Sunday, 20 July 2014

Strehler 1.2.1: the hive

Strehler made the jump from 1.1.x to 1.2.x. Obviously, the first attempt had a dirty bug related to old perl versions, so the package we cleebrate now is the 1.2.1.

Strehler 1.2.1 is about Strehler frontend. No real front-end will be ever developed in the Strehler project, Strehler will never become a Wordpress or a Joomla! (but a CMS like them could be built on top of it). Otherwise, 1.1.x system is too limited, because it gives you no way to access contents you created. Yes, you can write a site that do that, but there's nothing out-of-the-box.

Most trendy way to serve contents in our days is through APIs, preferably APIs that some clever JS library like AngularJS can manage. So I added to the projct a package, Strehler::API, that, using the same logic of the admin views, generate paths to return Strehler contents in JSON(p) format.

Here below, the rules I found on internet about APIs that I used developing Strehler's (just a reminder for myself):

  • Return format is JSON. It's the most friendly for javascript and open systems. Other formats will probably follow in further development.
  • Along with JSON you can ask data in JSONp format in any situation, just adding a callback parameter. This is important when working with cross-domain platforms and... it's so easy to do that not implementing it would be just cruel.
  • JSON response content-type is 'application/json', JSONp response content-type is 'application/javascript' (don't laugh, there're many questions on Stackoverflow about this).
  • API path contains a reference to API version, so is /api/v1/... I can't imagine, now, a reason API version can change but it's always better to expect the unexpected.
  • Error codes are returned with a JSON content with the error message. In my opinion is right that error "pages" are JSON too, because whatever is calling your API, you can assume it's not a human being using a browser. Giving him back a kitten with a sorry face on 404 will be probably not easly understood by IT. (probably this feature should be improved a little, considering 1.2.1 version of the package)
  • Singular and no ending slash => an element, Plural and ending slash => a list. "Ending slash" rule is not written anywhere, it's just how I like things. I think it works well.

Monday, 2 June 2014

1.1.10 is da boss + something about AJAX

It's impossible to be sure about something like this, but I think I can consider Strehler 1.1.10 version as the first actual mature version of the product.

When I released on CPAN 1.1.0 I didn't consider it mature because I knew that a lot of features were implemented in the wrong way and many tools were hard to be used by a developer. There were too much cut and past, too much hocus pocus, too complex documentation to read.

Now, in my opinion, a developer can implement his site in a very quick way, understanding what he's doing and with the right level of trust in what I did and in what I will do (for example: update my code).

So, this time i want to make a toast bigger than the ones about previous releases.

Closing the last little bugs about Strehler I found something very interesting about  Dancer2::Plugin::AJAX that I want to share with you.

Dancer2 AJAX plugin is a little piece of code that wrap few interesting features you like to have where you serve an AJAX request.
More than this: it's really easy to use, you should never understimate that.

The strange thing about the plugin is that answer content type default is XML... In my opinion this is a little weird because when I think about AJAX I usually think about Javascript interaction where JSON is easier to use.

You can just configure the plugin to give you back a different content type, but when we modify global configuration I don't completely understand, I become a little paranoid. So my decision for my routes was to force the right content-type directly in the function.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Strehler 1.1.9 released

Released but not perfect. There're little problems about documentation and I probably found a little error in strehler script, layout function. Well, as usual...

I'm not sure I can find a way to test Strehler script but I should, at least to check if it gives an error in standard situations. The script, in my opinion, is a very sensitive part of the package. Strehler script go to war on the open ground of user's file system, it can find strange things and fight insidious enemies, it deserves attention. For example, I'm not sure how it works under Windows...

Another point in my TO-DO list is find a way to see how CPAN page will be rendered, after package upload, just to avoid little glitches in documentation as I'm experimenting now.

Well, stop with the bad things, a Strehler release is always something to celebrate, 1.1.9 bring order in FormFu elements and configuration and we love it for that!

Sunday, 18 May 2014

HTML::FormFu Beastmaster

I'm not a great fan of HTML::FormFu package.
Let me explain: HTML..FormFu does a lot of dirty job and give you an easy way to write down forms with a lot of business logic, but when you try to open is source code to do some customization it's quite a labyrinth with too much trolls and few indications about the right road.
In my opinion the module could be ten times more powerful giving an easy way to hack elements and modify them for new purposes.

Writing down Strehler interface I obviously had to manage a lot of forms. I wrote many of them following Strehler business logic to offer easy ways for javascript to work with them, this logic is something built on top on HTML::FormFu elements.

The category selector, probably the most complex widget I had to use, in forms configuration files is something like this:

    - type: Select
      id: category_selector
      name: category
      label: Category
        type: Required
        message: 'Category needed'
    - type: Select
      name: subcategory
      label: Sub-category
      id: subcat
Problem is that Strehler should give other developers the opportunity to implement their own entities and forms managing them. These forms could contain my category selector and I can't ask people to copy and paste all this code in their YML files. It's really clumsy and what if I change this structure? I should call them one by one and ask to change their files.

TIdy implementation wants that, when you need a category selector, you just add in your form configuration:

- type: "+Strehler::FormFu::Element::Category"

An ad hoc HTML::FormFu element.

There's not a real path to implement something like that, best way I found is to hack a HTML::FormFu::Element::Block nailing in it a fixed configuration with the elements of my category selector. The result is here.

You can do a lot of thngs exploiting the after BUILD of the HTML::FormFu::Element sub-classes, but you'll be always limited to the possibilities given by the class and its methods and, for example, you'll not have any chance to add custom configuration entries. So this pattern can be useful when you just want to make a package of some existing configurations, but nothing more.

Strehler::FormFu::Element::EntitySelect is something a bit more smart, as you can see here, but it's still an hack on Select I did after giving up on creating a FormFu::Element completely by myself.

Working on that, I drew a class diagram of HTML::FormFu (still 0.9 version), doing a bit of reverse engeneering on it. Here it is, as a gift from me.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Refactoring configuration

I'm going through an interesting refactoring that I'm doing using roles (my first time) and I'd like to summing up what I'm doing in this blog.

I think that an important feature of Strehler is the possibility to manage custom entities, custom "database tables" that can be manipulated through Strehler backend using all the features Strehler makes available.
New entities can be easly (I hope) added as said in this tutorial, but to give enough freedom to developer, as you can see, there's a lot of flags available in Strehler configuration to change the behaviour of the entity itself.

The actual problem is that not only new custom entities need values for those flags, but also standard entities: Article, Image, User and Log and they can't just use all the default values. Log, for example, is not creatable or editable, it's interface has to be read-only while Article, Image and User allow a complete CRUD flow.
Big question is: where configurations for them are?

Solution until Strehler 1.1.8 is horrible. I've and horrible method (see it here) that fetch informations from config.yml and assign hardcoded values for standard entities.

This solution has, in my opinion, two problems:

  • It's in the wrong place. Six months from now I'll never think that Article configuration is in a curious Strehler::Helper packages package.
  • Makes config.yml the only way to configure entities. Flags are A LOT and many configurations can make this file a real mess.
This is the reason I'm introducing a role consumed by Strehler::Element where every parameter is a method returing, with no input parameters, the value of the flag itself. Standard implementation of every method is just a little piece of code reading from config.yml, as in Strehler::Helper.
Why is this solution better? Because is... more object oriented and allows me (and Strehler developers) to keep informations about entities in the entity class, where they should be. 
So, for example, Article parameters doesn't need no more an external method in a strange place. They're just in Strehler::Element::Article, an override of the standard methods where fetching from config.yml is replaced by returning just the hardcoded value... hardcoded in the right place.

This way, a Strehler developer creating a custom entity can now choose between write down all the configurations in the config.yml or just leave in config.yml minimal configuration needed and add all the parameters in the custom class.
I think that both methods should be used: config.yml when a flag can change through time or in different environments, class methods when a parameter is... "endemic" for the designed entity.

I talked about methods and not attributes because in many cases I need to know class configuration, without an instanced object. Is the same logic of the metaclass_data method.

I hope to release this new configuration soon!

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Messing a lot with files

So we have a 1.1.8 just to bugfix strehler statics. 
Problem using it to update (not create) files on a package update was that file were created all read-only, as they are saved in the CPAN package, and when new ones tried to overwrite them they obtain a permission denied.
Only solution I found is to delete the public/strehler directory from the target project and then copy again it with all the files in the last version. This is not an operation easy to do using perl libraries, I found them a little complicated to use. They don't actually map the shell commands (rm, cp, mv) but follow their logic, so using them for what I needed was a bit difficult.
For example there's not a straight way to copy a directory from a place to another as in:
If you just use  dircopy from File::Copy::Recursive as:
then all files in $DIR will be trasferred under $DESTINATION (files, NOT the directory).
To obtain what I said you have to... well, copy and paste the magic string:
$File::Copy::Recursive::CPRFComp = 1;
The magic and not-exactly-human-readable string.

I already released a new version because update problem wasn't the only problem of the statics command... Well, the whole command implementation was a mess, with wrong messages and other problems, so i wasn't confortable leaving it in CPAN for a long time. It's just a little number increase...

Friday, 2 May 2014

All the releases come with a bug

So I released Strehler 1.1.7. Now the filter is improved and you can select a category to obtain all the elements in it and in its children.

The real reason I did it, however, is that 1.1.6 has a terrible bug that break the strehler initdb command making impossible a complete Strehler installation as described in the documentation. Strehler installation process is something that MUST go well plain and fast or I judge the entire package useless, because I created it to make a CMS deployment easy.

But... now I found a little problem on strehler statics when it comes to use it to update your statics after an update of the package. Less vital than the solved bug on initdb, but still annoying, probably e new release will be done soon.
At the moment, if you update Strehler package from a version to another (for example from 1.1.6 to 1.1.7) to make all works delete the public/strehler directory in your project and then run strehler statics again. Al the resources will be regenerated in the right version.

Also the Dancer2 0.14000 release gave me some work. As described in the release notes, Runner-Server was untangled. I like the explanation about why this was done, my problem is that all my tests were written using Test::TCP relying on the Dancer2 Standalone Server for the server part. With Dancer2 0.140000 al this part went broken.
So I managed to change this line of code:

with this if clause

          if( $Dancer2::VERSION < 0.14 )
         {        Dancer2->runner->server->port($port);    }
         {        Dancer2->runner->{'port'} = $port; }

just to keep retrocompatibility.