Adventures in Redmond: Microsoft, Open Source and Drupal

Microsoft Open SourceA few weeks ago, I received a surprise invite from the Hungarian Microsoft office to an event in Redmond, WA, which turned out to be due to my strong involvement with the Hungarian PHP community, but was also luckily connected to my Drupal 6 work. I was lucky to be able to set aside the required days for the so-called Web Development Technology Summit, which seemed to evolve around PHP people and Microsoft technologies. Interesting mix!

This was my first time in the US, and would be able to tell you fun stories for hours about how one gets a visa quickly, copes without a credit card (but with a debit card), with a phone not working in the US, with a plane coming 6 hours late, with fun border officers who were (really) a pleasure to discuss web development technologies with, without a hotel room booked, without a name card prepared at the event, with extreme stuff billed in the hotel, a plane leaving 24 hours late (overnighting on Northwest's expense) and finally with luggage missing (but received a day late) back home. So it was a very fun experience all around, especially looking how I was able to team up with people spontaneously to solve problems on airports, which helped me out in some cases.

But actually, I was more interested in what Microsoft is up to with inviting some interesting heads from the PHP community, including three well known Drupal developers, as well as Gallery, Facebook, CakePHP, PHP core developers, and so on.

Join the Drupal 6 sprints and get involved in making this release rock solid

A few days ago Károly Négyesi (known to most as chx) announced that he organizes a (virtual) cirtical issue queue cleanup event for the 3rd of November, in which people gathered on the #drupal IRC channel will focus on fixing bugs in the critical issue queue.

webchick, desbeers, dvessel, davidstrauss and myself will spend part or all of November 3 with one goal in mind: empty out the critical issue queue for Drupal 6. In case we reach this goal and we have more time, well, there are a number of noncritical bugs and an even bigger number of patches that need work. Come, join the fun on #drupal on irc.freenode.net [...]

A few hours ago, Raincity Studios also announced that they are organizing a (real life) event for the 31th of October, titled the Disguised Drupalist Debugging Day. The Raincity event involves snacks and lots of help even for people starting to get their feet wet in patch rolling.

At last but not least, people from the Netherlands organize their first DrupalJam event for the 16th of November, which additionally to hosting sessions also includes a translation sprint, which admittedly is not direct code getting into Drupal 6, but nonetheless a very good opportunity for people to test every corner of Drupal 6, while translating them, and at the same time using the localization tools heavily, giving them some boost.

Things seem to line up nicely, and seeing Drupal 6 getting more and more stable by the day is very gratifying. In related news, the Drupal 6 development version is so stable, Angie Byron (known to most as webchick) just started her blog site on this version.

Improve Drupal interface text step by step

Drupal 6 typoOur localization tools and approach help us a lot in making the Drupal interface better, but we did not make use of these great features so far. I hope to involve you in making Drupal 6 even better with two simple ideas, which only require very simple tools, so anyone can contribute.

A few days ago, a simple idea came to me, to export all the Drupal interface texts as one big text file and get people spell check and correct things in it, in the hopes that we can turn the fixes into patches. While there are tools for spell-checking Gettext files (the format we use for translations), admittedly, spell checking a simple text file can be easily done in most office suites, simple command line programs, and the fixes are easy to integrate into Drupal. Thankfully a few guys jumped on the idea, and the first batch of trivial typo fixes are now in Drupal 6, leaving space for debates on spelling and wording of some remaining parts.

The logical next step is to improve the wording of Drupal interface elements. Sometimes a shorter explanation would do better, because it would actually be more welcoming for readers, and at the same time in some places, the existing explanations leave some to be desired. We can much more easily spot these problem areas, when browsing around, so if we would have a tool to "touch up" interface text while browsing around, it would help our work. It turns out that what helps people localize sites, is also a time saver here. See how Localization client is useful for improving the English interface itself:

  • Install Drupal 6 normally, in English.
  • Enable locale module, add your custom English language. Go to Administer - Site configuration - Languages - Add language - Custom language. Add "en-my" with "My English" as native and English name. Provide "en-my" as path prefix. Back on the language listing page, choose this language as your default.
  • Download Localization client for Drupal 6 and enable as usual.
  • Now for every user with proper permission (including user 1), a tool will appear on the bottom of the page. This allows you to modify any text displayed on the page, effectively fixing the interface for yourself.

Of course the fun does not stop in making all these yourself. To save you time and effort when you update your site later and some string might get modified to serve users better, it is best to share results with the community. You can easily export "My English" on the Locale module export page: Administer - Site building - Translate interface - Export. From here, you get a Gettext PO file with all empty translations and the touch up you provided.

Now everything is left before submitting this in the Drupal issue queue, is to focus this file on the actual fixes. Using the command line msgattrib helper enables you to do just that: msgattrib "en-my.po" --translated > "Drupal-fixes.po". Unfortunately this part is not as easy as clicking around (for people without gettext tools on their machines), but let me ensure you if this is the only part stopping you from submitting considerable fixes for Drupal 6, let me know and I'll help you out or get someone to help you.

Of course because all the above is pretty much automatable and could even live on a central server, an enterprising folk could easily go and set up a temporary site for interface touch-up collaboration. At the end, the result of the group effort can be submitted. Although these suggestions will be made into patches at some point, this is again a good way to help out without knowing anything about writing Drupal patches.

Drupal presentations and security releases

Some time ago, Szilveszter Farkas approached me to be one of the presenters of the Free Software Nights meetings, of which the first event happened to be yesterday. I was talking about the Drupal history, the community and business environment. But it also turned out early this week that I am going to help out with the Drupal security releases, which also happened to be yesterday evening (my local time).

Oh say, can you see my eyes? If you can, then my hair's too short.

Today I started to rehearse for my role in our Hair musical performance, which is planned for around May 2008. Although I just had some singing preparation today with our professional music teacher, I am excited already. Being an amateur actor and then an amateur musical singer by hobby for around 20 years now was one of the best things that happened to me in life. Being on stage is so rewarding, and because I am of the easygoing performer type, I get fun roles to play.