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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Working On Tools

Immediately after "retiring" from the Prototype Core Team, I became active (for the first time!) on the group and finally did what I was there to do in the first place. The next version of Prototype (1.6) will have custom events. The custom events code in 1.6 doesn't look much like the code I described in my essay a year ago, but it's built on the same idea: piggyback custom events on one of the browser's built-in events. (The custom events code in 1.6 was written by a number of people, not just me.)

Anyway, the real point here is that I use Prototype for nearly all of my web projects now, and I contribute to its development. That's working on my own tools.

Plus, immediately after finishing my side of Prototype's new events code, I realized that the next version of Prototype didn't look quite right in BBEdit's function popup. (Some objects were listed as [anonymous] when they should have had names, and some class methods were listed as though they weren't contained by anything.)

So, I updated BBEdit's JavaScript module to fix that problem.

I'm rather proud of the JavaScript support in BBEdit, but (again) the real point here is that I love being able to work on my own tools! (See the BBEdit Disclaimer...)

The same is true for Conversant, which currently runs on Frontier, and which runs my site (and lots of others).

Being a tool-builder makes me feel like a real craftsman.

Friday, June 15, 2007

MySQL in Frontier, and Conversant!

MySQL is now supported by Frontier (the open source version). Took a little longer to settle down than was first expected, but it looks like it's ready for testing in teh real world now.

What's that mean for, uh, me? Well, Conversant is still written on top of Frontier. We'd like to change that. In fact, there's a third party that has expressed some interest in Conversant, but that absolutely requires a migration plan. In plain (but still somewhat techie) English: the first step of any migration plan for moving Conversant from Frontier to another scripting language (Python or Ruby) is to move all of the data to MySQL.

Conversant already has support for non-Frontier databases, but there hasn't been a good connection between Frontier and MySQL until now so there hasn't been any good way to store message and user data in a relational database. That has now changed.

So my next step is to merge the MySQL code from the main Frontier branch into the Conversant branch. Then I'll finish two Twine MySQL modules: one for users, one for messages. When those are done... well, then it's time to start testing Conversant running with MySQL databases. That's exciting!!!

(To be clear: I had nothing to do with Frontier gaining MySQL support. That was done by David Gewirtz.)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

How to Serve Compressed Data with mod_gzip and Apache 1.3 on Mac OS X

Some of us have recently been discussing the size of the Prototype library, my preferred library for DHTML/AJAX). Proponents of some of the other libraries play up their smaller file sizes, and it's true that this is a real issue for some people.

This little essay/how-to explains the basic ideas (the what, how, and why), and then walks you through setting up Apache on Mac OS X, to enable mod_gzip and serve compressed content. If you skip the editorial content and just follow the steps I've outlined, you should have everything up and running in fifteen minutes or less.

Read the Full Story

Friday, May 26, 2006

Frontier Developer Preview Release 2

The Frontier developer's group has produced the next Developer Preview release of Frontier. Actually, Thomas Creedon deserves most of the credit for the release itself: he assembled everything and put an awful lot of time into the browser-based installer.

Lots of new features and bug fixes in this version, and it's even a Universal Binary for the Mac OS X!

(The Conversant branch of Frontier is kept in lock-step with the main 'trunk' of Frontier. I believe most of the Conversant servers 'out there' are running the Conversant-equivalent of this Developer Preview Release 2.)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

An Old New Member Helping with the Frontier Kernel

Doug Baron just announced his presence on the Frontier Kernel mailing list.

Andre just stepped in to help close the loop that Seth opened last week when he dropped me an email out of nowhere. I fished his [that is, Seth's --ed] message out of my Junk mail folder, and a flurry of email exchanges later I find myself here, introducing myself to the list. :)

Reading the names of recent senders makes me feel as though I'm already amongst friends: Henri Asseily, David Gewirtz, David Gewirtz, Scott Lawton, Seth Dillingham, Andre Radke, Matt Neuburg. Greetings to all of you. To those who don't know me, I was one of the lead developers of the Frontier kernel, but have not been involved with it since before it went open source.

My intention in joining this list is primarily to make myself available to developers who need help working with the kernel. Time permitting, I may contribute to the build. In any case, I look forward to re-connecting with Frontier and this community.

Don't know who Doug is? He's the person second-most responsible for the existence of Frontier, after Dave Winer. Doug programmed the kernel from 1990 through sometime in the early 2000's. (I did a search in the source code: his initials appear 4,314 times!)

He was a huge part of the community, and universally liked.

I find that I'm still quite attached to Frontier, in spite of my long term intention to the contrary. Having realized that, and that I was learning quite a bit about lower-level programming by working on the kernel, it was clear that what I really want is for the kernel to keep improving. For that, we need more volunteers, which would have to come from the pool of (old) Frontier users.

That happens to be a group of people I understand quite well. Among other things, it's a group that has a collective (if small) emotional scar over the perceived "loss" of Frontier and the amazing community that had built up around it in the 90's. Virtually everyone in the community has moved on... and bringing any of them back would be difficult.

Doug is likely to be a great resource for the current, small group of kernel developers, even if he never gets very involved in coding. (He'll be the "Oracle at Austin.") Anything beyond that — like actual coding time or drawing in more of the "old ranch hands" — is gravy.

Blah blah blah... my point is that I've accepted a personal mission with the Frontier kernel. I want to build up a bright new community like we had in the late-mid 90's, around a modern, ever-improving Frontier. Doug's joining the group is a big, important first step.

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