Plone book arrived….

I just received a copy of the Plone book by Andy McKay (german translation). Lot’s of new things are in there. Good for studying after some extensive trial & error sessions.

I had a discussion with Peter Baumgartner two days ago about Plone – and it seems like they’re going to substitute Userland Manila with Plone in their department. This is something I was considering to do several times before as well. But unfortunatly there are two major drawbacks:

a) Plone does not yet come with a full blown bug-free weblog software (I tried Quills, but it is still in development and somewhat undocumented & buggy) and

b) changing designs for Plone is a daunting task. The skinning system is very flexible and advanced but also very complex to learn. You can’t just go a head without deep understanding of the application logic of Plone and advanced knowledge about CSS and Zope. It is too difficult for a youg student to redesign a weblog novice HTML skills. But that is what we need. Redesigning a site according to personal preference is an extremely important must-have-feature for students.

I am using Plone right know to supplement a course I teach. There are approx. 200 students registered. I am using CMFboard, Quills and ZWiki as extensions for Plone. While Zwiki is fine – CMFboard does make some problems: discussion group posts don’t show up in chronological order and the templates for CMFBoard are confusing.

And to make the problem even more difficult: Zope3 is coming up – and I don’t know about any work of Porting Plone to Zope3 (or I think they integrate the best ideas from Plone in Zope3 anyway, huh?).

So without superb weblog-support (and templating easy enough for kids) and without a very good discussion board add on – Plone will remain some kind of community CMS.

There does not seem to be a quick solution for the templating issue at hand. So we think of using WordPress MU for just the weblogging. Maybe Typo3 for the Extranet and Plone+Custom Products for the Intranet.

Twisted 2.0

I was so busy doing other stuff so that I completely missed the release of Twisted 2.0. It was a large transition from a monolithic framework to a modular framework (there is a FAQ about this change). I wish I had the time now to test it.

WebDev is ‘hard stuff’

Jeremy Zawodny with an interesting post about the return of client side web programming. I did my diploma with heavy use of DHTML in 1997. I wanted to do it cross-platform and I stopped to support anything but Internet Explorer after my doctor told me I should try to back-off from whatever I currently do. It wasn’t just a nightmare – it was practically impossible to do and you could become seriously sick trying.

Many years have passed and things look different. The support of DHTML inside the browsers is much better – but that obviously did not really help too much: advanced technical concepts still require a lot of skill to be developed.

Frontier Kernel Open Source Release

Finally Frontier has been released as open source package:

This is a fresh start for the Frontier kernel, the technology under Manila and Radio UserLand, and in the future, possibly many more useful system and network applications. We’re releasing the code under the GPL, the rationale for this is explained in the FAQ and in the audio blog post I recorded about this event.

There is also a mailing list, a download page and a FAQ.

Frontier is a marvelous concept for a scripting application because everything is integrated in one application: scripts, database, GUI. It is perfectly suited for experimentation and it contains a very easy to learn scripting language (here is another documentation). And because it is open source now it may resurrect the interest of creative developers to enhance the system on a very low level.

If you are curious you could read the “Golden Rules for Frontier and Radio Userland” piece from March 2001. (You need to skip the Parts about Manila. Also mainResponder.root is not yet available – so the web server is there – but there is no logic yet that processes an HTTP request).

Potentially a future version of Frontier will make it possible to develop with scripting languages inside this application.term

Bootstrapping with Tinderbox and Zope

Bootstrapping with Tinderbox and Zope

I am bootstrapping: The start page of my weblog now renders through a homemade skinning system based on Zope and Page Templates. This means I do not design this pages with the template files Tinderbox uses for the HTML export. For example here is the template of the current start page:

There is still a lot of work to do, but the goal is to use the Tinderbox templates only to define an absolute minimum. I need to get used to this abstraction layer for a while before moving on with the next level: getting rid of the HTML export and FTP upload altogether and importing the Tinderbox file into a database directly.

The ^children(…)^ command will then be replaced with some kind of method that pulls results from a SQL query. I may even consider to have two different Tinderbox files for one weblog: one to author the actual content and the other to design the presentation logic and the hierarchy.

The idea behind this is a) to be much more flexible about the way content is presented, b) to hide the publishing process completely in the background (just save to update) and – most importantly – c) to organize notes and articles in Tinderbox fairly independently from the way it is presented. It can be imagined like working on a creative wiki-style stack of notes here while presenting a weblog and article collections with options for user interactions (subscriptions, comments, RSS) there.

Ruby on rails

It is actually the first time that I blog about Ruby. I had a look at Ruby on Rails – a web application framework based on the Ruby scripting language. Ruby appears to be a very well designed scripting language (see here) for anyone who loves “quick but not dirty” programming.

Ruby is very successful in Japan, where it has already taken over Python in popularity (see here). Quote: “Ruby puts the fun back into programming.”

Frontier Kernel will become open source

Dave Winer —former president of UserLand— convinced UserLand to release the Frontier kernel as open source. Manila, Radio and all web applications built upon that kernel will remain commercial software.

I really hope this will turn out to be a smart move for UserLand. I am using Frontier since 1996 and I have learned a lot from it. It is an application with such a high integration (database, server, scripting interpreter and graphical development environment in one integrated application), that for some reasons it is really a joy to develop web applications with it.

I am looking forward to see what this open source release will look like and if it is possible to integrate it with my own ideas again. There was a rich developer community alive back before Frontier went commercial that has more or less vanished from the stage. I wonder if that will come to life again.

RSS-Aggregator with Twisted

Valentino Volonghi:

This is a fully featured RSS aggregator with parsing included. It’s scalable to very high numbers of feeds and can be used in multi-client environment through web using Twisted with a little code on top of Nevow, or can easily be integrated inside every app which uses some of the toolkits supported by Twisted.

[via Der Schockwellenreiter]