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Personal Blog

Long, long ago (maybe some 8 or 9 years ago) I was still a desktop software developer and a totally newbie to web development. I then came across a little something called clearfix. I saw how overly used clearfix was back then - almost every website used an absurd abundance of these little divs with the clearfix class on them.

But what was it and why is it so important that a mammoth number of websites out there featured it and is it still a thing? 

First off I'll answer the latter question first, yes it's still a thing. 

Secondly, clearfix is designed to stop elements with a float property floating over a block element:

In this case, the footer is a block element and the picture of the motherboard is a floating element. Notice how it overlaps the footer.

To fix this, the footer is given the clear: both property.

Clearfix

So then you ask, what is clearfix?

Clearfix is, in a nutshell, a simple fix that stops things flowing without having to add clear: both to the following element. By taking advantage of CSS's pseudoselector :after, we can easily force any floating elements to be followed by an element with the clear property set correctly, we can stop the floating element floating over the element that follows it.

Do we still need it?

The answer to this is actually yes, for the most part. You see, backward compatibility will always be an issue that needs attention but also because the replacement isn't even all that great as of yet. 

Normally, frameworks such as Girder, Bootstrap or Foundation will deal with the annoyingness of clearfix for you by adding it to classes such as the row (in Girder/Bootstrap) for you. So when you create two columns with the float property you wrap them in a row which features clearfix properties and stops the next content flying over the floating columns.

So clearfix is here to stay.

Posted by J B Balfour in Web design
clearfix

ZPE 1.9.x might be over three months away following the version/year release cycle that I developed for it, but nonetheless, it is a good time for me to explain the new code name system. 

After much debating with my brother over this one, I have decided to name them after places in the Scottish Borders. I thought I'd start off with a few version names:

  • 1.9.0 - Kelso
  • 1.9.1 - Selkirk
  • 1.9.2 - Hawick
  • 1.9.3 - Peebles
  • 1.9.4 - Melrose
  • 1.9.5 - St Boswells
  • 1.9.6 - Galashiels
  • 1.9.7 - Chirnside
  • 1.9.8 - Duns
  • 1.9.9 - Lauder

There may be more names in the future but that's all of them for now. 

zpe
codenames

ZPE 1.8.10 is another big improvement with the new security sandbox being improved considerably. It also adds big new features to the ZPEClient and ZPEServer modes that allow SSH-like commands to be executed as well as SFTP-like commands.

I have also added in my own file system management tools to assist in correctly parsing file pathnames such as ../ on Windows systems as well as all other platforms for a consistent file management system.

The new logo has also been added to the GUI and I've improved the debug mode.

Once again, ZPE 1.8.10 is a big update like its predecessors were. It's now available for download from my website in the usual place.

SFTP is an amazing protocol. I've been using it for a good 7 or 8 years now and it's been one of the most useful tools I have ever used.

SFTP features commands like get and put. 

Well ZPE 1.8.7 added the send> command to the ZPEClient which allows sending a file to a ZENServer. Prior to this, I had been ensuring that all data between the client and server is secured using my own encryption system. Well, without hesitation, I knew that this had to come to file transfer too. So now ZPE can send and receive files that are encrypted and decrypted within the client and server. This breakthrough is a compelling reason to use ZPE since it offers a very strong alternative to SFTP. 

Further to this, to make it even more powerful the client now offers the ls (list files locally) command and the rls (remotely list files) commands. 

zpe
secure files

Past versions of ZPE have often contained flawed features such as the LAMP evaluator or minor things like performance glitches. This is often the case with any project. But any project will have flaws in it somewhere. ZPE is no different.

However, the stability of ZPE has got to the point where I believe that most of the flaws and errors that stop it being usable have been ironed out.

Over the last few months, ZPE 1.8.x has been removing old code and has cut down over 10,000 lines of code from both the runtime and compiler to make it more streamlined but also to improve stability. Further to this, features from very early versions have been revisited and revised to ensure much better performance and reliability - writing a programming language, compiler and runtime is quite tricky you know! Most of the issues actually come from the runtime, since I spent a lot of time in 2016 improving the compiler whereas the runtime just got a small bit of TLC.

Another major issue that often occurs is when new compiler features are added that actually could interfere with another feature. Now I spend a lot of time drawing up the ideas so don't get me wrong, I actually do plan. But sometimes it's difficult to see these potential collisions from the offset. For example, the move to the fat arrow syntax for lambda functions caused all sorts of issues until I decided to merge functions with lambda functions (that in itself caused further issues). More recently I discovered after going through the compiler that the generate_parameters function would allow values to be added in a function declaration's parameters: e.g. function foo ($x, 10) { print($x) } because the generate_parameters function was designed for both formal parameters and actual parameters. This has been fixed by separating these into generate_parameters and generate_arguments.

If you are writing programs using ZPE and compiling them, make sure to recompile them with the latest versions as soon as they are available as byte codes are constantly changing and being added. A new feature I'm adding into the runtime is to check which version compiled the program before attempting to run it since old versions may have different byte codes.

Since ZPE 1.8.8 was released as a fix for a bug in ZPE 1.8.7, ZPE 1.8.9 will be released on 05/08/2020.

ZPE is very flexible and powerful now. But there are still things that I've wanted to add since I started developing it. The compiler is very flexible and it's so easy to add new features that whenever one pops into my head I want to implement it. But sometimes a feature itself become complicated or changes the way the system works currently and I try to find a more standard approach to its implementation.

Two features I speak of are named parameters and infinite parameters. 

First, let's look at infinite parameters. Infinite parameters have been on the cards for a long time and actually existed for a short period of time in ZPE 1.5.x but were simply removed due to complications the features brought. In theory, they should be easy to implement because the syntax for them was something like:

$x, $y ..

On the compiler side, this is easy to implement. But on the runtime side, I wasn't sure how to represent it. Should $y be a ZPEList type? ZPEList would make sense so that $y[0] would be the first variable and $y[1] the second and so on and so forth. Infinite parameters are actually supported by internal native methods by default, but not by defined functions or external native methods added by plugins. This is why I feel this is a priority feature.

The other is named arguments. This is something implemented in ZPE 1.3.x for a period then removed before release. It's coming soon to ZPE (probably late this year) and it's one of my favourite up and coming features that will be released this year. 

Named arguments allow arguments to be specified in an out of order manner by specifying the name. This is roughly how it will look:

YASS
function makeperson($name, $age, $favourite_colour)
  print("Your name is " & $name & " you are " & $age & " and your favourite colour is " & $favourite_colour)
end function 
function main($args)
  makeperson (age = 10, name = "Jack", favourite_colour = "Purple") 
end function

Notice that the arguments are out of order and specified by their name. This is the main benefit of this new feature.

I thought I'd share the new logos on my blog. These new logos are concepts I am happy with. 

ZPE (latest) is now also at 24,000 downloads and after running an SQL query for all ZPE versions I got a total of 27,000 downloads!

zpe
logo
vws

My seven-year-old MacBook Pro finally decided enough was enough and has begun shutting down when it feels like it. Whilst I do intend to try and get it repaired, I'm also not making money this month so I'm trying to hang on to the pennies. 

As a result of my penny-pinching, I have converted temporarily to using a Windows-based system. Yuck! Everything about the whole experience of Windows feels sluggish and very poorly put together but as it's my only alternative, I'm stuck with it. For everyday things like the command line, Windows is slowly getting better, but it's not there yet and the Windows Terminal app is great but not perfected. I miss my Dock from macOS and can't stand the alternatives that are available for Windows.  

Generally, Atom and Eclipse are fine, but there are just things that make me unhappy about the feel of Windows. And in comparison to my MacBook Pro I'm so used to, this HP ProBook 640 G4 is like something from the past. 

I am considering a new MacBook Pro at the moment, but I'm unsure which one would best suit me since I liked the size of my 15" MacBook Pro compared with my previous 13" model but then I have to add in dedicated graphics again which is something I never used and simply was there when I needed to warm myself up with a blast from the fans trying to cool it.

But Jamie, what about Linux, you might ask. Well, Linux is fine if you've got hardware that supports it, unfortunately, this machine I'm using is the most comfortable typing experience after my MacBook Pro that I own and I'm afraid this machine is used for stuff for Jambour Digital and is therefore not mine to run Linux on. My Razer Blade Stealth on the other hand has a very comfortable typing experience but cannot run Windows. Therefore I'm stuck with this pile of junk that is Windows for a short while until I decide what I'm going to do with my MacBook Pro (which was working beautifully a few weeks ago).

Good quality products like the MacBook Pro I owned tend to break just like that. They don't tend to show degradation over time and just go when the time is right. This was the case with my Corsair HX850 power supply unit in my desktop PC, it had a 10-year guarantee and it lasted 10 years and 3 days before just popping and giving up. It does however show that the build quality of my seven-year-old MacBook Pro (late 2013) is not as good as my older (late 2011) MacBook Pro that I sold to my brother which is running beautifully after replacing a SATA cable inside it.

Posted by J B Balfour in Life
macos
windows

ZPE 1.8.7 is a broken build, the first in a long time. ZPE 1.8.7 was intending to modularise the software by turning from using duplicated code across Velocity and ZPE into one JAR file that could easily be used by either. Unfortunately, this caused more issues than it fixed. As a result of this, I have simply reverted back to the original code design.

Why was this not noticed?

I will admit that over the last few months my testing has been quite lax and undisciplined. As a result, I simply felt that I didn't need to test this in all platforms (which is stupid since the new modularisation should have meant all platform testing should have been done right away) and as a result only tested on a few devices (by the way, in ZPE 1.8.7 is fully working on JDKs with JavaFX including macOS versions).

ZPE 1.8.8

ZPE 1.8.8 is actually awesome. It now includes its own FTP server within the server mode that means that you can transfer a file to the server from the client. This exciting new feature was going to get more information as it developed but the pressing issue of dealing with 1.8.7's catastrophe meant that I needed to focus on that.

Further to that, ZPE 1.8.8 fixes a long-standing issue of negative exponents and is built straight into the Zenith Parsing Engine itself and is supported by my CSV, JSON and XML parsers too. 

ZPE 1.8.9 will continue to work on the performance improvements ZPE 1.8.8 has laid out as well as continuing the development of ZPEKit.

zpe 1.8.8

ZPE has for a long time been able to compile and password protect compiled applications. Now with ZPE comes SecureCode (codenamed Diamond Peak). SecureCode is a built-in part of the ZPE package that secures code using a special algorithm. Code can be decrypted by the engine and then run directly from it. Secure code has been in development for months, only to finally come to fruition now.

This new form of security adds layers of protection to applications that make ZPE even more secure. The built-in decryption engine will be included within the up and coming YASS Executable specification.

In a nutshell, the encryption and decryption algorithms use the password as the initialisation vector but since the password is not stored as plain text and can only be verified by encrypting a users input and comparing it against the encrypted password, there is no way to decrypt the code. Further, the compiler applies the encryption algorithm a number of times to strengthen the security of the file.

YASS
function main(){

 print("Hello world")

}

When compiled, the file would like:

Binary file
^@^Esr^@,jamiebalfour.zpe.core.YASSCompiledExecutable}N^P;<8A>^B^@^GZ^@^LexperimentalJ^@^DtimeL^@^Fauthort^@^RLjava/lang/String;L^@^Pcompiler_versionq^@~^@^AL^@^Dnameq^@~^@^AL^@^Hpasscodeq^@~^@^AL^@^Gprogramt^@^RLjava/lang/Object;xp^@^@^@^@^M^Xbt^@^Njamiebalfour04t^@^G1.8.8.0t^@^@t^@^@sr^@)jamiebalfour.zpe.core.YASSCompiledProgramP^E<9E> ^S<8F>^B^@^C[
^@ functionst^@^][Ljamiebalfour/types/ZPEPair;[^@
structuresq^@~^@ [^@ variablesq^@~^@ xpur^@^][Ljamiebalfour.types.ZPEPair;<82>}%LS^B^@^@xp^@^@^@^Asr^@^Zjamiebalfour.types.ZPEPairu`cӜ^B^@^BL^@^Anq^@~^@^BL^@^Avq^@~^@^Bxpt^@^Dmainsr^@^Zjamiebalfour.zpe.core.FAST^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^A^B^@ B^@^Kreturn_typeB^@^EscopeB^@^DtypeL^@^Mdocumentationq^@~^@^BL^@^Bidq^@~^@^AL^@^Dleftt^@^Ljamiebalfour/zpe/core/FAST;L^@^Fmiddleq^@~^@^QL^@^Dnextq^@~^@^QL^@^Evalueq^@~^@^Bxp^@^@pq^@~^@^Oppsq^@~^@^P^@^@pq^@~^@^Osq^@~^@^P^@^@^Cpt^@^Eprintpppsq^@~^@^P^@^@pq^@~^@^Gpppsq^@~^@^P^@^@^Hpq^@~^@^Gpppt^@^KHello worldppsq^@~^@^P^@^@pq^@~^@^Gpppppuq^@~^@^K^@^@^@^@uq^@~^@
^K^@^@^@^@

But when using SecureCode it looks like:

Binary file
^@^Esr^@,jamiebalfour.zpe.core.YASSCompiledExecutable}N^P;<8A>^B^@^GZ^@^LexperimentalJ^@^DtimeL^@^Fauthort^@^RLjava/lang/String;L^@^Pcompiler_versionq^@~^@^AL^@^Dnameq^@~^@^AL^@^Hpasscodeq^@~^@^AL^@^Gprogramt^@^RLjava/lang/Object;xp^@^@^@^Oryt^@^Njamiebalfour04t^@^G1.8.8.0t^@^@t^@<$2a$10$gKm.f.P6is/VObd9ZtnBreOj5Lu6fIhJ4P7snMp/VJzgdEL4aHUpiur^@^B[B^W^F^HT^B^@^@xp^@^@^Bp<99>^D(<84>E^G^?^?.MTy<8C>1c^LESCD<89>L"$= BB^Y<8C>^K#^T^F^N<85> gs<9E>=F   ESC-/^NԶ7^C|'^]<9F>^EҏwAQc3F<9B>K
<84>^F<91>|'S<9F>^X+^^MY^O^Bډ^GAͿ_^D<9A>&^E<91>U*<98>o"s^Tƭӏܙ-Jt^Y.^V<90>R^E^ZiZY^N<9D>s<8B>Ʋ^U^TRi^?Vi<96>=c^NnɄiz^Xe-dr^$)<9A>*^X <0^V<87>N^?^DfT,n<95>k1-<90>*^L^VESC^_<8E>6^P<9D>u<Ls
^O^Lio^NM<9D>^B <83><9B><83> '<88>^V^W^Q8ESC}m5q<91>Wp~
<98>Q<9B>~<81><8A>Uo%,^V+g}<81><96>+<89>^V<95>^T,4+@qVESC]
^_<8C>˼<90>ђo<U+0083>e
{<91>v<93>w虁^Fn6E^BN ȱW^G^V^@3<8C>q^YMQH<80>.
3Ż<8B>Gc3􃍜B<9A>^MSOO^?P<9A>^R^@<87>^_<83>7q^RIF"<80>g@3zEhp^ m*<80>#,ESCzܘ
͓v<97><8C><82><9B>j^]N<91>b|j+E^N<9C>ʥRA8RTֺ<94>I[C^]<92>-
%<81>^P^H<90>mt K_*a<87><9D><91>Y^Z#PD^]:^L<96><84>'%Yao^SӷQ^U
<84>B]^]ż<8A>c^H8^E^AlNwn9C<81>bnm2<93>=?
Gg

Security and safety have always been paramount within ZPE since the release of version 1.5 with last year's version 1.7.x making the server and client system even more secure using a special public and private key encryption method. ZPE 1.8.x aims to bring further security features to the package in due time. SecureCode is expected later this month.

ZPE SecureCode