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Website Updates 06-04-2020

One concern that I have, going forward, is the accuracy of the data contained in our database. To that end, as a part of the ongoing modifications, upgrades and extensions to our website, I’m reviewing our data on a country-by-country basis. Over the past two days, I’ve looked at the records for about 1000 locomotives in Brazil, Chile and (oddly enough) Bulgaria. This is what the review process looks like:

  • Search youtube.com for videos of locomotives in the country which is being reviewed. Add any videos found to their respective locomotives.
  • In commons.wikimedia.org review the photos available for locomotives in the country in question. If a better image is available for a locomotive which already has a photo, move the original to a photo album and replace with the better image. If a photo is found for a locomotive which doesn’t have one, include it.
  • For each photo found in commons.wikimedia.org review any included data about the locomotive and update our data to reflect this where appropriate.
  • Where Notes exist for locomotives in the country being reviewed, compare the information in the notes to that in the database and correct where appropriate.
  • For locomotives without photos, use maps.google.com and Google Street View to attempt to find photos/images of the locomotive which can be used.

The techniques above resulted in the addition of 13 videos in the last two days, upgraded photos for 11 locomotives, new photos for an additional 14 locomotives, and over 220 data edits. Oh! And the addition of two locomotives that weren’t in our database. And it was rather enjoyable too.

Today, I began work on the Javascript programming to recreate the map functionality in our website. Much to my surprise, progress has been made. My test page is actually generating maps. Much further work remains, but this is not living up to the amount of dread I applied to it. Thank you for reading this nonsense.

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2020 in Website

 

Website Update 06-02-2020

I’m afraid I got lazy today. No coding, no debugging, no design of new features. I did some content research, added videos for four locomotives and images for three. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll get back to my campaign.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2020 in Website

 

Website Update 06-01-2020

Much of what I have done to the site since kind donors from rypn.org funded its continued existence for a couple of years has been directed towards making the site and its data much, much easier to maintain. This is being done because I have fond hopes that someone will continue to operate and maintain this site long after I have shuffled off this mortal coil. In any case, over the past several days, I have continued work on the site’s Administrative interface.

There were all kinds of problems with the Add Video/Delete Video functionality. I’ve talked about that here previously and won’t rehash it. When I got to the point that the functionality looked good and worked well, I got rather distracted, and spent some time adding videos to the web site. Now, more than 1000 locomotives have videos. Some locomotives have more than one. All of our videos come from Youtube and are hosted there, and included in our site by a technique call <iframe>. This means that when you view a video, though it is framed in our site, the actual streaming is done by youtube.com.

Looking at Google Analytics for our site, I was quite surprised at the number of people who view these videos (pleased too!) and I do want to point out a small bit of functionality that may not be obvious. If you are watching a video and place your mouse cursor over it, you’ll see the Youtube comand bar at the bottom of the video, with Pause, Volume and so forth. At the far right of this bar there’s a little square. If you click on this, you’ll see the video in full screen and can return to steamlocomotive.info by hitting the Escape key on your keyboard.

The Note System

The Note System was originally conceived as a sort of community bulletin board where people could comment on, and interact with each other regarding the locomotive. Sort of like an electronic Post-It Note. This turned out to be a really bad idea. Porn, political nonsense, religious proseletyzing and other electronic detritus became the principal content of the Note System.

So… a moderation system was designed and implemented so that a note posted went unseen by anyone except the editors who had authority to approve or disapprove the submitted note. And it worked quite well. If you go to https://www.steamlocomotive.info/notelistingx.cfm?startval=1 you can page through all 16,124 notes that are currently in the system, and you’ll discover there are few if any off topic notes.

I realized that a Delete Note and an Edit Note function might occassionally be necessary for our Editors and I wrote both. What I did horribly badly was design the user interface for these two functions. They work, but finding an individual note to edit or delete is time consuming and unpleasant. So, I’ve redesigned those interfaces and am actively rewriting them to the new design. About 4 or 5 hours of coding, and an hour or two of testing, and this will be working, I think. It won’t affect site visitors much, but it should make the Editors (including me) more able and more willing to correct issues.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Website Update 05-29-2020

After cleaning up all the problems in the administrative interface that dealt with videos on the site, I added video clips for 17 locomotives, partially to test the newly rewritten feature, and partly because it was fun to do so.

In the course of adding the videos, I discovered and added photos for 11 more locomotives that hadn’t previously had a photo, and updated the photo for a steam tram in Sweden.

Additionally edits were made to the technical details for 104 locomotives in Europe, Canada and Mexico. Mostly these were status changes, including one locomotive that was changed to Scrapped.

Along the way, I discovered another minor problem, this one with the Notes system. The administrative function to delete a note worked, partially. I would remove the note, but leave the locomotive’s Notecount field alone. This meant that the system would try to make a non-existent note available if you viewed that locomotive. Reviewing the source code for that module, I think that I was either tired, indifferent or in an awful hurry. So…I spent an hour rewriting that module from scratch. It works nicely now, and I can delete a note, if necessary without causing data inconsistency problems. Wheefun.

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2020 in Website

 

Little Green and Red Dots Revisited

In my previous discussion of the little green and red dots (see below) I was a bit overly optimistic. The Video indicator is set correctly in most places but there are a couple of places where they were not. I spent a couple of hours today, tracking them down. Things should be normal-y now.

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2020 in Website

 

Video Woes 5-28-2020

After our hosting provider shifted steamlocomotive.info to its new server which used Lucee instead of Adobe Coldfusion, a number of things went silly, and day before yesterday, I began debugging one of those great number of things that no longer worked right.

For a variety of reasons, only an editor can add a video to the website. It is done through the site’s administrative interface, and the process was simple enough, but not particularly elegrant.

After the switch to Lucee it became impossible to add new videos. It appeared that the information you supplied (called an Embed String) was somehow being corrupted by the site before it was added to the database. Moderately maddening. And difficult to troubleshoot.

It turned out that I was overly quick to blame Lucee (the CFML compiler). The real culprit was the setup of the new server. The server administrator had enable a feature that had been disabled on the server where we originally ran. This is called ‘GlobalSecurityProtect’. What it does is this: if you try to pass user supplied text within a website, it checks to make sure that certain html tags (which could be potentially dangerous) are suppressed. It replaces those tags with the word InvalidTag. And that was (I thought) the problem.

Further research revealed that this can be overriden on a local basis. So as far as the administrative interface was concerned, all I needed to do was override GlobalSecurityProtect for the admin app only. This posed no security threat as the admin interface is restricted to logged in Editors only.

Coded and tested, and voila! I could add a video. And it looked like crap. Why? When this code was written (more than five years ago) you could rely on YouTube to supply an Embed String with the height and width set to 640×390. And our page formatting depends on those two values. Now, before we save the Embed String we need to be able to show you a video we examine it, and if necessary change the height and width parameters to the values we need. About ten lines of CFML code were needed to accomplish this reliably. So…that little (cough, cough) problem has been fixed.

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2020 in Website

 

Website Updates 05-26-2020

  • Reviewed all locomotives in Turkey against several online lists of existing locomotives in Turkey.
  • Added seven locomotives that we’d previously been unaware of.
  • Deleted two duplicate entries for a locomotive in Istanbul
  • Updated the status of 118 locomotives in Turkey
  • Updated technical details for 63 locomotives in Turkey
  • Added photos of a number of locomotives in Turkey (I didn’t count)

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2020 in Website