Tag: Open Source

tiny tiny rss: A great web-based feed reader!

I’ve just installed tiny tiny rss (tt-rss), an open source web-based news reader/aggregator for Atom, RDF and RSS feeds. Configuring it as the default news reader in Firefox is very easy (just click on the according link at the bottom of the preferences page) and a convenient solution.

The installation is pretty straightforward too, but here are a couple of hints for installing it on a Gentoo box:

1. Download the tt-rss-1.3.3.ebuild file and all other files and directories from http://overlays.gentoo.org/svn/proj/sunrise/reviewed/www-apps/tt-rss/ and place it in the www-apps/tt-rss directory (create it) in your local Portage overlay (usually /usr/local/portage).

2. Rename the file to tt-rss-1.3.4.ebuild (= the most recent version at the time of writing, released on Oct 21, 2009), execute ‘ebuild tt-rss-1.3.4.ebuild digest’, set the flags you need (e.g. for mysql and vhosts) and emerge the ebuild.

3. Follow the post-install instructions on the screen (bascially the official tt-rss installation notes)

If you intend to use the default, single-process update daemon, you can use the following init files I created (loosely based on Pierre-Yves Landure’s init script):

/etc/init.d/tt-rss:

#!/sbin/runscript
# Copyright 1999-2009 Gentoo Foundation
# Distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License v2

depend() {
    use net
    use mysql
}

#
# Function that starts the daemon/service
#
start() {
    ebegin "Starting $NAME daemon"
    start-stop-daemon --start --quiet --make-pidfile --background --chdir $DAEMON_DIR --pidfile $PIDFILE --exec $DAEMON -- $DAEMON_ARGS
    eend $?
}

#
# Function that stops the daemon/service
#
stop() {
    ebegin "Stopping $NAME daemon"
    start-stop-daemon --stop --quiet --make-pidfile --retry=TERM/1/KILL/5 --pidfile $PIDFILE --name $NAME
    eend $?
}

(replace “mysql” by “postgresql” if you use postgresql)

/etc/conf.d/tt-rss:

# Defaults for the Tiny Tiny RSS update daemon init.d script

# Location of your Tiny Tiny RSS installation.
TTRSS_PATH="/var/www/localhost/htdocs/admin/tt-rss"

DAEMON_SCRIPT="update_daemon.php"

DAEMON=/usr/bin/php
DAEMON_ARGS="$TTRSS_PATH/$DAEMON_SCRIPT"
DAEMON_DIR="$TTRSS_PATH"
PIDFILE=/var/run/tt-rss.pid
NAME=tt-rss

(make sure TTRSS_PATH points to your tt-rss installation)

4. Note that for using the default update method, PHP needs to be compiled with pcntl support. If required, set the pcntl flag and remerge PHP.

5. Have fun!

Kimai – Open Source Time Tracking Tool

So far, I’ve always used “good old” spreadsheets for time tracking on projects. Custom ones I pimped up with some nifty formulae, but still just spreadsheets. Advantage: I can easily adjust them to any special needs anytime – be it the inclusion or exclusion of specific work or just a customization of the sheet’s design or layout. The price for this flexibility is the generally higher effort to track the time “manually” rather than using a specialized time tracking tool – which makes time tracking a tedious task.

Of course I’ve evaluated many proprietary and open source time tracking tools over the years, but so far, none of them managed to fully convince me.

Today, I’ve just stumbled over Kimai – an open source, web-based time tracking tool written in PHP. And so far, Kimai looks promising. Installation is dead easy – just make sure you’ve compiled PDO support into PHP (Gentooers: enable the PDO flag for dev-lang/php and remerge php), else the nice web-based installation wizard will abort without printing any error message.

Once you’ve logged in, you’ll be presented a very clean, intuitive GUI where you can setup customers, projects and tasks. On the top-right there’s a big push-button to start/stop/pause the time tracking.

During my quick evaluation, I haven’t found the functionality yet to export the timesheets, but as far as I know, such functionality will be provided by extensions that can be installed. Let’s see. [Addition 20091009: There’s a stats extension quick-hack for Kimai 0.8.x that can be used to list and print selected reports. To use it, simply download it, extract it in the extensions folder and navigate to {Kimai install folder}/extensions/stats/]

Here’s a screenshot of Kimai 0.8.1.890:

Kimai 0.8.1.890 Screenshot
Kimai 0.8.1.890 Screenshot

With the currently still very limited feature-set, Kimai doesn’t compete with full-grown project management solutions (I’ve recently seen a quick demo of a very sophisticated and cool, Django-based project management solution I’m not allowed to tell any details about yet). But it looks like a promising start. I hope the Kimai project will gain momentum, grow and mature as there’s definitely a need for open source time tracking tools – particularly web-based ones.

P.S. I haven’t had the time yet to audit Kimai’s source code, but if the orderly, clean GUI is any indication, it can’t be too bad.