ColdFusion Muse

Two Hotshot Developers Build Flex Gallery - Film at 11:00

I have 2 amazing young men working for me named Axel Jensen and Jake Churchill. Although they were both hired as entry level Coldfusion programmers their meteoric rise in knowledge is only surpassed by the number of donuts they eat and the sheer number of musical artists that they seem to know by name. Jake has quickly become an expert at working with Farcry. He has personally shepherded 12 separate Farcry sites in a short 9 months. I guess I should say "birthed" 12 Farcry sites in 9 months (ha). Axel has devoured flex and build some amazing applications interfacing with Google Maps, charting, data visualization etc. I'm overjoyed to have hired 2 burgeoning geniuses. My biggest problem is going to be how to keep them :)

The 2 of them collaborated on a flex based photo gallery that is among the better ones I have seen. It was done for a client of ours, hopecenterforkids.org (see their new coming site at hopec.cfwebtools.com). Axel wrote a rundown of it on his blog and he included the source code for all of you aspiring flex developers out there. In the words of the Governator of the great state of California, Happy Flexing!

Extending the Farcry Webtop

In my previous post on Farcry Extensibility I explained how a content "type" could be extended to support additional properties. Extending the core types only just begins to tap into the power of Farcry's ingenious extensibility engine. Another item that bears mentioning is the webtop. Practically anyone who has done any Coldfusion programming at all has created or used a webtop - a collection of tools that is password protected. Things like e-commerce applications, CMS systems, and email applications all come with a toolkit or webtop of some kind. Few of them make it as easy as Farcry to add new tools. It starts with the customadmin.xml file.

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Farcry and Extensibility

One of the most outstanding features of Farcry is it's extensibility. First, let me say that I am still learning the full extent of Farcry's power and extensibility. When I went to install my own tool into the webtop I must confess I was prepared for an afternoon of trial and error. I had my comfort food, soothing music and serenity prayer standing by just in case. As it turns out, I did not need any of those things.

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Farcry Masking in the Image Picker

Other Farcry developers probably already know this, but it was news to me. A customer was frustrated the "image picker" widget that comes with Farcry and may be accessed from the "body" of an HTML page. You can browse to images in your library and place them into the HTML content of a page. The problem was that it would place the thumbnail of the image on the page with a link to the "full size" image. Most of the time she wanted to simply place the full size image on the page as a part of the content - so she would have to manually edit the image properties to make it work.

What I discovered was a setting in the images config file (go to "admin-Config files-Image") called INSERTHTML. The default value of insertHTML is:

<a href='*imagefile*' target='_blank'><img src='*thumbnail*' border=0 alt='*alt*'></a>
This snippet functions as a mask for inserting objects from the image picker. If you look closely you will see that it is set up to mimic the behavior I describe above - inserting a thumbnail with a link to the full size image. To alter the behavior of the image picker I changed the mask to this:
<img src='*imagefile*' border=0 alt='*alt*'>
That worked quite well. One thing that still annoys me about the image type is the the width and height sometimes are inserted and sometimes they are left out of an image added to the library. I've never been able to identify the conditions that make the width and height a part of the properties when uploading.

Tiny MCE Editor and Farcry

Here's a tip on controlling editing in Farcry using TinyMCE. TinyMCE is the default editor. It's a great web-based editor from Moxiecode. It has a dizzying array of features - which can sometimes be a problem. One of the tenants of a CMS system is that you are trying to control the look of the site and give control of the content of the site over to content contributors. If the editor supports too many options it gives too much control to the contributor. What is needed is a way to limit the number of options available. You can certainly do that with tinyMCE. You can get rid of most of the buttons for formatting for example. But this will mean you end up with plain Jane text (with my apologies to Tarzan). What you really want is not to make your contributors boring. Instead you want them to use the styles that you created. That's where CSS comes in.

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Farcry Indexing Script for MS SQL

One of the downsides of a complex CMS is performance. I do not mean that a CMS can't perform well - it certainly can. I only mean that there is less margin for error when so many things are happening with each request. The more complex the application, the more the developer should pay attention to scalability issues. Probably nothing impacts your performance more than your database. I often tell customers who are prepared to spend money on hardward to buy the best server you can afford for your database server. In fact, a cheap web server and a solid Database server beat a great web server with a pokey db server every time. Anyway, I have been working with Farcry for some time now. I have used the information from Daemon on DB Indexing Strategies to make decisions about my Microsoft SQL Server indexing.

The suggestions they make are a bit generic. I have compiled my suggestions for indexing into an indexing script. I like using primary keys where it makes sense (where I need a unique index). Here's a tip. If you are in the habit of setting your primary keys in Enterprise Manager and you want a column other than the primary key column (or columns) to have a clustered index, make sure you create the cluster index first then set your primary key. Why? Because EM will automatically create a PK as a clustered index - which means you will need to drop it to create a clustered index anywhere else. Any way, here's the indexing script. Keep in mind that it will probably throw errors when you run it (null columns and the like) - so you may need to use it as a guide instead of simply running it in EM. If you have a pristine installation and you want the whole ting (constraints and defaults as well as just indexes and keys) give me a shout.

Wrapping a Fusebox App in Farcry

We have an internal project tracking application based on Tracking Tools by Phil Cruz. We have enhanced it by adding hours tracking, milestones, reporting and extra notification features. We use it to communicate internally and to communicate with our customers regarding work that is underway. It has worked well up to this point.

Recently I became heavily involved in several Farcry projects - as you know if you read my blog on The Greatest Coldfusion Product Ever. I hit upon the idea of wrapping Farcry around my tracking-tools application (written in Fusebox). I could get the advantages of content management and post news and updates and other information to my staff and to my customers, and still be able to leverage the tracking tools application that we have modified. It seemed like a good idea - so I got started on it right away. Here's how I did it and what I learned.

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The Greatest Coldfusion Product Ever

I'd like to take a moment to recommend a product. If you need a CMS system that is full featured, scales well, has a great community and cost nothing - then do not hesitate to try Farcry from daemon. We are in the midst of a project using Farcry to support a major medical center. To put it mildly, Farcry is the best Coldfusion product available. I have tested or used other CMS systems like Red Dot, Paper Thin, Hot-Banana something (singularly unappealing), but Farcry makes them all eat dust. If you want to know more - both pros and cons - read on.

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