Something New, Signup Software

Our Scout Troop 15 is looking at hosting an event to help Webelos Scouts earn some awards. This would require registration, and an on-line registration would be helpful. This would require the Cubs to enter their names and what awards they would want to work on. I thought that there would be some open source software to do this already.

My first Google search for “open source signup software” ended up returning a lot of “event registration” software. OK, that made sense.

There are a number of companies that do this sort of thing, with prices ranging in the couple bucks per person vicinity. Given that we aren’t looking to make money on this event, that wasn’t going to work.

I looked at a number of hosted event software. Most of it was aimed at big seminars. But there was one that looked like it might work, a WordPress plugin called Event Espresso.

First of all, I needed a local instance of WordPress. That HAD to be easy, I thought. I fired up the Fedora side of my laptop drive, and did a yum install wordpress. That worked fine, but, for some reason I could not figure out how to configure either WordPress or the MySql database that yum installed. I played with it for a bit (no more than 15 min) and went to bed.

A couple days later, I came back to the search. I decided to see if WordPress ran on Windows. Microsoft has an installer for WordPress for Windows using the Microsoft Web Platform Installer. On my XP machine, it did a poor job of installing. I started an install one evening, it completed downloads, but the next morning it was still installing. Rather, it claimed to be installing, but there was no disk activity; the thing was hung. I tried it again using a W7 standard desktop; same thing. I did a clean W7 install on a spare disk, and same thing. It just did not work.

I played with the WordPress on Fedora a bit more and had no luck. I had an inspiration, though, and looked for an quickly found a WordPress Live CD based on Debian. I installed it (after one detour, the thing requires a 64 bit architecture so I had to abandon my test machine for a more recent laptop and yet another spare disk), got it configured, and made a test post.

Next was getting the Espresso plugin installed. This was done by uploading the Espresso zip file from my laptop to the WordPress server. I had three problems here.

First, the destination directory on the server was set to mode 493 – writes disallowed. I changed it to 777.

Second, WordPress requires an FTP server on the server. The Live CD didn’t enable one. I SSH’d into the machine, did an apt-get install ftpd. That got the FTP server running, but WordPress could not contact it. I remembered that ftpd does not allow root access, so back to SSH. I created a new user and made it part of the root group, and now WordPress could do what it needed.

A side note: if I am able to upload the plugin zip file, why does the FTP server need to run? The upload file could be unpacked an installed from the server. That’s weird.

Third, the plugin install process failed because the directory created by the WordPress plugin install process had the 493 mode again. So I changed it to 777 again.

In the end, the test event page I created using Event Espresso worked fine, but the concept of “categories”, which I interpreted as being “I am Bill and I would like to sign up for the event, and I would like to take Course A and Course E”, was really “Category A is X type of event”. So it does not work for me.

I will keep looking, but I am thinking that it will be just about as easy to write a static page, which would feed PHP and a flat file to generate a confirmation confirmation page, then a verification page. I’ve a couple months to get that done.

24 November morning update:

After another short round of looking, I ran across EventZilla, which does online event management. It’s still not exactly what I was looking for, but it looks like it will work for us. They don’t charge for free events (which is what we are doing). I built the site (including a couple custom logos that I built with the GIMP) in about 30 minutes. Pretty cool.


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