case management CMS DM DMS document management LCM legal software nuxeo umbraco

Comparing CMSs is very hard to do

I have a requirement from my wife to build a case management system for her with a bundling capability. Now rather than start from scratch, which is tempting, I would look into what’s available now.

There are legal case management systems around, though far too expensive for a small operation like my wife’s. I did find one that was free (yay!) but development had stopped on it. None the less, no reason I couldn’t have a look and try it out and use it as a template. The LCM from these guys. free for non-profit and NGO’s and recommends using CiviCRM. But having tried CiviCRM I’m not sure that I agree. CiviCRM will need customisation before it can do all of what LCM can do.

Then I started looking at other platforms to build or modify a solution on. I looked at Dot Net Nuke. This is a highly popular solution built on .Net, but after reading through the experiences of application developers it does seem to be difficult to extend. So I have crossed it off my list. Next came Umbraco and mojoPortal. This looks highly promising. Both are light and put almost zero constraints on controls and layouts, which is perfect really. Both are using (or will soon use) the ASP.Net MVC model which is another winner. And both use SQL Server which I am highly skilled.

Another choice will will work on all platforms is Nuxeo DM. This is a enterprise CM tool which runs on Java is highly standards compliant. Full open source and nothing is held back, unlike Alfresco or KnowledgeTree. This is a great product but is perhaps overkill for what she needs.

My conclusion is that it is a race between Umbraco and mojoPortal. And one that I think Umbraco might just win. But the race ain’t over till the fat lady sings. I am terrible the guys at chameeya will be throwing paper balls at me now.

ASP.Net case management CMS document management legal software

Is it better to extend or rewrite

I have been dealing with this conondrum for sometime now. The problem, well its not really a problem. Lets say that its an opportunity then. I have this opportunity to develop some software for a small legal practise I know of. They are very small, tiny is closer to the description as it consists of a single solicitor and spouse as the unpaid ‘volunteer’ helping out.

This person approached me a while back to come up with a small and cheap system which would provide basic needs of case management. They also want something that can build bundles a lot easier than the very manual process the have now.

So over the past while I have umm’d and ahhh’d over this. Being a software programmer, but mainly in desktop and database applications I have no contact at all with the legal case management area. So do what everyone else in my situation does. I google.

After a lot of looking around, I’ve come to the conclusion that I can either take a CMS and extend it to perform legal case management. Or I can write on from scratch. The latter does sound tempting as tying yourself into an existing framework can hamper some future customisations one wishes to do. Then there is technology, .Net or LAMP? (well there are more choices than that really).

Not being an expert in web technologies I have to decide this without really knowing anything. Who do I ask?  Maybe somebody in LinkedIn knows?

My choices are:

  • CiviCRM and extend it.
  • DotNetNuke and extend
  • Build from scratch on LAMP
  • Build from scratch on ASP.Net

The technology choices are quite open as I’d have to learn ASP.Net or PHP or whatever anyway. Though I’d rather stay away from MySQL and stick with something better like SQL Server and I do like Linq. So one choice made, it must be on ASP.Net!

Then I found this book Pro ASP.NET 4.0 CMS. I started to think. Yeah, all the source, no licences at all. Sounds good. Sounds very good.

Me and gang at Chameeya are gonna give this a go.

CUPS DM document management ldap Linux PDC SAMBA Sharepoint

Long train take me home

Hello all,
I’ve finally decided to continue this blog after several months of letting it rot. I’m currently on the bench as they say in the UK, On the beach as they say in North America. A lot has changed in the office and the future work I hope to do, so lets get on with it shall we?

I’ve figured out the CUPS server and all is running very well. My Windows clients have little issue printing to any of the three printers in our office. I only have one small issue with the Konica Minolta MFP where every once in a while I send it a job and the job doesn’t come out. I check with CUPS and it labels the job as “complete” – eventhough it hasn’t printed. I haven’t done too much debugging into this. I’d like some tips as to why that would happen. I believe with older versions of CUPS this was quite common. There are many people on forums indicating that even rebooting didn’t solve their problems, or only solved them for a short period.

Now that I have sorted out CUPS for myself, I’ll slowly be rolling it out to the remainder of the office. One by one I’ll be switching the printers on the PC’s to use the CUPS server rather than use a direct link. There will always be a fall back so I don’t think there’s much risk. I think for the Konica Minolta I’ll leave the direct link on each PC in case the not-printing problem occurs. I’d hate to have user’s scream at me that this new print server is terrible.

I also made significant progress with Linux. I have setup a new NAS server with 900MB of total storage using a RAID 5 consisting of 4 320GB drives. I’ve manged to get it use a volume manager so in theory I can re-size the partitions I’ve created should I need to. The way I have set it up I have left a lot of unused space so re-sizing currently means just expanding the one partition that has filled up.

I then set about putting LDAP on the server and getting it ready for use as a Samba PDC. This was not easy. I searched around and there are few places which give tutorials on this. But its all in bits and pieces. First you need to follow to get OpenLDAP up and running. Then follow, which gets Samba and LDAP talking to each other. You then need to get the authentication to work by following That didn’t work for me, I still don’t know why. I had to additionally edit my /etc/ldap.conf with mappings to map to the correct place in the LDAP hierarchy.

nss_base_passwd ou=People,dc=dom,dc=local?one
nss_base_passwd ou=Machines,dc=dom,dc=local?one

The second line is most important as my PDC would not allow new machines to join without it. This line took me two days to discover and only through a forum entry by someone with a totally different problem than me.

Once I got that going things went swimmingly! I just have some account clean up to do. Now that I have domain accounts some redundant accounts on the machines need to disabled and changed to use the LDAP accounts instead. This is a faily minor procedure on the Linux machines which just involves disabling accounts and performing chown and chgrp with the proper ID’s. On Windows its a bit more complex, though I hear it can be done from the profiles dialog. Apprently you just reassign the profile folder to the local account and then delete the local account without deleting the profile folder. All done.

I’m also rolling this out on a machine-by-machine basis and will hope to have this sorted within the next month.

I’ve been playing recently with the MODEL clause of Oracle SQL. This was introduced I believe in 10g and has been inproved in 11g. One of my clients needs a sophisticated financial calculation performed which used intra-row calculations. The process also needs some “gap-filling” to accomodate somewhat user entry errors. Where there is data missing in one month which was present in the previous and following months. The MODEL clause can do this quite easily, without having to do all sorts of self-joins and left and full outer joins. I was impressed with the elegance and speed of the solution. Now I just need to squeeze it into the tiny operating confinments of the client’s server.

I used to think that disk space was cheap and when the sys admins saw that space was filling up, they would just allocate more from the SAN and when they needed to, buy more disks. Really a 1TB disk is not a lot for a large company is it? Yet my client is constantly plagued with out of space errors on their servers.

I’ve now been pondering the future of my business. Document management seems to be the future these days. With all the requirements for freedom of information and regulatory requirements for financial institutions coming, it seems a growth area. Even in the legal area, there are masses and masses of documents. I can tell you from experience that hunting for template documents and people’s documents can be a nightmare. Even more so if they have been misfiled!

Document management systems can be very complex but there are some Open Source solutions available. Providors like KnowledgeTree and Alfresco are well known in this area. Sharepoint is another obvious one. Though sharepoint is nearly useless in its bare form in my opinion. It needs a lot of work to come up to the level of a Alfresco.

I’m pondering this area and will decide on my future shortly. I’ve also need to consider how to train and market this new offering.

All for now.