My Experience with Daisy: Installation and First Use

I'm still a fan of the functionality that Daisy has implemented. But after having played with it for a bit, it seems to be somewhat less than optimal with respect to error handling and documentation.

In Daisy: WYSIWYG Wiki for PDF Books, I wrote up the most compelling reasons I could see for using Daisy. I was really worried, in fact. After getting my organization to begin moving towards DITA in a serious way, I was concerned that I might have found a tool that allows for collaboration as well as information reuse, and which had the additional benefit of being completely free!

So far, at least, it seems that my worries were unfounded. As seductive as the potential is, and after a couple days of trying, I've yet to put up a system that others can use.

My observations so far:

  • I pasted an 80-page HTML document into the editor, and it displayed perfectly. (Robust editor!)

  • However, I then could not save the document. (Quelle problem!)

  • I have no clue as to what error or errors were in the file though. The system just refused to save it.

  • Not only that, it wasn't even clear there was an error. Clicking "Save" just left me at the same screen until I clicked Cancel--or deleted 79 pages and was left with something that could be saved.

  • The installation instructions left out the pretty important part where you actually start MySQL. (Ferreting that information out of the MySQL docs took up an hour of the afternoon and morning I spent doing a Unix install.)

  • Many of the installation steps were documented well, and "just worked". But several required a lot of time and experimentation. (For MySQL, for example, just finding out what to download was no small trick. That's not really Daisy's fault, but it's the kind of thing you run into when you're dealing with a chain of open source applications.)

  • The additional package you add for PDF images didn't  happen to mention that the self-install wants to update the JDK (as opposed to putting the libraries somewhere and adjusting the classpath). I'm on a shared Solaris system with symlinks to a read-only JDK, so that was a dead end. So I wound up downloading a different package and manually adjusting things.

  • For part of the installation, I gave the address of my SMTP server and the return address. But there  was nowhere to specify the protocol (SSL), port, or the username and password I need to use that service. (The same would be true to access my ISP's mail server from my windows box at home, so this isn't a Unix issue.)

  • When I went to the config file, I saw entries for the values I entered, but no entries for the other values I need.

  • Looking through the docs, I've yet to see anything on point. So I guess I'll have to read the source code to find out what entries it can handle. (If I have to extend the source code to get the notification service working, that's a bit of a problem--especially since quite a bit of additional work will be needed to figure out how to keep the password secure.)

  • Lacking notifications, users can't self-register. So I followed the LDAP integration directions. The server connection is definitely working. But for some reason it's rejecting username/password combinations that are known to be valid. I don't have any idea why, nor have I found any writeups that would help to troubleshoot the problem. (I finally handed out the root admin password, so others could play.)

I'll probably find solutions for most of the problems on a mailing list somewhere. (I haven't joined one yet.) Either that, or it will be a matter of reading the source code to find out how things work--but while that's something I would expect to do to add some new feature, it's rather disconcerting to be forced there just to get an initial install operational.



Thanks Eric for your summary. We are also looking at Daisy for OpenOffice as a potential system for collaborating on docs (but not DITA). I am yet to actually try out Daisy since I was unable to quickly install the beast so I postponed it for now. Your observations are most helpful.

Posted by Frank Peters on April 28, 2008 at 06:27 PM PDT #

I'm glad it helped. I'm still torn between taking a week or two to fight through the issues, so I can play with the cool functionality, or giving it up for now. I suspect that time pressures will force me to give it up, at least for the moment. (If I had the bucks I'd hire a consultant who knew enough to work around the problems!)

Posted by Eric Armstrong on April 29, 2008 at 04:43 AM PDT #

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