xTupler #10 — Embracing our inner geek

Thursday, October 1, 2009

xTupler #10  | October 2009

Dear Community —

Tomorrow is Halloween here in the U.S. - and we're celebrating by embracing our inner geek. Looking around the office, we see a number of people wearing trade show-issued black T-shirts with cryptic software industry jargon. And of course this month's xTupler is chock full of updates on improvements to scripting and packaging tools, new ways to interface with third-party products, little references to open source history and culture, and new xTuple beta software that is ready for testing!

Of course, it wouldn't be a Special Hallow-Geek Issue if we didn't include a few references to Star Trek and Star Wars. But like our previous references to American politics, we won't take an official side on that debate. Let's just say we enjoy them both.

Read on, and thanks as always for your interest in xTuple!

Best regards,

BC Wilson
Director of Internet Communications

"Prepare for saucer separation!"

Internally we've been referring to the 3.4 release of xTuple ERP as our "Saucer Separation Project." That's because we've formally separated the commercial Manufacturing Edition functionality from the core PostBooks Edition by reworking it as a scripted Extension Package.

What does this mean for you? Well, it's another big step toward being able to deliver updates and bug fixes more dynamically (instead of loading a whole new binary). For the developer types out there, it's another working example of how to build a Package that you might want to make available on the xTuple xChange. And heck, it's just cooler this way.

It's pretty geeky of us to get so excited about a deep code change like this, we know, but so is starting this article with an obscure Star Trek reference, right?

In addition to minor tweaks and bug fixes that didn't make it into version 3.3.1, there are two other significant enhancements in version 3.4: multiple enhancements to Opportunity Management in the CRM module, and an embedded copy of the Qt script de-bugger (also handy for developer types working on Packages!) We've just released version a beta of 3.4.0 for download and testing, and we are especially eager to hear feedback from beta testers running the Manufacturing Edition. This will be a pretty quick cycle, as there's a lot of new stuff coming in version 3.5 (see the Product Roadmap for details); however, we felt that this was a big enough change that it merited its own release.

Release early, release often, and live long and prosper.

The Eyes Have It

As Eric Raymond wrote in The Cathedral and the Bazaar years ago, "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow." We do a thorough combination of manual and automated testing for every release of our software. But our internal QA team has, we admit, a limited number of eyeballs. That's why we also push the software out into the community in beta form before every final release. That's were the real power of the "bazaar" comes in. Our community is extremely helpful in putting these early releases to the test so we can all be confident in the final release when it comes out.

Since transparency is one of our hallmarks at xTuple, we've created a Quality Assurance (QA) web page to outline our testing cycle. We're also making some of our testing resources available to the community on that page. Here's an overview of the contents you'll find there:

Use Cases - These are our manual test cases. Click on the links to these test cases (saved as Google Docs spreadsheets) so you can see firsthand the results from the 3.3 release. Once the 3.4 testing cycle is underway, you'll see this information getting updated in real time.

Automation - We're super excited about automated testing! Our automation scripts are posted on SourceForge, so if you've got a Squish license or demo version you can check them out yourself.

We're eager to hear your feedback. Let us know what you think. And if you'd like to get even more involved with QA testing, please drop us a line….

In the Arena

Over the past few weeks we've been helping a new customer to integrate xTuple ERP with a third-party Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solution that they've been using to manage the engineering specifications for their soon-to-be-manufactured products. The PLM tool is Arena Solutions, and we've crafted a service for seamlessly importing Item and Bill of Material information from Arena into xTuple.

As our customer transitions from a pre-production phase into an operational manufacturing phase, they will continue to maintain their product definitions in Arena, but they'll use the powerful costing and manufacturing tools available in xTuple ERP to actually manage their business, order materials, track sales, manage customer relationships and so on.

It's a win for xTuple, a win for Arena, and most importantly, a win for our customers. We can now offer this service to other Arena users, and xTuple users may elect to use Arena for advanced PLM services. If you're interested in knowing more about the Arena integration, please contact us.

Open Source Survey

The folks at The 451 Group's CAOS Theory blog are conducting a survey on the adoption of open source. They are looking for broad participation, and we think the results will be interesting, so we're asking our community members to participate. Here's the pitch from The 451 Group:

Given current economic conditions there is considerable interest in open source software and whether open source licensing can help users lower the cost of enterprise computing compared to traditional proprietary licensing.

The 451 Group would like you to contribute to its CAOS Open Source Adoption Survey covering end user attitudes to the potential financial benefits of open source. The survey can be found at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=ixpFUOfQSOxRlK13EmS_2f0A_3d_3d

In return for your contribution, you will receive a copy of the research results, which will be delivered in an update to our second Commercial Adoption of Open Source (CAOS) research report "Cost Conscious, A practical guide for understanding and calculating the financial benefits of open source for enterprise IT projects". You will also receive an invite to a special 451 Group Webinar at which we discuss these results.

The survey includes about 20 questions. We are not asking for details of specific projects, so no sensitive data will be revealed. We are asking about the benefits and risks of open source in general, and how you evaluated the cost of open source in any relevant projects. All responses are of course confidential. The survey will be available for the next two weeks, but please complete it at your earliest convenience.

Thank you in advance for your participation.

Community Corner

Feedback from the Forums

After receiving some help on the xTuple forums from both xTuple staff and open source communtity members, Robbie Jackson of Brooklin, Ontario posted this appreciative response:

"I applied the first two patches to get me to 3.2.2 in a matter of 10 seconds, once I downloaded the files. Used xTuple Updater. No errors at all. Works great. I'll likely go to 3.3.1 later today. ... You guys are awesome, by the way. No other Open Source/Commercial project has such great support.”

One of those helpful community members is Ted Shroyer of Memphis, Tennessee. On a recent forum post discussing migration from Quickbooks, Ted wrote:

"xTuple is a good replacement for Dynamics Great Plains, which is a much more complicated application that Quickbooks. I think xTuple would be a system than a company could grow with up to a very large size. ... the way they've engineered their API is my absolute favorite approach of all the accounting systems I've done customization work for.”

Thanks, Ted and Robbie, for the kind words, and for participating in our user community!

Employee Showcase

BC Wilson, Director of Internet Strategy

BC joined xTuple in 2008 to help overhaul the xTuple websites. An early focus on SEO helped drive up xTuple in Google search results, and it's fair to say that these days, Bing! loves xTuple.

In the past year he's relaunched the sites in the Drupal content management system, and added the xChange marketplace of xTuple add-on products. He's also responsible for bringing you this wonderful newsletter every month! His current focus is on projects that integrate other web offerings with an xTuple ERP backend system and database.

BC also dabbles in XML and XSLT, and is working on tools to import data from outside applications, such as Arena (see article above).

In his spare time, he is working on finishing a masters degree in creative writing, enjoys cycling, and most recently made a killer Clone Trooper costume for his son this Halloween.

Partner Showcase

Mitch Rushing - The OpenSurge Group, LLC

Mitch Rushing, founder and Managing Director of OpenSurge Group in Atlanta, GA is one of xTuple's most active partners. Before joining xTuple, Mitch spent over twenty years in manufacturing and distribution, always pushing the boundaries of how technology could enable a business to be more effective and serve its customers better. While President of Interface LLC, Mitch spearheaded a series of innovations that lead Delta Air Lines to recognize Interface as "Small Business Supplier of the Year" in 1998.

Last year, Mitch, who has always been an avid Mac user, saw an opportunity to provide an affordable solution to smaller companies with the same need as the bigger companies he had worked for. He decided to seek out not only an Open Source ERP solution but also one that didn't leave his fellow Mac users out in the cold. He saw in xTuple the best possible combination of features and cost for small businesses, particularly in the Mac world.

Rarely a day passes without some communication from Mitch - a call with a thought about a specific xTuple customer, a creative idea about how to better market xTuple or just an entertaining story (we are all convinced that Mitch doesn't sleep). Although logging more than 2.5 million miles in the last 20 years, he still enjoys traveling with his wife Kathie- Italy and Virgin Gorda are their favorites. And if you're looking for Mitch on the second Saturday in December, you will find the former Navy football player, at the Army-Navy football game. An annual family tradition that he started with his son Blair in 1994; Kathie, daughter Julia and even a few old classmates can be found in the stands every year rooting for the Blue and Gold

Legal notes: The Star Trek image above is copyright by Paramount Pictures and/or CBS Studios, but used here under Fair Use guidelines. The image of BC's kid in the Star Wars costume has nothing to do with Lucasfilm, Ltd., but strong with the Force he is.