GeoTools: Geolocation services for vtiger CRM

As many of you know already, our company Libertus Solutions does quite a lot of work with the open source CRM called vtiger. It’s a very competent and accomplished product made even more so by its well thought out extension capabilities.

In this post I’m really pleased to announce our first open source vtlib module for vtiger called GeoTools.

It was derived from another project on the vtiger forge called Maps, which we have taken and extended in true open source style. Standing on the shoulders of giants, and all that…

GeoTools introduces Geolocation features to vtiger in a standard vtlib module package. It adds the ability to perform distance-based searches on your data.

GeoTools uses the Google Maps API to gather positional data, that’s latitude and longitude coordinates, for the entity records that have been configured in the GeoTools Settings area. Once we have acquired this positional data we can then perform location-based calculations to display the results on an embedded Google Map, and as a list view of entity records.

Anyway enough of the words already! Here’s a video:

As soon as the forge site is up I’ll update this and provide links to the code.

Update: Here we are: This will be a moving target for some time yet – it’s still rather “beta” grade code…

Using Facebook XMPP chat on Ubuntu

The first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem. Hi everyone, my name is Alan and I do have a Facebook account. There, done it. Feels better already.
I don’t use it that much, and frankly I find it a little disturbing the way it mixes up all your friends, family and work contacts so they all talk to each other. But this isn’t a post about my insecurities and paranoid delusions. No, it is a post about Ubuntu and XMPP. Facebook now does XMPP, which is an instant messaging protocol also known as Jabber. It is the same thing Google talk uses and the same thing that the most awesome OLPC XO uses for communication.

  • First up you need to set a facebook username up. Log on to facebook and go to your account settings page. Set your username if you haven’t already. I chose alanbelltolc, to match my twitter and identi.ca names. Now I think you have to log out of facebook and back in – this might not be appears to be a necessary step.
  • Now run Empathy, Applications-Internet-Empathy Instant Messenger.
  • Press F4 or go to Edit-Accounts in the Empathy menu.
  • Press the Add button and choose Jabber from the dropdown list of account types.
  • Press the Create button.
  • Your login ID is username@chat.facebook.com – we think it prefers all lower case
  • Your password is your facebook password
  • Now make sure the account is enabled (checkbox next to the account name on the left)
  • It may ask you if you want to let it save your password in the gnome keyring at this point.
  • Make yourself available and the names and pictures of both of your friends should appear!

The account setting dialog as you go through the setup:

You can chat with your friends

You even get lovely libnotify popups like this one >>

Update
If you want to try it out on someone please feel free to find me on Facebook and . . . um what is the verb? XMPP me? Jab me? Next up I will have to take Debian off my OLPC, put Sugar back on and try and get Sugar to use Facebook as a back end.

The Google Chrome Key

Back in 1995 something very odd happened. Microsoft released a new version of their operating system, jumping from version 3.x to version 95 which, as well as being a pretty innovative bit of version numbering, brought in a few other new things including the start menu. Now to get the start menu to work they pulled off an astonishing move and added a new key to computer keyboards, not just keyboards made by Microsoft (I am not even sure they did make them at the time) but keyboards made by all manufacturers. This key had a little windows advert on it and was called the Windows key. Quite how the competition regulators let this pass at the time and ever since is a mystery to me, but to this day if you go and buy a Logitech keyboard for your Ubuntu Linux desktop you will have a windows logo staring at you as you type like the eye of Sauron.

Chrome Key

Keyboards without a windows key are few and far between. Here is a picture of one from ZaReason.

Todays announcement from Google that they are going to release an operating system may cause keyboard manufacturers to think about their little windows adverts a bit more carefully. Initially Google is targeting netbooks with integrated keyboards, presumably they won’t tolerate a windows logo on the keyboard. If and when the Chrome OS moves to a more desktop like platform will Google start pressing OEMs to add a Chrome key? Or will the key be neutralised to a more generic symbol that doesn’t advertise an operating system at all?
Chrome Key

Google Chrome OS

This could be pretty big.

Google announced, in their own rather subtle way – via a blog post – their new Google Chrome OS. It’s quite exciting simply because it is from Google and what the objective of the OS is:

Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.

For us Freedom lovers there’s good new too:

Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010…

… We have a lot of work to do, and we’re definitely going to need a lot of help from the open source community to accomplish this vision. We’re excited for what’s to come and we hope you are too. Stay tuned for more updates in the fall and have a great summer.

Techcrunch had a great headline on this announcement: Google Drops A Nuclear Bomb On Microsoft. And It’s Made of Chrome.

Here’s a quick thought that that headline inspired…

If Google are ultimately as successful in the OS space as they have been in the on-line space, then I can see some major investigations and calls from such places as Redmond for Google to be split into smaller entities. In a somewhat ironic repeat of what happened to AT&T back in the 70s.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in my mind. Even though Google claim to “do no evil” a monopoly is a monopoly is a monopoly. This is early days and clearly we aren’t anywhere near there yet but they are growing fast and becoming even more ubiquitous than AT&T; which was essentially only a USA monopoly.

I’d love to hear other thoughts on this:

Do you care what happens?
Do you think it is too early in the morning and I should stay in bed rather than talk drivel?
Do you think Google Chrome OS is a non-entity?

Is Microsoft ‘Buying-Off’ Linux Netbook Vendors? [Updated]

There seems to be something of a military campaign afoot. One that surely shows signs of desperation and anxiety on behalf of the instigator.

First we had Asus telling it’s potential customers that “It’s Better With Windows” using phraseology such as:

“Windows helps you easily get online and connect to your devices and services – without dealing with an unfamiliar environment or major compatibility issues.”

And now we hear that PC World (IMHO probably the worst place to buy a PC or get technical advice anywhere in the UK) are dropping Linux netbooks too. And why?

… because Windows makes it easier to share content, and provides customers with a simpler, more familiar computing experience on the move,

Share content huh? Does Ubuntu (or any other Linux distro of choice) work with Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Google Apps, or anywhere else where we “share” content? Does email work? Does OpenOffice.org allow me to share stuff with those unfortunate enough to have spent hundreds of pounds on another Office suite? (Hint: The answer is Yes.)

Simpler… Hmmm, I wonder how much truth there is in this? How hard is it to install software on [say] Ubuntu vs Windows. Wander over here and take a look. (It’s pretty funny really).

familiar – Well, OK I’ll give them that. But I could make Ubuntu blue and have big child-like buttons if I really wanted to. Other than that though – what’s the big deal? I have a mouse, keyboard, screen. Yep, check. I move the mouse and click (or double click) on things and I type stuff. Yep. Check. Ahh no I’ve got it. The familiarity is with the dear old BSOD. Now I don’t get that. In fact my PC doesn’t really crash at all. It doesn’t need defragging (whatever that is), it doesn’t need disinfecting, it doesn’t require frequent re-builds because it gets so slooooooooow after a few months of use. Now I see. That’s what users want and are familiar with.

And how about all those Drivers we have to install and update and search the ‘net for? Hey? Drivers? What are they?

And how often do you update your Anti-virus software? You do have AV software don’t you? Oh of course, sorry I forgot. Nope. Viruses are not really much of an issue with a proper operating system. Take a look at the Wildlist.org (the list of “Active” computer viruses) All 451 from March this year target the Win32 API.

And how about all those strange licenses that many people don’t read, but that “protect” you from doing something illegal – like helping your neighbour perhaps?

This whole thing reminds me of the stupid and cringe-worthy adverts you see in the press where Vendor X says that they “Recommend Proprietary OS Home Premium”. Do they hell. Do you think they really believe that? Or do you think they have been given incentives to say so? I often wonder if there could be a case here with the Trades Description Act (if that still exists). IANAL so don’t really know but it seems as though many vendors’ adverts are not being totally honest when they make these recommendations. It’s bloody obvious they are being paid in some form or another to say that.

So, it seems to me that Microsoft are getting a bit fed up with all these really cool little netbooks running Ubuntu or Android or something else that isn’t Windows. They have very deep pockets and can afford to buy off some of the people some of the time. But I do not think they can afford to buy everyone all of the time and some vendors probably have a bit more integrity in the first place.

I suggest that you shop around and – even if you buy a PC with Windows for some weird reason – you go to a vendor or supplier who has not been bought off. At least you can have some level of trust in them.

Of course, you could always visit Naked Computers.org and find a vendor that will sell you a computer without an operating system at all. You can then install Ubuntu or something else on it. You almost certainly have a legal CD of XP lying around somewhere. I have several and don’t even use it anymore, so why should I be forced to buy more of their crap, unsafe, bug-ridden software?

Phew. Well. I’m glad I got that off my chest.

[UPDATE] How coincidental is this? Asus, suddenly pull their Android netbook and can’t really say anything about it…

A day after an Asus Eee PC running Google’s Android operating system was shown at Computex Taipei, top executives from the company said the project will be put on the backburner. …

… “Frankly speaking, the first question, I would like to apologise that, if you look at Asus booth we’ve decided not to display this product,” he said. “I think you may have seen the devices on Qualcomm’s booth but actually, I think this is a company decision so far we would not like to show this device. That’s what I can tell you so far. I would like to apologise for that.”

He declined further comment on the subject.

Yeah right. Of course he did.

Google Chrome on Ubuntu?

[UPDATE: This post was published on the 3rd Sept. 2008. Since then much has changed and the Google Chromium browser is readliy available for Linux either direct from Google or there is a PPA with daily builds for Ubuntu users. Both work for me. END UPDATE]

Click on the image for a larger view…

Google\'s Chrome Browser on Ubuntu

However, all is not quite as it seems…

The new Chrome browser from Google in this first release is only for Windows (groan) although they are developing for Linux (Instructions on how to build it are here) and Mac too so I doubt it will be very long before we see something that can run natively on your Operating System of choice.

The picture above shows the Chrome browser running on an Ubuntu 8.04 desktop. However, there is some trickery going on here…

Anyone like to guess how I’ve done it? (And there is no Photoshop or image editing whatsoever. It is really running as you see it)

You can probably get it working on Wine too although I haven’t tried this: http://bugs.winehq.org/show_bug.cgi?id=15106

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