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New Logo – Inkscape for your graphics needs, Part 1

Finally got around to creating a simple new banner for the blog (up now). I decided to try out Inkscape, a powerful scalable vector graphics (SVG) editor. The latest version includes support for 3D objects, text manipulation and effects, gradients, and the usual graphical tools. One thing to keep in mind is that Inkscape only exports to PNG (not an issue for most web uses).

Plenty of  tutorials and examples are available for Inkscape:

With a bit of patience and time, I created the new logo for this blog:
The fonts available are only limited by those installed on your system. A slew of free (as in speech and beer) fonts are available to install from the Google Webfonts project, Dafont, and 1001 Free Fonts.

Create a WordPress logo

For the current theme (Coraline) we need a logo that is 990px x 180px, and has a transparent background. To follow along you will need:

My system: Ubuntu 11.04, Inkscape 0.48.1, Google WebFonts installed
  1. Start Inkscape.
  2. Select File, and then Document Properties.
  3. In the Custom size area set the width to 990px, and the height to 180px, and close the Document Properties window: Inkscape Document Properties
  4. Select the Create Text Objects  tool (F8), and create a text box for the first object of the logo. Then select the Text Editing tool (Shift+Ctrl+T), select the Text tab  and type in the text for the element. For example, “Hello, World!” Click Apply, and then click Close.
  5. Use the Selection tool (F1), and choose the text object we just created. Hold down Shift+Ctrl and use one of the corner arrows to resize the text.
  6. Left-click on the text object and reposition it so it is centered:text object centered
  7. To add a shadow to the logo, select the text object, and then go to Filters >> Shadows and Glows >> Drop Shadow…
  8. Click Apply, and then click Close.
  9. Press Ctrl+S to save the file and name it “myLogo.svg” or as you like.
This ttutorial will be continued next week.

Invoicing, again…

After much delay, I am finally back to discussing time and expense-tracking, and getting invoices out to customers. MyClientBase works, but is not an easy install for the average user as it requires setting up a web server, a MySQL server, and tweaking behind the scenes files to modify the basic setup. Not what I am looking for.

Enter Gnome Time Tracker (http://gttr.sourceforge.net) a “combination stop-watch, diary, to-do list tracker and consultant billing system.” Exactly what I need.

Using Gnome Time Tracker

  • Simply click New on the main menu, and enter a Project Title and Description. Click OK.
  • Now you have a project that you can track time, tasks, customers, and costs for.
Screenshot of Gnome Time Tracker 2.3.0_002

A new project in Gnome Time Tracker

To add a task/activity associated with a project:

  • Right-click the project and select New Diary Entry.
  • Name the entry in the Diary Entry field, and add comments to the Notes field.
  • Click the Billable tab, and set the billing options.
  • Finally, click OK.
I’ll keep using Gnome Time Tracker and update you on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) and usability of this new do-it-all tool.

Invoice Tracking – Getting Paid

For my Home-Office/Small Business needs I am running Ubuntu 10.10, Maverick Meerkat (64-bit), and the following office apps:

Today we will focus on invoice tracking. As you can see above, I dropped BambooInvoice as development (security/feature fixes) appears to have stopped permanently.  MyClientBase is actively in development, provides standard and customizable invoice features:

  • Add custom invoice items
  • Customizable invoice/quote templates
  • Support for multiple taxes
  • Custom invoice numbering

I have MyClientBase running on an Ubuntu server (10.10 Maverick Meerkat) with Apache, MySQL, and PHP. Installation required a simple download, unzip, and changing the default php.config to correctly connect to the local database.

Adding users is intuitive via the web interface, and provides for each user to manage invoices for different companies. The default installation allows all users to see all customers, regardless of the company the user belongs to.  Hopefully a mod/plugin or setting exist to change this, as I do not want clients from different companies visible to all users.

Cart Before the Horse

Let’s start at the beginning. Before we jump to invoice, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and other more complex process and information tools, I need the standard office applications to get day-to-day work completed. The tools of choice? LibreOffice 3.3, with improved compatibility with the more popular office alternatives.

LibreOffice allows one to work with PDF files, graphics (SVG support just added), databases, and all standard office documents. Linux Journal and OMG!Ubuntu have all the details of this release:

A summary of new features is available on the LibreOffice website.

Now it’s time to install and use!

GPL(v3) or Bust! Open Business Software, ready for real work?

Starting a business is daunting enough without the challenges of researching, acquiring, setting up, and using the necessary software for day-to-day operations. Add to that the requirement that all the software has to be open source. Here I will chronicle my journey into finding, installing, testing, and using free (as in free speech) software to run my from home small business IT Consulting practice.