Blogs

Updated IMCE plugin for Drupal YUI Editor

My IMCE plugin for YUI Editor has been included in drupal CVS and the 6.x-2.33 release. Now I can claim to have code included in an official drupal release, ok it is a small plugin for a contrib module, we all have to start somewhere.

The version included in Drupal only supports YUI 2.5.x as the API has changed in 2.6. I have a new version which supports 2.6.x, but it has a layout bug, so I won't be submitting it until this bug is fixed. If you can tolerate the visual bug or want to help fix it, grab the lastest version of the IMCE plugin for Drupal's YUI Editor. Use the same installation instructions as last time.

Feedback welcome.

Open Letter to Senator Stephen Conroy on the state internet access in Australia

Hello Senator,

I have recently relocated my IT business from outer metropolitan Melbourne to country Victoria. The state of the internet in this country is a joke.

A professional associate of mine in Paris has access to 100Mbps down and 10Mbps up unlimited fibre. This costs him 45EUR p/m which includes line rental for a POTS equivalent phone service and basic cable TV. Setup is throw in if you take it for 1 or 2 years - he couldn't remember the term of the commitment.

I have a contractor in Hong Kong who has access to a network many times faster than people living in similar conditions in Melbourne.

In Tecoma I had access to business grade Naked ADSL2+ for $85 per month with 25G of data and a fixed IP address. Not included in the download quota was access to streaming radio, Linux and other Free/Open Source software (and some not so free), and some ABC content. If I exceeded my quota I would be shaped. The setup fee was $129. With this service I could use a high quality VoIP service for cheap calls overseas, where some of my clients and contractors are located.

Now I am living in country Victoria I am unable to even get ADSL1 - despite being informed by Telstra on 2 occasions that it was possible - "it won't be a problem just call us once you move in".

I am now stuck with a very sub optimal solution.

I am using currently using 2 HSDPA modems on the Optus network with directional antennas. During the week at best I can get 1.5Mbps/150kbps from each link. Each service has a 6G usage quota for $50p/m each, with excess usage charges of $153.60 per Gb (or 0.15c per Mb). All traffic is counted (both up and down).

The Optus network is stretched and even worse on weekends and evenings. The service is also unsuitable for VoIP, so I have to pay more for my calls too. Optus doesn't offer fixed IP addresses or an accurate tool for measuring usage. In every way their service is inferior to ADSL.

The equipment I used to set this up properly cost me close to $1000. I also spent several days setting it all up and paid for professional assistance with the project. As the service is not eligible for the Broadband Guarantee scheme I have to wear these costs as part of running a business in a rural area.

Satellite is completely unsuitable for my business due to the latency, slow speeds and a requirement of a minimum 2 year commitment. The claim that satellite offers a "metro-comparable level" of service is laughable - 1024/256kbps with 5G of data for over $100 per month and a $3000 setup fee is extortion.

My only other option is Telstra's Next G service which requires a 3 year commitment and costs considerably more than the similar service from Optus.

I am located near Newstead, less than 2 hours drive from the centre of Melbourne, not 200kms west of Uluru. I expect that I should be able to get reliable phone and internet services at reasonable prices with a choice of carriers. Based on my (somewhat limited) knowledge of the area less than half the connections from the exchange here can access ADSL. The current situation here is reliable, value for money or available - pick 2.

Anecdotal evidence would suggest that many businesses in rural areas are constrained by the lack of quality data services in their area. The lack of proper broadband services in rural areas must cost businesses millions of dollars every year. Local economies also suffer as people are unable to establish businesses which rely on reliable and affordable internet access and so the jobs and investment goes to the larger regional centres or metropolitan areas.

Based on overseas trends the National Broadband Network will be out dated before it is finished. Even with 98% coverage some 400,000 people in Australia will not have access to reliable high speed internet services.

Instead of wasting money on an filtering system which most people don't want, will slow down access and has the potential to cause major head aches for system administrators (not to mention making us an international laughing stock), you should consider investing in the future of rural and regional economies by giving us access to high quality, high speed internet services. My views of the filter scheme are best summed up by a comic.

Thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing about how you plan to fix the state of internet access for tech businesses based in rural and regional Australia.

Yours Faithfully,

Dave Hall

Managing Director

SKWASHD SERVICES PTY LTD

YUI Editor + IMCE for Drupal 6

Update: This has now been included in the 6.x-2.33 release of Drupal's YUI Editor module and I have added support for YUI 2.6.

Earlier today I finished off another Drupal based site. The client was pretty happy with it. Once they launch I will probably post a link.

The client came back to me and asked how they could insert images using the RTE. Based on some positive reviews I used the YUI Editor module this time around, instead of FCKEditor or tinyMCE for the rich text editor. The YUI Editor module doesn't support file browsing. I tried to see if someone had already hacked something together for this, if they had I couldn't find it.

In the past I have used the IMCE module for image browsing and uploading in FCKEditor or tinyMCE. Adding IMCE support to the YUI Editor module seemed like the fastest solution.

So here it is - the IMCE based image browser plugin for YUI Editor on Drupal 6.

Here is a quick howto. Install the YUI Editor and IMCE modules into your Drupal 6 install. Save the plugin tarball into your modules directory above the YUI Editor module and extract it. You should now have 2 extra files yui_editor/plugins called img_browser.inc and img_browser.js

Feel free to leave comments about how well this works for you. Enjoy!

We've Gone Green

Well Green Gully to be exact. Last month we relocated from Tecoma.

Where is Green Gully you ask? It is near Newstead - a little town down the road from Castlemaine, which is near Bendigo. If you want to come and visit from Melbourne it is about 1.5 hours drive from the Airport or 2 hours from the CBD.

I now work in a mudbrick house, with bottled gas, tank water and mains feed Green Power. The plan is to eventually convert the garage into an office, but this will take some work. For now just the servers live in the garage. The office still isn't fully setup, but it is getting there - all the important stuff is working.

Connectivity has been a challenge. I now have a pair of Optus e169 HSDPA modems giving me internet access- most of the time. I plan to blog about my setup when I get some time. I hope to start blogging more about bush tech - time permitting.

I will still be travelling for work, be it Newstead, Castlemaine, Bendigo, Ballarat, Melbourne, nationally or internationally. If you have a project you wish to discuss with me, just contact me.

Howto get a Public IP on Vodafone's 3G Network in Australia

Vodafone in Australia offers a pretty good mobile data plan - 5Gb for $39.95 per month. They have recently upped the price to $49.95 p/m.

Unlike 3, vodafone doesn't offer a public IP addresses to their "mobile broadband" customers. Vodafone pitch this as a business product. I don't agree with it, but I can see how you could justify only offering a NAT'd IP address when using your handset to access the internet or maybe even as a tethered modem. Such logic can't be sustained when offering a HSDPA modem as a "mobile broadband" service. If it is mobile "broadband" then it should be similar to a fixed line broadband service.

After discovering VF only offer a handful of gateways for their data customers, I tried finding out about getting a dynamic public IP address.

To cut a long story short, after 4 calls to data support, and about the same to corporate support, I was at a dead end. Consumer data support told me that I needed to talk to Corporate data support, who wouldn't talk to me as I wasn't a corporate customer.

Eventually I gave up and called the TIO, who, as always were great. I then called the Vodafone complaints team who struggled with all the details of broadband, public IPs, gateway IPs, various service acronyms and the terms which I had agreed to.

After a few more phone calls and waits I was finally awarded my dynamic static IP address. They add something to your account to give you access to the full access APN which gives you a public IP and no port restrictions. For the record the APN is "internet", instead of the normal "vfinternet.au", but this won't work unless VF enable it for you. I some how think Vodafone award access as a prize for persistence.

I did a quick check on the vf.au site again tonight and it seems the small print is the same, so if you sign up for the service I think you have good ground for getting a public dynamic IP like I did. It will just take jumping through a few hoops.

Update: The title should have read public not static IP.

We're Growing and Hiring

Dave Hall Consulting has been growing strongly. We currently have a couple of contractors working on various projects. We are about to commence a significant new project and so need more hands on deck.

We are not looking for website developers. If you are a web application developer with at least 2 years commercial PHP experience looking for contract work, email your resume to jobs@davehall.com.au. Make sure you include links to code you have worked on.

You should have FOSS development experience, although some of the work will be proprietary client systems, they will be built on top of FOSS stacks. We are based in Melbourne, but the current team is distributed, so telecommuting is fine. Experience with cross platform JS and CSS is essential. Knowledge of Zend Framework, PHPUnit and YUI are preferred. We value elegant quality solutions, as should you. A good grasp of written and spoken English is a must. Pay, hours and term of contract are all negotiable.

Update: The job has gone. We have one new contractor starting today and another will be starting work on small projects soon.

Evince Blows my Mind!

A couple of days ago I was emailed a scanned invoice as a PDF. I was planning to just print it and file it, as the tax office here still requires dead tree records for 7 years last time I checked. Before printing it on 100% post consumer waste recycled paper, I opened it in evince. Nothing spectacular in any of that.

Then it happened, I accidentally clicked and dragged on the page. All of a sudden evince was highlighting the printed text on the page. This was a bitmap embedded in a PDF. Evince was using OCR to highlight the contents of the page.

There are moments every so often I am amazed by the features talented hackers add to FOSS. This was one of those moments. I will never look at evince the same way again.

evince showing the scanned page

evince showing the scanned page with highlighted text using OCR

I had a similar reaction when properly using the awesomebar in firebox 3 for the first time.

Update After seeing the comment below from Mr X, I checked evince with a few more PDFs and unfortunately evince wasn't doing OCR in real time. The text is embedded in the PDF. Maybe one time this will be possible. Any evince developers reading, please consider this a feature request.

I am still impressed with evince, just a little less impressed than I was.

Internode adds SourceForge.net Mirror

Yesterday Internode annouced that they will be hosting the Australian SourceForge.net mirror. Internode has been a long term supporter of FOSS. They are one of the few ISPs who officially support Linux. They offer their massive mirror, which has terabytes of FOSS, to the world.

The new SourceForge mirror will be available to the world. The Australian mirror was previously hosted by Optus. Optus hosts other mirrors for FOSS projects including ubuntu. Unfortunately their mirrors are not as reliable as many users would like. The Australian sf.net mirror should be rock solid if Internode's past performance is anything to go by.

Like the other content Internode mirrors, the sf.net mirror will be unmetered for node's ADSL customers. This is in addition to a large amount of other unmetered content, such as ABC content, almost 100 streaming radio stations and other services..

I use and recommend internode to anyone who is interested in high quality ADSL services. The support for FOSS is a secondary consideration, as it is pointless having access to it all, but the connection being down all the time.

Offer of the Day

This turned up in my inbox this morning and I thought I would share it with people.

Good day

I have on several occasions received email from some other debian consultants not just you they've all been asking me to introduce debian to every institution in my country; you must understand that though am very interested, we are talking about a number that would almost run into infinity.

It is true that my Government can bear the cost of importing up to 500Million CDs but the fact remains that I personally do not understand the Software or what it's used for, as such I can't propose it to the senate this is one aspect that we have to discuss in detail about, preferably via my private email which am presently using to write you.

Kindly get back to me so we can discuss about this software and it's benefit to the users if it's beneficial then I promise we can impose it on my country just like Microsoft and make money out of it like you proposed but most important is that you get back to me with details.

Best regards

Abubakar Maikafi
Email: maikafiabubakar@gmail.com
Phone: +234-07025419252.

He is obviously after full CD sets of Debian if he wants half a billion CDs. I am not in a position to supply this quanity of discs, but if you are, please feel free to contact Abubakar Maikafi about his needs.

Usually I only get unrelated spam or resumes from Indian coders looking for .NET on Windows work via my Debian Consultants listing. This even slipped past spam assassin and made my morning.

Essential Tools for a PHP Developer

Tobias Schlitt has just posted some slides from his talk entitled "6 essential PHP development tools in 60 minutes". I flicked the 90 or so slides in PDF format, they pretty much mirror my development environment.

Tobias left out 2 must haves from my personal list. Vim, the only editor I can use for any prolonged period of hacking (go easy emacs fanbois). Although not really a PHP tool, Firebug, is an essential tool for any serious modern web application developer,

With this environment hacking on PHP based web apps should be a breeze.

As a side note I am starting to play with git after watching Linus' Google Tech Talk on it, and I am starting to like a it, so maybe soon it will be s/svn/git for me.