Category Archives: werk

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

Out with Google Plus, in with Yammer

I’m not a social network expert by any measure, but it seems to become clear that although the initial enthusiasm among the geek-crowd was big,  Google Plus isn’t cutting it in the real world. I don’t have a Plus-tab open in my browser any more and when I do go Plus, there isn’t a lot going on in my circles which I want to participate in.

Compare that to the way Yammer took off at the company I work for; in less than a months time 800+ colleagues (out of approx. 1500 employees) joined and we’re getting to know new colleagues, discussing more or less work-related topics (1500+ messages) in the open or in multiple interest-specific groups (15 at this moment). Good times!

I don’t know how Yammer is doing in other companies in Belgium (and Europe by extension), but to me is seems that Yammer succeeds where Google Plus is failing; bringing together a group of people (in a more or less “private” environment) that share a common context but who didn’t share a social network before and allowing them to engage and to create engagement.

Google Plus might be neat from a technology & privacy point of view, but it essentially was (and still is, I guess) a “me too” exercise, trying to occupy a market that has already very successfully been taken by Facebook & Twitter. And yes, Yammer does have an API.

Futtta the Explorer slash Navigator

I always wondered why people would contact me for freelance work, until earlier today a colleague told me “but you’re a consultant, according to your LinkedIn profile”! Indeed, my “Professional headline” there read “Internet Technology Consultant”. So if not a consultant, what am I instead? Internet Technology Expert? Internet Technology  Specialist? Nah, too poshy …

Wait, what do I do at work? I try to discover (by experimenting and reading) how web technology can be used and I try to apply that knowledge to help colleagues steer their projects. That’s like … exploring and navigating, no? So as of today I’m Futtta the Web Technology Explorer and Navigator on LinkedIn!

Like walking on a fluffy cloud

So what would a small-time web-tech blogger all of a sudden need Amazon EC2 or Google App Engine expertise for? For his real job, that’s why!

On Thursday, May 12th someone pretty high up in the company hierarchy decided we had to have a web application ready on the 19th. The catch: it had to be able to handle a shitload of traffic in only 2 days time. After consulting with a couple of specialists and reviewing our options, we decided to go for it with our existing web-development partner. Because of available expertise and resources however, we decided to switch from J2EE to .Net and to deploy the application on Microsoft’s “platform as a service” offering, called Azure.

In 5 days time (what weekend was that?), using a shared Google Docs spreadsheet as project hub (for bug-list, todo’s, translation strings and in document IM) the application was developed, tested and hammered upon with a huge load-test and on Wednesday-evening the final version was deployed on Azure.

The most interesting technical tidbits (as designed by a smart and very motivated lead-developer):

The application handled a huge amount of traffic the first two days. Due to circumstances the load was especially high on Thursday morning (with over 800 HTTP-requests/second), but performance and availability remained perfect. It was like walking on this fluffy cloud, really:

The Orb – Little Fluffy Clouds. [HQ]

Watch this video on YouTube.

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.