Welcome to the official personal website of Rob Loach, a Drupal Engineer at Acquia, currently living in Toronto. Feel free to contact me.

Drupalcon, Here I Come!

Next week, more than 800 people will gather in Boston and talk about Drupal for four full days. This annual event is known as Drupalcon, and it will be the first one I'll be attending.

The sessions will cover how large organizations are involved with the open source project (like Google and IBM), how it can benefit any company (Profitable Web Development Process), where authentication systems are going today (OpenID and Identity), getting the speed you need (Performance Tuning), developing through automated testing (SimpleTest), how Flash can benefit from a backend system (Drupal and Flash/Flex), building AJAXy user interfaces (Drupal 6 AHAH), ensuring secure websites (Security), usability analysis (Administrator/User Friendliness), and much more.

I depart on Sunday afternoon from Toronto, and will be there Sunday night. I'll be wearing my Drupal Camp Toronto shirt, so I should be relatively easy to spot. I am looking forward to seeing you all in Boston!

Drupal 6? What about Drupal 7?

Drupal 6 was released last week and everyone has been talking about how much greater it is than the previous release.  I particularly like how powerful the new menu system is, the new caching and performance features, and all the new AJAXy goodness.  But what is coming up next year in Drupal 7? This is a list of issues on Drupal.org that I am looking forward to see in the next release...

Add hook_file()
This would allow for a very nice File API, allowing us to interact with files at a new level.
Handle File Uploads in Form API
Right now when you have a file field in Forms API, nothing is returned when you submit it. It would be nice if Forms API handled some of that.
Descriptions for Permissions
This would allow modules to description their permission sets in the administration section.
Data API
Providing a common interface for all data types within Drupal (Nodes, Users, Taxonomy, etc).
Add PDO
This would severely increase performance, allow more database abstraction, and get more PHP5 goodness into Drupal.
External JavaScript files for drupal_add_js()
Make it easy to reference external JavaScript files through drupal_add_js() and then cache them.
Custom CSS and JS for Blocks
Adding CSS and JS for blocks through hook_init() isn't very clean, so this will fix that.
Examples for form fields
Having an example for every form field would allow better usability for Drupal.
Hook Registry
Increase performance in Drupal even more.

With these additions, and the implementation of a web service platform in core, we'll have ourselves a slick Drupal 7 release. What are you looking forward to in Drupal 7?

Fun with the Wiimote

Johnny Chung Lee has been doing some pretty brilliant stuff with the Wiimote. He has been using the Managed Library for the Nintendo Wiimote to create C# applications that use the Wiimote in different ways.

Most games and applications we see using the Wiimote have the user move around the controler to manipulate what they see in the display. Johnny Lee has changed that, making the user move the sensor around instead. This lets him put together some neat input controllers, like finger tracking applications, multi-point interactive whiteboards, and 3D virtual-reality displays.

I highly recommend you check out some of the videos he has put together, particularly the one on head tracking. Great job, Johnny! Looking forward to your next video. Applying these in software applications could really open up the doors to how we interact with our technology.

Battle Plan for Drupal 7: Services

Now that Drupal 7 is open for development, people have started thinking about their personal battle plans for the next release. In the announcement, Dries mentioned the 11 wish list items that the community thought would make an excellent Drupal 7 release. I will be focusing, with Scott Nelson and the other Services people, on number 10: Better external APIs (import/export, webservices). Well, the Web Services part.

The Services module provides a slick API to implement common web services across a number of different protocols (XML-RPC, SOAP, REST, JSON, etc). Web services have become a very important part of how the websites interact with the user (think Flickr, Last.fm, Google, del.icio.us, etc). Getting parts of the Services module into core would mean that Drupal would have the ability to act more as a web service for external applications. It would allow Drupal to grow beyond the web, allowing interaction with the user in new platforms and in different ways.

Scott will be hosting a session on Services at DrupalCon 2008, so if you're interested in seeing where we'd like to see Services in Drupal 7, I think you should attend.

String Overrides for Drupal 5

A while ago, I put together a very simple module named String Overrides. It provided an interface that used some new functionality in Drupal 6 to easily replace strings without the use of the locale or i18n modules. For a demonstration of how it works, check out the video. It was designed for Drupal 6 because it relied on locale_custom_strings_en, which is new to Drupal 6. If you have a look at the bottom of your settings.php, you'll see a note about it. There were many requests for a Drupal 5 version of String Overrides, but it was never put into implementation due to its reliance on this core functionality.

Well, the brilliant quicksketch fixed this, creating a very slick backport to Drupal 5. This backport was so elegantly made that it still even uses locale_custom_strings_en, which was actually only meant for Drupal 6. For details on how he did it, see his post about it. So, if you have a site running Drupal 5, and you want a quick and easy way to replace strings, String Overrides is good to go. Thanks, Nate!

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