Open questions on Plone

A year ago, I was tasked with finding a suitable content management system (CMS) for my organization at work, and I decided upon Plone, which is a nice piece of software. However, if you have trouble, and you don’t have the luxury of paying private contractors for support, you are at the mercy of the mailing lists. Since finding help there has been hit-or-miss for me, I thought I’d start a page here listing problems I’ve had, in hopes that they look familiar to another Plone user out there, and maybe help others.

It’s great to have a free venue for support: users helping users, developers helping users, etc. Mailing lists are an excellent example of this, but when you have a time-critical issue with an application or service for which you’re responsible, it’s not a nice feeling to be snubbed on a list and watch your question go unanswered. This happens a lot in the case of Plone: maybe because I ask a lot of questions, or because I run into problems that others haven’t seen, or my timing is just not good enough to attract the right people.

Plone also offers a live chat support service, which runs on IRC and offers access to lots of key Plone people. Unfortunately, my workplace blocks the IRC port range, so accessing this great help resource isn’t often an option for me.

At any rate, here are some Plone issues I’ve run into. If you have something to add, or you’ve run into a similar problem yourself, please, by all means: take a moment to leave a comment, and let me know whether I can include your name/contact info with your fix or question.

Broken configuration applets

Plone offers add-on modules called Products, which are basically third-party plug-ins that bring additional functionality to the core application, such as blogs, themes, polls, and development tools. While these are great additions to Plone, they can also compound issues by bringing additional layers of complexity to the base installation. In addition, since they are, by and large, also open-source and often created by a much smaller development team than Plone itself (sometimes it’s just a single person), support for Products is usually quite sparse, and often non-existent. So, a word of advice: install Products when you need them, but use discretion and add them only when you need them.

That said, sometimes removing a Product (by uninstalling it from Plone and deleting its folder in the file system) doesn’t do what you’d expect: stuff from the uninstalled Product can get left behind on your site. As an example: I had installed a Product called Plone Tabs (qPloneTabs) in Plone 2.5.1 to help manage navigation tab content. When I upgraded to 2.5.3, the product broke and no longer worked, and its maintainers chose to discontinue development and support. I uninstalled the product, but it left behind a Configuration applet entry “Plone Tabs,” which points to an object (prefs_tabs_form) that no longer exists. I’ve looked everywhere, but I can’t find any objects or entries that contain or refer to this path. So, now I have a “dead” configuration applet on my site that I just can’t get rid of.

For more detail on this problem, please see this mailing list thread:
http://www.nabble.com/removing-obsolete-tab-objects-tf4647109s15482.html

Update: I’ve finally figured this one out! These applets are found in the ZMI:

/[site_name]/portal_controlpanel

Select the check boxes next to the offending objects, and at the bottom of the page, click Delete.

Announcements in Plone

Plone doesn’t offer an inherent method for sending out announcements of any kind via email for upcoming events, new or updated pages on a site, etc. I wanted a way for my Plone users to be able to create an announcement, have that information sent out to users of a mailing list, and archive the announcement somewhere on the Plone site for future viewing. Unfortunately, to do this properly means creating a new Product. While this would be great for other Plone users who need similar functionality, as it would be as simple for them as installing a new Product, I just didn’t know how to do it.

For more detail on this problem, please see this mailing list thread:
http://www.nabble.com/new-object-type-for-email-announcements-tf4496143s15482.html

Update: I’m still working on this one.  It seems a new Plone product is in order, and I’m currently stuck about 1/2-way through creating it.

Disparate timezones in XML uploads

This one is a bit more obscure and has to do with creating external XML files and uploading them from outside of Plone into a Plone site. The problem is that uploaded events that span multiple days display their dates in a different timezone (local) than those events that last less than 24 hours (GMT). That can make for confusing, and conflicting, event scheduling.

For more detail on this problem, please see this mailing list thread:
http://www.nabble.com/timezones-in-event-objects-tf4511754s15482.html

Folder creation errors after installing a HotFix

Whenever a folder is created anywhere in a 2.5.3 site, on which a security HotFix has been applied, clicking Save returns the message “Please correct the indicated errors.”, and a red dot appears next to the Title field, regardless of what is placed in the Title field.

I can copy an existing folder, paste it in the same location, and change the name or title with “Rename” in the Content view. But if I do this with Edit, I get the same error as above.

This wouldn’t be terrible, except the folders I’m creating this way all have the same description from the original folder, and I can’t change the description.

For more detail on this problem, please see these mailing list threads:

http://www.nabble.com/errors-on-new-Members-content-tf4838900s6742.html

http://www.nabble.com/can%27t-create-Folder-objects-tf4882555s6742.html

Update: I never got an answer on this one, and I assume that it will never be addressed, as I can confirm this error disappears after upgrading to v3.

Plone 3 upgrade problems

I’m having a heck of a time migrating my 2.5.3 Plone sites to the latest version (3.0.2). This is an ongoing issue, so I will keep working at it and post my results.

The main instruction in the Plone Upgrade Guide says, “To migrate from Plone 2.5 to 3.0, please follow the steps outlined in the General approach to upgrading.”

Is it possible that the “General procedure” is based on a previous Plone version, in which Plone was installed as a directory in /Products/ ? This procedure implies that the migrate process is simply: shut down; replace the existing, relevant Product directories with new ones; restart; and Upgrade/Migrate. I don’t think that’s the case anymore: for instance, porting over the database file isn’t mentioned in the “basic manual procedure” checklist (it’s mentioned in “Performing the migration,” but that’s not a step in the checklist).

The standard 3.0.2 installer for Linux doesn’t permit installing “over” existing installations. And if you “trick” the installer into doing so (comment out the $PLONE_HOME check) in a Zeo installation, the cluster never starts afterward. Perhaps this should be explained somewhere, or discouraged explicitly, since “Performing the migration” in the general section seems to list this as the first of two available options for migrating (“Migrating your site content, products and customizations in-place”).

For now, please see this mailing list thread for more detail:
http://www.nabble.com/view-errors-on-upgraded-Plone-3-site-objects-tf4698161s15482.html

Update: I’ve made some headway on migrating a 2.5 site, to 3, and I’ve documented my progress and procedure on Plone.org:

http://plone.org/documentation/manual/upgrade-guide/version/2.5-3.0/updating-2-5-3-to-3-0.3

Updated update: A lot of the problems I had related to upgrading from 2.5x to 3.0x had to do with some bugs in CacheFu, Plone’s excellent caching add-on. Ricardo Newbery gave me some pointers and helped me through the CacheFu-related problems, all of which I have documented here.

Plone 2.5 upgrade problems

As it happened, I also had trouble upgrading earlier, when I had to migrate my sites from Plone 2.5.1. to 2.5.3. It took me some time to figure out, but these issues were caused mainly by some add-on Products that weren’t compatible with the new version of Plone (as mentioned above; be careful with those third-party Products!). Details here:
http://www.nabble.com/trouble-upgrading-to-2.5.3-tf3797648s15482.html


As promised, I’ve kept this information up-to-date and continue to add my progress, and I’ve also opened a new post with additional Plone problems and solutions. Thanks for your interest and feedback.

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6 thoughts on “Open questions on Plone

  1. Hi ifpeople: Thanks. I have not tried S&D, though I’ve heard about it, often good things.

    A few reasons I haven’t tried it: I’m not certain S&D can announce to email list objects that are *not* Plone users (sure, I could create a user for each email list, but I picture things going horribly wrong with inappropriate posts to these “members”); I wanted to rely as little as possible on third-party products that are out of my control; I’m not running in buildout; and my announcements require event-ish objects that can be tracked in a calendar. I have actually gotten quite a bit farther in coding a custom solution, but I am not a Zope programmer and my code seems slightly buggy. I’d be glad for any volunteers to take a look at it. 😉

    That said, I may figure out how to install S&D in a non-buildout environment and see how close it comes to filling my requirements.

  2. Rob and Jon: yep; thanks! I’ve been able to use Mibbit now to connect to #plone and other open-source channels. It works like a charm. 🙂 I’m glad Plone has officially adopted Mibbit as the interface; I could never gain access through the previous method.

    Scott: I hope it will be even greater, if we can get people to recognize other problems and collaborate on solutions, whether it be to keep adding to a blog like this or via some other medium.

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