On Friday the new DataSwift Helpdesk went into limited external testing with a few select clients, so it’s actually now being used for real. There are a few known bugs (and almost certainly a number of as-yet undiscovered ones) but the core functionality looks to be stable.

Still, it’s early days – hence it still being classed as a Beta release – and there is no inventory facility as of yet.  We’re going to keep to the Ticketing-only system for a while until we’re satisfied there are no more issues with it, then I’ll get started on the Inventory module.

As per usual, it’s busy at work, so there’s not been much time to spend on the new help desk system. That said, the following things are now working:

  1. User creation / editing
  2. Client creation /editing
  3. Ticket creation and updates via email (including attachments)
  4. Google Maps integration for tickets (printable versions of tickets can include a map of the area, – handy for support visits!)

They may not sound like much, but a lot of the rest of the system relies on the above. In fact, the only major part missing before initial test-usage can begin is the time-management module.

Client edit form on the new Helpdesk

Client edit form on the new Helpdesk

At present, tickets created on the help desk track the time spent, but there’s no way to see how much time a particular client has used. The Contracts module will allow support agreements to be entered (along with the number of allotted hours, and the hourly rate). It will also cater for non-contract clients too.

Once the ticketing part of the system is up to scratch, the next challenge will be the Inventory module. This will link to the tickets too, so users (and support staff) will be able to look up a particular device, and see its history.

After the Inventory module will come the Knowledge Base. It will be a categorised, searchable archive of solutions to common problems. Help desk tickets will be able to link to articles (and may in time provide suggestions automatically). Users may be able to comment on articles too.

In the far distant future, I hope to provide some kind of link to our quotation system, allowing clients to access quotes on-line. Obviously this -along with most of the rest of the system- requires careful planning from a security point of view, so it may well take a while to implement.

Not sure that we’re going to be able to get much work done at the office tomorrow morning, as we’ll be without power for a few hours. The phones should stay running (as they’ve got a decent UPS) but we’ll be without access to our servers and the Internet. Luckily, I’m planning to be on-site elsewhere for the duration! Comments Off on IT’s all a matter of power

One upshot of being a little quieter at work during the schools’ summer break is that I’ve been able to work on our new Helpdesk system. It’s now almost reached the point where we’ll be trialling the ticketing part with a few clients (there’s just a few tweaks and some more testing to go).

A screenshot of the tickets overview for the new DataSwift Helpdesk

A screenshot of the tickets overview for the new DataSwift Helpdesk

Eventually the Helpdesk will provide an integrated inventory, knowledge-base and downloads system. Much of the back-end is already present for these, but it’s getting the user-interface sorted that takes a fair amount of careful planning.

After trying half-heartedly to get the dataswift.co.uk for the past few years, I finally contacted Nominet a couple of months back. They responded pretty quickly, with good and bad news.

The bad news was that they weren’t going to create a dispute case for DataSwift. The good news was that the current registration data for the domain was invalid, as the company dataswift.co.uk was registered to had been dissolved a few years back. As a result they initiated the domain cancellation process, and after a couple of months I was able to register the domain for us – no longer shall we have to spell out dsns.co.uk over the phone!

Friday was the first time in a couple of years that I made it to the BETT show (it stands for the British Educational Training and Technology show) and despite it being a bit of a long day, with far too few seats, and coffee that was stupidly expensive, it was a worthwhile trip.

The biggest stands weren’t actually the most interesting ones (aside from Intel’s – more about that one later). There were a number of smaller companies exhibiting some pretty original ideas, and despite much of it being targeted at visiting teachers, it was still worth a look.

It was good to drop by the Edugeek stand, and finally put faces to some of the names that frequent the forums, – it was also good to get a free smoothie from the guys on the Smoothwall stand next-door, especially taking into account the pricing of refreshments in the place!

Although I’m currently in the process of writing our own helpdesk system at DataSwift, the folks at the Topdesk stand seem to have an impressive product for a pretty reasonable price (they’ve sent me a demo pack, which I’ve yet to try out).

I wasn’t exactly inspired by one stand, where the salesperson didn’t even know the basic system requirements of their (pretty technical) product! – nor by another vendor, who tried in vain to demonstrate how good their product was, only to have it time-out with every other click…

Intel had a number of their new Classmate 3 netbook-cum-tablet-pcs on their stand, and had apparently seeded them liberally throughout the exhibition halls. The new machine (apparently on sale soon as the NEC Otomo) is pretty standard Netbook specification on the inside:

  • Intel Atom CPU (1.6Ghz)
  • 1GB RAM (upgradeable)
  • 1024 x 600 8.9″ TFT display
  • 60GB HDD (or a 16GB Solid State Device)
  • 802.11b/g/n wireless
  • SD card reader
  • 2 x USB 2.0 ports
  • VGA connector
  • Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Touch-screen

It’s that last item on the list that gives a clue toward what makes it stand out from the crowd, – it’s effectively a tiny tablet-pc, albeit with a fairly low-end touch screen, so handwriting recognition isn’t likely to be stunning. A lot of educational software is targeted at interactive whiteboards these days, and -assuming it will run in the 1024×600 screen size- it should be equally at home on the Classmate/Otomo. The case of the machine is pretty rugged too, with a carry handle integrated into the chassis. Apparently it’s been drop tested at heights of up to 60cm officially, and up to 1m unofficially, so it should be capable of withstanding most of the rigours of classroom life (especially if you go for the SSD option).

We’re looking at getting a demonstration model at DataSwift, so may be able to let local schools have a play if they missed out at BETT.

Now if only I can tear myself away from interesting gadgets, and get our helpdesk finished…!

Looks like Wordpress 2.7 be available before the end of the week – it’s apparently being launched on Wordpress.com tomorrow, so that presumably means the folks at Automattic have had good feedback on the recent RC1 release. One of our school clients is changing to self-hosting their website, and Wordpress 2.7 should be a good platform for them, so long as there aren’t any show-stopper bugs waiting to leap out upon general release… Comments Off on WordPress 2.7 due before the end of the week?

Just in case anyone’s interested, Christ the King College (formerly Archbishop King and Trinity Middle Schools) are looking to recruit a Network Manager, to start in January. Details should be available in the national and local press shortly, and I’ll try to stick something on here too.

It should be a good position -and hopefully the network’s in a fairly healthy state, since DataSwift have been looking after it in the interim!

If anyone wants any other info, either contact the College, – or if it’s of a technical nature, ask in the comments…

Well, the new Christ the King College has been open for the past two days, and I’ve just about survived!

Monday was the last chance to get things done with no staff around (save for a few admin personnel who were very understanding when things temporarily fell over). Tuesday and Wednesday were spent in a whirlwind of last minute tweaks and fixes, along with my having to give a 45 minute presentation to the entire staff on the new network. When it reached 10pm on Tuesday I gave up on the idea of planning the talk, and somehow I managed to fit the whole thing into exactly the time-slot provided (even allowing a few minutes for questions!).

It’s been almost like old times, as I’ve spent pretty much the whole of the week at the College – leaving Luke to run around like a lunatic visiting all the other schools with the usual ‘new term problems’. With a bit of luck things will return to normality (whatever that may be) next week.

The official opening of the College is later in September and is likely to involve some interesting ceremonies (or so I’ve heard).

I pity the folk at the Bestival this weekend as the roads themselves were wet enough this evening, – I dread to think what state the fields at Robin Hill are in!

We’re having a fun time at work at present, planning all the summer projects that are due to be done while the schools are on the summer break. I’d like to know why this school holiday is only five weeks in place of the usual six? One of the biggest is the network for the newly created Christ the King College (web-site not yet available – we’re working on sorting that too).

Still, creating a whole routed network from scratch (including reinstalling all servers and workstations, both Windows and Apple) gives us the opportunity to try a few new ideas (including Paul Beesley‘s very handy Acceptable Usage Policy tool), and refine our existing scripts and policies.