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Mambo 4.5.3 Review

Published on Thursday, 01 December 2005
The latest edition of Mambo, 4.5.3, has finally been released to the public. This version marks a milestone in direction for Mambo as it is the first stable release by the new "Team Mambo" under the auspices of Mambo Foundation Incorporated. I've been putting it through it's paces, seeing what's changed over time, and what might need some work.

To help analyse and test the development of 4.5.3 over time, I'm working off 3 distinct things. The 4.5.3 that was in the CVS before the Foundation issued an ultimatum to the previous core team, the 4.5.3 "Beta" released by the Foundation and the final stable product. The reason I am doing this is that there is significant differences between each step made, from the original roadmap of 4.5.3, through the "Beta", and to the final release.

From a technical perspective, 4.53 has changed significantly from its original intended design six months ago. In the original CVS, the aim was to have patTemplating (pT) implemented to cut down on server overheads and help develop Mambo towards an enterprise standard Push CMS. Within the Beta this wasn't even addressed, meaning the existing bugs inside the CVS cascaded into creating more end user issues that were not resolved by support from the Foundation. 4.5.3 Stable reverts back to the 4.5.2 mentality of an encapsulated PHP file pulling content from the database, perhaps due to the lack of technical expertise in Team Mambo in understanding the initial specifications of the roadmap before the split.

Regarding the usability and aesthetic aspects of 4.5.3, this also has changed significantly over time. The CVS was starting to implement a nodal type management to some specific areas of Mambo, which the Foundation then expanded and integrated into all pages of the Mambo backend in the "Beta", before I pointed out the signficiant usability and design flaws to doing this. This time, they actually listened to the ideas and acted on the ideas I had before banning me again from the forums.

From a pure code perspective, 4.5.3 isn't really a point release. It looks, feels and acts like what Mambo was intended to be, with a few minor changes carried over from 4.5.3 CVS and Beta. The "Basic" and "Advanced" layouts are not really that effective in training people how to use the new version of Mambo either.

On the positive side, the following areas of 4.5.3 were dropped out of the stable product:
  • An Updater package written by Miro, contravening statements that no Miro code would enter Mambo.
  • Nodal displays across every area.

The following aspects of 4.5.3 remain a clear negative:
  • Lack of patTemplating / Push CMS mentality
  • Slated dropping of PHPGACL used to manage users and access
  • Poor accessibility compliance still across each area of the Mambo core. The CVS edition was in process of resolving this.
  • Inability to pull up system testing information (Server settings, PHP info, directory CHMOD settings). The code is there. It just remains unintegrated.
  • The copyright for this release isn't to the Foundation either. It's still to Miro International Pty Ltd. Someone really needs to get their copyright attributions right.

This product seems annoyingly similar to 4.5.2 in all other respects, which tells me it probably isn't worthy of another point release. The included templates, contrary to the Core Developer's statements on the Mambo forums, do contain tables for rendering, which means it's isn't CSS driven:

New default template -- CSS-driven, W3C Compliant, in 1024 x 768 and 800 x 600 versions**

It may be valid, it may even be compliant, but since it uses tables, it's most certainly not CSS driven. The CSS Zen Garden is CSS driven. Mambo, and it's included templates, are not.

Absalom Media is able to develop templates for Mambo 4.5.3 as the architecture still remains almost boilerplate 4.5.2, but I'd recommend that if people want to see what 4.5.3 should have looked like based on the initial roadmap that was slated for it, they head over to Joomla and download the 1.1 release when it goes public.
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