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.

Sunflower House logo

A Folkestone charity has £10,000 backing for a new digital support project in the town following a grant from the Nominet GiveHub scheme.

Nominet GiveHub is an opportunity for Nominet members to support an organisation of their choice. A fund of £50k each month is available. Applications are reviewed monthly by the GiveHub panel.

The grant application must link to at least one of Nominet’s Public Benefit pillars: Connected, Inclusive and Secure.

Connected: The project is linked to improving digital access to the organisation’s services. The project is supporting people through the provision of devices or connectivity. The project is supporting a digital service the organisation has or is developing.

Digital Inclusion: The project is enabling more people to access the services of the organisation. The project is improving the digital skills within the organisation or the service users.

Secure: The project is working on internet safety or digital resilience for its staff or service users. Or the project is protecting vulnerable users from online harm.

Prater Raines have been Nominet members since 2007. Tim applied to join the panel in 2022 as he has extensive experience of evaluating competing bids and prioritisation through his time as a Councillor and Charity Trustee.

Tim was delighted to nominate the “Digital Seeds” project from Sunflower House for a £10,000 Givehub award (but took no part in considering the application). The application was agreed by Nominet on 28th March. Tim says:

“Sunflower House is an organisation at the centre of so many support projects within Folkestone. From supporting the homeless to those who are lonely, have health or well-being issues, Sunflower House is there for all of them. With Digital Seeds, they plan to build on that and help to empower those they work with to deal with today’s digital world through teaching, equipment, mentoring and support.”

Jon O’Connor, the chair of Trustees at Sunflower House says:

“Sunflower House are really excited to have been awarded this grant to support our Digital Seeds project over the next two years.

“We can’t wait to get working on the arrangements for delivery and to widen opportunities for the whole community to enjoy greater access to digital technology.”

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:

Continue reading…

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.

Continue reading…

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.

Continue reading…

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.

Continue reading…

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.

Continue reading…

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.

Continue reading…

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.

Continue reading…

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.

Continue reading…

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.

Continue reading…