Request Tracker RT 3.8.1 on Fedora: /etc/aliases: mail aliases for Queues

I am writing this more for future me than anything else. We’d set up our help desk (well, technically our .bash_profiles on our various servers) such that any root access would be logged to RT.

We’d originally set it up to go to our generic help desk queue, but that quickly proved annoying. First of all, we’re in the midst of bringing all sorts of web services online, and this requires a lot of root access. And second, I don’t want root access messages getting lost among the various “Freddy Can’t Print his Email” tickets.

RT makes this oh so easy. With a few caveats that really have nothing to do with RT, it has to do with mail.

The RT Queue

In RT, I created a queue called rootAccessAlerts. I set its Reply and Comment Address to

/etc/smrsh and rt-mailgate

First, you should familiarize yourself with smrsh, the restricted shell that allows sendmail to execute  commands found only in the /etc/smrsh directory.  This looks to be a Fedora thing, according to this article, from which I gleaned this information. Take a look at the man page for smrsh to learn more.

In /etc/smrsh, I wrote shell scripts that sendmail would execute. First, I wrote rt-mailgate-gen:

/opt/rt3/bin/rt-mailgate $*

Next, after some gnashing of teeth, I figured out that I needed another script, as one of my queues had a space in its name – and $* was parsing it according to what shell wanted to do, and not what I wanted it to do. So, I wrote  second script, called rt-mailgate-gen-helpdesk

/opt/rt3/bin/rt-mailgate --queue 'help desk' --action correspond --url


OK, now let’s add the alias for to email address. Edit /etc/aliases using your favorite text editor (or mine, which is vim), and add lines for the root.access alias:

root.access: "|rt-mailgate-gen --queue 'rootAccessAlerts' --action correspond --url"
root.access-comment: "|rt-mailgate-gen --queue 'rootAccessAlerts' --action comment --url"

Once saved, run the newaliases command so sendmail knows about the .. uhh … new aliases.

All done!

Request Tracker 3.8.0 web2 Theme: Arial vs. Helvetica

Jesse Vincent dropped a comment on yesterday’s post Request Tracker 3.8.0 vs. MXWest, asking for a screenshot of the difference in appearance I observed between the Helvetica and Arial fonts under Windows.

I really should have included a shot in the original post, but I was tired. Anyway, here’s a cropped zoom of the differences.

At smaller sizes, helvetica degrades a bit I think. At larger sizes, Arial starts getting a little jagged.  Below you’ll find fuller screenshots. Click through for full size.


Request Tracker 3.8.0, using "arial" in css/web2/layout.css >> body
Request Tracker 3.8.0, Arial


Request Tracker 3.8.0, Helvetica
Request Tracker 3.8.0, Helvetica

Request Tracker 3.8.0 vs. MXWest

This was an upgrade – well, no, upgrade and move (to another server) – that actually went fairly well. I was able to download the latest version, and export my “old” (RT 3.4.x) database, re-import and upgrade it.

The trick, it seemed, was to use mysqldump instead of phpMyAdmin. Oh, that and also to do increase /etc/my.cnf to increase “max_allowed_packet.” 

I’m pretty impressed with 3.8.0. There’s a lot to recommend it, not least of which is the configurable “Quick Search” which let’s me choose which statuses (statii?) I want to see. “stalled” is a big deal to me. I like being able to quickly see what’s stalled. In my world, that means “something is needed from someone external to us, and until we get it, we stalled.” Being able to see what’s there quickly lets me know who I need to start e-mail-ing or otherwise start annoying to Get Things Done.

The new web2 theme is very nice, but I did go in and change the default font from Helvetica to Arial. Much nicer presentation under Google Chrome (and IE8 and FF3, in my opinion). The Helvetica default is, I guess, a nod to the Mighty Open Sourcers using a Linux desktop, but it does not render well at all on any of my Windows machines.

If you need any help, drop me a line. Request Tracker is a deep, powerful package, capable of Mighty Transformations to Your Business.

My Five Favorite Tools – so far today


Here are 5 tools I find indispensable on a daily basis. My work centers around them. vi aside (and that’s no small aside. “set -o vi” is the first line of my .bash_profile), here are The Big Five. I’ll deal with Firefox add-ons separately, as there are a few I find irresistible as well as indispensable, and Firefox itself deserves its own post. Maybe several.

And why is it irresistible, indispensable?

In no particular order, the Big 5, without any of which, my life and work become that much more difficult.

Gmail: First, having the subject and the first few lines of a message in your Inbox view is enough to make you take a closer look. The ability to trash or unlabel anything from a single view is invaluable. Such a relief to no longer have to click on an email with the subject “Person’s Name” and the body is “Out to Lunch.”

Labels are a better way of organizing than folders – they’re more like tags. An e-mail can be from the boss and relevant to a particular project (or not), and labels are a great way to do this.

As an extra special bonus, your chats can even be integrated with your e-mail “conversations.” Oh, and Google Apps – they’ve got your whole company covered. Bye bye e-mail server! So long, battling with anti virus and spam appliances and all that crap!

And you can get to it from anywhere, including my Treo 680. So when someone stops me in the hall to request some feature or change or report a bug, I can immediately gmail my Ticketing System, which is …

Best Practical’s Request Tracker, which isn’t a “Computing Cloud” service in the strictest sense, but it is to me as I’ve installed it on my company’s private servers.  Queues, assignments, priority, deadlines, comments. All organized here in a manageable system delightfully simple to use – send an e-mail to it, or reply to an e-mail it sends. It can be a bit exciting to install and configure. But once e-mail aliases are assigned and queues set up, you’re off to the races. Exports plenty of reports, too, so you can really start getting your estimates spot on.

SlimTimer: Easily time tasks, share them, assign them, and run reports. How I wished I’d had this in the mid-90s. Alas, would that it were integrated into RT (or vice versa? Or LiquidPlanner? ) – I could take a ticket, assign it, and boom, have it appear on the particular person’s slim timer – assigned, timed, reported and tagged for me to analyze.

Bubbles: “Webtop” your favorite web sites/ services with Bubbles. Click “X” to close ’em but wait! They’re still running, just minimized to your tray. No wasted taskbar space, no dozens of tabs (or worse windows) open, your desktop remains delightfully clean and devoid of distractions.

Twitter: and so we come to Twitter. Wait. What? Twitter? That tweet thing? You bet. The art and practice of “mindfulness” (well, mine anyway) is very much enhanced by being forced, in 140 characters or less to think about what I’m doing right now. That’s powerful. Read/ listen to what you need to do. Think about what you need to do. Write it out, send it to the world. Wow. Your autobiography 140 characters at a time, as Brian Shaler said in a recent tweet. Think about what you’re doing … right now.

Honorable Mention: to the good old fashioned Yellow Legal Pad and Bic Pen. Aside from my mouse, the only other thing on my desktop is a yellow legal pad and a pen. OK, there’s also a phone, but I never answer that unless it’s a scheduled call. Write it down, get it into the To-Do stream (for me, that’s RT) cross it off. If I don’t get everything into the To-Do Stream before closing time, I revisit after dinner and a nice long walk or run. Every morning I start with a blank yellow pad. And an up to date To-Do stream ready for me to dive in.