November 30, 2003

Sorry about the fairly long absence of updates, the site being unavailable for a while and then the header, footer and sidebar disappearing. It was like this, I was sick for about a week after fasting ended (it was the month of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting) and when I got back to work and had access to the Net again, I discovered that my main domain had exceeded the bandwidth limit that I had set for it. I have plenty of bandwidth on this account but I decided to limit the bandwidth to the main domain to see how much I use and it got me at this particular moment :p I get that sorted out on Friday and do quite a few changes to Blog on the same day and come to work on Saturday hoping to write about it and I discover that they are doing maintenance on the web server and so I am shut out of my domain, my e-mail and the RookSoft forums :p So I finally got access to the site today and then I discover that due to the maintenance, my .htaccess file on the root folder had mysteriously become a zero byte file and all the customizations I had added to allow SSI had gone and hence, my header, footer and sidebar had disappeared as well. I got that fixed too and am finally able to talk about Blog :)

So what’s been happening with Blog? A lot actually. I’ve fixed all the bugs that have been reported so far and even added a feature that has been often requested but I kept on forgetting – pinging :) At the moment, it is a bit clunky and not so customizable since I’ve added it only as a proof-of-concept feature. Pinging can be globally disabled or enabled but you can’t do anything on a per blog basis. Neither can you add/remove custom servers to ping at the moment. However, all of this should hopefully be there in the final version of Blog 8.0 :-) At the moment, Blog will ping weblogs.com, blo.gs and blogrolling.com when you publish a non-local journal but I’m not sure if the blogrolling.com ping actually works since there are some problems there. Hopefully, I’ll get that sorted out before I do release this build.

There are however a few bugs that I can’t fix since they are in the HTMLEdit component that I’m using – such as clicking on an image and then clicking DEL causing an AV (Access Violation) error, the text you are typing going under the vertical scrollbar till you save the entry and saving an entry causing the cursor to move to the top of the entry. The author of the HTMLEdit component, Fabian, knows about all of these and has promised to fix all of them and he’s been a brick about responding to bug reports. So I’m hoping that he’ll get these sorted out before I get to the final release of Blog 8.0 :)

In the meantime, I probably will do one or two more beta releases before I get to the database restructuring. In fact, that is why the ping feature is not so robust at the moment – because I would have had to add some extra database fields to support individual blog level pinging and it seems pointless to do so now since I’ll be restructuring the tables again for the final 8.0 move. So bear with me while we slowly move towards the 8.0 final …

Oh one more piece of news – especially of importance to Nigel :p – I’ve finally been able to figure out a pesky problem that’s been there for a while – if you have images in a different folder and publish an entry with images, you have to publish twice to get main page updated. I tried to duplicate the problem at this end several times but never could but I finally figured out what I was doing wrong – it was the way my server was setup for FTPing :p So the problem occurred only under specific setups only. But now that bug is squished too but unfortunately, Nigel informs me that so far the Blog 8.0 beats don’t publish at all at his end and so I might have to figure out what’s going on there too before Nigel can finally stop having to publish twice :-(

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Posted by Fahim at 9:49 am  |  No Comments

November 21, 2003

Nope, I’m not dead :p And I have not given up on Blog coding again for months on end either :p But things have been really hectic at work for the last week or so due to having to work on the launch for a new project and so I haven’t had much time to work on things. The launch was held last night and so it’s finally over and I hopefully will be getting back to Blog soon :p

So what’s been happening since the last release? I think I’ve fixed most of the bugs reported except for one major problem – Tyran reported that the data conversion process seems to mess things up for him since it’s put paragraph tags inside other tags as well. This is probably due to the fact that the relevant entry had a new line (carriage return, hard break whatever you want to call it :p) within a tag and since the conversion process simply replaces all new line characters with a paragraph marker, it can lead to some confusing code. I can try to go back and fix this problem but those who changed their production data over to use Blog 8.0 beta 2 are going to be in the soup since there is no way for me to reliably set the data back to what it was and *then* do the new conversion for the next release. So it will have to actually assume that you hadn’t done anything to your data and then go on from there – nasty … And I still am trying to find a way around this at the moment …

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Posted by Fahim at 7:26 am  |  No Comments

November 13, 2003

As some of the more sharp-eyed amongst you have already discovered, the next Blog 8.0 beta is out – in fact, I think I’ve had it linked on the sidebar since yesterday :p This build should hopefully get all the 7.x users who converted their existing data over in earnest up to speed with 8.0 since I’m using the 8.0 builds now to do my daily entries. However, as I’ve discovered several times before, I seem to be pretty limited in what I use (for instance, hardly any linked images at all …) and so there probably are still a lot of bugs lurking around that need to be fixed. So let me know of any bugs you find :-)

Speaking of bugs, there are a couple of caveats for this new build but they are basically things which are beyond my control :-( The first is the fact that you can create a link off an image in the WYSIWYG view, but you can’t edit the properties by right-clicking and selecting the menu option even though the option is there. Now this is not totally beyond my control to fix but the HTMLEdit component currently doesn’t have a straightforward way to do this and so I’ll have to take a somewhat roundabout route. Fabian has promised to fix this in his next release and so I’m waiting till then instead of coding the thing twice :p The other problem is totally beyond my control – I have enabled the "Insert Table" toolbar button for this release and you can create tables in WYSIWYG view but the HTMLEdit control’s table support is somewhat limited in this release (again Fabian is working on it) and so things like percentage values for widths (I think …) tend to lockup Blog if you enter them even in the HTML view and then switch back to WYSIWYG view …

Oh yes, there is one more problem that I know of – in WYSIWYG view, if you save your current entry, the cursor moves to the beginning of the entry … very annoying :p I have mentioned this to Fabian and he tells me that he’ll fix this too … But that’s about it as far as bugs go (that I know of …) enjoy the build but don’t forget to backup before you upgrade since this is still very early beta code and you never know what’ll happen – so have backups every step of the way from 7.x if you are going to be the adventurous type and try out the betas :p

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Posted by Fahim at 8:26 am  |  No Comments

November 12, 2003

The new toolbar stuff is done and it seems to be working fine – at least at this end :p In fact, I’m writing this entry on the latest build with the new toolbars. Let’s see how it works on all the other machines out there and maybe we can finally put the whole toolbar customization issue behind us once and for all :p I would have released a new build with all the fixes that I’ve been putting in today except for one tiny problem – I discovered that the preview option is now broken :p So I will try to release a build as soon as I get that fixed … not that preview is so much of an issue with the WYSIWYG view but hey, if it’s there, it should work right? (Of course, that does bring up the question of whether we actually need the preview – but the preview is based on the IE engine whereas the WYSIWYG view is based on it’s own custom HTML parsing … so it might be good to have two different options …)

Incidentally, this brings up the comment that some people might not be exactly aware of what the new WYSIWYG editing option is supposed to be (of course, they’d know if they actually tried out the beta instead of typing first – which is what I think they did … :p) I received a comment from somebody calling themselves "A Blog Fan" (which actually irritates me – if you have something to say, why not let me know who you are? It seems as if you are not sure of your own comments and so want to remain anonymous …) who said that Blog didn’t need to have HTML editing facilities when there were so many other programs out there to do that. Umm … I don’t want to write another HTML editor either :p The whole WYSIWYG editing option is to allow people to see their entries the way they would appear when published instead of having lots of text and tags which don’t make much sense visually. This way, if you have bold text, they will appear bold in the Blog editing window instead of appearing as <b>bold</b> – it just looks better and gives you a more user friendly experience. If you say that you can do that with an existing editor and then load the entry into Blog, why would I want to use two different programs to do something when I can do it all with one? In fact, that’s the very reason Blog was written in the first place – so that you don’t have to use an HTML editor, an FTP client and what not …

Anyway, the coding’s going good (except for not having enough time to do it in ..) and hopefully I should have a new build out today or tomorrow which fixes a whole bunch of problems with the last one (it probably introduces a whole set of new problems too but that’s the nature of betas :p)

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Posted by Fahim at 9:03 am  |  No Comments

November 11, 2003

I’m still on the toolbars :p Yes, not many people actually complain about the toolbars or toolbar related problems … but then again, that might be because not many customize the toolbars that much or that often. They might customize it to suit their liking and then they probably leave it alone … like me :p But there are a few users who seem to have problems with the toolbars consistently and I don’t feel right about saying that it’s only a couple of users and forgetting about the problem. I also don’t feel right about removing existing features that others depend on just because another feature that most don’t use isn’t working right. So, in order to settle the toolbar question once and for all, I decided to switch to Toolbar2K and TBX *and* find a way to maintain the toolbar customizations as well. In order to do this, I will have to write quite a bit of new code and this will probably take a couple of days but at the end of that time, I hope to be able to provide the ability to be able to customize your toolbars under the new system. But a few caveats exist as well – you will only be able to customize the Custom Snippet toolbar (which will appear only when you are in HTML view) and only custom snippet items will be available for adding to the toolbar. This might prove to be an annoyance to people who might have added other buttons to the toolbar originally (and it is possible that I might reintroduce the feature later on …) but this seems to be the best way to retain an existing feature and yet not break things more :)

One good thing coming out of this is the fact that toolbar customization saving is now under the control of my code (as opposed to the earlier method where it was controlled by Delphi code …) and so there is less likelihood of you losing all your changes on an upgrade due to you having to delete the Blog.cfg file. Of course, none of this is a sure thing since I have not completed the code nor had a chance to test it out but hopefully it should all go fine :)

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Posted by Fahim at 9:31 am  |  No Comments

November 10, 2003

What with all the complaints I receive about the toolbar customization related errors in Blog, I decided to replace the extremely buggy Delphi ActionBand based toolbars in Blog with something else for the next release. The problem? Finding a replacement which offers all the features of the current components and is easy to use as well. The features I’m looking for which are (kind of) out of the norm is XP style support and the ability to customize the toolbar. I found the first bit was doable with a combination of Toolbar2K and TBX. However, I can’t find a *perfect* customizable solution. There are add-ons for TBX which allow you to do toolbar customizations but they: a) allow customizing only one toolbar b) work only with static toolbar items – not items that are created on the fly as I do with the HTML code snippet feature. So, I’m basically stuck at the moment since I can’t find a good replacement toolbar component (which also has to support the menu system since that too is currently done with ActionBars and has the nifty XP style :p) and so might have to simply live with it till somebody comes up with a total solution. Or, I can simply drop the customization ability and go with Toolbar2K. I really don’t know which way to go at the moment …

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Posted by Fahim at 8:43 am  |  No Comments

November 7, 2003

I’ve been working on the Blog 8.0 alpha/beta :p As I mentioned yesterday, I did manage to get the existing data conversion routines working fine – in fact, I’m writing this entry on a later build and the older entries all display fine on the WYSIWYG view. Yesterday I discovered that the hyperlink insertion does not work and so decided to fix it and then discovered that both hyperlinking and image insertion was broken because the code was still there for the WPTools component instead of the HTMLEdit component :p If you recall, I did get permission from Julian Ziersch (who codes WPTools) to use it in Blog for the WYSIWYG editor component. However, I discovered that WPTools wasn’t totally suited for the job and that I would have to do a lot of custom coding to get the functionality that I needed. That was when HTMLEdit came along and Fabian Ottjes who codes it has been stellar in his support. Not only did he give me access to the as yet in beta HTMLEdit 3.0 component, he also releases a bug fix almost as soon as I report it to him :)

But I digress … I found that hyperlinks and image insertion does not work and so decided to fix it. The hyperlink insertion was easy enough and I was able to get the image insertion working too. That was when I realized that you also had to be able to create a link for an image. This too proved to be no problem but I ran into problems when I had to implement editing of the link properties for an image. However, an e-mail to Fabian and a quick response from him told me which way I should proceed. So that bit’s in place as well. What next?

Well, I still need to look at all the toolbar stuff. Fabian pointed out that I could do a lot more using freeware components as far as the toolbars went and this is true. The only reason I haven’t done so is because I still begrudge every extra KB that is added to my apps – yes, you can call me old fashioned in this broadband age but I’m still on dial-up and I’d hate to have to make a download any bigger than absolutely necessary :p But I might actually go ahead and do something with the toolbars after all if I think it adds enough value and is not too great a strain as far as download size goes. Of course, there is also the fact that the toolbars currently beahve weirdly – certain buttons get disabled and I have discovered a strange drop down on the formatting menu that seems to be for custom snippets. Guess I need to look into all this …

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Posted by Fahim at 8:27 am  |  No Comments

November 6, 2003

Yesterday in my hurry to release Blog (I’d just gotten back to coding on Blog and I didn’t want to lose the momentum :p), I overlooked a major problem with Blog 8.0 beta/alpha – the fact that old entries do not display in the normal view but will still show up in HTML view. This is basically because the HTMLEdit component that I’m using seems to expect some sort of an HTML tag at the beginning of the text – if it’s plain text, it’s not displayed .. but if I put even a simple <br> tag at the very beginning, the text will display just fine. I’ve already done a 8.0b11 release which fixes this by going through all existing entries and adds a paragraph tag around the text if there is one paragraph or divide text into multiple paragraphs by linebreaks if there are multiple paragraphs. However, don’t go rushing off to download since I haven’t put it up yet.

Why not? Because I remembered that I also had not test image functionality fully. I don’t know how the image links are given when an entry with images is published since I did the code quite a while back and can’t remember if it works fine or not. I’ll probably fix that as well as some toolbar related bugs that Tyran mentioned before I do the 8.0b11 release. And I just discovered that hyperlink properties do not show up when you right-click a hyperlink in the normal view and select the Properties … option from the menu – another thing to fix :p I actually want to get to the database restructuring for the merging of Blog and BlogMan quickly since that’s the biggest bit of internal rewriting and will probably not do another beta after the 8.0b11 release till I get that sorted out … stay tuned to this space :p

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Posted by Fahim at 8:00 am  |  No Comments

November 5, 2003

Finaly, finally, finally … I managed to drag myself out of all the other stuff I’ve been embroiled in and work on the Blog 8.0 beta again. I did some further changes to the code, tested it (very briefly though …) and then decided to do this release since maybe that will give me the impetus to continue on with all the rest of the stuff that has to be done before the final release is ready. This by no means is a full beta – meaning that there will be a feature freeze after this release :p This is actually more like a very early alpha since not even a fraction of the planned features/enhancements are in place. But, since this has been dragging on for a long time now, and because I wanted all of you who are eager for a beta to play with to have something to do, I decided to do this release anyway :p

I just noticed that the Font style and size combo boxes don’t work and there are probably numerous other things that are broken but still, this is a start and the more people that try out the new build, the more likely it is that all the bugs will be discovered and fixed for the final release. So what else will be there in the final release? Hopefully, I intend to include the merging of Blog and BlogMan so that you can basically publish your entries to any target – whether it is via FTP to your own server (as is normal for Blog) or to a server-based blogging app such as Blogger or Movable Type which supports the Blogger or MetaBlog API. In addition to this, I also intend to include an auto-update feature and all the bug-fixes and feature suggestions that the users have been suggesting in the RookSoft Forums – if possible. Let’s see how it goes …

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Posted by Fahim at 2:06 pm  |  No Comments