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Welcome To The New Sapphire In Steel Site

What’s new around the site
by Huw Collingbourne
Saturday 13 May 2006.

If you’ve visited the Sapphire In Steel site previously, you may notice that things have changed a bit! Well, quite a lot, actually…

But before I explain what’s been going on, let’s get the important little details out of the way first. We are making good progress on the next version of Steel which will include Ruby debugging integrated with Visual Studio 2005.

GIF - 43.4 kb
Beta 0.6 of Steel

There will be breakpoints and watch points, a locals window, an interactive debug console and tracing with step-into and step-over. However, I don’t want to repeat all the details here as I’ve already written about the new features (with lots of screen shots) over in the old Sapphire/Steel development blog.

Here are two important links:

- Download Steel
- The Old Blog (no longer active. link removed)

Ah yes, the blog. That used to be the first thing you saw when you logged onto this site. Not any longer. It is still there but its days are, I’m sorry to say, numbered. There’s a good reason for this. The old blog runs under WordPress, which is one of the most popular open source blogging systems. It’s not a bad piece of software if all you want to write is a blog (though, for the record, my favourite blogging software is Pivot). If, on the other hand, you want to create a highly structured site with one section about the current state of development of your software, another section about programming in general and yet another one for opinion pieces – not forgetting various pages on using the software, downloading it, installing it and so on – well, WordPress is far from being the ideal tool for the job…

After a great deal of research and testing of various systems for creating and maintaining a complex web site, we eventually decided to use the SPIP CMS. This is an excellent piece of software which is widely used in its native France but is undeservedly little known elsewhere.

First, a terrible admission: SPIP is not written in Ruby. In common with most CMS systems it is coded in PHP. There are some promising Ruby-based CMS systems currently in development such as Typo and Radiant. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll change to using one of those. For the time being, however, that isn’t an option since our web host, Hostgator, doesn’t support Ruby or Rails. When we asked them about this they told us that they had reservations about various features related to FastCGI or SCGI and Rails’ poor integration with Apache. In any case, while it would have given us a nice, rosy glow to be using a Ruby CMS, frankly, I have to say that SPIP is a hard act to follow.

SPIP was developed specifically for the publication of a French language online magazine, UZine. Accordingly it organises everything, in a magazine-like format, with well-defined sections and subsections. To a large extent, this makes keywords redundant. In many Blog/CMS systems, keywords or ’tags’ provide the primary way of grouping articles by theme. So, for example, in our WordPress blog whenever we wrote an article about Ruby programming we added two tags – ’ruby’ and ’programming’. If you wanted to read other articles about ’ruby’ or about ’programming’, you could click the relevant tag and WordPress would go off and find some.

In SPIP, on the other hand, if I write an article about Ruby programming I will put it into the Ruby subsection of the Programming section. This is a bit like grouping articles in subsections (the Football subsection, say) of the main sections (such as the Sports section) in a newspaper. Or, to be more prosaic, it’s like grouping files into directories and subdirectories. SPIP has keywords too, which can be used to add finer levels of categorisation. And if you still can’t find what you are looking for, there is the Search tool.

One of the other benefits of SPIP is that it has built in ‘comment forums’. This means that, if you want to leave a message or a question about a specific article, you can do so by either replying to the article itself or by replying to an earlier reply. The comments are threaded and replies-to-replies are indented for clarity.

For more guidance to getting around this site, see How To Use This Site.

One final word of caution, however: as with Steel itself, this web site is very much in the ‘beta’ stage. We’ve tried to configure it as as well as we can. But even so, it is pretty certain that some things won’t work as expected or that certain features just aren’t quite ‘right’. We’ll try and fix any faults and make improvements over time. So please, stick with us till we get it right…!

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