Thursday, August 14, 2014

And Several Months Later....

I haven't blogged in several months, sadly.  It's easy to get caught up in projects and suddenly a good amount of time has expired.  So I'll try and do a quick update on my projects -- and try and publish blogs at better intervals. 

Here are the major things that I touched in the last few months:


We have continued to use LibreOffice for almost all of our employees, and after a few point releases upgraded to version 4.2  The filters continue to improve, and stability is improving too.  We don't often get reports of hard crashes.  We're down to mostly questions of how to use features, and from time to time issues with imports of the various and different OOXML formats.   What's interesting about LibreOffice is that as the years go by, younger employees are less impassioned for using Microsoft Office.  There seems to be a greater acceptance in just working with different software packages.  I think this might be rooted in the fact that every phone or tablet you pick up has different software and at a certain point you realize they can all help you reach the same destination.  Many thousands of documents are touched each day and work is getting done -- with no license costs!

We changed over to the SIFR theme Citywide, which are all monochrome.  More and more software packages are moving in this direction it seems, and now LO better matches their appearance.

The Alfresco connector works great in LO and we have been testing that as well with success and considering deployment options.  Alfresco is still in a test mode, and not widely used beyond IT employees.

A few weeks ago we received a new monster server (described below), and it's been tradition for me to break in these machines for a short period of time by allowing them to be used to better open source projects.  We loaded Linux on this server and put it on the Internet for the LibreOffice developers.  They used it to do their stress test of various problem documents and test the filters into the different file formats.  Always nice to help as we can.


In Firefox 26 a patch was merged that basically broke honoring umask for downloaded files.  This was a really bad bug for us and made it impossible to upgrade.  On multi-user servers it's important the files honor the permissions we want -- to make it easier for users to share files.  We finally ended up putting out a few dollars to pay for a few hours of work to get a patch written and integrated and it's working like a champ once again.  We were able to install and deploy Firefox 31.  The only problem we had with the upgrade was related to changes in the way that bookmarks are retained and work, and once this was understood we made changes on the server and it's working as expected.   Firefox 31 also contains new monochrome artwork which better fits into our consistent desktop look and feel.

Support Portal

Our internally developed support portal software application has advanced further and was fitted with a new monochrome theme.  I have been changing certain aspects of how user information displays to make it easier to understand the device used to connect to our network.  BYOD tablets and laptops are not supported by our staff, and now we can clearly see they are using a personal device. 

Federico was awesome to help me understand how to use pygtkChart from within glade/python to finally use *real* charts.  This has been a huge help and reduced the lines of code greatly. 

The support portal has been fetching information from our Linux servers regarding user counts, load, disk and memory stats.  With the help with our internal Windows Admins, we're now fetching from MS Windows servers too.  This helps us greatly by alerting us when we reach certain thresholds.  Very awesome.

GNOME Desktop To New Hardware

We are moving our production GNOME desktop to new physical hardware.  After some discussions and reviewing work loads, we decided for now to stay with GNOME 2.  The older server was cloned and was finally moved to the new hardware.  The server is 100% solid state drives with 80 hyperthreaded cores.  This increased capacity was needed for the next project:

Moving From Remote X to NX Technology

Using remote X has been a wonderful thing for us the last 20 years with our thin clients, but new requirements from end users are changing that landscape.  Roaming desktops are the top most requested feature, and we have decided to move from X to NX and run sessions fully stateless and server based.  We have been working closely with the fine folks at Nomachine to implement in our enterprise using version 4.2.  We're not quite there yet, but getting very close.   The short summary status:

-- Workstations with NX

We have two workstation thin client models and I have been able to get the NX client running on both.  Logging in and resuming sessions is very stable.  Our older HP thin client is struggling a bit with some Flash content, and I'm working with NoMachine on some optimizations to try and allow these devices to finish their duty cycle.  All other aspects are working very quickly on thin clients using the NX protocol.  I'm typing this blog from the oldest workstation and response is quick and crisp.  NX is especially noticed in Firefox when scrolling through pages.  Certain pages are starting to get slower over remote X -- NX will be a nice upgrade in that regard.

-- Tablets with NX

The iPad client was finally released, and I have been testing this along with Nomachine for Android with good results.  The ability to interact with software not designed for "Touch" is better than expected and our users are very excited.  I rolled out a few pilot tablets just yesterday and have already gotten good feedback. 

So a very brief update.  I have a few more blogs that I want to post in the coming days regarding specifics of these projects in the hopes they assist others.   Next up, is how we are solving the issue of allow users to configure their own personal tablets without IT intervention. 


sri said...

It would have been awesome if there was some wy to be able to consider GNOME 3. I suppose that would require a lot of changes to support. Glad that you're still sticking with GNOME 2!

Dave Richards said...

When you look at this from the old question of "What problem are we trying to solve..", it wasn't that critical to upgrade. GNOME 2 has all the features we need and hundreds of users are already used to it and it's rock solid stable. GNOME 3 has not been tested by me over NX, so it's a big project to QA this much software. Probably in 2015, we'll build a GNOME 3 server and test it experimentally.

sri said...

Let us know, perhaps we can incorporate some of your tests by our QA team. If you do it earlier, we have at least some cycles to address it if possible.

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