Hi All,
 
Forgive me for the long email :)
 
Now that our site is in beta I've been looking in greater detail at the annoying little features we've put off until now. Andrew has also given me developer access to the svn and USQ is keen to contribute code back into the community if we are working on it.
 
With that in mind, I'd like to ask peoples opinions on three key areas we are looking at changing locally, and whether they have a place in the community code:
 
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1) Database Abstraction.
At the moment I've seen PDO in use inside the Voyager driver. But I believe that's the only place I've seen it. We replaced it with oci8 for our own driver, but I don't think it really matters what is used at that level... so no biggy.
 
The bigger issue for us has been getting the MyResearch area using DB_DataObject to play nicely with Oracle. We've had a few portability issues, but mainly lots of issues with auto incrementing indexes, a schema that uses several Oracle reserved words and mysql specific queries.
 
So the main points here are:
 
1A) Should we move the MyResearch schema to a portable terminology? For example, prefix all tables with 'vufind_' and all columns with a short abbreviation of the table name. So "resource.id" would become "vufind_resource.res_id".
 
1B) I'd like to update several of the hand written sql queries so that they will run under both mysql and oracle. Not a big deal, and I don't think anyone will object to this. Of course if anyone with knowledge of other DBMS idiosyncrasies would be welcome to help us ensure they are portable to that as well.
 
1C) I've got a couple of lines of code to add in so that we turn on oracle portability flags based on a conf file change : "[Database] is_oracle = 1". Would this be better as "[Database] dbms = oracle"? We can add extra functionality to that code later then. Is there an even better way to turn on portability? I couldn't seem to get it working within the conf file.
 
1D) auto_increment... I hates it :) In part I know the problem will be DB_DataObject is new to me. The doco says that the abstraction layer is supposed to be able to fake auto_increments inside Oracle, but I couldn't get it working. I'd be happy to work towards this working if someone things it should. For now we are doing stuff like this to avoid null values:
            $resource->insert();
            // Oracle's triggers to fake auto_inc
            //  cause problems if you don't do this
            $resource->id = null;
            $resource->find(true);
 
So if it can't be fixed we either need this somewhat ugly code throughout the app or move away from auto_inc altogether. Opinions?
 
1E) Bind variables... I haven't seen much if any information on this for DB_DataObject, does it even support them? It would be very disappointing if it didn't. Personally I'd even consider a wholesale move to something like PDO if it didn't. The effect they have on Oracle's cache can be significant for a small schema with high turnover.
 
 
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2) AJAX... jQuery
 
AJAX is quite new to me, so it's been interesting debugging some of the issues in the MyResearch area, especially following Chris' code for add tags on the record screen (very good by the way, I used it to fix the comments tab). One of the little issues I ran into was the problem of returning javascript code into the lightbox on those screens, because you can't just call the resultant code. When reading some forum posts about similar issues I here you have to regex and eval the script out before they work... unless you use jQuery or some similar library.
 
Being a novice on the issue does implementing jQuery sound like a good way to simplify the AJAX usage in vufind? I want to look into it more myself, but if there are any other users our there with experience I'd live to hear you opinion.
 
 
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3) External web requests
 
I'm going to create a global object in our codebase for making external web requests. Our server lives behind a firewall and needs to proxy it's way out and I've found quite a few locations I need to go and set that proxy information. I figure it's an easier way of tying the proxy information to the config files. I don't think this is 'key' area really, but if you don't want that code back in the community please let me know, because I'd like to put it there.
 
 
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No doubt there are other smaller issues that we'll contribute code for as well, but I'll annoy you all in separate emails for those :)
 
 
Ta,
 
Greg Pendlebury
Electronic Services Officer (Systems Team)
Division of Academic Information Services
University of Southern Queensland
Phone: +61 7 4631 1501
Fax: +61 7 4631 1841
 
 

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