Been a long time coming but finally here! There is now an Extra Keys for Linux.

Just one edition equivalent to Extra Keys Pro on Windows. There is no ultra-simple basic edition as I didn’t feel it had much appeal on Linux. Also I first made this Linux version primarily for my own personal use and I mostly use the Pro edition. The only significant difference from the Windows edition is that it does not have the option to type into a named application window, it just enters characters into the active window exactly the same as the physical keyboard. ( read more . . . )

Our popular Windows desktop Extra Keys and the similar Pro edition both have new versions – 2.2.2 and 2.2.4 respectively.

Two new key sets have been added, both in the Latin character range – Austronesian and Esperanto.  Austronesian covers a very wide range of indigenous languages spread across the the Pacific and the islands of Australasia. So it is now easy to correctly write words from Māori, other Polynesian languages and useful when transcribing words for example from the Australian Aṉangu such as Uluṟu and Kata Tjuṯa.  Esperanto is a bit unusual because it uses accented characters not common in other languages and also does not naturally fit in with any other grouping. So it has therefore been given its own very small key-set which might be handy for the many Esperantistoj around the world.

There are a few other minor program amendments plus of course one very significant change for Extra Key Pro in that it is now completely free to use.

Page links:

Beta 7 of Plant Base for Linux is released and available for download. This a minor update still based on version 2.1.11

It fixes for a few late-breaking bugs that only occurred in the Beta 6 release. Almost all are related to situations where pictures are resized to fit on the screen and the problems were due to small issues with the latest version of the build software that is used to generate the program. There are no other significant changes since Beta 6.

As usual a small update file is available for existing users and also a full install file. The database itself is the same as the previous 2.1.11 Beta 6 release.

There is a new update for the Plant Base Linux edition – 2.1.11 Beta 6

To clarify – the program version 2.1.11 means that this is equivalent to the version releases for Windows and Mac.  It is also the Linux Beta release number 6.  In this particular case the Beta release and the version number are not associated. As this Beta phase is a long term thing, the releases will span the general version updates!

As well as the changes common to the other platform editions, there have been a lot of small bug fixes and many user interface adjustments specific to the Linux program.  I would therefore recommend that all Plant Base Linux users update to this release.

There are also updates to the plant database files, which can be regarded as optional (all program versions will work with all database release files).



As previously, this Beta was developed and initially tested under MX Linux 19 with Xfce. It has also been tested with Mint and Manjaro and is expected to work with the various distributions tested before. In some cases the appearance on screen should be improved.

I am continuing to provide free life-time licences for the Linux edition of Plant Base – see my previous post about this!

There has been very little business activity in recent months due to our house move.  We have been totally preoccupied by the huge amount of practical issues involved – this was much more than a change of house and more a change of life-style in a very different location!

However, things are gradually settling down and a sense of normality is slowly returning.  There is still much to do, not the least being the complete re-development of the garden.  This is of course my personal highest priority but is a project that will extend for a considerable time.

Our internet connection took a while to sort out but is now reasonably stable. Though not very fast, it is adequate for most purposes.

In the last weeks there has even been a little time for some software work and a new update of the Plant Base program should be available quite soon.

We run the business from our home and in a few days time we will be moving house  to a new area in a beautiful part of Wales, about 200 miles west of our current location.

There are a number of problems arranging an internet connection for the new house, due to its very rural situation.  It may take several weeks for the land-line and broadband to be connected  and it’s probable that communication will be difficult during  most of  July.  We may be unable to respond to support and other queries for a while.  However, we will do our best to catch up as soon as possible.

As our original business  internet provider can not offer any connection at an affordable rate, we are forced to use a different company. Therefore our old email addresses that use the domain will no longer exist, so please don’t use these.  All other addresses with the domain are not affected and will work as normal (eventually!).

Now I must get back to packing!!




We have recently released our second Android smartphone app – the “Plus” edition of the original PBO Viewer. This adds the advanced search options, with all the selection choices of the “Advanced Search” online database web page.

Apart from the initial search form, the rest of the app is exactly the same as the basic, free, PBO Viewer. There is a small charge for the Plus edition to cover the extra time involved writing the search feature, which is quite involved. We think it represents good value though.

PBO Viewer Plus is available directly from the Android market at:

The selection form is quite large with 32 criteria choices (none are mandatory!). I considered several ways to preset this, but in the came to the conclusion that it was best just to have a single scrollable page, rather than splitting by tabs or something more complicated. Comments on this are welcomed.


I took a rare day off from coding yesterday, to have a walk around the Hillier Gardens. The weather was a bit dreary but as soon as I entered the gardens my spirits were lifted!  Just behind the entrance buildings the winter garden area was looking great – all the classic elements were there, coloured stem dogwoods and willows, white birches, plenty of evergreen foliage and lots more. Probably the highlight for me were the flowering witch hazels, some with that fabulous fragrance. There is also a even larger collection of these over at the other side of the gardens.  And then of course there are the snowdrops and aconites.  Well worth a February visit.

There was much maintenance activity going on around the long borders, which I understand are being re-modelled and rejuvenated. Something to look forward to later in the year.


Transferring web hosting raised just one really significant issue. That was due to the new hosting server running Apache 2 with mod_security. This appears to have an unfortunate quirk of being unhappy with most European accented letters in the the URLs – causing an HTTP 406 error.

With the increasing number of attacks on websites, having mod_security enabled is a good thing. However this was giving me a real problem as many URLs are generated from plant names in the database and legitimately have accented characters. A bit of web-searching showed that many other people had hit the same problem.

First thing was to check the URL format – yes, they were already being correctly made using the PHP ‘urlencode’ function. But the web server still didn’t like them!

The most commonly suggested solution was to control the action of mod_security by commands in the .htaccess file for the site. This works for older versions of Apache but not for Apache 2.  Instead it would need a configuration change by the server admin – not a good option on shared hosting.

The fix turned out to be quite simple and just involved a little extra PHP code – once the URL string had been passed through urlencode, all ‘%’ signs are changed to an arbitrary 3 character string. Apache then does not see them as significant encoded characters. The reverse change is then done on the target pages for the URLs. The substitution string can be anything that will never occur in the real name string.

In this particular case they were also often images associated with the pages, with the same names. So an additional piece of code was needed to handle those, renaming the files on the server when first accessed.

Not rocket science, but effective! No more 406 errors.

We switched to a new web hosting company just before the Christmas break and after a few small transfer problems the website seems to be running nicely.  The move was really forced on us because the previous web server had become so slow that main Plant Base installation download was taking up to 5 hours. Thankfully everything is much quicker now – the install download is back to just a few minutes on a good broadband connection and the online database is much faster too.

The new hosting company is who are clearly a much smaller operation, but in the last month or so have provided a pretty good service. Their support guys are really responsive and helpful – a big change from the last lot. The servers are also running more up to date versions of all the software.

With better web hosting it was also the right time to look at putting up a blog.  I’ve often been told that it would be a good idea for the site, but never quite got around to it somehow.

Well here it is!