Earlier this week, we had a bit of a road trip on our hands… A day discussing OpenERP in Cambridge and the next day vtiger CRM consulting in Milton Keynes which is not too far away, so we needed somewhere to stay to avoid driving a 200+ mile round trip.
We found a real gem of place! A very attractive country pub with extremely pleasant rooms, very friendly service, fantastic food (the Mixed Grill was really, really excellent), good beer and entertaining and congenial locals too.
If you happen to be working around the Bedford, Milton Keynes, Newport Pagnell area and want somewhere to stay, I whole-heartedly recommend you check out The White Hart in Sherington.
I wanted to point any readers who may be interested to a new post I wrote over on our company blog. It discusses the latest release of a very popular business application we spend more and more time working with our customers on – vtiger CRM. CRM meaning Customer Relationship Management. Not only do we help others use vtiger CRM, it is also our own tool of choice for Sales and Marketing Automation.
The company behind vtiger CRM just released the latest version, 5.2.0, which has several major new features and lots of minor tweaks and improvements too.
We think this is the best truly Open Source CRM application currently available. There are other CRM systems that claim to be Open Source but are actually Open Core which is not the same thing at all.
I just noticed that I hadn’t posted anything here for what feels like ages – since August the 15th.
So I thought, hmmm, better write something.
But what? A quick update on what’s been going on perhaps? That’ll do…
I’ve been working quite a bit with the brilliant free and open source vtiger CRM recently. Looking at some of the less widely used features and updating our training materials for the recent 5.10 release. I’ve also just submitted a small patch for the Customer Portal feature, to do with its web layout and have been thinking about how best to improve this, and the Webforms modules, to make them easier to customise.
I am also really enjoying using a great little python application called “Getting Things Gnome“. It one of those simple applications which does one job, does it very well and is easy to use. It’s basically an app for jotting down your todo list and making sure you get things done… Here’s what it looks like on my Ubuntu Jaunty desktop:
I also had a mail from those nice people at Packt Publishing suggesting two new books to look at and review for them, In fact a co-author of one of them actually requested that Packt contact me to do a review Flattery indeed.
So, we now have four books in the pipeline in no particular order:
Implementing, Administering, and Consulting on Commercial IP Telephony Solutions
- Written by four Asterisk Professionals, this book brings their years of experience together in an easy-to-understand guide to working with Asterisk in small, medium and larger Commercial environments
- Packed with hints, tips, and best practice – learn to avoid the pitfalls that can hinder an Asterisk implementation
- Focused chapters provide thorough, comprehensive, and self-contained instructions on how to deploy Asterisk across different commercial scenarios
This will probably be the first one I read when they arrive next week. It’s hot-off the press, just been released and can be ordered from Packt’s web site here.
My little Asus 1008HA netbook is running very happily with the Alpha build of Ubuntu Karmic Koala. I was at the swimming pool yesterday (not in it but taking my son to his lesson) and using 3G mobile internet to get on line. Battery life is good although not as long as is quoted by Asus. I reckon I get about 3 1/2 to 4hrs of good use. But that is mainly when powering a 3G dongle too – and they get hot. Karmic is shaping up to be a great release I think although to be frank I am really not sure about the new Gwibber interface, and the Empathy IM client hasn’t really floated my boat yet. But hey ho, never mind, at least we have a choice folks.
We are planning some new marketing activities over the coming months, what with the forthcoming release of the best desktop OS of all time and Microsoft releasing their rewrite of Vista, October should be a fun month. Hopefully we’ll have lots of interesting stuff to write about.
In fact I want to share with you a backup script I’ve written in Bash for my home office network and what may well end up being expanded and developed to support some of our commercial systems too. Well I think it’s pretty cool anyway. It wakes up machines in the middle of the night, uses – currently – rsync to back them up, then turns them off again. Configuration is easy and it seems to be working fine. When I get a mo I’ll publish the script source and let you all comment on my terrible bash skills. But I like it…
Recently I received a flattering email from Packt Publishing telling me about a new book entitled: “Asterisk Gateway Interface 1.4 and 1.6 Programming” – by Nir Simionovich. The author of the email refered to this blog and asked if I would like to review their book for my blog. Very flattering indeed.
[Update: Book review is done now. You can read it here]
I was, of course, already familiar with Packt. They do produce lots of books on Open Source technologies. What I wasn’t aware of, until I looked, was this (from their “about us” page):
Packt Open Source Project Royalty Scheme
Packt believes in Open Source. When we sell a book written on an Open Source project, we pay a royalty directly to that project. As a result of purchasing one of our Open Source books, Packt will have given some of the money received to the Open Source project.
In the long term, we see ourselves and yourselves, as customers and readers of our books, as part of the Open Source ecosystem, providing sustainable revenue for the projects we publish on. Our aim at Packt is to establish publishing royalties as an essential part of the service and support business model that sustains Open Source.
Now that seems like a fine scheme to me and is one that would certainly weight my purchasing decision toward a Packt book over another similar publication. I am aware that they will obviously get some free publicity from our review but having read the above I am quite happy about that.
Anyway, back to AGI.
Asterisk Gateway Interface (AGI)
The Asterisk Gateway Interface is an interface for adding functionality to Asterisk with many different programming languages. Perl, PHP, C, Pascal, Bourne Shell – it’s your choice, really.
- AGI may control the dial plan, called in extensions.conf.
- Async AGI Introduced in Asterisk 1.6, allows asynchronous AGI scripting.
- EAGI gives the application the possibility to access and control the sound channel in addition to interaction with the dial plan.
- FastAGI can be used to do the processing on a remote machine via a network connection.
- DeadAGI gives access to a dead channel, after hangup. Deprecated since Asterisk 1.6
Being a fan and user of Asterisk in our business, I think what we will do is actually use the book and create or modify an application that will be of use to us. This should allow us to give a decent overview of the content and how easy/hard it was to transfer the knowledge into a real world result.
But I am open to other suggestions too. Anyone got any good ideas for a fairly simple AGI application?
Martyn, from Severn Delta Ltd, emailed me saying he had an Open Source story to tell. I’ve had this in my inbox for a while now, but have finally got round to publishing it.
I own 50% of a manufacturing company in Bridgwater. When we bought the company out of receivership in ’03 we had no systems at all. Our former parent company was running a character based ERP system called MAX on Unix and a Windows file serving network.
So day 1 (ish!) we set up two RH servers and installed samba, sendmail, apache etc on one for file print intranet and email and the Linux port of MAX on the other.
See this post for some other detail.
We have not been able to find a “right-sized” ERP solution for our needs to replace the ageing character based system (which had been “sunsetted” by infor in ’05). We also needed some form of CRM package to mange the growth of the company once we had moved into our new building in ’05.
EGS is PHP/Ajax based and runs against PostgreSQL. It also has its own development framework based on MVC that allows you to add modules. EGS 2.0 core has CRM, Project Management, Ticketing modules and a framework that allows for integrated e-commerce apps and site content management. It is free and open source.
The tools on which the system is built are:
Smarty Template Engine
In November 2006 I took on a developer, Dave Easeman, to help code the accounts/ERP system as I specified it – we are now 99% of the way through – although I guess we will never finish the project! We are about to go live (Jan 1st) and then the aim is to polish everything up in Quarter 1/2 2009.
See here for a link on our blog
Maybe what I’ll do is update you as we progress to “go live” on Jan 1.
Severn Delta Limited
Thanks for the story Martyn, it’s very encouraging how companies such as yours (i.e. not some global enterprise with billions of dollars in the bank) are able to deploy, manage, run and develop their own IT systems using FOSS. This is a great example of just how flexible and accessible FOSS really is.
I love this quote (from the first blog link):
I will never buy a Windows based PC ever again.
Are you listening Bill?
That was written in August last year. I’m interested if you have managed to stick to that goal Martyn?
Good luck with your deployment. I genuinely hope it goes well, and please do keep us updated on your progress. You seem to have a similar tenacity to Adrian Steele at Mercian Labels who has also been blogging about their own migration to FOSS. And they also developed a core application from scratch too – for them it was a CRM/MIS app.