Jamie Balfour

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Jamie Balfour'sPersonal blog

Meet ClickIt Embed! The almost perfected feature takes advantage of my new LightningJS parser and compiler, codenamed Pietro, to make embedding ClickIt code easy!

It makes it easier to present ClickIt files than using the editor and offers a nice new alternative to presenting HTML. Take a look below:

I've been working even more on ClickIt than I imagined I would be over the last few days. Today's update is a big one (again).

The old system of dragging files onto the Open item on the ribbon has been replaced by a new dialog interface that allows users to browse their computer or use drag and drop. It's much easier to understand and I'm thrilled with it. 

Extending on this feature is the new paste feature which allows copying HTML code and pasting it straight into the editor which will be compiled into HTML blocks, taking advantage of LightningJS.

Another major update that's new is more of a fix. This fix is for code blocks with attributes longer than the width of the code area. Now instead of pushing itself to the following line, the line extends horizontally. It's much more intuitive and as I say it's what I always wanted.

Another major fix was the printing of code feature. Printing has at last been fixed to display code as it is with spaces and so on. 

Since TYPO was introduced and then upgraded to TYPO v2, typing has become a big thing for YASS. The standard library uses types on all built-in functions and all of my own programs are moving to be typed. One of the new features that is coming to ZPE in the near future is forcing typing and disallowing the execution of programs that don't use strong typing. But before that, ZPE is looking to bring union types.

Union types are crucially important for return types on functions which may need to return two separate data types. Rather than using the very abstract mixed type, these functions would use the union type. Assume the following function which returns an integer (the index of the found item) or a Boolean false if the item is not found. Using types with this function currently means specifying a mixed type to allow both integer or Boolean return types:

function linearSearch(string searchTerm, list items) : mixed

This same program could be written with union types as shown below:

function linearSearch(string searchTerm, list items) : integer | boolean

This is a much less abstract and more concrete solution to the problem, forcing the return type to be one or the other. This is the first step in union types, as union types will also come to variable declaration, but this isn't planned to come any time soon.

The next generation of ClickIt is live! ClickIt 3.0 is a huge improvement over previous versions.

With version 3 you can now import existing HTML pages and the new LightningJS parser and compiler will transform it to an AST. ClickIt can then transform this AST into ClickIt blocks, attributes and all. 

There is scope for further improvement which I will be looking to bring over the next few days or so as well.

With this update, ClickIt is back as a major project for me and it now gets a separate page on my website as well as a menu item! 

I am committed to improving ClickIt now that I have spent more time with it recently and I am looking to introduce cloud storage to it, as well as the ability to add project assets. I'm also ironing out issues as they happen for the first time. More HTML elements will continue to be added as I find the time to do so.

One of the features that I most wanted to bring to ZPE this year was inline iteration. This has been one of the top features on my board of features for ZPE. 

Inline incrementation will be the headline feature of the next version of ZPE and will be available from the OmegaY version of ZPE (version 1.11.2+) and it brings an easy way to create ZPELists with very minimal effort. Not only that, it's actually very fast, taking advantage of ZPE's performance in the for...to loops that I spent tireless hours working on.

It's pretty lovely too:

YASS
print(from 0 to 1000 : function($x) { return $x * 2 })

I'm also seeking to improve file transfer performance as well as bring in remote SFTP-like features into the language too.

Since I stopped being a software and web developer working in another company for a living in August 2017 and moved to having my own business doing this and eventually to teaching, I've continued to be actively involved in the industry. 

I have presented a conference on running a small business in the ever changing technology industry, I've regularly been contacted by people in the industry for assistance and have had one or two interviews. I also actively follow jobs on Indeed and S1 Jobs to ensure that I know what's going on.

Anyway, as part of my own development I want to add to my 15 programming languages (not including HTML and CSS in that since they aren't programming languages) that I currently know well and so I have decided to re-pickup Rust. 

Rust is a very popular language in the industry and lots of jobs that I have seen advertised require the candidate to have knowledge of it. I'm going to say this isn't surprising because Rust was beginning to appear quite a lot back in 2017 when I was working in the industry and whilst I could write Rust back then it's one of the languages I haven't spent much time on.

Another is technology is React. Everyone wants React these days. Thankfully, I haven't lost my knowledge in the field of React, but haven't used it as much as I'd have liked. It's an awesome JavaScript library that makes it easy to update content on a page.

Laravel pops up quite a bit along with Symfony 2, which are both frameworks I have used before but would need to look at again before attempting to use them. 

The requirements in the industry have moved quite rapidly since 2017 and will likely continue to do so as languages like Rust and technologies such as React and vue.js continue to gain popularity. This has actually cropped up recently after a discussion with a friend who is considering a new job.

Let's be honest here, Microsoft has been trying to ditch Control Panel since Windows 8 back in 2012, and yet here, all the way in Windows 11, 10 years later, Control Panel still resides in the core of the operating system. It's uses may have slowly begun to disappear, yet still there are so thing you can only do within Control Panel. 

Windows 11 is still a mess with it's settings being spread across the whole system.

For example, to change the mouse double click speed, one must go to Control Panel and then the Mouse setting. There's other weird things in here such as the Work Folders feature, the Sync Centre (which should be a separate app in my opinion), AutoPlay, the Windows Mobility Centre (why does this still even exist?!), Windows Defender Firewall. But the worst of all, is the Programs and Features. Not knowing how to uninstall an app will confuse some people. The Mail feature is another weird one as well as Phone and Modem (that should have been removed from Control Panel a long time ago).

So why do these things still exist? Does Microsoft not care about making the OS perfect anymore?

Goodbye 2022, hello 2023.

Happy New Year 2023! Wishing you all the very best for this new year!

This year has been one of the best years of my life.

January

Let's start with January. January was a pretty bad month for me in terms of work. I got into a big argument with someone at my work that made me decide to hand in my notice, despite loving the place I was working at. I was in a bad place as I was still recovering from COVID from the year before and was struggling to get back into the swing of things. Despite this punch-up, deciding to move on ended up being one of the best decisions I've made (more later).

February

In February this year, I decided to start looking into developing my teaching skills to be more digital. I began to build my slideshow engine in February which is now a key part of my day-to-day teaching. I also began to build my embeddable tools, which are a major part of this. I also began developing an interactive worksheet system that uses HTML, CSS and JavaScript to power it.

March and April

In March I applied for a job in one of the two schools I had always wanted. I knew after the interview that I wouldn't get the job and indeed I was correct. I also sat my driving test for the first time since 2016 (things had at last begun to settle down again and I found the time to do it). Unfortunately, I got one major fault (although, once again, no minors) and failed as a result. This was upsetting news but I decided I would persevere and try it again. Two fails in one week. 

I also could not forget to mention the big change that came to ZPE and that was the inclusion of passing by value and reference. 

May

May was perhaps the best month of the year. First of all, I resat my driving test and passed it at last! A week later, the other school I had always wanted to work at posted a job and so I applied. I went through the interview process but didn't think my interview went too well, but later in the day was offered the job! Both of these were within one week of each other too (it was the reverse of March). 

ZPE also got another big update with strong typing now being available in parameters. This was another huge update. 

In terms of my house, I finally got my garden done.

June and July

In June I went to see my new school and it was exactly as I remembered it. I also met my line manager who is the most awesome guy ever, although I had known that he was a nice guy from when I did volunteer work at the school way back in 2016. Over the next few months, I began to work hard on improving my slideshow engine, creating webpages for my class worksheets and making more digital tools for use in education.

I went to York with my mum for the first time in 11 years and this was quite an enjoyable experience, especially compared with my usual Scottish getaways that I do year upon year (I'm just meaning it was a big change, not that it was better). 

I also turned 31 years old.

August, September and October

I started my new job at my new school at last. My first few weeks were awesome! The saying the grass isn't always greener on the other side applies whenever you are applying for a new job, but in this case, the grass was greener. I'm very happy in my new job. Further, in September I got an award for settling into the school quickly and well. I love where I work.

Once again, this was a big month for ZPE when it was compiled to a native binary for the first time, seeing huge performance gains over the JDK version.

At the end of the first half-term, I knew that I had made the right choice with my new school. 

November and December

Not sure what to say about these two months, but they have been really lovely. The first few weeks of December were pretty tough as I got a cold and bunged up thing that just refused to go away - it lasted a total of four weeks before it cleared up completely. 

I spent a lot of time with my family in December after having several months of not speaking to my dad, and then of course Christmas was a lovely day at my parent's house, despite me originally not planning on going. On the 30th of the month I decided to go and buy a car. At last. I put down the deposit to get my self an MG4 EV. What a nice end to the year.

It was always going to be difficult to simply drop macOS and switch to Windows, but I've managed to barely touch my MacBook. I am typing on it at this precise moment as my EliteBook is currently set up on my desk as my gaming machine and ready for the morning where it will be used, and I still feel there is so much more that I can continue to get from my MacBook Pro.

To be honest, the typing experience on my MacBook isn't much different from my EliteBook and generally, it's just a lovely machine to use still. I don't like the TouchBar on this MacBook and that is something I voiced way back in my original review, so there are no surprises there, the touchpad does feel better, but only just and the laptop feels ever so slightly smaller and lighter. 

My transition isn't as plain cut as my transition from Windows to Mac. I still have an excellent quality MacBook Pro here and it would be a waste to see it just be left and ignored in the corner, but my development of software and websites has completely transitioned to my EliteBook - I'm so surprised at this as the main use for my MacBook was originally as a development machine. The crucial change for me, however, is moving away from a gaming desktop and a business laptop. Jambour's ProBook and EliteBook was the company's main machine for all things related to the company simply because we needed Windows-based laptops for taking to client meetings and for moving around, and my only other actively used PC was my gaming desktop which would not satisfy those requirements. So both my business machine (the ProBook) and my gaming desktop (The Red Revolution) have been replaced with my new EliteBook. The gaming desktop will likely have some parts sold but likely the case and PSU will be kept for the time being. 

As for my MacBook, as I say, it's got years still left in it and will continue to be used as a media machine for listening to music, watching films, and occasionally for things like browsing the web. But it's not longer my daily driver and I love my EliteBook already. Simple things like switching from Command to Ctrl that took me time back in the day have been really easy as I've been a Windows user as well as a Mac user since getting my Mac. Unifying all my computers into one machine has been my dream since I got a Mac. Unfortunately, Apple tried to make that difficult. However, even after this MacBook Pro goes, I will always have a Mac in the form of a Mac Mini. 

In summary, my transition is complete. I'm actually back as a PC user primary for the first time in about 11 years and whilst some may think it's a backward step, I'm quite happy to argue that now a lot of things have changed, particularly the new Linux Sub System and Windows Terminal that make it possible for me to enjoy development on a Windows machine again. 

Also, I'm still a software developer. A lot of my friends might think that I'm slowly fading away from it because I'm a teacher. But just because I'm a teacher, doesn't mean I've ditched my passion for software development or something like that. I continue to use my skills outside of teaching. In fact, ZPE is better, and faster, than ever.
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