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 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:
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.
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.
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 …
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!
Selecting 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.