Toolbox : WordPress, CakePHP, SugarCRM, RT

Over the last couple of years I’ve been working a lot with these four applications – WordPress, CakePHP, SugarCRM, and RT.  Each of these is beautiful in its own way.  Each of these tools is an Open Source Software. Each of these tools has a large community. Each of these tools has a free and commercial support and development. Each of these can be used in a number of ways to solve a whole range of problems.  Let me briefly introduce each one of them.

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Annoying software

Slashdot is running the post about annoying software.  The fact that Slashdot crowd mostly consists of computer geeks is sort of a guarantee for some interesting comments.

With my Fedora 9 saga I had to review and try a lot of new software.  Needless to say, I found quite a few annoying bits.  Here is a brief list, just to give you an idea:

  • Clock applet in Gnome. It shows calendar with Sunday being first day of the week.  If you don’t like it, you’ll have to recompile your locale to change it. This one is cancelled out though by an excellent support of Google Calendar (or, for that matter, any other web published calendar).
  • Metacity window manager in Gnome. Window titles are displayed in the middle.  This is really annoying for those of us who are used to seeing them on the left.  There is no option to change this setting either in GUI or in GConf.
  • Pidgin new message notification. I once had it popping up nice looking bubbles, but I don’t remember how I managed to do it.  I also don’t remember how I managed to break it.  And I have no idea to bring them back.  I really miss them though.
  • WordPress 2.5 post editing screen. It has been much reworked in the latest version and looks and feels so much better. However, the list of categories was moved from a really convenient location on the right of the screen to a really inconvenient location at the bottom of the screen.
  • FileZilla FTP manager. This one drives me nuts with server connections.  It either disconnects every 40 seconds when being idle.  Or it keeps multiple connections open forever and most FTP servers block me out temporary.
  • Request Tracker (RT3). Works perfectly with queues and tickets, but annoys the heck out of me when I need to do something with users.  Users aren’t first level citizens, like tickets.
  • SugarCRM. Excellent business tool, with lots of small annoyances, like not being able to set default user role, disable theme selector everywhere, change logos to company ones, lock down the functionality, etc.  Most of these are easily fixable.  But some aren’t as trivial as they may sound or seem.
  • Google Reader. This one annoys me a bit (but often) when I want to leave a few items in the feed unread and go deeper into archives.  Somehow it keeps marking everything I passed as read.

Now, what piece of software were you annoyed with recently?

StayPress – WordPress plugins for property management and booking

Clearskys.net has recently announced there new project – StayPress.  Here is a quote from the introduction:

StayPress is a collection of plugins that will turn a standard vanilla installation of WordPress or WordPress MU into a property management and bookings system. Of course when I say Property, I actually mean any bookable resource of which there is a finite availability. So the StayPress system will be able to manage property rentals, hotel room rentals, conference rooms and centres, B and B’s, training rooms, bands, etc…

There is plenty of demand for something like that.  In fact, I’ve been working on a similar project about 8 month ago. But, unfortunately, it could not have been open sourced, and it eventually collapsed under the historical baggage that it had to bring over.  So, I’m glad that StayPress is coming up to fill the void.

The main web site of StayPress is not online yet, but ClearSkys blog entry had a screenshot (above).

Web site awards and trust certifications

Back in the 1990′s, when the Web just got popular, it seemed like every more or less large web site had to have a bunch of awards.   Awards were the first web promotion tricks that I’ve learned of.  Anyone could establish his own award.  All you needed was a little image that looked like a medal or a star.

Awards were demanded by the “big guys” who wanted to show how “special” they were.  And they were often taken advantage of by really small guys, who were making the awards, and used them to promote their own “award giving” web sites.

Then there were so many web awards that nobody cared about them anymore.  And it was quite for some time.

The new wave started with trust certifications.  Lots and lots of people on the web were followed by all sorts of scammers, spammers, crackers, hackers, and what not.  Many got worried and afraid.  So, the certification boom started.  Trust of that, protection of this, guarantee of something, warranty of something else, etc.

Surprisingly, after all these years, so many web sites still use this non-sense.  What is even more surprsing is that so many of them are prepared to pay money (and huge money in some cases) to get the award or certification.   Why?  That’s really beyond me.

How far is a desktop from a server?

There is an interesting post at The Open Source Advocate blog – “Win the desktop, and you will win the server“.  Tristan Rhodes, the author of the blog, suggests that in order for an operating system to conquer the server market, it should first conquer (or fight reasonable well for) the desktop market.

I have to admit that when I just read the article, I felt almost like agreeing.  But something kept buzzing me from the inside, so I kept that tab open for a few days.  Now that the post was processed at the back of my brain, I have to say that I don’t agree with that point.

There is, of course, a correlation.  Once sysadmins start using something they like on the desktop, it’s pretty soon that they try to see how well that thing handles server tasks.  So, of course, people using Windows on the desktop were checking out how to make a server out of it.

But.  I don’t think that conquering the desktop is the only way to the server.  Not at all. There are more ways, I somehow feel that those other ways are actually simpler.  For one thing, Linux has never been particularly good with desktops.  However, only the stubbornest and the most ignorant of sysadmins will argue against Linux server superpowers.

Furthermore, real sysadmins (which are, of course, in the minority) clearly understand the differences between a desktop computer and a server.  What’s good for one might not be so good for the other.

And then there is this whole “enterprise” issue.  Big companies (aka “enterprises”) aren’t about desktops.  They are about support services, customizations, and having someone to blame.  If there is someone on the other end of the twisted phone cord, they’ll grab him with both hands.

The historical examples in the Open Source Advocate’s blog post might be related or they might not.  The times were different anyway.  But even if these examples are related, they aren’t as heavy as they seem.  There are many factors to consider (prices, distrubution, documentation, hardware requirements, etc).

What do you guys think?

Fedora 9 : before and after

I have recently upgraded my laptop to Fedora 9.  Those of you who come often to this blog or follow me on Twitter, know that I’ve been waiting for this release like for nothing else.  Two technologies in particular – KDE 4 and Firefox 3 – were the center of my focus.  Of course, I could updated them separately and tried them earlier, but I wanted to follow the path of the distribution.

The upgrade itself went fast and easy.  But starting with the first reboot, I was getting more and more negative towards the new release.  While booting for the first time, I got two messages, notifying me that wpa_suppclient service and CUPS daemon failed to start.  While I don’t care much about printers, wireless connectivity is vital for me, so that was a bit discouraging.

The login screen.  It was changed quite a bit, and I didn’t like it much.  Logging in.  Somehow I ended up in Gnome, even though my desktop environment was KDE for the last 7 years or so.  Logout.  Switch into long awaited KDE 4.  From the first look it was beautiful, even though not quite for my tastes.  Surely, I’d need to reconfigure and change a few things. Not a problem for me at all – even more fun so.

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Iron Man

Yesterday I went to the cinema to watch “Iron Man“.  I was a bit worried that it would be based on yet another comic book or something.  But either it wasn’t, or the comic was pretty good.

The movie turned out to be solid entertainment.  It was very much in the style of “Transformers“, but with more style and better special effects.   It was complete even with Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” song in the soundtrack.

Recommended.  7 out of 10.

PHP 6 – hopefully not the end of the road

I’ve heard plenty of positive buzz about PHP 6 in the last few weeks.  Yes, it’s coming out.  Yes, it brings quite a few improvements, including better Unicode support, better security, and more help for larger projects through namespaces.  However, I hope that it won’t be the last PHP release, since there are so many other things that need fixing.

Here is a good overview, as compared to the best programming language ever – Perl.  But this probably reminds you of a famous Euro-English joke, no?   But I do miss sigils and proper hashes.  I’d love to see better memory management when programming objects.  I’d love to see improved database interfaces with prepared statements and database abstraction layer.  I would really welcome a cleanup in function names and return values. I … I … I … I hope that PHP 6 is not the end of the road, and that PHP 7, PHP 8, and PHP 9 will follow.

4 Mbps with PrimeTel

Here is a quote from the latest PrimeTel newsletter:

PrimeTel upgrades for even faster Internet speeds and provides 4Mbps / 512Kbps as an upgrade option for the PrimeHome and PrimeADSL2+ subscribers. The additional monthly fee for the PrimeHome subscribers is EUR65,92 while for the PrimeADSL2+ subscribers is EUR53,33. Read more

Anybody tried that already?

Note to PrimeTel : By the way, I’d much prefer an RSS feed from your site to those Greek emails that you send me. Thank you.