Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Easy Does It

Back in the present today, for a look at some software that I was wrestling with yesterday. I often whine about issues with free software that is hard to use or configure or that crashes messily. But it's rare for me to complain about commercial software. I'd hate people to think that was because commercial software is better when the real reason is simply that I avoid using commercial software as far as possible. But yesterday I spent some time with three of Atlassian's products (for which I have the cheap Starter Licenses).

Why? There are times when friends tell me I should use the Atlassian software rather than wasting my time with less-capable or otherwise deficient free software and I finally thought I'd combine two things by contributing a few dollars to the charity that Atlassian supports and trying out their software.

I downloaded Confluence, Jira and GreenHopper and installed Confluence first on a bare Ubuntu box. Along the way, I carefully followed every step of the instructions, including installation of additional software packages that were required. I configured a brand new MySQL installation as instructed. Then I started Confluence and began to step through its config screens per the instructions. Somewhere along the way, I encountered an error with an insane diagnostic.

Always willing to assign blame to myself in the first instance, I blew away the entire installation and began again. Again, I was meticulous about following the instructions. Again I got the same error.

I mention my following the instructions because this is a big deal for me. I'm one of those sad people who reads the owner's manual for a new car or a new mouse from cover to cover before using it, even though there is virtually no chance that I'll learn anything from my reading. But I am confident in my ability to follow written instructions perfectly. When I can't get a piece of software to work after carefully following the instructions, the problem is with the software. The instructions are part of the software, which is why I say the problem is with the software.

I'm sure I could probably get somebody at Atlassian to step me through the setup for Confluence, but I'm not interested in doing that. I've learnt all I need to know. That means that I won't use any of the Atlassian products, nor will I suggest that other people try them. I'm really documenting this here so I can point to it any time somebody suggests Confluence or Jira to me in the future.

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