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Tridion Sites 9.... and beyond!!!

Posted by Dominic Cronin at Oct 09, 2018 06:07 PM |

A month or so ago, Amsterdam was again host to the Tridion Developer Summit. This is a great event for anyone involved with Tridion, and each year it goes from strength to strength. This year, a lot of the focus, understandably, was on the forthcoming release of Tridion Sites 9, which will be part of Tridion DX. We heard speakers from SDL and from the wider community talking on a variety of topics. In one sense, I suppose, the usual mixture, but there's always a certain excitement when a new major release is coming out. (Yes, I know we don't call them major's any more, but still, we're looking at brand new APIs that none of us have used yet: that's a major in my book!)

The talks covered everything from the new user interface, to the combined play with structured content that the DX platform will offer, to new services based on GraphQL (which is probably becoming the "must study" topic). Other speakers covered integrations and extension points and javascript and, well, you name it. If you spoke, and I haven't mentioned your bit, please don't take offence!

It was a great conference, which I thoroughly enjoyed; not least because of the chance to catch up with everyone. But a month later, I just want to share the thing that really blew me away and stuck with me. The new product release isn't finished just yet, but the scope is more or less fixed. If a feature isn't already in, then it probably won't be in Tridion sites 9. That said, the guys in R&D are not standing still, and they are already looking forward to the next thing. Which brings me to the buzz moment of this year's summit. I'm not sure if Likhan Siddiquee was even meant to be presenting in the main theatre at that moment, but well... Likhan's an enthusiast. If this guy's got some amazing new tech to show, try and stop him! (Good luck with that!) So he comes in and just kind of tags along after a couple of the other SDL presenters. He's showman enough that it could have all been staged, but he managed to make it seem as though... well... he just had this cool stuff on his laptop and.... did we maybe have five or ten minutes?

So he walks on stage carrying his kid - a babe in arms! Start em young, I suppose. Anyway child-care and work-life balance obviously hold no fears for Likhan. He hands off the baby to his able assistant, and proceeds to unveil the geeky goodies. What did he have? Nothing less than the Tridion kernel running on .NET core! Sure - this was a pre-preview. Hot off the press. No user interface, and only a bare-bones system, but sure enough he got it going from the command prompt with the "dotnet" command and proceded to start hitting service endpoints with a web browser. Wow!

It was a moment in time. You had to be there. I'm sure we'll be waiting a while to see a production version. For sure it won't make it into the 9 release, but who cares? Hey for a lot of people, they won't even notice. Nothing wrong with running Windows Server, is there? Still this will open up lots of possibilities for different kinds of hosting options, and for those of us who like to run a "fifth environment" it's going to be awesome. Everything on linux containers. What's not to like?

Thanks to all those who took part in the Summit. You were all great, but especially thanks Likhan for that inspiring moment!

Preparing HTML data for use in a Tridion Rich Text Format area

Posted by Dominic Cronin at Aug 19, 2018 11:25 AM |

I recently had to create some Tridion components from code via the core service. The incoming data was in the form of HTML, and not XML in the XHTML namespace, which is what is required for a Tridion RTF area. I'd also had to do some preparatory clean-up of the data, and by the time I wanted to fix up the namespaces, I already had the input data in an XLinq XElement

These days, if I'm processing XML in .NET, I'm quite likely to use XLinq. It's taken me a while to get comfortable with some of its idioms. The technique I ended up using is similar to the classic approach we typically adopt in XSLT, starting with an identity transform and making a couple of minor tweaks to the data as it goes through. 

So, mostly by way of a "note to self", here's how it looks in XLinq. All you need to do is pass in your XElement containing your XHTML, and it will rip through all the elements and put them in the XHTML namespace, leaving all the attributes and other nodes untouched. 

public XNode PutHtmlElementsInXhtmlNamespace(XNode input){
XNamespace xhtmlNs = "http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml"; var element = input as XElement; if (element != null) { XName name = xhtmlNs + element.Name.LocalName; return new XElement(name,element.Attributes(), element.Nodes().Select(n => PutHtmlElementsInXhtmlNamespace(n))); }   return input; }

In this way you can easily create data that's suitable for use in an RTF. Piecing the rest of a Content element together with XElement is pretty easy too, or of course, you can use the venerable Fields class for the rest. 

Which device size are you looking at in Bootstrap 3?

Posted by Dominic Cronin at Jul 26, 2018 07:12 PM |

If you work on websites these days, you've probably come across Bootstrap. It's a HTML/CSS/JS framework for producing responsive user interfaces for web sites. One of the things it does for you is manage a grid system in which your page has 12 columns, and you get to decide how many columns each element in your page should occupy. You do this by putting classes on your HTML elements that look something like "col-xs-4", which means "allow this element to occupy 4 columns on an extra small device. In Bootstrap 3, there are four device sizes: Extra small, Small, Medium and Large. If you specify different amounts of columns for the different devices, then as you resize your device (usually in the responsive emulator of your browser), you'll see the various blocks sliding under each other as things get smaller.

When you're doing this, it's quite handy to know which device size Bootstrap thinks it's got at any given moment. I wanted to know this, so after a bit of fiddling, I came up with the following:

<span class="hidden-sm hidden-md hidden-lg">XS</span>
<span class="hidden-xs hidden-md hidden-lg">SM</span>
<span class="hidden-xs hidden-sm hidden-lg">MD</span>
<span class="hidden-xs hidden-sm hidden-md">LG</span>

With this pasted somewhere handy in the footer or header, you can monitor whether the changing shape of your page is in line with your expectations for a given device size. You'll see the letters that refer to the size of device you're looking at. Obviously, it's something you'd want to remove before you actually ship code.

A couple of provisos:

  • This is for Bootstrap 3. Bootstrap 4 is different enough that you might even see it as a different framework. The equivalent technique would be with "display" classes that typically begin with "d-".
  • You might be able to get this a bit tighter. The device sizes are a hierarchy, so maybe some of my classes aren't necessary. I stopped when it worked. Life's too short!
  • Bootstrap is very customisable, so YMMV

Optimizing the Tridion search collection from powershell

Posted by Dominic Cronin at Jun 21, 2018 07:55 PM |

We recently had a case of poor search performance on the Tridion content manager. It turned out that you're supposed to optimize the search collection from time to time. We have scripts that look after repetitive maintenance tasks, but this one had been missed. Search performance had probably degraded slowly over time, but we hadn't noticed until we'd tried to run Sync-TcmSearchIndex. The sync operation pushes everything onto the queue to be re-indexed, so we noticed that the very large amount of items in the queue wasn't getting smaller as fast as we'd expected.

Once you know what to look for, the documented advice from SDL is easy enough to find. It's as simple a task as "accessing a URL". Well obviously, we don't want to be poking around with a browser every time this has to happen, so it's a job for Powershell!

Here's how I got it to work on my research system

$pw = ConvertTo-SecureString -AsPlainText -Force "Tridion1" 
$credential = New-Object System.Management.Automation.PSCredential("tridionsys", $pw)
Invoke-WebRequest -Uri http://sdlweb:8983/tridion/update?optimize=true -Credential $credential

As you can see, my password security is not a huge concern on this system as it only runs in an environment that's private to me. This means I can get away with a script that doesn't do much to secure the password. If you want to create a script that runs unattended and uses a properly safeguarded password, you'll have to do more juggling with ConvertTo-SecureString and its friends, as described in various blogs, such as this one.

Building a DXA module in Java

Posted by Dominic Cronin at Jun 15, 2018 01:37 PM |
Filed under: , ,

I'm currently trying to get a bit of practice in working with DXA 2.0 in Java. Some months ago I did SDL's DXA course, which gets you in the quickest possible way to a working DXA implementation. You have to follow up by filling in the details, and today was the first time I'd tried to create a module by actually following the instructions in the documentation. 

I was looking at the documentation page for Building a Java module with Maven POM, and my first attempt was simply to copy the POM from the documentation. Although it seemed like a good idea at the time, pretty soon I was staring at a  nasty-looking error: 

Project build error: Non-resolvable parent POM for dxa-modules:module-one:[unknown-version]: 
Could not find artifact com.sdl.dxa.modules:dxa-modules:pom:1.2-SNAPSHOT and 
'parent.relativePath' 
points at wrong local POM pom.xml /module-one line 3 Maven pom Loading Problem

When I say it seemed like a good idea at the time, to tell the truth, I'd already had my doubts when I saw SNAPSHOT, and that indeed turned out to be the problem. When using Maven, a snapshot build is one that a developer creates locally; you wouldn't expect a snapshot build to be released to a repository. Statistically speaking, Java developers spend 17.3% of their working hours Googling for the correct versions of external dependencies that they need to get out of various external repositories. That's the great thing about Maven; once you get the versions right, everything works by magic and you can go and have a cup of tea. 

So - like thousands before me, I duly Googled, and ended up on a page that told me I could use version 1.3.0

So I fixed up the POM so that this: 

<parent> 
<groupId>com.sdl.dxa.modules</groupId>
<artifactId>dxa-modules</artifactId>
<version>1.2-SNAPSHOT</version>
</parent>

looked like this: 

<parent> 
<groupId>com.sdl.dxa.modules</groupId>
<artifactId>dxa-modules</artifactId>
<version>1.3.0</version>
</parent>

That's fixed it, so now I can get on with the rest of the job. And sure, this is blindingly obvious if you do a lot of Java, but these little things can slow you down a fair bit. In this case, I'd spent some time obsessing about Maven a while back, so I got there reasonably quickly, but we're not always that lucky! 

Encrypting passwords for Tridion content delivery

Posted by Dominic Cronin at May 10, 2018 05:08 PM |

This is just a quick note to self, because I just spent a few minutes figuring out something fairly trivial and I don't want to forget it.

Previously, to encrypt a password for Tridion content delivery, you would do something like:

java -cp cd_core.jar com.tridion.crypto.Encrypt foobar

It's been a while since I did this, and I hadn't realised that in Web 8.5 it doesn't work any more. They've factored the Crypto class out into a utility jar, so now the equivalent command has become something like:

java -cp cd_core.jar;cd_common_util.jar com.tridion.crypto.Encrypt foobar

Of course, these days the jars also have build numbers in the name, so it's a bit uglier. The point is that you have to have cd_core and cd_common_util on your classpath.

 

Getting started with Insomnia as a Tridion content delivery client

Posted by Dominic Cronin at Dec 17, 2017 08:15 PM |

Today I ran across Insomnia, which is a generic development/test client for RESTful HTTP services much along the same lines as Postman. The latter is pretty well established, but it's a paid product, and Insomnia seems at first sight to be more or less a clone, but open source and free. (That said, Postman is free to most people, and Insomnia has paid-for plugins. Everyone's got to eat, right?)

It will hardly be a surprise to the reader that my interest in this is in the context of Tridion's content delivery APIs. To be honest I haven't really spent much time getting to know Postman, preferring to make use of simple Powershell scripts for purposes such as validating that the services are running and that authentication is working. While there's much to be said for a scripted approach, I've always had niggling doubts that perhaps I'd find my way around the data a bit more easily with a GUI client. Coming across Insomnia today is my opportunity to find out whether this is so.

I started by downloading and installing the Windows version (like Postman, it's also available for Linux and Mac). So far, I've got as far as making a simple query against my content service. To do this, you have to figure your way through the somewhat arcane details of getting an OAuth token. The services on my Tridion research server are not secured in any meaningful way, but OAuth is still "switched on. That is to say, I have the out-of-the-box user accounts configured in my discovery service's cd_ambient_conf.xml along with the out-of-the-box passwords. So obviously, don't do this at home children, but hey - it's my research rig, not a production server. This being the case, I'm not giving much away by sharing the following:

What you can see here is that my Tridion image is running at "sdlweb", so I'm issuing a GET against http://sdlweb:8081/client/v2/content.svc. Insomnia has support for variables, so I imagine you could use one for the hostname if you want to keep your tests generic.

You can also see that I've got the authentication tab open and have selected OAuth2. The first thing you need to do is select Client Credentials for the grant type. With this choice, you only need to fill in the client id and secret. (Obviously these need to match your actual security settings, and of course, you haven't left these at their defaults... right!?) 

The only thing that made me scratch my head for a short moment was that when I tried with just those details, it didn't work, and I got a 400 status back. That's HTTP for "Bad request", so I went into the Advanced settings to see if there was anything I could change to make the server happier about my manners. It turns out that switching Credentials to "In Request Body" is all you need and as you can see, there's a nice green 200 status displaying, and some data from the service.

Well that's enough to get me started. Please do let me know about your experiences with Insomnia. Especially if you're a Postman maven, let me know how the two stack up against each other.

 

Stripping namespace declarations from XML

Posted by Dominic Cronin at Nov 19, 2017 12:30 PM |

I've recently been working on an application that will allow members of our content management teams to search within a chosen folder in Tridion for specific content. You might think that's well enough covered by the built-in search functionality, but we're heading towards a search and replace feature, so we pretty much have to process the content ourselves. In the end users' view of the world, a Rich Text field in a component has... well...  a rich text view, and, for the power-users, a Source tab where you can see the underlying HTML. That's all fine, but once you get to the technical implementation, it's a bit more complicated, and we'll end up replicating some of Tridion's own smoke and mirrors to present a view to the users that's consistent with what they are used to. This means not only that we need to be able to translate from text to HTML, but also from "XML in the XHTML namespace" to HTML. One of the bulding blocks we need to do this is the ability to take XML with namespace declarations, and get rid of them so that the result isn't in a namespace. 

A purist (such as myself) might say that the only correct way to parse XML is with an XML parser, and just in case you've never ended up there, I heartily recommend that you read this answer on Stack Exchange before proceding further. Still - in this case, what I want to do is amenable to RegExes, and yes, I know: now I have two problems. Anyway - FWIW - I started this at the office, thinking I'd just quickly Google for a namespace-stripping regex and I'd be on my way. Suffice it to say that the Internet is rubbish at this. I ended up with a page of links to rubbish regexes that just weren't going to float my boat. So I mailed the problem to myself at home, and today, in the quiet of a Sunday morning, it didn't seem quite so daunting. Actually, I'm still considering whether an XML-parser approach, or an XSLT might not be better, and I may end up there if my needs turn out to be more complex, but for now, here's the namespace stripper. 

static Regex namespaceRegex = new Regex(@"    
xmlns # literal (:[^\s=]+)? # : followed by one or more non-whitespace, non-equals chars \s* # optional whitespace = # literal \s* # optional whitespace (?<quote>['""]) # Either a single or double quote - giving it the name 'quote' for back-reference .+? # Non-greedily match anything \k<quote> # The end-quote to match the one we found earlier ", RegexOptions.Singleline | RegexOptions.IgnoreCase | RegexOptions.IgnorePatternWhitespace);
public static string RemoveNamespacesFromDocument(string xml) { return namespaceRegex.Replace(xml, string.Empty); }

Of course, this is written in C#, and I'm taking advantage of the IgnorePatternWhitespace feature in .NET regexes, which allows for the copious comments that might well be necessary if I ever have to actually read this code instead of just writing it. 

But just in case you are hardcore, and all that named matches and commenting fuss is for wusses, here's the TL;DR...

@"(?is)xmlns(:[^\s=]+)?\s*=\s*(['""]).+?\2"

What's not to like? :-) 

Tridion MVP retreat 2017

Tridion MVP retreat 2017

Posted by Dominic Cronin at Oct 22, 2017 12:06 PM |
Filed under: ,

It's become a regular feature of my year: the Tridion MVP retreat. This year I was fortunate enough to be invited again, and as usual it lived up to my expectations. So let me start by saying thank you to SDL for the invitation and hospitality throughout, and particularly to Carla and her team in Portugal for making it all a reality. Thanks also to the Tridion community: the award is firmly rooted there, and none of us would be there but for the inspiration that comes from helping each other and being helped the whole year through. 

Others have blogged about the technical wonders we produced at the retreat: web frameworks, diagnostic tools, scripting libraries, Tridion extensions and other kinds of voodoo. It always amazes me how much technical goodness comes out of the retreat, and this year was no exception. OK - so often enough, things don't get finished while we're still in Portugal, but they usually get finished. The great thing is getting all these initiatives started. I worked in a team with Jonathan Williams, Rick Pannekoek, and Siawash Sibani, trying to demystify some of the magic underlying the Experience Manager. We tried to figure out what the challenging questions are for implementers, and to get some solid answers for those. (Speaking of demystifying - special thanks to Rick for the extra time he spent helping me to get a much better understanding of DXA.) 

So what's so great about getting to be an MVP and going to the retreat? To be honest, it's hard to put your finger on any one thing. I could mention the great hospitality, and the fact that somehow I managed to put on two and a half kilograms in the four days of the retreat. What can you do? They keep taking you to great restaurants. It's become our tradition that every night, not only do we talk into the wee small hours, but we also make music. I could talk about the cultural visits (like to the catholic shrine at Fatima) or the spectacular wonders of nature (like the boat trip at Nazaré - famous for the highest wave ever surfed). 

Somehow, all of these things are great, and I enjoyed them all to the full, but still none of them are the defining feature of the retreat. Someone once said that if you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room. One thing is certain about the MVP retreat, and that is that you aren't going to be the smartest person in the room. Don't get me wrong, MVPs aren't selected for being smart, but somehow, they manage to be an inspiring group. The funny thing is, that talking to the guys - every single one of us felt that we were privileged to be surrounded by a bunch of people that would challenge us and bring us new insights. OK - maybe we all suffer from the impostor syndrome, but it's also true that each of us brings something different to the party. 

One thing I've noticed at previous retreats, and this time it was no different, is the way that the conversation can run from general chat about the state of the universe, to stupid jokes, to shared experiences from our working lives, and then without dropping a beat, you'll suddenly see bizarrely deep technical discussions break out like wildfire. In this company, all these things have equal value, and that is a special thing. 

For this reason, the image I've chosen to accompany this blog post is not of the surf at Nazare or the castle at Ourém but of a moment late at night, when the subject turned to JavaScript, and I suddenly realised that our resident web guru Frank Taylor had embarked on enlightening a small group about the joys of type coercion in that language. Don't ask me why, but this kind of thing breaks out spontaneously. If it wasn't Javascript it would have been content deployment archtecture or something else. You can't predict what's going to come up. I hope I'm there to see what it will be next time. 

New recipes at Tridion Practice

Posted by Dominic Cronin at Oct 17, 2017 08:01 PM |

It's been a while since we had a new recipe at Tridion Practice. Just to shake things up a bit, two in the same day!

Firstly a quick "throwaway" script, which might help you if you're trying to squeeze too many microservices into too small a memory footprint. 

And if you're in the market for something a bit more substantial, how about some provisioning scripts to help you get your Content Delivery microservices up and running

Don't forget: Tridion Practice is a community site. If you have anything to contribute, please get in touch.