Tag Archives: Web Application Development

Upcoming MediaWiki Changes

We will soon be updating MediaWiki to the latest stable version, 1.18.1. While there are many changes behind the scenes with this update, the most visible change is that the what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) editor, FCKeditor, is no longer supported by its authors and will not run in either of the two latest versions of MediaWiki.

In its place we have added the WikiEditor, the default editor on Wikipedia, which helps users insert proper wiki markup into pages:

Please try out the new editor in our testing sandbox (available only on campus or via the VPN) and let us know how it works for you in the comments below.

While it isn’t WYSIWG, new editor has the following benefits:

  • It won’t corrupt some pages like the FCKeditor would when certain formatting was used.
  • The included ‘Preview’ and ‘Changes’ tabs let you quickly view the results of your changes without saving.
  • Your Wiki-editing skills can be used on Wikipedia and any other MediaWiki wiki.

New Course Hub Feature: Create Lab/Discussion Sites

As of today, instructors can create Course Hub sites for lab, discussion, independent study, and other section-types that do not have Course Hub sites automatically created.

Lab/discussion Course Hub sites are not needed for the majority of courses as the lecture/seminar sites usually suffice. However, they may be useful in the following cases:

  • The lab is taught by a separate instructor with its own resources and syllabus.
  • You wish to create separate resources (e.g. Moodle sites) for each discussion section.

Below is a brief screen-cast describing how to create additional Course Hub sites.

Basic steps for adding an additional Course Hub Site:

  1. Go to your Course Hub dashboard.
  2. Click on the Manage Course Hub Sites link for a given term.
  3. You will see a list of all sections you are teaching in that term.
  4. Click the Add Course Hub Site link next to any section.

Weekly Web Development Round-up October 10-21, 2011

To give our colleagues a better idea of what’s changed in our web applications each week, we’ll be preparing this quick list for publication each Friday. Not all of the details of each change are included below, but we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have in the comments.

Main site and mobile site speed improvements

Our main website and mobile website make fabulous use of data feeds from blogs, calendars, Twitter, and other sources to provide up-to-date news and information to users of the sites. Some pages in the main site have as many as 3 feeds in the carousel at the bottom of the page and another 2 feeds in sidebars. The mobile site displays 7 feeds on its home page for desktop users.

Unfortunately displaying all of these feeds on the site was causing performance problems for users when those feeds needed to be refreshed.  Even if the blog system returns each feed in under a second, that time adds up and was making users wait for 10 seconds or more for some pages to load.

We are happy to announce that we have now resolved this issue by piping all of our data-feed access through a system we call FetchProxy. FetchProxy sits between Drupal and the source of the data feeds and keeps a fresh copy of the feed always available so that Drupal never has to sit and wait for feeds. Pages that once took more than 10 seconds to load, now load in 1-2 seconds. You can read more about FetchProxy on Github.

Campus Map

We’ve updated the interface for our Campus Map with the help of designers in College Communications. New features include a list of locations with quick icons to help you find special locations, a search interface, an improved photo gallery, and more special filters which allow you to scope the locations on the map. For instance, you can get a map of all the locations on campus with Wireless.

MiddMedia

A permalink is now available for each file in MiddMedia. You can access it for a particular video you click the “Embed Code & URLs” next to any video you are browsing in MiddMedia and click on the “Click here to view and/or download this file.”. Alternately you can construct this URL like this “http://middmedia.middlebury.edu/middmedia/view/dir/[the directory where the file is located]/file/[the name of the file with its extension]

Example: http://middmedia.middlebury.edu/middmedia/view/dir/lafrance/file/go.mp4

This is useful if you want to reference your video without embedding it elsewhere.

Class Photo Rosters now in the Course Hub

For more than a decade the Web Applications group and its predecessors have provided a popular “class photo roster” through the online directory to help instructors match names to faces. We are pleased to announce that as of today, the class photo roster is now a feature of the Course Hub.

As with the old version, the photo roster is only accessible to the instructor[s] of a course. We hope that by moving the photo roster into the Course Hub it will be easier to use and more readily accessible. While we don’t have a shutdown date yet, the old version of the photo roster will likely disappear when the online directory is next rebuilt (not until sometime after the current semester).

Faculty, please give this new feature a try (look for the Roster links in the Course Hub) and give us any feedback you may have.

Weekly Web Development Round-up August 22-26, 2011

To give our colleagues a better idea of what’s changed in our web applications each week, we’ll be preparing this quick list for publication each Friday. Not all of the details of each change are included below, but we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have in the comments.

  • Fixed a bug in the SubjectsPlus interface.
  • Began the migration process to the new ProQuest Platform
  • Did quite a bit of Drupal support.
  • Fixed error in go/groups that prevented changing the group manager in IE 7.
  • Fixed an error in the Course Hub which prevented uploading syllabi in IE 7.

 

 

Enhancements to MiddMedia Video Hosting Application

For those who may not know MiddMedia is an audio/video storage and streaming service hosted by the college for Middlebury College users. To share a video with others you must embed it in a website visible to your intended audience. Documentation is available here.

The Web Application Development Team has been hard at work making enhancements to the MiddMedia application in order to better support mobile platforms, the current HTML5 standards, and our users. Below are some of the enhancements that have been made in the past month.

  • As part of the recent HTML5 standard, modern browsers support the native playback of video files using an HTML5 video tag. All videos uploaded to MiddMedia are now encoded in both H.264 and WebM formats so that they can be played natively in browsers that support H.264 (IE 9, Safari, iOS) and WebM (Firefox 4, Chrome, Opera, Android), and allow better support for mobile browsers.
  • When uploading a video, you can now select the quality that will be used when the video is transcoded (original, 360p, 480p, 720p, 1080p). Previously a single standard of around 480p was used unless the videos were encoded in Mp4 or Flv to start with. Now you may choose additional high-def qualities (NOTE: Does not upscale video), or original to preserve quality as closely as possible during encoding to multiple formats.
  • Embed code references the Mp4 and WebM versions of the videos for HTML5 compliant browsers. All others will fall back to a Flash player (the recently updated Strobe Player). Videos embedded in the Drupal site with the video short code also display in this manner. Instructions on embeding videos from MiddMedia in Drupal are available here.
  • Added basic support for M4a files. Users can now upload M4a audio files to MiddMedia. Quicktime may be required to preview them in the MiddMedia application. The WordPress MiddMedia plug-in allows you to embed m4a files in WordPress blogs/pages. You can add these to your posts as you normally would for other audio/video files. When the post is displayed, you will see the m4a with images in a video player if you are using Safari, or a link to the m4a file that users with other browsers can download and play in an application like iTunes or QuickTime. NOTE: To ensure your audio files will be accessible to the broadest range of listeners and devices, we recommend using the .mp3 format unless you have a special use case that requires m4a.
  • A new show/hide feature will allow users to toggle show/hide behavior for folders in MiddMedia. For users who only have access to a single personal folder this feature will not be of much use, but for users with access to several shared directories this will help with navigation of multiple folders with many videos.

We hope you enjoy the new enhancements!

Weekly Web Development Round-up May 2-6, 2011

To give our colleagues a better idea of what’s changed in our web applications each week, we’ll be preparing this quick list for publication each Friday. Not all of the details of each change are included below, but we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have in the comments.

Recently, several people have had issues uploading files to Drupal using Firefox. What happens is that, when you use Firefox to download a file, like a PDF, the server you download it from tells Firefox what type of file you’re downloading. Firefox then associates that file type with the file extension. A server might tell you that a PDF is the file type “application/x-download” instead of “application/pdf” and from then on Firefox will think that all PDFs are “application/x-download”s. This causes problems when you then try to upload a PDF to our site and your browser tells our server than you’re sending us a “application/x-download”, which we don’t want you to upload.

To resolve this, you need to delete a file called “mimeTypes.rdf” from your Firefox profile folder. See this guide to locating your profile folder. You only need to do this if you start experiencing this issue.

Drupal

  • There are now named anchors above every node on the site. If you have a page with a bunch of nodes, you can link to a specific one by adding #node-XXXXXX to the URL where XXXXXX is the node ID, usually a six-digit number that is in the URL when you’re editing the node.
  • The Google Calendar content type now supports multiple calendars and will let you select from a drop down list to choose which calendar you want to view. Items in the month display now line wrap to show you the full title. These changes were done to help support adding Library hours to our website.
  • A meta description is now automatically created for every news article on the site so that when you link to a news article on Facebook the description of the link will be taken from the beginning text of the article.
  • We’ve replaced the ShareThis link at the bottom of our news articles with large buttons that look nicer. This also corrects an issue where people visiting our site using Firefox 3.5 were not able to load news articles. We encourage people to upgrade to the latest version of their browsers for best support.

Course Hub

  • If a course site is empty, the description from Banner is now displayed on the front page. (suggested by Shel)
  • The list of updates is now styled to be more constrained table-layout — along the lines of a Twitter feed or a Facebook wall. The most common feedback we received from faculty about the Course Hub was that the update list was “messy looking”. This styling change is a big improvement on that front.

GO

  • A fix so it’s now not possible to make a code with the same name as an existing alias.