Archive for the 'Segue' Tag  

Outside-In: Application Interoperability Using an OSID-Based Framework

June 25th, 2008

Filed under: Work/Professional

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This post describes an interoperability demonstration given at OpeniWorld Europe 2008 in Lyon, France.

Abstract

Segue and Concerto are two curricular applications built upon Harmoni, an Open Service Interface Definition-based (OSID) service-oriented application framework. This demonstration will show how website content created in Segue is stored as OSID Assets in Harmoni’s OSID Repository. Similarly, the demonstration will show how multimedia assets created in Concerto can be stored same repository. Interoperability will be demonstrated as each application is used to view and make real-time modifications to the OSID Assets created using the other application, while at the same time respecting the authorizations given to those assets. Additionally, an OSID Repository to OAI-PMH gateway will be shown providing the LibraryFind meta-search tool with access to the metadata for content created in Segue, Concerto, and a lightweight, read-only OSID Repository.

Software Demonstrated:

Segue 2.0 – Beta 20

June 9th, 2008

Filed under: Work/Professional

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Another week, another Segue 2 beta. This week’s installation brings visitor registration, a few new themes from Alex, theme migration from Segue 1, and a bunch of little bug fixes.

Visitor registration brings with it a few interesting challenges. As in Segue 1, we want (and need) to be able to allow people outside of the Middlebury community to join in on public discussions hosted in Segue. As well, Middlebury users often need to give access to restricted parts of their sites to people off-campus with whom they are collaborating. Our visitor registration system therefore needs to be easy to use by registrants, keep out spammers, as well as enable searches for visitor accounts by community users.

To keep out spammers, the visitor registration form uses reCAPTCHA to try to verify that a human is sitting at the browser. There are other CAPTCHA systems out there, but I like the philosophy and approach of reCAPTCHA. Starting with words that OCR software had trouble reading seems like a good idea. After the registration form is filled out, Segue sends an email to the address entered with a unique registration code. Until the link in the email is clicked on (and hence the address verified) the account is locked.

To enable easy searching of visitor accounts, visitors are asked to enter their name. While there are a few restrictions on names, these are user-chooseble. To provide some measure of differentiation between verified institution accounts and visitor accounts visitor accounts have the user-chosen name followed by their email domain name in parenthesis, e.g.:

Adam Franco (gmail.com)

I weighed including the entire email address as that is the only verified information we have about the visitor accounts, but I’d rather not open that information up for harvesting by spammers. If abuse becomes an issue, the visitor registration system also supports both black-lists and white-lists of email domains.

Segue 2 – The home stretch begins.

May 19th, 2008

Filed under: Work/Professional

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Segue 2 logoWe’ve recently announced our migration plans to the campus: We’ll be rolling out Segue 2 in mid-August for production use in the fall semester.

I’ve now been working on Segue 2 directly or indirectly for 5 years, since June 2003. It has been a long road and it is wonderful to finally be cresting the last rise. That said, as the feature-request tracker indicates, we still have a lot to do over the next 12 weeks.

Theming
This past week I rebuilt the theming system for the 4th (and last before production) time. The challenge with the theming system is that we wanted to enable end-users to choose from a few straight-forward options for things like ‘overall color scheme’, ‘font size’, corner-treatment — not all of which mapped cleanly to CSS properties. As well, to enable more powerful themes, we needed to let theme developers wrap each content type with HTML tags in order to get some effects that are just not possible with plain CSS when the dimensions of the element are not known. Our first three theming implementations involved different PHP classes for each theme with method for setting various options. Each implementation had its own strengths and weaknesses, but they were all hideously complex and required theme developers to know PHP in order to do more than change the CSS. The new theme implementation scraps all of that complexity and defines themes as a set of CSS files and HTML templates, with associated images. An extension to this simple base adds an option listing (defined in XML) that enables placeholders in the CSS and HTML templates to be replaced with values from end-user-choose-able options.

With the new theming system in place in development Alex has set to work building the first three (Rounded Corners, Shadow Box, and Tabs) of the themes that will be distributed with Segue while I’ve been finishing up the user-interfaces for choosing theme options and enabling more advanced users to customize the theme CSS and HTML in their web-browser. So far Alex and I are pretty happy with the new theming system and its simplicity should give it much longer legs than our previous attempts.

While it won’t make it to production, I eventually plan to have a theme-gallery that users can choose to publish their designs to for use by the rest of the community.

Up Next
With theming out of the way the following are some of the next areas I’ll be working on in addition to fixing bugs and working out smaller kinks:

  • Templates – starting points for sites
  • Enabling embedded videos from trusted sites (i.e. YouTube, Vimeo, etc)
  • Visitor Registration
  • Copy/Move tools for Classic Mode
  • Display of RSS feeds

Still a lot to do, but with each addition Segue 2 gets much closer to being able to take over as the primary course website system.