blog inserted into the URL. Strangely enough this problem did not mainfest itself on Firefox or Chrome and those browsers worked perfectly well all the time. Only IE had the issue. As I use Firefox exclusively for all development I did not see the problem myself. I have now manually changed the SEF URL to default to blog.html rather than /blog/index.php and it now seems to work on all browsers. Next time I purge the SEF URLs I must remember to make this same change every time. Once again, apologies IE users, summat strange happened and I don't really know why... fixed now though.

(later update)

I figured out why this happened. I realised it was also affecting the downloads page too so finally some digging was required. The issue is a result of using Artio JoomSEF with a jdownloads SEF extension and a serious IE8 bug.

The problem is only in IE and does not manifest in any of the other major browsers. The bug has been admitted by Microsoft  and is directly related to IE8's Lookahead Downloader. It appears that it loses the base reference after its first use. This means that it gets confused and assigns the wrong path to all css and images. Microsoft state that the bug is fixed but it does not appear to be so in the version of IE8 that I am running.  I reckon the fix made its way into IE9 but not IE8. The problem is similar to that in the blog where the images all show with a red 'x'.

The only solution is to edit your site template index.php file and to add the following line just after the <head> tag:

<base href="http://lightquick.co.uk">

ff-eating-ie.pngSimply replace http://lightquick.co.uk with your domain name. This forces IE8 to use the base HREF in all of the css/js/image lookups. IE8 will no longer try to anticipate what the URLs are likely to be and get it wrong. It will now use the correct URL as defined by you.

With IE9+ only running on Windows 7+ then it means that XP users like myself are left high and dry and with bugs like this downloader bug it is time to really think about choosing another browser. Microfarts state as an excuse that you ought to really be choosing a 'modern' browser. Well I sort of agree, I recommend that if you are serious about using the web then instead of IE you should use any of the other main browsers, Firefox, Opera or Safari. I would recommend Chrome too but it does not need any advertising...

 

 

 

Last Updated ( Friday, 23 December 2011 )
 
Kludgets to have Yahoo widget support? PDF Print
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I am in touch with Marvin, the developer of Kludgets and he has just told me he is going to make a serious effort into making it provide support for Yahoo widgets. Here's hoping... If he does then it will provide a unique multi platform engine and my widgets will run on Linux!

With regard to the steampunk thermometer widget gauges. I have had a few complaints about the clarity of the text on the gauges. The problem with working with high-detail components on pixel based displays is that you only have so many pixels to play with. The gauges are individual PNG files so they are already high quality, it is merely the reduction in size (they are created in much larger originals and then shrunk in order to look realistic) and the restriction of the number of pixels available on a standard monitor that causes any clarity issues. The gauges or text need to be bigger to be clearer or as screens grow in size and resolution so can the widget.

There is no easy magic solution but as the gauges run from 0-100% it should be clear as to to what they are indicating, merely by position. I could easily add a mouseover giving the current values in a pop up. - In fact I just checked, I already have!

Image
 
MMSBlog modified to use content tables PDF Print
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Typewriter.pngI am working on the MMSblog component by Jens-Christian Skibakk. The new version of the MMSBLOG component will now use the standard Joomla content tables instead of using its own bespoke table. This is a significant improvement as it means plugins will work with the blog content, standard tools can be used to edit and submit the content from the front end as well as the administrator backend.

The old table structure was also limited in the fields that it had available and these have obviously been extended by the use of the content table structure. The old table and links will be retained for SEO purposes as will the old link, it will just be moved to a more inaccessible location. 

Another benefit of using the standard Joomla content tables is that SEF tools work on the content by default whereas getting SEO tools to work on the MMSblog component was tricky and required extra work. It was easier just to convert the MMSBLOG component to work with Joomla a little better.

The work is not yet complete but only partially so, resulting in this blog page. The MMSblog tool currently posts into a section and category named BLOG though this should be configurable manually soon.

The end result will be a blog tool that can be used by sending articles by email directly into Joomla as per the old tool but with far greater flexibility.

Keep an eye out here for the updates, I will make them available as soon as they are in a workable and usable condition.

Please note this change is to enable the MMSblog component to work with Joomla 1.0/Joostina 1.2.

Joomla 1.5 - There is already a version of MMSBlog that does exactly this for Joomla 1.5 it is MMSBLOG 2.3.2 . Also, for your consideration there is an offering called Powermail. This is a commercial version of MMSBlog that was rewritten for Joomla 1.5. It is better, more secure and supported but it costs money, however that cash is collected for the blind so your money goes to a good cause!

 

Last Updated ( Friday, 07 October 2011 )
 
Facebook plugin for virtuemart 1.0 PDF Print
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faceboook-big.pngThe Facebook plugin for Joomla 1.0.15 has been modified so that it works on Virtuemart 1.0.15 items too. This means that you can have a facebook "share this" button on each of your virtuemart products. Clicking on the facebook button opens a "share this" link where the visitor can comment favourably on the product selected.

The plugin takes the form of a Joomla 1.0.15 mambot. The changes have just been made to the code that means it will operate on all content items and allow you to add a facebook share button anywhere on the page by means of moscode between { facebook }{ /facebook } parentheses.

You will need to make a simple change to the shop.product_details.php to incorporate some new code in order to make Joomla plugins appear in Virtuemart items. These details are provided as part of the mambot.

It has been tested on two viruemart shops so far and seems to be working successfully. You can download it at the downloads area of this site.

You can see it fully working on this page top right. Of course this is not a Virtuemart item but it works on content too!

The following is the moscode that you will need to enter into your content in order to put the facebook share this button anywhere else in your content.{ facebook }{ /facebook }It will also appear automatically at the top of each content item.

It can be found here for immediate download:

http://lightquick.co.uk/jdownloads/facebook-share-this-button-for-joomla-1.0.html

Note this is the deprecated (obsolete) old Facebook API method. Facebook will be turning it off soon. The new mambot that allow you to use the new Facebook iframe/xfbml methodsis below:

Facebook-like-this-button-for-joomla-1.0.15 version 2.0

 

Last Updated ( Friday, 23 December 2011 )
 
XE.com Currency converter for USD, GBP and EUR Virtuemart 1.0.15 PDF Print
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The Virtuemart XE Currency Convert is a virtuemart currency hack that
allow you to convert between GBP, EUR and USD currencies by using the
currency exchange rates as provided by www.XE.com. Changing a few
virtuemart files means that the whole shop will display prices in the
selected currency. Requires Virtuemart 1.0.15.

tenshillings-200.pngBe aware that the site where the currency feed is extracted from
(www.xe.com) can change the format of its page from time to time (on
average once every two years). This can have the adverse effect of
changing the currency conversion rate. If this occurs then changes will
need to be made. You can contact me and I will make the changes for
you. You can of course make the changes yourself, send them to me and I
will be glad to share them with the world. The new version here will be
kept updated as soon as I know of a change to the xe.com feed page. It
is in your interests to let me know if things change!

A change like this has just occurred and we have made the required
changes to make the feed work from the new XE site layout. You can
download the new version from the download page now.

See it here in action live: http://www.goodwoodantiques.com

xe-currency-example.jpg

You can download it here now:

http://lightquick.co.uk/jdownloads/xe-currency-converter-for-virtuemart-1.0.15.html

Last Updated ( Friday, 02 December 2011 )
 
Facebook "share this" button for Joomla 1.0.15 content items PDF Print
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faceboook-big.pngWe have just created a Facebook "share this" button for individual
content articles under Joomla 1.0.15. This functionality has been very
hard to find for Joomla 1.0 but at last it is here. It was created from
some old social bookmarking code that we had lying around. It was
quickly hacked and a "share this" mambot was created for Joomla 1.0. It
should also work perfectly well on Joomla 1.0 based CMS like Joostina 1.2.

It has been tested on both Joomla and Joostina and you can see it here
in action: http://www.savoysingers.co.uk

So, what does it do? This facebook.pngmambot will place a small facebook
button next to your articles. If your visitor is logged into Facebook
then it will link the article to his facebook account.

When a user clicks the Facebook 'Share' button on a website, a 'Post to
Profile' window appears to confirm the action. It attaches the item that
is to be shared and it provides a text box allowing the user to explain
why they've shared it. That open text box is the primary difference
between 'Share' and 'Like,'.

When a user 'Shares' an item, it appears on their Facebook Wall and is
broadcasted to all of their friends via the Facebook News Feed. This
distribution is what makes the 'Share' button so powerful. Let's say a
user shares a link to a new restaurant that just opened nearby. If they
type a positive response in the open text field (for example: "This
restaurant has the greatest hamburger in town!"), their friends may be
inclined to visit the restaurant and try the food for themselves. If
they type a negative response ("This was the worst meal of my life -
greasy food and bad service"), the mass distribution of the comment may
significantly hurt that restaurant's business.

You can configure the mambot to display the button only on certain page
types, exclude categories altogether and reposition the button where you
want it to appear. It is very useful for publicising your good old
Joomla 1.0. site. We will create a 'like this' variant a little later.
Please note this is beta and 'free' so if you want any corrections or
changes you may need to donate. Hope you enjoy it, you will find it on
our downloads page.

It can be found here for immediate download:

http://lightquick.co.uk/jdownloads/facebook-like-this-button-for-joomla-1.0.html

 

Last Updated ( Saturday, 17 September 2011 )
 
Aronline - Jaguar S type retrospective PDF Print
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Nothing to do with computers, joomla, steampunk widgets or anything
you'd normally see on this blog:

http://www.aronline.co.uk/blogs/2011/08/28/blog-jaguar-s-type-retrospective/

Just something I wrote regarding the S Type Jag of 1998 comparing it unfavourably with the
same from 1967.

 
Joomla forced upgrade policy PDF Print
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I have always been suspicious of a 'forced' upgrade policy, this is the
policy that Microsots (sic) impose on their user base, always changing
the goalposts and causing people to have to buy new versions of their
apps just because they change the underlying o/s. I say if it works then
stick with it. I have stuck to Joomla only to find I have been unable to
carry on with it as I couldn't upgrade certain of my sites. Those
remaining 10 x Joomla 1.0.15 sites, my preferred solution has been to
migrate the straight CMS sites to Joostina (J1.0.16+) or transfer the
cart-based sites to OSCommerce.


The former solution is a no-brainer as it is still approximately Joomla
1.0 and it satisfies my personal demands for a technically interesting
but easy upgrade path. The latter is interesting as it is a totally new
platform with plenty to learn and plenty to benefit from.

I would have had to choose neither of those two alternatives if the
migration path to J1.5 had not been quite so 'hard'.

It is an important point to note that a migration from J1.0 to J1.5,
although being essential, was fundamentally an uninteresting and boring
task to all concerned. No-one really benefitted much, and it was a
significantly time-consuming chore.

Many of us support multiple sites for multiple clients, so the decision
is more difficult.

From the time that Joomla 1.0 was end-of-lifed to now, I am pretty sure
that it would have been possible to introduce the changes more gradually
to get to where we are today. It might have been more work for the devs
but over this period of time I am sure it could have been done. The
problem is not so much that we had to migrate from 1.0, one migration
might just be bearable, it is the fact that we have to do it again and
again. I now realise that my decision to not upgrade from 1.0 to 1.5 has
saved me a lot of time, effort and money, avoiding 1.5 and 1.6 &c. I may
upgrade to Joomla 1.8 when it is proven that it is lot more stable and
hopefully not subject to more migrations - or maybe that is too much too
ask?


 

 
Is the increased frequency of Joomla upgrades a problem with multi sites? PDF Print
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It is unwise to regularly alienate your supporters, the reason why
people have been deserting Microsoft and instead using Firefox is the
same reason people are now starting to move from Firefox to Chrome. The
Mozilla team make changes that cause a well bedded-in interface to
change in an annoying manner and then they won't change it back nor give
you an option to undo.

Something similar is in effect with Joomla, it is now a much shorter
interval between migrations and so you suffer from the pain of having to
explain to your clients that they need to regularly migrate. I haven't
yet come up with a decent (truthful) reason that makes them willing to
pay...

If the regular upgrade path could be made more gradual and we had to
take slightly bigger upgrade bites without ever needing to actually
migrate then I would be a lot happier. I am content to upgrade but
unhappy to migrate. The new functionality is good but but is it
essentail to everyone?

Stuff like the new ACLs in Joomla 1.6 are a nice-to-have for regular
sites but for the majority it is not essential. ACLs are vital in a head
to head comparison between Drupal and Joomla in some theoretical sales
battle but this functionality is not required for any of the 30+ sites I
manage. This is where I'd like new functionality to be compatible with
the old, perhaps some new tables to support the ACL functionality and a
button to turn it off in the back end. If it is turned off then it is
should be just like old 1.5.


 
Does a PHP upgrade mean I have to upgrade my site to Joomla 1.5? PDF Print
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 The PHP evolution can mean that PHP is changed to a point where the sites suddenly stop working then the client is forced to migrate on pressure of imminent site death. Good to focus the mind but it could suggest to them that this CMS route is not as sensible as they might have thought. If site lifetime is only 2-3 years before major redevelopment is required then the returns on their investment are not
php upgrade.jpgas good as the client expects.

Instead, I find a host that is willing to keep running the correct version of PHP to run my older sites. At the moment what that means is that my Joomla 1.0.15 sites have no upgrade route and are stuck with PHP 5.2. All I lose is the ability to keep up with the current version of Joomla (which worries me with regard to security - but I hope I have that covered too). None of my clients have expressed dissatisfaction with their old sites' functionality and except for the current trend to link up to social networking sites the old sites still have the ability to match what can be built in 1.6, especially as they are not using any of the new stuff that 1.5/1.6/1.7/2.5 provides.

From the client's point of view they have a site that works, is it going to break? No. Is it going to change? No. Is it going to be hacked? So far, no. What will I materially gain from the upgrade? Not much. Will I gain in some esoteric way regarding being supported by an open source group of remote well-wishers that might help me with an undefined future problem? Yes - in a fashion.

Is there another version of Joomla in the offing? - Yes there always is, so why bother to do this migration when we will have to do another very shortly? J1.0 to 1.5 or 1.6 or 1.7? Which is it to be? I don't want to do all this again. I don't want to have to explain again to my 20-30 clients that in a short while the upgrade that gave them so little last time has to be done again! Unfortunately, the client generally won't pay as there is no obvious reason for them to do so . The only thing that will cause them to migrate is the imminent upgrade by the host of PHP to a version that just won't work with their version of Joomla. So, is it time to upgrade? There is no question, the answer is now inevitably, yes as PHP 5.2 has reqached the end of its life and is about to be retired wholesale from every host.

The problem is that in order to keep up with PHP5.3 I have to migrate my whole site to Joomla 1.5, then to Joomla 1.6 and then upgrade to 2.5. What a pain in the neck for no real benefit. If only the Joomla people could have had the foresight to release a patch forJoomla 1.0.15 that could have replaced the deprecated PHP 5.2 functions then Joomla 1.0 users could have retained their solid and well-performing sites for another five years.

I am disillusioned by this whole process and if it wasn't for my significant investment in terms of knowledge and time in Joomla I would think about a migration to another platform altogether. In my opinion there is a lot to be gained personally from migrating to another platform. A new learning experience, it would be interesting, widen my skillset. Compared to searching for new versions of the same old Joomla extensions, replicating the same old template, exporting the content, replicating the structure, and doing that for 30 sites - how completely, how soul-destroyingly dull.

What is the solution? Well, when I wrote this piece originally there wasn't one, now there are two new choices, you can upgrade your site to Joostina (Joomla 1.0 based CMS on steroids) or upgrade the site to attain PHP 5.3 compatibility. An article on how to do this is here:

Last Updated ( Monday, 12 November 2012 )
 
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