OpenID Authentication Plugin for vBulletin 4

Recently I volunteered to help fix an existing project or develop an OpenID authentication plugin for the vBulletin platform. The group in need was UbuntuForums.org and I would have never known if it hadn’t been for Jorge Castro’s public request for help.

The Story

The existing plugin had been developed specifically for vBulletin 3.x, however, they are (as of writing this) in the process of upgrading their forums to vBulletin 4 especially wanted OpenID to be available when they make the upgrade. That’s where I came in.

Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, provided me with necessary software licenses for vBulletin 4 and from there it was a lot of late nights attempting to simply get a successful OpenID process to occur.

Working a full time job doesn’t make projects like this as easy as I remember them once being… Nonetheless I was able to successful port the plugin to vB4 where there were several significant differences that took me some time to address and to be honest, the previous code was a bit more complicated to follow than it should have been.

One major change from vB3 to vB4 was the way templates work. I’d never worked with vBulletin before, but I’ve had an extensive amount of experience with phpBB and bbPress in the past. After getting over the frustration of how vBulletin prefers to store ALL template information (in the database rather than pull from template files) I was ready to begin the repair process.

One major annoyance was that vBulletin 4 kept a “deprecated” method intact for vb3 templates that haven’t yet been ported and the deprecated method would printout a warning on the live page letting you know that you should update your templates. That’s not a problem, but vBulletin likes to only release helpful information to License holding, account proving customers. I had a license yes, but was not the owner and unfortunately I was unable to get much of a response from the Ubuntu mailing list about getting access to vBulletin’s online support section.

For anyone having similar issues, I’ve posted the error message that I first came across below. If you got here, then you probably found the vBulletin post regarding this, but if you don’t have access like I didn’t then you’re still in luck…

Warning: fetch_template() calls should be replaced by the vB_Template class in [path]/includes/functions.php on line

While it was pretty clear that fetch_template() was deprecated, I was unable to get a clear usage example of how to use the new vB_Template class. I finally came across a post on StackOverflow that was exactly what I needed. Other issues that I had with fixing the plugin were some issues with SQL queries and were much more critical.

I wrote an article recently on how to debug PHP in real time as you’re using/executing a page or function… all through the very well known Eclipse IDE. If you’re interested in PHP development then you should certainly take a look at that post as it walks you through the setup and will make your life much easier. After tracing through the code over and over, each time finding new little issues and having to walk through the entire log in process again each time… I’d finally managed to get a successful authentication. So, I took a screenshot of my development environment…

vBulletin OpenID Plugin First Success

It wasn’t long after the first success that I was able to pin point other problematic spots faster and then from there everything just fell into place. In fact I had “full functionality” only about an hour after the first success. That didn’t mean that I was finished.

There were still a lot of minor issues that I’d found with the code. Array index out of bounds, corrupt query results in some situations causing a critical database error page to appear, unhandled invalid urls would take the plugin for a ride and ultimately crash, etc.

I’ve now worked out all of the issues that I came across from my own testing. Hopefully Ubuntu and Canonical won’t find any either and the upgrade can occur soon!

Download for Free

If you’re here for this plugin then I’m sure you’ve seen that there aren’t many (dare I say any) that are working, free or at least reasonably priced. Fortunately this plugin is based on an open source PHP OpenID library and Canonical apparently plans to maintain it from here on out in their source control service.

Before you download: I’ve posted a direct download the vanilla release that I first pushed to Canonical, however, its in your best interest to check for a newer version on their source control page for this plugin. That being said, feel free to continue on to download!

Download from me (last updated 2012-09-29)

Download from Canonical

Installation

This plugin contains a README and INSTALL file that should go into plenty of detail to help you install and get going in no time at all. The only thing that is left for you is to optionally improve on the simplistic log in form as seen below.

vBulletin Simplistic OpenID Login Form

While I do indeed love web design and development, I left the OpenID log-in form simplistic for one reason: Every web designer designs differently and its a waste of my time to put much effort into this when people who use it will likely want to use it in a way I never considered. The good news is that, it doesn’t appear in the header by default, so you can actually place this little form ANYWHERE you want. However, due to obvious reasons, you’ll likely find the header as I’ve done to be easiest as it automatically disappears one the user is logged in.

Conclusion

It’s been a fun month or month and a half that I’ve spent dabbling on this plugin. I’m always happy to contribute where I can to communities that I’m interested in or proud of and I consider this volunteer effort to be no different.

I’m also a little excited to see how the vBulletin community accepts this plugin. Will it be a boom or a bust? Only time will tell, but until then hopefully UbuntuForums.org will be enjoying OpenID functionality!

Install Boxee in Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty x86_64

boxee

After coming across details regarding Boxee and the extended number of sources that it can pull videos from, I just had to give it a test drive.

First of all, Boxee is a media player that is being developed for multiple platform use. It’s not restricted to videos and is able to stream music from Pandora as well as Last.fm.

One of the first things that I noticed upon registering for Boxee (which is free) was that it is currently only available for Mac and Ubuntu. A Windows version is in development, however, it’s not currently possible to get an install of the alpha/beta Windows builds.

To further disappoint me just a bit, I found that the installers for Ubuntu were for 32-bit machines only. fortunately there is that geeky thing you can do called “force-architecture” or “force-all”. :P

boxee

After using my online best friend (Google) I was able to come across several guides for installing Boxee on Ubuntu 9.04 64-bit. Some of them were correct and some of them weren’t. Some of them were scattered and unorganized and…well…none of them were pathetically easy to follow.

That’s why you’re here. ;)

If you want to install Boxee on Ubuntu 32-bit, just follow the installation instructions provided after registering. If you’re installing in Ubuntu 64-bit (Jaunty Jackalope I might add) then please continue.

Installation

  1. Install “getlibs-all” by downloading it from here and double clicking to install or by copy/pasting the following terminal commands. (More details about getlibs here).
    wget http://frozenfox.freehostia.com/cappy/getlibs-all.deb
    sudo dpkg -i getlibs-all.deb
  2. wget http://apt.boxee.tv/dists/jaunty/main/binary-i386/Packages.gz
  3. zcat Packages.gz | grep Filename
  4. Make sure that the bold part in the following command matches the file name from the above command (ignoring the jaunty and intrepid folder differences).
    wget http://apt.boxee.tv/dists/intrepid/test/binary-i386/boxee-0.9.11.5777.deb
  5. sudo dpkg -i –force-all boxee-0.9.11.5777.deb
    sudo dpkg -i –force-architecture boxee-0.9.11.5777.deb
  6. The following command may take some time to complete, however, be patient and wait for getlibs to prompt you whether or not to install additional libraries to make Boxee work on your machine. Be sure to answer yes or y. ;)
    getlibs /opt/boxee/Boxee
  7. sudo apt-get install lib32nss-mdns

After being patient and completing these (honestly) few steps, you should be able to launch Boxee from the application menu and start enjoying some Internet videos!

For further reading or more detailed/technical instructions please see the source thread of this process.

Also, for the record, Netflix Watch Instantly does not work in Boxee for Ubuntu as far as I can tell (due to the lack of DRM support).

I hope I’ve been able to help in some way. Best of luck with Boxee!

Trillian Astra Now Open to the Public

trillian-astra

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog for a while, then you may know that I’ve been testing Cerulean Studios’ latest version of Trillian which has been coined for some time as “Astra”.

Trillian gained a great deal of popularity in recent years when Trillian 3 was released and harnessed instant messenger features that had never before been seen.

Today, Cerulean Studios officially removed the restricted access and have made Trillian Astra available to everyone! Just head on over to the download page if you want to check it out!

trillian-astra

While Trillian Astra is still not in a final release stage, it should be close enough for you to depend on as your main messenger.

I will be interested to see how Trillian Astra competes with Digsby now that they are both openly available to the masses.

WordPress Plugin WP-UserAgent 0.8

wp-useragent-0-8-img1

I’ve just updated WP-UserAgent to version 0.8, covering a lot of ground over the past few days. As I’m working to reach a stable and solid 1.0 release, I’m also working towards a feature complete plugin.

Version 0.8 offers support for detecting ~90 different web browsers and ~35 different operating systems (counting each version of windows).

wp-useragent-0-8-img1

Easy access to WP-UserAgent settings is worked right into the Plugins page. No more need to search for options to edit!

Once you find the options page, you’ll find a cleaned up look and feel, along with a real-time preview of how your changes will appear.

wp-useragent-0-8-img2

If you’re in need of a cool geeky WordPress plugin, why not give WP-UserAgent a shot? It’s an interesting way to find out a few details about your subscribers and other visitors!

Find out more details, changelogs and downloads on the official WP-UserAgent plugin page.

Free Windows Vista to Windows 7 Upgrades

windows 7 startup boot screen

windows 7 startup boot screenAccording to Tech ARP, Microsoft has been drafting a plan that will allow some Windows Vista users to upgrade to the next version of Windows, Windows 7, for free.

This upgrade plan, which is temporarily named “The Windows 7 Upgrade Program,” is being developed in order to “assist Microsoft’s OEM partners in minimizing the number of end users who may postpone acquiring a new computer because of the impending release of the Windows 7 operating system. This program allows OEMs to offer an upgrade to Windows 7 to end users who qualify.”

While plans and drafts have been developing since December 10, 2008, there is still no official word on the exact eligibility rules. However, according to a draft, eligibility will apply as follows and a requirement must be met before you are eligible.

End users must purchase a new PC that is pre-installed with an eligible Windows Vista Operating System (OS), during the program eligibility window.

The PC must have a valid Certificate of Authenticity (COA) attached.

The only Windows Vista® versions eligible for the program are :

  1. Windows Vista® Home Premium
  2. Windows Vista® Business
  3. Windows Vista® Ultimate

* Microsoft Windows Vista® Home Basic, Windows Vista® Starter Edition, and Windows® XP (all editions) are not qualifying products under the program.

The Program does not support multiple upgrades for medium, large, or enterprise customers. Customers that want to upgrade multiple PCs should use the appropriate Microsoft Volume Licensing program. See www.microsoft.com/licensing for more details.

The following are the only valid upgrade paths under the program :

  1. Windows Vista® Home Premium -> Windows® 7 Home Premium
  2. Windows Vista® Business -> Windows® 7 Professional
  3. Windows Vista® Ultimate -> Windows® 7 Ultimate

For those of us who forked out the cash to buy Windows Vista Ultimate, it looks like we are getting the shaft end of the deal to the extreme. If the program is revised and Vista Ultimate users are allowed an upgrade then I will continue to support Microsoft with future releases. However, if I am forced to purchase Windows 7 after having purchased Vista Ultimate with absolutely no benefits then I plan to simply boycott Microsoft. (Period).

WP-UserAgent: A new User Agent plugin for WordPress, by me!

I’ve posted a modified WordPress plugin that you can download, extract and upload to your WordPress plugins folder to use.

I call it WP-UserAgent…a much more generic name than before. I prefer generic names. ;)

After activating it, it will show the operating system and browser of each user and comment for all of your posts and pages.

Enjoy and feel free to suggest improvements!

Orbitfiles: 6GB of online storage waiting for you!

orbitfiles-logo

Orbitfiles I just came across a very handy website called Orbitfiles where you get 6GB of online storage and the best part is that you can join it now for free!

As they say in their welcome email:

…you can store and access any type of files – documents, videos, music files, presentations, photos and many others from any computer at any place on earth.

While 6GB can easily be filled with an average photo album collection, it can still go a long way. You could use Orbitfiles to share a download with someone or the entire world or even use it to keep a playlist of songs that you like to have access to at all times. :P

If 6GB of free storage isn’t enough for you then you can even get unlimited storage for $5/month.

I’m going to give this service a good test drive, but I think 6GB will be enough for me for a little while.

Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Desktop Edition

1

Canonical has released the newest stable version of Ubuntu! I’ve personally been using Ubuntu 8.04 since late 2007 when it was available for the public as Alpha 1. You can take a look at the release schedule and road-map that the developing team followed for version 8.04! Ubuntu has really come a long way during the time that I’ve spent using it.

I first started using Ubuntu with version 7.04. Ubuntu builds are now given “code names” as well as release versions. Ubuntu 8.04 is given the “8” from the year that it is released and the “04” from the month that it is released. The code name of Ubuntu 8.04 is “Hardy Heron“. Ubuntu 7.04 was released in April 2007, 7.10 was released in October 2007.

The next version of Ubuntu to be released is Ubuntu 8.10 and is code named “Intrepid Ibex“. The release time should be obvious to you now! If you’re like me and like to use the latest bleeding releases possible then you can upgrade your version of Ubuntu to 8.10 in the near future by typing the following into your terminal:

sudo update-manager -d -c

This will launch the update manager window and prompt you about upgrades. If you’re currently running 7.04 or 7.10 you can upgrade to 8.04 or 8.10 by using the same step as mentioned above. You will however have to upgrade in order of releases. You cannot upgrade immediately from 7.04 to 8.04 or from 7.10 to 8.10. That shouldn’t be an issue, you can just upgrade to one and then upgrade to the other after the first upgrade has completed!

With Ubuntu 8.04 came a great deal of stability and many new features! It also includes the ability to install Ubuntu from within Windows! If Ubuntu looks interesting to you then you should give it a try! They’ve made Ubuntu very easy to install and very easy to use and get used to. Ubuntu is quickly becoming the synonym for Linux in today’s world. Don’t let yourself miss out on this ground breaking release!

Go get it now! It’s available by free download or free mail (delayed as they only send a certain amount per month). You can also spend a small fee (just a couple dollars) to have them mail it to you very quickly!

Update 2008-09-23:
Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex Alpha 6 has been released. Here is how to update your system to the latest version of 8.10!