Review: Eventum

Eventum is an open-source web-based issue management and tracking system from MySQL AB. It runs on PHP with a MySQL backend (of course), and offers a rich featureset and easy installation – in theory.

Installation
Eventum is a little bit picky about it’s installation environment. Attempting to install Eventum on a default installation of Apache (with MySQL libraries installed) results in some bad luck. When you load the installer, you’ll get a long list of files that Apache doesn’t have the permission to write to. Then, it’ll tell you you’re missing the GD2 library, and that you need to turn on the deprecated allow_call_time_pass_reference in php.ini.

Under Windows, installing GD2 means uncommenting one line in php.ini. Under Linux, it means gathering libjpeg, libpng, and libttf, and gd2, compiling all of them, then reconfiguring and recompiling PHP itself. Easy for some, but hey, I’m not a comand-line ninja. That stuff takes me a while.

Once you’ve done your bowing and scraping, the installation is rather straightforward – fill in the fields, click the button, it installs itself, but doesn’t log you in or tell you the default account – you have to go back to the INSTALL file to get the default admin account, and use this to create your own account and other accounts. Then you’re ready to get started.

Initial Setup
Once you’ve got it installed, you have to create your project. This seems simple enough until you try to create a ticket, only to discover that new projects have no default priority codes or issue types – an odd choice.

Interface
The interface leaves much to be desired, even for a developer’s tool. In terms of usability, it isn’t very intuitive in general, and navigation can be complex and confusing. The entire interface could sorely use a severe overhaul – something I may take on if I decide to continue using it.

Featureset
Eventum is very feature-rich, which is a bad thing in my situation. I chose it for its quick install, not for the features; I just need issue management, not timekeeping, which seems to play a large part in Eventum. I also don’t need all the pie charts and graphs that made GD2 necessary in the first place.

As far as it’s core featureset is concerned, it is an effective issue manager, though some features are clunky. For example, the notes on issues are difficult to get to; as a developer, I want to be able to open an issue and immediately see the note history so I can see where progress is being made and what the current status is, beyond the “implementation” status code.

It should really also open to the My Assignments page if you have assignments, rather than the Stats page. It also sorely needs a preference to let you change the default rows per page on the issue lists to something other than 5 (yes, the default is 5, and each row actually only takes up one line on the page. I’m not sure what they were thinking.)

Overall
I’m stuck with Eventum for the time being as I don’t have time to find, install and migrate to an alternative. I chose Eventum as a quick-fix. Once I have time to apply to the issue of issue management, I may switch to another solution, or try to fix Eventum. I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it – who knows, maybe it’ll have grown on my by then. Or maybe I’ll finally make that issue management system I keep putting off…

Review: FireFox 2.0

After the Great Chronos Crash of ’06, I was forced to reinstall, well, everything. That’s mostly a bad thing, but it did encourage me to upgrade everything I use to the latest and greatest, including Mozilla’s FireFox browser (my browser of choice.) So, behold the silver lining to my grey cloud: my review of FireFox 2.0.

Interface
The first thing anyone notices about a new version of a program is , of course, the interface. FireFox 2.0 sports a somewhat updated interface, particularly in the toolbar and tab bar.

The new toolbar I’m really not happy with. I like the search suggestions that have been added to the search box; other than that, I hate what they’ve done with the toolbar. The addition of a Go button is fine for computer novices – which I am not, yet there is no option to remove the button to free up screen real estate. Likewise, there is an equivalent Search button added to the search box – again, fine for users who don’t know about hitting enter, but I want an option to remove the thing, because I don’t need, use, or want it. The updated icons are ugly, particularly the home icon. Using FireFox 1.5 I left the default skin in place; now I’ve switched to one of the freely-available custom skins (GrayModern2, if you’re wondering). I’m sorry, brown is just a really unappealing colour for a toolbar button.

The new tab bar I do like; it integrates many of the features that I previously had to add myself using extensions, like the close box now available on every tab, and the use of fixed-width tabs. I would have liked to see a close box remain fixed at one side of the tab bar; I often find myself closing a series of tabs one after the other, so the ability to just click several times in one spot to close several tabs in a row is a big plus. It’s now more obvious which tab is the active tab, which is nice. They’ve also added a tab menu button to the far-right side of the tab bar, which gives you a list of the currently open tabs; this feature is almost useful, but deeply hampered by the fact that you can’t right-click items in this menu to get the context menu you’d get by right-clicking the tab (e.g., close tab, close other tabs, etc.). They have added Undo Close Tab to the context menu, thank god – a feature I use regularly, being one who often makes mistakes.

The preferences have been updated slightly; I noticed that they removed the option to change your screen resolution in DPI – a mixed bag, since it didn’t work before, but such a feature would be extremely handy if it worked, since I run at high resolution with DPI turned up for improved readability.

The extensions and theme managers have been integrated into a single “add-ons” manager – not a big deal, but a positive change nonetheless.

New Features
The new version isn’t particularly big on new features, but there are a few. The new search bar has support for search suggestions, such as those available on Google, which, I have to say, I didn’t really like at first. However, after leaving it on for a couple of days, it’s really started to grow on me as a handy time-saver. Plus, your search history shows up ahead of the suggestions, leaving that feature unencumbered by the new addition.

It also features a long-time wish of mine, inline spell check. That means you have a spell checker like that of a word processor when you’re using web form fields (such as the one I’m entering this post into.) Not much to explain, but incredibly handy. It underlines misspelled words as you type, and you can right-click to auto-correct, add to dictionary, etc.

There’s a new feed reader as well, but I’m not a big RSS user. I may just have to give RSS another try with the newer clients available (including FireFox’s built-in options) and post a followup here.

Overall
They say it’s more stable and performs better, but it’s really hard to say, as it’s always been really stable and performed really well. I will say that this version seems to be bogged down less by having multiple extensions installed than 1.5 did, but that may also be partly due to the fact that all the plugin developers had to release new versions for compatibility with 2.0, so they may have released some improvements of their own along with the update.

All in all, I’d say it’s certainly worth the upgrade (especially being free), but nothing ground-breaking here. I’m looking forward to FireFox 3.0 which seems to have passed the Acid2 test in development builds. Finally!