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Tue 16 Feb 2016

  • David Mentré

Open-source alternative to Trello: does it exist? Can we make it better?

I am a daily user of Trello, the visual online service to organize cards into lists. Trello is a very simple but neatly found idea: you use cards organized into lists to represent your things (e.g. to-do lists) and, more importantly, you re-organize them as you wish: moving cards, moving lists, putting colored labels, comments, due date, or check-lists on cards, ... That way, you can represent about any system and update it status very easily and visually. Trello has also filtering capabilities and, last but not least, collaborative capabilities by sharing boards of cards. Trello is visual, simple to use. You can organize both your private and professional life with it: bug tracker, to-do list, project management, holidays planning, etc. Trello is great!

Well, nearly. Trello has a big drawback: it is a proprietary product.

So, can we find an open-source alternative to Trello?

Looking for open-source Trello-like application

A friend of mine recommended me to look at AlternativeTo's suggested application for Trello. The listed applications can be classified in four categories:

  • Bug trackers and project management tools (Trac, Tuleap Open ALM, ...);
  • Kanban-like boards for Agile project management (Kanboard, TaskBoard, ...);
  • Some strange-application-in-that-category like Loomio, Agenda or ERPAL;
  • Two Trello-like applications: Restyaboard and Wekan!

Restyboard and Wekan are very similar, i.e. a very early prototype of Trello. You can create lists and cards, move them, add labels and do some filtering, share boards... and that's all! Moreover Restyboard is very slow and uneasy. So if you want a basic Trello-like open-source alternative to Trello, use Wekan.

But if you want the full power of Trello, you won't find any open-source alternative.

So we need to build it. :-)

Designing a better Free Software alternative to Trello

So, how could we improve Trello?

Firstly, take all the basics of Trello: lists, cards, due dates, filters, check-lists, board sharing, etc. Maybe some goodies like badges are not needed, but the core of our Free Software Trello should be very close to the current proprietary Trello.

Second step: make it real desktop application (and mobile App), not an online service. Why? Because in a post-Snowden era, you cannot trust any online server, not in the US, not in Europe, not even your own lovely-administrated-server. So edit your data locally, encrypt it and then upload it for sharing. For a local application, you can create a real desktop application, or a web application. The second one might be easier to create and is in the mainstream, but even if web-based application can be very powerful, there always are strange UI issues, like application "windows" not interacting similarly to your other desktop windows. So I vote for the real application.

Third step: add sharing capabilities. Data should be uploaded in encrypted form. On the server, you need a minimal platform to store pieces of data, maybe with some PHP to maximize hosting ability. That step might be a bit tricky: you need some crypto power, be astute and not re-invent the wheel (or you won't have any security) to be able to share data while keeping that data encrypted on server. But there is always a lot of fun in a technical challenge! :-) And other people are looking at this issue, like Mozilla's Firefox Sync.

Fourth step: add 2D capabilities. I always found Trello frustrating regarding list organization: I can put lists in column, but I cannot organize lists in two dimensions, as on a table. Sometimes lists are very short: I would like to group them together, one above the other. Trello does not allow that.

Fifth but not least step: add programming capabilities. You want to automatically move cards when a certain label is put on them? You want to create a card when an email is received? Take you favorite programming language (OCaml, Lua, Ruby, ...), use the API and program the behavior your want. Even better, publish the recipe online, in a public repository, that way other people can reuse your nice Agile Project Management Tool Manipulated With Only Five Keystrokes™.

With all of that, I think we'll have a better Free Software alternative to Trello.

By the way I propose its name, Tibett: Tibett is better than Trello and because with Tibbet you can go to high heights. :)

What do you think of it? Would you have other improvements to Trello?

Thu 28 Jan 2016

  • David Mentré

Fin du support des « vieux » Windows à partir de Skylake : un bon argument pour passer à Linux ?

Microsoft a annoncé récemment qu'ils ne feraient plus l'effort de supporter les nouveaux processeurs sur Windows 7 et 8.1 à partir de la génération « Skylake » des processeurs Intel. Bien sûr, Windows 7 ou 8 continuera de fonctionner sur le processeur lui-même grâce à la compatibilité x86 ascendante. Mais on peut s'interroger sur le support de tous les chipsets de support des périphériques comme les disque dur ou les chipsets graphiques intégrés. Est-ce que quand une nouvelle carte mère sortira Windows 7 sera supporté ? Vu le déploiement de Windows 7 en entreprise, cela pourrait être un réel problème.

Un bon argument pour passer à un système vraiment Libre comme Linux ?

Mon 25 Aug 2014

  • David Mentré
  • 1

Améliorations des sauvegardes

J'ai récemment acheté un petit NAS pour faire mes sauvegardes en remplacement de mon vieux PC qui prenait une place folle et consommait comme une vache : un QNAP TS-112P. Plusieurs raisons pour ce choix:

  • un bon WAF (Wife (& husband! ;-) ) Acceptance Factor) car il est petit, joli et blanc ,
  • son aspect écologique, consommation de 7W seulement, peut-être un peu plus en fonction du disque dur, un Toshiba DT01ACA200 2 To,
  • et surtout un bon support Debian!

J'ai donc installé une Debian Wheezy 7.6 dessus en suivant les instructions de Martin Michlmayr pour les QNAP TS-11x/TS-12x (le TS-112P n'est pas officiellement listé, mais Martin m'a confirmé que cela marche sans problème). Grâce à un version récente de qcontrol, (quasiment) tout le matériel est pris en charge : les leds, la vitesse variable du ventilateur, etc.

J'ai ensuite installé BackupPC, mon logiciel de sauvegarde préféré. Et refait la configuration pour sauvegarder mon serveur sur Internet, un autre NAS et un PC Portable Windows.

Tout semble marcher correctement, on se sent plus tranquille avec une bonne sauvegarde. :-)

Sat 04 Jan 2014

  • David Mentré

Server upgrade to Wheezy: beware of Dovecot!

Yesterday I upgraded my Debian server from Debian 6 (Squeeze) to Debian 7 (Wheezy). Overall it went fairly well, most probably because I don't use that much software. Another reason is that two main packages I use, Nginx and PostgreSQL, were drawn from Squeeze backports so they were close to Wheezy version.

Having the important upgrade notes of all packages at the very beginning of the upgrade was very helpful.

I had nonetheless two big issues with Dovecot and PHP as CGI.


I had to upgrade from Dovecot 1.x to 2.0 configuration file. Dovecot 2 is supposed to be able to read Dovecot 1 configuration file but it did not work for me. First of all, I had to fix the import of the SSL certificates (easily done with help from README.Debian.gz). Secondly, I use non-standard ports and I was not able to easily fix it.

Overall, it was much easier to write a new Dovecot 2 configuration file from scratch. Using doveconf -c -n (also mentioned in README.Debian.gz) was very helpful to get the items to modify/add.

I don't see what Debian developers could have done better, the issue was at least well documented.


I am using Nginx web server so I had a custom init.d script to launch PHP as Fast CGI, Nginx and PHP communicating through a Unix socket. I don't know why but my PHP as CGI set-up was broken after the upgrade.

I easily fixed this issue by installing php5-fpm package and using the proper socket (/var/run/php5-fpm.sock) for the Nginx to PHP link. My server configuration is thus more standard and easy to maintain. Good! :-)

Feature wish for Debian 8

For next Debian, it would be useful to have a script that scans the installed packages and prints some notes telling if the upgrade can be done automatically or need manual intervention (and why, pointing to some further documentation to read). It would be very useful to know issues before starting the upgrade.

Sun 26 May 2013

  • David Mentré
  • 4

Issues with distributions, not only a Debian specific problem

Some time ago, I blamed Debian for not looking enough at its users. Apparently, I'm not the only one to make such remarks. Ingo Molnar, a famous Linux kernel developer working for Red Hat made similar remarks. He even proposed some technical solutions.

Other solutions are already available. For example, for OCaml specific software, OPAM, an OCaml specific package system, seems very interesting to work around the freshness issue of OCaml Debian packages.

I'm not sure Ingo's answers or OPAM are THE answers, but they at least open interesting perspectives. Handling of security and licensing issues are very difficult and not yet solved. Distributions are making an heavy work of integration that is currently not done by anybody else.

It is nonetheless refreshing to see people thinking at those issues and proposing new solutions. I find Ingo's proposal of sandboxing, flat dependencing and not forcing people to upgrade very interesting. If you read French, you can also read this LinuxFR article that makes a small review of current proposals.

Thu 02 May 2013

  • David Mentré

Un faire part de naissance avec Scribus

Image faire part de naissanceVoici un exemple de faire part de naissance réalisé avec le logiciel de PAO (Publication Assistée par Ordinateur) Scribus. Je me suis librement inspiré de conceptions vu sur Internet, mais tout a été conçu à partir de zéro.

Le source Scribus est disponible (licence domaine public, faites ce que vous en voulez), ainsi qu'un exemple de fichier PDF produit.

Le fichier PDF a été utilisé sans problème chez un imprimeur. Conclusion : on peut faire un faire part de naissance libre avec du logiciel libre. :-)

Sun 27 Jan 2013

  • David Mentré
  • 4

The failures of Debian (and its derivatives)

I am a long term Debian user. I have used Debian since probably the mid 90' up to now. I use latest Debian stable on my personal server or at work, and Ubuntu on my desktop and laptop machines at home. Using it does not mean I am entirely satisfied with it to say the least. I think the distribution is not making enough efforts for its users and I'll try to explain why. Of course, YYMV. ;-)

  • Debian packaging is made for developers, not users. Debian has too many packages. To take just one example, the OCaml compiler is packaged into the main compiler, its libraries, the native compiler and the byte code one, etc. Why so many packages? If I am an OCaml developer, I want all of them so why do I need to manually find (the naming is far from being obvious, at least for beginners) and install so many packages? I have heard of several reasons: it allows to factorise common parts between the different binary architectures, it allows to install the command line only parts without the graphics parts, it allows to install only what the user wants, etc. For me, those reasons are just plain wrong. We have more and more disk capacity on our machines so disk usage is no longer a limitation. The package should be able to dynamically activate the graphic parts automatically if the X server is available. And the factorisation of shared parts between Debian architectures should be done on the servers storing the packages, not trough the packaging system.
  • Debian has out-dated software. Debian Wheezy is about to be released and it will have GNOME 3.4. But GNOME 3.6 is already out and GNOME 3.8 is on its way. And I am taking GNOME as an example, it is the same issue for lot of software within Debian. I have heard this is for stability issues. But software packaged in Debian is already stable! It should take 10 or 15 days to integrate a new software into Debian stable, not months or even years (the time between successive stable releases). I acknowledge that some packages have complex interdependencies between each others. For example, when a new release of the OCaml compiler is out, one needs to recompile all OCaml packages. But this constraint is only for OCaml packages. Why should I wait for a new stable version of Debian to get the newly released OCaml compiler? For me this sounds just plain wrong.
  • Nobody uses plain Debian stable. Debian developers are using unstable. Debian users are using Debian stable, but enriched with backports because of out-dated software. Or derivatives like Ubuntu. The fact the Debian developers are not using what they recommend to users is bogus. I know they do that for technical reasons, but that should not be a good reason. Debian developers should use what they are providing to their users, except maybe for a few packages they are working on.
  • There are too many dependencies between packages. The dependency system of Debian is a nice piece of work, it was ahead of its time when it was created. But the use of dependencies has been perverted. The dependencies are manually computed (thus source of errors and bugs) and at the same time any software can write to about any part of the file system. Due to too many dependencies and lack of clean interfaces between sub-systems, the installation of a recent user software can trigger a ton of packages down to a new kernel or libc. Why is it so? I think the sub-systems of Debian (e.g. the X graphical infrastructure, the kernel and base C libraries, the OCaml system, ...) should be isolated the one from the others. It would allow them to be updated without waiting for the others. Having dependencies between 29,000 packages is just not scalable. It is even more true if those dependencies are manually computed.
  • Debian packaging is lacking automation. I am a developer. Debian packagers are developers. It always astonished me how much manual work should be done to make and maintain a Debian package. All developers know that if they want to be efficient, they need to automate their work as much as possible, so as to be able to focus their manpower on the complex parts. Everything should be automated in Debian packages, starting from a minimal description file. Automation should be the default (package creation, test, static analysis, ...), not the exception.
  • One cannot install simultaneously several versions of the same software. As a user or developer, I want to use the stable version of a piece of software and maybe the latest stable version that just have been released in order to do a few tests or check that my software still compiles with the new shiny compiler. Debian does not allow me to do that. And if I install a newer package, downgrading to the previous version is complex and error prone.
  • Debian is undocumented. I am not talking about the installation guide which is nice, I am talking about the modifications made to software by Debian developers. Doing modification on the "standard" (for the software) way of configuring or using it has always seemed suspect to me, even if I agree that having harmonized configuration is a real advantage (all configuration files in /etc for example). But all of those modifications should be documented in README.Debian file. To take an example, the last time I tried to install the dokuwiki Debian package, I was unable to configure it! The way to add new users had been changed compared to a regular dokuwiki (the web interface was disabled), and those changes were undocumented. It should be a release critical bug! Without proper documentation, the user cannot use the software. And, of course, the reason behind those changes should be questioned, even for security reasons (a very secure but unusable software is superfluous. Security is a trade-off).

So, why I am complaining? Why I do not become a Debian Developer, so I can fix it? Because a single developer is not going to change the root causes of those issues. They need a massive development effort, or at least a massive acknowledgement by the Debian Developers. And I don't have ready-made answers to those issues (even if I have some ideas to solve them).

Is the grass greener in the other fields? I don't think so, or at least I am not aware of it. I like Debian for is community approach, its focus on Free Software (even if it is sometimes imperfect) and the wide range of software packaged in it (the OCaml packages are numerous for example). I just hope that the whole Debian community will focus on more user related issues in the future.

Fri 17 Aug 2012

  • David Mentré

GNATprove tools available

Since end of July, a GPL release of GNATprove, the tools to make formal verification of Ada 2012 programs, is available.

One can now formally verify Ada programs using only Free Software! If you are interested, you can look at my previous attempt to verify a toy electronic booth program using GNATprove.

Mon 07 May 2012

  • David Mentré

Gulliver à Vern-sur-Seiche du 23 au 26 mai : Libre-sur-Seiche

Gulliver organisera à Vern-sur-Seiche une semaine autour du Libre du 23 au 26 mai prochain : Libre-sur-Seiche.

Au programme :

  • Mercredi 23 mai de 14h à 17h : démonstration de jeux sous licences libres dans l'espace multimédia
  • Mercredi 23 mai à 20h : débat : l'Art et le Libre
  • Vendredi 25 mai : conférence-débat « Le Libre, j'y participe ! », autour d'OpenStreetMap, un projet de carte mondiale participative pour le citoyen et les collectivités
  • Samedi 26 mai de 10h à 16h : conférences et démonstrations de logiciels et œuvres libres
  • Samedi 26 mai 12h30 - 13h30 : pique-nique libre ouvert à tous avec les membres de Gulliver autour du Volume

Venez nombreux !

Sat 05 May 2012

  • David Mentré

Petit script Python pour afficher le n-ième jour du mois

Quelqu'un avait besoin de sortir les dates du n-ième jour des mois d'une année donnée, alors j'ai écrit un petit script Python pour le faire :

  import sys
  import calendar
  year = int(sys.argv[1]) # 2012
  week = int(sys.argv[2]) # 1 pour 1ere semaine
  day = int(sys.argv[3])  # 0 lundi, 1 mardi, ..., 6 dimanche
  for month in xrange(1,13):
      month_calendar = calendar.monthcalendar(year, month)
      if month_calendar[0][day] != 0:
          # the day is in the first week
          print "%d-%d-%d" % (year, month, month_calendar[week - 1][day])
          # the day is not in the first week, skip first week
          print "%d-%d-%d" % (year, month, month_calendar[week][day])

Pour sortir le 3e lundi (0 pour lundi, 1 pour mardi, ..., 6 pour dimanche) de chaque mois de l'année 2012 :

$ ./ 2012 3 0

Si ça peut servir à d'autres, n'hésitez pas à le réutiliser. Licence CC0, si ça un sens pour si peu de code.

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