osCommerce 2.3 to be released imminently

After the announcement a few days ago, I think that we should see the final release in the 2.x cycle of osCommerce.

I’m hopeful that there will be no more editions of osCommerce 2.x and that full attention will now turn to osCom3.0 (the 3 cycle of osCommerce).

Over at github, action has been fast and furious – with recent updates including an implementation of phpass and some “social bookmarking” ideas (digg, facebook etc) amongst others. I fully expect to see a few more code changes in the next few days with a final release announced sometime towards the end of this week.

2.3 or 2.2rc3?
The new 2.3 (I suppose it could also be called 2.2rc3, but that would be too confusing I think) has quite a number of new features compared to 2.2rc2a. One of the niftiest (for design purposes) is the inclusion of template files (header and footer) to allow designers to easily change the look of a website (eg, by removing a column) – no more editing of 30 odd pages!

The death of STS (Simple Template System)
The unique selling point of STS has always been the fact that the “designer” only needed to change 1 page to affect the entire site. Now that the header/footer files are changed, I hope to see the end of STS being used by people who know no better than to add an extra layer of complexity to an already complex setup. Just last week I encountered a site where the “designer” had installed STS simply to center the website!

The way forward
With this final release of the 2.0 cycle, as developers we now need to concentrate on getting osCom3.0 to a useable and stable point. At that time, it needs to be released as a Beta offering to customers – allowing developers and users the chance to work on a release that we all know will not change very much. Let’s stop offering half finished scripts that are buggy and unstable to the general public!

What is holding 3.0 back is the constantly changing ideas introduced, it simply needs it’s foundations made more rigid – which will be good for developers and good for business owners wanting to use osCommerce.

osCommerce Freelancers Forum

I just set up a forum where users of osCommerce and those people who sell osCommerce based services can interact. I don’t know if it’ll take off, but it seems a shame to not have a way to get hold of an osCommerce professional.

Check it out at Get an osCommerce Freelancer. Hopefully it’ll be of use to both Freelancers and General Users alike.

Freelancers

If you are a freelancer who offers any type of osCommerce service, please feel free to add yourself to the “Freelancers List“.

General Users

Feel free to post your project in the “Help Needed” Forum.

Interesting osCommerce Project – firearms

Just quoting on an interesting project to develop a module that allows the shop owner to sell firearms. I am unaware of countries that allow the sale of firearms (other than the US) and I am not from the US so have no real idea how it works, so I’ll try to keep this post fairly generic!

From what I gather, US residents are able to purchase firearms from websites. The website ship the firearm to a dealer. The buyer then goes to the dealer (presumably with his ID and other licenses as required), and picks up the firearm (or gets told to “go away” if the ID etc is not correct). I hope my understanding is just about correct!

So, how to do this in osCommerce?

Please note all of the below points are theoretical, so in practice may prove entirely unsuitable.

1. We need to be able to insert Dealers and link them to multiple zipcodes. An admin section (something like the manufacturers page in admin) would be required. Name, address, zips covered etc etc. This would need two tables; dealers and dealers_to_zipcodes

2. A mechanism to determine whether a product is a firearm or not. This is quite straightforward and I would base the code on part of the HAZMAT module I made for a previous client.

3. In the checkout, a way for the customer to choose the dealer that is local to him – this would be based on a dropdown populated by the dealers that have the customers zipcode as one of their covered “area”.

Note that this would only be needed if the order did in fact contain firearms. If the order was for accessories only, then obviously the customer gets delivery to his home address.

This should then show the dealers details at the checkout_confirmation stage, and should show the chosen dealer on the order summary (for the shop owner to arrange delivery thereof). Also in the order history for the customer – could even have it linked to Google Maps so that the customer can have a print out of the map how to find the dealer – but that is a cherry on the cake and is not part of the core code I am thinking of.

4. If the order is “mixed”, that is both firearms and accessories, then we need to split the order up into those bits being delivered to the customers house and those bits being delivered to the chosen dealer. This could be problematic, I’m still thinking on this. An easier alternative is to simply not allow mixed orders – easy as 123, but could prove difficult for clients to accept.

All in all, it would be a great project to work on. I’ve quoted and will see what happens.

Should osCommerce use a Templating System

Interesting conversation ongoing at the osCommerce forum. Some people for, some against.

On the one hand the beauty of a monster mess of code that is osCommerce means that it is possible to do anything you want with it if your skill level is suitable.

On the other hand separation of logic from presentation is important I suppose.

So, should osCommerce use a templating system? Well, first of all, we need to define templating. When you think of a template, what do you think – I bet you are thinking a new look for your site. The sort of thing sold by “Template Monster”, or the sort of thing that STS (Simple Template System) was designed to be used for. Forget it, this is just simple themage that anyone can do given enough time.

More to the point, when we talk about templating, it is meant that we take osCommerce and recode it to use a framework setup. We then poke and prod that framework to produce results rather than poke and prod osCommerce directly – hopefully this makes sense?

Now, what framework to use? There are many out there;

Smarty, Dwoo, PHPTal and many more. In the osCommerce forum thread, the author is talking about integrating SUIT.

All of these solution are similar. All of them could be used in osCommerce. Is it -really- needed? No, in my opinion. Would I like to see one (or more) of them implemented? Yes! I’d love to change my opinion.

We will see if any of these, or others ever make it into an osCommerce repository.