Macrotone Blogs

Macrotone blogs upon Joomla, our products and other matters.

Bootstrap templates width of 'Text Area' boxes.

b2ap3 icon joomlaWe have been looking at the size of the 'Text Area' boxes displayed within the Isis back end template and the Protostar front end template and wondering how to increase the width so that it maximises the available space as opposed to being restricted to the small (approx 200px) size.

Attempts to specify the number of rows and columns made no difference and searching the web didn't reveal any solution.

So we are sharing the 'fix' for the 'width' text area boxes which achieves what we were trying to achieve.

In the form definition XML file navigate to the appropriate 'textarea' field, and then modify the 'class' entry (or add one if it doesn't have one) to the following:

class="inputbox textarea-span"

The important bit is the 'textarea-span' after the inputbox.  We have tried specify specific span sizes after the 'span' but these do not make any difference.  i.e. span6, span8 etc.

Once the from is refreshed then the boxes will occupy what ever width is available.  This works with Isis and Protostar templates, so should work with any Bootstrap based templates.

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Strange 1604 errors with upgraded Joomla 3.1.5

b2ap3 icon joomlaWe today tried an upgrade of a copy of our Joomla 2.5.14 site to Joomla 3.1.5 as a test to see just how much we would have to change and the work involved.

The upgrade seemed to complete successfully and then we started to look further.

There are some obvious component that do not have Joomla 3.1 versions and we found that there was a need to upgrade some plugins which were causing front end site errors of various types but mainly relating to Mootools. Nothing too difficult to resolve.

On the front end we then started noticing a few page errors 1604 with messages similar to the following:

You have an error in your SQL syntax; check the manual that corresponds to your MySQL server version for the right syntax to use near 'FROM WHERE ='index.php?option=com_xxxxxxxx&view=yyyyyy' AND ='1' LIMIT 1' at line 1 SQL=SELECT FROM WHERE ='index.php?option=com_xxxxxxxx&view=yyyyyy' AND ='1' LIMIT 1

It is very evident as to what is wrong with the SQL statement but the question is why and where is the statement coming from.  It certainly doesn’t look like a statement in any specific module as far as we can see.  The particular components (and modules)  in question work perfectly fine upon a fresh install of Joomla 3.1.5 so I think we can eliminate the component/module from being at fault.  It is not restricted to one component either.

Disabling module(s) sometimes indicates a specific module at fault but as I said earlier the module(s) works fine on a ‘fresh 3.1.5’ install.

We have also seen ‘404’ errors reported when trying to install/upgrade an existing component to the latest version to run on Joomla 3.1.5.  Again the components install fine on a fresh ‘3.1.5’ install.

Of course it could be that the various components do not upgrade correctly on Joomla 3.1.5 but this seems unlikely especially as one can update the component successfully on a ‘fresh 3.1.5 install’.

Our conclusion is that it is probably the ‘Joomla’ upgrade itself that is at fault. Even ‘reinstall’ of the Joomla update doesn’t resolve the problems. Inspection doesn’t provide any clear ideas at present as to what could be at fault, so it is probably fair to not even contemplate thinking about updating our ‘live’ site just yet until a few of the remaining ‘issues’ are resolved.  There is a need to ‘preserve’ our existing data and an export/import approach doesn’t really bear thinking about.

One to revisit later possibly once 3.2 has stabilised.

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Implementing Joomla 3.1 Tags feature

J3.1-Transparent-bgWe originally implemented the Joomla 3.1 tags feature within our Issue Tracker component. This was done using the documentation[1] by Elin Waring the originator of the feature.  This worked fine until Joomla 3.1.4 was released when it changed to use the JObserver classes.

The basic change (as we understand it) is that the tag fields were originally stored within the ‘metadata’ field where as using the (new) JObserver class removes this requirement and the tag is not required to be saved with the item at all. Both methods were intended to be supported but the implementation is broken, but may well be fixed in a later update.

We found another document[2] describing the modified configuration/setup. The problem was we couldn’t get it to work as it was described.

We eventually found a solution which is as follows.

1) In the components table class we added the following line:

JTableObserverTags::createObserver($this, array('typeAlias' => 'com_xxxxxxxxxx.yyyyyy'));

Where the component is xxxxxxxxxx and yyyyyy is the tag type.  (The differs from the suggestion in the documentation[2] which we couldn’t get working.)

2) Double check the field mappings which get placed in the #__content_types table.  The configuration document[2] shows square braces in the string but these are not required or necessary.  It is also important that the field mappings accurately match the fields within the referenced table.  A small mistype or wrong name will result in an error being generated when the tab is saved.  It doesn’t help that the error message only tells one that an error has occurred not what the actual error is.  We found out through trial and error. [We note that there are a few other fields in the #__ucm_content table that can also be populated, notably the created_by_alias.]

3) We also found that we required the following in the getItem method of the model (despite the documentation[2] saying otherwise).

$item->tags = new JHelperTags;
$item->tags->getTagIds($item->id, 'com_xxxxxxxxxx.yyyyyy');
// $item->metadata['tags'] = $item->tags;

The last line we have commented out since we do not observe any impact of it being present.

4) In one of our tag types we were using the table class method called directly, calling the various bind, check and table store methods. This meant that some code that is required to handle the tags did not get called.  The easiest way we resolved this was to instead call the parent:save  routine. This was achieved by slightly restructuring the model save method and also meant that we didn’t have to add additional code and also enabled us to simplified our code.

5) The other change we made was to the 'Hathor' template view overrides to display the tags. Again the suggestion in the documentation[2] didn't work for use and we resorted to the standard display mechanism.

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Updating Transifex Source files

transifexWe were in the situation of releasing a new version of one of our Joomla extensions and needed to update the source language files on Transifex. Originally we had loaded them via the web  to place them upon Transifex so immediately looked to do the same with the updates. Alas it didn’t seem to be possible, so we were forced to make use of the ‘tx’ client.

Fortunately the transjoomla site provided clear details of how to set up the client.  We then had to edit the created ‘config’ file so that it reflected our source files.  Then we used a command to update a single resource file as follows (again the example form transjoomla):

tx.exe push -r virtuemart.admin-plg_vmpayment_klarna_sys -s

(as in: sending the admin file "en-GB.plg_vmpayment_klarna.sys.ini" to "virtuemart" project)

We immediately hit a problem with a 401 Authentication error.  We looked at the ".transifexrc" file in our user-folder and sure enough the correct password was present, so it wasn’t a credentials problem.    After searching we discovered that our project ‘config’ file  was misconfigured for a different resource from the one we were updating. Once we had corrected that the upload of our changed resource file proceeded smoothly.

Only thing we are now unsure of is whether our translators are automatically informed of the change or not?

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Another PC puzzle

windows7It must be the week for PC problems, since I was given another one to try and puzzle out the other day.

The machine was running slowly, and seemed to have difficultly in logging off users, shutting down, and even performing any long term tasks. Also noted that Windows Update would loop forever ‘Searching for updates’.   Even trying to run a virus scan kept hanging on files which I am reasonably sure were virus clean.  The machine wouldn’t ‘hibernate’ or ‘sleep’ and the user was forced to depress the power button to close down the machine.  To add insult to injury even the ‘task window’ was behaving erratically making diagnosis night on impossible, but when it did work the machine was showing less than 3% usage.

I have never seen a machine behave quite like this and immediately suspected a virus infection of some form. Norton and McAfee kept 'sticking' on various files when running and wouldn't run in safe mode for some obscure reason.  Even the McAfee program was refusing to use 'Real Time checking' and would periodically say it needed updating, even when at other times it was 'up to date'. Managed to run a virus scan using the excellent McAfee Stinger program in safe mode, which revealed that the machine was virus free, which whilst satisfying still got one no nearer to knwing what was going on.  Next various attempts were made to resolve individual symptoms with mixed success. Never could get Windows Update to work reliably though.  Even resorting to system restore and using the oldest restore from a month earlier, exhibited the same symptoms.

After wasting several hours trying to pin down the source of the problem the final step was just to bite the bullet and perform a factory reset, having ensured that I had copies of all the users files (documents, music etc.).   The restore worked perfectly and then comes the task of updating it with all of the latest Microsoft updates, which is no small task.  It is at times like this that you realise just how many fixes Microsoft release for their operating system. Several hours later it is still finding more fixes. Once you have run an update, running it again shows even more fixes are found.  It took six, yes six separate update checks to get up to date and that is just for the operating system itself, not for the Microsoft applications (Office). 

Next to load the user applications and copy back the users files.  In all over 24 hours have been spent dedicated to just getting the machine back to a usable state and I still have no distinct idea of what was causing the problem in the first place.  No viruses appeared to be present with all virus software fully up to date, and the program installation history indicated nothing new had been installed for several months.  Obviously a few program updates may have been made to things like browsers, but the problems were present even with no browsers active (but background processes were of course still present).

I suspect I may never really know what was the cause of the problem and searching the web doesn’t throw up any similar reported situations. One to put down to ‘unknown’ I guess. Never had to resort to a Factory reset before, but it proves the worth of the manufacturers (in this case HP) supplying them in a reserved disk partition.

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Experiences with JQuery and Dialog boxes

jqueryWe recently started work on a plugin enhancement that was intended to add a ‘button’ to an existing form programmatically which when pressed would open a ‘popup’ window where the user could review a generated ‘parameter value’ and either accept it or regenerate the value until an acceptable value was obtained, before returning to the calling screen, where the value is inserted into an existing form field.

With the design intent decided upon, the fun part of making the change started.  Firstly the existing form is an already existing Joomla form which for obviously reasons we do not want to modify, other than programmatically.  We looked at using Mootools  initially, but this is gradually being replaced by the use of JQuery, so it seemed sensible to start using JQuery.  An additional consideration is that the JQuery UI tools, specifically the Dialog boxes look very useful.

After much testing and frustration we discovered that there are some specific ‘id’ specifiers that JQuery does not like using. For example we could place the ‘button’ using the id field on the JForm label tag, but not on the JForm input tag.  No error messages were ever seen, just that the instruction was silently annoyed.  This seems to be related to the specific ‘append’ function we are using. There is the possibility to use ‘append’, ‘prepend’, ‘after’ and before (ignoring ‘appendto’ which is the same thing only with the arguments transposed). The input tag does not accept the use of append (or prepend). Very strange.  Investigation isn’t helped by the fact that viewing the web page, doesn’t show ‘our’ added button etc in the HTML code, presumably since this is not the ‘source’ web page but one we have modified. Not sure, or indeed found a solution to this particular problem yet.

Since we were using an existing (base form) we not only had to add the button to the form but also add a place holder for the JQuery UI Dialog box, otherwise the dialog box is never displayed.

Another challenge is the CSS involved with the additional strings. To get the popup box, one has to have  the CSS included in the page usually with one of the JQuery Template CSS types such as smoothness. Unfortunately this also changes the CSS of the newly inserted button used to call the popup. This is not really desirable since we want the calling page to ‘look’ like the existing form page with the exception of our added button. [Note this applies even if instead of a button, we use a simple anchor link to the popup, so is not specific to the use of a button.] So it is necessary to also include code to remove the CSS from the button that we had inserted to call our ‘Dialog box’.

Creating the generated popup window contents was relatively easy, as was also inserting the generated values back into the main form once the user has accepted them.

Since we want also to pass in certain parameters to the generated ‘parameter’ creation  code behind the ‘Dialog box’ we decided to add the Java via a PHP routine call. In this way we could also ensure that the appropriate language strings were also passed in, thus ensuring that the plugin was ‘multi-lingual’.

We do not consider ourselves Java experts by any means, but have little difficulty in generally getting what we want working.  We still a little bit of tweaking to perform on the java code itself, but we are pleased to say that it is working very much as intended so will be included in the next release of out Password Control plugin.

It was ‘fun’ although somewhat complicated by the apparent inconsistences of getting the initial button placement working in the desired position, and the need to modify the CSS on our original form for our newly placed button. The jury is still out on whether it is better than Mootools, but since Joomla is heading towards greater use of JQuery and phasing out Mootools it is a route that more and more will have to follow.

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Windows 7 Networks connectors suddenly stop working

windows7Had an interesting problem this morning which while not difficult to fix took up a lot of time investigating.

Yesterday the laptop was working perfectly fine, connecting to the internet via the wireless connector. This morning the wireless connector failed to make a connection to the hub.  Very strange, but even more so when all other PC devices were working fine, and even the plugged in network adaptor was failing to make a connection.  Running the command line ‘ipconfig’ command didn’t even display the network adaptors as existing!

Looking at the network adaptors didn’t show anything unusual in the control panel. They were present and enabled and running fine.  However the network trouble-shooter said there were problems with the adaptors but couldn’t say what was wrong.  A fat lot of use they turned out to be.

Looking at the system activity the only events that I could see were that yesterday afternoon I upgraded ‘Tortoise SVN’ to the latest 1.8.1 version and this morning it looked like ‘Trusteer Rapport’ had also updated itself. Now the machine was fine after the Tortoise upgrade, and presumably the network connection must have been fine if Rapport had upgraded itself.

Uninstalling ‘Rapport’ did not resolve the problem, so tried using System restore to a point prior to the ‘Rapport’ update, but this also failed to resolve the problem.  At this point I decided to uninstall the two network devices (using Device Manager), and then use the ‘discover new hardware’ option to reinstall them.  Surprise, surprise the main network adaptor suddenly started working.  At last a clue.

I then proceeded to perform system restore again to the latest point and then uninstalled, and rediscovered the adaptors.  The main network adaptor worked straight away, but because I had obviously removed the wireless connector details, all of the ‘automatic’ connection details for the adaptor also were lost, so it was necessary to re-enter the connection keys etc.

So the only thing I can conclude from this is that the ‘Trusteer Rapport’ (version 3.5.1208.41) must somehow have impacted the network adaptors, something which even uninstalling didn’t resolve. For those unfamiliar with Rapport it is security software that is used to protect secure sites such as banks etc. Quite why it should impact the network adaptors is not quite so clear. Searching on the web didn’t discover anything similar reported but then again perhaps it is still ‘new’ and nobody else has reported it yet?

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Considering Metadata for our Joomla extensions

The use of Metadata within web pages to provide a ‘richer’ and more tailored data structure is not new.  The term metadata is defined as "data about data". The term is however slightly ambiguous, as it can be used for two fundamentally different concepts (types). Structural metadata is about the design and specification of data structures and is more properly called "data about the containers of data"; descriptive metadata, on the other hand, is about individual instances of application data, the data content. In our context we are really talking about ‘data about data content’.

We say it is not new because many years ago we worked upon implementing some of the ‘Dublin Core’ metadata into some specific sites that we were working with.  The focus now seems to be the use of the vocabularies as defined by ‘schema.org.  This is no doubt influenced by the fact that it was promoted by Microsoft and Google themselves.

Deciding to implement it is not for the faint hearted especially if the ‘intended’ target is composed of entities that do not easily fit into one of the defined ‘standards’.  As an example we have looked at our ‘Problem/Issue/Bug Tracking’ application.  At first glance it looks to be a ‘Product’, but the products are those that are sold, or available to hire etc.  The output from our ‘Issue Tracker’ is a set or series of ‘reports’ which describe reported problems or improvement tasks for a ‘product’ hence perhaps they should instead be an ‘Article’.  Here again they do not really fit into the current ‘standard’.  The best we can come up with would be a ‘CreativeWork’, and more specifically a ‘SoftwareApplication’, but even here we would need to add some specific custom extensions, which is possible with ‘schema.org’ to more accurately reflect information that should be in the meta tags. We require the metadata to describe the output from the application and not the application itself.

At the moment the jury is still out as to whether we wish or desire to add an automated mechanism to our application to generate the meta data automatically.  We will probably continue to monitor the situation before deciding whether to implement it as a feature or not, especially as it is not certain whether including it will improve the page rankings within Google, since the exact details of the algorithm used by Google is their secret.

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Oracle Database 12c (12.1.0.1.0) released for Windows 64bit

oracleWe note that Oracle has now released the latest version of its database for Windows 64bit to go with the earlier released Solaris (Sparc and x86-64)  and Linux platform versions. Interested readers can obtain a copy from Oracle via its Technet site.

The official release docs follow:

Oracle Database 12c, the latest generation of the world’s most popular database, has been developed for the Cloud and will enable customers to make more efficient use of their IT resources while continuing to improve their users’ service levels. In addition to a raft of enhancements and new features, including a new architecture, Oracle Database 12c makes it easier for customers to take advantage of the Cloud through:

bullet  Consolidating multiple databases with Oracle Multitenant

bullet  Automatically optimizing data storage and compression according to usage patterns

bullet  Providing continuous access with Oracle’s Maximum Availability Architecture

bullet  Securing enterprise data with comprehensive defense-in-depth strategy

bullet  Simplifying in-database analysis of Big Data

bullet  Efficient database management using Enterprise Manager Cloud Control

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Free Toad for Oracle 12.0.0.61 released

Toad World - Connected IntelligenceWe are pleased to note the release of Toad for Oracle 12c is available on the Toadworld site. This is hot after the official Oracle release itself.

We have used the tool for more years than we care to remember, and it is highly recommended. They are invaluable for good database development and support.

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