A few days ago, Infusion
was announced on apps.kde.com. Along with Citadel/UX serving as backend, Infusion aspires to compete with
the likes of Aethera, Magellan, Evolution, and yes, Microsoft Outlook+Exchange. Is
Infusion there yet? Nope. But from what I've seen, I've certainly
been impressed by Citadel/UX, and once
I managed to get Infusion compiled, I was able to enjoy some neat
functionality. Coupled with the enthusiam of author Brian Ledbetter, it would seem that Infusion is
going places. Read on for further details of my Infusion experience
and for an interesting interview with the author. Update: 06/16 03:30 AM by N: Art wrote in with some interesting comments on the upcoming version(s) of Citadel.
A Little Test Drive
Most of the packages I needed to
compile Citadel+Infusion were readily available with the Mandrake 8.0 Standard
Edition, with the exception of of libical which I obtained from rpmfind.net. Unfortunately, the
build experience itself left something to be desired with less than optimal
configure scripts and minor source bugs. No doubt the problematic
compiler from Red Hat 7.x included with Mandrake 8.0 also had a hand
in the matter. After several source and makefile "adjustments"
however, I managed to get Citadel, libCxClient and Infusion all
installed and working. Despite all this, I should note that my efforts were nothing compared to the pain and tragedy I've witnessed fellow colleagues go through while installing (or re-installing) Exchange -- things can only get better from here.
Citadel/UX's BBS roots are almost immediately apparent, although the
setup is fairly painless to a seasoned Unix user. Simply run the setup
script, create a sysop account, login and then create the basic
configuration. A good idea at this point is to create a couple of
test users for Infusion.
Citadel/UX is pretty impressive, including such things as SMTP and POP
servers in the package. Citadel can send mail between local users,
send and receive internet mail, and make mail available to internet
users. This brilliant arrangement means that, as far as mail is concerned, any
diehard Mutt user such as myself
can happily coexist on a Citadel/UX network with Infusion users. Brian had a good idea when he chose to base
Infusion on Citadel/UX. One might even ask why other Open Source
projects such as Aethera and Evolution don't
consider improving and sharing this capable backend.
I was able to test basic Infusion functionality with 2 test users. I could mail back and forth, I could send mail to an internet account, I could receive internet mail, and I could view shared areas. Infusion also has chat capabilities and token organizer/notes functionality which I did not fully investigate. Infusion is evidently here both in concept and proof-of-concept, including the expected bugs. The colourful interface will surely evolve to please many in the future.
So should you rush out and download Infusion? No. Set your expectations
too high, and you will be disappointed. Infusion is still at
the early stages, but if you enjoy tinkering, or you're a developer
who can help, or you or your company has an interest in collaboration
systems, then check this out.
Want more? There's more. Get the facts below from author Brian
Ledbetter who was kind enough to answer a few questions.
Talking To The Author
How robust is Infusion/Citadel, and what kind of environment have
you used it it in?
Infusion by itself is actually not a very capable application, and is
still in the early stages of development. Right now, Infusion is tied
in to the Citadel/UX backend 100%, kinda like how most of the
components in Microsoft Outlook are only useful with an Exchange
server in the backend. I envision the ability to add plug-ins for
SMTP/IMAP/etc. ala Outlook sometime in the future, however.
The Citadel/UX Communications Server is a promising platform.
While many of the newest features are still in the development stage,
it is currently a rather powerful communications platform. It's had
over 10 years (actually, almost 25 years, if you count the old
non-UNIX variants) of development behind it. There are sites
currently running Citadel/UX which have thousands of users, with a
large number (I'm probably not the best person to ask here) of
concurrent users accessing the system.
How does Infusion compete with Microsoft Outlook/Exchange,
Aethera/Magellan/KMail, Evolution etc.
Infusion is a direct competitor of any MUA (mail-user-agent), though
due to how early in development I am, it's not all that capable yet.
Specifically, Infusion is aimed at competing directly with other
group-scheduling packages, such as Microsoft Outlook and Evolution.
The Citadel/UX server is aimed at offering a powerful group-scheduling
or internet service server similar to Microsoft Exchange Server. The
maintainer of this project is Art J. Cancro; see the Citadel/UX webpage
for more information.
Do you see Infusion/Citadel being used to communicate
cross-platform and with other (possibly non-Citadel) clients?
Any client can access a Citadel/UX server via a standardized library,
libCxClient, which will soon be a part of the official Citadel/UX
project (I'm maintaining it until then). Also, end-users can access
Citadel/UX through standardized protocols -- It communicates via SMTP
and POP3, currently, with full IMAP support on the way.
Like I have said, I plan on adding 'hooks' to Infusion to allow it to
communicate with other backend servers. This is still on the
drawing-board only, though.
I've been given to understand that Infusion currently shares some
code with other KDE apps such as KOrganizer or KNotes. What are your
plans for future integration with the rest of KDE?
Infusion currently shares some code with KOrganizer, but after
discussions with the head of the KOrganizer project, Cornelius
Schumacher, I will be stripping the code out and utilizing the KParts
API exported by KOrganizer instead. This way, we have a standardized
KDE calendaring component, without having to maintain two seperate
portions of code.
As far as the notes go, Infusion has only native-code, with me referencing
the KNotes source for hints. :)
What previous development experience have you had? Why did you
start this project? Have you been doing this project in your spare
time? What were your experiences while developing for KDE/Qt?
Actually, Infusion is my first try at writing a GUI-based application.
The KDE libraries have made this much easier than I ever thought it
could've been, even without using tools like KDevelop.
As far as past experience, I've not really done anything of note in
the open source world. I've been working in the software industry for
about 5 years now (mostly web application development, which, after
writing real software, doesn't seem all that impressive ;).
I've worked for a few companies during this timeframe, though my
employment has generally gravitated towards web software development.
The Infusion project is currently done entirely in my spare time, what
little bit of it I have. According to my CVS logs, which vaguely
resemble my memory, Infusion was first checked in on November 17,
2000. It's gone through quite a few changes since then. I hope that
before too long, it can prove to be a valuable addition to any
enterprise seeking an affordable groupware platform. I certainly hope
to use this project to prove undoubtably that UNIX can be as
user-friendly as it is powerful.
Anything else you'd like to add/comment on?
KDE rocks! If I were to try developing Infusion in GTK (I did, actually, but scrapped it
almost immediately after beginning), it would've taken twice as long
as it has, and it would've been substantially larger. I would like to
offer my sincerest and most gracious thank you to all of the
KDE developers out there, who have given us such a wonderful
development (and user) environment for UNIX!