Macrotone Blogs

Macrotone blogs upon Joomla, our products and other matters.

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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Issue Tracker Template Overrides

b2ap3 icon joomlaWe have recently been ‘playing’ with a new ‘Bootstrap v3’ template for the front end of our site.  This involved use creating a set of template overrides for our Issue Tracker component and we decided to share the details with our users.

Joomla has long had the ability to create Template Overrides, which are modifications to the Joomla components or modules. This permits changes to be made upon a ‘local site’ basis without the need to change or hack the supplied code.

We are primarily concerned with the Issue Tracker component and we have tried hard to produce front end displays of Individual Issues and of the Issue Entry form that would be usable in the majority of installations. However the differences between the various template used on sites are many and vast, and it is almost inevitable that they will not be suitable for everyone. This was indeed the situation we discovered ourselves when using a BootStrap template for the site.

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Mail ISO-8859-2 character sets

We recently received a report that the email fetching feature within our Joomla Issue Tracker component wasn’t handling the subject header and email body correctly for the ISO-8859-2 character set. This character set is used by a number of Eastern European countries, so we were interested in resolving the problem if we possibly could.

We tend to use the standard PHP imap routines and it was immediately obvious how we should handle the subject, but implementing a call to the imap_mime_header_decode method. This worked well and was a very quick fix.

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Install IIS, PHP, MySQL & Joomla on Windows 7

iisWe had cause to investigate a problem with a Joomla component installed upon an IIS platform.  We usually use Apache as our web server, so were not totally familiar with the use of IIS, so this blog covers the installation, configuration and the basic options of IIS, PHP, MySQL and Joomla.

There is no intent to make use of such a setup upon a regular basis, and would anticipate only having to perform the task infrequently, hence the decision to document the steps.  We encountered a number of problems as we performed the set up, and we searched on the web in many placed before achieved our goal. For this reason this is somewhat long, but the benefit being that we have all the details in one location.

The installation is assuming the use of a local installation upon a single workstation.

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Problems with a SEF component

We are currently trying to track down a strange problem with an installed SEF component.  The problem fortunately only occurs on our Development site but it has some very strange symptoms.

First we created our development site with a backup of our live environment.  Everything in the back end works fine but in the front end some pages display completely blank, with no tags what so ever.   Fine one would say, there must be a PHP error, (although why this should only occur on a restored system rather than the live site is another question), so we turn on ‘Site Error’ reporting to Maximum (or Development) and it makes no difference to the front end displays they still shown blank pages.

Perhaps a cache problem, but no, clearing all the caches, in the system, browser etc., still makes no difference.  Nothing is reported in system or error logs what so ever.

Then a break though, we disable our SEF component and the pages display OK. So if must be something with the SEF component!  We reinstall an older version of the SEF component and it all works perfectly.  Re-install the current version of the SEF component and the blank pages re-occur.  Re-install the ‘older’ version and the pages are fine.

At this point we report the problem to the component author’s support forum.

Now frustration starts to kick in.  The support from the vendor says that there isn’t a problem, since there is no PHP error, and it doesn’t occur on our live site!  Exactly what sort of support is it they are offering? And this is a component for which we pay for support!  I will withhold the name of the vendor for the moment, perhaps they will improve, and it might be a problem at my end, although it is not looking likely.

I am starting to hate SEF with a vengeance, and this is just another straw that is ‘starting to break the camels back’.

At least we have a mechanism to enable us to continue testing our components for a forth coming release, but we really need to resolve this at some time, so it will be revisited when we have some more time.  Watch this space.

Problems with ReCaptcha display

ReCaptchaWe have been seeing a strange problem on our site where the ‘ReCaptcha’ challenge was not always being displayed when it should have been. Most notably this is/was seen on the site registration page, but was not just restricted to that page. A complete page refresh often resolves the problem and shows the Captcha block.

We today saw that a change is proposed for the next Joomla update. It is mentioned in this post from OSTraining, which in turn refers to the fix itself which is extracted from this doc.

The basic problem seems to be that Google changed the URL’s of the Recaptcha API location, which doesn’t completely explain what we are/were seeing, but implementing the fix cannot do any harm and may even resolve the problem.

We will watch it for a while and see whether it completely solves the problem, but recommend it is implemented on your sites if you are experiencing ReCaptcha problems.  It does require FTP or SSH/Telnet access to change the plugin code.

Update 29/11/2013: Doesn't solve the display problem, so still investigating.

Running scheduled (cron) tasks with Joomla

joomlaWe have recently developed a feature with one of our components to make use of a scheduled task to perform a repetitive action, which avoids the need for us to enter the site and manually click upon various icon(s) which in turn cause the required action(s) to occur. Such a requirement is reasonably common and includes things such as sending scheduled emails etc. We were expecting it to be difficult to implement but as it turned out was pleasantly easy to achieve.

Upon UNIX based systems ‘Cron’ is a daemon that provides a time-based job scheduler that runs in the  background on UNIX systems that executes commands at specified intervals. These commands are called "cron jobs."  Windows servers use a Scheduled Task to  execute commands. Typically a task requiring repetitive actions  to be carried out on a regular (pre-determined) basis would be ideal candidates for using ‘cron’.

There are basically a few methods that can be used to provide a  scheduled task within Joomla. The preferred method will depend upon the specific web hosting supplier and the facilities they supply. [For our implementation it was necessary to supply both mechanisms, since some of our users’ systems may not have one or the other.]

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Using an IDE for Joomla development

phpstormWe have never really taken to using an Integrated Development Environment tool (IDE) for product development.  This is nothing against IDE’s per se, just that over the years we have used a lot of tools, some good, some bad, and have found that just when one starts getting productive with them, they suddenly stop being supported.  We could name (but won’t) numerous tools that fall into that category.  A lot end up being taken over by a certain well known ‘computer software vendor’ who then milks them for the support fees, but never develops them, before finally dropping them. This then leave one ‘high and dry’ and forced to change to another tools.

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Debugging PHP with Java console.

b2ap3 thumbnail joomlaIt may seem a strange title for a blog, but we have been looking at a small ‘opportunity’ in converting one of our components to Joomla 3.x.

First a brief explanation is required. The module in question is a PHP module which calls some Javascript code which in turn then calls a separate PHP routine.  The error we were trying to resolve involved this ‘second’ PHP routine.  The module was designed to display a Google map and the first PHP module sets up the display, the Javascript code builds up the required map and it is in turn, populated with data obtained from the database and formatted by the second PHP routine.

This ‘inner’ PHP routine was working perfectly on Joomla 2.5 but on Joomla 3.1 only the map itself was displayed, not the 'map points’.  It was apparent therefore that there must be ‘code’ that was not Joomla 3.x compatible but how to find it.  Code inspection did not reveal any apparent cause. The changes to remove JRequest and replace it with JInput were working fine, and attempts to use print, dump, enqueueMessage, etc. statements were accepted but would never display any information which one could see.  [This might possibly be due to our trying to display text ‘after’ the ‘error point’, but am not totally convinced yet.] Inspection of error logs also were not informative, mainly it is suspected due to the Javascript ignoring the errors and proceeding to execute even after receiving a error from the PHP routine.

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Emailing €˜items€™ with relative image URLs from Joomla.

issues-48We have been looking at a small ‘opportunity’ which we discovered when we were emailing material such as an ‘article’ or Issue Tracker ‘issue’ from our Joomla system.

The problem is quite simple to explain since it can be caused by the content editor that is forced to use relative URLs.

This can be resolved by creating a new profile in the editor (such as JCE) which is configured to use absolute urls and then assign the profile to the particular component where absolute URLs are needed.

There is a small note on it for JCE which explains how to do this in more detail.

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