This morning I received an invitation from a colleague asking me to pickup some files from DropBox. I wasn’t expecting anything so I wrote a quick email asking whether the invitation was legitimate. It wasn’t and, worse, my colleague’s office computer had been compromised with disastrous results.

The Dropbox phishing scam has been around for a while. Symantec reported it in 2014 and more recently Denise Sullivan wrote about it on Cloudwards. The problem is pernicious and we recommend everyone review the DropBox Help Center article “How can I stay protected from phishing and malware”.dropbox company logo

Bottom line: be careful with incoming email. If you are not a “techie” call your local computer store or company “help desk” for assistance and advice.

Extreme weather with heavy rain across California is effecting many businesses. Mophilly is not exempt. While our critical services are unlikely to be affected, there is a chance that outages will occur.

If you encounter a problem connecting with any of our services over the next few days, please contact the office by telephone, +1 619 296 0114.

Current information is available at reports rain and snow in California

The FCC has proposed new so-called “net neutrality” rules for internet access that may drive the cost of access out of range for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Individuals and many active businesses are able to be competitive due to

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A colleague, Alain Stouder of Smartway, shared a link to an interesting article by Bret Victor, “A Brief Rant On the Future Of Interactive Design“. The article intends to make us think about our tools and what technology might become to better serve our needs. As I read I got to thinking about the work of Edward Tufte and Don Norman. Sure enough, the rant included links to other articles by Bret Victor that references Tufte in an article or two, and I have little doubt that Dr. Norman’s work is represented as well. Here are two more of Mr. Victor’s articles.

Magic Ink – Information Software and the Graphical Interface

Explorable Explanations

As we develop new solutions and extend older systems for mobile computing, questions about what goes where and how to get there loom large like dark foreboding clouds. Information needs to be dense and attractive to be useful. Tablets are clearly superior to small devices like phones but are still very constrained. This begs the question of what goes with a tablet to make it truly useful.

Samuel Beckett's Notebook
Samuel Beckett’s Notebook

There is a real challenge in designing the user experience in a small space. Putting a mobile device on a truck is old hat today. It works precisely because each delivery is neatly contained on single page, even when it is rather long. The format is well suited for the task. This application appears to translate well to other scenarios but as we all know the details are key. One critical threshold will be the amount of data the human needs to complete the task.

For example, software development would be difficult on a tablet. Not only the visual area but the interface. Hand gestures are very cool but can become tiresome. Building a sophisticated application requires a lot of typing. So much that the comparison to the author of literature is still valid. In my own engineering work I use two large monitors and have considered a third, not to mention the white board and paper notes. It is a challenge to conceive of better tools to describe logic for a machine… but there must be a way.

One could argue task decomposition will support smaller interfaces, but the big deal is the density of data and the need  to present trends and summations in context of more detailed data. The needs of an accountant may be more than a device the size of a Steno Pad can support.

Walter Venable noted that it is worth comparing the current Apple mobile device information displays to that of the original Macintosh.

iPad, iPhone and the Mac 128k
iPad, iPhone and the Mac 128k

The first Mac computers featured a one-bit black-and-white, 9 in (23 cm) CRT with a resolution of 512×342 (175k) pixels, displayed at 72 pixels/inch (nominal). Thus it renders 175k x 1 bit = 22kB of display information. The recently-released iPhone 5 has a full color 4 in (10 cm) LCD screen with a resolution of 1,136 × 640 (727k) pixels, displayed at 326 pixels/inch, rendering 21.9k x 24 bit = 2.2MB of display information. The 3rd-generation iPad has a has a full color 9.7 in (24.6 cm) LCD screen with a resolution of 2,048 by 1,536 (3,145k) pixels, displayed at 264 pixels/inch, rendering 3,145k x 24 bit = 9.4MB of display information.

So compared to the original Mac, the iPhone5 has 20% of the screen area, 4x the displayed pixels, and 100x the displayed information. Likewise, the 3rd-generation iPad has slightly more screen area, 20x the displayed pixels, and 400x the displayed information.

Now, you may say, just because you have more pixels and more color depth doesn’t mean you can display more text. There’s a limit to how small you can see and also color depth does not translate into more screen real estate. But this doesn’t mean the power to display information isn’t there, it just means that if you want to show properties of large data sets, you have to be more clever about it than just displaying text.

To get full use of the available information display for text, you can use two-finger zooming to quickly go to a place in the display of interest. But as any Mobile Safari user will know, this technique is much more useful in properly-designed graphical displays rather than a page of text, because it doesn’t zoom in on the sentence around the word in the center of the view field, but rather on the rectangular area of the display that would be represented by cutting a rectangle out of a printout of the screen. How 1980’s! The challenge is how to provide useful information about database contents while avoiding text-based presentations.

There is a PHP error message so common that the web-o-sphere is littered with literally thousands of posts asking what it means. Dozens of WordPress plugins are affected as well as untold numbers of other applications written in PHP. I encountered this error in PHP apps so often that I have avoided PHP with almost a religious fervor. Today I think I understand the problem.

The PHP user base is constantly asking what these error/alert/notices mean. By and large these questions go unanswered. That indicates an unhealthy state of affairs for the end user. I have read many posts in the PHP community that say turning off the error display is an acceptable way to deal with these errors. I disagree.

Suppression of known faults is not a wise development practice. It leads to obscure problems that are hard to diagnose. It is worthwhile to add a little bit of code that does away with the notices while in debug or system configuration mode. Proper operation with error display enabled confirms that the application code is correctly dealing with environment state.

Here is a simple way to handle the condition in a deterministic manner. For the non-technical reader, please accept my apologies for the geek speak. For the technoids, I have tested this here with success. Your mileage may vary so check with your mechanic if something is less than perfect when you try it.

The Setup
WordPress 3.4.1 running on Apache 2 and Centos 5.
Any and all other plugins are deactivated

By the way, deactivating everything except the new plugin, or whatever, is highly recommended for installing any third party components in anything anywhere.

The Problem
Install something new via WordPress “Add new plugin” install feature. When you activate it WordPress reports “The plugin generated XXX characters of unexpected output during activation. If you notice “headers already sent” messages, problems with syndication feeds or other issues, try deactivating or removing this plugin.
Now there is a truly beneficent message. I wish the US Congress came with a warning like that. In WordPress, this means the program code did not load properly.

If the web site has the PHP error display feature enabled you are treated to the ever popular “undefined index” error in the top part of the web page:
Notice: Undefined index: GoThinGee in .../wp-content/plugins/wp-asaet/wp_amazingly_simple_and_easy_thingee.php on line XXX

Take a peek at the line mentioned in the error message; you are likely to find a snippet of code that looks something like this: if($_POST['GoThinGee']). “$_POST” is an array inside an IF statement. In most cases, the array will have stuff in it, including the value named “GoThinGee”. In the case we are looking at today the array is utterly empty and the error is that the index “GoThinGee” is not part of the array.

It only happens when the application is loaded. This can be considered a “threshold” or “initial state” problem.

The Solution
Adding a bit of defensive code to create a known state in the app environment is all that is needed to avoid the “undefined index” condition. This accomplished by assuring that the array $_POST has a set of index names with reasonable values.

In most applications, it is best to use a human readable value such as the string literal “undefined” to initialize the array. However, the application we used for this article has a large body of existing code that assumes a valid array of empty strings. Using a human readable term such as “undefined” would require changing a great deal of the existing code. For this reason, the initialization value is a pair of single quotes.

This extra code must be added prior to any evaluation of the array $_POST.

// August 20, 2012, mophilly; set default values to stop undefined index errors.
$default_string = '';
$_POST['GoThinGee'] = $default_string;

What this bit of PHP code does is add an index named “GoThinGee” if it does not exist. The new index is initialized with the value of $default_string.

I hope this helps someone.

Jacques Zemron will demonstrate the Molu Software Update service to the French Omnis Developers meeting under way today and tomorrow. Molu Software Update is a web service that provides quick and timely updates of applications written in Omnis Studio from TigerLogic. The service enables the applications to add and update code, database and related files, as well as providing the developer with end user access control.

TigerLogic is presenting the newest tools and features of the Omnis Studio 5.2 application development suite to the group. A major feature of this presentation is the new jsClient tools, which allows developers to build new application for all HTML5 capable devices. jsClient opens the mobile world to Omnis-based applications and provides a competitive edge for new and current developers.

Alan has been working hard on upgrading his application to Omnis Studio v5, which is all unicode. Part of this effort is to update the Omnis Data Bridge Administration Tool to support Mac OS X Lion.

You can download the latest by logging onto the issue tracker. Once there, set the Project Selector to the ODB Admin Tool project, and click on Docs.

Add comments and questions to issue 2474. Add new issues for bugs and feature request.

This is a community project. If you use the ODB Admin Tool, please contribute fixes, features and documentation so everyone benefits.

The ODB Admin Tool is a software module for applications based on the Omnis Studio development kit. It provides a tidy user experience for those using the built-in Omnis database technology in a multi-user setting. The project is open source, but development is privately managed.

In the past we asked developers to pay US$300 if they deployed it. Over time it became clear that the requirement wasn’t adding value, so we have dropped that policy. We now encourage developers to find ways to contribute regardless of how you use it. This may be new code, a bug fix or two, documentation improvement, or even a donation of money to offset the server expenses.

Significant contributors include Alan Schmidt of Bottom Line Software, and Michael Mantowski of ClientTrax. Alan drove the initial development, and Michael recently added support for Windows platform.

Omnis developers are welcome to join the project. Please submit a request using our <a href=””>contact us</a> page.

Arizona’s most eclectic book store selected Mophilly to elaborate the company’s unique customer loyalty system, built upon their legendary customer service. We delighted to be invited to work with the great staff there. if you have never been to Bookmans, make time for a visit. You won’t be disappointed.

Alan Schmidt, technical master mind behind Connected Accounting, selected Mophilly Technology as a prime development partner for his company’s mobile initiative. The preview of the first modules received very positive feedback at the MacWorld show in January 2011.

For more information about Connected Accounting, please visit the AccountTek website.