Macrotone Blogs

Macrotone blogs upon Joomla, our products and other matters.

Quicken UK Personal Finance

qw2k43We have for more years than we care to mention used a personal Finance program to track all of our finances.  The package we have used in known as Quicken developed by Intuit. Unfortunately back in 2005 they decided that it was not economical to continue with the UK version and thus it is many years since we last updated the package.  In fact it is even longer than that since the version we use is/was dated 2001.

This isn’t quite as bad as it sounds since financial accounting hasn’t significantly changed over time and crediting and debiting amounts from an account still functions exactly the same.  However the program runs/ran upon Windows XP, and even Microsoft have officially ceased XP support.  We have even resorted to having a virtual machine just to run our old version.

This situation is not ideal but the main competitor Microsoft Money was also withdrawn in 2005.  There are a few alternative from smaller producers available, but familiarity with Quicken is not one of their main considerations, not surprisingly.

In the States the version of Quicken is 2015 version, so we decided to see if it were possible to upgrade.

The first thing we discovered was that the file format of the Quicken data file has changed so even if we wanted to migrate to the latest US version we would have to go through an intermediate step to convert the files.  Fortunately Quicken UK provide a free upgrade to Quicken 2004 R2, which can convert the file.  We installed the update and the file was successfully converted. We performed the conversion on our virtual XP machine, after ensuring suitable backups etc., were taken.

We then wondered whether we could run this upgraded 2004 version on Windows 7 native.  We found this post which mentioned that many people were able to use it on Windows 7. The posts were dated 2011 but with nothing to lose we installed the upgrade on Windows 7.  It installed fine but when we tried to run it we received the error that the file MFC70.dll was missing.  Again we found a post that provided a resolution.   In our case we merely changed the install file to be XP compatible and reran the install. This time it ran successfully after reinstalling.

Then we loaded out backup QData file and we were back on track.

OK we have no official support for such an old version but it functions well, and having never had the need for support in over 20+ years, it is not a major consideration. Updated share prices and the ability to download from Financial institutions were both features that we rarely used so  that they will (probably) not work is not a concern.

Next we have to look at obtaining and using the US 2015 version.  In theory we should be able to use the US version by specifying our default currently as Sterling.  We would probably not be able to use the Cloud storage and a few other ‘features’ either which begs the question is this something worthwhile doing?

The first problem is going to in obtaining a version from the US, since they are reluctant to send a US version out of the States, since we do not have a US Zip code. Amazon state that the product is only available to to customers located in the United States and who have a U.S. billing address.  Since we do not this is a potential show stopper.  EBay appear to have a few sellers but with postage such a large contribution to the total cost there has to be  cheaper option.

So currently we have managed to ‘upgrade’ our version to the last UK supported version and can run it upon Windows 7, which is a cleaner solution that using a virtual machine with the 2001 version.  This is progress and moves us further forward with a good working base but we are not running the latest US version which was our original intent. Something to look at again when we have some more time.

 

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Creating a category on component install.

We were looking at an easy way in which to create a default category for a Joomla component which we are developing. The problem is that a common insert directly into the table is not sufficient since the ‘#__categories’ table is actually a ‘nested’ table, and it would be necessary to rebuild the table entries after an insert anyway, otherwise the table could/would be corrupted.

We searched around for a possible solution and eventually found a method which we could adapt for our usage.  We present our resultant function below:

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Image and text wrapping in a responsive template

We recently turned our attention to a small problem we had noticed on our site.  We display a few famous quotes as a module on the site, and since moving to a responsive site template, noticed that the various quotes did not display nicely when various screen sizes were in use.

As displayed the quotes were composed of an image tag followed by the specific quote text, and then by the author details.  A typical quote quote would thus look similar to the following:  (Lines split for convenience.)

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Problem with HTTPS Everywhere and Google Translate

We recently noticed a small problem where we have HTTPS Everywhere installed within our Firefox Browser and we were trying to view a translation using Google Translate.

The translation page would display correctly yet only the page headers would be shown. The actual translation was not visible.  Inspection of the Java Console revealed an error:

Error: Load denied by X-Frame-Options: https://translate.google.com/translate?client=tmpg&depth=1&hl=en&langpair=en%7Cfr&rurl=translate.google.com&u=http://macrotoneconsulting.co.uk/ does not permit cross-origin framing.

The actual HTTPS rule was already disabled within the HTTPS plugin so we were puzzled as to why it was failing.  We tried disabling the HTTPS Everywhere plugin completely and the translation would work. So it was almost as if even though the actual rule to convert the http to https redirect was disabled it was trying to use the rule!

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MySQL 1071 and associated errors.

mysqlOur users have reported a few MySQL errors over the years but one of the most common appears to be the

ERROR 1071 (42000): Specified key was too long; max key length is xxx bytes

Where xxx is some specified value often, but not always, a value of 767.

For that reason we decided that we would make this blog entry to try and explain the situation.

We are concerned here mainly with InnoDB tables since that is what we tend to use in our extensions.

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Newsfeeds display – solution to an enigma

b2ap3 icon joomlaWe have always displayed a few relevant newsfeeds upon our web site, but it has never, to be honest been very high on the visitor list, or upon our own priority list. We long ago noticed that the default display for the ‘Newsfeeds Categories’ in the front end of our site comprised merely of two lines, one for each of the two newsfeed categories we use, which also acted as a link to the underlying newsfeeds in the respective category.  There was no page header, no display of the breadcrumb information, and no details of the category descriptions.  In short  a very barren page.

Originally it was suspected that it might be a template or CSS type problem.  Attempts to change the menu settings, resaving module specifications etc.,  all proved fruitless.  It didn’t matter what the menu settings were, they were silently ignored.  One is tempted to say it was a cache type problem, but bearing in mind that this has been the situation for several months, if not longer  and the various caches’ had been manually cleared several times during that period, it was obvious that something else was amiss.

With the change to a new site template, the situation remained unresolved and it was starting to get a little bit annoying.   So given a hour or so spare we decided to investigate further.  Inspection of the PHP code underlying the display revealed no clues, and despite retrying all our previous steps we were no further forward.

Searching the web for similar reported problems drew a complete blank, apart from a link to a very strange problem we had ourselves encountered with the display of breadcrumbs on a previous occasion.  Looking back we found out previous blog entry. [So keeping a blog can prove useful.]  We thus decided to clear all URL entries from the sh404SEF component for the com_newsfeeds component.  Low and behold on refreshing our web page the correctly formatted page was shown, complete with headers, breadcrumbs, descriptive text etc.

We realise that sh404SEF keeps track of URL links, but why this should impact the page display is currently a bit of a mystery.  It doesn’t itself cache pages, but must somehow also keep track of which modules and what the ‘previous’ settings were for a page ,for which it is keeping a record of the link.  I am sure that I have never read anything of this sort in the component documentation.

What we learnt gain from this is that sh404SEF seems to have some strange characteristics which impact what is displayed upon a screen, far and above just converting non SEF URLs to a SEF format.  So it you are ever seeing a similar type of problem and every thing else seems to failing to resolve it, it might, if your site is using sh404SEF be worth clearing your entries and seeing if it resolves the problem.  Certainly stranger things have happened.

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Web Site Revamp

We are pleased to announce the revamp of our web site.

We have retaining all of our previous content which is now presented in a template designed by Joostrap making use of Bootstrap v3.

This redesign is intended to reflect some of the newer emerging technologies and also increased performance and a more streamlined design. It is fully responsive and mobile ready, using HTML5 as standard.

This is the first of a number of changes we will be making on the site which will be made over the next month or so. Our previous template has served us well for a while but all things have their time and it was time to move with the times.

Update 25/06/2014: Have also upgraded the version of Joomla to the latest release. Hopefully everything will remain stable.

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Canvas Fingerprint code tracking

fingerprintThe topic of the moment appears to be ‘Canvas Fingerprinting’ with a number of articles available on the web. It is the latest development in use for tracking the movement of users on the web. You do not need to click on a widget to be tracked, just visiting the site is sufficient.  It exploits the subtle differences in the rendering of the same text to extract a consistent fingerprint that can easily be obtained in a fraction of a second without the user being made aware.

A research paper concluded that code used for canvas fingerprinting had been in use earlier this year on 5,000 or so popular websites, unknown to most of them. Most but not all the sites observed made use of a content-sharing widget from the company AddThis.

The mechanism: Canvas Fingerprinting works in a similar way to cookies, by keeping a record of which sites are visited. When a browser loaded the AddThis widget, JavaScript that enabled canvas fingerprinting was sent. The script used a capability in modern Web browsers called the canvas API that allows access to the computer’s graphics chip, which is intended for use with games or other interactive content.

An invisible image is sent to the browser, which renders it and sends data back to the server. That data can then be used to create a “fingerprint” of the computer, which could be useful for identifying the computer and serving targeted advertisements.

But of several emerging tracking methods, canvas fingerprinting isn’t the greatest: it’s not terribly accurate, and can be blocked.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recommend their own ‘Privacy Badger’ or the Disconnect add-on.  

The list of sites that still track you is at this address.

So much for privacy.

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ReCaptcha disappeared from User Registration.

ReCaptchaWe were recently informed of a problem on our site where the ReCaptcha image was not being displayed.  This was puzzling since we hadn’t changed anything and the image was showing in other locations upon the site, such as adding article comments etc.

We were aware of a few changes a year or so ago by Google but are not aware of any recent changes.  After some searching we found this article which described our problem and provided a solution that appears to work well.

We had already checked that Method 1 in the article didn’t resolve the problem so we used Method 2 which we reproduce below.

This overrides the Core Joomla code for ReCaptcha:
1. Open the file: /plugins/captcha/recaptcha/recaptcha.php
2. Find the following string in the OnDisplay function:

return '<div id="dynamic_recaptcha_1"></div>'; 

3. and replace with:

   1:  // Replace YOUR_KEY with your public key 
   2:   
   3:   return '<div id="dynamic_recaptcha_1"> 
   4:   <script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.google.com/recaptcha/api/challenge?k=YOUR_KEY"></script> 
   5:   <noscript><iframe src="http://www.google.com/recaptcha/api/noscript?k=YOUR_KEY" height="300" width="500" frameborder="0"></iframe><br> 
   6:   <textarea name="recaptcha_challenge_field" rows="3" cols="40"></textarea> 
   7:   <input type="hidden" name="recaptcha_response_field" value="manual_challenge"></noscript> 
   8:   <script type="text/javascript"> 
   9:   window.onload = function() { 
  10:   Recaptcha.focus_response_field(); 
  11:   } 
  12:   </script> 
  13:   </div>'; 

 

 

We have tested using Firefox, Chrome and IE and in all cases we now see the ReCaptcha image, where as previously we were not.

The following additional comments were present in the original article and also apply in our situation.

Additional

  • This applies to a case where the code WAS working and without any changes to the server (no updates), and the recaptcha simply stopped displaying.
  • Public Key and Private Key have been setup in the Joomla Core Plugin.
  • Set to display in both User Registration and Global Configuration.
  • K2 is NOT installed.

Note Well:

This change would have to be reapplied if the plugin is updated by any future update from Joomla, but at least the site user registration is working correctly!

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Pavlovian approach to Password Management.

Engineers as Stanford recently unveiled a new password policy that shuns one-size-fits-all security.  This has been followed a system proposed by Lance James, the head of the cyber intelligence group at Deloitte & Touche.   This proposes a system that provides rewards or penalties based on the passcode choices people have made.

The example given is one as follows:

A user who picks "test123@#" might be required to change the password in three days under the system,. The three-day limit being based upon calculations showing it would take about 4.5 days to find the password using offline cracking techniques. Had the same user chosen "t3st123@##$x" (all passwords in this post don't include the beginning and ending quotation marks), the system wouldn't require a change for three months.

An interesting concept, and on that would avoid forcing users who have made a sensible password choice from being forced to change their passwords because some other less careful users choose ‘easier passwords’.

The full article is here.

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