Moving To Typo

As you may or may not be aware digital:pardoe has, for the past 4 years, been running atop a custom blogging engine that I developed as way to learn Ruby on Rails. Whilst the system has (nearly) always been stable and (nearly) always fast I felt it was time to retire it, from everyday use at least.

When using the digital:pardoe blogging engine the ‘blogging’ always felt secondary to the actual development of the blog, I was always found myself doing far more of the ‘adding new features’ than the ‘adding new posts’ which, at least in recent months, is not what I intended to happen.

Unfortunately, the loss of my bespoke blogging engine also means a loss of some of the bespoke features I added to the website. The downloads (previously ‘software’) area is now very cut down – everything is still available as before though. The ‘photo’ section has now disappeared completely, if you want to see my photographs you’ll have to visit my Flickr account instead. I’ve made every effort to redirect old pages to their new location but if you find a page that is missing please contact me so I can fix the problem.

In the near future I intend to release the digital:pardoe blogging engine source code (once I’ve cleaned it up of course) as it may be a useful reference to other new RoR developers. Don’t expect the default Typo theme to stick around for long either, I’m currently in the process of porting a digital:pardoe theme to Typo.

And, if you hadn’t guessed already, digital:pardoe is now Typo powered.

Check back soon.

Guess Who's Back

As you may have noticed, it’s been a long time since my last post. There isn’t really any good reason for this. Plenty has happened, I just haven’t got round to writing any of it down.

First off I’d like to mention the website, it went through a fairly radical redesign a few months ago and I mentioned nothing about it. For some reason it’s not in my nature to be happy with what I make hence the many faces and iterations of the website. This website, whilst being my home on the internet, is also the test bed for my RoR programming, you may get tired of hearing about its re-designs and re-codes but that’s part of the reason I created it. Anyway, another re-design is coming, this time it’s not visual but all back end, the main difference you will notice is that I am doing away with user accounts and having a more open comment system (I could be shooting myself in the foot with this decision, we’ll have to see how the spam bots take it). To the people that have commented on the blog already, your comments will be preserved and, when I roll out the changes, I intend to reply to all the comments I haven’t yet replied to.

The second thing I wanted to mention, again website related, is my hosting. A good proportion of my posts seem to be apologizing for the downtime of the website. I was actually getting pretty bored of this so decided to, quite literally, take matters into my own hands. The website is now hosted on a virtual private server set up and maintained by me. This again, may be a case where I’ve shot myself in the foot. For those of you interested, the VPS is provided by the wonderful folks at Bytemark Hosting.

Number three. Many of the posts of my website relate to the use of the ‘rflickr’ RubyGem. Development of this gem seems to have been at a stand still for a good while now, I’ve therefore taken the decision to clone it and try to continue development in my spare time. More on this in a later post.

Four. Any of you interested in my photography will have noticed a lack of it over the past few months, it’s not that I haven’t been taking any photographs, it’s just that I’ve not published any. To try and remedy this I uploaded a batch of photos today that have been sitting on my computer for a while. You can take a look at them on the photo page of the website or on my Flickr page.

Arghh, Downtime

Apologies to anyone that has visited the website in the last couple of days, it would appear that there has been a fairly large amount of downtime. Everything is back up and operational again. I will be keeping a closer eye on the status of the website from now on to try and prevent this type of situation arising again. Thanks for your understanding.

Check back soon.

Update: It would also appear that the category browsing is currently broken, I am working on a fix and will push it out shortly.

Just A Few Updates

It’s been almost a month since my last post and a lot has happened since then so I thought I’d bring any readers of my blog up to date.

If you are a frequent visitor to the website you may have noticed the new layout (implemented about 20 days ago now). The layout is much simplified over the old layout. It makes use of a single column layout with items from the old sidebar in the top corners. For now the advertising and Last.fm widgets have been removed whilst I decide if they should make an appearance in the new website. The visual changes comes with a fairly comprehensive code re-write that should drastically improve the performance and security of the website, the changes come thanks to a series of Rails podcasts I have discovered, you can find them here.

A quick list of the main changes to the website are as follows; the removal of all AJAX & AJAX-like functionality (other than Lightbox), everything now works statically for increased accessibility, the blog can now be browsed by category. More user feedback has been introduced. The appearance of forms has been improved and the website now makes sole us of PNG and JPEG images for transparency and quality.

The secondary reason for this post is to officially announce the availability of iSyncIt 1.5, you can download it here. This release, whilst not been too far detached visually from version 1.3.1 comes with a boat load of code improvements. The main changes are as follows; a new preferences system, doesn’t look any different but it’s easier for me to manage. The move to Leopard only. A fix for the problems that were caused in version 1.3 by Growl notifications. You can now enable & disable the login item from within the application. Updates to Sparkle & Growl. Menus now update properly. Scheduling now functions better and the control of bluetooth is improved.

Finally, an unfortunate side-effect of the iSyncIt re-write is the loss of German localization. I will be getting in touch with my friendly volunteer translator shortly to see if he will be willing to re-localize the application for me.

That’s all for now, check back soon.

Oops

Due to a massive oversight on my part at the point I implemented a user groups system on the website it would appear, for standard users at least, that the comments system has not been functioning correctly. The problem has now been solved and the comments system should be working correctly. Apologies to anyone that have ever tried to post a comment on the website for it not to work.

Check back soon.

About Time Too

It’s been well over a month since I managed to write a post now so I thought it was about time I started the cogs whirring again, especially as all my assignments are now finished and handed in.

Even though there has been a lack of posts in the recent month there hasn’t been a lack of feverish activity. First on the books was the release of Set Icon 0.2, this release just bought basic bug fixes and a much improved authentication system. This was followed in recent weeks by the release of Set Icon 0.3, in this release I fixed yet more bugs and introduce an option to remove a custom icon from a hard drive. You can, as always, download Set Icon from its download page.

On a more website orientated note, I have moved the website to new servers. Prime Hosting weren’t terribly Ruby on Rails centric in the end, hence the continual website downtime. The website is now hosted with media72. They have proven themselves over the last month to be far more reliable hosts than Prime, even though I am hosted on their beta testing server.

Along with the change of host I have modified the way in which the website is run, updates to the website are now performed via Capistrano, I hope to write a little more on this system in a later post to explain how it can help improve your Ruby on Rails development.

Don’t expect too many posts or software updates over the next two weeks, unfortunately I have a series of exams that require some serious revision, however, if I get really bored of revising you might see some posts / software appearing.

I’ve also recently acquired a new lens for my camera, a Tokina 12-24mm f/4. As part of my endeavor to expand what I write about I will hopefully (assuming I remember) write a small review about the lens as it took me a long time to find any concrete opinions on it before I purchased it.

That’s all I can think of to write for now, no doubt I will think of something else eventually.

Check back soon.

Ruby On Rails 2.0

Rails 2.0 has been out for a couple of months now, I had refrained from upgrading to it because I wasn’t sure what it would break. After putting the website under version control I decided it was too easy not to upgrade to Rails 2.0, so here it is, a website that looks and runs exactly like it did and only a few problems to be found.

To go along with the upgrade I have also added a couple of new features to the website, the photography page now links to my Flickr photostream so if you want to post comments on my photos, feel free. I have also added the ability for me to add images from other sources to the blog, not that important but no doubt you’ll notice the change. The largest change at the moment is the addition of social networking sites on the sidebar. If you like what you read to can add the page to Delicious, Digg, reddit or StumbleUpon.

Mainly to test the upgrade, you can admire one of my flickr photos, the most popular of my photos, or check back soon.

Update: Oops, no image. Remember, if you update something to allow longer links, update the database too.

Update: Generally a broken site is a sign of bad testing, that’s true in this case, the archives were broken, now they’re fixed.

Back Online

Just a quick update on the status of the website.

Something has changed with my hosts configuration, they won’t tell me what and I can’t work out what. However it has meant that the website has been down for a day and a half. I have managed to get it back online by reverting from Mongrel to Apache served and running the website on CGI instead of FastCGI. For all the non-techies out there this means the website may respond more slowly than normal, although the caches should keep it moving for the most part and my host may shout at me for increasing the server load. These issues also mean that the uptime of the website is currently unknown, hopefully it will stick around long enough for my host to sort the problem or for me to get a new host.

Check back soon (just to see if I’m still online).

A Change Of Direction...

A little bit of coding. That’s right I’m re-writing parts of the website yet again, I just can’t seem to keep away from my text editor. The main changes that will be coming are more personalization of the website to give you a feel for who I am. I bet you don’t even know my name, unless that is, you know me in real life.

The first changes will be the introduction of an ‘About’ page. I have already introduced a ‘Blog Roll’ into the sidebar, I also intend to improve the photography page, introduce a ‘Tutorials’ page and improve the general functionality of the rest of the website.

These changes will be implemented over the next few weeks so, check back soon.

Even More Server Issues [Updated]

I have just received an email from my hosting company stating that one of their servers is suffering from problems with faulty hardware. You’ll never guess which server it is, the one that my website is hosted on. They are replacing the hardware tomorrow at midday. Hopefully everything will be stable after this point, but we’ll see how it goes. Please bear with me whilst I sort the website out (in theory it will only be offline for an hour).

Update: I have just received an email stating that the hardware that my website is hosted on has been replaced and should now be stable, as a result of this my website should spend a lot longer online than offline.

Check back soon.

Server Changes

Well, it would appear I had forgotten a little snippet of information that has been forced to the forefront of my mind over the last few days. My web host had been bought out by another company, everything had been running fine till they initiated a server move a couple of days ago. At first my website disappeared from the internet completely, then it came back, with no content because my host had completely switched systems. If you are reading this then as you can probably tell I have finally managed to get everything working again.

To the users of the website and iSyncIt (Sparkle) I apologize for the last few hectic days. The website and appcasts should, all being well, remain online more permanently now. For the next few hours (possibly days) the photography page is being loaded purely from cache (due to some dependency issues) and changes in my Flickr account will not be reflected on the website.

Many apologies again, I’m hoping the madness will now stop, check back soon.

Hi, Again

After a flurry of activity over the summer it would appear that moving back to university has taken me out of my stride as far as developing and maintaining the website goes. However I am going to try and manage my time better in the coming weeks and increase the activity on the website. Hopefully what I write below will help to clarify this.

In regards to iSyncIt, the 1.3 release is moving on well, albeit a little slowly at the moment, I am aiming to release it within the next week if my workload and university commitments don’t pile up to quickly. In a sort of executive decision I have decided, with Leopard dropping onto my doorstep next Friday that 1.3 will be the last release for Tiger, assuming there are no major problems. My main reason for doing this is that I don’t really have the time to simultaneously maintain two versions of the software, nor do I wish to run two different OSs.

Again, workload permitting, I am hoping to update the Western Digital My Book icon set to incorporate the new style drives that have been announced by Western Digital. It would appear that my current set are quite popular and I don’t want to disappoint.

Finally, the website went through a short migration earlier this week, hence a small amount of downtime (yet again). Everything appears to be working fine, but if you notice some unusual glitches please contact me.

I think that’s about all I have to vent about for now. Check back soon and roll on Leopard.

Problems

I am aware that there were a few problems with the website earlier today and most visitors that weren’t downloading files received “HTTP 500” errors. The problem turned out to be a rouge FastCGI process that was created and wouldn’t shut down or handle requests, I have shut the process down manually now and all systems should be running fine.

On another note regarding problems, I have been made aware of a bug in iSyncIt that causes iSyncIt to crash under certain circumstances. I have only had one actual report of this but if you have also being experiencing problems please contact me through the website. Please include details of your system, language etc. in your bug report. I am working on a fix as you read this.

Thanks in advance, check back soon.

Back From My Holiday

Just in case you were wondering why the recently flurry of activity had ground to a halt, I was on holiday. Only for a week, but it was enough to make the website look dead. Anyway I’m now back and working on iSyncIt and another, secret, application. Just a quick update on iSyncIt, thanks to a gracious user there should be a complete German translation included with the next version of iSyncIt as well as some new snazzy menu bar icons / features, I also hope to be creating some manuals / help files relating to iSyncIt and the other items available for download.

Hope this keeps you interested for now, check back soon.

Scheduling & Photos

Things appear to be moving along more quickly than expected this week, I posted my main application iSyncIt and the My Book Icons on a few forums and the Apple software website and suddenly the visits to my website have rocketed from 200 a day up to 700 hits or more a day. Not as massive as some websites but it’s certainly an incentive for me to do some more work.

After many requests I have started to implement a more suitable scheduling system in iSyncIt, I added the original system for people that change their calendar and contacts very often but it seems people want more flexibility so I am currently coding something more suitable and user programmable.

Also, partially as an experiment and partially due to me wanting to unify my websites into a single website I have today programmed and uploaded a photography section to the website. This portion of the website showcases some of the better photographs that I take, for other people to see. It has been created using the ‘rflickr’ gem and my Flickr Photostream. I had several problems creating the section due to the lack of documentation for the ‘rflickr’ gem, so I will be writing a tutorial in the coming days to help other people who want to create something similar.

Well, thats all for now, check back soon.

Quick Update

There has been a quick redesign of the caching system behind the website, this means that the cache has had to be cleared. Pages may be a little slow to load for the first time as the website cache is slowly regenerated, the search spiders help with most of the regeneration. Now the problem has been fixed you may also see slightly longer loading times on the AJAX page elements such as the archive, login and live search on the right hand side of the website.

Thanks for your patience, check back soon.

It's Almost Complete

Today I’ve added what I believe are the final touches to the website back end. The main change is that I have finally been able to enable caching fully so the website will run much, much faster and reduce the load on my hosts server.

I thought in this post I had also better explain the architecture of the website and its caching a little bit for other people that would like to write a Ruby on Rails system for themselves. The website structure is based primarily on the 4 sections you can see in the navigation bar at the top of the page plus separate administration and account sections.

Only the 4 sections in the navigation bar have any sort of caching applied to them, all areas of these sections use page caching rather than other forms of caching, as it is generally faster. However in setting up caching I came across the problem of aspects of pages that require regular, specific modification such as the login information on the right hand side of the website or comments in blog pages, remained unchanged due to the cache. I could have sorted this by continually cleaning the caches or using fragment caching, but I wanted the website to be as fast as possible. I got around this problem through the use of AJAX.

All dynamic items on all pages of the website are called using AJAX (with the help of the Prototype framework). When you load the website you may see loading symbols in the “Account” box to the right or where the comments section is at the bottom of blog pages. The information that is called by the AJAX is not cached and is generated dynamically for every user, because the AJAX calls are JavaScript in each page only the JavaScript is cached rather than the visible product of the JavaScript.

With all modern browsers supporting the JavaScript required to implement AJAX calls, I believe this to be a valid way of using Rails page caching to my advantage.

I will write something more in depth soon, for now try http://www.railsenvy.com/2007/2/28/rails-caching-tutorial for all your caching needs.

Back soon.

The Dark Side

Today I have done the unexpected and moved to the dark side, well, for a few minutes anyway while I release version 0.4 of My Book Icons, the main change for this set of icons is the inclusion of Windows versions of all the icons, including resources for Vista. My main reason for doing this is to give people some consistency between their OS X and Boot Camp / virtualization installations of Windows. But I don’t object to pure Windows users using the icons either, so, anyone that wants them, feel free to download them here.

Now you have recovered from the shock of reading the above I can tell you about a couple of other changes, to the website mainly. In order to try any fund the website and my software / graphics development I have introduced Google Ads to the website, I’m not particularly fond of Google Adverts so I’ve tried to make them as minimal and tasteful as possible, you will only see adverts in the header above and at the bottom of blog and software pages in the form of text ads.

If you like the work I produce I would also like you to consider making a donation using the button to the right (on the website if you are viewing this through RSS), any amount you choose to donate would be helpful to me.

Any money raised through adverts / donations will go towards funding the website and my development of software / graphics. In terms of development the money will be used for my Intel Mac fund so I can develop Universal applications that I can test properly as at the moment all my development is completed on a 12” PowerBook.

Thanks for you time, check back soon.

Brand New Website

It was about time that I got round to doing this and finally it is (nearly) complete. The website has been re-written from the ground up to make it faster and more consistent, my hope eventually being to release the source code for everyone to use.

The primary reason for the re-write of the website is that the previous ‘blue’ website was hashed together from online tutorials, code snippets and myself reading the Ruby on Rails API, it worked okay but was slow, produced frequent errors and filled up my hosting server with logs, I corrected some of this in the back end several week ago but I still wasn’t happy. Hence the re-write.

Techie Bit: Over the course of my coding I have made the website more OO in the background so it is easier to maintain and to add to, also I have added more features to the website, the primary features being better security and the ability for me to categorize my posts, more features will be added over the coming weeks. I have also correctly configured the Rails settings and started to use migrations to manage the database. All of this should serve to make the website faster.

Everything should be in the same link locations as they always were, I did this to make sure that links from other websites still work correctly, if you find something out of place, do not hesitate to contact me. Unfortunately as a side effect of the change, users that have previously signed up to post comments have had their accounts erased due to authentication changes. The website will not be re-written again so it is safe to signup.

Anyways, that’s all for now, hope you like the new website.

I'm Back

I know I haven’t posted for a while but I just got absorbed into Uni, seen as the year is almost over however I thought i’d make a come back, of sorts. Hopefully from now on I will be posting more often and about topics that aren’t limited to my applications and website downtime, which seems to be the only content in my previous posts recently.

Development on my application iSyncIt has started again and it shouldn’t be too long until the 1.0 release is out & working better than ever, unfortunately it do not know what will happen to iSyncIt when Leopard is released, mainly because I don’t know how the Bluetooth framework will work and I can’t afford to get a pre-release of Leopard.

Work on the new website has been continuing and it is almost ready. There is a new look that is not too distant from the current look, however it is a little more readable. Categories and user levels are also supported meaning I can write a support forum for the website.

I will most definitely be posting again soon, so check back.

Possible Outage

On January 28th the website might experience some downtime, the hosting company I use is upgrading its Ruby on Rails installation to the latest 1.2.1 release. The website should work correctly with this version but I thought a pre-warning was in order just in case it doesn’t.

Another Re-Design

Over the next few weeks the website will be going through another re-design. This time I am going to be re-writing the back end code for the website rather than the interface. Regular viewers of the site will notice some speed increases. Non-regular viewers probably won’t see anything different. The reason for the re-write is that, after writing reams of Java code, I wish my website code looked nicer and worked better. So that’s what i’m going to do. The website will go offline for a period during the transistion, but it shouldn’t be for too long.

Downtime (Sort Of) [Updated, And Again]

Over the next few days I will be updating the website to the new stylesheet. This means that initially the current stylesheet will be removed at the website will be left plain and boring. As I start coding the new CSS in components should start to arrange themselves. The website should remain fully functional during this time but may look a bit odd.

Update: Well, the new stylesheet is in, quicker than expected. It will be in beta status possibly for the next few weeks but for now the website is back to it’s working(ish) condition.

Update 2: The first issue has emerged, the fact the the logo, being a PNG, does not display correctly in Internet Explorer. I can either hack it to work, switch it to a slightly worse looking GIF or use a nice bit of Flash. We’ll see, for now it’s going to stay the same.

It's All Gone Web 2.0 [Updated]

Along with solving the iSyncIt problems I have decided to give the website a makeover (not that it’s really out of date). The makeover is not a serious attempt at making the website look more professional, more of an attempt to make it as ridiculously Web 2.0 like as possible. The main aim is to give the software pages a better appearance and allow images to feature more heavily in the website.

P.S. For legalities sake and the fact I don’t really know what’s going on with the Web 2.0 name, as far as I know O’Reilly own some stake in the name so I thought best to give them a shout.

Update: Turns out O’Reilly only own the trademark “Web 2.0” in the context of conferences so I should be safe, phew.

Ruby on Rails Update

For all of you Ruby on Rails users out there make sure you have upgraded Rails to version 1.1.6. I know that most people don’t like to install these incremental updates because they tend to break things quite easily but this one really is a major update.

For those of you that do not know, versions of Ruby on Rails up to version 1.1.5 have suffered from a problem by which even an amateur hacker can type a URL and create a process that hangs and basically shuts down the website. I’m not going to be irresponsible and publish the affected URL’s but make sure you upgrade.