The Honest Duck, Issue 1

December 2020

Welcome to the inaugural issue of The Honest Duck! And thank you for subscribing!

We plan to send this newsletter when we have some news about Kill Bill – both the software and the team behind it. If there’s something you’d like to see covered in the newsletter, please let us know by replying to this email.

What’s with the name The Honest Duck? 🦆

Kill Bill’s mascot is, of course, a duck. (The story behind that? Ducks, of course, have bills!) We realized that “duck” rhymes with “buck.” (The money kind, not the male deer. 🦌) This, ultimately, led us to the well-known expression “make an honest buck.”

Convoluted? Perhaps. But sometimes billing can feel convoluted, so in that aspect, The Honest Duck is quite apt!

Tips from the Kill Bill Community

Thank you for sharing your insights and experiences with the Kill Bill Community (a.k.a. the mailing list). We (Stéphane and Pierre) pop in often, and based on some recent threads, we can offer a few tips:

Online and Offline Catalog Validation

Earlier this year, we blogged about using Kill Bill Cloud for testing purposes, and we mentioned the online XML catalog validator. We’ve had some users report error 403 problems when using it, and we’ve identified that it’s a Cloudflare issue. We’re currently working with them to clear up this issue. In the meantime, if you have problems, please use the offline catalog validator (documented here).

Sending PDF Invoices

The last time we checked, we couldn’t find a good, open-source PDF library to generate PDF invoices (versus HTML invoices). But a Community member volunteered that she had recently used the generator library from Flying Saucer PDF to send PDF invoices.

Step-By-Step Technical Docs for Kill Bill DIY

Based on a conversation with a Community member, we realized we needed to fine-tune our Tomcat documentation to help new users get started with Kill Bill. Times like this, we’re so thankful to have a reliable tech writing team! You can see the more detailed steps here.

Highlights from the Latest Kill Bill Release

The latest release of Kill Bill is 0.22.18 (here). For those of you who might be running on an older version of Kill Bill, here’s a quick recap of what’s changed:

  • Docker – We’ve upgraded our Docker images. The base operating system is now Ubuntu 20.04 LTS with an Extended Security Maintenance commitment from Canonical lasting until 2030. We should be good for a while! 😃The Docker logs now output JSON formatted logs by default, which should help those of you deploying on platforms like Kubernetes. (There is no change to the internal log files, rotated inside the container.)
  • Tomcat – Tomcat has been upgraded to 8.5.59, which addresses a recently reported CVE. Python has been upgraded to 3.8.5.

Note: As always, these kinds of changes could have some unexpected side effects. As part of each release, we run our full suite of 3,000+ test cases. While everything looks fine on our end, we may not have run tests specifically matching your own configuration. Make sure to run your own tests in your UAT environment! Please let us know if you encounter any issues.

Where we’re heading

Barring any unforeseen events in the next couple of months, we plan to upgrade the Jersey library to 2.32, which implements the JAX-RS 2.1 specification. (Currently, the Kill Bill REST API is powered by Jersey 1.x, which implements the JAX-RS 1.1 specification.)

We expect the upgrade to be transparent for most of our users while allowing us to unlock new features in the future (e.g. Server Sent Events, a.k.a. SSE).

Have you seen the Kill Bill website lately? Earlier in the year, we refreshed it with new content. It’s part of a long-haul effort to better explain Kill Bill to the uninitiated. Also related to this effort are two high-level videos we created for Kill Bill and Kaui. Check them out on YouTube!

We know many of you are already familiar with Kill Bill and don’t necessarily need these videos, but they could come in handy if you’re ever faced with the task of onboarding new team members!

Team member spotlight

This year, instructional designer Dinah Ramirez joined the Kill Bill team to create videos that introduce Kill Bill and Kaui. We’re amazed by her ability to cleverly and creatively assemble just the right audio and visual assets to clearly communicate Kill Bill’s concepts and value.

About Dinah:
Dinah Ramirez is a product trainer, instructional designer, and implementation consultant with a background in sales and account management. For over 17 years, she’s created learning experiences for digital products, software, and services using video tutorials, technical writing, and other online learning platforms. She has a B.A. from the University of Michigan (Sociology and Applied Statistics) and earned her MBA from Wayne State University.