History always repeats itself and sometimes that's good. Here's a second chance to be part of it: tmdtc.com

Sunday 27 April 2008

Ubuntu really available from Dell Belgium?

There's a page talking about it, but once you want to shop, you get an error page.... I have to buy a computer for a friend, and he's interested to try Ubuntu and I thought I'd see what Dell has to offer. I also didn't find a system where Ubuntu is proposed. If that's all they have, it's not very impressive and I'll go somewhere else....

Wednesday 23 April 2008

Profoss in the newspaper!

Today L'écho published an article about free and open source as an opportunity for SMEs. Profoss is mentioned as it is as founder of Profoss that I got in contact with Fabian Lacasse, the journalist who wrote the article. But that's not the most important. What is really important is the quality of the article. It even reminds readers that "gratuité" is not what characterizes free and open source software! Of course (however,... that's not a given in today's journalism), it reflects what I explained, but the writer managed to keep the substance while making it understandable to non-IT people. This is really an article of a quality I wished we saw more often!

But this is only one more step in reaching Profoss' goal to inform professional users of the viability of free and open source software. There's still lots more to do, so don't hesitate to spread the word!

Saturday 19 April 2008

Profoss directories launch!

I've been so busy I didn't blog for too long. It's not that I haven't anything to report: BarCamp Gent was great, MyOwnDB is progressing well, Profoss OpenOffice.org in june was announced, I was without internet 2 work days (and that's really a PITA!), etc...

But what I wanted to report in this post is that I've just launched the Profoss Directories (currently mostly in french, see why below) with 2 categories: Professionals listing companies and freelance specialising in FOSS, and Software, listing FOSS commonly used in professional environments.

I'm still looking to complete these 2 categories and you can help in two ways:
  1. Let me know what (your company?) I should add in which category
  2. Help me maintain and translate the entries in these categories
I'm also interested in your feedback!

And the reason it's mostly in french: these directories will be (I was told so at least) referenced in an article in L'echo. This has accelerated things and I have had to concentrate on the french version, corresponding to the audience of the newspaper.

Tuesday 8 April 2008

Google Appengine: a great opportunity for MyOwnDB?

Google launched their AppEngine, a platform to build web applications easily, with automatic scaling as a benefit from the limitations put on the available features. For example, the storage engine is a schemaless database based on BigTable. Kind of like Amazon's SimpleDB or CouchDB. But what if you need an information storage letting you define a structure and schema?

You can't install mysql locally, and outbound communications can only happen through the email api or the url fetch api...

Enter MyOwnDB. With the REST API we will provide shortly, you'll be able to use MyOwnDB as your data store from within AppEngine applications. Communication from AppEngine to the outside can happen through the URL fetch API provided, supporting GET, POST, HEAD, PUT and DELETE. Exactly what's needed to fully enjoy our upcoming REST API!

Sunday 6 April 2008

Arranging my holidays as a freelance

It might seem strange that after my first week as a freelance, I already talk about holidays, but I think it's more than normal. For example, I have developed a tool to manage the production lines of a company, and if that tool stops working, they're in big trouble. If this happens when I'm on holiday, in the middle of the mountains where a GSM is completely useless and internet connection is even more utopic, they're in HUGE trouble. Although I would enjoy my hollyday, ignoring what happens, my return would be that more catastrophic.

As it is not possible to find a solid solution in the last weeks before leaving, and although no holiday is planned yet, I am already putting all pieces in place. The first one is

If I want someone else to be on call and the point of contact of my customers, that someone should have all what is needed to also solve the possible problems, know the history with the customer, etc. The best way to achieve that is to extensively document all what is done: source code, infrastructure, requests from the customer, etc
Although source code comments should be a natural reflex, I hadn't found the tool I wanted to use for the rest. But this is now ok: I'll use Dokuwiki. It's really the perfect tool for that task: simple formatting; storage done in text files, making the content available in any text editor, and making integration with source code control tools easy; tons of plugins; file attachments; private wikis possible.

A positive side effect is also that I'll build a knowledge base I'll be able to use for future projects.

But if documentation is a necessary condition, it's not sufficient. You also need

Someone you trust
If you share all your documentation, contacts, etc, you'd better be sure that person won't short-circuit you and steal your customer. Although I want to build a relation of trust with my customers, making such a move more difficult, I'd rather work with someone I trust.

And I have the chance to know the right person! It's been some time now that I work closely with Bart from Zeropoint.it for MyOwnDB and other things. This collaboration has let us build a relation of trust, to the point that I'll contract Zeropoint to care for my customers during my holidays. Zeropoint has a team spread over Belgium and Pakistan, providing customised IT solutions in all domains you can imagine. With the good documentation I'll provide them, I'll be able to go on holiday with peaceful mind!

So if you're ever going freelance, one of the first things you should think of is your holiday! Isn't that great?