Presenting...the Liferay Administrator's Guide!

Company Blogs March 13, 2008 By Richard Sezov Staff

Well, it's a little late and yes, it's a little behind, but the first edition of the Liferay Administrator's Guide has hit the presses! Covering Liferay Portal 4.3, it goes over everything from installing Liferay to an application server to integrating it with other services, such as chat and workflow. There's a complete description in the blurb on the back of the book.



Writing a book is a huge job. I say that because were it not for the sheer number of contributors of material, this book would still not be done. Why? Because the research end of it alone (in this case, that's actually going through each feature, configuring it so it works, and writing up notes during the process) could take as long as it's taken so far. Once you have that done, however, you need to start writing.

I got a jump start on both of those tasks (the research and the writing) because of some great people who a) helped me when I couldn't get something working or b) contributed documentation for a particular feature that they already wrote.

So I am grateful for all of those (I attempted to list everyone on the inside front page, and I'm praying that I didn't miss anybody) who contributed material to the book: you were instrumental in getting it done this fast.

The Liferay Administrator's Guide is available from our web site as a free PDF download. A much, much cooler way to obtain it, though, is as an actual book, which you can get from here. That way, not only do you get a nice, portable Liferay reference you can take with you into the server room, but also you get to see the really cool picture our CEO, Bryan Cheung took in Langen, Germany, near Liferay's European headquarters. That's a special bonus that only appears on the front cover of the real book.

Before I start sounding like an As-Seen-On-TV commercial, maybe I should talk about where we go from here. This is only the beginning of the Liferay Documentation Project. Next on tap we have a Liferay Developer's Guide, which will guide the developer through the ins and outs of writing code on the Liferay Portal platform. And, of course, we need to catch the documentation up with the latest release of Liferay.

We also have several 4.4-based Lifecasts--online demos of how to use Liferay to build out a web site for your organization. These are authored by Jon Lyons, and he has done a fantastic job with them. You can access these by clicking here. I'll let him give you the details on those.

Anyway, that's why it's been so quiet around here on the documentation team--we've been heads-down trying to get these products out to you as fast as we could, with the highest quality we could. Thanks to all for your continued patience as we work on providing these resources!

I Drank the Kool Aid

Company Blogs February 14, 2008 By Richard Sezov Staff

Despite years of resistance, I am now a Kubuntu user. It's taken a lot to get me here, but if you're interested, hang on to your hat.

I've been using Linux for many years as my primary operating system at home. I started off in 1994 (!) with a copy of Slackware that came with a book and several CDs of software. I managed to configure my 486DX/33 system to triple boot DOS, OS/2, and Linux for a while. At the time, I had been using OS/2 since 1992 as my primary operating system, because I believed that it was the wave of the future. But I wanted to learn Unix, and installing Linux was (and still is) the best way to do that.

There wasn't much software for Linux in those days, and getting X running was a nightmare of manually editing configuration files. Getting to high resolution (800x600) was extremely difficult, though I remember succeeding at it eventually.

In any case, I eventually put Linux aside for productivity reasons: I was a systems integrator who was putting in networks for small businesses and government offices, and I had no access to the Internet, which made much of Linux's functionality an academic exercise for me. But I kept my eye on it, looking for opportunities to use it in my work.

My next foray into Linux was with RedHat a couple of jobs later. I installed a test Linux server as a web server with an eye to replacing the IIS server I was running on Windows NT. I soon wanted to try using it as a desktop (because Windows 98 would crash on me several times a day), and began fiddling with that at home. KDE 1.0 had just come out, and it was a feature complete desktop that made the day to day use of Linux on the desktop a bit easier.

Back then, you had to install KDE by downloading a whole bunch of tarballs and extracting them to some location on your system. That was, if you could find binaries. And if your dialup connection stayed active all night while you were downloading megs and megs of data. A lot of the time, you had to compile KDE from source. It made getting up and running a tedious and lengthy process.

At that point, several people began providing RPMs of KDE for RedHat users to install. I played with those for a while, but continued to be frustrated (as did others) that RedHat would not include KDE with their distro.  Instead they threw their weight behind the competing GNOME desktop, which was way behind KDE at that time. The reason for this situation was that KDE was based on a library called QT from TrollTech, which at the time was not GPL licensed, but instead had its own open source license, called the QPL. This made the software "non-free" in the RMS sense of the word, and became the whole reason for GNOME's creation. That rift in the Linux community is not a particularly pleasant chapter in the history of Linux on the desktop.

People like me who just wanted a functional desktop on RedHat didn't much care which open source license KDE used. And there were enough of us that somebody did something about it. That somebody was Gael Duval. He created a little-known distro called Mandrake Linux, which was RedHat recompiled from source, with KDE already included. Mandrake became incredibly popular and spawned a company of its own. The code base eventually split from RedHat and became a distro in its own right.

That distro, because of mergers and aquisitions, is known as Mandriva now. Gael Duval left the company several years ago, but up till now, I have been a faithful Mandriva user for many years. I am a member of their Club and so have supported the distro financially for a while. I happily installed their latest 2008 version on my Liferay-provided laptop and to my great consternation, had to deal with several issues, notably having X crash on me at random times during the day. Suspend / Hibernate wouldn't work with Compiz turned on either. When I finally lost some data in one of these random crashes, I formatted my drive and installed OpenSUSE. Why OpenSUSE? I wanted to get some experience with it: it's one of the more popular distros, but I'd never used before. I'd been planning on switching back to Mandriva once the new version came out. I'd done this before a couple of years ago when I had a problem with Mandriva: at that time I used Mepis to get me through until they released a version that worked with my hardware.

To make a long story short, stability (i.e., lockup) problems with OpenSUSE led me finally to Kubuntu. I'd been resisting going to Kubuntu for a while, because frankly, I thought Mandriva was better, and Mandriva had for so long provided everything I needed out of a Linux distro. But this was the second time new hardware refused to work well with Mandriva, and I was forced to give up on it because I couldn't find any information online in their forums or bugzilla to help me diagnose the problem.

My Kubuntu experience has so far been very pleasant. First of all, everything works. I can suspend my machine with Compiz-Fusion running and it comes back just fine. Initally, my network didn't come back after a suspend, but--and here's the big difference--I was able to find information through a simple Google search on how to fix that. I was able to compile the driver for my laptop's web cam (http://syntekdriver.sourceforge.net; it's not yet included in the kernel) without issue. On Mandriva, they'd split the kernel into a laptop version, a desktop version, and a server version and I was never able to get the driver to compile, even though I'd installed the right header packages. The Skype beta that supports webcams on Linux is available in the (K)ubuntu repositories--not so for Mandriva. I could go on.

Also--and this is inexplicable to me--Kubuntu is faster. It just does everything faster. I don't understand this: it's still Linux, so all the software should be the same. I'm still using the ext3 file system, KDE, and all the same software. You've probably seen other people's blog entries on liferay.com talking about how much faster Liferay compiles on (K)ubuntu than on Windows. Well, they're right. Except it's also faster than other Linuxes. I don't get it.

So at this point, I think I'm finally going to say goodbye to Mandriva after many years of using it. I started with them because I needed a system that just plain works. Kubuntu now does that better than Mandriva, in my experience. After several years of resistance, I have finally drunk the (K)ubuntu Kool Aid. I hope I'm not too late to the party.

Documentation Milestone Reached

Company Blogs January 23, 2008 By Richard Sezov Staff

First of all, a belated Happy New Year! This is my first blog post in the new year (and in the new theme), and I'm excited about what I have to report.

Last night I finally finished the first draft of the Liferay Administrator's Guide. It's a bit pared down from the outline that's published out on the wiki, but that was done in order to get the book out as quickly as possible. For the second edition, I will be fleshing it out into the complete outline. The portions I've skipped documenting have to do with the user interface of the portlets, which is not generally something we get a ton of questions about. Nonetheless, it is important to document them, and that will be done after the first version of the Guide.

Right now it's coming in at 181 pages. I've spent the day (and probably will spend most of my time this week) going back through and editing. Once this is done I'm planning on sending it out internally for review. But we're getting real close now.

After the editing and reviewing is done we'll make the document available, and then it will be on to a dual task of updating it for the 4.4 release and finishing up the Liferay Developer's Guide. So there's still a lot of work to do, but we're definitely getting there!

Liferay Plugin Development Guide

Company Blogs December 14, 2007 By Richard Sezov Staff

Quietly and without much fanfare, we have released the first document in our new Liferay Documentation Project. This is because it's a rather small document, but it fills a need to have some instructions for using our Plugins SDK available. Since the Plugins SDK is now the preferred method for creating portlets and themes, not having it documented was sort of a glaring omission.

This is also the first document to give an introduction on how to create Liferay themes, culled from our open document project, the Liferay wiki (where all the content is licensed under the same MIT license we use for the source code). Special thanks is definitely due to those who worked on the Themes document out there on the Wiki. This would have taken a lot longer to produce without the support from our community.

Eventually the Plugin Development Guide will get merged into our larger Liferay Developer's Guide, which is still in-process. Our next release will likely be the first version of the Liferay Administrator's Guide.

Things I Learned at the Liferay Retreat

Company Blogs December 11, 2007 By Richard Sezov Staff

This is a list of things I learned at the Liferay retreat.

  • You should not give Nerf guns to developers with pent up energy from sitting around coding all the time.  Pandemonium will ensue.
  • Many Liferay-ers are multi-talented. We have singers, guitarists, dancers (sort of), people who are good at sports, and, um, monkeys.
  • There is debate over whether you need to be naked to live in an igloo.
  • People from Canada do not live in igloos.
  • Don't challenge Brian Chan to a freethrow contest.
  • If you are an innocent bystander in a Nerf gun fight, a well-known Liferay engineer will hide behind you to avoid being shot, while he shoots at others.
  • Caris Chan is a very brave woman. She can stand unflinching while 5 guys at least double her size come rushing at her, each with a metal can and a golf ball.
  • Joe Shum can fit an infinite number of golf balls in his pockets.
  • I am not the only one who doesn't know how to do regular expressions.
  • A football that drops over a cliff is retrievable.
  • New Jerseyans like me think anything with a drop of more than 10 feet is a cliff.
  • It is very hard to draw out 17 words from Romeo and Juliet into a 60 second video.
  • Have you heard of the Amazon Kindle? It's this awesome new book reader. You can  store tons of books on it, and it has an e-ink display that looks just like paper! It's also wireless too, so you can be connected all the time and just transfer books....
  • People in the Malibu area don't call the cops when multiple Liferay employees get lost in their neighborhood looking for their retreat location which is so remote that neither Google Maps nor multiple brands of GPS devices can find it.
  • I swear I found the exact spot Arnold Schwarzenegger dropped Sully off a cliff in Commando.
  • I am way too impressed by cliffs and things dropping off them.
  • People will walk away from your conversation when you start talking about the difference between classical and presuppositional apologetics.
  • Technology people who work for an Internet company can survive a weekend with no Internet access.
  • Herding a bunch of engineers into a static schedule is akin to herding cats.
  • Saying "Enterprise. Open Source. For Life." in German is not that hard.
  • A guy with a sprained ankle can still bear most of the weight of a grown man as he is carried into his room on video.
  • If you are not on Alex Chow's team, you will have to physically restrain him in order to take his picture with your team.
  • It is possible to hit somebody who is lying on a massage table in the side of the face from across the room with a Nerf gun.


And finally:

  • I work with a fantastic group of people, most of whom I didn't know until this weekend, and they all made me and my family feel very welcome.

Too Cute to Pass Up

Company Blogs December 5, 2007 By Richard Sezov Staff

Okay, I couldn't resist posting this. We had our first snow in this area today (Southern New Jersey, not far from Philadelphia, PA), and it was the triple whammy of:

  1. Christmas coming
  2. Snow
  3. Getting ready to attend the Liferay retreat

that caused my two and a half year-old daughter to begin combining the three concepts in song. Though I didn't get it on video, she began to sing (to the tune of Jingle Bells):

Christmas, airplane and snow!

Christmas, airplane and snow!

Jingle all the way!

I couldn't resist preserving this somehow. :-)

Here's a pic for those in warmer climates (it doesn't hold a candle to Ray's pic, though).

Snow in South Jersey

Driver's License Renewal

Company Blogs November 30, 2007 By Richard Sezov Staff

I've been meaning all month to get my driver's license renewed. Here in New Jersey, this is the kind of thing many people have been trained to dread. Long wait times and surly people behind the counter were the norm for so long that I think the situation even became known across the country.

I wanted to get this done early in the month so that I wouldn't get stuck with all the procrastinators at the end of the month, but different things kept coming up. Couple that with the fact that my family and myself came down with what can only be described as The Plague for the past two weeks and, well, I wound up having to get my license renewed today, on the last day of the month.

The reason I'm blogging about this is that I want to tell everyone that my experience was wonderful. It took me longer to drive there and back than it did to actually get my license renewed. I knew that the state had taken steps to correct things (one of those steps being the controversial privatization of Motor Vehicles Services), and I am here to say that it has worked. It's not often that I get to say this, so I want to make sure I say kudos to the State of New Jersey! This was a job extremely well done.

To Be Thankful For

Company Blogs November 21, 2007 By Richard Sezov Staff

What's this? Two blog posts within five minutes? Yes, well, I thought this would be appropriate as we are about to celebrate Thanksgiving here in the United States. I've had this hanging on my wall for years. I originally got it from a humor mailing list years ago (2000, I think).

---

TO BE THANKFUL FOR:

The mess to clean after a party because I have been surrounded by friends.

The taxes I pay because I'm employed.

The clothes that are a little too snug because I have enough to eat. ( I particularly like this one)

The shadow who watches me work because I am out in the sunshine.

A lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning, and gutters that need fixing because I have a home.

All the complaining I hear about our government because we have freedom of speech.

The space in which I park at the far end of the parking lot because I am capable of walking.

My huge heating bill because it means I am warm.

The lady behind me in church who sings off key because it means that I can hear.

The piles of laundry and ironing because it means I have clothes to wear.

Weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day because I have been productive.

The alarm that goes off in the early morning hours because it means that I'm alive.

Getting too much e-mail which bogs me down because I have friends who are thinking of me.

---

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Swapping Control and Caps Lock

Company Blogs November 21, 2007 By Richard Sezov Staff

Touch typists (like me) don't like to take their hands off the home row of the keyboard if they can at all help it. If I'm in the middle of doing something requiring intense concentration (such as writing or coding), I want distractions kept to a minimum. One of the most annoying things about the PC keyboard layout is that they put the Control key way down underneath the shift key on the left side.

This is an incredibly awkward position for your pinky finger to reach. One of the prime characteristics of a touch typist is that the touch typist never looks down at the keyboard, because he or she has trained him or herself to know where the keys are, relative to one's hand position on the home row. Because of this, touch typists are used to being able to bang out text at a very high speed (my highest was clocked at 82 words per minute). So you can understand how annoying it would be for somebody who is used to cruising along at this speed to have to stop, look down, and press the Control key (to do Ctrl+I for italics for example) to perform a particular function.

Strangely enough, on the PC keyboard the Caps Lock key is in a prime position for one's left pinky finger to reach. Since the Caps Lock key is hardly ever used anyway (BECAUSE WE ALL KNOW THAT TYPING IN ALL CAPS IS AKIN TO SHOUTING, RIGHT?), wouldn't it be great if you could swap the Control and Caps Lock keys?

Well now you can. On Windows, it involves changing some registry settings (which can be dangerous if you don't know what you're doing), and changing these settings swaps the keys for everybody who has an account on the machine. On Linux, it involves modifying a hidden file in your home directory, which swaps the keys for just you (a far better option).

Thankfully, John Haller has provided some .reg files for Windows users so you don't have to muck around with the registry yourself. See his site for details on swapping your Control and Caps Lock keys.

For Linux users, it's easy. In your home directory, create a file called .Xmodmap (some distros use .xmodmap), and put the following in there:

!
! Swap Caps_Lock and Control_L
!
remove Lock = Caps_Lock
remove Control = Control_L
keysym Control_L = Caps_Lock
keysym Caps_Lock = Control_L
add Lock = Caps_Lock
add Control = Control_L


Log out and then log back in, and voila! Your keys are swapped. Consider this my contribution to preventing both unnecessary slowdowns and pinky finger strain for people everywhere. :-)

Extreme Netbeans Newbie

Company Blogs November 19, 2007 By Richard Sezov Staff

One of the goals I set for myself with regard to the Liferay documentation was to show people how to set up Liferay for development (either core, extension or plugins) in both of the leading open source IDEs: Eclipse and Netbeans.

I have been using Eclipse for many years,and so I know my way around that IDE pretty well. Plus that environment has been pretty much covered in the documentation, so I don't have too much work to do there.

But Netbeans is a whole 'nother matter. I've never used Netbeans, but I have to admit that I've admired it from afar. So I figured I'd jump in with the new 6.0 Release Candidate (because it is likely that 6.0 will be out by the time our docs are done).

First I tried setting up Liferay using File -> New Project. I selected a Java Project With Existing Ant Script and made sure the location was the folder to which I pulled the Liferay source from SVN. All looked good at first. I was able to right-click on the project and add all the source folders. So far, so good!

My first hangup came when I needed to get the .jar files from the project's lib folder added to the project. Netbeans has a check box at the top of that dialog labeled: Separate Classpath for Each Source Package Folder. Unfortunately, mine was checked AND grayed out. I did not want to define a separate classpath for every Liferay source folder (have you seen how many there are?), so I desperately wanted to figure out how to uncheck that box. But since it was grayed out, I couldn't. Web searches on this turned up nothing. So I gave up.

I came back to this a couple of days later with an idea: Netbeans has an Eclipse project importer; I'll just use that! I deleted the nbproject folder that had been created inside of the Liferay project, and then used the Eclipse project importer to import the projects from my Eclipse workspace.

It seemed to work better. All of the source folders were recognized, but there were errors in them (according to the icon on the files). However, when I actually opened the files, there were no errors. Strange. The libraries were on the class path now, so I decided not to worry about this until later.

My next problem, however, came when I wanted to try to browse to portal-web, which is the folder where Liferay's JSP files are stored. I could not figure out a way to get there in Netbeans. The Projects folder listed all of my source folders, but I could not see any other folder that's in the project. I figured okay, there's a Files tab here; that should give me access to the rest of the project folders. Nope. That tab shows the top level folder of the project, with the nbproject folder and the build.xml file inside of it, and nothing else. It also shows a bunch of subfolders with the source in them again.

No matter what I tried, I could not find a way to simply browse the files in the project. I did google searches, Netbeans site searches, etc., but found nothing.

So I've given up again. I am sure these problems have to do with the fact that I am an extreme Netbeans newbie, so can anybody help me out here? What am I missing? Surely, Netbeans allows you to work with a freeform Java project like Liferay that has its own layout.

Thanks in advance!

Power Outage

Company Blogs November 9, 2007 By Richard Sezov Staff

A couple of days ago I was humming along working happily when suddenly, doink! The power went out. It was a beautiful bright sunny day, and so I might not have noticed right away except that my new printer (see a couple of posts down) clicked and when I looked over at it, I saw that the little blue power light was out. When I looked back at my machine, my screen had dimmed. I was on battery power, and all my connections to various Internet-based services started going down one by one.

As my wife will attest, I am not very good during power outages. I immediately shouted down the stairs, "The power's out!" and raced down there to see if my wife and daughter were all right. They seemed oblivious to the problem.

"We have no power!" I exclaimed, watching as they inexplicably continued to sit on the couch calmly and color in a coloring book.

"Really? I didn't notice," my wife said without looking up.

"Yeah," I said, trying to look as nonchalant as they were. "I guess I better get back up there; I only have two hours of battery now in which to work."

"Ok," she said, still not looking up.

I went back upstairs to my office and sat in my chair. The power was still off. This isn't coming back, I thought. I better call the electric company.

I actually have the electric company's emergency number in my cell phone's memory so that I can call them at a moment's notice if the power goes out. In my defense, we have well water, not city water, which means that when the power goes out, our water also goes out. So it's pretty important that that the power goes back on as quickly as possible.

I whipped out my cell phone, looked up the number and dialed it. An automated system greeted my ears, wanting to know the nature of my call, what my phone number was, and some other things. Apparently, it couldn't understand me when I tried to give it my phone number, because I got transferred to a live person.

"How can I help you?" a pleasant female voice asked cheerfully.

"We have a power outage." I stated.

"Really? I'm not showing anything on my board," was her incredible response.

"You're kidding me, right? Don't you guys have some kind of- of- a grid or something?!" I not-so-calmly asked.

"How long has the power been out?"

"It's been out, like-- like, three minutes!"

"Have you checked your circuit breakers to see if they've tripped?"

I hadn't done that.

"No, actually, I haven't done that. But they've never tripped before. If you hold on, I'll go check."

She agreed to hold on, and I put the phone down (I would definitely lose the signal if I carried it down into the basement) and ran as fast as I could down into the basement to check the circuit breakers. Since it was dark and I forgot to grab a flashlight on my way down, I actually couldn't tell if they'd tripped. So I flipped the main switch back and forth madly a bunch of times. Since there was no effect, I took that to mean that they hadn't tripped.

I then raced back up to my office again. A little out of breath, I grabbed the cell phone and asked, "Hello? Are you still there?"

"I'm still here," she stated.

"The circuit breakers weren't tripped."

Probably sensing my near-panic, she said, "Okay, I will enter a service ticket and we will dispatch a truck immediately to see what the problem is."

"Thank you. Thank you very much!"

"You're very welcome, sir. Have a nice day."

"You too!"

I hung up the phone and then went back to my machine and tried to work. Since most of the time I'm writing documentation, I can get some stuff done without the benefit of being connected all the time. But it was hard. Every few moments I'd look over at my printer to see if it'd magically turned back on again. Nope, it hadn't.

I'd look up at my power icon as it started to move downward, indicating that my machine's battery was getting drained. I suddenly had to go to the bathroom, but knew I couldn't, because we had no power and I couldn't waste precious water by flushing the toilet. Of course, now I understand that all of this was completely psychological, but at the time I was getting more and more panicky. Minutes became a half an hour, a half an hour became 45 minutes, and I transformed into a twitchy, sweaty, having-to-go-to-the-bathroom mess.

And then suddenly, doink! the power went back on. Just like that. I jumped up from my chair, raced downstairs again and exclaimed, "The power is back! The POWER IS BACK!!!"

My wife and daughter were still sitting on the couch, coloring away.

"It is? That's great," my wife stated. This time she did look up and give me a knowing smile. "I'm really glad."

"Me too," I said uncomfortably. She always displays more grace under pressure--if she even felt any pressure in this instance--than I do. "I didn't know what I was going to do if it stayed off long enough for my battery to die."

Knowing full well that that was not the source of my previous panicky state, she simply stated, "I know. Now you don't have to worry about it."

"Yeah," I said, shamed and looking at the floor. "Well, I guess I better get back to work. Let me know if you need anything down here."

"Bye, Daddy!" my daughter called, looking up from the coloring book.

"Bye, sweetie! I love you," I said.

"Wuv you too!" she said cheerfully.

I went back upstairs happily. I didn't even have to go to the bathroom anymore.

Hot Deploy Troubleshooting

Company Blogs November 8, 2007 By Richard Sezov Staff

One of the topics I've seen over and over on the forums is confusion over the configuration of Hot Deploy in Liferay. It can be complicated, and the default configuration is not a valid one if you are not using Tomcat as your container, so people frequently run into problems with it.

Since I have just finished a section in the official docs about this topic, I thought it would be good to excerpt some of this material so it can be available immediately.

I've just uploaded this article to the wiki here: http://wiki.liferay.com/index.php/Hot_Deploy_Troubleshooting. This is actually just a small piece of the overall topic of Hot Deploy from the upcoming official docs.

If you are having trouble getting Hot Deploy working properly, take a look at this article, and hopefully it will help.

Working at Home

Company Blogs November 7, 2007 By Richard Sezov Staff

One of the things I was looking forward to when starting with Liferay was the opportunity to work at home full time. I've worked at home in the past, but it was always on an ad-hoc basis, on days when somebody had a doctor's appointment, the car needed servicing, etc. I'd go do whatever the errand was and then work at home for the remainder of the day so I wouldn't have to take a day (or even a partial day) off just to run a necessary errand.

This time, however, I was going to get to work from home full-time, because I live thousands of miles away from Liferay's headquarters. Since a picture paints a thousand words, I will therefore describe my work at home experience this way:

My First Day at Liferay

That was on my first day here. I feel so blessed to be working for Liferay. Not only do I get to do work I love doing, I also get to be here for my family. As my daughter grows up, I won't miss nearly what I was going to miss.

And you know what? I wind up being more focused and working harder here than I ever did in an office. There's no time wasted sitting in traffic on morning and evening commutes, no time taken up with lots of meetings, office chatter, office politics, or anything like that--all of which leaves more time to simply get things done.

(And yes, for the observant, I did get a new computer--it just wasn't there on the first day.)

I am looking forward to--and praying for--a long future at Liferay. I am truly blessed.

Printing in Linux

Company Blogs November 6, 2007 By Richard Sezov Staff

I recently got myself a nice new mono laser printer with duplexing capabilities. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a good deal on a simple mono laser printer that has duplexing built in? You would think at this point that with all the effort going into selling color laser printers, the market in mono laser printers could be kept alive better if all the manufacturers would simply include duplexing. All the "green" people love that sort of thing, because it saves paper. And frankly, I like the convenience of spending less money by using half the paper I would normally use. Plus I'm a nerd: I print out forms from this site and use a fountain pen.

Anyway, I searched and searched, and almost bought a used one on Ebay, because I badly wanted an HP printer this time. In the end, I chickened out on the used printer and the HP ones were just out of reach budgetwise, so I wound up getting a Lexmark E250d.

You would think in this day and age that you really wouldn't have to worry about whether or not your printer is supported in Linux. I mean, come on: Linux printing is now standardized on CUPS (Common Unix Printing System), so all the manufacturers have to do is supply the consumer with a PPD file and you're good to go. Especially a big printer manufacturer like the formerly IBM-owned Lexmark.

Well, the good news is that Lexmark does indeed support Linux, but they want you to install their own printing system! And they have some kind of CUPS compatibility layer which is supposed to make the printer work through CUPS.

As usual, my distro (Mandriva Linux 2008) was not supported, but I'm used to that. Mandriva was originally based on RedHat, and still closely follows RedHat's layout, so commercial applications that are meant to run on RedHat usually run just fine on Mandriva (I tested this years ago with WebSphere many times over). So I jumped in and installed Lexmark's printing system via the supplied RPM.

I went through their configuration screens and configured the printer and the queue through their Java-based wizard. I then went into OpenOffice and attempted to print one page with one word on it. Boy, was I excited when the printer fired itself up and then--

Page after page of PCL code began streaming out of the printer, starting with a banner page proclaiming "this print out came from rsezov@enterprise!" (As an aside, I name all of my computers after stuff in Star Trek. My machine is always enterprise; my server is ds9; my old laptop is nx-01; even my Windows XP virtual machine is named, um, Garbage Scow). In a frantic effort to get it to stop (the machine came with no manual explaining what the pretty lights on the front mean), I yanked out the paper tray and then started jamming my thumb repeatedly on the button marked X.

Well, that seemed to stop it. First off, why in the world would anybody want to print a banner page any more, especially if I'm the only one using this printer? I mean, banner pages were cool in, like, 1993 when you enabled printer sharing on Novell Netware. Since then, I've never worked in any office that has used that feature, no matter how many people were sharing any particular printer.

Ok, what next? I went through the wizard again, making sure that (even though I had done this before--because obviously if you do the same thing twice, it's going to work better the second time, right?) I checked the box that allowed PCL pass-thru on CUPS, because, well, this was recommended. I could never find any option for turning off the banner page. Well, we'll deal with that later. Ok, fire up OO, print--

Ack! Here it goes again! Time to buy stock in paper companies, especially when I purchase a new printer.

Ok, one more time. This time I will do something DIFFERENT. I will NOT check the PCL pass-thru box. Fire up OO, print--

Buried in paper again. This is ridiculous! What insanity came over the Lexmark engineers when they built this piece of horrible software? Did they really think they were going to be able to support Linux in this way?

In the end, I deleted the printer and the queues and removed all of Lexmark's software. I then went into Mandriva's really nice control center and allowed it this time to autodetect the printer. Smirking at the button labeled "Install a manufacturer's supplied PPD driver," I chose the HP 5 Si driver and enabled duplexing. Now it works like a charm.

Note to self (and others): if you intend on using a printer with Linux, make sure when the manufacturer says it's supported that you find out if they supply a CUPS driver with the printer. And always choose a printer that's compatible with some sort of standard, such as PCL or PostScript. That way you can always fall back on using a different driver that supports the standard.

Now I am happily printing. The hardware on this machine, at least, is great!

Liferay Documentation Project

Company Blogs October 31, 2007 By Richard Sezov Staff

While it's nice to blog about some of the tools I use (see the below posts on VirtualBox and the Lomboz plugin for Eclipse for more info), I figured I should probably mention some of the stuff I'm working on for Liferay.

Though I'd like to think I was brought in because of my 1337 5k1||z, the fact of the matter is that I have only one ingredient that separates me from others (and it ain't my not-so-1337 5k1||z): I have an English degree. I'm the only developer I know who actually likes to write (though I am sure there are more of us out there).

It's pretty well known in the community that documentation has not been the strongest aspect of this project. In my previous life as a Liferay customer, I too was bitten by the lack of good documentation to help a poor newbie understand how to implement this incredibly powerful--but complicated--piece of software. So I'm going to try to fix this by creating some new documentation that is both well written and comprehensive. This is no small task, and I will be relying heavily on contributions from the Wiki (which I see as a content staging area for official documentation) and from others, both inside of Liferay and from the community. Hopefully, we can make the documentation every bit as good as the product itself!

I hope to have a lightweight version of the docs for 4.3 ready by the end of the year (I do have other responsibilities I will have to balance with this project). And "lightweight" is going to be in the hundreds of pages. Once that first, lightweight edition is complete, it will be expanded to include other topics. I have posted the full list of topics I'd like to cover over on the Wiki here: http://wiki.liferay.com/index.php/Official_Documentation_Outlines.

Of course, we want the documentation to keep pace with the release schedule of the product, so once we're done "catching up" with where the project is, new editions will be released for every product release we have.

The hope is that this will go a long way toward addressing the issues with the Liferay documentation. We want Liferay to be the best Portal out there, and it'll never be that if its adoption is hampered by a lack of complete documentation.

I'll have future blog posts about my progress, and may also post questions to the community here, so keep watching this space!

Gotta get back to writing now....

Virtual Machines with VirtualBox

Company Blogs October 29, 2007 By Richard Sezov Staff

My operating system of choice happens to be Mandriva Linux. Currently, I am running the Mandriva Linux 2008 Power Pack release. I have been running Mandriva since the dawn of time in Linux parlance: since it was called Mandrake and was a derivitive of Redhat.

Since I joined Liferay, I have found that I often need Windows in order to test and debug support tickets. I have a new machine that came with Windows, but since I spend 99% of my time in the Linux partition it's a bit of a pain to stop what I'm doing in my OS of choice, boot over to Windows, run some tests and stuff, and then boot back into my environment to do the rest of my work. So I started looking into virtualization solutions.

VirtualBox comes with Mandriva, but VirtualBox works with any Linux distro, Windows, and Mac, so this should apply to everybody. I figured I'd blog on it because it's a great product and not nearly as well known as VMWare or Parallels. You can go grab it at http://www.virtualbox.org.

They have two versions: an Open Source Edition, which is licensed under the GPL, and another version that is free for Personal Use. Innotek (the company that makes it) has a far different definition of "Personal Use" than you might imagine. Their definition, as I read it (IANAL, so read the license yourself), means that you are free to use VirtualBox as long as you are the only one personally using it. In other words, you can use it for your own virtualization needs, but don't run a virtual server for multiple users on it. If you do that, you should pay. Of course, none of that applies if you use the GPL version. Then it's as free as Richard Stallman wants it to be. :-)

The license wound up mattering to me, because the Open Source edition (1.5.0) that shipped with Mandriva had some show-stopper bugs (VMs would crash on dual core processors). They fixed the bugs in the 1.5.2 release, but Mandriva hadn't created a build for the distro yet, so I grabbed the binaries in RPM format from the web site. 

 

VirtualBox User Interface


VirtualBox has an extremely clean and easy to use interface. To create a new virtual machine, you click the New button in the top left corner. A wizard leads you through the whole process step by step. When you are finished, you will have a mostly configured virtual machine, complete with a virtual hard disk that starts small but can expand in size as the VM grows. I say it is mostly configured because in order to install anything, you have to click the Settings button, go to CD/DVD ROM, and check the appropriate mount option (depending on whether you're installing your OS from a real CD or from an ISO image).

 

Mounting a CD or DVD



From here, you just start your VM by double-clicking on it or by selecting it and hitting the Start button. You can then install your OS of choice as you would install it on a real machine.

 

Installing Windows XP



I used the NAT networking option, as this is the easiest to get going. Initially I thought I was going to have a problem trying to browse Liferay running on my Host OS, but I found that all I needed to do was use the address defined as a the Gateway for the virtualized Windows. You can find out what this is by dropping to a command prompt and typing ipconfig /all.

I intend to use VirtualBox to test Liferay on IE 6 and IE 7 without having to reboot my machine. It provides me with a testing lab on my laptop, obviating the need for multiple machines. If only it could virtualize Mac hardware so I could install Mac OS!

 

VirtualBox Desktop

Creating Standalone Portlets with the Lomboz Eclipse Plugin

Company Blogs October 27, 2007 By Richard Sezov Staff

I've used the Lomboz plugin now to create several portlet projects for Liferay, and it's worked out very well. For those who don't know what the Lomboz plugin is, it's got a rich history. It used to be pretty much the only open source way of creating Java Enterprise (then J2EE) projects in Eclipse, as it predated the Web Tools Project.

Now it works with the Web Tools Project, providing many enhancements to it. A couple of those enhancements are Eclipse server support for Liferay and a Portlet Project Facet. Together, these provide a nice development environment for standalone .war portlet projects.

The home page of the project is http://lomboz.objectweb.org, and their current release is an RC 1 for the new Eclipse Europa. This release candidate introduces support for Liferay 4.3.0, though YMMV if you're using one of the newer 4.3.X builds. For that reason, I'm going to go through using it on Liferay 4.2.

The first thing you need to do is create a server runtime. You'll first need to download either the Liferay-Tomcat bundle or the Liferay-JBoss bundle and unzip it to your machine. If you've done that, right-click in an empty spot in Eclipse's Servers tab and select New -> Server. Expand the Lomboz-Liferay portion of the tree and select the version of Liferay that you have already installed.

 



You'll then be brought to a screen allowing you to browse to where you've installed it. Do that, and then click  Finish on the Wizard. You'll now have a Liferay Server Runtime.

 



Having a server runtime doesn't help if you have no portlets to deploy. Lomboz also includes a nice portlet facet for Dynamic Web Projects. This allows you to create a standalone portlet .war project in Eclipse and deploy it to the runtime you have just created.

To create a standalone portlet project, select File -> New -> Project.... Pick Web -> Dynamic Web Project.

 



Click Next. Give your project a name and select the Liferay Portal runtime you'd earlier created. Click Next.

 



On the next page, change the Dynamic Web Module version to 2.3 and check the Portlet Facet. Then click Next.

 



Give your portlet a name, a description, define the Java package, select the portlet methods you want to implement, and select the portlet container (Liferay) you will be deploying this project to. Click Finish.

 



Your portlet project will be created. It will have the same standard layout as any Eclipse web project. You can now go in and implement your functionality.

 



When you're ready to debug your portlet, all you need to do is the same thing you'd do for a servlet application in Eclipse: right-click on the project and  select Debug on Server. Your Liferay runtime will be started in debug mode and your project will be automatically built and deployed to it. To debug your portlet, all you need to do is add it to a page.

The Lomboz plugin is a really nice addition to your Eclipse plugin toolset.

New Pic is now up

Company Blogs October 24, 2007 By Richard Sezov Staff

Well, that's better. I've now replaced the picture. It seemed appropriate: I took a vacation day during my last week with my old employer in order to take my daughter to the Adventure Aquarium here in New Jersey. It just so happened that I was wearing my Liferay T-Shirt at the time, in great anticipation of starting my new job.

 

That picture is the result of many attempts on the part of my wife to get a picture of me, my daughter Julia, and a hippopotamus. We failed in our many attempts, but you can see some kind of grayish blob behind us. That's the hippo.

 

 

My Blog is up!

Company Blogs October 24, 2007 By Richard Sezov Staff

Wow, horror of horrors, I got my blog page up!

 

I'm a fairly new Liferay employee, and it looks like the first thing I need to do is replace my image. Currently, it's the mug shot my old employer took for my ID card. :-) 

 

Well, this first entry is just a test anyway. Testing....1..2..3..testing!

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