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.

Roundcube Webmail Logo

The developers of my favourite webmail client – Roundcube, have just announced the official release for version 0.3, which brings with it a bunch of new features and a whole heap of tweaks.

Probably the most interesting addition is plug-in support. Previously, any extra features required patching the main source of the application, which generally resulted in messy and hard-to-maintain code, which was very tricky to upgrade. Now though, there is a complete plug-in API. Hopefully this will mean a veritable deluge of useful add-ons in the not-too-distant future.

Roundcube's main mail view

The main mail view in Roundcube 0.3

For now though, I’ll happily make do with the default installation, as it already provides a handy selection of features. It may not be as versatile as SquirrelMail, but it is certainly better looking…!

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.

I’ve finally found the time to setup my web-based music player on the new (virtual) Ubuntu server. At the same time, I took the opportunity to make it all unicode compliant. Actually, I had to do that, since the music is actually on the Vista box, and accessed via a CIFS mountpoint setup in /etc/fstab.

I had a few issues that got in the way:

  1. Getting the correct options in /etc/fstab to mount the share and make sense of the accented characters. This was solved by following this article on the Ubuntu forums. It would have been even quicker to sort, had I not forgotten that my SSH session wasn’t set to display unicode – so I still couldn’t actually see the right characters even when the fstab was correctly configured!
  2. The current version of LAME in the Ubuntu repositories (3.97) is not the latest stable one (3.98). This probably isn’t crucial, but my transcoding makes use of some of the new features (such as embedding album-art). This was easily fixed by downloading and compiling the latest release.
  3. The GD graphics library that is installed with the php5-gd package under Ubuntu is missing a lot of the features that the bundled PHP version includes (such as rotation). The proper fix for this is to compile PHP with the library. I took the cheat’s route, and simply extracted the bundled library from the Fedora distribution’s RPM file (note that that link is to the 64-bit version).

After a few tweaks to the PHP code to make sure unicode text was treated as such (and changing the collation type of the database tables to match) it’s all working properly. Or rather, it’s working as well as can be expected considering that it’s not actually finished yet!