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phpGroupWare gets a Commercial Partner

All the pieces are now in place, so I can make the announcement.

phpGroupWare now has a commercial partner - ReSight AS of Norway. Over the next 12 months ReSight will be working with several partners, including Bergen Bolig- og Byfornyelse KF, MIT FabLab Norway and others to enhance phpGroupWare. Most of their work will be centred on the property module, written by Sigurd Nes.

Sigurd has done a great job in pulling this off. When he first told me about this deal in Paris last year I thought that I sounded interested, but I didn't see much of a role for me in the deal. Later I learnt that it was happening and Sigurd was pushing for me to have a role. I really appreciate the effort Sigurd has put into arranging this. I think this deal is testament to Sigurd's skills as a developer and negotiator. I also think it shows that phpGroupWare is a serious business tool.

For my part in the deal, I have been contracted by ReSight for 12 months starting 1 October 2007. I will be working as an engineer and also helping to guide and drive the project. I will be meeting with ReSight in Norway from 5 October until the 18th. Other trips to Norway are likely. I am pretty excited about all of this. Not only does it mean that I am paid to work on phpGroupWare, but it means that the project has a committed commercial partner who is trying to work closely with the existing developers and participate in the community.

I believe things are starting to look pretty good for phpGroupWare. The ReSight deal is just one of several things which has come off in the last few months that really helps the project. Johan has contributed a native php implementation of SyncML as part of the Google Summer of Code program. Don from Blue GNU has been blogging about phpGW and getting it widely syndicated. The user list seems more active too. I hope all this means that we can build up enough steam to finally get 0.9.18 out some time soon.

If anyone is interested in meeting me while I am in Europe, we are planning an informal meet up in Copenhagen, Denmark on Saturday 6 October 2007. If you are interested, please contact me, and we will try to work something out. The rest of my time in Norway is still somewhat unplanned, so I can't really make any commitments. So far Johan is confirmed and Micke Larsson is a maybe. If there is enough interest and we formalise arrangements I will post the details on the lists and/or on my blog.

phpGroupWare Articles

Don (D.C.) Parris has started a series of articles about phpGroupWare over at Blue GNU. The articles are well written and provide a lot of good information for new users. I hope Don keeps on writing good stuff for us to link to.

The articles have also been syndicated by others which should help raise the profile of the product.

I will have another big phpGroupWare related announcement some time this month. Things are looking pretty good for the project. Stay tuned.

Facebook a $5bil Waste of Time or a Major Cash Cow for Peddlers of FUD?

On Monday Fairfax (and others) were running a story about how employees using Facebook could cost companies a fortune in lost productivity. Facebook labelled a $5b waste of time was a catchy headline. The article quotes some back of the envelope calculations done by SurfControl. Basically they claim each Australian business has 1 employee using Facebook 1 hour per day (costing the company $6200 a year), and as there are around 800,000 businesses in Australia, so it costs the economy over 5bil AUD. I haven't seen the full report only the media coverage, but I can fairly confidently say that the 800,000 figure includes sole trader businesses and other small businesses which do not employ anyone or use computers. I read several blog posts on the issue, most comparing using Facebook to personal phone calls/email etc. I think the comparison is fair. So far I haven't seen anyone pick up the source of this "news". SurfControl clams that they protect
organizations with multiple layers of threat protection that filter inbound, outbound and internal Internet traffic.SurfControl's Enterprise Protection Suite protects multiple threat vulnerability points - Web, E-mail, IM, P2P and Mobile desktops - and is supported by SurfControl's worldwide Adaptive Threat Intelligence Service to provide customers with early detection of emerging threats, real-time updates and continuous protection.
Source SurfControl Mission Statement I am sure SurfControl would happily tell anyone contacting them, as a result of the press coverage, to purchase one of their filtering products. I wonder if SurfControl will be releasing a new report on how to peddle FUD to boost sales. Any sane business will have internet use policies for their staff. Businesses who are concerned about what their staff are accessing on the internet can implement a very simple transparent proxy using squid, SquidGuard and iptables running on low end hardware using Linux. I suspect that Facebook doesn't mind such publicity. Businesses such as Facebook rely on word of mouth and the SMH story helps them raise their profile.

New phpGroupWare Release is Out

I have spent a little bit of time on phpGroupWare the last couple of evenings. The main motivator was becoming aware of CVE-2007-4048. The release also improved our PHP 5 support and there was the mandatory "various bug fixes" thrown in for good measure.

Download and enjoy!

I hope to have some time to work on some stuff in HEAD soon. Johan's syncML stuff has me excited about hacking on phpGW.

Want to Work as Head Developer Platform Evangelist at Microsoft Australia?

This was a question posed to me on Friday afternoon by a recruiter from xpand group. I was warned that it was probably the strangest phone call I would get all year, and it was. We chatted for a bit about me and the role.

I was interested in finding out more about the role, so I rang back on Saturday, to discuss the role further. The woman was busy, so we didn't chat for long, but said she would all back later in the evening, she never did. I only have some of the information about the role, so here is what I know.

Basically xpand is hunting for the replacement for Frank Arrigo, the former head of the Developer Platform Evangelism at Microsoft Australia as he is heading off the Redmond. Microsoft is looking to recruit someone from the "Open Source Community" to take on the role. They are also looking for other people from the community to fill roles in the team.

I was told that it was an opportunity to influence Microsoft from the inside. I was told that Microsoft is changing, they recruited Adobe people to help with the development of Silverlight and they helped improve the product. I can't help being cynical about that. I still remember Daniel Robbins and Pia and Jeff's trip to Redmond. I also don't have much interest in working with people who think it is amusing to call FOSS developers communists.

Even if I get a call back later this week, I will not be considering the role. For a short time I had considered going along for the ride and seeing what was on the table and if my assumptions about Microsoft were wrong. After giving google a good workout, I realised that my main role would be hyping something I didn't believe in.

I am still feeling rather flattered that I was contacted about the role. If there was a similar offer from another company which was serious about engaging with the FOSS community or was trying to understand the community more, I would be more tempted. I do enjoy hacking away on stuff, but I also enjoy talking tech with people - especially FOSS tech.

Why didn't they call back? Maybe xpand got me confused with David Hall the evangelist.

Vodafone Service Enquiry Response

Yesterday afternoon I received a txt message from my CALLscreen. service. The message was as follows:

ERIN FROM VODAFONE RE JUST WANTED TO ENSURE YOUR HAPPY WITH YOU SERVICES

That was it. No "call me back on 555 1234" or "will call you back later on today". Notice the use of your and you instead of you're and your?

Here is a list of issues I currently have with the service:

  • About 10% of my calls go straight to CALLscreen, even when I not on the phone, no missed call or anything. My handset is a SE v600i
  • My Nokia 6280 which was purchased under a 2 contract is almost useless yet my contract has 11 months to run. The warranty ran out at about the same as the phone stuffed up.
  • I would switch the phone I have on the Talk&TXT plan over to the $29 Jumbo Cap, but this is only available on prepaid.
  • 3G enabled the Tecoma tower, so I can get 3G call the way home from work
  • The Delight offers every 12 months is a nice touch, I am looking forward to getting a swiss army knife and magazine.

I would also be interested in seeing if I could get a better deal than the following, all postpaid on one bill.

  • The old $79 Super Cap (the one with CALLscreen included) with about 11 months to run
  • Talk&TXT with a monthly spend of about $40
  • 1Gb UMTS mobile data through Virgin $30 per month
  • 365 Plan prepaid mobile for sending the occasional txt message when a server falls over, this one isn't important

I have an ABN if that makes any difference to what can be offered.

If anyone has any ideas please feel free to leave a comment.

I would have been happy go through all of this Erin yesterday, but I wasn't given the opportunity to do so.

PS If you want to give me a Nokia N95 I will happily accept it and review it here after 2 weeks of use. hint hint :)

Tux Cake

While waiting to be served at a newsagents today I noticed The Australian Women's Weekly Party Animals: Birthday Cakes for Kids sitting there on the counter. Just about every child growing up in Australia in the last 40 years has had at least 1 cake from one of the many editions of the original The Australian Women's Weekly Kid's Birthday Cakes (formerly Children's Birthday Cakes?).

Enough reminiscing, the reason why Party Animals caught my attention was the front cover.

Australian Women's Weekly Party Animals: Birthday Cakes for Kids Cookbook front page featuring Tux (the Linux mascot

Source: ACP
That penguin looks very familiar to me.

For those of you unfamiliar with Tux - the Linux mascot, here s/he is Tux - the Linux mascot, Created by Larry Ewing using The GIMP

This is not the first time the Linux mascot has been ripped off by a company in Australia looking for a quick buck. Last year the NSW Lotteries used Tux in their Pengwins instant lottery tickets which they later licensed to the SA Lotteries.

ACP should respect the license of the Tux image and acknowledge Larry and the Gimp, and even consider publishing the recipe under a Creative Commons License. ACP's parent company PBL Media is the other half of Microsoft's Australian online joint venture - ninemsn. I am sure MS wouldn't be too happy if someone created a clippy toilet brush without licensing their design.

I quite like the idea of a Tux cake. I can think of several occasions where it would be appropriate to prepare such a creation. As Ia am not that gifted in the kitchen any instructions on how to do so would be a great help to me (and I am sure others). After thinking about it for a minute or so I decided to I pony up the cash (12.95AUD) to buy a copy of the cookbook.

There were enough other recipes which looked like suitable for my son in the coming years to make it a worthwhile purchase. Avoid the other penguin recipe on page 86 is pretty lame.

The cookbook is available from amazon.co.uk (yes that is a referral code in the link) or if you are in Australia direct from ACP (the publisher).

I will be emailing ACP and Larry links to this post and will post any replies I get from them.

While doing some googling to see if any one else has blogged on this topic, I found a post from Bruce Everett about the book.

Update I have received something back from ACP.

pfSense and Routed Subnets

I have a few clients running IPCop firewall appliance boxes, but for more complex setups (such as multiple WAN connections) I use pfSense. pfSense is a FreeBSD based firewall appliance. pfSense comes in 2 flavours, one of which is designed to run on low spec embedded hardware, such as that sold by Yawarra Information Appliances. I know that I could just use a bash scripts or Shorewallbut not all my clients are command line ninjas, and I have better things to do with my time.

Until recently in Austalia, "residential grade" ADSL connections used PPPoA/PPPoE (aka Layer 3), while "business grade" services were almost exclusively RFC 1483 bridged connections (aka Layer 2). Earlier this year, Telstra Wholesale have stopped offering Layer 2 connections, and are they are now in the process of migrating all resellers' customers to Layer 3 services. For customers with a single usable static IP address this is unlikely to mean any real change. For customers with larger IP allocations (say /29s or larger) they will switch from an IP block being available from the modem to PPPoE with additional IPs being available via a routed subnet.

After some discussion and playing, I found out there are 2 ways to get a routed subnet working with a pfSense box.

Option A - Firewall handles PPPoE and subnet used on DMZ

This is the solution I went for recently for a new connection setup for a client.

  • Configure ADSL modem/router to run in fully bridged mode
  • Configure pfSense's WAN interface to use PPPoE and fill in the appropriate information.
  • Configure the DMZ to use the routed subnet
  • Assign the first usable IP address to the DMZ interface (usually OPT1) on the pfSense box
  • Allocate the remaining IPs to the boxes in the DMZ
  • Setup your rules appropriately

Option B - Modem handles the PPPoE and subnet used on WAN

This method seems to make more sense for people moving from Layer 2 to Layer 3 connections. Please be aware that I haven't tested this, but I am told it should work.

  • Configure ADSL modem/router to work as router connecting via PPPoE
  • Configure the Ethernet port on the modem/router to use the first usable IP address from the routed subnet range
  • Configure pfSense's WAN interface to use a "static" connection and fill in the appropriate information, with the second usable IP address being assigned to the interface.
  • Assign any left over IP addresses as "Proxy ARP" addresses under Virtual IPs
  • Setup your rules and NATing appropriately

I hope someone find this useful.

Update

Yes I have been a bit slack about blogging lately, I have had a lot on. Here is a quick summary of the notable bits.

Car

My car is at the panel beaters. The guy who hit me drove off after I accused him of being drunk. The police have told me that he has been charged with several offences, including careless driving. Julie and Noah were in the car at the time, but they were both ok. My neck still a little sore. It will cost about $8000 to get it fixed. Allianz has been really good so far, one phone call and one visit to the panel beaters and it gets sorted. And of course, here is a pic of the damage My smashed Volvo 850 Wagon This is the second Volvo I have smashed in less than 2 years (I rolled the last one and wrote it off) and escaped with nothing but minor neck injuries. If you are looking at buying a car I would recommend a Volvo 850 Wagon(or V70 / XC70 if you can afford it).

Rental Cars

I have always suspected that there are scams in the car rental business. This was confirmed by Hertz, their "Melbourne Downtown" depot was able to do a Ford Falcon XR6 for under 125AUD for the 3 days, less than half the price of their suburban depots. The second scam is the insurance excess waiver. Having to pay 1500AUD excess regardless of fault forces people to take the reduction waiver. On the positive side, their #1 Club Gold seems ok, so I signed up for free.

Work

I am still working at SGI. Last week I signed another contract extension, which will take me through until 7 September. I am currently in discussions with a company in Europe about a telecommuting role involving phpGroupWare. Things should become clearer before the end of the month - watch this space.

Summer of Code

Johan has cranked out some really nice looking sync code for phpGroupWare. I complete his mid point review a few days ago - I gave him an A. The only real criticism I made was that he should enable comments on his blog. We should get this into CVS some time this week.

Webarama? Spamarama!

Some businesses have a strange way of promoting their services. Many years ago I used webarama for hosting a small client site. I cancelled the service over 4 years ago as the client no longer needed the site. I didn't really have any problems with them that I can remember, but I won't be recommending them to anyone after they spammed me about a new anti spam service they were offering.
Dear Dave, As part of our ongoing commitment to provide new features to clients we are pleased to announce the launch of our Anti Spam management interface for shared hosting clients, following on from the recent announcement of our free Anti Spam & Anti Virus system. The My-Spam interface allows you to take control of your email, specifying custom spam scores, deletion of spam email and specifying white and blacklisted email addresses. ...
Maybe webarama need to familiarise themselves with the Australian Spam Act 2003 there is a good summary CAUBE.AU's website. I will be emailing webarama a link to this post and will see what they have to say. Stay tuned.