Week Beginning May 5th 2014

This week is a three day week for me as Monday was May Day and I’m off on holiday on Friday (I’ll be away all next week).  When I got into work on Tuesday the first thing I set about tackling was an issue Vivien had raised with the Burns Choral website.  A colleague had tried to access the site using IE and was presented with nothing but a blank white screen.  I’d tested the site out previously with the current version of IE (version 11) and with it set to ‘compatibility mode’ and in the former case the site worked perfectly and in the latter case there were a couple of quirks with the menu but it was perfectly possible to access the content.  I made use of a free 30 minute trial of http://www.browserstack.com/, which provides access to older versions of IE via your browser and discovered that the blank screen issue was limited to IE versions 7 and 8, both of which were released years ago, are no longer supported by Microsoft and have a combined market share of less than 3%.  However, I still wanted to get to the bottom of the problem as I didn’t like the idea of a website displaying a blank screen.  I eventually managed to track down the cause, which is a bug in IE 7 and 8: when using a CSS file with an @font-face declaration the entire webpage disappears.  A couple of tweaks later and IE7 and 8 users could view the site again.

Also on Tuesday I attended a project meeting for Mapping Metaphor, the first meeting since the colloquium.  Things seem to be progressing quite well, and we arranged some further meetings to discuss the feedback from the test version of the visualisations and the poster for DH2014.  I’m probably not going to do much more development for the project until September due to other work commitments, but will focus back in on the project from September onwards.  I also spent a little time this week doing some further investigations into the new SLD project that Jean would like me to tackle.  I can’t really say much about it at this stage but I spent about half a day working with the data and figuring out what might be possible to do in the available time.

On Wednesday I finally managed to get to grips with phonegap and how to use it to wrap HTML5 / CSS3 / JavaScript websites as platform specific apps.  I put my new MacBook to good use, setting everything up on it afresh after my bungled attempt to get the software to work on my desktop machine months ago.  I approached the task of installing phonegap with some trepidation because of my previous failure, and the process of getting the software installed and working was still far from a straightforward process, but it was a success this time, thank goodness.  Although I installed Phonegap (http://phonegap.com/) I would recommend using Apache Cordova instead (http://cordova.apache.org/).  They are pretty much forks of the same code, but Phonegap is a bit of a mess, with documentation referring to cordova commands that just won’t run (because the command should be phonegap instead!) and certain commands giving error messages.  I eventually installed cordova and used this instead and it just worked a lot better.  So I finally managed to get both an Android and an iOS emulator running on my MacBook and created Android and iOS apps for ARIES based on the HTML5 / Javascript / CSS that I developed last year.  I’ve tested this out using the emulators and both versions appear to work perfectly, which is something of a relief.  The next step will be to actually test the apps on real hardware, but in order to do this for iOS I will have to sign up as a developer and pay the $99 annual subscription fee.  It’s something I’m going to do, but not until I get back from my holidays.

On Thursday I answered a query from a PhD student about online questionnaires and gave some advice on the options that are available.  Although I’ve previously used and recommended SurveyMonkey I would now recommend using Google Forms instead due to it being free and the way it integrates with Google Docs to give a nice spreadsheet of results.  The rest of Thursday I devoted to further DSL development, which mostly boiled down to getting text highlighting working in the entry page.  Basically if the user searches for a word or phrase then this string should be highlighted anywhere it appears within the entry.  As mentioned last week, I had hoped to be able to use XSLT for this task, but what on the face of it looked very straightforward proved to be rather tricky to implement due to the limitations of XSLT version 1, which is the only version supported by PHP.  Instead I decided to process highlighting using jQuery, and I managed to find a very neat little plugin that would highlight text in any element you specify (the plugin can be found here)

That’s all for this week, which proved to be pretty busy despite being only three days long.  I will return to work the week beginning the 19th.