Marcel's Linux Walkabout phpGroupWare
Welcome everyone to a brand new series here at InformIT, Marcel's Linux Explorations. My Australian friends will tell me that a walkabout is a kind of semi-random, quasi-nomadic excursion into the bush. As Linux continues to appear in more and more places, it occurs to me that some brave soul had to do a kind of walkabout looking at the many things that are out there and reporting back. I'd like to do that for you.
Since we are living in the modern world, some kind of focus might be in order even on such an exploration. To that end, I'll bring back reports, suggestions, and instructions on transforming your office into a Linux office. I'll feature the tools and applications that make an office run and I'll show you how to do it with Linux. This is where I'm going to start today.
But before I do that, I want to add one more wrinkle to this whole walkabout thing. As we learned in Stephen King's The Shining, "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," not to mention dangerous. That's more responsibility than I want to take on. Consequently, every few articles, I'll take you into the world of Linux games and entertainment. Call it my contribution to a saner society.
We start today's office visit with a great little groupware application. Groupware represents a collection of networked applications that makes working together as a group somewhat easier. Generally speaking, that means centralized email, calendars, address books, discussions forums, and any of a hundred other applications. If it can bring people together into a common or collaborative environment, it probably qualifies.
You may already have client applications such as these on your corporate PCs, but you are also bound by expensive license agreements and a support nightmare that grows with every installed client. Wouldn't it be nice to have all those functions under one, web-based server environment? That way you would not have to purchase, install, and maintain client software for every PC. Even better how about being able to provide access to your users from anywhere in the world? All you need is a browser.
Let me introduce you to phpGroupWare, a GPL'ed groupware environment with an open source API so that applications can easily be created and added to the system. Already, there are a number of applications such as local weather, headlines, bookmarks, todo lists, phone logs, forums, and even customizable online polls; and the list is growing. If you are like me, a nice screenshot certainly helps in trying to help you make a decision. After all, it's a nice GUI world out there, at least for our non-admin users. So, have a look at Figure 1.
Figure 1 The home page login view of my phpGroupWare page skinned with the "idsociety" theme.
Extracting the Source
You'll need a PHP-enabled Apache web server and one of two freeware databases in order to use phpGroupWare, MySQL, or PostgreSQL. Both are freeware and included with most major Linux distributions. Start by visiting the phpGroupWare site at www.phpgroupware.org and collect the latest source.
Extract the source into your web server's hierarchy:
tar -xzvf phpGroupWare-0.9.14.tar.gz cd phpGroupware
If you extracted the source as "root", then you'll need to change the permissions to that of your web server user. For instance, if your Apache server runs as user "apache", you would execute the following command (assuming an Apache server with DocumentRoot at /usr/local/apache/htdocs):
chown -R www.www /usr/local/apache/htdocs/phpgroupware
Preparing the Databases
As I mentioned, phpGroupWare uses one of two popular SQL databases, MySQL and PostgreSQL. The next step involves preparing the databases that will be populated with phpGroupWare data (not including your IMAP email).
On my test system, I was running PostgreSQL and this is what I did. To start, I created a phpgroupware user ID for PostgreSQL then switched to that user and created my phpgroupware database:
su - postgres createuser phpgroupware
PostgreSQL now asks whether this user is allowed to create tables. The answer is "Y" or yes. In response to the question as to whether this user can create new users, I respond with "N" for no. You must now create the database. To do that, switch to your new phpgroupware user and issue the create database command:
pgsql -U phpgroupware template1 create database phpgroupware; \q
Completing the Setup
With our new phpgroupware PostgreSQL user, we can now create the appropriate tables and finish the application's setup. Luckily, the remaining steps are all done through a nice, friendly web interface. Open your favorite browser, click on the link , and fill in the blanks.
The important things to worry about on this screen are the admin and configuration passwords. (Make sure you don't forget these.) Another important selection is the DB Type. You have two options: mysql and pgsql. When you are done, click the Create button. Note that you may have to download the newly created header.inc.php file to your server (the link will be there on the page) after which you click the Continue button to finish the installation. You should get a nice message telling you that the configuration has been written. Click Continue one last time and you will be transported to the Admin login screen.
Yes, there are two login options here but you are done with header creation, so use the top box and enter the password you chose for administration.
Take a look and you'll see three steps highlighted on the screen. The first will confirm your database setup (or tell you what is missing). If all is well, click the button labeled Create Tables to create your tables. If all went well, click the Re-check My Installation button and move on to the final step.
Even though the screen tells you that your configuration is complete, you need to click the Edit Configuration button. This last batch of questions will define your system hostname, whether you use an LDAP address book, where your temporary files will live, and so on. Again, this is pretty self-explanatory. The most important item here is probably the hostname because using the "http://www.domain.com" default will no doubt create problems.
When you've submitted your changes, you have one last item to take care of. Click the Click Here link to generate your admin user, the "superuser" of your phpGroupWare world from which all other users will be created. This also creates three demo users for experimenting with your new system. That's it! You are ready to log in as the admin user and start populating your phpGroupWare world (see Figure 2).
Figure 2 The administrator adding a new user.
When you create an account, you have the option of selecting or providing any or all of phpGroupWare's applications. The obvious choices are email and calendaring, but you may want to select the Preferences tab so that your users can customize the look and feel to their tastes.