Category Archives: Software Reviews

Development Setup – Updated

I posted about our proposed development setup, during these years a few things have changed a bit. More or less, this is what we have:

  • GNU/Linux (Ubuntu) and Windows(some) boxes for developers
  • Eclipse (PDT) IDE with loads some plugins
  • Version Control: Subversion, GIT, GIT-SVN
  • Browsers
    • Firefox
    • Chrome
    • Opera
    • Safari
    • OperaMini (Simulator)
    • FirefoxMobile (Simulator)
  • Plugins for browsers:
    • Firebug (with loads of plugins – YSlow, etc.)
    • Web Developers Tools (firefox)
    • Others (developer’s preference)
  • Developers also use WINE to run some windows software on GNU/Linux

Testing:

  • Windows Box with different browsers (versions, vendors)
  • Windows Box with different Mobile Emulators/Simulators
  • Selenium Plugin for Firefox

Development Servers/Applications:

  • Apache HTTPD
  • Mysql Server
  • Trac
  • MediaWiki
  • PHPMyAdmin
  • ReviewBoard (limited usage)
  • Hudson (limited usage)

Virtualization with VMware vSphere (ESXi) Hypervisor

One of our servers, collocated in our office, crashed couple of weeks back. We took this opportunity to virtualize most of the stuff, earlier only some intances were virtualized.

Installing and setting up VMware vSphere Hypervisor is a straight forward process, even the process of creating virtual-machines.

Most of time, I spent was figuring out:

  • Storage devices and configuration
  • How many virtual machines, do we need?
  • Which operating systems, do we need?
  • Network configuration

I am not going to cover details of installation and network configuration. I might write more posts in future to cover specifics. Meanwhile, I would love to answer the comments, if I know or share anything I know.

Anyway, this is what we have now:

  • IBM x3250 M2
    • Intel Xeon (Quadcore) x64
    • 4 GB memory
    • 3TB+ storage connected to LSI RAID and SATA controller
  • Host: VMware vSphere Hypervisor – which runs out of  1.5 TB datastore, directly connected to SATA controller (different from LSI)
  • Guest VMs:
    • OpenVPN Access Server for VPN
    • Ubuntu 10.10 Server as Development sandbox
    • Zentyal(eBox) as Internet Gateway (filtering, IDs, proxy)
    • Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Server for SVN, Mails, Local Staging WebServer
    • Windows 2008 Server for ActiveDirectory, FileServer, Windows-Specific-Software (access-control-management-gui, etc.)
    • Others: Project Specific VMs

We are very happy with the improved performance and stability, and the way hardware is properly used. Thanks to VM templates, clones and snapshots, we would be able to provision above infrastructure with minimal downtime.

I would soon replace Windows Server with Zentyal (eBox), which I believe, can handle most of things. However, we would need another Windows XP box to run some software (proprietary), which only runs on windows, to manage various other devices (EPBX, Access-Control-System, etc.).

We now have relatively more scalable infrastructure, more virtual machines can be created to take care of email-server, svn-server, etc.

We are yet to invest in a sophisticated storage device such as DAS or NAS or SAN, hence we are relying on some cheap tricks here:

  • 1.5 TB disk as datastore for VMware vSphere, which stores
    • Guest Operating System VMs
    • Guest Operating System VMs Paging files
    • Virtual Disks (non critical data – programs and configs) required by host virtual-machines
  • 1.5 TB disk via Raw Device Mapping (RDM) shared among virtual machines
  • 500 GB disk via Raw Device Mapping (RDM) shared among virtual machines
  • 1.5 TB USB/Firewire – Backup storage
    • Rsync is used to backup critical data and configs from all virtual machines on daily, weekly and monthly basis.

Things I didn’t like:

  • VMware vSphere client requires Microsoft Windows
  • VMware vSphere client doesn’t allow creating RDMs from GUI, one has to use these instructions

Finally, I could execute some of things I planned more than two years back.

Agilo: Scrum plugin for Trac

We use Trac as project collaboration space[1] within our company. We have been trying out agile-methodology (specially Scrum) for projects, but recently we went more formal with the approach using a software to manage the whole process.

I evaluated some software for agile project management and found good ones including ThoughtWorksMingle, but it’s not open-source and I believe, we can’t afford it (licensing, subscription).

We found ‘Agilo‘, a plugin for Trac, is easy to setup and was intuitive enough to get us started, considering our (no) experience with formal agile-methodology.

Do you want to get started with Scrum and don’t want to invest time learning a complicated software? You don’t need a software to do Scrum. However, if you like managing projects using a software and you are comfortable with Trac, try Agilo.

You might want to check Scrum in five minutes [PDF]

BTW! This is yet another post to spread the word about the software and tools, we find useful and have been using.

[1] project management, bug tracking, documentation, wiki and version-control browser

DeltaCopy: Backup software utility for windows

We have one Windows server, which is there for many reasons. Taking backup on windows can be pain, one has to rely on third-party software. We use DeltaCopy, which relies on rsync (an awesome piece of open-source software), statically linked Cygwin libraries/binaries.

It is easy to setup and doesn’t conflict with any existing Cygwin installation.

DeltaCopy has saved us from many disasters(disk failure, etc.), some of those happened during last one month. Had we not taken daily, weekly and monthly backup snapshots, we would have lost months of work.

Thanks to DeltaCopy and developers/company/community behind it. This post is my way of thanking them, by spreading some words.

Using DeltaCopy is very intuitive, however, feel free to leave comments, if you need any help setting it up.

Beautiful Plogger

Plogger is an open-source photo gallery system built using PHP. It successfully maintains the simplicity while providing so many features, it’s just beautiful piece of work.

Withing five minutes, I got Plogger running on my machine. In another hour, I created a new theme with different visualization (CoverFlow) to display thumbnails.

Having worked many different photo gallery management software/scripts, I find, Plogger is the most beautiful. I might be ignorant about other better systems, please share if you know.

I bet, web designers would find it very handy because they can easily customize and deliver solutions without dealing with complex programming required behind file upload/management.

Going Paperless – Document Management System

I have been looking document management system (DMS) so that we can go paperless, as much as we can. We have to use paper, considering our goverment and various other complainces require us to maintain document in paper form. I am currently evaluating following DMS:

These are opensource and stable products. However, it takes little effort to install and customize both of these for following reasons:-

  • both of these are based on java
  • both of these are made for large enterprises?

Once I implement one of these successfully, I would post details. Meanwhile, we have done following to reduce paper usage:

  • HRM system – employees' and their employment data is maintained and managed using HRM system (OrangeHRM – another opensource product). We scan paper documents and put it on HRM, so next time we don't have to make copies of original paper and carry around. One can directly see scanned documents.
  • Google Docs – we have started it, a lot lately, to maintain and share documents (which are not very sensitive – I am little skeptical about data on cloud)
  • MediaWiki – Our intranet/wiki is based on wiki, we use it extensively. Everyone can see and contribute, so no need to carry printed paper around.

With these small changes, we are already seeing benefits. With DMS, I can imagine life would be lot easier when it comes to maintaing, reviewing and sharing the documents. Please share your experiences, perhaps there is a better system I can implement easily.

TVersity: Media Server

I am sharing my experience while finding a good media-server (software that can store, transcode and serves various media formats to devices – computers, mobile, apple-tv, etc).

We all (parents, brother, sister-in-law, sister and myself) stay together, which means we have got more than one TV, various devices (mobile, computers, laptops, etc). We realized, it’s useful to host the media at one central computer.

  • Storage
  • Wiki – to jot down the links and ideas
  • Development and Testing – when we work at/from home
  • Media Server (software that serves media to various devices in home)

Most of the requirements (above) are sorted out except the last one “Media Server”. I looked at various options, some of these are listed below:

I found myself more comfortable with TVersity, though it’s not opensource and only runs on Windows, for following reasons

  • Ease in administration:
    • anyone in my family can add/remove media using it’s easy to use administration interface.
    • admin tool runs using Adobe Flash Player, has been built using OpenLaszlo framework and executable has been created using Zinc like tool.
  • Ease while using:
    • Web based interface for administration – runs on Adobe Flash Player
    • Web based interface for media library
      • Simple HTML
      • Flash based (built using OpenLaszlo) – where media is transcoded and played using Flash Player, awesome, isn’t it?
      • iPhone friendly interface
  • Support for Open DLNA and UPNP
  • Automatically detects (most of) devices, transcodes and serves media, if required
    • That means, ffdshow and other tools can be used to add subtitle and apply various filters before serving the videos.
  • XBMC/Boxee that runs on my macbook and apple-tv worked really well with TVersity

You can find the complete list of features on TVersity website.

So now life is simpler and easier, we all store our media at one place and can see it anytime and on most of our devices. Having web-based access to media makes life easier. I also feel, it’s lot easier to extend web-interface, which I plan to do in sometime.

I would love to post about detailed comparison between various options (media-servers and tools) mentioned above, perhaps in another post, sometime in future. Another post would be there to share how our home network looks like. Hope, I can spend sometime drawing diagrams which would be lot easier to understand.

Adobe Buzzword

Adobe Buzzword is available, no need for private invite to use it. It took me couple of minutes to register, then I checked out Buzzword; I must say Buzzword rocks!

It has a usable, fast, responsive and sleek user-interface (UI). Buzzword also allows to save documents in different formats (.doc, office-xml etc).

It allows to insert images, tables, comments, notes etc. I loved the ui-interaction for each of these features. I don’t know how to express in words without showing the screen-shots, so why don’t you check it out :-)

Just wondering, who designed the user-interface of Buzzword?

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Onfolio: a must have tool

Before I start writing about how useful & helpful Onfolio has been to me, let me put some words(from it’s help) about Onfolio.
Onfolio is a PC application that helps you collect, organize, and share information you find on the Internet, receive in a feed, or capture from your system or network. Web pages, web sites, multipage articles, images, a wide variety of file types, news feeds, search feeds, snippets of files or web pages—you can put any of these into an Onfolio collection. Then you share your research through documents, presentations, emails, websites, and reports.
I have been using Onfolio for over a month or two. I find it really useful because I can keep all my bookmarks, documents, rss feed subscriptions or other web-documents in one place for offline reading and also for archiving purpose. Which really helps me a lot because I don’t have internet connectivity after work.
Onfolio has got a nice User Interface. It works seemlessly with Internet Explorer as well as Mozilla Firefox, which means no matter which browser you are using, all bookmarks, saved webpages etc would go in one place. Which wasn’t same way earlier, because I used to have different bookmark list in each browser & saved documents used to go anywhere on my machine. Yeah! I am a bad manager *lately*.
If you want to give it a try, you can download Onfolio 2.0 Beta. I am sure, you gonna like it!
I just love it and I have been using Beta version of it but I am planning to buy it because its piece of software that’s worth buying.
BTW! Jeremy Alliare also has something to say about Onfolio.
Update: Onfolio guys have a blog also.

ASV 4.0

ASV – Action Script Viewer
A few days, I talked about ASV add-on tools. Lately I also tried ASV and I must say its a ‘must-have’ tool for designers or developers.
Imagine a situation, a client comes back and asks you to make some changes in his site or application you did in past. Now, if you have source files its simple but if you don’t remember where are latest files. Believe me, ASV can help you out here. It can create entire FLA for you through JSFL.
If you have lost some assets or source files from your machine and you only have swf files then ASV can extract following things for you.
- font outlines as TTF
- sound as WAV or MP3
- videos as FLV
- frames/graphics/movieclips/library symbols as SWFs
- bitmaps as JPG/PNG
- ofcourse all ActionScript code (scripts or class scripts)
ASV is very intuitive and user friendly to use, so anyone can easily start using without any problems. I love the timeline thingy and preview feature.
And ofcourse, if you want to study your compiled swf, ASV would help you there also. Peter Hall was able to come up with this idea while he was working in ASV.
Though some guys use ASV for wrong purpose, I would just request, please use the tool for ethically right reason. Its a nice tool made for nice purpose.