Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fumbling with gemstomes

It's been a while since I last had time to update this blog, and a few interesting things have happened in the mean time.

First of all, I've decided to try and migrate from PHP to Ruby (on Rails) for future and current development projects. I remember reading the strange and wonderful "Why's poignant guide to Ruby" a few years back but never quite having the time to get into this inventive, new language. Of course, now, Ruby on Rails (RoR) is perhaps the hottest ticket out there, with all the Web 2.0 and Twitter being all the rage and RoR having all the great tools to make programming of 2.0 websites easy and dare I say it - fun. :-)

So, I started reading again. Obviously the Agile Web Development book by mr Hanemeier Hansson, and a great little book called Simply Rails 2 which I thoroughly enjoyed. I also bought Programming Ruby 1.9 , which is very well written. In fact, I really like the books from the Pragmatic Programmers' bookshelf. Great stuff! Ended up buying their Advances Rails Recipies, too, but haven't had a chance to check it out yet.

I kind of stumbled into Ruby again because I was looking for a good XML browser. And what I found, and fell totally in love with, was Nokogiri. This is a fantastically fast XML/HTML browser, which supports CSS3 and Xpath. This Ruby gem has great documentation, and has made my life so much easier. If you need to handle a lot of XML/HTML, go for Nokogiri! Can't recommend it enough.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Windows 7 UAC 'improvements' are, not surprisingly, bogus

Very interesting reading over at Ars Technica regarding the so-called 'improvements' in the Windows UAC system. Turns out there's an easy exploit using a windows native file that would allow any application admin access... Jeez.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Washington Post releases open source projects

This is really interesting. The Washington Post has just released a lot of their intra-/internet sofware solutions as open source projects!

Among the software now made available are a project management tool and a media library - the latter is of particular interest to me. It's all made for Django (Python), though , which I don't know, so I doubt I'll be able to make use of it in the short term. For any Djangoists out there, however, this ought to be great news. :-)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Programming pingbacks

I'm using a CMS system of my own development, and sadly, I never got around to programming pingbacks into it. I've been searching for a solution for this now and again for a year's time, and it seems I've stumbled on two very elegant code snippets that I think will work for me.

First, there's Richard Hirner's solution to receiving pingbacks using the XMLRPC library, which I think I'll be able to modify to work with my current webhost. Second, there's the PHP Pingback sender, written by Allan Wirth, based on Pingor. Using them as a staring point, I'm hoping to piece together a complete solution for my own CMS within a few days. I'll keep you posted about the results. :-)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Gmail: The loss of a button

Gmail updated its design again recently, and while I love the new look CSS buttons (read a very interesting item on their design here), there's another change that is more significant to me:

The loss of the "Search Web" button.

For those who have never noticed, there used to be TWO buttons to the right of the search field in Gmail. One labeled "Search Mail", and another called "Search Web". Now, since I'm mostly using Chrome, I almost always used the URL/adress/search field in the browser for searching the web anyways, BUT: 1) I don't have Chrome at work, and 2) Just clicking the button with nothing in the search field was the shortcut back to my iGoogle homepage!

Regarding item 2 above, Gmail strangely lacks a few items in  top meny bar that most other Google apps and services have - at least there's no "My Account", and I, for one, am missing "iGoogle". 

So, I'm hoping Gmail gets its button back (as an option), AND/OR that Google app engineers standardise their top menu bar. 

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Picking a PHP/MySQL authentication system

For years, I've been living with various home-made login/authentication systems on my sites, gradually updating and replacing obsolete code. 

I have searched for good, ready-made user systems before, but never found anything that satisfied my needs for easy customization and user administration, plus "forgotten password", email authentication, and so on. Since I'm building some new stuff from scratch, it was time for a new search.

To cut a long story short, after looking at and testing a few solutions, I ended up using Rad Inks' User Manager. It's very nicely built, the code is easy to read and simple to modify, and it works perfectly right out of the bag. So, if you are in need of a PHP/MySQL (or PostgreSQL) user management/login/authentication system, I think you should check this one out!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

DISQUS rules!

I've been considering a authentication system for a site I'm building, but wanted to integrate social networking features. I looked at Facebook Connect (from others sites I'm running, I've found that FB generates quite a lot of inbound links), but found the documentation a bit incoherent. Also, I saw I needed to have my own user database anyway. Back to square one.

In my reasearch, I found Google's Friend Connect. Now, GFC is extremely easy to set up - you just paste a few lines of code into your page where you want the widgets/gadgets to show up, and you're set, really. GFC offers a set of predefined user-related gadgets, including comments, friend lists, and other social features. I tried it on this new site, but two things put me off (well, two and a half): 1) The design of the google gadgets can't go any narrower than 200 pixles, which means I couldn't use the login box, among other things, in the same place on every page in the design. 2) I'mnot really sure about the social networking aspects of GFC; I think FB may be better. and 2.5) Not all aspects of the widget could be designed to blend in with my color scheme.

Now, along the way, I found Disqus, of course. And it turns out they have integrated Facebook Connect in their solution! If I were running this new site on a standard blog platform, there are plugins to take care of Disqus integration, but in my case, it only involved pasting in a few lines of code in my templates anyway. Very, very easy, simple and quick. I was up and running with comments on my new page within 60 seconds of deciding to go with Disqus. Not bad at all! :-)

Now, when signing in to the Disqus main site, one can use an OpenID login, but the Disqus comments box showing in my site only has a specific Disqus login (in addition to unregistered, a register features, and FB connect). I'm not sure if posting on my site after using FB connect will allow me to post the same thing to my FB account, as would an application using "pure" Facebook Connect, but I'm optimistic. I'm going to try ut out very soon - I'm just not ready to show the new site to the Facebook public yet. :-)