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. :-)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Magic Iso Maker stops Win XP shutdown

Not really related to anything else on this blog, but this might be of interest to others who have the same problem I had: Windows XP (pro) would take around 5 minutes to shut down - exceptionally annoying, as you can surely imagine. 

I bought a used Dell Latitude d820 a while ago, and there was a lot amiss with this computer, including a few trojans and viruses, missing windows updates, and the shutdown problem. 

Today, I rolled up my sleeves to try and find out what was wrong with the shutdown process. The delay would come after I had seen the "shutdown/reboot"-dialog, taking a long time to remove the desktop, and then often staying in black with occasional blinks of the HD light for a few minutes before finally going to sleep.

To make  long story short, after searching for XP shutdown problems on google, I looked through my Control Panel > System > Hardware > Device Manager for installed device drivers that I might not have a use for, and that might slow things down. Lo and behold: Magic Iso

The previous owner had installed some sort of simulated SCSI device driver, and after removing this (and the rest of Magic Iso, for good measure), Windows XP started acting the way it's supposed to! Hoo-ray! :-)

So, there you are; if you have frustratingly slow computer that refuses to shut down, and you use Magic ISO Maker, try uninstalling/disabling the driver. It might help. 

Mootools star rating; trying Rabid Ratings

I have been looking around at different javascript-based rating systems for a new web site I'm making, and I liked the look and feel av Rabid Ratings, a Mootools 1.2-based app/plugin/widget (what is the right term for a thing like this?) written byMichelle Steigerwalt.

For a change, Rabid Ratings uses hearts, not stars, as the rating graphic. What sets it a apart from other systems I've seen, though, is the use of transparent graphics with a color bar 'underneath' providing the color change effect as you mouse over to do your rating. 

Now, being a traditionalist (and a guy), I felt stars would be more appropriate for the site I'm designing, so I set about changing the graphic. Now, at this point, I got confused. Turns out, Rabid Ratings uses a large PGN set to the background color of the page, with "punched holes" that show the ratings. Instead of the graphic being set to the size of the rating symbol, the whole PNG is rather large, about 300 pixels wide, and somehow centered around the transparent rating symbols.  Thankfully, the original PSD file is included.

Once again, being a guy, I never really read the instructions properly. Michelle documented how you should change the javascript file to reflect changes made to the PNG, and there's a GIF showing what measurements of the PNG file whould be put into each variable. Did I notice this? No. I ended up hacking away at the PSD, shrinking the DIV, modifying the calculations in the js, and generally wreaking havoc on the original code to make things work. In the end, though, things turned out alright, and I got a working, 5-star rating system with MYSQL storage of results, ip checking and the full monty. 

The moral of the story: If you use Mootools and need a star rating system, check out Rabid Ratings, but as always: RTFM! :-) Now, to make the system even more foolproof, Michell might consider adding a demo using a different size/type/number of rating graphics, just to illustrate the changes necessary to make it work. Oh, and make a zip of the whole script set. That done, Rabid Ratings would be just about perfect. :-)