Thursday, May 03, 2012

LibreOffice Data And Notes, Let The Computer Do The Tedious

We have been live on LibreOffice now for a few days and things are going well.  In conversations with our support group, the biggest issue that people had was "file location".  Most people have no idea where their documents are saved.  If they customized MyDocuments location or lost any RecentDocuments entries they struggle and assume that everything was lost in the upgrade.  File management still continues to be the biggest problem for users, and it's not ever going to change.  I believe that devices like iPhone and iPad succeed because there is no "file system".  Save a photo, and it's available to all applications.  Users don't have to make any choices in that regard; no file names or folders.  That's why the desktop has been customized to allow for as much drop and drag as possible.

Here is a shot of top running with about 100 open LibreOffice instances.  Looks like we could easily get another 100-200 instances running easily, which is wonderful.  Typing is crisp and fast.

While watching the LibreOffice server run and doing some slight tuning, I have been able to hack in some features that I wanted to merge into our "Support Portal" software.  This software is accumulating and monitoring nearly every click and issue on the GNOME desktop and application servers.  One of my pet peeves about software is when there is a tedious task that the computer can and should do for you and the software requires that you do it manually.  Much of the information we are logging is informational, but some of it is "actionable".  These are things that require a fix or step in order for the users issue/request to be resolved.  So I have begun to develop the [ Summary ] tab.  This section monitors all data that is coming in from various software packages and creates an easily seen tile/button of information.  Someone watching the portal is instantly aware of something that they need to do and it's easy for them to find the offending server or application. 

I know there are people out there that create UI fulltime and I'm sure these rough screens are hard to view.  :) But at this point this is more about fleshing out ideas and trying to create something useful for our staff.  Time does not allow for fulltime software engineering, this is usually hacked along with many other projects concurrently.

The screen is broken into 18 tiles and the last 18 events that require our attention appear.  The following items have been marked as "actionable" (more to come):

* RSH failure, whereby user is trying to run software and they don't have the right permissions
* CALENDAR failure, Evolution has a bug where if it crashes it occasionally drops their Groupwise calendar.  The user therefore does not get alarms for meetings because the calendar is disconnected.  We get about 1-2 of these a week
* MEDIA request, where users have asked us to send them our open source DVD which contains the software we run at the City for them to take home for Windows/Mac personal computers.
* FORCEQUIT - Networking, which means they logged back into the server and indicated they dropped off the server.  This usually is a cable or jack problem
* FORCEQUIT - Electrical, which means the power dipped and they were kicked off.  This means that the users UPS is probably dead, or they are not plugged into the battery side.  All of our employees have a UPS; if you have been to Florida in the summer you know why.
* LOAD, one of the servers has gone over 10% CPU usage, this very often means an errant process
* PRINT, there are print jobs that have not flushed from one of the servers within a 15 minute period.  This usually means paper jam, out of toner, etc.  Support can connect to the printers with a browser and debug what's happening.

When you hover your mouse over the button tile, it indicates which tab contains more detailed information and also provides a FIX which normally resolves the issue.  Clicking on the button brings up a user detail screen.

This new area is underdeveloped, but I'm looking forward to continued progress and testing.  I'm also looking forward to NX client for iPad 3 which will allow us to carry this information around at all times.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The UI you posted looks like the kind of thing most easily done in HTML. Bonus: you don't need to do anything special to get it running on an iPad as well.