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Clilstore software developments

April 4, 2014

kevin Caoimhín Ó Donnaíle,Tools project software developer never stops improving the clilstore   system, making it more user friendly each time. Here is a description of his efforts and results.

If you have a look at unit 1835 via the test server:  http://test.multidict.net/cs/1835

you’ll see that I have been making some good progress with giving Clilstore the ability to store files attached to units, rather than authors having to store them on Dropbox or elsewhere.

Unit 1835 is a test unit, which I created by cloning unit 1657 (a unit created by Jan Hardie in Switzerland, a participant in the POOLS-T project).

The first new thing which you might spot is that unit 1835 has 5 green user defined buttons. The limit used to be 3, and when Gordon and others requested an increase I raised it up to 4. Increasing it further would at the time have made the programs and database tables a lot more complicated. However, I have now completely rewritten and improved the programming behind the buttons and you can now have as many as you like by increasing their number one-by-one. If you already have 4 and edit the unit, it will let you add a 5th. If you have 5 and edit the unit, it will let you add a 6th, and so on. Of course, if you have more buttons you need to keep the text on them shorter or you will run out of screen width.

The next thing to notice is that whereas Jan’s unit 1657 had Hot Potatoes exercises stored in Dropbox, unit 1835 has them stored in Clilstore itself. And even though there are several exercises, the links between them work ok. The files attached to unit 1835 have their own URLs and therefore can be accessed independently of the Clilstore unit:

 

http://test.multidict.net/cs/1835/SMO .jpg

http://test.multidict.net/cs/1835/hp/index.htm

http://test.multidict.net/cs/1835/TestWordFile.docx

 

That means that you can use addresses like this when creating the buttons. Or else you can use shorter versions such as “file:hp/index.htm” (as used behind the scenes by the button “The same exercises”). You can also use these addresses to embed pictures within the units, as I have done with the picture of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.

So the new facility could potentially provide great benefits and simplifications. There are two problems, though. One is that I have not yet provided any mechanism for authors to upload files such as this to Clilstore! So the facility is not yet available for use. The files in the test unit I uploaded by hand into the database. However, it should not be too difficult to provide some kind of upload facility for authors. Then we need facilities for authors to rename and delete the files which they upload, and to warn them that if they delete a unit they will delete the files associated with it too. I’ll see how much of this I can get done before I leave on Friday morning for Yorkshire and then Belfast. However, I thought it was worth letting the TOOLS team know about the work so far in case there are any comments or ideas.

The other big problem I can see is potential abuse. Up til now we have only stored the text of Clilstore units, with Javascript banned in them. Now we are about to allow authors to store practically anything, which gets us into a whole new territory. They could store files with JavaScript which could attempt to exploit weakness in the computer. They could store Windows .exe files which if executed would attempt to install a Trojan on the user’s computer. If people started using Clilstore to store “nasties”, it would quickly spoil our Internet reputation, reduce our Google rankings and maybe even get us blacklisted by browsers. I’ll certainly need to ban storing .exe files, but I don’t know how to ban all potential problems, or even whether much can be done. We can’t ban all JavaScript because Hot Potatoes depends entirely on JavaScript to work. We’ll need to put stronger checks on new authors – such as insisting that they confirm their email address before they are registered. And we’ll need to put a limit on the size of files which can be uploaded. We could discuss things like this in Belfast.

Le deagh dhùrachd, Caoimhín (Skye)

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