Open Source 2018

Posted on Jan 6, 2018 in Blog, Form Tools, Open Source Projects | 0 comments

Now a brand new year has rolled in, I find myself taking stock of where I’m at as a developer, and frankly I’m feeling pretty frustrated! Other than working an Electron project last year at my day job, I’ve been using exclusively old technologies for some time. That takes a toll. It’s not so much just working on the “cool new stuff” as is being aware that there are simple better ways to do what I’m doing.

Last year the majority of my time was spent working on the Form Tools 3 upgrade. It’s now finally approaching the end of the alpha phase with all modules, themes and the core having been converted to object-oriented, PHP7-compatible code. That’s pretty great, and in some respects I already trust it more than Form Tools 2.

Nevertheless, it still doesn’t use the most current of technologies. I’m deliberately supporting as far back as PHP 5.3 to maximize compatibility with people’s server environments, which of course prohibits using any of the more modern features of the language. And client-side it’s positively archaic: it still uses jQuery and per-page object namespacing to provide interactivity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking it: it’s served its purpose well. But holy cow do I ever need to do something more modern to keep me engaged.

So! Here’s the plan for the coming year. For the first couple of months I’m going to continue fighting the good fight to get Form Tools out the door. Once v3 is the official build I’m going to start converting parts of the UI to React/Redux, starting with a brand new in-app upgrade system. I learned my lesson with FT3 – a massive rewrite of an application of that size just isn’t feasible. From here on out, the approach will be incremental updates.

The current upgrade process relies on the user’s installation passing details of what they have installed to the Form Tools website, which then intelligently constructs a new package of available components with the appropriate compatibilities. The plan is to do two things here:

  1. phase out the website as the key player. The custom CMS powering the Form Tools website will continue to be the single source of truth for available component versions and compatibilities, but instead it’ll now simply provide a REST feed of the information which can be accessed by the individual installation.
  2. have the Form Tools installations themselves download the source code directly from the github repos and install/upgrade the components directly. No more manual downloading of content from the website and FTP’ing it to the server.

The backend of Form Tools will never be cutting edge, but the front-end has far more room to modernize. This is what I’m going to be focusing on. I think it’s a sensible way to stay sane. ;)

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Panama, 2017

Posted on Dec 17, 2017 in Birding, Blog | 0 comments

I spent a little over a week down in Panama this month. As always, here are a few pictures from the trip. That little beauty shown to the left is a crowned woodnymph. I saw a great number of them.

Very birdy place. 226 species seen, 122 lifers. Highlights: 3 more motmots (rufous, broad-billed, whooping), 3 more manakins (white-ruffed, blue-crowned, golden-collared), black-chested jay, tropical screech owl, black and white owl, emerald, bay-headed, tawny-crested and silver-throated tanagers, spot-crowned barbet, blue cotinga, blue dacnis, shining honeycreeper, great tinamou, plain antvireo, russet antshrike, fasciated antshrike, green shrike-vireo, moustached antwren, streak-chested antpitta, yellow-eared toucanet, stripe-cheeked woodpecker, tawny capped euphonia and… bay-breasted and mourning warblers (at last).

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Falling off the map

Posted on Jul 20, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

My inbox just hit 400 unread emails which have amassed over the last 3-4 weeks. I’m so sorry for the various people who’ve contacted me or created issues on my repos, it’s been a busy time! I started a new job – working 5 days in town – which has absolutely drained any extra time I have for extracurricular activities. I literally go to work, come home, make dinner, go to bed and repeat. Weekends have been spent building a very-necessary new woodshed so this next winter, we have enough wood and don’t freeze. :)

I’m having a mellow weekend (party, followed by birding), then probably 2 more weeks of shed building, THEN it’s back to real life again. So a BIG apology to everyone – I haven’t abandoned my repos, I’m just on hiatus. Back soon!

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Back in Canada

Posted on May 30, 2017 in Birding, Blog, Training / Conferences | 0 comments

Nice to be back in Canada again! My wife and I just got back from a trip to Europe for the React Europe conference, plus a whole lot of birding. No terribly outstanding bird photos from the trip, but here’s a page containing a few. Holy crap European warblers are hard to ID. Only by the very end was I starting to really know the voices.

The React conference was terrific. I now have a stack in mind for my next personal project. But first… Form Tools! Man, so much work to do. I’m starting a new job next week so I have a few more days off. Let’s see if I can make these days count.

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react-europe (and birding, naturally)

Posted on May 11, 2017 in Birding, Training / Conferences | 0 comments

Next week I’m very excited to be heading off to Paris for this year’s react-europe conference. It being Paris and all, my wife decided oh-what-the-hell and will be coming along for the trip. After the conference we’re going to be driving up through France to Belgium, then onto Amsterdam where we fly back.

Really looking forward to the conference. I enjoyed ng-conf a few weeks back, but I definitely consider myself a React guy. I’ve also spent the last 2 months reading my European bird book over and over, so all in all I’m exceedingly excited for this trip. If all goes according to plan, I’ll soon be boring the tears out of family and friends with a new array of bird photographs… ah, joy.

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Form Tools site rewrite

Posted on Feb 8, 2017 in Blog, Form Tools, Open Source Projects | 2 comments

Almost there…! I’ve been posting regular updates on the Form Tools twitter account, but the new site is almost ready for prime time. You can find the staging environment here:
https://next.formtools.org

Finding time to finish it off is the tricky part. If I could drop everything, I’d say it’s only 2 or 3 days away, but since I have a day job (and a helluva commute) it’ll probably be 2 or 3 weeks. Doesn’t help that our car died, so a lot of time is going into finding a replacement. But… coming soon!

Man, can’t wait for this to be done so I can return to the actual script itself.

EDIT: the new site has been released. Few issues here and there, but on the whole it’s been pretty successful. Form Tools 3 is now coming along. :)

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Taking stock

Posted on Nov 14, 2016 in Blog, Form Tools, Open Source Projects | 2 comments

Now that birdsearch.org is out the door and looking more solid by the day (maybe a week or two’s worth of bug fixes left, I think), I’ve tentatively pulled back the veil on Form Tools once again. Form Tools is a script I created well over 10 years ago, which grew and grew into something of a monster. But a good monster. Sure it lives under the stairs, drools a lot, and is pretty terrifying when you first meet it, but really it’s pretty great at heart. Honest.

Since departing the project a few years back, I’ve made two or three aborted attempts to return to the script. Question is: how? It’s so massive, each time I do, I get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of work required, something life-related comes up and I end up having to back off. But the bottom line is I think it’s a great script and well worth updating.

So anyway, I’m trying to come to terms with exactly how I can return it  - how I can split it up into smaller pieces to tame this creature. Let’s see how this goes.

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New job

Posted on Aug 18, 2016 in Birding, Blog | 2 comments

New job is great, but holy moly… the commute! There was I, thinking I had no time before, but tack on 3-4 hours of commuting time a day and there often isn’t even enough time to fix a decent meal when you get home at night. Yikes. Our cats are NOT pleased.

So yeah, zero updates on anything. I’m pushing for working from home for a day or two a week, but I need to get to a place when I *can* work from home and be as productive as I would be in in the office. And that still may take a few more weeks to get there: plus get the requisite laptop + everything set up.

Anyway, to stave off insanity I created a new twitter account where I could tweet about all things birding. Feels like the only non-work thing I’ve done in weeks.

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