Read the latest blog on our projects and new developments in areas like security, WordPress and Typo3. The team at Prater Raines write how projects have progressed with challenges that have been faced. We like to keep you informed in technology and security updates.

February 21, 2024
by Matt Raines

Pretty prompts in Fish and Vim

Example Vim editor status line and shell prompt, including pretty colours and icons for version control status.

Every time I’ve gone away to a conference recently, and PHP UK 2024 was no exception to the rule, I’ve come home jealous of all the pretty Powerline-style prompts the presenters seem to have on their Macs. It’s always on their Macs.

So I decided this was the time to do something about it and bring the development team the joy of version control integration and pretty status icons in their shell prompts and text editor statuslines.

We use the Fish shell not the more usual Bash so I installed and configured Oh My Fish with the bobthefish theme, and Powerline for the Vim integration. Although after a brief “holy war” discussion on text editors it appears I might be the only one who uses Vim. Here’s how I did it:

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February 19, 2024
by Matt Raines

Address data wants to be free

Graphs of age and ethnicity distribution around the country from census data

I’m delighted that there’s been a twenty year trend in the United Kingdom for free and open access to more and more government data. Information about the public that has been largely collected at taxpayer expense should be made as widely available as possible, in open, machine- and human-readable formats.

So I’m especially proud that it’s a Liberal Democrat peer who is making the latest push for regular publishing of the Postcode Address File, the Royal Mail dataset of every address in the country.

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December 5, 2023
by Gary Fuller

Expanding our Email Your MP API

Postgre Query - Chiffre01, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Since we created our first “Email Your MP” website in 2018, the service has expanded to support multiple organisations but has remained relatively focused on national campaigns. The API behind it has expanded somewhat to include additional MPs, such as those Northern Ireland, but has remained relatively static in terms of scope.

That changed recently thanks to various development requests. Firstly, the Liberal Democrats needed a new version of their postal voting page. Secondly, a new client wished to use additional data, alongside MP contact details, as part of their campaign. The result? Two new API endpoints and changes to our Fleet and WordPress platforms to make use of them.

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Supported versions of Dataloader with "NOT THE WHOLE TRUTH" imposed

Salesforce has a handy tool to insert, update, and delete bulk data from CSV, XML, or JSON files. Salesforce says the tool only works on Windows and MacOS.

This can only be for lack of a QA team because not only is the tool written in platform-independent Java, but the download includes all the code you need to run it on Linux including a secret install script.

Here’s how to get it working in a few easy steps.

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October 17, 2023
by Matt Raines

Government duty to promote Open Source

Podium discussion at T3CON23

As Germany moves away from closed source software to a strategy using TYPO3 for all government websites, I joined Jana Höffner and Nikolai Jaklitsch at this year’s T3CON in Düsseldorf to discuss software in government and how Open Source is the only way to guarantee digital sovereignity, foster local talent and create a digital economy.

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September 12, 2023
by Matt Raines

Looking back to 2014

Windows updating at the very time we try to leave the conference stand

I missed spring conference even though it was in my favourite city, York. But I was a fair bit preoccupied waiting for child #2 to be born. The autumn event was back in Glasgow, so I didn’t have to wait too long for my next my cool northern city hit.

Major developments on our Lib Dem platform included statistics on email send and open rates, better email templating, and automated campaign groups based on area or membership status. Gary did a lot of design work on the sites, with a particular emphasis on making them more mobile-friendly and producing new skins which closely mirrored the rebranded federal party site, and enough other designs to triple the number of choices available to customers.

Oh, we had to move one of the sites behind a content delivery network after they put up a rather controversial petition and triggered a Distributed Denial of Service attack. It was though one of our most successful petitions, outside of Gurkha Justice, garnering 80,000 signatures, so there’s that, I guess.

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September 8, 2023
by Matt Raines

Looking back to 2013

Danny Alexander and Lorely Burt visiting the Prater Raines stand at conference

FIM Capital (then IOMA FIM), the last of the Assanka customers, chose us to take over support of their fully featured investment management system which we continue to develop to this day. We added additional support around busy quarter end dates and a fully featured helpdesk for problem reporting, initially by importing from Assanka’s in-house system into Trac and later a fresh import into hosted Gitlab, which we now use.

With the CIPR we focused on new server hardware and improvements to their members’ only Continuous Professional Development portal, Ladder, including rebuilding the activity search using faceted Elasticsearch, and migrating their proprietary blog aggregator site The Conversation to WordPress.

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September 7, 2023
by Matt Raines

Looking back to 2012

The Prater Raines office decorated for the 2012 Olympic Torch procession

In our tenth year working together we took on a large portfolio of clients from Assanka Ltd, as they went on to become FT Labs, and I’m very grateful they considered us reliable and trustworthy partners. Customers taking us up on our offer of development, hosting and fixed price support included the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, legal firm Stone Rowe Brewer‘s secure and searchable document storage application which remains cutting edge, Hampshire Foot and Ankle clinic, James Cooke Coaching, Merrony Wall, Naked Communications, Racepoint, Staines Prep School, Thameside Collaborative Lawyers & Mediators, Windtronics, and Twickenham Town Centre.

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September 6, 2023
by Matt Raines

Looking back to 2011

Computer Engineer Barbie at the Prater Raines stand

We had to end support for Internet Explorer 6 this year. It had been out of support for nearly 3 years and had 24 known unpatched vulnerabilities. Believe it or not this caused some consternation from customers whose work environments didn’t allow them to upgrade so we provided a direct download of Firefox Portable from the website backend to anyone using IE6. I hope nobody got in trouble with their IT departments.

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September 5, 2023
by Matt Raines

Looking back to 2010

Tim with Nick Clegg in 2010

2010 marked the release of our ground-up rebuild of the Liberal Democrat website platform, this time built on top of Symfony, and this kept us busy most of the year. Folkestone web designer Dane Williams helped us put together a great and varied choice of new designs for the platform including custom designs for several MP clients and we migrated all existing customer content from the old system.

The sites provided custom mobile and accessible views, rich text editing, Facebook and Twitter integration (back when this was possible), in-browser image editing, and graphical reports.

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