Archive for the ‘Linkrot!’ Category

The SD Times website writes up the state of affairs on Free and/or Open Source Software: Open source at 20: The ubiquity of shared code. Even after 20 (or more) years, the situation isn’t always clear, certainly not for new developers. So this article is a good start if you’re new to software development.

In the year 2000 I compiled on the Free Software page in this site. I’m pleased to see that the texts and sites on the page are still relevant. Only two sites disappeared (linuxppc.org and opensourceit.com); the rest is still thriving and relevant! Well, except for the link to Reddit – still a remarkable site, but no longer just for FOSS fans.

A landmark paper about Free and Open Source Software

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Last week, I did loose a lot of time in what should have been a quick ColdFusion hack. My colleagues and I were just trying to set up a web service-based solution for a simple problem: they had a JavaScript page that needed a bit of data for which I already had the code in ColdFusion. So I created a new directory in an existing application, whipped up the required code in ‘index.cfm‘ to return a bit of JSON and tested the result from my browser… only to get an “Error 500 - Application index.cfm could not be found“.

Weird, heh? The required file was there, so why could CF11 not find it? Adding an ‘Application.cfm‘ did not help, neither did repackaging the code in a CFC. On CF8, on the other hand, everything worked as expected. So what was going on?

It took some time, but I did find the explanation: CF11 reserves the directory name ‘api’ for special treatment, so you can’t use it like any other directory name – and of course that was the name I had chosen! Adam Tuttle described the situation nicely in 2015:

Funny you should mention that the issue is inside an /api folder. I’m trying to track down the same problem, except I’m directly accessing an index.cfm (sort of — onRequest intercepts the request and redirects to CFCs as appropriate — it’s a Taffy API) and I’ve found that renaming the folder from /api to … literally anything else… works fine. It’s almost as if something in CF has special meaning at /api, like the special /rest mapping does.

Indeed, renaming my directory solved the problem – too bad it took me so long to find the cause. On to the next problem!

PS. Adam Tuttle has more to say on the subject, but his post on the subject has disappeared: the URL ‘http://fusiongrokker.com/post/coldfusion-11-sometimes-chokes-on-api‘ no longer points to the relevant text, but is redirected to another blog also belonging to Adam Tuttle. There, unfortunately, the post is NOT available. I won’t call this a case of linkrot, but it’s not good either. Luckily, the Wayback Machine has a copy of the page, including a few comments…

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I work in a large, 6000+ staff, company, and that explains why we’re only now migrating from Outlook 2003 to Outlook 2010. To be correct: the rollout will start in a few days, because the tests are still ongoing. And testing always pays ;-)

Indeed, an error was found: one of our oldest intranet applications became unusable. It’s an app that sends the data entered in an HTML form to the approver of the request. The email is HTML-formatted and includes a new HTML form with two buttons: “Agree” and “Decline”. Both buttons are supposed to send the form back to the app for further action… and those buttons do not show up in Outlook 2010, thus short-circuiting the workflow.

The cause of this problem is simple and well known. Microsoft says that Outlook 2010 supports HTML emails, but that isn’t true. It uses the core MS-Word engine to display and edit HTML, “because we believe it’s the best e-mail authoring experience around“. Unfortunately for the rest of us this means that we’re stuck with one of the worst HTML display engines: it has problems with CSS, with padding and margins, and it replaces some perfectly standard HTML tags (like INPUT) with something else.

These problems aren’t new: the “Let’s Fix It” (*) website was built in 2009 to try and convince Microsoft to correct Outlook. And there are many blogposts, discussion forum messages, tweets, etc. that cry out about the annoyances Outlook 2007 and 2010 have generated (and continue to do so!). With IE8 and later, Microsoft at least made an effort to comply better with HTML standards – but the same company ignores those efforts for another, related product? Come on, guys…

Anyway, it turns out that there is a relatively simple bypass for our specific issue. When Outlook 2010 suspects that there may be problems with the way it displays an HTML email, it also displays a warning message just below the title of the email: “If there are problems with how this message is displayed, click here to view it in a web browser“. Clicking the message indeed pops up a menu, from where you can relaunch the original message content in an IE window or tab. Luckily for us, IE will restore not just the intended ‘look and feel’, but also the intended functionality of your email. Hurrah!

For those of us who prefer another browser than IE: you will have to apply a work-around to Outlook to take the “default browser” from your Windows preferences, but it can be done – I just haven’t tried it. And just supposing that Outlook 2010 thinks that it perfectly masters your HTML email: yes, there is a way to force Outlook to display the “If there are problems…” message (*), thus assuring the author of the email that the poor Outlook users will have the option to display the message in a browser! Aaaah, the wonders of the software universe ;-)

(*) Edited on 2015-11-03, replacing the link with a reference to an archived version of the now defunct URL…

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Silly? You may call it silly, but it neatly summarizes what I did today: NaDa. How serious can fun be? How Zen can software be?

Who’s Not A Professional?The blog of a belgian IT magazine signals a “strange” press release from an internet marketing company. If you can’t read Dutch, here’s the redux: the company apparently recycled a previous press release, leaving the old text in a red strike-out font type. Recycling may the way to go when dealing with paper and other materials, but let’s face it: this is silly. You could call the press officer or whoever wrote the release a “non-professional” – it’s true that she or he should have seen what happened after copying the text from a fully-featured word processing application into the email body (because that is what probably happened). But I would like go a step further: what this also proves is that much of our software applications are badly adapted for the things that we do, or rather: that we often abuse applications for purposes beyond their design. As in any other trade, you need the right tool for the job. Here, a serious templating/boilerplating system or a content management system that is capable of taking a single document as input and transform it automatically into a fax and an email at the same time would seem much more appropriate than a copy of MS-Word and a poor secretary to whip up the right media mix!

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Simple It Isn’t… Cimples.com has published a somewhat limited but nevertheless very interesting overview of the enterprise portlet market. I currently do not have much hands-on experience with portlets, so I cannot pretend to agree with all that’s written here. However, to me it’s clear that building a good portal is very hard, and that fact is plainly confirmed by this text. Knowing what a user expects, and being able to combine that with what the enterprise (or organisation, or community) wants to achieve with the portal is a non-trivial exercice!

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Tongue-in-cheek Indeed. A few weeks ago, Scott Ambler presented “a formula for calculating the cruftiness of a document”, which measures the degree in which development documentation is ‘badly designed, poorly implemented, or redundant’. Great! Now: can that same formula be applied to the applications and systems themselves?

Thirteen Indeed. Frank Zappa probably would have been amused, rather than proud, to see that a small ugly street originally called ‘Number 13’ is now being named after him: “Schön ist sie nicht, die Straße Nummer 13 im Industriegebiet. Und doch wird sie ab morgen als erste Straße in Deutschland den Namen der US-Rocklegende Frank Zappa (1940-1993) tragen” (from the Berliner Zeitung Online).

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How Could I Not Mention This? Luckily I don’t have too many readers (hah!), so I can publish this link without fear of being the cause of an avalanche of web traffic. But a Wiki about the iPhone: it has to feature in this blog!

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