WordPress and Yii

I’ve now spent some time with cbdb, and thought I’d share getting it running, and my takeaway from reviewing TrackStar and cbdb features (after that, it’s time to check in with Larry and see what tricks CMS is up to). First though are some comments on WordPress.

WordPress

I thought I’d include comments on WordPress, since I’m consolidating my personal content using WordPress.

  • WP has a nice plugin management system, with plugin’s automatically adding themselves into the application’s admin menu structure (or Dashboard).
  • If a WP module uses roles role-based authorization, the roles are managed using the plugin’s menu – or at least that’s how the NextGEN gallery plugin does it. Achievo has a single security profiles system that combines the privileges from each module (i.e. the actions that the role controls access to) onto a single role management page. To be honest, I’ve only ever used the system, but the privileges are grouped by module, and are a combination of basic CRUD actions that can be performed on a business object, with some extras.  My preference is the Achievo approach, with all the permission for a role managed in one place (so far, cbdb’s rbac seems close enough).
  • I like how NextGEN handles image uploading (a choice between a drag and drop interface or an Explorer-style interface fr uploading files, multi-file select in the Explorer-style interface, support for uploading zip image archives, and an upload progress bar). Similar functionality would work for uploading files in Maestro.

cbdb

  • The views generally show raw data, rather than user-oriented information (e.g. type, signed, grade …), and only the create/update form shows user-oriented data (a dropdown selector for Type and Grade, and radio buttons for Signed, Bagged and Collectable). TrackStar polishes things off a bit better in this area.
  • I like that the menu system for cbdb is created early in the development process compared to TrackStar, but the menu colors don’t work for me. I don’t agree that hiding menus a user isn’t authorized to use is good practice, and believe it actually leads to more confusion when users don’t understand why they don’t have have different menus presented, and prefer a static menu (greying-out menus that the user doesn’t have the authority to use, or showing the menu with data but greying-out the Edit or Save button).
  • The calendar wizard to enter dates looks nice, but it’s missing buttons to move between years (although I suspect it can be configured).

TrackStar

  • User management hasn’t been fleshed out as well as in cbdb, in particular not being able to view a list of users associated with a project.

Getting TrackStar running on Windows/XAMPP and FreeBSD

I’m learning Yii and worked through getting TrackStar (from Web Application Development with Yii and PHP) running locally on Windows/XAMPP, and then on FreeBSD. The trickiest part was getting the trackstar/.htaccess file to correctly hide index.php.

FWIW, I’ve also started experimenting with cbdb (Comic Book DataBase, from Yii Rapid Application Development Hotshot), and will get to CMS next (from The Yii Book). My selfish goal is to use all the applicable features to bootstrap Maestro development (and yes, I did actually purchase them all!).

I started with a zip download of the full TrackStar app from Jeff Winesett’s trackstar repo on GitHub (using trackstar/ directory in the repo) and a yii-1.1.13 download (instead of using the YiiRoot/ directory in the repo). The code on GitHub includes the book errata (compared to the chapter code in the download bundle). I tested TrackStar locally first using Windows XAMPP 1.8.1 (PHP 5.4.7 and MySQL 5.5.27), then moved it to a FreeBSD server.

1. At first (locally), yiic and phpunit didn’t behave as expected, but it was my fault. I edited trackstar/index.php to use yii-1.1.13, but neglected to also edit trackstar/protected/yiic.php and trackstar/protected/tests/bootstrap.php (and for completeness, trackstar/index-test.php also).

2. I had to change “truncateTABLE” to “delete” in two of the migration scripts in order to “migrate down” (MySQL 5.5+ can’t truncate InnoDB tables with foreign keys).

3. TrackStar now runs, but I can’t login because there are no users in the database. The solution was to manually add “User One” and “User Two” with SQL as per the book.

INSERT INTO tbl_user (email, username, password) VALUES
  ('test1@notanaddress.com','User One', MD5('test1')),
  ('test2@notanaddress.com','User Two', MD5('test2'));

4. Now I can login as either “User One” or “User Two”, but there are errors creating new projects (and there are new projects being added in tbl_project, which could be a bug…). Running “./yiic rbac” fixes the project creation errors. Now I can create projects, issues and comments, assign users to projects, delete projects, etc. TrackStar Rocks!

5. Next, I copied TrackStar from my development workstation to a FreeBSD server (PHP 5.4.10 and MySQL 5.5.30), modified permissions on directories (for reading, and writing to where necessary by Apache), created a trackstar.conf file, restarted apache and created a database. However, in order to connect to the database I had to change the connection string in main.php and console.php from “host=127.0.0.1” to “host=localhost” to get the migration scripts to run and the main trackstar page to load (I also had to change the database username and password in the connection string, but those are secret šŸ˜‰ ).

6. Now connecting to the database and with the main page loading, navigating using the menu results in a 404 error “The requested URL /usr/local/www/trackstar/index.php was not found on this server.”

The cause of the final problem turned out to be the .htaccess file provided with TrackStar, which  assumes that trackstar is served from the root of the web server (i.e. http://www.dalescott.net/ is TrackStar), when I want “http://www.dalescott.net/trackstar/”. I don’t know why it worked locally on XAMPP with the original .htaccess (but figuring it out is on my ToDo list).

Here is my final Apache trackstar.conf

casper# cat /usr/local/etc/apache22/Includes/trackstar.conf
Alias /trackstar "/usr/local/www/trackstar"

<Directory "/usr/local/www/trackstar">
    Options All
    AllowOverride All
    Order Deny,Allow
    Deny from All
    Allow from All
</Directory>
casper#

and .htaccess

casper# cat /usr/local/www/trackstar/.htaccess
# Turning on the rewrite engine is necessary for the following rules and features.
# FollowSymLinks must be enabled for this to work.
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
  Options +FollowSymlinks
  RewriteEngine On
</IfModule>

# Unless an explicit file or directory exists, redirect all request to Yii
# entry script
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
  RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
  RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d

  # de facto std recommendation, but assumes/requires that app is root of webserver
  # RewriteRule . index.php

  # Yii forum post "Problem with .htaccess"
  # www.yiiframework.com/forum/index.php/topic/15694-problem-with-htaccess/
  # (1) RewriteRule ^.*$ /index.php
  # (2) RewriteRule ^.*$ /trackstar/index.php

  # seems to be more formal version of Yii forum post (1)
  # forums.laravel.io/viewtopic.php?id=5504
  # RewriteRule ^(.*)$ /index.php/$1 [L]

  # seems to be more formal version of Yii forum post (2)
  # ellislab.com/forums/membe%20r/140390/viewthread/234295/
  # RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.dalescott.net/trackstar/index.php/$1 [L,QSA]

  RewriteRule ^.*$ /trackstar/index.php
</IfModule>
casper#

Maestro might move to Yii…

I might have been premature…

I wrote a week ago that I was moving Maestro, the SCC business support system project, to the Yii framework, which really was my intent at the time. However, I’ve been mired in database design for the past week working on the object layer for Parts&VendorsĀ® (or at least what will be supported), but at the same time I’ve also been been working through Web App Development with Yii and PHP to get up to speed with Yii development.

By the way, Web App Development with Yii and PHP is a really great book. I’ve also been reading Yii Rapid Application Development Hotshot and The Yii Book at the same time. They all have their own perspective, development environment, workflow and tool set components (to some degree), which has been instructive. I’ve also just bought Yii 1.1 Application Development Cookbook, which has the best (only?) printed documentation on the Zii component library (the second edition is due out in only a couple months, but I couldn’t wait).

First, Yii is an active project and the books available are getting me up to speed much faster than I was with ATK. However, getting something as as simple as the ATK – A Business Framework tutorial isn’t nearly as simple as it first seemed. ATK has a better out-of-the-box theme experience, and while grid displays, searching, paging, etc. are bundled with ATK, Yii requires add-ons for the same functionality. The included Zii library appears to provide at least some similar functionality, but it doesn’t seem to be documented beyond the API – which certainly doesn’t make it makes it easier to use than ATK. However, to be fair, there is a community-supported Yii Playground project, that includes functional demos of Zii components with code examples (similar to the ATK Demo), but I don’t know many Zii components there are, and if they’re all in the playground or only some. Unfortunately though, although the books cover the functional stuff really well, and so far I haven’t found much on how exactly does one design a site. Hopefully Larry will get into more of that in The Yii Book

So, the jury is still out on the move to Yii. Learning about Yii is helping me understand ATK, but ATK is still an eventual dead-end. The best case (at least for me) would probably be if Adapto worked with Yii (instead of the Zend Framework). Maybe I’ll have to figure out how….

Maestro moving to the Yii Framework

After much consideration, Maestro, the SCC Business Support System project, is migrating from Achievo/ATK to a greenfield app development project using the Yii Framework. I’ll give more details later, explaining why moving off Achievo and the ATK framework was necessary, and why Yii is the best fit for the project, but my first priority is to write some code and get a basic prototype to show.

So far, I’m pretty stoked about using Yii. More to come…..