Tuesday, November 15, 2005

New webapps

It seems that there's a big push in the Web Application sector at present. AJAX (Asychronous Javascript and XML) is the new tech in town and everyone is quickly rushing their applications based upon the technology out their door. I don't mind a bit since its all based on open standards and thus there are Open Source applications available for me to play with.

Two such applications that I'm playing with at the moment are Zimbra and SugarCRM.

Zimbra is pushing e-mail and collaboration software to new heights. They're taking what Google started with their Gmail and Blogger and merging it with current collaboration tools and methods to come up with a modern, scalable and cross-platform suite that promises to change the way we communicate in the work place.

I have installed and set up the latest version (Beta 2) as my mail host for naturalnetworks.net. So far its going quite smoothly, however there are issues getting it to work normally through a firewall with 1-to-1 NAT, it's pretty insistent upon its IP addressing and DNS. I read through the Zimbra forums and it would appear that the main issue would be with the way it uses IPTables to redirect ports - it might be getting confused and could be double NATing in a way.

The next release won't depend on the firewall, instead it will startup with root permissions and then suid to a user - similar to many other network applications. The reason for doing this is because only the root user is allowed to open ports below 1024. Another positive reason for not using IPTables is because only Linux has it, FreeBSD and others don't have it, or normally don't use it.

Update: I have since upgraded to the 'M2' release of Beta 2 and the issues I was having with the remote access have all been resolved. M2 has added a few more nice tweaks to the web user interface and various other additions listed on the Zimbra forums in the announcement.

Zimbra Web Client Interface

CRM (Customer/Client Relations Manager) software has been around for quite sometime now. CRM software is usually designed for use by sales people and perhaps marketing as well - probably because traditionally they're the ones who are continuously facing the client. However many other features have crept into the standard recipe for a good CRM package, including interfaces for support/technical staff and project management. This is expected since things have shifted from a sell and forget attitude to developing a continuing relationship one.

This brings me to SugarCRM, a suite of modules that make up a complete CRM package. I'm using the free to download and use Open Source version - the main differences between the free to use one and the pay to use is support and a few other little things that make its integration with other existing systems easier. I'm not a sales person but I did do a bit of marketing and project management study while at Uni and Tafe - so from what I can gather from the suite is that its pretty comprehensive and sticks to the simple bare bones approach to getting the job done. If you want more detailed/complex structuring of information then it wouldn't be too difficult to modify it - just need to find a PHP developer (most decent Web Developers should know it).

SugarCRM Interface

Monday, November 07, 2005

Adding Wifi to the WRAP

I've been running WRAP style routers with the Mikrotik RouterOS software for a while now and I have always been interested to see how the built in wireless functionality worked. Up until now we have been using separate Cisco AP352 access points connected via ethernet.

When it came time to order another set of WRAP bits from Yawarra I got a Senao NL-2511MP PLUS miniPCI wireless card. These tiny adaptors pump out 200mW of power, makes it easier to deploy a wireless access point as you run the antenna cable longer or use a smaller (cheaper) antenna. The Cisco's we use are 100mW for comparison. I also got the correct tail from them as I couldn't be bothered working out how to make my own, but now that I've seen one, it doesn't seem that difficult - might need a special crimping tool for the I-PEX connector though.

Now the case that houses the WRAP board doesn't have any holes for the RP-SMA bulkhead connector. Easily fixed with my trusty cordless drill and a few bits - use a small bit to drill a pilot hole, the right sized bit for the actual hole and then a huge bit to tidy the edges of the newly drilled hole (removes dags and unsharpened the edges). Then simply secure the connector using its nut and washer - I stuck the washer on the inside.

Mind you that I did all the drilling with the board removed and replaced the board before mounting the tail.

Once that was all in place I flashed a CF card with RouterOS 2.8.28 and went through the usual install process. Once I had applied the Marinanet configuration I bridged the hotspot ethernet and wireless interfaces and modified the configuration to suit. The wireless interface is set to AP Bridge mode and I left the rest at their defaults for the purpose of testing.

So far it all seems to be working fine. I did a bit of signal strength testing using various antennas and it would appear that I need to go a bit further than 5m to test it properly :P. The management interface for the wireless is quite good, has everything a purebred AP would have.

Some piccies as expected: