Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Flipping website software

Ever since I setup my Gite website (at I've been using IBM's Rational Application Developer (RAD) to edit and maintain the website.

Two reasons for this, one I work for IBM and thus I am able to use our software for free "for personal self-development", and two, it's actually pretty good for what I want to do with it.

One of the main things I like about RAD is that you can create page fragments and templates and automatically embed them into other pages - so each month of the booking calendar is a separate HTML fragment which gets automatically combined together for the main 'availability' page and also embedded within the separate 'this month's calendar' popup page. When I edit the availability diary then both pages are automatically created by RAD from the single booking calendar fragment.

The other big thing I like is the automatic page templates and website navigation tool. I have defined the structure of the pages and our website in RAD and then when we add or edit pages in the site structure they are automatically generated with consistent HTML and all the left hand menu navigation tree (including all the different styles according to whether it is a level 1 or level 2 hierarchy page you are looking at) also gets automatically generated.
This took a bit to get working the first time I did the site but its been working perfectly ever since.

Earlier this year I upgraded my laptop from Windows XP to Windows 7 and had to reinstall RAD onto the new laptop. Unfortunately something went wrong in the process and ever since then the embedded page fragment stuff for the booking calendar hasn't worked properly and I've had to edit the calendar in both places manually, and the templating has been a bit dodgy - some pages pickup the site template and others don't for no readily understandable reason.

But up to now I've been able to work round these little niggles and all has been well in the garden of website Zen ...

Until tonight. Earlier in the week I noticed there was a new upgrade to RAD available (version instead of version fixpack 1 that I'd been using previously).

So I downloaded and installed it.

Bad move.

Today I went to update the booking calendar as we've taken a booking for July, and of course since this was the first time I'd run the new RAD software it took ages to load up and initialise itself.

Ages later it had finished and I went to edit the website calendar. To my pleasant surprise I found that the automatic page generation was back working again properly and editing the calendar HTML fragment caused both the different calendar pages to be automatically created again - just like it used to be last year.

Made the changes, published the changes, and went to check the availability diary looked OK.

It did and it didn't.

The calendar for 2012 looked fine but the navigation menu down the left hand side of the page had disappeared for reasons best known to RAD (well not known to me).

Most pages had the navigation menu appearing fine, but the website home page and the availability calendar didn't have any navigation menu for some reason.

Looked at the HTML, looked at the RAD config, changed the page template to see if that would resolve the issue .. and promptly made the problem much much worse as the navigation menu got eliminated from every single page in the website.

A website without any visual means of navigating from one page to another is somewhat limiting so I really did need to fix this issue !

So its now 10 past 1am in the morning and I have finally finished fixing the website.
Despite all my efforts, fiddling with the page template, changing the navigation sidebar code, reverting back to an earlier site design, copying the structure file to another filename, and lots of other ideas, nothing worked. No navigation menu on any pages at all.

And to tease me further the website sitemap resolutely correctly showed the entire site structure correctly so I know the site structure isn't corrupted in some way, it just doesn't render in the left hand navigator any more.

After lots of attempts to fix the root cause of the problem I did what any IT person would do when its late at night, I bodged it!

Fortunately I had taken a copy of the entire website earlier in the week before I installed the new RAD software so I knew what the HTML for all the pages should be, so I used this backup copy of the website contents to manually edit each and every page in the website and hand-craft the correct navigation menu HTML onto the bottom of each page so the page now displays correctly. RAD is still playing up and isn't automatically generating these navigation structures for me but I've put the correct HTML onto each page myself so the whole site now looks OK.

Of course going through each page of the website, manually editing it, getting the HTML correct, etc is a laborious task and I made a few mistakes on the way, so it took me several hours to do.

Hence the late night.

Anyway, job done now, time for bed. At some stage I will no doubt find what the problem was and will then have to re-edit all the pages again to take the hand-crafted menu structure off once the auto-generated menu structure reappears.
But that is a problem for another day.

As I said, flipping website software. Grrr



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