A suggestion for the next version

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stefpen gmail

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Feb 14, 2021, 10:11:50 AMFeb 14
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I'm fascinated by the Hot Potatoes project and would like to make a suggestion for the next version.
I find it comfortable the way Brackets and Notepad++ handle the folders. Both applications (and my others) offer to open a Working folder and do all the work inside it. The same approach could be used in Hot Potatoes, since we work in one folder at a time to create a number of exercises.

In HotPot suite now each program saves all used folders and offers them by default. Today I wanted to make a new exercise with JMatch and the program offered folder (a), (which I used last week) to save the exercise, folder (b) to load a config file, folder (c) to save a new config file, and folder (d) to save the .htm file. Browsing to my working folder in a small window takes time.

The same browsing will be necessary when I use another program, say JCloze.

Thank you for your consideration.

Steve


Martin Holmes

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Feb 14, 2021, 1:22:37 PMFeb 14
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Hi there,

I don't think there will be a version 8 of Hot Potatoes. The programs
are written in a very old integrated development environment (Delphi 5)
running on a Windows XP virtual machine); at some point that will stop
working and I won't be able to maintain them any more. Version 7 is an
attempt to bring HotPot up to date with HTML5 so that it will last
another few years, but it's also likely that at some point Microsoft
will make it impossible for you to install unsigned applications under
Windows, so nobody will be able to run Hot Potatoes except on Linux.

I intend to make some more minor updates to HotPot and Quandary
(specifically related to the CGI stuff), and then finish updating
TexToys; after that, I'll do only bugfixes. Stewart is no longer able to
build the Java versions at all, so work on the Java/Mac line ceased over
a decade ago.

If I were rewriting Hot Potatoes now, it would be a single application
that enables you to mix-and-match question types freely, and it would
probably use the HTML5 output as both the exercise and the data file.
But I have no idea what language it would make sense to write the
applications in; it would have to be cross-platform, but I don't believe
there are any development environments / programming languages that
provide the level of cross-platform support required, and at the same
time provide a rich GUI widget (buttons, menus etc.) set and memory-safe
language features. One possibility is JavaScript with Electron, but that
looks a little unstable to me.

In any case, it would take thousands of hours* to write a new version,
and I don't have thousands of hours. Back when we wrote the first
versions of Hot Potatoes, it was part of our day job; our employer, the
University of Victoria, encouraged the work and used the applications,
and we were able to put a substantial amount of regular work hours into
the coding. That is no longer the case; my regular job now is in Digital
Humanities, in particular XML-related technologies, and I don't have any
work time available to work on HotPot, so any work I do is in my spare
time, of which there isn't much.

Cheers,
Martin

* Only about one-third of the work involved in writing something like
Hot Potatoes is coding; the rest of it is documentation, help files,
testing, installer-building, tech support, and all the many other things
that go along with providing software for other people to use. I love
coding, but I don't have much enthusiasm for the other stuff any more;
it's hard to get enthusiastic about writing help files. :-)
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Andrew Balaam

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Feb 14, 2021, 1:37:49 PMFeb 14
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Steve,

I get around this problem of where Hot Potatoes saves things by having one permanent folder that I use to create all Hot Potatoes in. Once I have finished working on exercises, I then move them into the relevant folder for storage and building into my website..  If I need to edit files, I move them back to the working folder.  

I have found this to be a really good way of working.

Yours

Andrew

stefpen gmail

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Feb 14, 2021, 11:02:52 PMFeb 14
to hotpotatoesusers
Andrew Balaam:
Thank you for the suggestion, Andrew. I'll try to implement your way in my environment.


@ Mr. Martin Holmes:

1.I expected there will be no more versions. If my suggestion for a working folder takes a long time to program, then we'll continue with what we have. But since you have the source programs this change can be version 7.0.1 if it doesn't require big changes and a long time in programming. If I use a working folder I can copy inside all "templates" or .cfg files which the programs will use by default. For the time being I'll implement Andrew's workaround.

2. "Microsoft will make it impossible for you to install unsigned application". I do my best to stick to old versions. And I will never buy a new laptop, as the latest HP I bought declared it will only work with Windows 10 and nothing else. I'm very happy with a second-hand Lenovo T530, which I upgraded with an SSD and more RAM.

3.Quandary is an interesting and useful tool, but, as I see it, it takes a long time in planning the content.

4. The help files and the tutorials accompanying Hot Potatoes suite are extensive and abundant. IMO some are even superfluous for busy teachers, e.g. writing " Documentation for Hot Potatoes Source Files and Placeholders" must have been a tedious job, which I do not know how to use. You see, the bare necessities of a teacher using Hot Potatoes are on a lower level and speedy operation is of utmost importance to me.

Best regards to Andrew and Martin

Steve

Martin Holmes

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Feb 15, 2021, 12:42:14 AMFeb 15
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Hi Steve,

I'm not absolutely sure what your suggestion is regarding files and
folders. I think that if we suddenly change the behaviour of these
programs after more than twenty years, a lot of existing users will
probably be quite confused, so I would like to have a very clear idea of
what you are proposing, and then get opinions from a lot of users to see
if they agree with you.

Can you explain exactly how you think the programs should work with
regard to remembering folder locations? Bear in mind that many people
will keep their data files separate from their HTML output files, and if
they have config files and source files, they may keep them in separate
locations too.

Cheers,
Martin

On 2021-02-14 8:02 p.m., stefpen gmail wrote:
> @ Andrew Balaam:
> Thank you for the suggestion, Andrew. I'll try to implement your way in
> my environment.
>
>
> @ Mr. Martin Holmes:
>
> 1.I expected there will be no more versions. If my suggestion for a
> working folder takes a long time to program, then we'll continue with
> what we have. But since you have the source programs this change can be
> version 7.0.1 if it doesn't require big changes and a long time in
> programming. If I use a working folder I can copy inside all "templates"
> or .cfg files which the programs will use by default. For the time being
> I'll implement Andrew's workaround.
>
> 2. "/Microsoft will make it impossible for you to install unsigned
> application/". I do my best to stick to old versions. And I will never
> https://groups.google.com/d/msgid/hotpotatoesusers/b1b48745-5575-4080-9437-1214b1837737n%40googlegroups.com
> <https://groups.google.com/d/msgid/hotpotatoesusers/b1b48745-5575-4080-9437-1214b1837737n%40googlegroups.com?utm_medium=email&utm_source=footer>.

stefpen gmail

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Feb 15, 2021, 9:43:45 AMFeb 15
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@ Martin

I probably made my suggestion too early in my experience with HotPot, considering other users have years behind with tons of exercises.

My suggestion is as follows:

The idea is 1) to avoid the manual setting of source files and 2) to avoid browsing for saved config files, templates and location for the output htm file.

1) The source files of the addons will be installed in HotPot.exe as plugins in a 'plugins' folder, which contains all source files and the corresponding .hif files. In the beginning I'll establish my working language (English, French, etc.). Demos and data files will be separate in a tutorial folder for each addon.

2) After running, each program of the suite will ask for a working folder and search for a config file inside it. If not found the original config and interface will be loaded and this fact will be displayed ("Using default config and interface"). (Now I have to do it manually.) If I want a change, I'll copy a template or a config file in the working folder and load it. The config file will also contain the name of the last used addon, which will be loaded and shown as before: "Using JMH_210".) I will be able to choose another addon for the current program or use the original source file, selectable from a drop-down menu. After finishing typing in the content, the program will automatically save the current configuration in the working folder, including the used addon, save the data file and the htm file in the same working folder. The filename of the config file will be the same as the data file and the htm file. ("fillin.jcl, fillin.jcl.cfg and fillin.htm") No other file locations will be saved anywhere. In this way Hot Potatoes can function as a completely portable suite from a USB drive; Jmash  and the user will be able to produce the same htm file with the latest configuration.

Example: I start JCloze. The possible interfaces are FIa_501, FIb_502, JCloze7+ and JCdw_201 + the original interface and config. I choose the interface I need from a drop-down menu in JCloze (see the Plugins menu in NPP for example) and its variation. That's all I need to do before typing in the exercise content. There will be one Save button, which saves the current configuration and the data file. F6 or Ctrl-F6 will produce an htm fle in the working folder.
This process is repeated with each new program I use.

Best regards,

Steve

Martin Holmes

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Feb 15, 2021, 12:01:28 PMFeb 15
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Hi there,

Can we get feedback from other users on this proposal?

Please bear in mind that customized source files such as those probided
by Agnès are not part of the Hot Potatoes programs themselves, so Hot
Potatoes itself doesn't know anything about them.

Cheers,
Martin
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stefpen gmail

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Feb 15, 2021, 10:12:40 PMFeb 15
to hotpotatoesusers
Dear Martin,

I've been keeping the Hot Potatoes suite for many years on my disks, probably since you first published it on the web. But so far I've been using other tools for CALT (computer aided language teaching), so I have no idea of the history of its development. I accidentally remembered about it about a month ago, and this is why I signed up for this group.

I look at the suite from a didactic and not from a technological point of view, though I used to work as a programmer before Windows version 1.0. The addons add new ways of presenting the exercises and I find them very useful for language teaching. For example I often use JMatch with JMH_210. Error detection is easily done with FIa_501 (Find it Type 1 v5.0.1). I can see the names of the developers and I appreciate their work, but I have no idea of the things in the kitchen of Hot Potatoes. I suspect the situation with Hot Potatoes is similar to FoxPro after Microsoft abandoned it..

The Masher is a great way to unify the appearance of a set of activities, but it needs to include the addons and improve the interaction with web pages made outside of HotPot programs, mainly the navigation part. Now I'm doing it manually in the htm files.

I consider Hot Potatoes a valuable tool, worth of consolidating with the addons and a bit of updating to minimize manual settings and start typing in content sooner and not bother about the files' locations.It's especially necessary now in times of pandemic, online teaching and for the future with flipped classrooms and hybrid (mixed) teaching. I thing adapting to a changed environment is a way of survival. All living organisms prove it's true.

Regards,
Steve

Martin Holmes

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Feb 15, 2021, 11:54:27 PMFeb 15
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Hi Steve,

I think if you were a programmer before you were a teacher, you'll find
it easy to write shell scripts for Hot Potatoes which should be able to
achieve what you want. There's some info on how to run HotPot from the
command line or from a shell script in the file "undoc.txt" in the Hot
Potatoes program folder. In particular, this should be useful:

<quote>
Using the command-line switch /V7, you can automatically run a Hot
Potato, passing it the name of a file to open, and the name of a
configuration file, an HTML file to export to, the path to source files
you want to use, and the "next exercise" URL, and have the program
create standard version 7 output then close automatically without
showing its screen at all. Here's an example:

c:\HotPotatoes6\JCloze.exe /V7 c:\MyHotPotFiles\gapfill.jcl
c:\MyHotPotFiles\config.cfg c:\MyWebPages\gapfill.htm
c:\HotPotatoes7\source nextexercise.htm /s

This will silently run JCloze, open the file "gapfill.jcl", export it to
create a V7 web page called "gapfill.htm", then exit without even
showing its splash screen (the final /s suppresses the splash screen).

For JMatch and JMix, /V7Drag will create a drag-drop output, and for
JMatch only, /V7Flash will create a flashcard exercise.

You can use this command-line functionality to build batch files which
export whole sets of HotPot files automatically. The configuration file
can be an empty file, if you want to use the configuration which is in
the data file already. Don't forget to add quotes around any paths which
have spaces in them. If your exercise, or your configuration file, have
the Next Exercise button turned off, then the value for the next
exercise URL will be ignored. The Masher is a simpler way to do all
this, though. Note that if you are using the command line in Linux under
Wine, you will have to make sure that all the paths you provide are
constructed according to Wine's view of the file system, and you will
have to add quotation marks around any paths that might contain spaces
(backslashes won't work, because they're a Linux thing, not a Windows
thing, so Wine will not handle them correctly).
</quote>

Hoe this helps,
Martin
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