Calendar syncing

We quietly released a new feature a couple of weeks ago that we now want to announce to the world: you can have all your Kerika due dates appear automatically on your Mac, Outlook or Google Calendar!

All you have to do is go to https://kerika.com/preferences (or click on the Preferences link that shows up under your photo in the top-right of the Kerika app), and then click on the Start Syncing button on that page:

Calendar syncing
Calendar syncing

You can sync to your Apple/Mac calendar, your Microsoft Outlook calendar, or your Google Calendar.

Pick your preference, and Kerika will show you detailed instructions on how to start syncing.

Here, for example, are the instructions for syncing to your Apple/Mac calendar:

Apple Mac Calendar synching instructions
Apple Mac Calendar syncing instructions

And here are the instructions for syncing to your Microsoft Outlook calendar:

Microsoft Outlook synching instructions
Microsoft Outlook syncing instructions

And, finally, here are the instructions for syncing to your Google calendar:

Google Calendar synching instructions
Google Calendar syncing instructions

You will notice that we have deliberately obfuscated the actual calendar URL for this particular user, in all three images above.

That’s important: your calendar URL is unique and precious — don’t share it with anyone!

As your cards on your Kerika Task Boards and Scrum Boards get new due dates, Kerika will automatically feed these updates to your personal calendar: you don’t need to do anything.

Kerika due dates always appear as “all day” events.

Please note that it’s up to  Apple/Microsoft/Google to determine how quickly these updates show up on your calendar.

On your Mac Calendar, for example, you can set the frequency with which these updates appear by doing a right-click with your mouse on the calendar and selecting Get Info:

Mac Calendar Info
Mac Calendar Info

And then setting the “Refresh time” for that particular calendar. (On Macs, the fastest that iCloud allows is every 5 minutes.)

Setting calendar auto-refresh time
Setting calendar auto-refresh time

 

Changing your Kerika password

For folks who sign up directly with Kerika, we store the user password (in an encrypted form, of course), which means that these users can change their passwords directly from within the Kerika application by going to their My Account page at https://kerika.com/my-account:

Changing password for Google sign up
Changing password for Google sign up

For people who sign up using their Google or Box IDs, we rely upon Google/Box to manage their passwords: in fact, we never even see anyone’s Google or Box password, even for a second!

So, their My Account page looks a little different, like in this example of a Kerika+Google user:

Changing password for Google sign up
Changing password for Google sign up

 

Bug, fixed: adding SharePoint URLs as attachments on cards

Thanks to one of our users at Washington State’s Employment Security Department, we found and fixed a bug that was causing problems when users tried to add SharePoint URLs as attachments on cards, for Task Boards and Scrum Boards.

The problem turned out to be in some code we have that tries to check whether a user is entering a valid-looking URL.  SharePoint’s URLs are somewhat unusual in that they include the “{” and “}” characters, which most other web servers don’t use.

Our old code was treating these characters as invalid, thereby rejecting URLs coming from SharePoint.

This has been fixed now.

Thanks!

Feature, restored: simple download of files previewed within the browser

We now allow users to sign up for Kerika directly, by using any email address. This version is powered by the Box Platform, which allows us to make good use of Box’s cloud storage technology while presenting a simple user interface for our own users.

Another cool feature from Box that we had integrated, as part of this new service, was to use their browser-based preview functionality — which came to Box as a result of their 2014 purchase of Crocodoc.

We use this preview feature with a simple IFRAME integration, which means we don’t add anything to it ourselves, but one downside of this approach is that if Box removes something from their preview capability, it can disappear from Kerika also.

This happened recently when they took away a button that allowed for a quick download of a file that was being previewed.

We have fixed this by adding our own “Download file” link within the Box Preview:

Downloading previewed files
Downloading previewed files

Making it easier to download files from “Done” cards

Thanks to Steven Thompson, a consultant working with some of our users at the City of Kent, for pointing this out to us:

If a card is moved to Done, it preserves all its attachments, of course, but it is a little inconvenient to download these attachments directly from within Kerika itself: you would have to open that file in preview mode, and then download it.

We have simplified that process: now, if you hover over an attachment for a card that’s in Done, a “download” button will appear that will make it easier to download the attachment, without having to preview it first:

Downloading attachments from Done cards
Downloading attachments from Done cards

Technology strategy: a look back at 2015

A user from Mexico recently wrote to us asking which technologies we currently use for the Kerika software, since he was in the early days of planning his own ERP product and was impressed with the overall speed and responsiveness of Kerika.

The question was hard to answer with a simple email in part because we use several technologies, and because we are in the middle of considering some significant changes for 2016.

So, here’s an overview of the current state, with a future blog post to talk about what we are planning to change in 2016…

Our own server software:

All of our server software is written in Java.  That’s has worked well for us:

  • We have a lot of in-house expertise with Java (and none with PHP, Ruby, etc.).
  • Java is usually one of the first languages to be supported by other platform companies that decide to publish their APIs.
  • There is a rich ecosystem of open-source code, well-written blog posts and other knowledge sources that help us get our work done.

Open-source server software:

We use a few, well-established open source technologies on the back-end of Kerika:

  • We use the CometD protocol to provide real-time updates from the server to the browser client. CometD essentially works like a long-poll method, allowing for real-time updates to be pushed continuously from the server to the client without the client having to make new requests.  We could, and probably should, switch over entirely to Web Sockets but there are still older browsers out there that don’t support Web Sockets. Hence, CometD.
  • We use SOLR for our search engine. SOLR is an implementation of the Lucene search technology pioneered over a decade ago by Doug Cutting who has since gone on to do other great work in the software industry. SOLR is widely used by some very large SaaS services like Salesforce.
  • We use Jetty for our web servers.  Jetty is part of the Apache open-source projects, and is a well-established, robust web server that hasn’t given us any trouble in a long while. 🙂
  • We use open-source OAuth for our direct signup.
  • We use the Java Spring and JBoss libraries for various features.
  • We use Log4J for error logging.
  • We use MySQL for our databases.

Platform Libraries

Given our close integration with Google and Box, we naturally use their Java SDK Libraries for authentication and file management.

We used to use Google Checkout, until Google yanked that service from the market (leaving us high-and-dry and more than a little pissed off…) as well as Google Contacts, until we realized this particular integration was scaring away potential users.

Client Software

All of our browser software is written in HTML5, which means a mix of (mostly) Javascript and (a little) SVG.

(Actually, the SVG is only used for the Whiteboards feature of Kerika. The rest is all Javascript and plain HTML.)

Open-source client software

The Javascript ecosystem is quite rich and well established, so there are a bunch of open source libraries we can make good use of:

  • JQuery is used a lot. A lot.
  • More recently, Backbone and Marionette have helped fill in the blanks left by JQuery.
  • The i18n.js library helps with internationalization, although we haven’t actually offered any language other than English so far, for the user interface.
  • Log4Javascript helps with error logging and debugging.
  • Bootstrap is used mainly for our website, to make it responsive on tablets and phones.

What changes in 2016?

Quite a lot, probably, but we haven’t finished doing our re-architecture planning.

For one thing, we are planning to use microservices a lot more to make our overall system architecture less monolithic, and we are also planning to use container technology to make deployments faster.

We might consider switching away from SOLR, which we never really mastered, to another search engine which we have more familiarity with, but haven’t made a decision on that either.