Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Looking Over Zimbra, LibreOffice 3.6 Prep Work

I want to clarify that some of the items posted in this blog are done in sole capacity of evaluation.  There are many procedures in place to make changes to our infrastructure, and I'm just doing the geek work. :)

In that light, we met last week to discuss the issue of email.  In light of lack of ongoing work on the Groupwise connector to Evolution we have been reviewing Groupwise 2012 web interface.  We already own this upgrade because we pay for a support contract.  The Director indicated that he wanted a review of other options as well, and that of course led to Zimbra.   I downloaded and installed it on Ubuntu 12.  Their other operating systems were not a good fit for this test.  RedHat Ent is a licensed product and SLES 11 has been troublesome on this HP hardware.  Zimbra fights you a bit when you are trying to run a demo because it wants to find the right MX records.  One has to install dnsmasq and fool it into thinking it's getting proper DNS responses.  The help pages described this process and I was able to get it running.  I installed the latest version ( 8 beta ) and must say that I was very impressed with the new features and progress made since the last time I tested it a few years ago.  I love the concept that the primary interface is a browser, so all of the features just work immediately with Firefox.  Groupwise still kind of treats the web interface as a secondary login technique, and still kind of pushes you to using the MS Windows.  Another 300 concurrent MS Windows instances is not a good fit for us.  Tomorrow we are doing a demo of this software and Groupwise 2012 for our internal Governance Committee.  Below is a shot of Zimbra 8 running on Firefox 14.  100% Linux; both server and client.

LibreOffice 3.6 appears to be about a week from being released, so I updated our custom first launch UI to show users the new features.  We also will continue to offer the option to received LibreOffice 3.6 on a CD to take home for use on their personal PC.  I always try and pick the items from the official release notes page and condense them into bullet items.  This seems to catch their eye more than reading a lengthy page.  The release UI is below, almost done.

My project list: New thin client build goes live next week, prepping;  Starting to check out the HP Ubuntu release that runs on our thin clients; Helping to coordinate moving the last of our NX users off of the old GNOME server now that we have working patches; Backburner poking at Skype for Linux; Checking over Zimlets....Alfresco zimlet looks interesting; Starting to think a bit about SuseCon and OpenSuseCon coming in September in Orlando.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

NX, LibreOffice, Groupwise 2012 & Evolution

After a lengthy process, we finally have been able to resolve some problems with NX connecting to our GNOME server running OpenSuse 11.4.  Google indicates the problem is fairly common: metacity was crashing immediately when the NX client is used on certain Windows video cards and all of the time on Mac. We were made aware of one fix that worked.  Installing the metacity released with GNOME 3 in the updates channel resolved the issue.  I was surprised that it installed cleanly over GNOME 2 with no library problems, but indeed that was the case.  So another nagging issue off the list and we can continue migrating a few pockets of users still using the older technology.  Now, if we just had that promised iPad client! :)

 I installed and upgraded LibreOffice to 3.5.5 last night without incident.  It's wonderful to be able to touch one place and have everyone in the City upgraded all at once.  The upgrade process is down to me only having to do three things by hand   1)) psprint.conf is clobbered on each update, so I have to make sure always make a backup prior to install.  I have already opened a bug report on this issue   2)) In the share/config directory I copy images_oxygen over the top of the other .zip files so that LibreOffice has a consistent look and feel even if users tinker with their icons.  This is done to make it easier for support. "Click on the icon that looks like a postage stamp", "I don't have that icon".  3)) libgcc_s.so.1 & libstdc++.so.6 are shipped in one of the RPMs and when this is installed on OpenSuse 11.4, LibreOffice deadlocks about 10% of the time when first launched. I move this RPM out of the way before doing the upgrade.

I have been testing LibreOffice 3.6 and happy to see the progress.  At this time all of our showstoppers are fixed and we probably will upgrade almost immediately when it's released.  Nice work. CMIS is shaping up nicely.   I'll be looking at 3.7 when it appears in the daily builds.

The Attachmate split of Suse and Novell had its first casualty.  Unfortunately resources seem to have been pulled off of the Evolution and Groupwise connector and it appears dead.  Our Governance committee had approved another 2-3 year window of using Evolution and we had mapped out a plan with Suse to add new features and fix some nagging bugs.  We got a few patches and then everything halted.  Everyone understands that things change, but we were never formally told about this change in direction and found out about it second hand.  We have sent repeated emails to Novell/Suse seeking official word and still have not heard anything..which is both bad news and also very unprofessional.  I'm always of the mindset to have backup plans ready in computer technology, and we had scaled our Firefox server to be able to run web based email.  So after an initial meeting we're now moving ahead with a plan to remove Evolution and Suse SLED out of production and move to the web interface of Groupwise 2012.   With 2012, there are enough features working in a browser that it's ready for enterprise use.  Mobile capabilities for tablets and phones will be improved greatly, at the expense of some of the features found in Evolution.  While it might seem odd to continue to use a product from a company that just treated you poorly.....Groupwise is already here, known and stable and is cheaper than moving our users to something like Google mail.    Novell offers other products such as Vibe, and when asked for my opinion I would recommend not buying additional software from this company based on this experience.

EDIT: As noted in the comments by Matthew Barnes, Evolution is still vibrant and being developed.  The piece not being actively developed anymore is the Groupwise connector only. 

Up next for me: Finalizing the next thin client release for citywide deployment, continued testing of various upgrades, testing the new Firefox builds (14 - 15 -16), testing Alfresco, working on ways to make our support portal software integrate better with MS Windows and help us with load and user monitoring of that operating system.

Friday, July 06, 2012

LibreOffice -> Alfresco Connection & Projects

It's been a busy week again.  I've been testing Alfresco in Firefox and on iPads.  I also installed all of the latest patches for our test system running Groupwise 2012 and continued Firefox/iPad testing as well.  I have been syncing with the daily LibreOffice 3.6 builds to ensure that our showstopper bugs are all resolved.  I found a few issues in recent weeks and most of them are already fixed.  3.6 is shaping up to be a nice incremental step forward.

I have been testing the very basic connectivity that exists from LibreOffice to Alfresco.  I deleted all of my settings and formed the connection again to ensure that it's cleanly in my head.  I'm posting the step by step instructions for anyone interested, but mostly this is my own documentation. :)  This code is obviously not ready for production use, but it's a good start.

Step 1:  Turn it on.  Inside of Libreoffice enable the native dialogs and enable the experimental features.

Step 2:  Confirm Alfresco URLs.  There is a CMIS front facing web page in Alfresco that gives you lots of information.  The link that you need for the connector is marked "AtomPub Service Document".  Right-mouse and copy this link, it'll be used in LibreOffice.  Next click on the link and download the XML file that it generates.  That front facing URL is probably similar to this screenshot; change IP to your correct number.

Step 3: Get the ID.  Open the xml file you downloaded in step 2 and find the entry respositoryID, this number is used in LibreOffice.

Step 4: Form the connection.  From the LibreOffice file manager dialog, select the ... button (purple below) and then create a new CMIS entry.  Enter the URL you pasted in step 2, and the repository ID.

Step 5: Connect.  Enter the Alfresco login user name, and then when you attempt to connect it will request the password. Once accepted the folder tree of Alfresco appears and you can navigate through the documents. 

I have been able to open documents and save them back into the database without error.  There are lots of UI issues and nuances that are not mature, and I'm prepping a document with my notes.  This is an important feature, and if I can contribute and see this developed it will help us all. 

Next up for me:  Continued testing of Alfresco and Groupwise 2012.  We're looking at training ideas and the best way to proceed with these projects.  The next thin client release is running on about 30 desktops and running well, it's just about ready for citywide deployment.  Happy weekend.