Friday 11 November 2011

Windows Installer for NAnt

In the OpenPetra project, we completely depend on NAnt, which works out very well for us.
But we have had now several problems with permissions for executing nant on Windows, from the Program Files directory. Also the creation of the nant.bat was not trivial, and could cause problems with permissions.

The easy solution was to create a small InnoSetup Installer.
You can download it from our files section at SourceForge:

The script file for InnoSetup looks like this:

AppVerName=NAnt 0.91
Source: nant-0.91\*.*; DestDir: {app}; Flags: recursesubdirs createallsubdirs
procedure CurStepChanged(CurStep: TSetupStep);
  if CurStep=ssPostInstall then
    SaveStringToFile(ExpandConstant('{win}/nant.bat'), ExpandConstant('@"{app}\bin\NAnt.exe" %*'), False);
If you have trouble with your old NAnt installation, you should delete the folder first from the Program Files, before you run the installer!

Thursday 29 September 2011

Use Case OpenPetra for TeenStreet 2011


For TeenStreet 2011 in Germany, we have extended and used OpenPetra.
TeenStreet ( is an International Christian Teenager Event that happens all over the world.
Teenagers, group leaders (aka coaches) and service crew from about 18 European countries, and even further abroad, register for the TeenStreet conference in Germany. The registration is processed through the home office of each country. The home office is responsible for payment and accepting or denying registrations.
The organising office does all the logistics for the conference, eg. printing the badges.
The software ran fine on a Debian Linux on a virtual server. We have had about 3600 applications altogether.



The functionality can be separated into the part that was seen by the participants, and the part that was used by the registration offices and the organising office.


  • There is a base yaml file with general data, eg. photo upload
  • A javascript file contains all the texts, and should be translated by the home office.
  • There are several roles, eg. Teenagers, Coaches, Service people. The questions and fields to fill in are different for each role.
  • The home office can request customizations for the yaml file, which is derived from the base yaml file.
  • An Email is sent to the home office and the applicant, when the registration is submitted. A PDF file is generated and provided as a download and as an attachment to that email.
    • the email and the pdf are based on HTML templates. The PDF can also embed other PDF files, which is helpful for more detailed questionnaires for the adults.
  • The applicant has to print the PDF, sign the paper, teenagers have to let the parents sign as well.
    • If payment is done by direct debit, there is an additional signature for that on the paper as well.
    • the paper is sent as a normal letter to the home office


  • The home office receives the letter, searches for the applicant, and reviews the application. If the applicant is accepted, the state of the application is changed from "On Hold" to "Accepted". The acceptance date is recorded.
  • If an applicant is cancelled and the application status is set to cancelled, the cancellation date will be recorded.
  • Early applicants will receive a free T-Shirt. There is a special report that tells how many T-Shirts and sizes need to be ordered.
  • Badges can be printed for all applicants, with different layout, defined in HTML, for each role. Photos for the applicants and bar codes can be printed.
    • Lost Badges can be reprinted on demand.
  • Export all data of participants to an Excel file to process the data further.
  • Print reports for medical needs, vegetarians for the kitchen.
  • Print a report to know how many people are on site on each day.
  • Print a report for the children and families on the site, for their special programme.
  • Print reports for the home offices. They tick off who has actually arrived.
  • Print reports for the service crew, or other teams, to know who is supposed to be on their team.
  • Rebukes: allow the "Boundaries Team" to make notes for applicants who violate the rules on site, and print reports for the coaches or home office representatives
  • Medical team: the medical people can see the relevant information and emergency contact information of the participants, and store information about diagnosis and therapy.
  • Import applications from Petra 2.x for offices that did not take part in the online registration.
  • Late and manual registrations have also been processed through the backend.
  • Export applicants into the local Petra 2.x for the home offices.
  • Export gift batches for Petra 2.x to easily process the application and registration fee. This has only been used by the German office this year.
  • Print reports for the organising finance office, to charge the home offices for the participants that come from their country. Consider siblings, and early/late/accepted cancellations. Order participants by role.
  • User management is currently not done in the web interface, but through the OpenPetra fat client. Everything else runs in a web interface.
  • User rights can be limited for the home office representatives to the applicants for their country. The medical team and the boundaries team and the finance office get special permissions.

possible improvements

  • For next year, the applicants should be able to retrieve and update the information they have entered last year
  • Allow applicants to login later again, and register for workshops and seminars
  • Provide a list of all people that are currently on site. Need to record the actual arrival date.
  • Group assignments for the fellowship groups need to be semi automated.
  • The administration of users should be available in the web interface as well.
  • When creating the gift batch file, also create a DTAUS file at the same time.
  • head set distribution for the translation, scan the badges, home offices can get a report to see who has used a headset. check which headsets were not returned after the session.
  • upgrade and ext.js to the latest version, so that IE 9 can be fully supported

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Ext.Net and Mono

I like ext.js/Sencha for having a rich client in the browser.

On the other hand, we are using Mono for running our .Net server. is a good library that helps you to easily write web applications, based on your .net libraries.

For OpenPetra, I have created an online application system, and the backend for the registration office is written with

Here are some problems I came across, and how I solved them:

First, I had to recompile the dlls and also the Newtonsoft.Json.Net20.dll.

The Newtonsoft.Json.Net20.dll has been compiled with the latest compiler built from Mono 2.8 trunk. This was necessary so that no Microsoft dlls were linked in.
The dll was built against the Mono compiled Newtonsoft.Json.Net20.dll on Windows with SharpDevelop. The mono compiler crashed on Linux when trying to build the solution.
The resulting files are available from the online source repository of OpenPetra, eg.

I was not able to get Ext.Net to run with the latest Mono 2.8, but it is working fine with 2.6.7.
I had to build it from the sources.
Some links related to the problems I had with Mono 2.8 and Ext.Net:
compile There is no implicit reference conversion from `Ext.Net.ComboBox' to `Ext.Net.ComboBoxBase'

Running on Mono 2.8: get the error: Cannot add a Ext.Net.Parameter to System.String
For the moment, the solution for me was to use Mono 2.6.7.

The examples of only show the c# code inside the aspx file, but with growing size of the code it would be good to be able to split the code behind code from the UI code.
This is possible, but you need to define all controls in the .cs file, at least those you want to use in your code behind code.
In the aspx file, make sure you have at the top:
<%@ Page Language="C#"
src="Desktop.aspx.cs" %>
<%@ Register assembly="Ext.Net" namespace="Ext.Net" tagprefix="ext" %>
see the whole file here: OnlineRegistrationBackend/Desktop.aspx

Now I ran into errors like this when Mono was compiling the code on the fly:
Compiler Error Message: CS1644: Feature `anonymous types' cannot be used because it is not part of the C# 2.0 language specification
I found on the Internet this page:
linked from, where they discuss how to use "extension methods" and "collection initializers" with Mono.

I have added all those settings to my web.config, see the result here:

You can see a running demo here:

Monday 7 March 2011

Knowledge Tree and PHP 5.3.3

We have got the latest PHP version on Hostsharing, and Knowledge Tree did not work anymore.
I got a long list of deprecated warnings, and the session would not even start, so not even a login screen is displayed.

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated
Warning: The magic method __get() must have public visibility and cannot be static
Warning: session_start() [function.session-start]: Cannot send session cache limiter - headers already sent

The solution is to edit config/dmsDefaults.php, find the lines containing
error_reporting(E_ALL & ~E_NOTICE);
ini_set('display_errors', '1');
ini_set('display_startup_errors', '1');
Below that, add the following line:
Now Knowledge Tree will work again, and hopefully the next version of Knowledge Tree will have fixed all the deprecated PHP things.