Archive for September, 2008

Untangle.com – it looks awesome

September 30th, 2008

It looks pretty awesome, I fancy testing it out pretty soon.

Flash Video Overview

Microsoft – you’re not a competitor

September 30th, 2008

In the not too distant past, I read this on Popey’s blog:

Friends wife: “Is that Firefox? Where have I heard of that?”
Me: (not wanting a conversation about geek stuff in the pub) “It’s a product which competes with one of Microsofts products.”
Friends wife: “Nah, we don’t have any competitors.”
Me: “…”
Friends wife: “Except maybe Google.


I thought it was quite amusing, and it’s one of those things that really gets people’s backs up in the Community.  However, less than a week later, I came across the same thing myself.  In my parent’s Kitchen of all places.  One of my Mum’s friends was round, and I was working in Birmingham for the day, so popped home to say hi.  I new her son worked ‘In computers’, and she’s been quite knowledgeable in the past.

Mum’s Friend: “So you work up in Manchester then Andy?”
Me: “Yeah, for a technology company”
Mum’s Friend: “So what do you actually do?”
Me: “I develop Open Source Office Servers & Solutions for SMEs – creating a more affordable system than Microsoft Exchange.”
Mum’s Friend: “Ooh, so is it a big company you work for?”
Me: “No, we have about 20 employees”
Mum’s Friend: “So you’re not really a competitor to Microsoft then… My Son works for Microsoft.”


What defines competitor.. someone who competes in the same market.  I’ve replaced MS Exchange Servers with Open Source Solutions.  If that’s not competing, I don’t know what is!

Me-ware versus Groupware

September 25th, 2008

I’m sure I’m not alone amongst the ubuntu-uk crowd, in that I run my own mailserver.  With ubuntu, it was very easy to set up postfix and cyrus, and retrieve my email via IMAP.  The great thing about IMAP is that wherever I am, providing I have an internet connection, I am constantly up to date with my email.  It’s all out there on ‘the cloud’ – the buzzword of marketeers in the IT industry in the moment.  To have data constantly accessible is fantastic – no need to work about syncronising between different PCs and the like – it’s all there 24/7 (unless I throttle my VPS.. which has been known).

I’ve used squirrelmail, roundcube webmail, horde, and Zimbra on my server over the past two years.  The first two are targetted more at the individual email user (though can serve multiple unique accounts), whereas the latter two are groupware suites.. which include tools for collaboration, shared calendaring, shared email, file storage & exchange .etc.  However, they were a bit ‘overkill’ for a server running about 4 mail accounts.

Me-ware

The problem is, that I want the functionality of packages like horde and zimbra – but scaled down to suit me.  I want to be able  to syncronise my phone with my calendar, I’d love to have a centralised LDAP-based addressbook, which I could other packages to – but I don’t need a multi-tiered directory service.  You might say I’m being a bit naive… the software is free so why complain when it does loads more than it needs to?

Well, Bongo to you.

Bongo?

Bongo is a project that caught my eye possibly over 12 months ago, when Daviey in #ubuntu-uk gave me a demo.  It’s a smart looking project, that looks to answer exactly my needs.  It looks clean, simple – is open source and sticks to open standards.. so it’ll link it with it’s bigger cousins (like horde and zimbra) should I want to share calendars .etc.. but it’s also targetted at users.. not organisations.  0.5 release is due out before linuxexpo in London, 23-25th October 2008. I intend to keep my eye on it, and hopefully even help out a bit; and get it running my own system aasap.

My programming career begins (with bugfixing).

September 25th, 2008

It’s taken me a while, but just over 12 months learning the basics of programming, I’m finally contributing and commiting code to my company’s SVN repo.

One of the things I like about programming, is that it seems to suit me.  Having not done any programming at all before 12 months ago, jumping in at the deep end and going into a career that requires it wasn’t an easy step to take.  However, I’ve had some good guidance from my colleagues – in that I’ve not settled upon a single language.  I wouldn’t say I know any language well, but I’m reading and understanding code better than I’ve done before.

The hardest part for me, is looking at a problem and seeing my own solution – rather than the solution that’s coded infront of me.  Once I’ve understood the train of though of the original programmer, it’s alot easier.. however, at the start I was failing to do that.

At the moment I’m happy making modifications and bugfixes to programs.  It’s simply enough stuff, where auditing and testing the problem takes by far the majority of the time.  However, I’m understanding things better – and feel like I’m finally making some decent progress.

I know it’s possible to contribute to open source in other ways than just coding (I’ve been doing that for the last few years) – but now I’m coding I hope to submit code to the projects I like.  It’s been my aim for a while.  I’ve set up my bzr repo, but most of my code at the moment I’d hope to submit as patches to other projects.  Who knows what the future will hold.

Laconica-based sporting RSS feeds.

September 14th, 2008

I sent a message to Rory Cellan-Jones on deadline day, asking that the BBC’s “Live Text Feed” be made available as a RSS feed – so that rather than having to stay on the page and continually refresh, RSS messages could pop up in my chosen reader with any new developments.  What a simple – Web 2.0 idea.  However, this isn’t the kind of thing that the BBC can implement in a few hours, so I ended up watching Sky Sports News instead.

The other thing that disapoints me about the BBC is their coverage of the lower leagues in Rugby Union – I’m sure others of you are also fed up that your particular sport isn’t that well covered by the BBC.  Today, I was watching the F1, and with gwibber (a twitter/identi.ca client) open on my laptop, I started updating my ‘feed’ with the latest in the F1 race.  Sure, I didn’t provide a particularly insightful commentary, but the feed was available for people to read – although they could also quite easily stick on ITV for terrestrial coverage.

However, there are lots of sports events that don’t get the coverage required by the fans.  I’m thinking of setting up some kind of central ‘hub’ to which fans can subscribe to, in order to get updates about their particular sporting event.  Given that ‘tweets’ are by default short enough to type in a simple text-message, you could suddenly turn a non-league football match into a hive of community-commentators, with views from both sides evenly expressed.

Of course, this thing isn’t going to take off right away – and if someone knows of a site that already does this sort of thing, then I’d love to know.  If you too want to work on this sort of project, please get in touch.  Knowledge of Django/Laconica/Twitter – even better!

Man City – the end is not nigh

September 14th, 2008

One thing that the British Media do best is to take a story and run with it. Sure, the take over that was announced on the 31st August has really put a spark into the club – the press talk about the ‘enthusiasm’ around the ground, and the irrelevant views of some ignorant fan saying he wants to stuff ‘United’ makes for really banal viewing. The reality is that City have access to this money, have used a little bit of it – but have yet ‘developed’ it. If someone gave me multiple billions to invest in a club like Macclesfield town with 24 hours left of the transfer window, I’d still not have been able to guarantee a win at Bournemouth yesterday. What City intend to do is build up the brand and reputation first – that’s where the money is really going to be used.

Sir Alex Feguson got it spot on – just because Manchester City are the ‘richest club in the world,’ doesn’t make them the biggest club in the world. As a city fan, I have no qualms in admitting that the aforementioned title belongs to our ‘Red’ neighbours. This is definitely got to be one of the reasons why Abu Dhabi Group bought Manchester City. They can use the ‘Manchester’ Brand – already famous for it’s music, and ‘Manchester United’ to also push Manchester City in foreign markets. With Mr Cook in charge, we’ll hopefully come up with a better plan than allowing Sun Ji Hai to run around the football field to tap into the Chinese market.

After defeat to Chelsea yesterday, the media were ready to jump onto the backs of the Manchester City fans, ridiculing them for believing that the money could buy them success. Luckily, the mainstream media can be safely ignored. (Read blogs instead). Manchester City have a fantastic youth setup, five minutes from my front door. They’ve turned out graduates like Sean Wright-Phillips, Micah Richards, & Michael Johnson. The camaraderie of maturing through the ranks of the club provides a unique team spirit. Manchester United were able to capitalise on this with their Golden Era of Scholes, Neville(s) Beckham .etc – Aside from an off-the-cuff comment in an interview with Mark Bowen, Mark Hughes’ assistant at City – all the signs have been that City will continue to invest in their academy.

The other good thing that I see continuing is City as a ‘community club’ – Manchester City have only recently moved from a stadium that was ‘with the people.’ In a recent article on BBC news, Mihir Bose states that the main reason that football clubs have lost touch with their community is because the way in which fans travel to the stadium has changed. “The people that now live close to the stadium are more-often-than-not ethnic minorities with no interest in football.” Manchester’s new ‘Eastlands Stadium’ may be a litter further away that it was before, but I still manage to get there walking. It’s a great club, and great community – and I’m proud to be a part of a club which will soon enjoy some level of success.

Manchester City versus Chelsea

September 13th, 2008

I’ll be looking forward to this one and watching it at the Red Lion in Withington (hopefully).

The ‘Oil Firm Derby.’ – as one punter has put it (add your own in the comments).

A fair bit of talent in the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain

September 13th, 2008

Sometimes you come across a talent, and can appreciate it.  Other times you can get enthused by it.  However, once in a while you get blown away by it.

I’ve been checking out these videos on youtube, and they’re absolutely awesome.

Threeo Walcott

September 12th, 2008

It’s quite a catchy headline.. not mine unfortunately.

I was umming and ahhing about whether to do a blog on the England game.  I’ve decided not to – as there’s so much prose elsewhere for people to read.  If you want my take – come down the pub in Manchester and we’ll discuss it over pints of England’s finest Ales.

Value in Diversity

September 11th, 2008

Sometimes we have these moments when something just clicks, and you understand why you believe in something.  One of the biggest criticisms levels at Linux Distros, is that were they to combine, they could share their resources and develop faster.

Whilst I’d hazard a guess at this being true with tribes, and ‘ye olde style’ warfare – in the software world it is exactly this diversity which adds value.  Many groups of people can be coming at the same problem from multiple angles – many of which the other groups have yet to consider as viable/worthwhile.  Therefore you get a variety of methods.

Working on the commercial side of FLOSS, there are a number of Open Source ‘products’ that we re-sell and support.  We add value as a local supplier, and help with end-user support and other IT problems.  The real value we add though, is that we look to support anything (and yes, that includes Vista).  When developing websites, we use a number of FLOSS CMS systems, with each system being a better fit than another for a particular use.  Sure, standardisation may be good on paper… but constantly learning new systems and seeing different approaches adds value to your staff.  Keeping them actively learning stops stagnation, and can only be good for the company in the long run.