09 August 2017

644. Redmine -- project management -- briefly.

I've reached the point in my career that I need to start thinking seriously about how I organise my work. It used to be enough to work with a white board, google calendar (w/ lightning + thunderbird) and lots of post-it notes.

Somehow it's not working anymore, in part because I'm getting older and find it difficult to remember things -- in particular short-term.

Running a group is much like running a company (I imagine):
1. you have to manage your funds
2. you have to manage projects over short, medium and long-term
3. you have employees that need taking care of -- PhD students and Postdocs

I manage my funds using GnuCash. It's not perfect, but once you've set it up it works well enough to keep track of your assets. Of course your university accountants/administrators will do the same, but there's always a lag between you spending your money and getting updated financial reports. It's also nice to be able to 'lean' money in case of future spending. I've found that the financial reports that I've been getting from the different institutions that I've been working at have not dealt well with salaries.  I mean, salaries get taken out monthly, but as they are predictable expenses I as a PI don't want to see the money -- I want it removed from view.

Also, every now and again the accountants make a mistake, and you're much more likely to discover it if you have a means of comparing your financial reports with what you would be expecting to see.

Taking care of and managing employees is a different kettle of fish altogether, and at this point I haven't found any magic bullet in terms of management style. I'm simply being me -- which sounds fine -- but that doesn't always work due to personality clashes etc. Sometimes it's probably better to have a professional persona that you can put on.

Anyway, this post is about project planning -- I need to plan my work and my private life. I've looked at a few solutions. Most of these are serious overkill for what I need. All are free, although their websites heavily advertise paid options.
* TaskCoach
* Project Libre
* RedMine
* Odoo (formerly OpenERP)

I really wanted something like the project tracker in github, but the programs that support that style seems to be cloud based, and I'd much rather have something that I can run locally.

TaskCoach is in the debian repo, as is redmine. Project libre and odoo have debs available from their respective websites.

I failed to get odoo working -- otherwise it looked nice in the screen shots on their website.

TaskCoach was easy to use, but not very pretty, and it just didn't feel 'right' for me in terms of look/layout and workflow. If I hadn't found redmine I probably would've stayed with TaskCoach.

I got lost and confused when looking at ProjectLibre, and gave up.

Redmine has the advantage of the redmine website running on redmine, so you can see exactly what it looks like and how it works. That's what I'm using now, and it seems to work with how I think about things. I like being able to attach files, make lots of short notes that show up and give a good overview what's going on.

I don't need time tracking, Gantt charts etc -- I just need to track the qualitative progress of what I'm doing.

I installed redmine on debian jessie according to https://wiki.debian.org/redmine
I did
sudo cp  /usr/share/doc/redmine/examples/apache2-passenger-alias.conf /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/redmine.conf

I then edited redmine.conf to include
ServerName localhost
but made no other changes.

I could then access redmine at localhost/redmine