Since it is Christmas Day, this will not be resolved today (or soon.) We encouraged Kevin to go on to the next task since we were not certain when - or if - we could make this work.
Ian responded that the problem of dropping the &layout=blog from the URL has been resolved in the core. (So, this is a non-issue, it sounds.)
The other issue that Ian and I had talked about was how the category parameters are determined. If I remember our conversation correctly, there are problems if the category has a menu item already (in such cases, Joomla! is simply using those menu item parameters.) I can't remember, but it seemed like there might have been a couple of issues.
When Ian has time, we can test some of this out and resolve this.
If you look at the feedback for the GHOP tasks, you will notice a couple of things. First of all, we are overwhelmed with the positive response of this contest and understaffed for the volume of tasks we are trying to handle. There are too many long waits and if we do this contest, again, we need three to five times the volunteers.
Secondly, and more importantly, you will see we are holding these pre-University students to very high standards. The last thing we want to happen is to have anything less than correct come out of GHOP and have people say that these brilliant and dedicated students are amateurs and not able to contribute in significant ways to Joomla!. Given the level of intelligence and abilities we have seen, nothing could be further than the truth. Many of these contestants, Kevin, included, belong right up there near the top. They are producing a high quality extension that we are willing to stand behind when we accept it as complete. We trust the work. We are confident of the result, given Joomla!'s architecture.
So, Kevin, I appreciate your patience with us. We have not forgotten this. We understand how valuable such an extension will be (as evidenced by the interest drawn to the thread), and we are here to help you be successful. As with anything else in Joomla!, it takes a community to make things happen and you are not alone in this.
Thank you for your contributions to our community,