Macrotone Blogs

Macrotone blogs upon Joomla, our products and other matters.

Issue Tracker 1.6.10 released.

issues-48We are pleased to announce the availability of Issue Tracker release 1.6.10 for Joomla 2.5 & 3.4

This update corrects a number of problems, mainly minor found since the last release. There are no 'new' features as such, but the Tags feature has been modified and it is now possible to add tags to an issue from the front end.

This release has not been extensively tested against Joomla 2.5 which has been unsupported by Joomla for nearly a full year (at the date of this release).  It is expected to run but we regret that support for against such an old version of Joomla is unlikely to be available.

This release also continues with the implementation of some suggested improvements from our users.

See the changelog for details of all of the changes.

 The update is available in the download area.

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Joomla 3.4.8 released

joomlaThe Joomla! Project and the Production Leadership Team are proud to announce the release of Joomla! 3.4.8.

This is a bug fix release for the 3.x series of Joomla This release fixes some bugs related to session management from Joomla 3.4.7. The project understands that many of our users are now on Christmas Holiday's so we would like to emphasise that this release only contains bug fixes and whilst we strongly encourage our users to update as soon as practically possible, this update can be left until after any holidays.

What's in 3.4.8

Joomla 3.4.8 fixes some issues found in the 3.4.7 release on Monday to do with browser sessions. All reported bugs from the 3.4.7 update have been fixed in this release:

For known issues with the 3.4.8 release, see the Version 3.4.8 FAQ in the documentation site.. Please note that it is expected that you will be logged out as soon as the update is complete.

Official release details are located here.

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Joomla 3.4.x and Mootools

joomlaWe have long been aware that the use of Mootools in Joomla extensions is being discouraged, but also know that it is used in a number of different places in the core code and would be automatically loaded if required.

What we were not expecting was that relatively new extensions would be using it.  We have just spent the best part of a week playing with a particular problem involving Mootools that we thought we would share.  We tended to make things more difficult for ourselves as we were using a plugin to automatically disable Mootools (for a much older problem), which tended to ‘mask’ possible solutions which meant we would have reached a conclusion much earlier if we had remembered.

We were working on an update to a front end form and observed that calendar fields were not displaying the ‘popup’ calendar picker window, also that when displaying the ‘tags’ field to enable the user to select or create new tags to add to an item, that the displayed field did not match what we were expecting, or seeing in the back end of the sight using the same code constructs.   We could see a Javascript error in the error console that was either a) Tips not found, or b) Squeezebox not found.  The first coming from a form field tool tip, and the second coming from the form calendar field.  These were obviously related to the form elements, but the tag display didn’t appear to have either of these used in its construction.

The tag display with Mootools disabled looks as follows:

20151221154101 image 4

We tried adding in explicit call to load various Mootools elements yet were not seeing any change in the problems.  After much thought and investigation it was then that we realised that we had the Mootools disabler plugin enabled so all our changes were effectively being ‘ignored’.  After a little silent ‘blue’ language we disabled the plugin and the Javascript errors disappeared and the calendar popup was visible again. 

What we had not expected was that the Tag display would also correct itself, which effectively meant that the Joomla tags helper must be using Mootools somewhere in its code. 

The desired tag display form field required (and achieved):

image

Despite searching we couldn’t find any reference that documented this, so its one to watch out for if you meet it yourselves.

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Rialto v1.2.0 released

rialtoWe are pleased to announce release 1.2.0 of the Classified Ads component for Joomla named Rialto.

This component runs on Joomla 3.4 (and above) only. 

This release adds two major features, the first is support for Joomla Tags.  The second is that the front end Entry edit now makes use of JForms for better and easier control. One other significant change is the implementation of Joomla ACL controls, although this release does not fully implement it in the front end of the site. This will be more fully used in future releases. There are a number of minor changes/fixes also implemented in the release.

See the change log and documentation for more details.

The release is available in the download area.

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Tracking down CSS icon problems

We recently noticed a strange effect upon our web site, when we implemented a new component which was making use of the Joomla Searchtools and the JHtml 'jgrid.published' method upon the front end.  The basic problem was that the methods which use various icons such as icon-search, icon-publish icon-unpublish etc. was not displaying the icons and instead all we were observing was a small square rectangle where the icon should have been shown.

It was apparent that it had to be a site template ‘feature’ since when using the Joomla Protostar template all icons were correctly displayed.

We have made use of a Bootstrap 3 based template for some time and not observed this effect before, which is probably because we had not tried to use these Joomla methods before in the site front end.

Using the Firefox Web Developer plugin, we could see the CSS that was generated, and we could try and edit the CSS until we could achieve  the desired result, which was obviously to see the icons. What puzzled us for a little while was why after adding what we thought were the correct CSS commands the screen display (Firefox) didn’t immediately show the icon specified, and instead displayed a small lined box icon.  This made us immediately think that we had the wrong code, but after adding the same codes to the actual template and refreshing the page, clearing the cache etc., the requested icons did indeed appear.  Whether this is a Web Developer feature is unclear but it was certainly misleading!

The Bootstrap 3 template makes use of Awesome Fonts and it appears that something or somehow the font family has been disassociated from the icon class, so we added a few additional CSS rules to the template and this resolved the problem.

.icon-publish:before, .icon-save:before, .icon-ok:before, .icon-checkmark:before {
font-family: FontAwesome; content: "\f00c";
}
.icon-unpublish:before, .icon-cancel:before {
font-family: FontAwesome; content: "\f00d";
}
.icon-trash:before { font-family: FontAwesome; content: "\f1f8"; }
.icon-search:before { font-family: FontAwesome;    content: "\f002"; }
.icon-archive:before { font-family: FontAwesome;    content: "\f187"; }

The above FontAwesome content codes are for the 4.4.0 release.

Whilst investigating this we also looked at a problem that we has observed some time ago but never resolved, which was that the small drop down that we present on some pages which contains the icons to Print or Email the page contents, was difficult to see, and only upon hovering with the mouse over the small box where the dropdown was positioned, actually revealed its presence.  We wished the presence of the box to be more visually evident.

Again Firefox Web Development Tools helped and we could see that the dropdown CSS code was effectively empty so we had to specify a background colour as below:

a.btn.dropdown-toggle
{
background-color: #99ccff; 
}

This added a nice light blue colour to our background and achieved what we desired.

We are still a little puzzled as to why the above was required, but suspect that the reason is that Joomla itself has implemented specific changes to its own Bootstrap 2 implementation as used by the Protostar template, as since we were/are using a template based upon Bootstrap 3 we need to add these additional CSS codes to ensure functionality is maintained. This tends to support our conclusion from an earlier problem with the use of vertical tabs, which are not supported in Bootstrap 3, but that is a different post topic completely!

Tags:
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Kbase 1.1.0 released.

l com kbase
We are pleased to announce the availability of Kbase release 1.1.0 for Joomla 3.4

Kbase is a 'knowledge base' component used to present support information for our developed components in a user friendly manner upon our web site.  This update corrects a few very minor language problems and adds a new Glossary (Acronyms)) feature.

Updated documentation is available both as web pages and as a downloadable PDF file.

The update is available in the download area.

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Perseverance wins the day!

We recently investigated a problem upon our web site that impacted our Forum, and the ability to submit new topics or edit 'old' topics.
The problem was complicated in that there were no error or warning messages to provide any indications of what may be the cause. The most obvious symptom was that all of the problems were related and concerned the inability to submit 'form' data. i.e. The login process submits the entered details to the login process.  The creation or editing of a forum post involves submitting 'entered data' to the post process.  

Our immediate thought was that we were seeing a jQuery conflict, since we have seen similar problems in the past, again with no indication of the cause. We then proceeded to look at all the components, modules and plugins that we use upon the site but despite intensive searching we couldn't find anything that might be the cause, and there was certainly only one version of jQuery being loaded.  Investigation also revealed that only forms submitted by the forum software were impacted.  Very strange and seemed to indicate the forum software itself was at fault, but nobody had reported such a problem and when we tried it on another web site it worked perfectly.  We also tried installing an 'older' version of the forum software and this didn't resolve the problem either.

One complication was that we were also having problems with our backup software, and found that it was not possible to restore a backup to enable to perform some tests upon a copy of the live site.  We tried the software upon an earlier version of the site and it was working perfectly. This just made the problem more difficult to understand since that particular site was more likely to have a problem since it was more complex.

Once we have a solution to enable us to restore a current backup working correctly we performed a restore.  This was interesting since the 'restore site' worked perfectly and didn't exhibit the problems seen on the 'live site'.  This meant that the problem had to be caused by either a) the operating software upon the two platforms, b) the version of the underlying database, or c) the version of the PHP software used by the site.  Looking at the technical requirements of the software all were being met but there had to be something getting in the way.

Upon a hosted platform there is very little if anything one can do about the operating system, so we were left with the PHP and/or database versions. We looked at the PHP versions and tried a number of versions including 5.4.44, 5.5.28 and 5.6.12, without any change in the problem. Changing the database version is more complex since it required the creation of a new database and a restore.  The database versions upon both system was virtually the same being MySQL upon the live site and MariaDb upon the test site, although they were the same versions.

We therefore took the decision to try a system restore upon the live site with very little hope of a solution. To our surprise a system restore corrected the problem, which leads one to suspect that there was some corruption in the file system somewhere, but we currently have no idea exactly where at the moment. The most likely is that one or more of the forum software files was corrupt.

This was a long and exhausting investigation covering many days and resulting in delay to other activities.  Looking back if our backups had been working correctly then we might have got there sooner, which makes one ask just how regularly does one test the backups.  Obviously not enough has to be the answer in our case, even though we do test them periodically.  I suspect we are not alone in not testing the backups sufficiently often.

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MariaDB and Joomla update

Further to our original post, we have now carried out a series of tests and are pleased to say that we have found no problems with using MariaDB with Joomla.  Our tests compared version 5.5_44 of Maria DB and MySQL and to all intents and purposes no difference is noticeable.  We cannot say there is any difference performance wise, since we were testing upon different server instances, which makes such a comparison impossible to determine.

We can also say that our NAS in now running MariaDB as standard, so we will be using this version (5.5.44) for all our development work henceforth.

“For all practical purposes, MariaDB is a binary drop in replacement of the same MySQL version (for example MySQL 5.1 -> MariaDB 5.1, MariaDB 5.2 & MariaDB 5.3 are compatible. MySQL 5.5 is compatible with MariaDB 5.5). What this means is that:

  • Data and table definition files (.frm) files are binary compatible.
  • All client APIs, protocols and structs are identical.
  • All filenames, binaries, paths, ports, sockets, and etc... should be the same.
  • All MySQL connectors (PHP, Perl, Python, Java, .NET, MyODBC, Ruby, MySQL C connector etc) work unchanged with MariaDB.
  • The mysql-client package also works with MariaDB server.
  • The shared client library is binary compatible with MySQL's client library. “
Tags:
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Joomla Smart Search Index size observations.

We have recently upgraded the underlying database version of our Joomla site to MySQL 5.5, from 5.1 and carefully observed the sizes of the underlying databases as we progressed. The source database was reported as being some 200Mb in size, which is not excessive for our modest site, but we were very surprised when after restoring the system to the new database the database size was reported as 37Mb.  We understand how databases store their data, so it was not the fact that it was smaller than was the surprise more the dramatic difference.

We then proceeded to rebuild the ‘Smart Search (Finder)’ indexes and checked the database size yet again.  This is necessary, since the backup does not by default include the Smart Search table data in the dump file. It was now reported as being 147Mb, and increase of 110Mb.

The fact that this increase was on our modest site, must make one wonder whether the benefits out weight the database storage overhead.  Ours’ is certainly not a large site, and the use of ‘smart search’ on large sites is not something we would wish to consider, and a dedicated standalone search engine, such as Solr, or possibly the Google Site Search, rather than the pure-PHP implementation used in Smart Search may well be found to be more suitable.

Smart Search itself consists of a number of ‘tables’ in the Joomla installation, of which at least 16  are "mapping tables". These mapping tables resolve the many-to-many relationship between search terms and the content items that contain them. In theory those 16 tables could be merged into a single table and doing so would have negligible impact on small sites. However, on larger sites there would be a substantial impact on performance because the mapping table would have a very large number of entries and updating such a large table can be time-consuming.  Maintaining the search term index requires a fair amount of disk space, which increases the more terms that content items contain. Since phrases are also indexed, the longer the phrases, the more disk space required. For Smart Search a reasonable compromise has to be reached between search usability and disk space usage.

Our observations must question this compromise and possibly we need to review the settings that we are actually using. It is likely that most readers may not be aware of exactly how large the ‘smart search tables’’ are in their own Joomla installations.  The decision as to whether to continue using the Smart Search’ component should also be reviewed.

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Making a component truly Multilingual (6)

We duly released our ‘multilingual’ component Rialto, and there are just a few additional points worth mentioning before we wrap up our series of blog posts upon this topic

One cool trick that we discovered from reading the Joomla documentation is the ability load arbitrary front-end and back-end language files of any component and language. For example, you may want to load the English language file and mix it with the user's current language. This means that untranslated strings will appear in English and not as untranslated keys. You can use something like this for the back-end language files:

$language = JFactory::getLanguage();
$language->load('com_yourcomponentname', JPATH_ADMINISTRATOR, 'en-GB', true);
$language->load('com_yourcomponentname', JPATH_ADMINISTRATOR, null, true);

And to load the front-end language files, using the same trick:

$language = JFactory::getLanguage();
$language->load('com_yourcomponentname', JPATH_SITE, 'en-GB', true);
$language->load('com_yourcomponentname', JPATH_SITE, null, true);

This  is particularly useful for the situation where not all of the ‘foreign’ language translations are up to date, yet you still wish to present an ‘intelligent’ output.   

One associated use of the above is the situation where we have the front end making use of helper files from the back end, and the strings used in the helper files are (obviously) making use of the back end language files. To avoid re-specifying the strings in the front end language files we can ensure that the back end files are picked up by including the above in our helper files.

We have avoided describing how a multilingual site is set up, as this is adequately covered in many other posts upon the net. We would again strongly recommend the component named ‘JAMultiLingual’ from Joomla Arts that we have successfully used to set up a Joomla site for ‘Multilingual’ and certainly simplifies the steps in getting started into Joomla Multilingual. It is not the only possibility but one which we have used and found very well constructed.

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