Fotis

Fotis

06 02 2011
The community of K2 has spoken through the poll I got up yesterday on the frontpage of the K2 Community website. An email was previously sent to all our members letting them know of this poll, as well as the reasons we chose to resolve into such a poll.
04 02 2011

IMPORTANT NOTICE: A poll is now setup in the K2 Community for people to voice their opinion more properly

First, some facts...

Joomla 1.6's life cycle is very short. Just 6 months. By July 2011, the Joomla team will end development and proceed to releasing Joomla v1.7.

This is very disturbing for many big projects like K2, considering all the big changes that 1.6 has introduced in its framework (language files, content elements, classes, functions, ACL etc. etc.) and the unnecessary workload added (see language files going back to Joomla 1.0 days), especially for free extensions like K2, Virtuemart and many more...

Many developers have expressed doubts about 1.6. Jen Kramer also nailed it in her recent blog post: Joomla 1.6 and Beyond: Should I upgrade? Should I build my new sites in it?

So did Andy Miller of RocketTheme fame on: Should I upgrade to Joomla 1.6?

Back to the title of this post...

01 12 2010
If you run a popular Joomla (or WordPress, Drupalor or any other PHP based CMS) website on either a dedicated server or VPS running WHM/cPanel, chance is you may have stumbled upon performance issues at some point.

Although improving Joomla's performance is a task that requires in-depth analysis, I thought I'd just write a couple of words on improving one aspect of your site's performance quickly and efficiently: PHP execution by using the APC or APCu opcode caching modules. Keep in mind that APC is compatible with PHP up to version 5.3.x. APCu replaces APC for PHP versions 5.4.x or newer and it's currently under active development.

Since PHP 5.3.x is considered obsolete, I'll cover the steps to have APCu installed on your server. If you run PHP 5.3.x either consider updating to 5.5.x/5.6.x or follow the steps below making sure you replace any "apcu" reference with just "apc" (minus the "u").

15 11 2010

We all know Feedburner. The cool service offered by Google that makes distributing your RSS feed a lot better with analytics, various RSS feed reader support and so on...

If you wanna use Feedburner, you just sign up for the service with your Google account on http://feedburner.google.com and then provide your "home page" RSS feed (usually something like mywebsite.com/?format=feed). Feedburner will in turn give you back a new RSS feed link (something like feeds.feedburner.com/mywebsite) which you can use to "proxy" people who read your feeds via Feedburner and enjoy all the goodies the service can offer.

15 11 2010
You will understand why I posted this pic after you finish reading the first paragraph in it... I have no words... I do know however what my next avatar will be ;)

Originally posted on designstheweb.co.uk.
26 09 2010
A few comments on the newly released mockups for the redesigned joomla.org coming soon...

The frontpage of the site is missing many things. Let's start from top to bottom...

The slideshow navigation may be confused with the actual content being on top. A better front/back control would fix that. Also, titles in "italic" is really too much. The font is just fine to display "normally".

Moreover, it's missing important elements for newbie users and not only.

First, it's missing an "about" block. What is Joomla in short? If I were a newbie I'd have no idea what this site is about.

Newbies should also see a block with resources like: "New to Joomla Get started" and a list of things to do (what Joomla is, read the intro guide, how to install, where to seek help etc.).

There should also be only one block for news/announcements. Having stories dating a month back in your frontpage is not that good.

It's also missing links/buttons to the social channels Joomla has a presence on like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr etc. A block with the latest official Tweets would not hurt too.

A block with a few screenshots would also be good to quickly show users of other CMSs what Joomla looks like, as it's one of those CMSs with a distinct backend and not one that mixes frontend/backend all in the same place (cough Drupal).

We have a great video for Joomla, called Joomla-la-la. It would be uber cool to have it there. Shows visitors that there are dedicated and fun people involved in this community. We're serious at what we do, but we're not M$ serious.

It would also be helpful to have a random showcase of sites built with Joomla. That could be a feed from the featured picks in the Joomla Showcase site.

As you can see, there are many things to add in the frontpage. The joomla.org redesign team could do that in several ways, without sacrificing height (e.g. using tabs or sliding panels).

Oh, and btw: the inner page/Forum page has the "active" menu wrong ;)

What do you think?

(this post was submitted as a comment to the joomla.org post as well, slightly modified...)

10 05 2010
There have been endless discussions around how Joomla is developed and maintained. One thing is clear though: development is quite slow and new significant features for the end user have not yet been introduced since the Mambo days... It's one of the reasons we decided to build K2, so we could introduce more modern and popular features into Joomla now.
12 04 2010
Let's get practical.

What does Joomla 1.6 bring to the average Joomla user? In practical terms: not much

In reality it introduces a troublesome ACL, enhancements to the core of 1.5 with the addition of the jXtended libraries (already available for 1.5), there are framework changes that do make the extension of forms easier in the backend (but this is something do-able even now with some PHP, no biggie) and some tidbits here and there. Oh, not to forget! The admin theme is now blue-ish.

Meanwhile WordPress and Drupal show significant signs of improvement and at least indicate that the people behind them take the future of their CMS very seriously. Although I don't generally agree with their marketing model, they're doing one hell of a job "distracting" people to them, when Joomla is far superior "by design" from these CMSs ladies and gentlemen. Just try developing your first plugin, module or whatever in Drupal or WordPress! Ha!

Back to the Joomla world, what's the status of 1.6? Well, let's just say it's possibly not coming in 2010. There are many things that simply cannot move forward for many reasons:

  • too much bureaucracy?
  • lack of professional involvement to stir goals and development
  • boredom
  • lack of money to support development

There may be more and -don't get me wrong- they are valid reasons, cause, hey, it's not a perfect world.

"So what's your point?" you may ask...

My point is this: forget about Joomla 1.6. Move on to Joomla 2.0.

How do we do that? We take 1.5 and we supercharge it:

  • separate components into standalone applications and minimize dependance between components and the core of Joomla
  • remove all the garbage (weblinks, newsfeeds, polls etc.)
  • introduce the concept of "installation profiles", e.g. install Joomla from scratch to use as a blog or portal or whatever you want. Make it easy for professional integrators and template designers to pack websites easily. It's no biggie. This can lead to different "sample data" packages and content setups.
  • improve the current framework in very specific points. Fix any bugs (e.g. modules not being able to attach stuff to the <head> of the document when the cache is on"
  • improve performance. The work is there. Klas has pointed out the weaknesses of the current caching layer. Add his fixes in and move on. Next stop will be to better handle application load (and server load) when we have cases where users need to be logged in and therefore the cache cannot work. Maybe a mechanism to select which elements to cache or a mechanism similar to what Ning uses: Cache everything and attach some query strings to certain user-interaction related links so that the application fetches fresh content. This is a simple, tried and tested way.
  • Create a unified installer for everything. Use the concept of the manifest.xml file to install 1,2,3 or 12 extensions at a time. That way you can install a plugin and 2 accompanying modules without telling the user to install them separately or write a component to act as the intermediate.
  • Forget com_content. Want more? Use K2 for core content. It's completely separated from the core yet 100% tied to the framework. It doesn't suck with menu item ids. It's veeery familiar to com_content. This will boost 1.5's features to 2.0-ish and slap Drupal and WordPress in the face. Think comments and tags and basic content ACL is difficult? Come on? It's all about decision making.
  • Internationalization: include the excellent "unicode slugs" plugin from Jean-Marie Simonet to create unicode capable URLs. It's here already and it's free under GPL.
  • Extend the default "content elements" for all extensions so that less experienced devs can create a simple plugin that has a "content category" selector which doesn't suck.
  • Improve the media manager a bit with the addition of more actions. Upload and delete is not enough.
  • Add a new admin template that just doesn't suck. There are many people out there that have fresh ideas and can significantly help. Sticking to the same Mambo-like pattern just doesn't cut it anymore.
  • Make all Joomla 1.5 extensions and templates MVC capable so that template devs can rip the thing out and create amazing templates both for the frontend and the backend.

There are more to be added of course and I got a whole list for that, but these are the most important perhaps.

The key word here of course is "initiative". I believe that software development is like real life relationships. If you drag the thing over and over it will eventually lead to a break up. You have to be able to transform when circumstances demand.

What are your thoughts?

P.S. For those trying to read "between the lines", no, I'm not talking about a fork of Joomla I'm talking about advancing Joomla and how I'd like to see things for v2.0. Jeez...

16 03 2010

This is a guide to save you from banging your head against a wall, in case you ever want to get PHP talk with Ingres on a CentOS machine.

After hours of searching around and not finding not one damn proper guide, I decided to just write one down (after much trial and error).

What we wanna do is basically query an Ingres database through a CentOS based LAMP server (which runs WHM/CPanel too). So we need to install (unfortunately) the Ingres Community Database (as the PECL Ingres package seems to require it to be installed) and of course we need to install PHP's package for Ingres (PECL Ingres) so we can query an Ingres database from PHP. Still with me?

Let's get started...

1. Install Ingres and PHP/Ingres support on CentOS:

Install Ingres DB Community Edition first as it's obviously required by PECL's Ingres package. Here we install the related RPM for a 32-bit CentOS machine. The process is the same for 64-bit, the file is just different. Sign up on ingres.com for a free account and go to http://www.ingres.com/downloads/ingres-database.php to download the right release. Ingres.com is passing the download link from some script, so if you wanna pinpoint the URL and not download the file to your PC, then upload onto your server, you can simply right-click on the download manager in Firefox and copy the "link location". This will give you the URL where the actual file of the Ingres db relies on the ingres.com site, so you can use "wget". In this case, the path I got was something like "http://98.129.177.132/~GqxCOi/ingres-10.0.0-119-NPTL-gpl-pc-linux-i386.tgz". Don't try this link in particular as it may not work when you read this...

You obviously need root access to the server:

# cd /usr/src
# wget http://98.129.177.132/~GqxCOi/ingres-10.0.0-119-NPTL-gpl-pc-linux-i386.tgz
# tar -zxvf ingres-10.0.0-119-NPTL-gpl-pc-linux-i386.tgz
# cd ingres-10.0.0-119-NPTL-gpl-pc-linux-i386
# sh ingres_express_install.sh

This process will install Ingres in /opt/Ingres/IngresII/

2. Install the PECL Ingres package for PHP.

Using "pecl install ingres" will simply NOT work. So we do it the old-fashioned way. Grab the latest package here: http://pecl.php.net/package/ingres and then do the following:

# cd /usr/src
# wget http://pecl.php.net/get/ingres-2.2.2.tgz
# tar -zxvf ingres-2.2.2.tgz
# cd ingres-2.2.2
# phpize
# ./configure --with-ingres=/opt/Ingres/IngresII
# make
# make install

This process will install the PECL Ingres package for PHP.

We need a couple more things, before we get started.

We need to declare some system variables in Apache. If you use WHM/CPanel, go to Main >> Service Configuration >> Apache Configuration >> Include Editor and choose to edit the "Pre Main Include" file. Add the following 2 lines:

SetEnv II_SYSTEM /opt/Ingres/IngresII
SetEnv LD_LIBRARY_PATH /opt/Ingres/IngresII/ingres/lib

If you don't use Cpanel, just paste these lines into your httpd.conf file.

Now locate the WHM/CPanel php.ini file at /usr/local/lib/php.ini (if you don't use WHM/Cpanel it's probably located in /usr/lib/php.ini). Find the line "; Directory in which the loadable extensions (modules) reside." and right after that add:

extension = "ingres.so"

This will make sure the related PHP extension for Ingres support is loaded by PHP.

That's it.

Go to your "public_html" folder (or any other folder) and test if you got Ingres support for PHP installed properly. We'll use a dummy connection file, so get the code below:

<?php
$link = ingres_connect("database", "user", "password")  or die("Could not connect: " . ingres_error($link));
echo "Connected successfully";
?>

…and save this as "ingres.php". Now visit this file from your browser and if you get a "Warning: ingres_connect()..." then it means Ingress support for PHP is installed properly!

Enjoy!

01 03 2010

Google AJAX Libraries API

Here's an easy trick to replace the built-in Mootools library that comes in Joomla 1.5 with a compressed copy from Google AJAX Libraries API:

<!-- The following code goes into your template's index.php <head> tags, right before the <jdoc:include type="head" /> code block --><?php// Replace Mootools in Joomla with a compressed copy from Google AJAX Libraries API$document =&JFactory::getDocument();unset($document->_scripts[$this->baseurl . '/media/system/js/mootools.js']);?><script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.google.com/jsapi"></script><script type="text/javascript">google.load("mootools", "1.1.2");</script>

There are 2 speed benefits by following this approach:

  1. We load a compressed copy of Mootools, so from around 73kb it drops to 18kb!
  2. We load Mootools from Google, thus our browser can simultaneously (in parallel) download Mootools along with the rest of our site's content.

It's a simple & easy trick we use on all our web projects, big or small. ;)