Saturday, January 15, 2011

New Android App: Ja Hoor!

Today I published my first Android App to the Market, Ja Hoor!.

It is a simple app, just a soundboard with sounds of the Ja Hoor! program that was on the Dutch television a couple of years ago.

You can check some of the items here:

If you have any questions about this app, please use the Comments below to ask them :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Use jQuery to create Twitter and Growl-like notifications in CakePHP

This post describes how to create a twitter-like notification bar in a CakePHP application, using the default setFlash() method.

We will go from these messages:

To these messages:

It is only tested on CakePHP 1.3, but I guess it should work on 1.2.x too :)

In CakePHP a controller can send a message to the user via the session, using the command: $this->Session->setFlash('Hello User!'); . One of the options of setFlash() is that you can override the template that it uses to display the message, by passing a second parameter that specifies the element. So if you use $this->Session->setFlash('Hello User!','flash_success'); it will use the template app/views/layouts/flash_success.ctp , and thus you can influence it's behavior.

The downsite to the approach is that you need change every setFlash() command in your application to reflect the change. In my current app that are more then 150 changes, not a nice idea. Another bad thing about it is that the setFlash() message really needs the templates there. If you copy over your controller (or plugin) to another app that doesn't use these templates you will get a 'white page of death' if the template is not found and setFlash calles it.

The default template that is used by CakePHP is hardcoded in the Session controller so there is no way to really override the default without extending the Session helper (or hacking the core files). Both no-goes for me again.

The solution I came up with is quite simple: Just display the message as you would normally, hide it using CSS and let jQuery grab the text and display it in a fancy way.

There are a couple of twitter-like notification plugins out there, I picked the solution mentioned here because of it's simplicity.

(Note, i will use inline CSS and Javascript code to demonstrate it more easily. In a production environment you will want to move the CSS and Javascript code to separate files)

1. Start using a custom layout (default.ctp)

If you don't already use your own default.ctp template start by copying the file cake/libs/view/layouts/default.ctp to app/views/layouts/default.ctp . If you do already use it you can edit your existing template.

2. Download and install jQuery 

This method needs the great jQuery library to do some work, so we need to download it in our app, and mention it in our template so the app will use it.

Download and put it in app/webroot/js/

Now copy the following line into app/views/layouts/default.ctp , in the section, right below the $this->Html->css() line:

        echo $this->Html->script('jquery-1.4.2.min');

CakePHP now will take care of loading the jQuery plugin on your page. This is a good moment to check if it works so far, load up your page in a browser and check the page-source to see if jQuery is linked.

3. Show us some messages

To easily test this behavior just create a file called app/controllers/notify_controller.php and enter the following content:

class NotifyController extends AppController {
    var $uses = null;
    function test() {
        $this->Session->setFlash('This is a Twitter-like notification :D');

When you now visit the url  /notify/test  in your application you will see the default notification message on your screen.

4. Hide the message

Next step is to hide the message, which is done by CSS.

Enter the following code to the <head> section of your app/views/layouts/default.ctp template, just before the </head> tag:

<style type='text/css'>
#flashMessage.message { display: none; }

This will tell your browser to hide all elements with the class 'message' in the element with id #flashMessage .

5. Intercept the message

After we hide the message we will run some Javascript code to get it. Place the following code in the app/views/layouts/default.ctp template , just before the </body> tag :

<script type="text/javascript">
        if(jQuery('#flashMessage..message').length) {
    <style type="text/css">
        #flashMessage.message {
            display: block;

There are actually two snippets here. The one in the <script> tag uses jQuery to wait until the document is finished loading, then fires the if-statement. The if-statement tests if te .message element exists by checking its' length. It the element is found (the test has not returned false) it will alert the content of this element.

The <noscript> part here facilitates the users that are browsing without Javascript, and will unhide the message for them.

If you visit your page now and test a setFlash message, it will show a Javascript alert to display it. Time to make this a little more fancy.

6. Show the pretty notification

To get this notification to work we create Javascript function that shows the message instead of the alert() function, and we will specify some CSS to style the message.

First put the following CSS code in your  < style > tag you used to hide the message in step 3:

    #notify_message {
        overflow: hidden;
        width: 100%;
        text-align: center;
        position: absolute;
        top: 0;
        left: 0;
        background-color: #efefef;
        padding: 8px 0px;
        color: #333;
        opacity: .9;

And put the following function in your < script > tag that you used to intercept the message in step 4:

    function showAlert(msg, timeout){
            var timeout = 3000;
        var $alertdiv = $('<div id="notify_message"/> ');
        $alertdiv.bind('click', function() { $(this).fadeOut(200); });
        setTimeout(function() { $alertdiv.fadeOut(500) }, timeout);

The final bit is to remove the alert message and use the function above, you do this by changing the line:

7. That's it, that's all. 

Now generate a setFlash message and watch the notification bar enter your screen :)

Bonus: if you want the notifications to look more like Growl you can use the following CSS code:

    #notify_message {
        overflow: hidden;
        width: 400px;
        text-align: center;
        position: absolute;
        top: 0;
        right: 0;
        background-color: #222;
        padding: 18px 0px;
        margin: 10px;
        color: #eee;
        opacity: .9;

Quick guide on setting up a CakePHP project (updated for 1.3)

This blog describes installing for CakePHP 1.3. It is an updated version of my previous guide.

1. Create database

First we create a database called cake13. Rename it as needed, but be sure to change it in the examples below.
user@host:~$ mysql -u root -p
Enter password:
Welcome to the MySQL monitor.  Commands end with ; or \g.
Your MySQL connection id is 3890
Server version: 5.1.37-1ubuntu5.4 (Ubuntu)

Type 'help;' or '\h' for help. Type '\c' to clear the buffer.

mysql> create database cake13;
Query OK, 1 row affected (0.00 sec)

-> ON cake13.*
-> TO 'cake13user'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 's3cr3t';
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)

mysql> exit

2. Download CakePHP

Next we download the latest CakePHP from The version used in this example is 1.3.3 and the file cakephp-cakephp-1.3.3-43-gd1028a7.tar.gz is placed in the homedir.

3. Extract download

CakePHP will be installed in the ~/public_html/cake13 directory, which is served using mod_userdir. The directory will be available at the URL http://yourhost/~username/cake13 . Of course it is possible to install it to another location, but be sure to change the locations in the commands below accordingly.
Make sure mod_rewrite is working and that the AllowOverride property for ~/public_html is set to All.
user@host:~$ cd ~/public_html
user@host:~/public_html$ tar xvzf ~/cakephp-cakephp-1.3.3-43-gd1028a7.tar.gz
.  SNAP  .
user@host:~/public_html$ mv cakephp-cakephp-d1028a7/ cake13
user@host:~/public_html$ cd cake13/

4. Configure the database

Rename the default database config.
user@host:~/public_html/cake13$ mv app/config/database.php.default app/config/database.php
Edit the file freshly renamed file and change the values of the database configuration '$default' to match those on your system (you should probably change the values for login, user, password).
user@host:~/public_html/cake13$ vi app/config/database.php

5. Edit the core configuration file

Open the file app/config/core.php and edit the settings of 'Security.salt' and 'Security.cipherSeed'  (I always search for the word 'salt'). Change the strings by entering a new line of random characters, or by changing the existing ones. Note that the value of Security.salt can be alphanumeric, while Security.cipherSeed just uses digits..

user@host:~/public_html/cake13$ vi app/config/core.php

Set Permissions

The tmp dir needs write permissions. Use chmod -R 777 only in development environments. In production environments the owner of the files need to be the user running the webserver.
user@host:~/public_html/cake13$ cd app/
user@host:~/public_html/cake13/app$ chmod -R 777 tmp/
user@host:~/public_html/cake13/app$ cd ..

The CakePHP installation should now ready and available.

Please use the comments if you have any questions or comments :)

Monday, February 8, 2010

CakePHP in Subversion: ignore the tmp dir

Here is the one-liner I use to let Subversion exclude my projects tmp dir, I fetched it somewhere from the net... I thought I'd share it with you :)

svn propset svn:ignore "*" tmp -R

You should run it from your app folder :)

Linking models in a CakePHP plugin

Last weekend I finally found the solution to a problem I was facing for a couple of days. I was trying to add data to a model in my plugin from the main app. The problem was that the data validation of that model did not work in the main app, while it worked from within the plugin.

After looking at this problem and asking on #cakephp on Freenode, the user rich97 eventually figured out what my problem was.

In my plugin I have two models which have a relationship, one for Articles and one for the Comments on that article. The problem was the definition of the relationships. I was refering to the correct className but without a refering to the plugin it is in, like this: 'className'=> 'SystemComment' while I ofcourse should mention the plugin too, like this: 'className'=> 'System.SystemComment' (with System being the name of my plugin).

Below you see the models with the correct className references.

Articles Model
class SystemArticle extends SystemAppModel {
   /* ... */
   var $hasMany = array(
       'SystemComment' => array(
           'className'     => 'System.SystemComment',
           'foreignKey'    => 'article_id',
Comments Model
class SystemComment extends SystemAppModel {
   /* ... */
   var $validate = array(
       'email' => array(
           'rule' => array('email', true),
           'message' => 'Please supply a valid email address.'
       'comment' => array('notempty')

   var $belongsTo = array(
       'SystemArticle' => array(
           'className' => 'System.SystemArticle',
           'foreignKey' => 'article_id'
Thanks rich97! :)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cakestyle: Drop-in replacement for the default CakePHP stylesheet (cake.generic.css)

Cakestyle is a stylesheet that is designed to be used with the default CakePHP configuration.

Just place the updated stylesheet in app/webroot/css/ and off you go.

The stylesheet is found here.

Of course things are made more clear with some screenshots, so here we go:

This is the default CakePHP screen after installation, with this Cakestyle:

Compared to the default layout it looks way better, but i may be biased ;) :

If you have any additions or comments, they are more then welcome!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Javascript Regular Expression to test the last character in string

Today my colleague Martin asked me to look over his shoulder at a small problem he was facing, he was building a Search function in his application but got stuck with certain input.

If the search string ended on a character like ")" or a space (and maybe other non-alphanumeric characters), the search function returned nothing, even though it should have some matches.

We decided that the easiest way to solve this would be to delete all the faulty characters from the end of the string. This had to be done in (Server-side) JavaScript.

I came up with the following function: (and check below for the updated version)

<script type="text/javascript">
function testString(input){
    var regex = /[a-zA-Z0-9]$/;
        var match = input;
    } else {
        var nomatch = input.substring(0,input.length-1);
        var match = testString(nomatch);
    return match;

What it does is the following:

  • We first define our regular expression
  • If this matches our input string, we will just return it
  • If it does not match our input string, we strip the last character off the string, and test it again.

This recursive test will continue as long as the regex is not macthed.

To test this functionality you can run the function like this:

document.write(testString("This is a string that end with some special chars & $ !!! ) "));
Which will output: "This is a string that end with some special chars".

Maybe someone enjoys this code, so I thought I'll share it :)

Update as my other colleague Marcus points out, there is a way more elegant way to implement this, making it so that is does not need to recurse. The updated code is below. Thanks Marcus :)

<script type="text/javascript">
function testString(input){
    while (!input.match(/[a-zA-Z0-9]$/))  {
        input = input.substring(0, input.length-1);
    return input;