Category Archives: werk

blogposts op over (mijn) werk, bij een niet nader genoemde Telco in Brussel

On the rebound with an Acer beTouch e110

On January 28th I was stupid enough to forget my trusty HTC Hero on the train. I filled out the NMBS’ online lost luggage forms and mourned the loss of my faithful personal digital assistant for a couple of days. As my employer is supposed co-finance a new handset in July, I decided to look for a cheap temporary replacement for now. Main requirements: cheap, 3G+, tethering and optionally Android. The Acer beTouch e110 seemed to be a perfect match.

The e110 is a small and light touchscreen device, running Android 1.5 (Cupcake). It comes with 3G+ (HSDPA), Bluetooth, GPS and FM radio and it is one of the cheapest Android-based handset available. And when I say cheap, I mean cheap as in “you can’t even find a decent 2nd hand device for that price”-cheap.

So what’s not to like? Well, the CPU is pretty slow, there’s no WiFI and the touchscreen needs some tough love. Android 1.5 Cupcake isn’t exactly the latest and greatest Android around either. Although Acer did issue new ROM’s in 2010, those were all based on Android 1.5 and there are no plans for an Eclair or Froyo version. What’s more surprising (although some would consider this a plus) is that the e110 is not a Google-branded phone. This means, amongst other things, that there’s no Google Market and no Contacts synchronization. Add the lack of Exchange integration to the equation and you’ve got very empty contacts and calender, which is pretty frustrating if you want to use your phone for work purposes.

No, Acer’s beTouch e110 certainly is no Hero, but I’ve got my HSDPA, tethering and even Android for a very low price. So I’ll cope until my Hero comes home. And if that doesn’t happen, the unboxing of the Desire Z in July will be all the more exiting.

Did Flash really become irrelevant in 2010?

Little over a year ago I must have been smoking some weird shit when writing that Flash would become irrelevant in 2010. Because after all, this is 2011 and there’s still plenty of Flash for Adobe aficionados to make a living and the famous html5 video codec issue hasn’t been fully sorted out yet either. So I was wrong, was I? Well, … not really!

Apple still stubbornly refuses Flash on the iPhone and more importantly the iPad, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9 joined the HTML5-crowd in full force and even Adobe is going HTML5 with support in Dreamweaver and in Illustrator and with a preview of Edge, “a tool for creating animation and transitions using the capabilities of HTML5″.

But is was only in December 2010 that I knew I was dead on with my prediction, when I overheard this conversation at work between a business colleague and a web development partner:

Business Colleague: I would like a personalized dashboard with some nice-looking charts in my web application.
Web Development Partner: No problem, we’ll do it in Flash!
Business Colleague: No, we want this to work on the iPad too!

The year technology-agnostic decision-making business people started telling suppliers not to use Flash, that was the year Flash became irrelevant and “the open web technology stack” (somewhat incorrectly marketed as HTML5) took over.

Over hoe ik aan den lijve ondervond dat ge altijd een fietshelm moet dragen

Op de fiets door Brussel, is dat niet gevaarlijk?” vroeg men mij soms. “Nee” zei ik dan altijd een beetje stoer, “goed afgestelde remmen, een beetje geconcentreerd rijden en dan valt dat goed mee”.

Tot gisterenavond een voetganger met typisch Brusselse doodsverachting de straat zonder boe of ba overstak, een auto de remmen voor haar moest dichtgooien en ik hetzelfde deed om niet achterop die monovolume te knallen. Remmen dicht, de lucht in, door de achterruit van die vervloekte Opel het Schaarbeekse ziekenhuis binnengevlogen.

Op de spoed moesten ze 3 sneeën op m’n linkerarm dichtnaaien en hebben ze paar mooie zwart/wit foto’s genomen om daar -na lang wachten- op te zien dat er niets gebroken of gebarsten was in pols of nek, waarop ik goed bevonden werd om me terug in het verkeer te begeven, voorlopig wel zonder vouwfiets.

“Het valt mee, het had veel erger kunnen zijn” en “Ge hebt geluk gehad dat ge een helm ophad Mijnheer” zeiden Mario en Pieter (de vriendelijke ambulanciers), verpleegsters en dokters heel de avond lang. Absoluut! Ik en mijn Giro Flak fietshelm, wij zijn vanaf nu helemaal onafscheidelijk. Hopen dat Veerle dat geen belemmering vindt, zo in bed …

‘Cause I’m free, to do what I want, any old time

Freedom comes in many shapes and forms, but give me a computer which is not burdened by corporate software and enforced group policies and give me internet access that is not limited by proxies that prohibit you from using half of the web and I’m a happy little futtta. I cracked the proxy thingie problem at work some time ago already, but the computer/OS-part remained an issue up until now. I tried virtualization with VMWare and Qemu but wasn’t convinced and booting into my “disktop” (Ubuntu 8.04 intalled on an USB-connected external HD) while at work was far from efficient, so I kept jerking around in the uninviting environment which is the maimed Windows XP we have to put up with here.

But some time ago my laptop got a memory upgrade (from 1 to 2 Gb) and last week Paul Cobbaut wrote about Virtualbox on his blog. I installed this example of German craftsmanship (both a “free as in beer” and an open source version are available, version 3 was just released a few hours ago!) and my computer hasn’t been the same since. I’m now running a fullscreen (guest additions rock) Virtualbox virtual machine with Ubuntu 9.04, using an openssh-provided (with some help from corkscrew, off course) socks-proxy for unlimited internet access and I feel like a kid that has just been allowed in a playground.

a screenshot of virtualbox 3 on windows xp

Next to Ubuntu, I also installed Opensolaris (which seems to need a shitload of RAM) and a leaked version of the emulator of that much anticipated (well, by me at least) Palm WebOS. On my disktop I installed the Linux-version of Virtualbox and I’ve got OS-weirdness such as ReactOS, Haiku and Syllable running there. Hell, maybe I’ll even install (a clean version of) Windows XP in a virtual machine there, just to make it full circle. ‘Cause I’m free!

Soup Dragons – "I'm Free"

Watch this video on YouTube or on Easy Youtube.

Fun with RFP’s: organizing a RAD-race

the original rad race logoSelecting a good (web-)application development partner is not an easy task. Between writing your RFP, reading offers, organizing Q&A-sessions, commercial and juridical negotiations, … it’s easy to lose sight of what is most important: finding someone with the right tools and the right knowledge and experience to efficiently build (web-)applications.

That is why (at work) we decided to include a POC in the last phase of our “web framework and development services” selection process. But not just your normal POC, where you have no control over the context in which the development takes place. No, we brought in Ivan Verborgh to help us organize an “original RAD race“. In such “development competition” you put the participating teams in 1 room and give them 1,5 days to create the same administrative application. And somewhere along the line you throw in a change request as well, just for the kicks of it (and to check agility off course).

Our participants had to use a Java-based solution (as defined in the RFP), but their frameworks were very different, with one opting for a commercial product and the other one for an open source component stack. Without going into too much detail, the RAD-race was a great experience for us as well as for the participants. Although neither team was able to complete the assignment, there was a clear difference in the teams’ performance. For some colleagues the results were a true eye-opener, with one competitor clearly having less knowledge and experience with their chosen framework. The result of the RAD-race was an important element in our decision process and it was a fun experience during an otherwise sometimes dull RFP-process.

futtta saboteert televisie-reportage over bedrijfswagens

In de uitzending van Volt van gisteren (5/11) kon de aandachtige kijker (mijn ouders, tiens) mij een reportage over bedrijfswagens zien saboteren, door helemaal op het einde wild vouwfietsend in beeld te komen stormen. Kijk maar;

frank saboteert reportage over auto's

Watch this video on YouTube or on Easy Youtube.

U ziet me mooi voor de fleetmanager de parkeergarage induiken, de vouwfiets voor de Mercedes. Prachtige symboliek, toch?

The WordPress-on-an-intranet nightmare

[UPDATE june 2009: this is solved in WordPress 2.8]

wp for dummies book coverHaving a fair amount of experience with WordPress installations and configuration, I wanted to install trusty old WP 2.5.1 on an idle desktop (winXP+xampp) at work to do some blogging on our intranet. The installation itself went smoothly (how hard can unpacking a zip-file be) but after some time the damn thing stopped working, producing nasty timeout-errors caused by a.o. wp-includes/update.php and wp-admin/includes/update.php.

The problem is that WordPress tries to open an internet-connection (using fsockopen) to see if updates are available. Great, except when you’re trying to run WordPress on an intranet behind a proxy without a (direct) connection to the internet. After some unsuccessful fiddling in multiple WordPress php-files, I ended up disabling fsockopen in php.ini (disable_functions)!

Disabling! Fsockopen! In php.ini! Just to have a working WP?

I mean, come on guys, why doesn’t WordPress provide configuration options where you can specify if and how (what type of proxy, what address to find it on, …) it should try to connect to the internet? I even made this truly amazing UI mock-up which you guys can just like copy/paste straight into your code;

How should WordPress connect to the internet to check for updates?
(*) Direct connection to the internet (default)
( ) Use a proxy:
    Proxy type:     (*) http ( ) socks
    Proxy URL:      ___________________________________________
    Proxy User:     ___________________________________________ (optional)
    Proxy Password: ___________________________________________ (optional)
( ) No internet connection available (WordPress won't be able
    to warn you about updates!)

Pretty please?