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Apache Solr vs Elasticsearch: How Are They Different? How Do You Decide? PART 1
Apache Solr vs Elasticsearch, the 2 leading open-source search engines... What are the main differences between these technologies? Which one's faster? And which one's more scalable? How about ease-of-use? Which one should you choose? Which search engine's the perfect fit for your own:   use case specific needs particular expectations?   Obviously, there's no universally applicable answer. Yet, there are certain parameters to use when evaluating these 2 technologies.  And this is precisely what we've come up with: a list of 10 key criteria to evaluate the two search engines by, revealing both their main strengths and most discouraging weakness. So you can compare, weight pros and cons and... draw your own conclusions.   But First, A Few Words About The Two “Contestants” I find it only natural to start any Apache Solr vs Elasticsearch comparison by briefly shading some light on their common origins: Both open source search engine “giants” are built on the Apache Lucene platform. And this is precisely why you're being challenged with a significant number of similar functionalities.   Apache Solr Already a mature and versatile technology, with a broad user community (including some heavy-weighting names: Netflix, Amazon CloudSearch, Instagram), Apache Solr is an open source search platform built on Lucene, a Java library. And no wonder why these internet giants have chosen Solr. Its indexing and searching multiple sites capabilities are completed by a full set of other powerful features, too:   dynamic clustering faceted search  NoSQL features & rich document handling full-text search  real-time indexing   Elasticsearch  It's a (younger) distributed open source (RESTful) search engine built on top of Apache Lucene library. Practically, it emerged as a solution to Solr's limitations in meeting those scalability requirements specific to modern cloud environments. Moreover, it's a:   multitenant-capable distributed full-text ...  search engine, with schema-free JSON documents and HTTP web interfaces, that it “spoils” its users with. And here's how Elasticsearch works: It includes multiple indices that can be easily divided into shards which, furthermore, can (each) have their own “clusters” of replicas. Each Elasticsearch node can have multiple (or just a single one) shards and the search engine is the one “in charge” with passing over operations to the right shards. Now, if I am to highlight some of its power features:   analytical search  multi-tenancy grouping & aggregation  distributed search    1. User and Developer Communities: Truly Open-Source vs Technically Open-Source A contrast that we could define as: “Community over code” philosophy vs Open codebase that anyone can contribute to, but that only “certified” committers can actually apply changes to. And by “certified” I do mean Elasticsearch employees only. So, you get the picture: If it's a fully open-source technology that you're looking for, Apache Solr is the one. Its robust community of contributors and committers, coming from different well-known companies and its large user base make the best proof. It provides a healthy project pipeline, everyone can contribute, so there's no one single company claiming the monopoly over its codebase. One that would decide which changes make it to the code base and which don't. Elasticsearch, on the other hand, is a single commercial entity-backed technology. Its code is right there, open and available to everyone on Github, and anyone can submit pull requests. And yet: it's only Elasticsearch employees who can actually commit new code to Elastic.   2. What Specific Use Cases Do They Address? As you can just guess it yourself: There's a better or worse fit, in any Apache Solr vs Elasticsearch debate, depending exclusively on your use case. So, let's see first what use cases are more appropriate for Apache Solr:   applications relying greatly on text-search functionality complex scenarios with entire ecosystems of apps (microservices) using multiple search indexes, processing a heavy load of search-request operations   And now some (modern) use cases that call for Elasticsearch:   applications relying (besides the standard text-search functionality) on complex search-time aggregations, too open-source log management use cases with many organizations indexing their logs in Elasticsearch in order to make them more searchable use cases depending on high(er) query rates data stores “supercharged” with capabilities for handling analytical type of queries (besides text searching)   … and pretty much any new project that you need to jump right onto, since Elasticsearch is much easier to get started with. You get to set up a cluster in no time.   3. Apache Solr vs Elastic Search: Which One's Best in Terms of Performance? And a performance benchmark must be on top of your list when doing an Apache Solr vs Elasticsearch comparison, right? Well, the truth is that, performance-wise, the two search engines are comparable. And this is mostly because they're both built on Lucene. In short: there are specific use cases where one “scores” a better performance than the other. Now, if you're interested in search speed, in terms of performance, you should know that:   Solr scores best when handling static data (thanks to its capability to use an uninverted reader for sorting and faceting and thanks to its catches, as well) Elasticsearch, being “dynamic by nature”, performs better when used in... dynamic environments, such as log analysis use cases   4. Installation and Configuration Elasticsearch is a clear winner at this test: It's considerably easier to install, suitable even for a newbie, and lighter, too. And yet (for there is a “yet”), this ease of deployment and use can easily turn against it/you. Particularly when the Elasticsearch cluster is not managed well. For instance, if you need to add comments to every single configuration inside the file, then the JSON-based configuration, otherwise a surprisingly simple one, can turn into a problem. In short, what you should keep in mind here is that:   Elastricsearch makes the best option if you're already using JSON if not, then Apach Solr would make a better choice, thanks to its well-documented solrconfig.xml and schema.xml    5. Which One Scales Better? And Elasticsearch wins this Apache Solr vs Elasticsearch test, too. As already mentioned here, it has been developed precisely as an answer to some of Apache Solr well-known scalability shortcomings. It's true, though, that Apache Solr comes with SolrCloud, yet its younger “rival”:   comes with better built-in scalability it's designed, from the ground up, with cloud environments in mind   And so, Elasticsearch can be scaled to accommodate very large clusters considerably easier than Apach Solr. This is what makes it a far better fit for cloud and distributed environments. And this is the END of PART 1. Stay tuned for I have 5 more key aspects “in store” for you, 5 more “criteria” to consider when running an Apache Solr vs Elasticsearch comparison! Still a bit curious: judging by these 5 first key features only, which search engine do you think that suits your project best? ... Read more
RADU SIMILEANU / Mar 16'2018
7 Essential Things to Look for in Your Potential eCommerce Services Provider
Contending with the... paradox of choice? With a handful of tempting options in terms of ecommerce services providers that seem to be fitting your project's needs entirely? And choosing gets frustratingly challenging since they all “tempt” you with:   a visually-arresting design “backed up” by an ideally simple navigation structure a team fluent in SEO, ready to propel your site right on the “highest peaks” of Google rankings an impressive experience in implementing e-commerce-specific features and functionality 24/7 assistance: both pre- and post-launch issues and nasty bugs stand no chance to escape their team's vigilance module, theme, and plugin customization skills to suit your ever-growing needs   … and the list goes on So, how do you decide when all your choices seem to be equally... promising?  What's the proper evaluation system to use on all these “candidates”? How do you narrow down your own checklist of “must-have experience and expertise“ to the essentials? And what are the essential things to look for in a potential e-commerce services provider anyway? Keep on reading...   1. Use This Checklist to Rate Other eCommerce Websites from Their Portfolio Engage in some research work first, starting with the candidate's own portfolio. Look for other ecommerce websites listed there and start evaluating the following aspects/site components:   the overall design: as a first-time visitor on those websites, do you find them visually-appealing enough? navigation: it should be as simple and, therefore, intuitive, as possible; easily navigable inventories here included imagery and particularly product images: are they high-quality? is there any type of interactive chat system integrated, that users can use for dropping their questions? is there a review system implemented; are customer testimonials displayed and visible enough? checkout: the simpler the better; in this respect, the single-step checkouts, with visible “Add to cart” buttons, leading you straight to the payment page, make the surest “bet” is there a status bar informing customers know just how many more steps there are left till they complete the checkout process?   All these are crucial aspects to check off your preliminary checklist, so mind you give them due consideration. Track down all the above-mentioned elements (adding a “minus” to your evaluation list if they miss), then take your time to analyze and to rate them one by one! The completed projects of an ecommerce services company are filled with valuable “hints” in regard to how your own project might end up looking/performing!   2. Does The Platform Suit Your Budget and Back-Office Administration Experience? And you might want to start your conversation precisely with this question: “What ecommerce website development platform would you use for my project?” From WordPress to Magento commerce, to PrestaShop, to OpenCart, to Drupal Commerce, the range of possible answers to this key question is wide enough to get you thinking. ... to get you pondering on whether their platform suits:   your planned budget for this ecommerce project the time you're planning to invest  your team's skills and hands-on experience in back-office management   Do you want your online store to be up and running in no time? Conveniently easy-to-use and overall... simple?  Or is it a big ecommerce website, with a large inventory, incorporating a whole infrastructure of complex ecommerce functionalities, that you have in mind? There's a specific platform to go with for every type of need and goal that you might have. Make sure your potential ecommerce services provider has already built itself a reputation working with that particular platform that best suits you and your project!   3. Put SEO Expertise High on Your List When Choosing Your eCommerce Services Provider Need I add more? The expertise and time invested in building a visually-arresting, ideally easy-to-use website gets reduced to... wasted efforts if they're powered by an effective SEO strategy. Now it's the perfect time to tackle specific SEO goals that your potential partner would have to meet:   putting together SEO-friendly URLs integrating meta tags relevant to each page achieving mobile responsiveness using certain page load time optimization techniques   And the list of SEO-oriented goals and aspects to evaluate at this phase continues with the analytics tools that this ecommerce services company has in its toolbox. In short: look for proofs that this company's proficient in turning key customer-behavior data and valuable stats into... actionable insights for you to leverage.   4. Carefully Consider Their Time Estimate: Do They Leave Any “Room” for Extensive Tests? In other words: “fast” could also mean:   “Let's skip or reduce the pre-launch testing to bare minimum!” It's a trap, don't fall for it! Make sure that the time estimate that they'll give you:   complies with your own release schedule does cover the pre-launch testing period, too   A time needed for them to do their own testing, for your own team to run theirs and, of course, for this partner team to get all the identified bugs and issues fixed.   5. Do They Commit to Crafting High-Converting Copy, too? If so, look for relevant “samples” of copy they've already crafted for past clients. Is their copy:   persuasive enough? clear, concise, yet informative? simple, yet engaging?   Does it efficiently outline/tell those products', those brands' unique features/stories? Then, you might just have a “winner”. Still, there still are 2 more essential aspects to check off your list before you can give your final “verdict”. Keep on reading...   6. Can They Meet Your Current and Future Customization Needs? Maybe a standard turnkey solution doesn't suit your ecommerce project's specific needs. Maybe those plugins need some tuning work to meet your specific requirements.      Or maybe you want that free Drupal 8 ecommerce theme that you like best to be perfectly adjusted to your own needs. Is this ecommerce services company IN for customization, too? Or do they stick to assembling pieces provided by an open-source platform when putting together your ecommerce website? Be skeptical when you're being offered “one size fits all” solutions! When you detect proofs of zero experience or total lack of enthusiasm at the perspective of having to custom-tune those:   ecommerce theme plugins modules   … to your project's particularities and to your own future goals.   7. How About Post Launch Support? What if You “Detect” New Issues Then? Is it a “full-option” type of ecommerce services package that they'll provide you? Will they be there, ready to intervene, if, after your website' launch, you detect any bugs that escaped the pre-launching testing phase? Or if new issues breakthrough? Now it's the perfect time to let them know about all your expectations regarding post-launch assistance.   The END! Time to evaluate some “candidates” now and, with this evaluation system at hand, to choose the ecommerce services provider that makes the perfect fit for your project's needs! ... Read more
Serge Karpyuk / Mar 15'2018
Mobile App Development Services: 9 Key Questions to Ask Your Potential Provider
Price, level of expertise and estimated time! These are the 3 main criteria that any organization planning to have a mobile app built use to evaluate potential mobile app development services providers, right? And yet, the cost of development sure isn't just about the money. Take time factor and commitment, for instance! They, too, get reflected in your bill. A suspiciously short time estimate might be a signal for you that they'll be skipping a crucial step or two from your app's development process. Also, a “large” team might be a numerous team of enthusiastic and hard-working... junior developers only.  So, how do you properly evaluate your potential mobile app development partner? How do you know for sure whether their services and level of expertise are enough to help them deliver you a mobile app that meets your requirements entirely? Gaining in-depth knowledge about their team members and collecting reviews from former clients are just some of the key steps to take during your “investigation”.  And since no other “evaluation method” could beat an open face-to-face talk, here are 9 essential questions to ask your potential provider:   1. "What's Your Specific Workflow?" In other words: how do they usually approach their mobile app projects? What's their work strategy? What key phases does it include (or exclude)? Everyone's “boasting” with their adoption of the agile development these days, right? Make sure you go beyond the standard talk about the agile approach and ask them to name the specific phases included in their process flow.  A good workflow would need to include at least these 5 crucial steps:   preliminary research on the type of app to be built, along with all its particularities and specific functionalities to be implemented (analyzing the target audience here included) a feasibility study the prototyping phase the UI optimization phase the MVP building phase   Do dare raise an eyebrow if your potential “partner in crime” strives to convince you to go straight to MVP. It's an alarming sign that they're not the professionals that you might want to handle your brilliant app idea.   2. "What Technologies Does Your Team Have a Deep Expertise In?" Another crucial question to dare asking your potential app development services provider whether:   you've already started working on your app and you're now just outsourcing some aspects of your project; it's vital that this team should be proficient in that particular technology that you're currently using in your project   you haven't yet started your project and you haven't yet chosen the mobile app development technology(s) that will be powering it either; it's crucial to know then how easily this team of mobile app developers can adapt to a new technology along the way   3. "How Many “X Technology” Developers Are On Your Team? Juniors or Seniors?" Expertise, hard to quantify, but crucial for ensuring that the resulting app will live up to your standards! Therefore, once you've dug through their never-ending list of technologies that they have a hands-on experience of, go deeper with your “investigations”. Identify just how many developers are familiar with your required technology. Are they mostly junior or experienced developers? And, most of all, do dare to ask for some sort of proof of their seniority levels. Some “blind” CVs or even samples of older code would be perfect.   4. "What Would Be Your Time Estimation on My Project?" And time sure is money! Do keep in mind that the average time invested in a mobile app development process is of 4-6 months. Compare the time estimate that this potential mobile app development services provider gives you with this “average time” for developing an... average mobile app. Next, ponder on their estimate a bit:   if they commit themselves to delivering you your app faster than their competition, then you might want to put their offer on top of your list if their shorter development time is counterbalanced by a higher price, don't rush to take them off your list!   A higher price might as well be a proof of the seniority level in their team. As well as of an efficiency-boosting workflow that they may be leveraging within the company.   5. "Does Your Portfolio Include Any App Development Projects Similar to Mine?" And by “similar” I definitely do not mean “identical”. Are they familiar with your industry? Have they implemented the same functionalities in some of their previous app development projects? Such as integrating a particular payment gateway, for instance? Have they been working mostly with start-ups or enterprises?    6. "Any Former Clients' References for Your Mobile App Development Services?" Why should your “research” be any different than that of a potential customer? Someone looking to make a purchase, who usually conducts a multi-leveled research: forums, customer reviews etc. Therefore, one of the key criteria when evaluating your mobile app development services provider is their former clients' references. Dare to ask for such recommendations and read client reviews on research company sites, such as, for instance. They do a wonderful job combining multiple evaluative metrics for identifying the leading companies in various industries (interviewing former clients being their no.1 research technique)  Ask questions about some of their past projects: the challenges they faced, solutions that they've come up with, time invested in those projects etc.   7. "How Much Will My Project Cost? And What Does The Price Tag Cover?" For putting a price tag on is equally important as knowing from the very beginning precisely what services your “bill” would include. Speaking of which, here are some of the fixed aspects that you should make sure that will get included in that price estimate:   research & preliminary consultancy UX prototypes, mockups design mobile app development project management all infrastructure costs guarantee licenses   Also, a key parameter to use when you're “weighting” their cost estimate is the seniority level of the developers that will be assigned to your project.  Since their proven experience and expertise would automatically influence the price. If the given price is suspiciously low, you might want to question those developers' overall level of expertise. Which, in the end, might lead to longer development times. So “cheaper” might turn out to be... more expensive actually.   8. "What Files Will I Be Given Access to During the Project?" Transparency is a strong indicator that this might just be the mobile app development company that you want to partner with. Don't hesitate to ask about the files that you can access during the project. Wanting to know what's going on, at every stage of your future app's development process, is only legitimate. And speaking of the files that you should be entitled to have easy access to, let me mention just a few:   time reports weekly updated staging and production environment source code test environments/demos the project management's dashboard itself (whether it's Jira, Taiga or maybe Trello that they're using)   The more involved you'll be in the process, the quicker you'll detect issues that you dislike or simply specifications that you'd like to create. And the more chances will be for the final product to meet your requirements entirely!   9. "How Do You Communicate With Your Clients Throughout The Projects?" And probably this is precisely the question that you should be starting your “interview” with. Knowing what:   communication tools they'll be using (Slack, Rocket) what project management boards what time you can contact them at, their overall availability and response times the calls' frequency' how often you'll be getting in touch with the team working on your project … is vital. Zero or poor communication and timeliness risks to turn all expertise, efficiency-enhancing workflow, conveniently low price and short development times into... nothing but “details”. What if you want to make some recommendations? Or to inform the team about some late scope changes? What if the team itself needs further clarifications from you? Now it's the perfect time to express your expectations when it comes to this part of your future collaboration: communication. And also, to have your doubts if the potential app development services provider doesn't seem too open to implementing your suggestions. To committing itself to frequent calls and so on.   The END! These are the 9 crucial questions to ask or the 9 things to look for in a new mobile app developers company that you consider collaborating with. Would you have added a few more? If so, what other questions? What is your own criteria when you're evaluating potential development teams in order to assess if they're the right fit for your app project?  ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Mar 10'2018
What Are Some of The Best Free Drupal 7 E-commerce Themes?
Building or “redecorating”? Are you putting together your online store from scratch or refurbishing your current one? No matter which one of these 2 scenarios fits your plan, you must be running your own “investigations” right now: which are the very best free Drupal 7 eCommerce themes out there? Having a “top X” selection at hand would definitely speed up your “research”, right? A top including:   feature-rich themes, “loaded” with all those functionalities crucial for any eCommerce business, such as freedom to style your own product pages, checkout forms, custom cart, “add to cart” button, custom login and logout    Drupal 7 responsive themes themes empowering you with plenty of customization freedom   Well here's the selection of 5 Drupal themes for e-commerce that you should start your "investigations" with.   1. Omega Kickstart Jumpstart your Commerce Kickstart theme development using this base theme as a... strong “push”. A responsive subtheme, a “kickoff” to your whole theme development process on Commerce Kickcstart, Omega Kickstart comes packed with all the crucial features:   it's free it's built with Drupal Commerce in mind its layout is fully adjustable to any screen size (desktop, tablet, smartphone) it's conveniently more user-friendly than the pre-built Omega   Therefore, it makes the perfect impetus for kick-starting your theme development plans!   2. AT Commerce, One of the “Feature-Overloaded” Free Drupal 7 eCommerce Themes  A “full-option” Drupal commerce theme we could say! AT Commerce “spoils” you with out-of-the-box support for the Drupal Commerce module and Ubercart and .... “overwhelms” you with a heavy load of great features. Now to name just a few:   it's equipped with support for a lightweight and nonetheless responsive slideshow pre-built support for a Color module (Garland or Bartik); this enables you to go beyond the 3 default color combinations and, using the color picker at hand, to “color up” your theme to your liking heading styles that you're free to customize built-in Superfish module support  custom login block support for 26 regions a custom and configurable responsive grid layout for the front page and the taxonomy pages (that you're free to disable if you want to) Google fonts  mobile support  multiple image field alignment options   And the list is a never-ending one.  As you can see, AT Commerce is a theme that not only that provides you with a wide range of e-commerce-specific functionalities, but with almost unlimited customization freedom, too. You'll get to put together your site's “signature” web design in no time, with no need to “get your hands dirty” in code. From creating your “trademark” color scheme, to “playing” with all the settings that would impact the overall design and layout, your styling power is significant. A word of caution: do keep in mind that this is a sub-theme; before you get to leverage all the above-mentioned AT Commerce features (plus a few more) on your own website, you'll need to install the latest version of the AdaptiveTheme. It's this theme that will provide the needed core functionality   3. Commerce Theme Here's another one of those free Drupal 7 eCommerce themes geared at helping you get a fully functional and attractive online store up and running in no time! Moreover, the theme behind this theme “tempts” you with a Commerce Installation Profile bringing you, right out-of-the-box, all the needed functionalities to start selling your products. A profile coming with built-in Drupal Commerce support and perfectly organized files enabling you to easily customize any eCommerce component you need to.   4. Storefront As its name suggests:   if it's a clean and “inviting” storefront that you need to implement on your eCommerce site, this is the theme to consider! One that “plays well” with Drupal Commerce and that you can easily style up, further, adjusting it to your customer's future preferences. In short: Storefront is that Drupal commerce theme that will implement a clean and appealing interface to your Commerce Kickstart installation. And now if I am to highlight some of its key features:   responsive techniques via media queries various settings to “play with” for customizing your site framing, home grids, your color schemes, layout... an entire collection of template files essential for eCommerce sites: review pane, cart block, product-node options for cleaning up checkout panes, various form elements (specific to add-to-cart links, product attributes) and check-out layouts   Note: since this theme's compatible, out of the box, with the first version of Commerce Kickstart, the team behind it commits itself to making Storefront “play well” with the second version, as well.   5. Metropolis A versatile (“fitting” all site types) and feature-rich theme “praising” simplicity. This is a concise, yet comprehensive definition of Metropolis, one of the most popular free Drupal 7 eCommerce themes. A more detailed definition would need to include “details” such as:   the fact that it's a tableless theme, with a 1-2 column layouts it provides you with a superfish drop down menu comes “equipped” with 10 collapsible block regions an image slideshow, that you get to customize to your liking via the Views Slideshow heading H1 optimization for boosting your SEO efforts primary and secondary links custom login and logout options   The END! These are the top 5 free Drupal 7 eCommerce themes that you should consider evaluating first. To check whether their built-in collections of eCommerce-specific features suit your own needs and goals or maybe just partially.  ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / Mar 09'2018
OPTASY: One of the Top Developers in New York, According to Clutch
Oops!...We did it again! We've got awarded 4 spots in Clutch's latest research highlighting the top-performing development companies in New York. It's in 4 of the industries included there that OPTASY's got recognized as one of the top developers in New York: Drupal development, PHP development, e-commerce, Shopify and web development. Moreover — as if just being listed there, among all those leading development firms in New York, hadn't been enough — we got ranked #2 as Drupal developers, respectively #3 as PHP developers. And, ranked top 15 in three other industries, as well!    Now with the risk of showing lack of modesty, we have to admit that we had been starting to feel quite “at home” on Clutch's matrices. Those highlighting the leading web development companies in Canada, in various industries. But to be recognized as one of the top developers in New York is simply an... overwhelming surprise! And it's almost an organic process if we come to think of it: it's our clients' encouraging feedback that made us open an office in New York, too (besides the one in Oakville, Canada). And it's their feedback, again, that reassures us now that we've made the best decision. We help our clients grow — powering their own ideas with our expertise and experience —  and, in return, they fuel our own growth plans. As natural as that. And this is precisely why we're particularly honored not just to be recognized as one of the top developers in New York, but to get ranked as a leader by Clutch itself.To get listed as a leader on any of their researches is already an honor for us. This because the Clutch team doesn't apply “just” the conventional evaluative metrics when analyzing the “candidates”. Metrics such as industry experience or market presence.  And it's not just data-driven content that they support their selections and hierarchies on, either. Instead, they actually interview both past and current clients of the given companies in order to identify both their strengths and weaknesses. In other words: First it was our clients that named us one of the top leaders in New York, then the Clutch team came to pinpoint their recognition.  See why we're overly honored whenever we get listed on Clutch? Why we can't thank our clients enough for sparing some of their time to answer Clutch's questions; to put their experience with our team and their opinion on our work into words?  Having our passion for what we do reflected in our clients' feedback is such a confidence-booster for us! And receiving, once again, a Clutch recognition can only confirm to us that: our client-centered approach and commitment to excellence make the best long-term strategy. And that we should stick to it. A big “Thank you!” to all our clients for their recognition and a big “Thank you!” to the CLUTCH team for the dedicated efforts put into each one of their famous researches. ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Mar 07'2018
MuleSoft Alternatives: 7 Other Integration Solutions You Might Want to Consider
Here's where you probably stand now: you need to integrate all your on-premise systems or cloud (or both) applications and to automate them in a perfectly orchestrated infrastructure! And you're asking yourself: “Should I go with Mulesoft's capabilities?” “What if I evaluated other integration solutions, as well?” “What are my other options?” “Which are the Mulesoft alternatives?” Since it's been a while since Mulesoft's Anypoint Platform's been competing with other technologies for users' preference in the enterprise integration software landscape. And competition sure is fierce, and so is your paradox of choice:   each technology comes with its own type of infrastructure  … geared at delivering integration as a service each one's packed with specific capabilities, designed to meet particular integration needs   MuleSoft Anypoint Platform: A Few Words A comprehensive, yet succinct definition would go something like this: MuleSoft provides companies with a next-generation integration platform (Mule ESB & CloudHub) for connecting all their systems (SaaS and enterprise apps) both in the cloud and on-premise. “And how does it work?” “What can you achieve by using it?” You might then ask yourself. Here's my three-version answer to your legitimate questions:   MuleSoft manages and secures the continuous data flow between all the existing systems in your organization it provides your team with self-serve exiting APIs, thus supporting their innovative initiatives it practically unlocks data via APIs, “injecting” it in the indicated external apps and systems from your enterprise infrastructure   Now, if I am to briefly point out some of MuleSoft Anypoint Platform's biggest advantages:   it enables you/your team to deploy your application on cloud with utmost ease it enables your team of developers to easily put together some truly complex orchestration flows: all it takes is some drag & drop on the user-friendly dashboard the containers that it provides and its conveniently simple, user-friendly graphics can only streamline developers' workflow even more it supports interaction with other platforms via web or REST services it complies with all major connection and data representation standards it enables simple and fast APIs exposure    And by far one of the biggest edge that Mulesoft has over its competitors: It's an integration platform that enables different existing apps and systems to connect with each other, acting as a bridge transporting data back and forth between them; and this data flow takes place within your enterprise or across the internet Mule ESB still is one of the most easily (and widely) integrated applications. And now, it would be only fair to point out some of MuleSoft's limitations, as well, right?   it is particularly suitable for complex integration scenarios (since it supports Java code, as well) in short: you'll need to consider having an experienced Mulesoft developer (with some Java background) in your team you might want to be able to interact with MuleSoft support right from the design environment (which is not yet possible) when it comes to dataweave mapping, you'll need to ensure, yourself, that all the fields are mapped, by inserting the right names; you can't rely on some sort of control mechanism to double check that for you instead structuring a process hierarchy is not exactly “piece of cake”, since you'll have to set up flows and sub-flows in the very same XML configuration files   Apigee: One of The Most Popular MuleSoft Alternatives And what makes it such a popular alternative (and implicitly one of MuleSoft's biggest competitors) is the fact that almost all components can be scaled horizontally! But there's more! More reasons why many companies choose Apigee over MuleSoft when looking for the best integration software to “power” their own integration scenarios:   it provides very good documentation (plus a blog), covering all the details of the most “popular” failures and valuable advice on error handling it empowers new users to get started right away, with very little guidance needed: they get to develop a Proxy and APIs right away a conveniently easy to use console   Tibco BusinessWorks Another “rival” that the Anypoint Platform needs to share its worldwide fame with!  Here are some of the strong points that make Tibco BusinessWorks the no.1 choice for plenty of enterprises looking to seamlessly and effectively interconnect all their systems:   it comes “packed” with lots of integration options: you get to test and to troubleshoot the whole process within the designer, you can write (a file activity), then automate a process in just a few hours and to easily deploy it in the Tibco Administrator it's conveniently easy to monitor it handles data manipulation and integration of heterogeneous systems remarkably it makes transforming and analyzing data, as well as managing error cases, ideally quick and simple you get to enable communication between multiple different systems without the need to set up custom APIs short time to market it supports legacy system integration it supports REST services development   JitterBit What is JitterBit's edge over Mulesoft? What convinced me to add it to this list of “MuleSoft alternatives”? It's easy to use! It's a simple way for enterprises to connect all their apps, devices and critical data that they need to get “flowing” for running their business! "Simplicity" and "ease of use" are the 2 keywords to describe this integration solution. And here are some more reasons why JitterBit's on this list:   it's easily customizable it's built to connect a lot of different sources and targets in the “data flow” circuit (SQL  DB, Salesforce, CSV, iSeries, IBM) it enables your team to set up operations (and to apply changes to, when needed) quick and easy, so you can leverage your entire infrastructure within minutes not only that it sync data collected from multiple different systems, but it uses multiple data formats, as well (both for intake and output), which takes the burden of writing custom ETL scrips off your back no steep learning curve   Zapier How can Zapier here, one of the Mulesoft alternatives, meet your integration needs?  It empowers you to automate tasks performed between other online services: Gmail, Salesforce, Basecamp, 249 etc. And here's how Zapier's “arsenal” of features and functionalities looks like; the ones that you get to tap into for connecting and automating all your apps nice and easy:   automated & connect applications automated workflows easy automation developer platform fast build processes    Informatica Cloud Data Integration You sure aren't nickel and dimed in choices when it comes to data integration tools! Informatica Cloud Data Integration is yet another full-featured, complex solution to consider:   it comes with all the capabilities needed for connecting all your on-premise/cloud applications and make them share data no matter what type of apps, since it supports NetSuite integration, Eloqua, Salesforce, Workday, Marketo, SAP, Oracle it enables you to extract data from your ERP systems, to transform it and then to “inject” it into your operational data stores   Oracle Integration Cloud Service As its name “divulges”: it's Oracle's cloud-based integration platform that we're putting into the spotlight here! Similar to the Mule app since it, too, provides a data environment in exchange, Oracle ICS's “job” could be summarized as follows: It provides a user-friendly web-based interface which makes possible for “citizen integrators” to peform basic mapping between the interconnected (cloud) applications. But the 2 key features that turn it into one of the Mulesoft alternatives are: unlike Mule, Oracle provides an enterprise information integration, too (EII) it provides several different adapters, suitable for a wide range of cloud-based business applications Practically, with just a few clicks, you can set up a connection to the Oracle Sales Cloud, SAP, RightNow, Salesforce, Oracle E-Business Suite and the list can go on... And now to mention just a few more of Oracle's strengths:   it's easy to use (and I've just mentioned here its user-friendly web-based UI) it takes just a few clicks to access your integration platform; no need to bring your own servers or software to the table   MuleSoft vs Dell Boomi Not only that it “spoils” its users with an easy to use UI, drag and drop convenience for creating new processes and excellent support, but there's a whole “pile” of other features that make Dell Boomi one of the Mulesoft alternatives:   it provides a multi-purpose PaaS integration cloud  cloud-to-cloud integration B2B integration multiple tenant platform SaaS-to-SaaS integration    Furthermore, if I were to highlight its biggest strengths, I'd pick up 3 main benefits that you can reap from choosing it as your integration solution:   getting a simple integration up and running will only take you about a couple of hours great visual interface that will speed up most of your team's tasks you get out-of-the-box connectors to Taleo, Salesforce, plus many other popular SAAS   But (for there is, indeed, a “but”) there are also 2 discouraging drawbacks that I have to point out to you:   the XML split does cause some irritating issues it's overly “picky” when it comes to the data format and the data type that it accepts   Now, if I am to sum up this “MuleSoft vs Dell Boomi” comparison in just one succinct, yet complete phrase, it would have to be the following: While Dell Boomi's geared at providing you with comprehensive solutions for cloud integration, Mulesoft's “specialized” in API-based integration. This is the key difference between the two integration solutions!   In Conclusion  Determine and evaluate your integration needs first! It all boils down to this... And that way before you jump to weighting each one of these integration technologies' strengths and limitations! For it's only after you've defined your needs that you should start looking for the software capable to meet them. ... Read more
Serge Karpyuk / Mar 05'2018
From Drush Clear Cache to... Rebuilding Cache in Drupal 8: What's the Difference?
The Earth is round, a buttered toast will always fall butter-side down and doing clear cache is every Drupal developer's best practice, these are all globally-accepted truths! And speaking of the latter, when you discover that the familiar Drush clear cache technique is no longer universally unique you wonder: why the change? Why go from clear-cache, to... actually rebuilding cache, starting with Drupal 8? What's the catch? This new way to clear Drupal cache must be stemming from a certain limitation that earlier versions of Drupal presented: Partially completed cache-clearing operations threatening to grow into fatal errors. And now, let's dig into more details on:   clear Drupal cache: why & when the 4 methods for clearing your cache in Drupal Drush clear cache vs rebuilding cache: differences, the initiative behind this change, main benefits to expect    So, shall we proceed?   Clearing Your Drupal Cache: Why Bother? And When? First of all, here's the “motivation” that drives Drupal to create a cache in the first place: Each time a Drupal site has to render a certain web page, it is “forced” to perform specific database queries; and since all these queries have a negative impact on the overall page loading time, Drupal “decides” to store these web pages, once it will have rendered them, in a cache for later (streamlined) reference. OK, now that we've settled this whole “cause and effect” process, let's see why and when you should clear cache on your Drupal site:   when you're troubleshooting problems on your website; clear Drupal cache before you undertake any debugging, since this might just confirm to you that the “alerting issue” was nothing but a bad cache entry whenever you want Drupal to quickly record all the updates that you will have performed via the UI, all the changes you will have applied to your code when you're moving your website to a new host when you're installing a new theme or module on your Drupal site; just another scenario when Drush clear cache should be the very first step to take while you're troubleshooting   In a few words: clearing your cache might just be one of the most frequent actions you'll take while working (or simply maintaining) on a Drupal site.  And in many cases, the one that will “save the day”, without the need to apply other more complex techniques from your “arsenal”.   4 Different Methods to Clear Drupal's Cache  For there are several ways for you to clear your Drupal site's cache. Just go with the one that best suits your work style:   1. The Easy Way: Clear the Drupal Cache From the User Interface  By far the handiest (and some might say “the less-efficient”, too) method to clear Drupal cache is via the UI:   just go to Administration>Configuration>Development>Performance  and hit the “Clear all caches” button   It won't be long till Drupal displays the “Caches cleared” message for you! And that's it! 2. Drush Clear Cache (Drupal 7) or Drush Cache-Rebuild (Drupal 8) And now, the second method in your “arsenal”: the clear Drupal cache command line one! A two-way method, better said, which depends greatly on the version of Drupal on your website: 7 or 8? In this respect, here's the “magic command” to use for clearing your Drupal 7's cache: drush cache-clear all  or drush cc all Whereas in Drupal 8, this is the Drush command for tackling your cache: drush cache-rebuild or, alternatively, these 2 aliased commands: drush rebuild or drush cr And here I'm sure you can already tell which are the specific steps to take for handling your cache in Drupal 8 using Drush (still the most convenient way to do it):   first of all, you open a Terminal window and CD in your Drupal 8 website's root (a step that you can overlook if it's Drush aliases that you're using): next, your run your “magic formula”, your Drush command (“drush cache-rebuild” or “drush cr”) and wait for it to complete its task before going back to your website and finally, you just reload the page you were on, in your web browser   3. Run the /core/rebuild.php file for Clearing Your Drupal 8 Site's Cache  Among all the improvements that Drupal 8 “lures” us in with (built-in WYSIWYG, a Twig templating system and so on), there's the /core/rebuild.php file standing out! And “promising” us to streamline our frequent (and time-consuming) cache tackling tasks that we need to carry out during development: The Drupal 8 site in question doesn't even have to be working and the whole process doesn't require Drupal Console or Drush either! How about that? The one and only requirement (for there still is one) is that your site's configuration supports it.  And how can you check whether your site's config accepts this functionality? Well, there 2 methods at your disposal:   in case you're working locally, just ensure that $settings['rebuild_access'] = TRUE; in your settings.php (settings.local.php) or run this script in your command line: /core/scripts/; then just use the results there as query parameters for /core/rebuild.php (   And voila! This “trick” will rebuild all cache without even requiring for the Drupal 8 site itself to be working during the whole process!  Which makes it the perfect “plan B”, whenever you don't have Drupal Console or Drush installed where you're working! The only condition is that your websites' configuration supports this functionality!   4. In the Database: Truncate all Tables Starting With “cache_” Spoiler alert: by “truncate” I do mean emptying, not removing! The fourth method to clear Drupal cache involves clearing all the data from the cache-related tables in your database. Meaning all the tables starting with “cache_”. For this, you just go over to your phpMyAdmin, select all the cache_* table and then click “Truncate” in the “with selected” drop-down menu placed at the bottom of the page: TRUNCATE cache_config; TRUNCATE cache_container; TRUNCATE cache_data; TRUNCATE cache_default; TRUNCATE cache_discovery; TRUNCATE cache_dynamic_page_cache; TRUNCATE cache_entity; TRUNCATE cache_menu; TRUNCATE cache_render; TRUNCATE cache_toolbar; As for the command line, feel free to scan through and then to tap into the valuable info that you'll find here: here's another practical example: Let's say it's Sequel Pro — an SQL GUI app — that you're using. For truncating those specific tables, connect to the server, track down your site's database, have those specific “cache_” tables highlighted and just choose “Truncate tables”, from the drop-down menu! Also, in the above-mentioned “scenario” you could alternatively go to your PhPMyAdmin's SQL command field or MySQL CLI and run the above-mentioned command:   From Drush Clear Cache to Cache Rebuilding in Drupal 8: Why the Change? Here's the challenge that the conventional Drush clear cache (or “drush cc all”) used to make us deal with: Drupal's using caching intensively and therefore, it implicitely creates lots of inter-dependencies. Only partially flushing this heavy load of caches used to pose some major risks for any website. This is where the “cache-rebuild” method stepped in, starting with Drupal 8! It practically rebuilds (re-bootstraps) the whole Drupal site, after making sure that all cache is perfectly cleared. A “check and double check” technique, you may call it, which makes sure that:   your site is up and running all cache gets flawlessly flushed!   Drupal 7's so very popular Drush cache command itself gets cleared and replaced with “cache-rebuild” in Drupal 8. Which (the Drush cache-rebuild command specific to Drupal 8) carries out the following tasks:   clearing the APC cache  bootstrapping Drupal calling drupal_rebuild()  removing the Drush cache    4. Wrap-Up Summing it up now, the essential info to remember is that:   “clear cache” should be on top of your “best practices” list as a Drupal developer  you have not just 1, but 4 methods to choose from, depending on your work style and context: via the UI, clear cache using Drush, by truncating your “cache_” database tables, by running the /core/rebuild.php file Drupal 8's cache-rebuild is a step forward from the conventional cache-clear practice; it adds a new “re-bootstrapping” operation to the “cache clearing” process! ... Read more
RADU SIMILEANU / Mar 02'2018
PhoneGap vs React Native: Which Platform to Choose for Building Your Mobile App? And Why?
A great developer experience or a great user experience? A familiar web technology for you to code in or native-like performance for your users? And these are just some of the questions “taunting” you right now, while dealing with a PhoneGap vs React Native dilemma, right? Each platform comes with its own “temptations” to... lure you in:   PhoneGap promises you an “easy life” as a mobile app developer, enabling you to use any JavaScript library and framework that you're comfortable working with React Native promises you to inject native-like performance into your app and thus...  to perfect the user experience   So, which one to go with?   PhoneGap: A Brief Overview A compromise! This is, in my opinion, the perfect word/metaphor to describe PhoneGap. A compromise in terms of user experience and performance, since it's hybrid mobile apps that you get to build using this technology:   a JS/CSS/HTML app having a browser-based UI (giving you the freedom to work in any of your preferred web technologies) that exposes native mobile device APIs and data; accessing phone components through the API navigator   While a more “formal” definition would go something like this: PhoneGap is a distribution of Apache Cordova — coming with a few tweaks and custom packages —  that you can use for embedding websites in mobile apps via WebView. In short: more than a website, yet not a fully native mobile app. A hybrid app compromise!   A Few Words About React Native  In a  PhoneGap vs React Native debate, the latter would always have its native components rendering “trump card” up its sleeve: For a React Native-powered app is written in JS, like a PhoneGap one, yet it doesn't just render a webview, but REAL native components instead! And that, my friend, would also win over users: it's better user experience and zero compromises on performance that you get “rewarded” with for using React Native. You could also take this mobile app development platform as the answer to users' becoming more and more demanding: If hybrid, HTML 5 and/or mobile web apps used to be enough to “satisfy” their needs, while being a “blessing” for developers' budgets, as well, mobile users started to crave native-like performance. And so, React Native emerged! It's a convenient “bridge” between JS and native platforms:   React Native apps get written in JavaScript they “play by the rules” and meet the standards of the operating system ... while accessing a big part of the native platforms via this metaphoric “bridge” that React Native creates   PhoneGap: Tempting Benefits vs Discouraging Disadvantages Now in order to get an accurate score to our “PhoneGap vs React Native” debate here, we'd better go “pros and cons harvesting”, right? So, without any further ado, I'll list some of PhoneGap's “irresistible” advantages first:   it “spoils” the developer with a wide range of frameworks/libraries to choose from; if you're a big fan of web technologies, if you enjoy building UIs in HTML and CSS, you'll love the rich collection of choices that PhoneGaps puts at your disposal therefore, PhoneGap is easy to work with and developer-friendly it's not bound to any specific framework  PhoneGap-based apps perform within wrappers targeted to each platform and use API bindings that comply with the all the given standards for accessing each mobile device's data, network status, sensors it's based on the “write once run on every platform” philosophy: you get to “reap” the benefits of cross-platform development; just “work your magic” in any of the web technologies that you're comfortable with and have your app running on all available platforms … with no need to get yourself tangled up in each platform's native development language your app will have a similar UI on all native platforms    And now, the limitations that you need to consider when building mobile apps using PhoneGap:   by far the biggest inconvenience is the sluggish performance (leading to poor user experience, needless to add); and it's a more than predictable drawback considering that the web was created for web pages, not for heavy, animations-loaded, complex apps you risk to get all the issues of the web, as well, right out-of-the-box, along with your PhoneGap hybrid app. Bugs specific to certain browsers or styles that work differently depending on the browser here included!    In short: on one hand, you get to enjoy a great developer experience, on the other hand, you risk to compromise the user's experience!   React Native: Top Pros and Cons In a PhoneGap vs React Native “competition” the former would always fall behind when it comes to performance: React Native is undoubtedly faster. And here are some other benefits to "reap" for using React Native to build your mobile app:   it renders real native components instead of a webview also, since it renders NATIVE views without using webview as an intermediary, expect to face no browser compatibility challenges there's strong social proof, highly relevant evidence for its reliability: Instagram, Airbnb, Uber it's committed to the “learn once, write everywhere” philosophy; once you're familiar with React, you'll be writing native apps in no time, with no need to delve into Java or Objective-C coding, unless you want to extend your app's functionality moreover, React's backed by a huge community, so during your learning time and then during your app development process, you can rely on plenty of “expert” support  the user experience is significantly improved: a React Native app will always have a native look and feel to it compared to a mobile web app  also, since it renders native views, expect smoother, high performant animations, as well   Yet, React Native does come with some drawbacks, as well, that might discourage some (even you!):   you need to be familiar with React, there's way around it you'll need to write an app for every native platform (due to that above-mentioned JS-native platform based structure) since some of the components might be platform-specific don't expect to be able to use HTML: it's native components that you'll need to "juggle with" And The Answer to “Your PhoneGap vs React Native” Dilemma” Is... “It depends!” If you've already used React for the web, so you're definitely not stepping on alien ground, go with React Native! It would be a pity not to leverage your React knowledge and not to benefit from all the top performance that you get to inject into your mobile app! Not familiar with React? And, moreover, you love having an entire “palette” of familiar web technologies at hand, to just “grab and use”? Then you'll love PhoneGap's “developer friendly” approach! The END! Hope I've included all the most relevant pros and cons and managed to pull off some good explanations on why some developers get seduced by Facebook' baby, React Native, while others prefer to tap into familiar PhoneGap's own advantages. How about you? Where do you stand now?  ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / Mar 01'2018
How to Use Gulp To Streamline Your Theme Development Process in Drupal 8
Automate all site-building tasks and streamline your theme development process! In short: reduce development time and boost your productivity as a Drupal 8 themer with Gulp! But how to use Gulp to automate your workflow? How do you set it up and run its toolchain in conjunction with Drupal? How do you move away from the old practices of the “good old days”,  when you had to write your themes in pure CSS? Since you had no alternative... How do you “harness Gulp's power” to automate tasks that are crucial for your Drupal 8 theming process such as:   compiling SASS and LESS watching/generating CSS files from SASS testing generating static design pattern pages reloading the browser  optimizing assets: images, JavaScript, CSS   Well, keep reading and “thou shalt find out”!   But What Is Gulp, After All? I confess I couldn't come up with a better definition for Gulp, than the one on the official site: "… a toolkit for automating painful or time-consuming tasks in your development workflow, so you can stop messing around and build something." More often than not referred to as “build tools”, Gulp is a front-end automation tool aimed at streamlining your theme development process. Basically, it enables you to have all those tasks that are critical (and time-consuming) for your workflow run... automatically! And thus to give your productivity as a Drupal themer a significant boost!   Why Use Gulp over Other Theme Development Streamlining Tools? Here are 3 of the strongest reasons why:   because Gulp configurations are conventionality simpler, shorter because using Gulp you get to capitalize on a wider community support because it runs faster, as well   How to Install Gulp A word of caution: since Gulp is a node module, make sure you install Node.js (this, of course, if you haven't installed it already) first things first. Needless to add that:   you should go for the latest version of Node.js the installation process depends (and may differ) greatly on the Operation System that you're using   Install Homebrew, then run the following command: $ brew install node Now, for installing Gulp, type the following command: npm install gulp-cli -g Where “npm” stands for the “Node Package Manager” used for installing Gulp on your PC. And where the “-g” flag signals that Gulp should be installed globally on your PC.   Creating Your Gulp Project: Set Up Your Package.json File As you well know, Node.js uses “npm”, a package manager “in charge” with downloading and installing all the modules required for a given project. And all these modules get defined in a “package.json” file.  So, this is the step you, too, should take now: setting up your package.json file in the very root of your Drupal 8 installation. For this, just run the following command inside that directory: npm init It's inside this newly created package that all the key information about the node packages required for your specific project gets stored! Therefore, make sure to fill up all the needed information as you put together your package.json. Note: still, you should also know that all the prompts are ideally intuitive and that even if you leave those fields blank, you can always come back later and change the default values. Remember to set the entry point to “gulpfile.js” and, once you add the required information for your project, keep in mind to specify your git repository. An Important Word of Caution! Your “How to use Gulp to automate my theming tasks in Drupal 8?” question should be accompanied by: “How to prevent triggering a segmentation fault?” One that you might involuntarily trigger once you run Drush. Since Drush will consider the node package's own .info file files as part of Drupal and since it doesn't recognize their format... trouble happens. Here's how you avoid segmentation fault: add a script to the package.json file, whose main role will be to remove all the .info files from the node_modules folder And now, let's go back to our package.json setting up process! One last piece of advice that I'd like to add: if you've run the “npm init” command for creating your package.json file, remember to identify the “scripts” section and to replace the following line: "test": "echo \"Error: no test specified\" && exit 1" … with this one: "postinstall": "find node_modules/ -name '*.info' -type f -delete" And one more thing: set up the following .npmrc file in your theme folder's root: unsafe-perm = true Here's how the “intro” of your package.jso file' structure will look like: "name": "...",   "version": "...",   "description": "...",   "main": "...",   "author": "...",   "private": true,   "devDependencies": {     "browser-sync": "...",     "gulp": "...", Once you have your package nicely set up, go ahead and install Gulp into your project by running this command: npm install gulp --save-dev  Note: you might be wondering why you need to install Gulp... again. The answer is simple: first, you installed Gulp globally and now you're installing it into your Drupal project! In this respect, it's  “--save-dev” which will let your PC know that Gulp needs to be added as a dev dependency in your packgage.json. All Gulp files and dependencies associated with it will get downloaded and a “node_modules” folder will get created.   Set Up Your Gulpfile.js You're not yet done with setting everything up! There's still one important step to take before you discover how to use Gulp to create and to automate your site building tasks: setting up the gulpfile.js! For this, just:   go to your custom theme directory manually create a gulpfile.js file by either using the cmd/terminal or just by right-clicking to create a new file   Note: keep in mind to change the config variable so that it should match your paths! Also, make sure that all your CSS gets stored in the same “CSS” directory in your theme (for example: sites/all/themes/my_theme/css/application.sass)    How to Use Gulp to Create and Automate Key Tasks for Your Workflow And finally, we've reached our “destination”!  The very goal of this blog post after all: determining which site building tasks are crucial for my/your own workflow, creating them and then automating them all with Gulp! Do you fancy automated:   Sass compiling into CSS? cache clearing “detection” of all the changes you will have applied to your .scss files? page reloading?   And your “wishlist” might go on...  Well, the answer to your “How to use Gulp to automatically run task “x” or “y”?” is simple:   Just run the gulp [task_name] “magic formula” in your terminal!    Here are some examples:    gulp.task('watch', function () which will watch for all the changes applied to your scss files and automatically recompile  gulp.task('reload', ['clearcache'], function () which will clear cache, then automatically reload the page  gulp.task('browser-sync', function() which will automatically run the BrowserSync server In order to get the whole process started, simply type “gulp” in your terminal. The END! Your turn now! Time to use Gulp to its full potential and to automate all those key (and time-consuming) aspects of your theme development process in Drupal 8!  ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / Feb 28'2018