part three of the ever-exciting adventure

Archive for Alfresco

Alfresco Share yn Gymraeg

Tracking string updates in HEAD is probably not the most productive way to manage a translation project, but I’m impatient.

Despite that, at this moment in time all the translatable text of Alfresco Share is now available in Welsh. Some things such as page titles don’t seem to be internationalisable yet, but I estimate some 90% of the content is fully translated.

A small patch to the Web Script Framework is needed to force the web app to use the locale-specific message bundles rather than the default ones but once that was done and I’d thrown the translated .properties files onto the classpath (they must be added into the web app itself, not anywhere else) it all started magically working.

Screenshots ahoy!


EA cause chaos in North London!

We all know the guys at Electronic Arts know a good WCM platform when they see one, but their latest trick over here has landed them some mixed PR – taking over a petrol station in Finsbury Park and giving away £20,000 of fuel to anyone who wants it!

According to the article on BBC News, the stunt is in order to promote their latest game Mercenaries 2, but the disruption has upset a few local residents.

Louise Marchant, from Electronic Arts, said the scenes of queuing mimicked aspects of the game.


WCM and XML Processing

One thing that we’ve been pretty good at since the launch of Alfresco WCM 18 months ago is our eating of the proverbial dog-food, in that we use the product itself to author, review and push out updates to our web site.

The majority of the site is relatively static in nature and is therefore pre-baked by our templates. Where JSP is used it is mostly for simple tasks such as including common header and footer components and looking up message strings, but there are some areas of the site which do have more dynamic data.

Up until now these areas – including our events, press releases and training pages – have leveraged some relatively simple but custom-built Java libraries that allow data from the underlying XML files to be queried and presented as appropriate, similar to the press release example bundled with the Alfresco example site in WCM.

This approach has worked well, but is a barrier to adding new functionality to the site since extra code must be developed to handle new data types. Whereas data can be queried easily at rendering time using the getXMLDocuments() function exposed to Freemarker and Xalan, this is more difficult to do at request time, requiring either an Alfresco runtime environment on the delivery side or extra code, as above.

I wanted to find a way to allow web developers to easily implement this functionality using JSP and JSTL only and the result has been an XML data processing library that can be leveraged by a JSP page to dynamically pull in and process XML data to assemble the page.

As of yet there is no snazzy name, but suggestions are welcome! The library is a single JAR file, plus a tag descriptor to provide the necessary functions to the JSP.

Under the covers, the library uses functionality from J2SE 5.0’s XPath classes to parse XML content and is capable of loading data from within a standalone servlet container or in the context of the Alfresco virtualisation server, via AVMRemote.

Binary downloads are available as a ZIP containing all the files needed, with the Java source also available.

To install this in an existing webapp, you will need to do the following:

Step 1 – Set up the webapp

Drop alfrescowww-xml.jar into your WEB-INF/lib folder and alf-xml.tld into WEB-INF. You will also need to reference the TLD from within the <web-app> element of web.xml as follows to ensure this gets picked up as appropriate.


If you are using JSTL you should also have a section like this, with c.tld and jstl.jar installed as above.


Step 2 – Set up the JSP

Add the namespace to your JSP page to allow it to reference the data functions, as follows.

<jsp:root version="1.2"

This assumes you are using XML syntax within your JSPs and also that you are also using JSTL‘s core components on your page with these fully installed. If not, you will need to modify this code appropriately.

Step 3 -Get XML data

Assuming your webapp starts OK at this stage, you should now be able to use the alfxml:getXMLDocuments() function to pull in XML data from the JSP, using something like the following.

   items="${alfxml:getXMLDocuments(pageContext, '/media/releases', false, '/alfdotcom:pressrelease', '/alfdotcom:pressrelease/alfdotcom:launch_date', 2)}"
<div class="list-item">
<a href="/media/releases/${pr['$xml_file_name']}.jsp">
<c:out value="${pr['/alfdotcom:pressrelease/alfdotcom:title']}" />
<p class="summary"><c:out value="${pr['/alfdotcom:pressrelease/alfdotcom:abstract']}" /></p>

In order, the arguments to the function are as follows: the implicit JSP pageContext object; the virtual directory path to search for XML assets under; a boolean value indicating whether or not the search should be deep (i.e. descend into subdirectories); an XPath condition which must match true (e.g. to only match documents with a alfdotcom:pressrelease root element); an XPath expression, the value of which is used to sort documents (use null or an empty string if no sorting is needed); and lastly an integer indicating the desired sort order (1=increasing, 2=decreasing).

Here I’ve used JSTL’s c:forEach element to iterate over the collection of items returned, but other mechanisms are obviously possible. The code above is a pretty simple example of what can be output using EL to fetch field values from the XML based on simple XPath expressions, but more complex expressions can obviously be built up. I’ll post more examples another time.

Repair web project web script

This is actually two small web scripts, which between them allow you to select an Alfresco web project and fix up the metadata on all form generated assets, including renditions. I wrote it to allow me to reassociate assets with their forms after using CIFS to do an export and import of some sites I’ve been working on.

The functionality is similar to that provided by Uzi’s Web Project Tools AMP which isn’t yet building against 2.2, but rather than being Java-based uses the JavaScript API against the AVM – which should remain stable over time.

At the moment the script iterates through the site directory structure looking for any XML item not associated with a web form. Then, if a form with a matching root tag is found associated with the web project then the appropriate aspects and properties are added to the node and any existing renditions.

Unlike with the Web Project Tools AMP existing form metadata cannot be removed or repaired, but I quite like the simpleness of this approach. Adding the ability to do this would perhaps be useful, but would complicate the UI and wasn’t required for my purposes. I might add this later, in addition to the ability to preview the changes.

Right now it’s recommended to ensure the current user’s sandbox is empty before executing the script, so that you can easily undo all changes should your data get munged. The script has been tested against a couple of web projects that I have access to but as it has not yet had widespread testing it should be used with caution!

Note, you need to have a sandbox for the web project you want to repair. If you do not then the site will not show up in the initial list.

To install the web script extract the contents of the ZIP file somewhere in your web script package hierarchy, either on the classpath or inside the Data Dictionary – org/alfresco/wcm works for me. Remember you’ll need to reload Alfresco or at least refresh the list of web scripts to get Alfresco to pick it up.


Comments welcome!

Update: Thanks to Nancy for pointing me at the Developer Tools area of the Content Community – the code is also now available there.

Deployment Testing

One of the things we’ve improved massively in the forthcoming 2.2 release of Alfresco is the configuration and management of deployment targets. I’ve been playing around with this the last couple of days, using VMware to provide a couple of target hosts for testing.


The file system deployer is really easy to set up – if you have Java already installed on the system then it’s just a matter of unzipping the deployer package, chmod’ing the shell script and firing it up. This starts a lightweight background Java process which listens via RMI for incoming connections from the authoring server.

I had a couple of issues myself, probably more related to my environment than anything else. Firstly I had to disable IPv6 on the target host, since it was causing the receiver to bind using only this and not using IPv4. Although I could telnet from my main OS and from other VMs onto port 44100, Alfresco was throwing back ConnectionRefusedExceptions, which I assume is some limitation of RMI.

To do this on the Debian VM, I updated the /etc/modprobe.d/aliases file, commenting out the following line:

alias net-pf-10 ipv6

and adding in the following replacement:

alias net-pf-10 off

This solved the first problem, but I then started getting errors indicating that Alfresco couldn’t connect to the host, seemingly something to do with the RMI server not picking up the proper IP address for the host. Rather than spend ages fiddling with the network settings, I simply added a -Djava.rmi.server.hostname argument to the command in deploy_start.sh, i.e.

nohup java -server -cp alfresco-deployment.jar:spring-2.0.2.jar:commons-logging-1.0.4.jar:alfresco-core.jar:jug.jar:. -Djava.rmi.server.hostname= org.alfresco.deployment.Main application-context.xml >deployment.log 2>&1 &

If your network configuration is sane and you’re not running under VMware you probably won’t need this at all. Obviously if you do then make sure you change your IP address to match that of the host.

Five minutes and three thousand assets later and apparently I had a successful deployment. Not bad.


The open road

Well done to John and John on the amazing article in the Guardian’s Technology section today. We made it onto page three!

Sadly the online version lacks the pretty pictures in the paper copy on my desk, but it’s a well-written piece, even if it does paint rather a depressing picture of Governmental take-up of open source in the UK.

Job Opportunities

We’re looking for a person to manage Community Relations within Alfresco as well as a Web Manager/Developer to join our growing team. These are two amazingly important roles within the company – and an excellent chance to make your mark on our web presence or the user community that it supports.

More details are in the Jobs section of the web site – drop us a line at careers at alfresco.com if you’re interested.