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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Me
Jamie Balfour BSc
Full stack developer

Personal Blog

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.

I introduced my gallery over 3 years ago when I decided to write in whilst on my yearly get away to Dunkeld. I have finally updated it.

This means that I haven't quite finished adding the original content to it, but you'll see it performs much better for both my server and for you in terms of waiting.

Please be aware that some links on my website will no longer work as expected if they link to the gallery. I aim to have my gallery updated with all the content from the original gallery by the end of tonight. I also realise that a lot of people aren't even interested in my gallery as of recent, but I also have to point out my gallery is not for everyone. I built it as a way to share photos with my family and to build my own kind of 'scrapbook' of photos.

One of the biggest updates in terms of what it brings is the move from MySQLi to PDO - PHP's data objects for databases. Not only does PDO make it easier for me to add future database systems, it makes it easier for me to write the code.

MySQLi's biggest problem is the way in which prepared statements are formed:

$stmt -> bind_param("ss", $username, $password);

PDO solves this issue by making it possible for me generate any query and provide any number of parameters, thus allowing me to call the execute on the query at just one point. If you look through the new version BalfBlog you will understand why this is crucial.

Nothing will change on the front end, although the performance is much better with PDO because of the way it is written.

ZPE 1.5.2 is now available to download from my website. It is a huge update that brings so much (and removes so much). ZPE 1.5.2 is known by it's code name Pelegosto.

Let's start with what's being removed:

  • string_concatenate - added in version 1.3.0, deprecated in version 1.5.0 and now removed in version 1.5.2
  • open_remote_client - added in version 1.5.0, deprecated in version 1.5.1 and now removed in version 1.5.2.
  • open_remote_server - added in version 1.5.0, deprecated in version 1.5.1 and now removed in version 1.5.2.

Now for what's new:

  • Serialisation and deserialisation of objects and structures: objects and structures can now be saved to disk and retrieved later. This feature is a particular favourite of mine.
  • Custom keywords: finally you can customise the compiler with your own keywords and how they are interpreted. This feature is in it's early days, but it works as expected.
  • Constructors for structures: now you can instantiate a structure with a set of parameters. This feature was requested by one of the original testers of ZPE, wondering why it was you couldn't do this. Well now I've done it.
  • General improvements that fix a few bugs
  • Performance improvements, particularly with mathematics
  • The jget ZAC, based on CURL. This ZAC is designed to download a file from the central repository of ZPE tools and features. For instance running zpe -jget stdLib.zex will download the compiled standard library (now over 400 lines long). 

ZPE 1.5.3 is already underway and it's main focuses are on better structures and ZPEObjects as well as a much better compiler. So far in ZPE 1.5.3 the new -l argument for the compiler. This allows you to compile an application into a library, meaning the main function will not be included for efficiency.

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

ZPE 1.5.0 brought a ton of new features that make it better than it ever was. But version 1.5.1 has brought about even more. Now version 1.5.1 which recently was released to beta users has been improved further. It's main focus has been on improving the back-end compiler, and it seriously has. The compiler now follows a different path to the interpreter, something planned for a long time. This update changed ZenEx and how it works compared with before and will mean that you will need to recompile any applications written in ZenLang.

On top of this it has received some Java-based TLC. Users who develop Java applications will have a much easier time accessing what they need, when they need it. Everything is now packaged up in to a bunch of very neat little packages and classes, rather than all residing within the ZPE package. For instance, you can now find GUI based stuff in:

jamiebalfour.zpe.GUI

And the core is now found in:

jamiebalfour.zpe.Core

Easier by a long shot.

Also, the public methods class called PublicMethods is now found at:

jamiebalfour.zpe.Core.PublicMethods

This was added in version 1.5.1 and it adds many new methods that are there for developers to take advantage of. One such example now opens all internal functions to Java developers, no longer limiting them in to using ZenLang to access these (prior to this the plan was to use the public Execute function to get a result). 

I consistently release a new version of ZPE each year. This year version 1.5 has been released.

In 2015 version 1.3 was released which brought the most changes to ZPE since it began in 2014. Version 1.3 added so much including the very basic compiler that version 1.2 started. Over 50 functions were added in this version. This version added if statements, for loops, while loops, functions, structures (although they didn't work properly until 1.4), RMM (Real Math Mode), plugins, libraries, lists, associative arrays, constants, variables, incrementing and decrementing, built in converters (and for a while one example did even exist that converted ZPE code to Java), image functions and of course, my favourite feature of ZPE, anonymous/lambda functions.

In 2016 version 1.4 was released and it brought a huge shake up of changes, but it's main focus was consistency between internal functions and imported ones. It also brought structures that are similar to those used in other languages such as function(){ } instead of function() end function. As well as this it brought the LAMP interpreter, lazy evaluation, function chaining, the object type, a better hashing of variables and functions, the internal manual for information on built in functions. Version 1.4 also brought support for many other new things, including octal and hexadecimal without the need for a function.

In 2017 version 1.5 was first released. This version currently adds one major new feature, Remote ZPE. Remote ZPE allows a system running ZPE to act as either a client to another ZPE installation or to act as a server that other ZPE Clients can utilise. The purpose of this is for smaller, much less capable machines such as the Raspberry Pi to be able to quickly take advantage of the processing power of a more capable machine. This was developed because I use ZPE remotely on my Raspberry Pi through SSH to do things, but what I'd really like is ZPE to work on my MacBook and send the result to my Pi (so it goes like this Mac connect to Pi through SSH which then uses ZPE Remote to do processing on Mac which returns the result to Pi which shows on my Mac, this way I can process scripts stored on my Pi and utilise them on my Pi).

The future of ZPE 1.5 however is very clear. 2017 will bring the following major features to ZPE:

  • JSON parsing (already done and available in all versions of ZPE)
  • Remote ZPE: Client and Server (already done and available in all versions of ZPE)
  • Multi-threading: Currently this project is underway and it's easy to test with ZPE version 1.5.1 (currently beta users only) using the following:
    $v = threaded function() { for ($i = 0; $i < 100000; $i++) print($i) end for }. It's easy to do and I'm sure it makes sense.
  • Interfaces for objects: allowing programmers to define interfaces
  • GUI builder: a way to develop graphical interfaces in applications (not sure if I will include this by default in all installations and might just include it as a library)
  • Conversion methods: New built in methods to make conversion plugins easier to write
  • Plugins will gain access to internal functions: A method of accessing built in functions from plugin functions
  • Typo: The new Typo typing system will finally come to version 1.5.x
  • Includes: Inclusion techniques to include non compiled code in the non compiled version of the code. Much like the C and PHP include methods.
  • Include imported functions: The import function will be changed to be a part of the compiler and will change the way it is run.
  • Ordered associative arrays: associative arrays currently store just one key and do not follow an order, this will allow associative arrays to be ordered
  • ZPE JSON: Improve JSON parsing and drop the use of GSON (the JSON functions will all work identically to how they work with GSON, it's just the wrapper functions on the top that will change).
  • Improved compiler: the compiler currently flows within the compiler-interpreter cycle whereby the compiler generates the input for the interpreter. This is fine for simply using the -i tool, but when running applications it means that one more step still needs to be run - transform the AST to something meaningful. With the latest update I aim to change this and put the compiler in a different place. The basics of the compiler will remain the same, but one more step will be added when compiling to a compiled program. This will improve the speed of the ZPE Runtime when applied to a compiled application (it will have no effect on the interpreter).
  • Power to the objects: objects, and as a side-effect structures, will be getting more powerful. It will soon be possible to declare a function within an object using lambda functions. As well as this objects will be getting more support in the LAMP parser. 
  • Passing parameters by reference: just as it says. I aim to have this feature in version 1.5.3. This would mean functions like list_dequeue would no longer need to be reassigned to the variable.

I am highlighting in green the features as they get added and highlighting in orange features that are partially added, so keep an eye on this post for updates.

There are several more but they will be put here once I have decided whether or not they are feasible or not.

This is a very tall order, and Typo and the conversion functions are currently at the bottom of the stack and although they have been suggested for this version and they were originally planned for version 1.4, I still may need to delay them to version 1.6.

Also, with the release of version 1.5, support for any version 1.4 iterations of the software has now ended, I encourage you to upgrade to the latest version of ZPE.

Since I started ZPE a year and a half ago it's come a very long way. From time to time I've put development in the background of my life, but I've begun working solid on it again. Now in January 2017 there are a whopping 155 built in functionalities plus a standard library designed to supplement the core functionalities with additional ones including sorting functions and much more.

When I launched ZPE publicly for the first time in July 2015 there were just 30 odd functions in the core. I was struggling to get even to 50 after months of development but suggestions kept flowing in from friends and people who used it. 6 functions have since been removed in favour of compiler based changes (the add, subtract, divide, multiply, modulo and concatenate functions, because all of them have since been replaced by a compiler change called LAMP).

The result of all of this is a much more efficient parser and interpreter but also a much more functional one. Who wants to write their code full of add functions rather than write a simple plus sign for instance? Adding LAMP was one of the biggest changes, and the latest update to it was made in November and it made a huge change that improved it overall. 

I continue to develop ZPE as a major project of my own, but I also use it for things now, and for that it's awesome. I know people do download it but feedback has since become less frequent. 

I am happy to announce that my website has had quite a few new changes in the last few weeks, all of which I am finishing now. They are almost all content based but some also improve the actual usability of the website.

DragonScript 2

Last month I began to implement an improved version of DragonScript, DragonScript 2. DS2, codenamed Robber, is a huge update that improves the performance of the backend of my website, thus resulting in shorter loading times for users. It will take a while for me to bring it to every page on my website since some are still using DragonScript 2015 and I have to manually change the PHP file to update the page to DS2. 

New page percentage scroller

If you are on my website reading this then you will see that I have implemented one of those scrollers that goes from left to right as you scroll further down the page. I thought this was a nice navigation element to bring to my website and it was pretty easy to implement so, well you know, I thought I'd give it a try. Lemme know what you think by the usual method!

Goodbye old email accounts

My website email addresses are now limited to the webmaster, information and the no-reply subscribe and admin. Getting in touch via the contact form now goes straight to my personal email address.

New tutorials

I've finished my MySQL tutorial and I am now working on a new tutorial on Web Design. This tutorial focuses on design techniques, design patterns and methods to make a website more efficient and usable. It's fully planned out (and believe it or not I am organising it using the web design technique called card sorting). This tutorial is already coming on. The inspiration to start this tutorial comes from a book I recently purchased on design techniques. It also comes from the fact I now consider myself a bit of a design geek, since I am absolutely obsessed with usability and aesthetically appealing designs now more than ever.

New site features

Since you can now access a JavaScript method without the need for plugins to copy and cut stuff on the web, I have added a Copy button to every code sample on my website. If you cannot copy using the execCommand function in JavaScript, an error appear for you in the form of an alert. This is a pretty cool little feature.

Changes coming

On top of this, clickit.education will finally shut down this year since I didn't receive enough in donations to cover it. The same goes for the zenlang.net website I never finished. I will be moving both to subdomains on my website (www.sites.jamiebalfour.com). On top of that my DevNet will no longer be maintained. All of this allows me to focus more on my personal website, which I guess is good. I may bring back zenlang.net at some point in the near future, but for now clickit.education will be the biggest loss. Like I said, it is all based on donations which were just not enough this year (there is also ad revenue, which I keep most of so I can continue to pay for things like Creative Cloud used to maintain this website).

I have been trying to find time to make this video and finally got round to it last week. In this video I take you on a small tour of BalfBlog and explain what it is. I hope you find it useful and interesting.

Click here to watch it.

Site accessibility

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

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