FMS Calendar Solution

FMS Calendar Solution

For a while now, I have been debating moving the calendar integration within our FMS. Currently we tie into the Google Calendar API via the Auth 3.0 Javascript API. While this works, we miss some of the features that Google refuses to add. I began the search for an in house solution to our problems.

I had a couple of requirements and features that were ideal within a calendar solution. It has to have a non sucky API, be fast, deliver in multiple formats (XML,JSON, HTML), and had to be open source. Currently my employer uses Google Apps, which I have utilized heavily during the initial development of the FMS. While unlikely to ever die soon, Google has been known for killing off programs quickly, leaving users frantically looking for a new solution (*cough* reader). Now, given my current age, I never had to experience lotus notes, exchange or other forms of email. Once I got into the game, gmail was making waves, and I hopped on the train and never looked back. This left me severely limited on knowledge of calendar systems, what other possibilities existed out there. I began to look for a complete overhauled solution.

Attempt 1

My first attempt included a Zimbra based system, which has a dead simple API. Simply add a username and password with proper permissions to an account within an http header, and it returns HTML, JSON, XML or iCAL formats. To push an event or import, is done via iCAL format. I began to entertain this option, and built a front-end to create and view events. Once I had a quick and dirty example, I presented it to my boss. It didn’t pass, and I had to begin brainstorming other ideas.

Attempt 2

After scratching my head and putting the project on the back burner for a couple of weeks, I finally had to sit down with my boss and discuss options. It was obvious that there was no perfect solution. By giving up Google calendar, we would loose its nice interface, and tie-ins to accounts and mobile devices. On the other hand, doing bi-directional updates between our systems to google calendar was not ideal. With the same requirements as before, I proposed a PHP/MYSQL driven solution. This would separate our installers/contractors from needing Google accounts, and allow for many custom options, such as tax lot association and customer account links. This option took a bit of convincing, but finally got approved, and I began development.

I will attempt to not bore you with too many technical flows, but I utilized Serhioromano’s Bootstrap Calendar to fit within our FMS. I had a few minor tweaks, and bugs, but I soon got a decent enough system working. Here is an example of the script used to pull calendar events from the database, and format it to work with the JS calendar.

There were also three main types of events, which used a common tag to represent what kind of event it was.

  • std-events – Standard events from fiber lines fixes, to swapping ONT’s or pretty much anything
  • fiber-install – Obviously a fiber install. The reason this one is different will be explained later
  • install – Different from an install. Could be a WiFi or wireless one

Later this week, we will be going live with this calendar. Some other features include editing an event, up until the event has been closed by a technician, and recording of additional data that can be used for metrics.

cal-event-view

This is the default view. The events stack better than when I had it tied into Google Calendar, and it is much, much faster at loading.

cal-edit-event

This is the main edit event page. As you can see, the event is closed, and only reports can be generated now.

event-report

Here is a completed event that I captured while on campus. Don’t mind the duplicate entry for “Cleaning up”. I fixed that bug :).

So that is all fine and dandy, but why stop there? By looking at the report, you’ve got to be asking yourself, wait, how are there geolocated time stamps?!? Ah, let me explain. The reason we were moving to this new calendar system was also in part to a new module, called the Field Tech Console. This console will allow technicians to receive jobs, and update their event as time goes on. This brings on numerous events, which I will explain in the next post. For now, assume it is GOING TO CHANGE WE INSTALL FIBER. Not really, but I like to think so…

So there you have it. My new calendar module. By moving our calendar in house, it will allow us to tie in our planned operations with records and pretty much everything else. It may not be as fancy as Google Calendar, or even as portable, but the trade off is some prettiness for a much more efficient record managing system.

Before I conclude this post, I want to showoff the add event page. There are actually three different types of event add pages. One for Pending Requests (a module for people requesting service), current customers (repairs and stuff) and general events (main line conduit fix or pick up pizza).

make-appt

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