Dynamic Maps : Google Maps, MSN Maps or OPENLayers

If you've been working on maps publishing for websites, you might have considered one of these alternatives:

  • buy vector format maps and publish them as images with the azppropriate information. this example on ecolopop.info also implements a hand coded image map : this is a lot of work but produces a unique version of the map that reinforces your web site's graphics.
  • use a free online amp provider such as google Map. Very useful for adress positionning : I use it on ecolopop.info for specific business locations. Google Maps in unbeatble at finding stuff from alphanumeric coordinates : if you happen to have a large database of adresses, Google Map will find them for you on its maps
  • OpenLayers is a JavaScript library for displaying map data in most modern web browsers, with no server-side dependencies. OpenLayers implements a (still-developing) JavaScript API for building rich web-based geographic applications, similar to the Google Maps and MSN Virtual Earth APIs, with one important difference -- OpenLayers is Free Software, developed for and by the Open Source software community.
    OpenLayers is a project of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation.

    Furthermore, OpenLayers implements industry-standard methods for geographic data access, such as the OpenGIS Consortium's Web Mapping Service (WMS) and Web Feature Service (WFS) protocols. Under the hood, OpenLayers is written in object-oriented JavaScript, using components from Prototype.js and the Rico library.

Jspresso Java RIA framework 3.0.0 release

Jspresso -http://www.jspresso.org- is a free and opensource framework dedicated to building RIAs that offer a desktop-like user experience. Among many improvements, one of the major features of this release is the native support of Adobe Flex as a deployment option.

All Jspresso-based applications will instantly run on the Flash plugin without a single, hand-written, line of MXML or ActionScript in their code base. Nor is there any GUI code generation involved. Jspresso relies on a generic Flex client engine that dialogs with the Jspresso Java backend through Adobe BlazeDS using a generic set of GUI commands. This approach relieves the developer from the DTO pain you usually find in this type of applications while still leveraging the style and power of a Flex client-side and keeping the development server-centric.
Last but not least, Jspresso applications, bootstrapped by a Maven archetype, build entirely in Maven and can be directly imported in Eclipse with full WTP support. The server stack remains unchanged (servlet / Spring / Hibernate) and all the previous frontend technologies remain fully supported.

Explaining database schema description formats

It is now common practise to use XML or YML (YAML) as convetionnal languages to describe SQL schema. This is particularly true within frameworks such as Symfony, propel, Doctrine , PhpOpenBiz. The advantages of using XML or YML to declare a DB schema include the automatic generation of SQL query codes and associated table relationship actions such as CASCADE Delete. The final objective obviously is to work with databases as easily as a few lines of generation directives, a process that is used to  develops browser based   CRUD (Create Read Update Delete) applications.

Zend Framework Scaffolding & RAD (2)

A few months ago we covered a few scaffolding techniques and articles for Zend Framework. For those unfamiliar with the scaffolding term, let's say it is aonther way of saying RAD, or Rapid Application Development. The main principle behind this is that any applicaiton could be automatically generated from a database design created easily with a grphical tool such as visual db designer from FABForce. This free tool allows export of DB schema to XML , that can then be converted to a database code generator called Propel, via a specific  converter .  You'll find on    Invoke's blog (Canadian company) an article that explains how to use propel generated objects within the Zend Framework.

Magento / wordpress showcase : Rue de Siam


I've finally released my first Magento website, and it proves to be a  real SEO winner (100% increase in visits after 2 weeks). RuedeSiam is a furniture importer based in Brittany. Now you know why I bothered comparing commercial and opensource Flash based zoomers : Rue de Siam's website site features an implementation of image  a flash based zoom within a prototype lightbox gallery  (check out this one) . Interesting too is the specific template for the "At your home" showcase category that uses products with  specific layout. Magento is really great for customising layouts, I suppose that's partly a big feature of Zend Framework expressed at its best. One technique I used a lot is the css based text over image transparency effect that I detailed a while ago for WordPress on this blog. Works fine with Magento images categories except that the background image really has to be adjusted perfectly so I used phpthumbs instead of Magento's resizing helpers that seemed to complicated to understand at first.   I've also covered  various development challenges that I shared on this blog during the development :

And a few tips :

One advice : once you're running a Magento production web site, be careful with upgrades. The Sales extension did not work with 1.3.0 on my development server and I'm sticking to 1.2.x for the moment.

Weekly news : ZF 1.8, EXTJS 3, Magento enterprise

This month has been full of releases. Zend Framework is reaching V1.8 featuring the new Zend_Application interface that instantiantes a preconfigured bootstrap when used via the Zend Tool generator (tutorial here in french). EXT JS, the popular and controversial semi commercial javscript library has reached a new milestone with a 3PR1 release. We've already mentioned Tine20, a new version is out but you want to keep that link where the developers publish a tutorial that explains how to combine EXT JS with Zend Framework.  On the Magento side, version 1.3.1 is out, should fix a lot of bugs but more importantly is the fact that Magento has finally annouced the release of an enterprise edition that starts at 8900$ per server. Nice to know that the company behind the most popular opensource ecommerce application is going to make money on a business model that proves to encourage customers and technicians to adopt this solution for long term development. Redhat did it and it's still around with the FEDORA that's developped independently. Let's hope some features annouced for Magento enterprise will come one day to the opensource product as affordable extensions : Administrator Permission Roles on Website and Store Levels, Private Sales including Events, Invitations and Category access permissions, Category View and Purchase permissions per on customer group , Gift Certificates/Cards are among features that certainly justify some financial investment. Currently we have the Customer Groups Configurable Catalog extension , but obviously you'd have to test that before going ahead in production.