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

As a developer, there is one thing that is at the top of my list of things that I need to decide on - the text editor.

The development environment needs to be pleasing and make you feel comfortable (whilst developing Dash I feel quite the same way, if the content management system isn't user friendly, you can't be comfortable using it). I've been through a lot of editors - starting with a bunch of versions of Visual Studio, including Visual Studio 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2013. They are all brilliant and I'm glad that I made the choice to use them for about 7 or so years whilst I was a .NET developer.

Things changed quickly though as I became a developer based on Mac OS X. I was forced to find a new editor that suited my development purposes. When I stopped developing in VB.NET and C# and began developing Java, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP etc. I found that I needed to find a new IDE that would suit those purposes. For the vast majority of those (all the web based ones) I used Aptana Studio 3. Aptana was brilliant but it quickly felt dated but I just could not afford the time to get a new editor without being certain that it was right for me. A good IDE needs to be extremely colourful (because that helps highlight different syntaxes), be fast and not prone to crashing (as Aptana eventually started doing) and be feature rich. For me one of the most important features of the IDE is support for SFTP. Aptana offers this out of the box. I then moved from Aptana to Eclipse with the Aptana plugin - pretty good to be honest. 

Eclipse is brilliant for Java development, and I still use it because it can compile a JAR file in so few steps, it can interpret and debug programs well and it just feels like it was designed for Java. However, Eclipse was eventually laden with the same bug that Aptana has and would crash from time to time - particularly when in the Web perspective.

So I made another move, this time to Adobe Brackets. I jumped on the Brackets bandwagon when it was pretty young, and I loved it. Syntax highlighting is lovely, it's feature rich and it's open source. Unfortunately, this jump was too early - Brackets just didn't have everything I needed. In 2015, I started an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. As a result I gave Dreamweaver a try and I liked it (looking back, I don't know why I liked it really other than the fact it had SFTP built in). 

Introducing Atom

Atom is now my favourite text editor. After being introduced to it by a colleague at work, I feel like I've come to love it. It's colourful, well designed, doesn't crash and has everything I need from a text editor or IDE. 

Atom is my new IDE of choice

Why is Atom nearly the perfect editor though? Well my first reason is that Atom has clear colouring - it's dark interface clearly defines the background from the foreground and its syntax highlighting is bright and stands out well. On top of this, Atom features a plugin system that means that if the feature you want is not available, it's likely to be available as a plugin somewhere. Atom is fast - it doesn't slow down too much as files get larger - I'm talking about PHP files, which I always break into logical files which rarely exceed 3,000 lines. 

People may say what about Visual Studio Code, since being from a Visual Studio background surely I'd like that? Well yeah I do. But I found Atom to be even nicer.

I think that if you are reading this and looking for a new text editor with a beautiful touch to it, Atom is well worth a try.

If you have a different favourite, I want to know what your favourite editor is. 

So you already know about some of the new features of ZPE 1.5.3, including the new free to use parser that can be part of any project. But there's also another change coming.

ZPE 1.5.3 is a bit of a minor update in terms of features, but it brings in a sweeping change. 

I'm talking about a change that brings a change to something from version 1.3.2. One of the first features added to ZPE way back when it kicked off again in 2015 was associative arrays - almost identical to PHP's associative arrays. They were different to lists in the sense that they mapped values. Well, whilst version 1.5.3 is not a huge update, the update brings a huge change to associative arrays.

You declare an associative array as below:

$assoc = {50 => 10, 10 => 50}

But now, the same associative array is written very similarly to a mix between that and defining a list:

$assoc = [50 => 10, 10 => 50]

The update's purpose is to inline both associative arrays and lists and to free up the curly brace.

Also, I am changing the accessor symbol from => to -> for objects.

Thanks to some of the comments I received today about my website, which were largely positive, I will be changing my website quite considerably.

The comment that has stuck with me, and it's reinforced by the fact I've thought about it myself is that my website has become too big. I've developed a plan of action to tackle this problem in as few distruptive steps as possible (since now my tutorials have been gaining more popularity and my website is being used by many, I don't want to disrupt that).

My plan is this:

  • Revert back to a single blog again, my Projects Blog will move back into my main blog. 
  • I will merge Software into my Projects section. 
  • I will create a completely new website (I've been thinking about this since early December) for my professional works

December has been a month about bringing notifications to BalfBlog. This month has brought quite a lot of new features that connect with the users of the blogs. 

First of all I added push notifications towards the end of November, allowing users to quickly subscribe to push notifications. Users can still subscribe by email using the my_blog/subscribe/ URL. On top of this, notification frequency can be changed so you don't spam your followers. 

Secondly, I have finally added social media buttons for sharing. This is completely controlled by BalfBlog, so you don't need to worry. All that you have to do is style the buttons and set them to appear from the settings controls.

Take a look at my blogs to see exactly what has been done.

In this post I'm going to outline what's new for BalfSlider.

Firstly, the slider now has many new animations, in fact there is now a total of 18 of them. As well as this, the design of BalfSlider allows you to easily write your own effects quickly. 

BalfSlider also includes several external functionalities that are accessible through the jQuery library such as a newly added Repaint function. I use this Repaint function to redraw the slider when the landing page on my website disappears, since the height will not be correct initially. This can also be used if the slider is not visible initially.

There are several new features planned for the next iteration, but until then they shall remain a surprise. 

Today I have decided as part of refurbishment of my own blog, I will be removing the BalfBlog posts from my blog and putting them in the blog dedicated to my projects. This blog has also been running for some time and since it is the intended place for BalfBlog posts, this is where I will be putting them.

As well as this, I have chosen to move all of my posts about my Zenith Engine from my own blog to the ZenLang website and the blog dedicated to ZPE and ZenLang. I recently opened this blog but it has long been the aim to remove these from my blog. 

I have plans to rename the blog dedicated to BalfBlog to my project blog, where I will put information about all of my main projects.

The new BalfBlog version 2.0.1 will be released next week. Currently the main features that have been added have been added for the ClickIt blog to improve it, since I am currently working on that at the moment as my main project.

The following have been added:

  • Security improvements
  • Better use of mod_rewrite to make URLs work better
  • Search improvements now mean that you can join words together using "" e.g. "windows 8" would search for the exact term windows 8 and not each word individually
  • Dashboard improvements
  • A new settings panel
  • Add your own items to the TinyMCE editor! You can now define your own items for the TinyMCE editor.
  • A new system to update your blog automatically (Linux and Mac based servers only)

This will be the last update of April so I'm trying to make it somewhat significant. April and the end of March have been the most significant months in the development of BalfBlog. I hope you enjoy the next update as much as I am!

I am very happy to say that as of today I have released to DevNet my new JBBar, a lightweight and flexible menu that is responsive and flexible. It works on all tested devices currently including touch and click devices.

It is now available as a jQuery plugin too, so feel free to download and try it yourself. Instructions can be found on DevNet as to how to do this.

Apple Event

Just a quick reminder that Apple's September event takes place today at 18.00 UK time. 

You can find out more on Apple's website.

Possible releases could be a new Apple TV, a bigger iPad, the iPhone 6s, new Macs and more information about the new OSes.

I would love to make a liveblog on this, but unfortunately my host runs an Apache server and not an nginx server therefore every livepost I make ends up overloading the server so I will do a summary post at the end.

Yesterday, Google announced a new logo. I noticed it when on the off chance I needed to use Google (I'm a Duck Duck Go user now). 

The new logo is the biggest change the company has made to it's logo in the 16 years of existence. It's quite an amazing change too, the font is no longer a serif font but a new sans-serif font.

What do you think of the new logo?

New logo

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