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October 7, 2005

Group Calendar

I'm at one of those phases at work where tasks are piling up faster than I can ever complete them. Two words: Triage. In the WEEDS, baby! I'm having to organize tasks by which will get me in the most trouble for being late. I'm a caricature of an office worker with past deadlines on sticky notes around my monitor. My co-workers are in a similar situation.

In an attempt to bring sanity, I'm getting everyone on board with a group calendar. I needed a calendar that could be edited by anyone from any of their computers and was cross-platform ('cause I'm up to my wedding tackle in Windows users). My first choice was Hula. It didn't work out because:

  1. I couldn't get it to work on my local machine for testing (latest dev build). I could never get it to connect, even from the local machine
  2. I don't really have the bandwidth here to support it when users from outside the office use it, and my webhost doesn't support it right now.
  3. I didn't need the email, web services, juice squeezer, and other (awesome) features that come with Hula; I realized it was my first choice because it would be the most fun to play with; killing a fly with a shotgun
  4. I saw the download of SUSE 10.0 happening, in front of my SUSE wallpaper, on my SUSE machine, and decided I needed to stop drinking the Novell Kool-Aid for a while
So while I really want to play with Hula in the future, it will have to wait until I've got more disposable time.

So I moved on to Sunbird. This was the right tool for the job. I had attempted to get Sunbird working in the past, but my WebDav service at my web host wasn't playing nice, so I had to abandon it. This time, being surrounded by little plastic inboxes groaning under the increasing strain, I found my motivation to make it work.

So far, I've just installed it on the SUSE machines, but the Windows boxes are next. The issues I've had so far are:

  1. Whereas with Hula, all you need is a browser and an internet connection to edit the calendar, you need a full iCal-compliant client with this setup. There are some web-based, PHP-scripted options out there, but the ones I've seen haven't thrilled me so far. I may bolt-on something in the future, but for now, I'm just going to go with clients on all the desktops and notebooks.
  2. As mentioned above, getting Sunbird to play nice with WebDav was a pain. Some documentation I've seen said you should use "http://" paths to publish and view; others said "ftp://" was needed. I've only been able to get ftp to work, which is fine. This confusion is no ones fault; Sunbird is still pretty new.
  3. I installed an RPM via PackMan. Running sunbird didn't work. I got a segmentation fault. Some Google searching turned up this blog post where the author found a SuSELinuxSupport thread that indicated that running sunbird -calendar fixed the issue. I'll also point out that if running sunbird -calendar still results in a segmentation fault, you should check in your ~/.mozilla folder to see if there is already a sunbird folder; if so, delete it and run sunbird -calendar again. This worked for me.
  4. ...and finally: You can secure your remote Sunbird/WebDav directory with .htaccess, but this means users will need to input or confirm a username & password each time they run the client and modify the calendar. This isn't a huge issue, but something to be aware of. I opted for the less-secure option of putting the .ics file in a somewhat unlikely directory and uploading a blank index.html to prevent someone from seeing the contents of the WebDav directory. So someone would have to know the full path to the .ics file to view it; because my meetings and travel plans rarely rise to the national security-level of secrecy, I figure if they can find the file, they are rewarded with knowing gems like when my incident reports are due or when my dry cleaning will be ready.
Of course there's KOrganizer and other iCan clients available, too. I haven't ever used them, I'm sure I'll be checking at least some of them out in the future.
Posted 14 years, 11 months ago on October 7, 2005
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