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Design a Virtual Office with Open Source?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the how-would-you-do-it dept.

Linux Business 263

apropos asks: "An interesting question came up recently when discussing (yet again) starting an open-source based consulting company: 'How would you design the ultimate virtual office with open source software?' With things like fax, VoIP, web, email, security and office suites all available as open source products, what kind of useful things could be done? One idea that came to mind was emailing answering machine recordings. What would you put into your ultimate virtual office solution?"

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SUCK IT FAGS (-1)

CmdrTaco (troll) (578383) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548809)

FIRST POST.

/. Phone Number... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8548910)

310-217-7638

This is a number that we /.ers should be very familiar with...

Re:/. Phone Number... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8549017)

Only a few are familiar with that phone number...most haven't even had the 'honor' of getting the rejection phone number...they usually wet themselves and hide in a corner whenever a member of the opposite sex is present. To actually ask them for their number?!? This is uncharted territory for the average /.er

Re:/. Phone Number... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8549058)

Darl and SCO are in the 801 area code.

What on earth is this number?

Easy... (3, Funny)

110010001000 (697113) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548812)

...buy it with Virtual money.

Re:Easy... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8548980)

can i beat the shit out of you with my virtual fists for making such a horrible joke?

Re:Easy... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8548994)

can i beat the shit out of you with my virtual fists for making such a horrible joke?

Virtual fists is probably the only thing you're capable of bringing to a fight, tool. Someone on /. actually threatening physical violence? Yeah, right. You'll only be on the receiving end, beeyotch.

Re:Easy... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8549027)

Virtually speaking, EAT MY WEENIE toughguy!

Don't you mean (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8549042)

'Eat my virtual weenie'? Seeing as how you're a dickless polesmoker and all...

YHBT (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8549186)

thanks for playing

Emacs (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8548817)

Emacs has all those things, right?

Re:Emacs (2, Funny)

metlin (258108) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548883)

All of them? Not yet ;-)

Re:Emacs (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8548954)

Yeah. All you need on top of that is another text editor.

What about Asterisk (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8548823)

You can use Asterisk for your PBX [asterisk.org] .

Re:What about Asterisk (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8549023)

Uhh asterisk might be open source, but the equipement that is needed to make use of the software can range from 300 to multiple thousands of dollars.

That's not including the ISDN PRI that you going to have split into 24 different trunks, either...

Re:What about Asterisk (1)

asdfghjklqwertyuiop (649296) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549232)

at's not including the ISDN PRI that you going to have split into 24 different trunks, either...

What do you need PRI for that you can't get with plain old channelized t1?

Netoffice (3, Interesting)

robbedbit (598810) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548833)

Great simple CRM.

Hey (1, Funny)

grennis (344262) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548834)

If I'm self-employed, can I take a virtual deduction on my taxes?

Re:Hey (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549206)

Yes, but it's wiped out, and a good deal more, by the not so virtual self-employment tax.

But at least I'm going to get it all back when I retire, right?

Right?

KFG

Off the top of my head.. (5, Interesting)

grub (11606) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548835)


What would be useful?

emailing answering machine recordings.. I don't think so. Emailing the entire answering machine recording could backfire. That could easily be used as a DoS against someone's email box ("Let's all leave a message for that ass Professor Doofus tonight!")

Not that I get a lot of faxes these days (read: "the 21st century") but it would be nice to have software that would OCR a fax then email the text to me (this one is simple enough that it probably already exists) == Less paper.

If a company were large enough to have a mail room, then scanning in snail mail and emailing images would be neat. One could always fetch the hard copy if needed. I'm far more efficient with electronic files than I am with paper. (My desk is a pigsty)

Re:Off the top of my head.. (5, Interesting)

rjstanford (69735) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548852)

Scanning in snail mail and emailing images would be neat. One could always fetch the hard copy if needed

I use PayTrust [slashdot.org] for my bills - they do exactly this. What they can get electronically, they do, but any other bills go to their address and get scanned in. I get an email with highlighted information (date due, minimum payment, total payment, etc) and can set up automatic payment rules (for example, "Pay celphone bill unless its over $120 - if it is, then email me first"). And it works on anything, even little scraps of paper.

Pretty cool stuff, and very friendly.

Re:Off the top of my head.. (1)

grub (11606) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548892)

That's pretty cool, thanks!

Re:Off the top of my head.. (1)

bernywork (57298) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548913)

That could easily be used as a DoS against someone's email box ("Let's all leave a message for that ass Professor Doofus tonight!")

Maybe, but you would have to be pretty hard up to do so. Most voice recordings that I get on my email are about 50 KB (Don't forget 8kbps mono signals that come from voice modems aren't exactly high quality or large) How much is a large'ish HDD? 160GB? Try filling that in a hurry.

vgetty provides this functionality.

Re:Off the top of my head.. (3, Interesting)

daveo0331 (469843) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548989)

emailing answering machine recordings.. I don't think so. Emailing the entire answering machine recording could backfire. That could easily be used as a DoS against someone's email box ("Let's all leave a message for that ass Professor Doofus tonight!")

Or better yet, use voice-recognition software to translate the message to text, and send it to my email. I can read (or skim) faster than I can listen. Of course, I'd also want the recording (which wouldn't take up much space, as someone else already pointed out) in case someone left a phone number and the software didn't translate it correctly.

Re:Off the top of my head.. (1)

Em Ellel (523581) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549063)

emailing answering machine recordings.. I don't think so. Emailing the entire answering machine recording could backfire. That could easily be used as a DoS against someone's email box ("Let's all leave a message for that ass Professor Doofus tonight!")

Actually, it is not any different than DoS by sending any other kind of email. At my office we use AltiGen PBX which can email voice messages. Given compression rate possible with voice, a 1 minute recording is a bit under 1 MB. Not small, but given modern storage sizes and bandwidth, hardly cripling. In addition, PBX by simple physical limitation of number of lines available and limit on max recrding time, will limit amount of voicemail messages that can be left.

Voicemail through email is very handy sometimes for picking up messages while out of the office or forwarding messages to people inside and outside our company, as well as archiving project related materials for later.

-Em

Re:Off the top of my head.. (3, Informative)

amembleton (411990) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549205)

Given compression rate possible with voice, a 1 minute recording is a bit under 1 MB.

Thats what I get with my mp3s and OGG files! I have a good quality void recording of a comedian. I've stored it on my hard drive using Speex [speex.org] , which is an OSS codec that's designed for speech. It takes up less than 346KB per minute of recording. This figure could be pushed even lower if you were recording from a telephone as sound quality wouldn't matter so much as it will already have been heavily compressed.

Re:Off the top of my head.. (1)

Cylix (55374) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549149)

hylafax can be configured to do alot of things, including setting up a fax to email gateway.

Add in a filter to regex your favorite keywords or by caller id and instant sorting.

We use hylafax quite extensively at the office. We are not into phase 2 yet which aims at removing all incoming hard copy. Pretty much when I get time to finish the roll out we should move to this.

People. (5, Insightful)

rjstanford (69735) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548836)

That's what I'd put into the picture. People. Remember, technology is nothing but an enabler. From the receptionist who answers your phone (can be in a call center, sure, but they should be breathing) to the monkey on the keyboard getting the job done, people are what will make the difference. Everything else is an end to a means, and besides - there's nothing like dealing with people to cut through some of the crap that we get day in and day out with this stuff.

Re:People. (4, Funny)

_PimpDaddy7_ (415866) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548965)

Yes but this is slashdot. We are engineers...we don't like dealing with people. :)

Hmmm.. (4, Insightful)

meta-monkey (321000) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548838)

I think I'd recommend a good secretary. A good secretary who'll take messages for you and deliver them is a lot more practical and easier to implement than a system to email answering machine messenges. Then, you can actually conduct business instead of designing whizz-bang systems that are little more than novelties. Just a thought.

Re:Hmmm.. (2, Funny)

faldore (221970) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548860)

Secretaries are expensive. Computers (and programmers) are cheap.

Re:Hmmm.. (5, Funny)

Tandoori Haggis (662404) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548949)

Laptops (computers) are expensive.
Laptops (secretaries) are expensive

Hmm... which one to choose?

Re:Hmmm.. (5, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549001)

If your seceratay/personal assistant/receptionist isn't worth $40k a year you've got the wrong person in the job.

This isn't a place for a decorative "dumb blonde." That's Fortune 500 CEO stuff.

In a small, virtual, high tech company doing most of its work/business over internet/phone the assistants should be among the sharpest people you've got working for you, and payed for it.

They'll pay back their high salaries in triplicate. Thus they're cheap. The reduction of the assistant to a "seceratary" is one of the greatest tragedies of the corporate world.

KFG

Re:Hmmm.. (4, Interesting)

jrexilius (520067) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549191)

I agree, however, I am worried about paying my own salary and the next person I hire is going to have to be a worker, and the next 3 people after that. Once I can pay 4 engineers' salary then I might get a secretary but I have to service my customers first and I only have 24 hours in a day.

Your point is valid for companies that have > 3 people and are (more) secure financially but I will be without physical office for a while and need to hire good technologists first.

So the original question, how can I use my existing or modified infrastructure and intelligent software to help cover that gap until then?

I am working on building the tools I need and I love open source for this. People have touched on great packages such as mgetty and I would add wiki, egroupware (fork of phpgroupware), squirrel mail, horde, etc. etc.

I am building a suite of tools that I am giving back to the community (as they are based on open source tools to begin with) that may be a nice package for virtual office needs. See rexiliusgroup.com for some of the code (still being developed).

Re:Hmmm.. (5, Interesting)

Dejohn (164452) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548891)

We've been using a voicemail-in-the-inbox solution from Avaya (Unified Messenger) for about 5 years at a 100 user company. It's extremely stable and reliable. Interestingly... it's fully integrated with Exchange. It uses the Information Store as it's voicemail storage. When you dial into the voicemail system from a regular phone, it says "you have x new voicemails, x new emails, and x new faxes". It then gives you options to access all of those (read your email with a text->speech, or forward your emails (with attachements) or faxes to another fax machine.

It's really cool technology and continues to amaze everyone we show it to, so I'm surprised that it's not yet fully commonplace.

For an open source solution? Hmmm... good luck? :)

Re:Yeah like (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8549068)

Natalie Portman.

Re:Hmmm.. (0, Flamebait)

maxpublic (450413) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549143)

I think I'd recommend a good secretary

And a pretty one. Because no matter how well-coded the virtual sex in your virtual office, it can't hold a candle to bending a real secretary over your desk during the lunch hour.

max

Can it (-1, Offtopic)

An-Unnecessarily-Lon (761026) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548841)

Do Virtual Work for you?

Yeh, but... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8548850)

can I have virtual s*x with my virtual secretary?

Re:Yeh, but... (-1, Offtopic)

WankersRevenge (452399) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548884)

Just put a blonde sock over your hand.

Get a hooker (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8548855)

Oh, wait, did you say Open Sores or Open Source?

nothing like (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8548861)

virtual employment... nice plug

hmmm (-1, Flamebait)

WankersRevenge (452399) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548866)

If somone can develop an open source model of ??? then this question would be moot. We'd all be on Maui, bearing drinks with umbrellas.

Is ??? the slashdot equiv of the meaning of life?

I think I'm losing it. I need to:

1) meet hot chick
2) ???
3) get laid

Re:hmmm (4, Funny)

Nimloth (704789) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548905)

"???"?! Come on you know what number 2 is...

1)meet hot chick
2)show them your low Slashdot UID
3)get laid

I'm still working on my plan.

Re:hmmm (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8549054)

Yeah well... If it ever works that way, chances are you also need to

4) Pay

Re:hmmm (-1, Offtopic)

Juanvaldes (544895) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548923)

Number two would be "take off her clothes"

Already done (-1, Interesting)

grennis (344262) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548871)

I'm the author of The PhoneBOT [thephonebot.com] , answering machine software that can email you your messages - and let you check them over the web. And let you remotely monitor your calls. And lots of other cool stuff too.

When I tell people it's for using your PC as an answering machine, they its a terribly nerdy idea. But when I explain all the advantages to it (keep your messages forever!) they usually end up getting very interested.

Re:Already done (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8548939)

This is fine if you run Windows..

The link in the original post had instructions for setting it up in Linux, with free software.

I have been using my Linux server as an answering machine for about three years now. When I get a voice message, it is archived, noted in a log file, converted to MP3, posted on a web UI, and e-mailed to my yahoo mail account. So, I can access the message locally, or via Yahoo Mail if I'm out.

Re:Already done (1)

waldo2020 (592242) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548943)

sure - that's for winblows... now do it for a real operating system.... besides $39.95, though not expensive, certainly isn't open source.. so how do you handle dynamic dsl ip addresses of you must check messages by ip? how man lines can your program handle simulteously before your cpu gives up the ghost servicing winmodems?

Re:Already done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8549146)

winblows

Har, har, har!!!

Re:Already done (3, Insightful)

aeoo (568706) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549048)

Why is parent modded up? The original post was talking about a virtual open source based office.

Silly me, I actually spend about a minute looking for the source code on the author's site! The least that the parent could have done is to mention explicitely that it's not open source, so as to avoid deceiving people.

Re:Already done (-1, Flamebait)

brain159 (113897) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549222)

Dammit, I'm sitting here with modpoints and know in my heart that I ought to "-1 Offtopic" this. The topic is about doing stuff with OSS, and the software being plugged by parent is resolutely CLOSED. I wouldn't be anywhere near as bothered had the parent pointed out that "yeah, it's closed-source, but...".

I also know that such a moderation on this comment would be very unlikely to make it through metamoderation unscathed. Also, others aren't very likely to join in and put this BLATANT ADVERT back down at 1 or 2 where it belongs.

Perhaps I should use the "-1 Overrated" in situations such as this, in order to avoid being metamodded at all on this one - that feels a bit brutal and nasty to me, though.

I'm not sure how to design-out this sort of difficult decision, so I'll just have a bit of a gripe-and-bitch about it instead.

oh oh (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8548880)

what's that bubbly sound?

Re:oh oh (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8549212)

A girl taking a bubble bath [tubgirl.com] ?

Virtual Secretary (-1, Offtopic)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548897)

How about a computer generated holographic Barbarella secretary?

Asterisk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8548903)

If I was setting up something I would use Asterisk ( http://www.asteriskpbx.org ) for answering machine /voice mail and VoIP.

Linmodems (4, Interesting)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548907)

Get a winmodem and software from Linmodems.org [linmodems.org]

Citing the site:

# Think telephone emulation (put the audio card into full duplex, and talk to the linmodem with it).
# Think telephone with a backspace key (use the linmodem to dial for you).
# Think smart telephone: "That line is busy. Do you want me to retry in five minutes?"
# Think "voice dialling".
# Think "soft pbx". Equip enough machines in an office for all the outside lines. Then do IP telephone inter-office, and go to a linmodem when you need an outside line.
# Think answering machine.
# Think pager interface. Your answering machine takes the call, phones your pager company and pages you).
# Think "contact database with integral dialler, and answering machine recognition".
# Think "call recording with no off-hook click".
# Think message detail recorder (basically a record of all time spent on the phone. Great for billing.


I guess mailing voice recording wouldn't be hard.

Re:Linmodems (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8549066)

Uhh the keyword is "Think", because you have to think about what it would be like if it existed. Have you even read the linmodem sight?

My virtual office solution? (-1, Offtopic)

CrosseyedPainless (27978) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548909)

  • Body: Angelina Jolie
  • Brain: Stephen Hawking
  • Doglike devotion to me: total


Did I forget anything?

Re:My virtual office solution? (-1, Offtopic)

An-Unnecessarily-Lon (761026) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548927)

You forgot Brittany Spears like customers willing to dole out money for not so great service.

wireless services (4, Insightful)

jrexilius (520067) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548917)

Aside from the standard web-based groupware, time and project tracking, file sharing, faxing, customer collaboration/communication, and coding tools.. I would add wireless, low-bandwidth optimized UI's to all of the above as well as to things like Nessus, nmap, ssh, load testing, data validation services, site scraper, etc. etc.

Its nice to be able to sit with a client at lunch and run a security scan and site survey from your PDA and fax the results back to him so they are waiting in his office when he gets back.

I am building those tools for my fledgling company and used some of them today at a client site.

openoffice (1)

Coneasfast (690509) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548920)

right now, i would say the best office solution is openoffice for general purpose,

but then again just like in windows and MS Office you will always need add-ons for your specific needs, i would say there is no "1 office suite" that can definitely fill your needs (that is if you want to do more than the standard stuff)

Re:openoffice (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548982)

If you have to do more than the 'standard stuff', then I'd say you have bureaucracy lurking waiting to kill your business.

Group Office (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8549194)

I have been evaluating Group Office http://www.group-office.com/ as a replacement for my company's ACT. Seems to be a step in the right direction.

VOIP (5, Insightful)

Alan Hicks (660661) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548930)

I haven't done it yet (largely because of the cost involved and my current lack of funds), but an open source VOIP system could kick ass and save you money. Phone systems are historically very expensive. It should be possible to run VOIP on your NAT router with an asterisk compatable phone card that supports say, 4 extensions (assuming a small office here). Phones are probably your biggest expense, but a complete phone system is often an order of magnitude higher than what can currently be implemented with VOIP in a small office, at least that's my take on it.

Re:VOIP (3, Informative)

urulokion (597607) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549096)

Digium [digium.com] for the cards you need to connect the PSTN and hard phones. Asterisk.org [asterisk.org] for your PBX/VoIP server.

The Digium cards seem a mght expensive, but there are definately cheaper then channel banks. But don't worry the Asterisk software can handle H.323, SIP and IAX (asterisk's own VoIP protocol). So you can use hard phone, soft phones and hard soft phones?!? (e.g. Cisco VoIP phone)

I've installed two of the PSTN (FXO) cards, and phone (TDM) card in a spare server with Asterisk. The cards sound and work great. No hint that the call is travelling via my computer. I'm going to be spending this week-end configuring asterisk as my Dual Line/3 Extension Home PBX.

Re:VOIP (4, Insightful)

gregmac (629064) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549210)

The Digium cards seem a mght expensive, but there are definately cheaper then channel banks.

More importantly, the digium cards, plus computer hardware, plus voip phones running with Asterisk all together is still far cheaper than a normal VoIP system (say, 3Com or NEC), or a voicemail-equiped digital (non-voip) phone system. Plus you get a ton more features and flexibility than you could ever possibly have in a closed system.

...as for secretary... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8548931)

get yourself a mare. Can't do a thing with the office, but great for sex and costs far less :)

Someday... (-1, Offtopic)

Grrr (16449) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548940)

Kfeng shui

<grrr>

Mr Mackey says.... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8548953)

Offices are bad....mmmmkay

The unreachability service (2, Funny)

ZakMcCracken (753422) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548958)

All equipment (phone, fax, computer...) would turn off at the press of one (1) button.

Then if somebody still tried to reach you, an automated voice or fax or email, as the case may be, would tell them: "I'm trying to have some quiet time here DAMMIT!"

The ability to be unreachable anywhere would be a terrific option for cell phone owners.

Re:The unreachability service (3, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549087)

You'll find the switch in your breaker box. Or on your power strip/UPS if you arrange things carefully.

No one forces you to take your cell phone with you at all times, or to actually have it turned on if you do have it with you. If you've been trained to salivate every time a bell rings, well, untrain yourself, we have that advantage over dogs.

Yes, I know your post was a joke, but it's one of those jokes that's funny because of its ultimate truth.

The power of control was with you all along. Just click your heels together three times.

KFG

Re:The unreachability service (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8549091)

The ability to be unreachable anywhere would be a terrific option for cell phone owners.

Try turning your phone off.

Easy... (5, Funny)

ilctoh (620875) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548960)

Just create an MS BOB clone! Not only would you have a virtual office, but you'd have a virtual kitchen, living room, filling cabinet, and more great features at your finger tips!

spreadsheet data analysis (2, Insightful)

lockholm (703003) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548977)

The one area in which MS Ofiice is way ahead of any open source software is the functionality of Excel. Making graphs, sorting and binning, analyzing data - these are basic but exceedingly useful functions Excel does much better than any open source spreadsheet software I've ever used. Those who rely heavily on data analysis will use higher-powered programs than Excel, but for intermediate users, having that functionality quickly at hand is very useful. This is one area where, though it's not a fancy "new innovation," that could really improve the usefulness of open source spreadsheet programs.

Open-source virtual office? (3, Informative)

Zenmonkeycat (749580) | more than 10 years ago | (#8548990)

Unfortunately, my virtual office would have to be a recording studio. And I still haven't found anything like Cubase (with VST effect and instrument support, the ability to interface with just about all my instruments, and a nice notation setup) for Linux. Sure, there are all sorts of programs that do /some/ of what Cubase does, but nothing truly integrated to the level I need.

Besides, I /still/ haven't gotten my sound card to work right under Fedora, and it's a bog-standard Audigy!

Now if my virtual office were a musicological research library with full support for searching through massive databases of scores, /then/ I'd be looking at Linux.

Re:Open-source virtual office? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8548997)

what kind of half assed musician would even try to use linux for serious music production??

oh wait..you must play the flute

i use mgetty+voice (1)

malus (6786) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549005)

to email myself incoming vm's

Re:i use mgetty+voice (1)

malus (6786) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549015)

and mgetty+fax for faxes.

Usability (4, Interesting)

viktor (11866) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549016)

What would you put into your ultimate virtual office solution?

One word: Usability.

Open Source is wonderful for what it is, its principles are beautiful, its spirit is clean, and it is absolutely no good to end users as it stands today.

Applications do not look the same, nor do they work the same. KDE and GNOME? Yeah. But there are two of them. Why? End users do not care about choice. They want something that works, and where every application looks the same and works the same. They also do not care about recompiling their kernel every time they buy some hardware, or recompiling software to alter some setting only available compile-time.

Whatever functionality (which is normally Open Source developers' focus) the office solution gives, it is absolutely worthless if it takes a Ph.D. in Rocket Science (or two hours of trial-and-failure) to understand how to reach the wanted end results.

So usability would be my primer choice for end result.

I dare not count how many Open Source projects actually start out creating a logo, a hompeage, and an implementation of themes, a particularly pointless feature. Somehow that says everything. For most of them, anyways.

Re:Usability (3, Insightful)

patternjuggler (738978) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549105)

KDE and GNOME? Yeah. But there are two of them. Why? End users do not care about choice. They want something that works, and where every application looks the same and works the same. They also do not care about recompiling their kernel every time they buy some hardware, or recompiling software to alter some setting only available compile-time.

So pick KDE or GNOME, and only use apps that are particular to one or agnostic to either. Don't tell the users that the other exists, and like you said, they won't care. I think the point here is make this virtual office work from the beginning, and don't let joe office worker install a new card or dick around with a possibly unsupported webcam after his computer has been configured.

I dare not count how many Open Source projects actually start out creating a logo, a hompeage, and an implementation of themes, a particularly pointless feature. Somehow that says everything. For most of them, anyways.

Right, 90% of everything is crap. Nothing insightful there. If you know how to use google intelligently, read trade publications or slashdot, and so forth, then you know what's good and what works. Browsing sourceforge or freshmeat randomly is not how you find software to create a work environment quickly and easily.

Re:Usability (2, Insightful)

gujo-odori (473191) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549201)

You're probably just trolling, but on the off chance that your're not:

KDE and GNOME? Yeah. But there are two of them. Why? End users do not care about choice.

If they do not care about choice (and I don't think that's true of all of them, or even most, or things like skins wouldn't exist in the first place), that's not a problem: in a business environment, the choice of UI is made by the IT department, not the end users. They will choose either Gnome or KDE, as they see fit. The end user, if unfamiliar with FOSS, may be unaware that there even *was* a choice. Nor will the end users ever have to recompile a kernel, or even install one. Do you know long it's been since I've had to build a custom kernel? Never. That is, I've never *had* to build one. Sometimes I do, but it's not necessary, I just do it for fun. Mostly, I use whatever is current in Debian Sid.

Can you tell me anything in, say, Star Office/OpenOffice.org that takes "a Ph.D in Rocket Science (or two hours of trial-and-failure)" to do? I rarely use MS Office (my usual work environment is a text editor) or OpenOffice.org, but when I use either, I find the behavior of both similar, and the ease (or lack thereof) to do things similar as well. Put another way, if your claim is true of FOSS office suites, it is just as true of the most popular proprietary ones.

What about browsers? Hmmm. Mozilla, Firefox, and Konqueror are just as easy to use as IE, and easiser to configure, especially from a security standpoint.

Email? Outlook and Outlook Express have nothing on Evolution and Kmail (or Sylpheed or Balsa) for usability.

Text editors? Same story.

I fully agree that usability is important, but if you can point to an actual usability problem in some FOSS software likely to be used in an office environment, please do. You have not made your case at all.

Re:Usability (4, Insightful)

jrexilius (520067) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549228)

Well, the question stands who is the user that you are targeting with your "usability". If you read the original post again it mentions the discussion centered around virtual office needs for a technology company (consulting, software, etc.). My company is a technology and myself and my colleagues have a definition of usability that centers on our ability to hack at it if it doesnt do what we want. Our motto of sorts, however, is something along the lines of "we know technology so you dont have to" and our customers often have their own definitions of usability.

Unlike proprietary software, they dont have to memorize how the vendor wants them to use the application, they tell me and I make it work for them how they want it. That usability model is also different.

Not to say that many open source packages don't suck as end-user tools, but everyone has different ideas of usability and its strength is that I can make it fit those ideas.

The people resources (4, Insightful)

Openstandards.net (614258) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549022)

I don't think technology is the challenge. It's the people resources that are difficult to manage.

How do you pay people you not only can't see daily, but possibly may have never even met in person? How can you check up on the current state of your operation?

email voice messages - linux (5, Informative)

4pksings (255835) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549040)

VOCP does this. Multiple mailboxes, faxes, faxback,
downloads messages via the web so that they can be played anywhere. Uses perl and python.

Works very well, I have used it for over 3 years.

And of course, it's GPL licensed, and downloadable at vocp.sourceforge.net.

PK

For the voicemail-to-email setup (1)

ColaMan (37550) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549044)

Try to get an encoder with a "faster" option.
Still perfectly easy to understand especially if you often get messages from people that go, "oh.....yeah ....Hi....I'm looking for....um...you know....that gadget you guys were selling...it was um....let me think...um....oh....that's right the LART2004"

Well, I just use winamp with one of those DSP plugins with the little slider that affects the speed and not the pitch.... but an encoder that does it by default would be nice.
A smart encoder with a 20 percent speed increase and pause compression (standard 1 sec pauses instead of variable length) would take a lot of hassle out of wading through voicemail.

Firefox (0, Flamebait)

TrentL (761772) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549049)

The obvious browser choice is Firefox. The only downside is that you have to reload Slashdot 5 times until it looks right.

http://ltsp.org/ (1)

codefungus (463647) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549067)

I always wanted an excuse to put together an ltsp project....so damn cool.

My buddy impleted a big setup at his company (hosting co) and even have Win32 clients.

You get to run a bunch of terminals off of a server with some crafted nics.

Features (2, Insightful)

El (94934) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549071)

Obvious features are intercepting all outgoing fax and data calls to see if they can be routed over the internet to save on toll charges. Less obvious is setting up a special email account which automatically prints attachments of any email received -- just don't give out this address to spammers!

Personally, I think all received faxes should be saved to hard disk and previewed before being printed to prevent wasting paper. But I'm not sure how easy this is to implement currently with open source.

I would put... (4, Funny)

Decameron81 (628548) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549133)

"What would you put into your ultimate virtual office solution?"


An open source secretary.

Diego Rey

group planning (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8549148)

Exchange *Cough*

Start an IP forfeiture firm... (2, Funny)

bergeron76 (176351) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549160)

You could charge to post your or your clients' ideas on Slashdot and watch their IP disappear as people with more resources than they have scoop up the idea and run with it.

I bet their competitors would pay you a good bit of money for this service.

Drat! I'm falling victim to my own idea by even posting this consulting idea!

Install Linux (+4, Informative) (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8549162)

install Linux in your virtual office (is shiny?) and get rid of teh Evil Windoze. windoze crashes evry 15 minuten anyways --; this will likely help you, becuase Linux fixes everething. For exampel, a friend of my cousins' sister former roomnate uncle told me that a firend of him heard that this 1 dude took a Knoppix CD to this, like, village? to Zambodia or some country with monstrers and stuff,, andd teh CD caused teh wine or) water and bread &cookies to come out of teh dri solied. or something like that. thats' teh impressivel!

so, install Linux. Preferebaly a very free version like, Debian, and all yuor problems will be gone and M$ will be defeated and kylled completely; againn.

good lock!!1!

--
Why yes, I useing Linux! How did yuo know??

I'd put in human language translation software... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8549164)

That way it would be even easier to ship _everyone's_ job overseas.

You think people would wise up and stop digging their own graves...

three words (0, Troll)

ocularDeathRay (760450) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549176)

lunchtime whackin booth...

need I say more?

Accounting or Whatever (4, Interesting)

snookerdoodle (123851) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549183)

One objection that kept my last place decidedly windoze was the accounting software. There are a limited number of accounting s/w packages that an anal CPA will be happy with, even in Bill Gates' Realm. In our case, the Controller said, essentially, "Anything you want, as long as it runs Solomon Accounting Software". (FWIW, Solomon was purchased by Great Plains, who was later acquired by Our Friends In Redmond.) In this case, a significant number of desktops had to have windoze along with at least one server (MS SQL Server).

But that's just an example. It could have been something else. It could be Illustrator. Or Photoshop (yes, I Love The GIMP, but I'd switch if Photoshop was free). The productivity of users in the long run is far more significant than even, say, a $15,000 accounting package.

My wife is currently taking the Becker/Conviser course in preparation for her CPA exam. Yup, we have to have Windoze for the practice software. Fortunately, OpenOffice runs very nicely on her XP box. ;-)

I think that, as long as you're prepared to build and *support* heterogeneous systems with perhaps a blend of "Whatever The End User Needs", you are fine. You can suggest ways to save money, but keep your eye on productivity - it's arguable to me that OpenOffice is in some ways *better* than MS Office, for example. If you walk in *telling* users they should be happy with, say, Abiword, you're already on the wrong foot, IMHO.

Mark

Porn cache (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8549197)

If you implement a good porn cache, filtering out all the garbage and putting all the good stuff at one place, you can greatly increase productivity by saving everyone time and by also making employees/coworkers happier.

The Ultimate Tech's dream (3, Funny)

juebay (736455) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549203)

Tech phone call takes what the user says, types it into google, and redirect whatever browser the user is on to the search results

a virtual secretary (2, Funny)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549209)

to have a virtual afair with... she could also pick up my virtual dry cleaning

Virtual.... (0)

DrMyke (150908) | more than 10 years ago | (#8549230)

how about a Virtual Valery Office. you know you would get all the male customers calling. ..........but whrere would the faxs come out at?

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