Improving a website contact form

On another website, I have had a contact form but it was missing some functionality. For instance, it stored the input in files on a web server instead of emailing them. That was fixed more easily than expected using the PHP mail function. Even so, it remains useful to survey corresponding documentation on the w3schools website.

The other changes affected the way the form looked to a visitor. There was a reset button and that was removed on finding that such things are out of favour these days. Thinking again, there hardly was any need for it any way.

Newer additions that came with HTML5 had their place too. Including user hints using the placeholder attribute should add some user friendliness although I have avoided experimenting with browser-powered input validation for now. Use of the required attribute has its uses for tell a visitor that they have forgotten something but I need to check how that is handled in CSS more thoroughly before I go with that since there are new :required, :optional, :valid and :invalid pseudoclasses that can be used to help.

It seems that there is much more to learn about setting up forms since I last checked. This is perhaps a hint that a few books need reading as part of catching with how things are done these days. There also is something new to learn.

Copying a directory tree on a Windows system using XCOPY and ROBOCOPY

My usual method for copying a directory tree without any of the files in there involves the use of the Windows commands line XCOPY and the command takes the following form:

xcopy /t /e <source> <destination>

The /t switch tells XCOPY to copy only the directory structure while the /e one tells it to include empty directories too. Substituting /s for /e would ensure that only non-empty directories are copied. <source> and <destination> are the directory paths that you want to use and need to be enclosed in quotes if you have a space in a directory name.

There is one drawback to this approach that I have discovered. When you have long directory paths, messages about there being insufficient memory are issued and the command fails. The limitation has nothing to do with the machine that you are using but is a limitation of XCOPY itself.

After discovering that, I got to checking if ROBOCOPY can do the same thing without the same file path length limitation because I did not have the liberty of shortening folder names to get the whole path within the length expected by XCOPY. The following is the form of the command that I found did what I needed:

robocopy <source> <destination> /e /xf *.* /r:0 /w:0 /fft

Again, <source> and <destination> are the directory paths that you want to use and need to be enclosed in quotes if you have a space in a directory name. The /e switch copies all subdirectories and not just non-empty ones. Then, the xf *.* portion excludes all files from the copying process. The remaining options are added to help with getting around access issues and to try copy only those directories that do not exist in the destination location. The /ftt switch was added to address the latter by causing ROBOCOPY to assume FAT file times. To get around the folder permission delays, the /r:0 switch was added to stop any operation being retried with /w:0 setting wait times to 0 seconds. All this was enough to achieve what I wanted and I am keeping it on file for my future reference as well as sharing it with you.

Using PowerShell to reinstall Windows Apps

Recently, I managed to use 10AppsManager to remove most of the in-built apps from a Windows 10 virtual machine that I have for testing development versions in case anything ugly were to appear in a production update. Curiosity is my excuse for letting the tool do what it did and some could do with restoration. Out of the lot, Windows Store is the main one that I have sorted so far.

The first step of the process was to start up PowerShell in administrator mode. On my system, this is as simple as clicking on the relevant item in the menu popped up by right clicking on the Start Menu button and clicking on the Yes button in the dialogue box that appears afterwards. In your case, it might be a case of right clicking on the appropriate Start Menu programs entry, selecting the administrator option and going from there.

With this PowerShell session open, the first command to issue is the following:

Get-Appxpackage -Allusers > c:\temp\appxpackage.txt

This creates a listing of Windows app information and pops it into a text file in your choice of directory. Opening the text file in Notepad allows you to search it more easily and there is an entry for Windows Store:

Name                   : Microsoft.WindowsStore
Publisher              : CN=Microsoft Corporation, O=Microsoft Corporation, L=Redmond, S=Washington, C=US
Architecture           : X64
ResourceId             :
Version                : 11607.1001.32.0
PackageFullName        : Microsoft.WindowsStore_11607.1001.32.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe
InstallLocation        : C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.WindowsStore_11607.1001.32.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe
IsFramework            : False
PackageFamilyName      : Microsoft.WindowsStore_8wekyb3d8bbwe
PublisherId            : 8wekyb3d8bbwe
PackageUserInformation : {S-1-5-21-3224249330-198124288-2558179248-1001
IsResourcePackage      : False
IsBundle               : False
IsDevelopmentMode      : False
Dependencies           : {Microsoft.VCLibs.140.00_14.0.24123.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe,
Microsoft.NET.Native.Framework.1.3_1.3.24201.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe,
Microsoft.NET.Native.Runtime.1.3_1.3.23901.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe,
Microsoft.WindowsStore_11607.1001.32.0_neutral_split.scale-100_8wekyb3d8bbwe}

Using the information from the InstallLocation field, the following command can be built and executed (here, it has gone over several lines so you need to get your version onto a single one):

Add-AppxPackage -register “C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.WindowsStore_11607.1001.32.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe\AppxManifest.xml” -DisableDevelopmentMode

Once the above has completed, the app was installed and ready to use again. As the mood took me, I installed other apps from the Windows Store as I saw fit.

Reloading .bashrc within a BASH terminal session

BASH is a command-line interpretor that is commonly used by Linux and UNIX operating systems. Chances are that you will find find yourself in a BASH session if you start up a terminal emulator in many of these though there are others like KSH and SSH too.

BASH comes with its own configuration files and one of these is located in your own home directory, .bashrc. Among other things, it can become a place to store command shortcuts or aliases. Here is an example:

alias us=’sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade’

Such a definition needs there to be no spaces around the equals sign and the actual command to be declared in single quotes. Doing anything other than this will not work as I have found. Also, there are times when you want to update or add one of these and use it without shutting down a terminal emulator and restarting it.

To reload the .bashrc file to use the updates contained in there, one of the following commands can be issued:

source ~/.bashrc

. ~/.bashrc

Both will read the file and execute its contents so you get those updates made available so you can continue what you are doing. There appears to be a tendency for this kind of thing in the world of Linux and UNIX because it also applies to remounting drives after a change to /etc/fstab and restarting system services like Apache, MySQL or Nginx. The command for the former is below:

sudo mount -a

Often, the means for applying the sorts of in-situ changes that you make are simple ones too and anything that avoids system reboots has to be good since you have less work interruptions.

Overriding replacement of double or triple hyphenation in WordPress

On here, I have posts with example commands that include double hyphens and they have been displayed merged together, something that has resulted in a comment posted by a visitor to this part of the web. All the while, I have been blaming the fonts that I have been using only for it to be the fault of WordPress itself.

Changing multiple dashes to something else has been a feature of Word autocorrect but I never expected to see WordPress aping that behaviour and it has been doing so for a few years now. The culprit is wptexturize and that cannot be disabled for it does many other useful things.

What happens is that the wptexturize filter changes ‘---‘ (double hyphens) to ‘–’ (&#8211; in web entity encoding) and ‘---‘ (triple hyphens) to ‘—’ (&#8212; in web entity encoding). The solution is to add another filter to the content that changes these back to the way they were and the following code does this:

add_filter( ‘the_content’ , ‘mh_un_en_dash’ , 50 );
function mh_un_en_dash( $content ) {
$content = str_replace( ‘&#8211;’ , ‘--‘ , $content );
$content = str_replace( ‘&#8212;’ , ‘---‘ , $content );
return $content;
}

The first line of the segment adds in the new filter that uses the function defined below it. The third and fourth lines above do the required substitution before the function returns the post content for display in the web page. The whole code block can be used to create a plugin or placed the theme’s functions.php file. Either way, things appear without the substitution confusing your readers. It makes me wonder if a bug report has been created for this because the behaviour looks odd to me.