Tuesday Aug 25, 2009

Improved advanced search and better context sensitive help - build #80 deployed

Yesterday, we deployed build #80 of the Sun Software Library into production, enhancing the library functionality in the following areas:

  • Additional search options: you can now limit or filter search results based on a tag.  For example, you can now search for all entries that have a particular keyword and are tagged with a particular tag.  To do this, when you open up the "more options" dropdown right under the main search area, you'll notice a new input field titled "Tag".  In this field, you can type in a tag name that you want to use to filter the search results.  This field is "auto-completing", if you type in the first few letters of a tag name, you can select the full tag name from the dropdown list.

    You can see this additional functionality in action:

    Sun Software Library Combined Keyword and Tag Search capbility

  • Improved context sensitive help: We have also improved our context sensitive help functionality in the add/edit popup.  Specifically, we've automated the functionality of copying the FAQ questions from our Sun Software Library help center to this panel, improving the overall quality of the context sensitive help available.  This is another example of how we strive to automate as many of the manual processes that we have, so that we can provide a better service at a reduced delivery cost.

    This image displays the help you get when you edit a publisher entry.

    Sun Software Library Context Sensitive Help

    This image shows the help that you get when you select the "tags" tab.

    Sun Software Library Context Sensitive Help

  • Bug fixes - as always, we fixed bugs.

There are more improvements in store, keep the feedback coming!


Monday Aug 10, 2009

Most viewed date range and support for new browsers - build #79 deployed

Earlier today, we deployed build #79 of the Sun Software Library into production, enhancing the library functionality in the following areas:

  • Most viewed date range: You can now select which time period should be displayed in the "most viewed" area of our home page, so you can see what's popular over different date ranges. 

    library most viewed date selector

    The default setting is "all time", so you'll see what's popular since the beginning of the Sun Software Library, since this is the view that was presented all along.  If you want to see a different date range, simply change the setting.

    There are two aspects of this date range that are worth noting:
    • The data for this is updated once a day.  Our "most viewed" data does not change all that often, and we didn't think it warranted the extra processing required to make this more real time.  If you disagree, tell us.
    • We keep the data for month boundaries only, so when you select "Current Month", you'll be seeing the "most viewed" entries for the current calendar month, not the past 30 days.  For example, if you select "Current Month" on August 10th, you'll see the most popular entries for the month of August (e.g. the last 10 days only).
  • Upgraded our Web UI to ExtJS 3.0: As mentioned elsewhere in this blog, we use the Ext JS Cross-Browser Rich Internet Application Framework widget set for developing our Web UI.  Ext JS recently released version 3.0 of their library.  We upgraded our Web UI to this new version, found some bugs along the way.  The new library enabled us to support more browser types.
  • Support for IE8 & Chrome: We now officially test and support Internet Explorer 8 and Google Chrome browsers for our web site.  IE8 has some significant improvements for JavaScript developers, to quote Joe Hewitt (creator of Firebug): "I couldn't be happier that Microsoft completely copied Firebug for IE8."  We agree, debugging JavaScript on IE8 is finally reasonable.
  • JSLint: We have incorporated JSLint, the JavaScript code quality tool written by Douglas Crockford, into our NetBeans and Hudson based development process, as described in Ari Shamash's blog.  I typically agree w/Douglas Crockford, but JSLint did not hurt our feelingsWe are human after all, we welcome tools that make our lives better and our development more efficient, as I've mentioned several times in this blog....
  • Lots of bug fixes, as always.
There are more improvements in store, keep the feedback coming!

Wednesday Apr 01, 2009

Sun Software Library build #69 deployed - finalizing our tag vocabulary & folksonomy

On Monday March 30th, 2009, we deployed build #69 of the Sun Software Library.  This blog entry details the additions we've made.

This release completes our work with Tag Clouds and Tag Controlled Vocabularies / Tag Folksonomies, which we started a few iterations back.  The approach we use is as follows:

  • We chose a set of tags that we display in our tag clouds.  While this list is fixed, we are open to any feedback to add or remove tags from those clouds.  A future release will allow personal tag clouds.
  • Any logged in user can tag entities in the library with those tags, causing them to be visible through the tag clouds.  This is the Tag Folksonomy aspect of the library.

This particular release enables users to quickly add tags that are in the tag clouds.  The new Web UI enables this as follows:

  • Clicking on the "add tag" displays the following (if the user is not logged on, they would be prompted to log in first, since only logged in users can add a tag):

    Add Tag

    Each of the dropdowns displayed corresponds to the list of tags in a particular tag cloud.  The user can select a tag from the list:

    Add Tag

    Then press the "add" button to actually add the tag:



    If the user wants to add a tag that is not in one of those lists, they can type it into the "other tag" field.  This field displays a list of matching tags corresponding to what is typed in.  The user is not limited to the list of tags displayed:



  • The editor can click on the "myLibrary" link on any of the Sun Software Library pages, click on "edit", then select the "Tags" tab, and add tags, as follows.  First the editor clicks on "myLibrary", then clicks on the "edit" button corresponding to the entry they want to edit:

    MyLibrary Add Tag

    The editor then selects the "Tags" tab:



    The editor then adds a tag, similar to the way tags are added in the detail page above:



    The editor can also add a custom tag:



    Finally, when the editor clicks the "add" button when the editor has selected the tags to add.  The tags selected are added to the tag list on the left side:



    Note that the tags are not actually published or saved until the "Publish" button is pressed:

That's pretty much it for this release..  We fixed a bunch of bugs, etc., but what else is new there?

Send us feedback!

Wednesday Nov 05, 2008

You Can Suggest Topics for a Sun Software Library User Guide

The Sun Software Library User's Guide

The Sun Software Library is designed to be easy to use and expedient to navigate. Users can perform complex or simple searches and updates of entities with parallel ease. And help is typically available in many contexts.

It would be of additional benefit, however, if all the concepts related to the Sun Software Library and which would be helpful to a user were documented, and if many of the paths and most of the logistics of using the Library were similarly documented.

The Sun Software Library User's Guide will document those concepts and that flow. It will differ from the help in that it will be more inclusive in its discussion of concepts and logistics, and in that it will show complete paths towards accomplishing specific tasks. It will also have screenshots that illustrate many of the steps along the user's way,

What You Can Do

As someone with an interest in the Sun Software Library, you're the best person to come up with ideas for a User's Guide. The topics for the User's Guide are yours --both to suggest and to say why they are needed. Ideas for topics can be as simple as describing a concept: "What is a Publisher?" and the steps involved in "Writing a Review".

How You Can Do It

Simply provide a comment to this blog entry with your suggestion, or hopefully, with more than one suggestion. We'll collate the suggestions and provide the resulting outline before the book is written and then published on the Sun Software Library.`

You're the co-author!




New Features at the Sun Software Library

We have recently updated the Sun Software Library with some significant new features.

Bookmarkable URL's

We now have full support for Bookmarkable URL's for many facets of the Sun Software Library.  For example, you can bookmark and reuse (e.g. email, link to, etc.) any of these URL's:

Support for Browser's back button

We now have basic support for the Browser's back button.  Pressing the back button while navigating the Library will take you back to a logical previous page, for example, if you performed a search, then clicked on an entry in the search results table, pressing the back button in the detail page will take you back to the search results table.

Not all things are fully supported via the back button, for example, if you change the sort order in the search results table and then press the back button, the sort order change will not be undone.  The reason for this is partially technical and partially aesthetic.  In order for the back button to work, we need to store the state of the application in the URL.  If we stored every single state change in the URL, the URL would get long (and hence ugly).  We wanted to intentionally keep our URL's short.  How many times have you received an email that had a really long URL in it, only to have the URL be munged due to word wrapping?  Annoying?  Exactly.

Many people will argue that Rich Internet Applications should not support the browser's back button.  A colleague even said that the browser's back button, when pressed, should simply exit the Sun Software Library, rather than try to navigate to an intermediate page.  I'll leave this to others to argue and sort out.

Form based search

Similar to Google's "advanced search" function, we now support some options for narrowing the results of keyword searches.  Try it out.


API Documentation

We now have two separate documents describing the Sun Software Library web services API, a tutorial and a reference guide.  View both of them here, or by clicking the "API Documentation" link.

Captchas

Sigh.  The realities of putting up an Internet facing application finally caught up with us (we were getting approximately 20 nasty postings per day, and this number was quickly increasing).  We were getting so many SPAM postings in our customer care app that we had to finally implement Captchas.  Fortunately, the Captchas supported in PHPMyFAQ (which is what we use for the Help center) are easy to read.


Syndication

Via this feature, if you subscribe to a publisher, software, or resource, you'll be notified whenever changes are made to that entity.


Stay tuned, this is only the beginning of our syndication features, we are working on the following:

  • Subscription to all publishers, all software, or all resources: for example, you'll be notified whenever any publisher is updated.  This is useful to keep track of additions or changes to the library.
  • Subscription to a tag: you'll be notified whenever a new entity is tagged with that tag, or when any of the entities tagged with that tag are changed. For example, if you subscribe to the "Finance" tag, you'll be notified whenever new software is tagged with "Finance", or when any software already tagged with "Finance" is updated.
  • Support for integration with other readers: My Yahoo, Netvibes, and NewsGator. Let us know if there are others you would like to see on this list.

Share this page

Since we now have Bookmarkable URL's, we can now integrate directly with URL sharing sites.  Let us know if there are others you would like to see on this list.


Performance improvements & Bug Fixes

We significantly increased the startup and runtime performance of this site, specifically:

  • Home Page: 59.2% improvement
  • Search Results Page: 61% improvement
  • Login time: A whopping 78.6% improvement.
How did we do this?  We'll describe this in a future blog entry.

Also, we fixed numerous bugs..

As always, feedback (either positive, constructive, or what the weather is like where you) is always welcomed!


Friday Oct 31, 2008

Welcome to the Sun Software Library

Welcome to the Sun Software Library blog.

At the Sun Software Library, you can either find Commercial and Open Source software running on Sun Technologies, or publish your software for others to find.

If you are looking for Software (e.g. you are a "searcher"), you can:

  • Get product details.
  • Find the latest information including supported platforms and product versions.
  • Find download links.
  • Use the publisher provided links to download the software you need.
  • Access resources.
  • Find videos, webcasts, spec sheets, QuickStart guides, and more.
  • Share your insights.
  • Provide feedback and ratings to publishers and communities.

If you are a software developer (e.g. you are a "publisher"), you can:

  • Promote your software.
  • Publish your commercial or open source applications and provide links to data sheets, videos, documentation, etc.
  • Extend your reach.
  • Get the word out to a broader range of customers about your products and your company(s).
  • Know what's working.
  • Get feedback from the community, receive regular reports about Web traffic, and fine-tune your content.

In this blog, we'll cover new feature announcements, tricks of how to best use the library, and so on.

About

Welcome to the Sun Software Library blog, where you will find interesting updates and tidbits about using the Sun Software Library.

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