Archive for the 'review' Category

Enterprise wikis reviewed

Long story short, PBWiki is yer only man.

I was chair of the it@cork Conference organising committee last year. The committee is made up of volunteers who are all busy with their day-to-day jobs so getting times to meet which suit everyone is always challenging.

To help with the organisation I rolled out a private wiki where we posted meeting minutes, kept track of action items, posted to-do lists and updates on (potential) speaker status’. The wiki was a hosted PBWiki and it was a great success.

It was then decided to rollout a wiki to facilitate the organisation and running of all it@cork committees and subcommittees. The wiki software needed to be able to:

  • handle multiple wikis (one per committee/subcommittee)
  • handle user and group permissions
  • give stats around wiki usage and
  • be cheap or free (it@cork is a not-for-profit)!

I searched around and discovered that Atlassian’s Confluence enterprise wiki product has a free community license specifically for not-for-profits. PBWiki, and SocialText didn’t have any mention of a free Enterprise class offering on their sites so I didn’t really pursue them.

Boy was that a mistake! The setup of the Confluence wiki was far from straightforward. It took two of us the best part of a day to simply install it. Remember that as I was doing this for it@cork, this was not billable time. I was installing it on my own server and because Confluence requires TomCat as its webserver it had to run on a separate port to Apache. This meant several people couldn’t view it in their organisations.

Worse though was that once it was successfully installed, it was a disaster. Uptake and use of the wiki was minimal because the UI was appalling.
A couple of quick examples:
- a simple task which requires many steps, adding (or removing) users to/from groups goes like this:

  • Go to Administration
  • Scroll to bottom of page and click on Manage Users (why not dynamically have the most used menus at the top or failing that use general stats to move most used features to the top, or have two (or more) columns of options so no scrolling is required)
  • Click Show All Users (why? why aren’t they all listed by default?)
  • Click on the user
  • Click on Edit Groups
  • Select Groups and click Join (or Leave) - there is no feedback to tell an admin that this action has been saved

Editing groups doesn’t appear to be possible at all i.e if I want to remove 7 people from a group containing 25 people, I have to go into each user profile (using all the steps above) and remove them individually. It should be possible to do it in one simple step from within a Group Admin page.

Confluence backend

Other problems with Confluence included the fact that there are almost no stats around use of the wiki available and there is a bug in the users and groups which meant that the permissions applied to the groups were not percolating down to the members of those groups. A pretty serious bug I’m sure you will agree.

I Twittered recently that I was looking to get off Confluence and onto another Enterprise wiki platform and within minutes Ross Mayfield, Chairman of SocialText had contacted me (despite being on vacation!) offering me a SocialText wiki for it@cork. Yes please I said (poor guy, I nearly bit his hand off!).

The backend of SocialText is far cleaner, simpler and more intuitive than Confluence.
SocialText wiki backend

However, for completeness sake I also contacted PBWiki and when they heard this was for it@cork, they immediately offered business edition wikis at no cost. This was spectacular news as it@cork were already familiar and happy with PBWiki.

The PBWiki backend is the cleanest and simplest of the three (it is also the only one which fits vertically on a 1024×768 screen).
PBWiki backend

Not only that but when you compare the edit screens of both SocialText and PBWiki, PBWiki definitely comes out ahead in usability.

So we have a winner - PBWiki.

What surprised me in this is that when I Twittered looking for an alternative to Confluence, not one person suggested PBWiki. I have no idea why this is. PBWiki has both Enterprise class functionality and a UI which is completely non-intimidatory. I predict no issues with uptake by users this time round.

By the way, I did also try out DekiWiki and Twiki but I ruled them out quite early on.

UPDATE: Zoli Erdos posted a response to this post where he highlighted a couple of points I didn’t make clearly enough here:
1. I compared a non-hosted version of Confluence to hosted apps like PBWiki and SocialText. However, hosted Confluence is NOT available under the community license. As this was for a not-for-profit a community license was all we could go for. PBWiki and SocialText had no such restrictions.
2. I tried out DekiWiki but the lack of an ability to create Groups ruled it out quickly.

Buffalo TeraStation 2tb Home server review

I bought a Buffalo TeraStation 2TB NAS box the other day. It arrived today - Wohoo!

Buffalo TeraStation 2TB NAS up and running

The NAS box has 4 x 500mb drives in an external box (see above). The box has an ethernet port at the back allowing it to be plugged into the router and accessed across my entire home network.

The 4 x 500mb drives come pre-configured as RAID 5 (giving approx 3 x 500gb usable space) but it can also be configured as RAID 0 or RAID 1 through a simple web interface.

1.36 TB Available!

Check out the bottom of the window above - 1.36TB Available!

I’m now busily copying my music, video and photo collections onto it so I can free up that space on my laptop.

Copying iTunes onto TeraStation

The drive is refreshingly quiet, has a simple web-based configuration tool and took all of about 10 minutes from unpacking to mounted on my Mac desktop!

Thanks Branedy for the recommendation - hopefully this will work better than the Western Digital MyBook I bought a while back which was a DOA!

Just published second video podcast!

I have just published my second video podcast - an interview with Jan Blanchard of touristr.

I got loads of great feedback on my first vidcast and I tried to take as much of it on board, as possible.

Click To Play

As always, please feel free to leave feedback in the comments.

Philips Wireless Headset

Philips sent me a wireless headset to try out during the week.

It is a bluetooth headset with a few funky features:

  • The microphone is about 6mm long (as opposed to the boom mikes on many headsets which come right around to your mouth)
  • It has a separate audio jack/bluetooth dongle so you can plug it into your mp3 player and listen to your tunes wirelessly
  • You can use it with your phone and mp3 player simultaneously!
  • It is rechargeable and comes with a charger

It is also supposed to be able to connect to your computer but I couldn’t verify that - on my Mac, I couldn’t get it to maintain a connection and my Vaio couldn’t see it at all (having said that, that is more likely a Vista problem than a problem with this headset, as the Vaio can’t see any bluetooth device!).

With people concerned about the health and safety issues connected with heavy mobile phone usage - a bluetooth headset seems like an ideal device as it allows you to keep the mobile at a distance from your head.

See more here and here.

Philips tell me it retails for between €90 and €130.

Nokia E65 quick review

My Nokia E65 arrived today and it is even nicer in reality than the site would have you believe!

My first impressions of the phone are very positive although I did get a fright when iSync told me it doesn’t support the E65 - eeek, how am I going to synchronise all my contacts and calendars? Fortunately after a quick search I found that Nokia have a downloadable script which will update iSync to synchronise with the E65.

The handset is beautiful (I went for the Mocca model) and the screen resolution is amazing (240 x 320) in a phone so small (105 x 49 x 15.5 mm).

The desktop and keyboard are extremely well thought out giving quick and easy access to the most frequently used functionality.

The phone is also very responsive. Previous Nokia models would take one or two seconds to open a new blank text. The E65 opens it almost instantly.

Where I am based in Rushbrook, the Vodafone network coverage is poor but the E65 seems to handle the low coverage better than either the N70 or the E61. There is a notable improvement in call quality.

The built-in wifi, one of the main reasons I decided on the E65, has been working exceptionally well. Despite working very closely with Truphone support we were unable to get the E61 to receive incoming calls on my US landline number. However, the E65 hs no trouble getting calls on my US number (so far!).

The only downsides of the phone I have found, so far, are the lack of games on the phone and the poor quality of the camera. But, at least it does have a camera. This was another factor in my deciding to buy this model.

Overall, I’m extremely happy with the phone and would recommend it to anyone.

Quick Nokia E61 review

A good friend gave me a Nokia E61 to try out recently.

There are several things I don’t like about the phone:

  • It is huge!
  • It is really wide (to accommodate the qwerty keyboard) but this means your hand quickly becomes tired holding it to your ear for any prolonged period.
  • It doesn’t have a camera (this might sound trivial but I have really come to depend on having ready access to a camera and it was having access to a cameraphone that allowed me to capture this image easily, for instance). And
  • There are no games included (ok, that one was a bit trivial!)

However, the E61 does have a couple of nice features:

  • The qwerty keyboard ironically, takes some unlearning to get used to but once you do, it does really speed up typing on the phone and
  • The fact that the E61 has built-in wifi means that I can now use services like Truphone to make free and very cheap calls from my mobile anytime I have access to wifi.

Truphone also gives me a US landline number (+1 425 905 3151). This is handy as I will be able to receive calls when I am in the US on that number, without having to pay any roaming costs as long as I have wifi.

Truphone also has an offer on at the moment giving away free calls to landlines in 40 countries until the end of June! Excellent.

I can now make free calls to landlines, from my wifi network at home (at higher call quality than my GSM network at home!!!), using the E61.

Now all I need is a cameraphone with wifi!

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