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.

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 ‘–’ (– in web entity encoding) and ‘---‘ (triple hyphens) to ‘—’ (— 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( ‘–’ , ‘--‘ , $content );
$content = str_replace( ‘—’ , ‘---‘ , $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.

Changing the working directory in a SAS session

It appears that PROC SGPLOT and other statistical graphics procedures create image files even if you are creating RTF or PDF files. By default, these are PNG files but there are other possibilities. When working with PC SAS , I have seen them written to the current working directory and that could clutter up your folder structure, especially if they are unwanted.

Being unable to track down a setting that controls this behaviour, I resolved to find a way around it by sending the files to the SAS work directory so they are removed when a SAS session is ended. One option is to set the session’s working directory to be the SAS work one and that can be done in SAS code without needing to use the user interface. As a result, you get some automation.

The method is implicit though in that you need to use an X statement to tell the operating system to change folder for you. Here is the line of code that I have used:

x “cd %sysfunc(pathname(work))”;

The X statement passes commands to an operating system’s command line and they are enclosed in quotes. %sysfunc then is a macro command that allows certain data step functions or call routines as well as some SCL functions to be executed. An example of the latter is pathname and this resolves library or file references and it is interrogating the location of the SAS work library here so it can be passed to the operating systems cd (change directory) command for processing. This method works on Windows and UNIX so Linux should be covered too, offering a certain amount of automation since you don’t have to specify the location of the SAS work library in every session due to the folder name changing all the while.

Of course, if someone were to tell me of another way to declare the location of the generated PNG files that works with RTF and PDF ODS destinations, then I would be all ears. Even direct output without image file creation would be even better. Until then though, the above will do nicely.

Some SAS Macro code for detecting the presence or absence of a variable in a dataset

Recently, I needed to put in place some code to detect the presence or absence of a variable in a dataset and I chose SAS Macro programming as the way to do what I wanted. The logic was based on a SAS sample that achieved the same result in a data step and some code that I had for detecting the presence or absence of a dataset. Mixing the two together gave me something like the following:

%macro testvar(ds=,var=);

%let dsid=%sysfunc(open(&ds,in));
%let varexist=%sysfunc(varnum(&dsid,&var));
%if &dsid > 0 %then %let rc=%sysfunc(close(&dsid));

%if &varexist gt 0 %then %put Info: Variable &var is in the &ds  dataset;
%else %put Info: Variable &var is not in the &ds  dataset;

%mend testvar;

%testvar(ds=dataset,var=var);

What this does is open up a dataset and look for the variable number in the dataset. In datasets, variables are numbered from left to right with 1 for the first one, 2 for the second and so on. If the variable is not in the dataset, the result is 0 so you know that it is not there. All of this is what the VARNUM SCL function within the SYSFUNC macro function does. In the example, this resolves to %sysfunc(varnum(&dsid,var)) with no quotes around the variable name like you would do in data step programming. Once you have the variable number or 0, then you can put in place some conditional logic that makes use of the information like what you see in the above simple example. Of course, that would be expanded to something more useful in real life but I hope it helps to show you the possibilities here.

Surveying changes coming in GNOME 3.10

GNOME 3.10 came out last month but it took until its inclusion into the Arch and Antergos repositories for me to see it in the flesh. Apart from the risk of instability, this is the sort of thing at which rolling distributions excel. They can give you a chance to see the latest software before it is included anywhere else. For the GNOME desktop environment, it might have meant awaiting the next release of Fedora in order to glimpse what is coming. This is not always a bad thing because Ubuntu GNOME seems to be sticking with using a release behind the latest version. With many GNOME Shell extension writers not updating their extensions until Fedora has caught up with the latest release of GNOME for a stable release, this is no bad thing and it means that a version of the desktop environment has been well bedded in by the time it reaches the world of Ubuntu too. Debian takes this even further by using a stable version from a few years ago and there is an argument in favour of that from a solidity perspective.

Being in the habit of kitting out GNOME Shell with extensions, I have a special interest in seeing which ones still work or could work with a little tweaking and those which have fallen from favour. In the top panel, the major change has been to replace the sound and user menus with a single aggregate menu. The user menu in particular has been in receipt of the attentions of extension writers and their efforts either need re-work or dropping after the latest development. The GNOME project seems to have picked up an annoying habit from WordPress in that the GNOME Shell API keeps changing and breaking extensions (plugins in the case of WordPress). There is one habit from the WordPress that needs copying though and that is with documentation, especially of that API for it is hardly anywhere to be found.

GNOME Shell theme developers don’t escape and a large border appeared around the panel when I used Elementary Luna 3.4 so I turned to XGnome Enhanced (found via GNOME-Look.org) instead. The former no longer is being maintained since the developer no longer uses GNOME Shell and has not got the same itch to scratch; maybe someone else could take it over because it worked well enough until 3.8? So far, the new theme works for me so that will be an option should there a move to GNOME 3.10 on one of my PC’s at some point in the future.

Returning to the subject of extensions, I had a go at seeing how the included Applications Menu extension works now since it wasn’t the most stable of items before. That has improved and it looks very usable too so I am not awaiting the updating of the Frippery equivalent. That the GNOME Shell backstage view has not moved on that much from how it was in 3.8 could be seen as a disappointed but the workaround will do just fine. Aside from the Frippery Applications Menu, there are other extensions that I use heavily that have yet to be updated for GNOME Shell 3.10. After a spot of success ahead of a possible upgrade to Ubuntu GNOME 13.10 and GNOME Shell 3.8 (though I remain with version 13.04 for now), I decided to see I could port a number of these to the latest version of the user interface. Below, you’ll find the results of my labours so feel free to make use of these updated items if you need them before they are update on the GNOME Shell Extensions website:

Frippery Bottom Panel

Frippery Move Clock

Remove App Menu

Show Desktop

There have been more changes coming in GNOME 3.10 than GNOME Shell, which essentially is a JavaScript construction. The consolidation of application title bars in GNOME applications continues but a big exit button has appeared in the affected applications that wasn’t there before. Also there remains the possibility of applying the previously shared modifications to Nautilus (also known as Files) and a number of these usefully extend themselves to other applications such as Gedit too. Speaking of Gedit, this gains a very useful x of y numbering for the string searching functionality with x being the actual number of the occurrence of a certain piece of text in a file and y being its total number of occurrences.GNOME Tweak Tool has got an overhaul too and lost the setting that makes a folder path box appear in Nautilus instead of a location part, opening Dconf-Editor and going to org > gnome > nautilus > preferences and completing the tick box for always-use-location-entry will do the needful.

Essentially, the GNOME project is continuing along the path on which it set a few years ago. Though I would rather that GNOME Shell would be more mature, invasive changes are coming still and it leaves me wondering if or when this might stop. Maybe that was the consequence of mounting a controversial experiment when users were happy with what was there in GNOME 2. The arrival of Fedora 20 should bring with it an increase in the number of GNOME shell extensions that have been updated. So long as it remains stable Antergos is good have a look at the latest version of GNOME for now and Cinnamon fans may be pleased the Cinnamon 2.0 is another desktop option for the Arch-based distribution. An opportunity to say more about that may arrive yet once the Antergos installer stops failing at a troublesome package download; a separate VM is being set aside for a look at Cinnamon because it destabilised GNOME during a previous look.