Jamie Balfour BSc

Welcome to my personal website!

Technology enthusiast

I am very interested in technology, particularly relating to computer science. I am most interested in web design and development.

My main hobby is programming. One of my most well known products from this is ZPE. I also am the sole creator of BalfBlog, BalfBar and BalfSlider.

A little bit about me

In 1997, when I was six years of age, I got my very first computer. I was always very interested in the ins and outs of it and dismantled it to see how it worked.

Years later, in 2016 I received my BSc (with honours) in Computer Science, obtaining a First class degree.

I'd like to welcome you to my website and hope you enjoy using it as much as I have enjoyed building it!

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Jamie Balfour BSc
Full stack developer

Personal Blog

More and more since I began development on Dash, particularly templating in Dash, I have wanted to write a new parser for PHP.

When I say a new parser for PHP, I don't mean to parse PHP. No I mean to parse Dash Templates. This will give me the power to include features like if statements and loops as well as a lot of other stuff.

At present, templates look like:

Dash Template
<div class="image">{POST_IMAGE}</div>
{POST_CONTENT}

But as you can see that means that it doesn't matter if a {POST_IMAGE} is set or not, it will display no matter what. What if it could work like this:

Dash Template
{IF POST_IMAGE}
  <div class="image">{POST_IMAGE}</div>
{END IF}
{POST_CONTENT}

Since I wrote ZPE and then rewrote the Zenith Parser to be completely open and usable by others, I have written a JSON, XML and CSV parser to go with the original ZenLang parser. It's fair to say I have a good idea about making an efficient parser now. 

If statements would make it easier to do things that we couldn't do before. So that's next for Dash, whether it makes it to version 1.0 or not I'm not entirely sure but I hope so since it shouldn't take too long.

On top of that, I'm thinking about making it free from Dash and completely separate, thus allowing it to be used elsewhere.

I've been banging on about BalfBlog for at least the last two months. The most important two months of it's journey to becoming a stable content management system that can be used by many. 

The staple aim of BalfBlog is to develop a concise, well-defined, well-built and independent of any styling, content management system. It will always rely on the host website's core styling in order for it to produce posts. This means that a bit of technical knowledge is needed, but very little.

The Dashboard is very easy to configure, with a set of easy to use options and tools to make it easy to manage your content. 

In May 2016 my own website changed to BalfBlog for article and review management and in October 2015 my website introduced my very first journal (one that nobody can access but me, of course).

Of course with time, the focus has shifted from being a blogging system as it was when JBlogs first started. In fact JBlogs never meant to come out of it's shell and become anything for use outwith my own website. When BalfBlog was announced, I made the version jump from version 1.1 to BalfBlog 2.0. This name change was made in 2016 to keep in line with my other projects in my Web Neutral Project (WNP) such as BalfBar, BalfSlider and BalfRibbon but it was never going to be permanent.

With the introduction of Article Mode - which is used in my articles and reviews, BalfBlog stopped just being a blogging system but a full on content management system (CMS). This was a big step and one which made it difficult to keep under the BalfBlog name. For a long time a name change has been on the cards.

Now, I'm proud to announce that BalfBlog will be known as Dash Content Manager from now on!

Why Dash?

Dash is always stylised in italic when I refer to it because it's similar to what the logo for Dash will look like. The name Dash came from several roots. Originally I was going to name it Atomic, based on the concept of atomicity within databases, but I liked the name Dash better.

The name is far more representative of what it is. Dash represents a fast system, which indeed it is. The name Dash is actually a bit of a homage to the agile way in which it was developed since to me a dash is like a sprint. 

Dash of course also represents the core part of the Dash structure, since the main focus for BalfBlog 2.4 and Dash is the dashboard. 

Dash is itself a recursive acronym:

Dash: Adaptable, Secure and High-performance Content Management

Let's go through those words to see where they fit in:

  • Adaptable - BalfBlog 2.2 introduced plugins, and Dash extends the way plugins interact. This makes Dash adaptable
  • Secure - Dash is designed with a sophisticated and secure system to authenticate users and verify they are who they say they are. No unencrypted passwords are saved in any database and it's not possible to access data outwith the boundaries of the dashboard.
  • High-performance - Dash is designed to be lightweight and fast. Features that have been added have been designed to have minimal impact on the performance of Dash.
  • Content Management - BalfBlog was a blogging system originally, and only managed content in a blog. Dash on the other hand (and of course later versions of BalfBlog) is designed with all kinds of content in mind. 

Dash can now even manage your files within the assets directory thanks to the new file manager.

Another big update

Another big thing I should mention is some that related to the version jump from 1.1 to 2.0 when JBlogs became BalfBlog. Now that Dash is nearing ready for release, I'm doing another version jump. Except:

BalfBlog 2.4 => Dash 1.0

Yeah that's right, BalfBlog 2.4 is actually now called Dash 1.0. 

The future

There's still plenty planned for Dash such as single installations multiple blogs, page management and a new comments system (possibly).

If you are wanting to see the latest version as it develops, visit http://dash.projects.jamiebalfour.com/. This rubbish subsite is dedicated to new features being added daily, so it will vary all the time. At some point I will add styling to it but it's low priority.

In the last few months I have really spammed my own personal blog about one of my largest projects - BalfBlog. As you probably noticed I have also been updating my personal blog with the latest changes by an automated update (builds automatically and is deployed with a cron job).

In the latest update to BalfBlog, I aim to move back to a blog dedicated to it as more and more changes are brought to it. In fact, the blog I'm dedicating to it is actually the exact subsite that is being used for live development. You are welcome to visit this testing site to see the changes as they happen but don't expect a fancy front-end, I've got no time to focus on those sorts of things.

You can find the live build here:

http://balfblog.projects.jamiebalfour.com/

It's important to note that although BalfBlog 2.4 does not require all of HTML5, it does require a browser with at least half-decent CSS support, so this excludes Internet Explorer 8.

Today I am happy to announce that every feature has been added to version 2.4 of BalfBlog. Yep, that's right. It's now fully functioning.

But please note, this is not the end of 2.4, in fact it's just the basics of it. The next things that need to be done are mostly refactoring code and adding validation systems in as there is currently none of that. 

Most of the features of 2.4 are now finished, some of them need furnishing and some of them are completely new. The newest feature added just yesterday and finished today is the build in 'View content' option, which allows you to view a post from within the dashboard, rather than going to the front end to view it. This will have a special purpose very soon.

Templating is still to be improved and moving from constants to a data object is still to be implemented. I'm still well on schedule for the end of July for the release of 2.4.

I have been working a lot harder than usual on my projects, particularly on BalfBlog, which has been my sole focus (even above my own site maintenance) for some time now. 

However, I want to inform you all that from now on I will only be spending the half hour lunch I have and some Saturdays working on these projects. Support can now only be done by contacting me on a Saturday (I won't read any that are not on Saturdays by the way). 

Site issues

Whilst I call it a site issue, it's not in my control at present. Somebody has declared my web host's IP that my site is using is spamming them (probably Microsoft themselves) and therefore no emails are being received by Hotmail/Outlook.com email addresses. This is because the IP address range has been blacklisted. I've been in touch with my webhost about this. But more importantly I am looking at moving to a paid email service now anyway.

Please note that subscriptions and new users are currently not supported. I will send out a push notification about this too.

I'm so impressed by the power and features that version 2.4 (Ben Lawers) brings to the table compared with version 2.3 (Schiehallion) just under a month ago. The whole engine has been redesigned to take advantage of the object oriented design that came to BalfBlog when it went by the name of the JBlogs. The redesign makes BalfBlog easier to develop at a very small cost to performance. It makes other things such as dealing with Ajax so simple that it's not even worth considering it a separate part of the system. It integrates so much very seamlessly that you wouldn't know it's changed, that is unless you are a developer.

2.3 didn't care about developers the way that 2.4 does. Everything is developed in the most object oriented way it can be. Inheritance has become a staple feature of BalfBlog with the latest release and inclusion is no longer the only way to get run things (this doesn't need to make sense to you, but developers who fiddle with BalfBlog will understand).

A new templating system brings so much in terms of performance and easy of use. It also moves even further from the limitations on the content that were the key aim that BalfBlog aims to improve. Emails recently got put into the standard templating system, which is set for a complete renewal in 2.5 (I aim to improve the efficiency considerably by writing a new templating language). 

Since I've now got full approval to include FileManager in BalfBlog, 2.4 will now include it by default and there will be no option to switch it off. However, as this is a new addition, it may still be limited in features until I've got it perfected.

So BalfBlog 2.4 is nearly ready for a late July release.

However, several features are still to be added as absolute essentials.

  • All the way in version 2.4, the delete user functionality is not ideal. This really needs to be fixed. I will work on this again tonight and tomorrow and improve it.
  • Ajax functionality stopped working for the front end when I updated the system to version 2.4.
  • Themes have been a much requested feature but will not be a focus of 2.4, so might not make it into this release.
  • CKEditor is not confirmed to work any longer. I will work on fixing this for the release date, but may remove it in the meantime.
  • Users are supposed to be able to store notes, this has been underway for the last few days and I will be including this in the release.
  • The whole data file needs a complete redesign now that I am using an object oriented methodology for the back end.
  • Finally, I want to have an introduction help page to help new users understand BalfBlog's back end.

These features will soon appear in the changelog, so keep an eye on it and soon enough you'll be able to use them too.

I will also need to rewrite the main post query system. This is a huge priority.
Posted by jamiebalfour04 in BalfBlog

For the last few days I have been looking at using something called FileManager in BalfBlog for managing users' files. The great news is, and I have great pleasure in saying this, but FileManager will now be bundled with BalfBlog 2.4.

After an requesting free bundling with BalfBlog 2.4 by asking the creator, I am pleased to say that it resulted in a very satisfactory result:

I'm very happy to announce that BalfBlog 2.4 will now be bundled with FileManager!

Here's a portion of transcript between us:

I love FileManager and I am interested in whether you would permit me to bundle it as part of an open source CMS project which I plan to share? If not, no worries.

Cheers,

Jamie Balfour

This resulted in a very good result for all BalfBlog users:

Ok no problem

So I am very happy to announce that BalfBlog will now be bundled with the well built, well designed and possibly the best file manager for any web project known as FileManager!

BalfBlog 2.4 is designed to do a lot. In this very short post I will outline the new design of the BalfBlog core and how it will make BalfBlog more efficient than before.

Architecture

As someone who cares about organisation, BalfBlog 2.3 and before always upset me. Currently version 2.4 minimises the issue of organisation by organising files in an MVC pattern with a single dashboard controller than routes requests easily. Everything is passed through the main controller. The way that the new version has been designed also takes advantage of the object oriented features of PHP to make the architecture even more seamless. By the release of 2.4, the architecture should be perfect.

Features

As well as organisation, all features have been integrated into the dashboard. The AJAX requests pages have now also been seamlessly integrated to make sure that if AJAX isn't supported by the browser (for instance if JavaScript is not enabled, why on earth would you disable JS?!) then it has a PHP fallback.

New features have also been added in terms of the way posts are produced, information is retrieved and the way in which you interact with the content management system. 

Performance

Performance has seen a slight increase since 2.3 but I cannot be 100% about this because I also have changed to a VPS since version 2.3, so I might see the increase in performance because of this.

The next big change to BalfBlog is designed to make it even more powerful whilst extending it's MVC pattern to be even further refined. 

Actions can now performed very easily using links which store references to each individual action and it's corresponding view. The controller then decides whether or not to access the view or model. BalfBlog is still incredibly lightweight and fast, and the new query engine makes it even faster to retrieve results from the past. 

In the front end, Ajax has been removed from all individual modules and is now a system wide option if it is supported (it should be since BalfBlog expects your browser to be at least a bit modern).

Since I created this post, a lot of stuff has been fixed and is ready for release. I will hold out until the end of July for 2.4 however.

Site accessibility

A lot of the original functionalities that once existed here have been removed.

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