Thursday, March 23, 2006

Open Source will takeover say Open Source evangelist

In this article it is reported by Apache head Greg Stein that there will be no Commercial software in the future.

Apparently, according to Stein, people will make money in the software industry by selling support, installation, configuration and maintenance.

Bollocks, I say. Does he truly believe that the literally millions of professional developers are going to work for free, and hope they can make a living out selling support?

It may be true in the future where companies may give away a base software package and charge for customisation and support, but it would more than likely be closed source. In this case why would you give away your source to a competitor, when all you are charging for is your time. They could undercut you, using your source.

The other thing that doesn't make sense to me as a developer with his model. I can see how you could make money customising an Open Source application for a client's needs. I for one wouldn't enjoy doing that. It's horrible working with other people's code, no matter how good it is.

Call me old fashioned and unenlightening, and this may come back to haunt me in the future, but I don't see a time in my professional life span where there will be no Commercial software houses.
I come from a small marketplace, which may be leading my thinking. You have to work bloody hard to get and keep clients. You do all you can to lock them into using your software. Making the source of that software freely available to all and sundry just wouldn't happen.

So, I think there will always be a place for commercial software.

However, I can see the value of using OSS and customising it for the customers needs. This would be the most likely way of making money - whether most developers would like to take someone elses code and build on it is the question.

I suspect most would not.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Hobby Games Programmers

I couldn't agree more with this.
As I have noted before, I started programming on an Amstrad in the 80's when I was a kid.

Programming in those days meant making a crude game. The article above makes a good point, "But, sadly, current versions of Windows have no immediately accessible programming languages. And what’s a kid going to do with Visual Basic? Build a modal dialog?".

I have never really thought about this before. What do youngsters do today to get started? I know they *could* download C# or VBExpress for free and download DirectX SDK for free, but its not by any means easy - even for a professional developer. I can't imagine a young programmer being that interested in learning programming by making a Windows App.

I guess they could get into making Web Apps in ASP.NET or php etc and I would think that would be something I would do if I were 15 years younger and starting out.

Even then things ain't as easy as they were 15-20 years ago. In that respect it seems things have taken a backward step?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Computer History and Free Video?

I am currently watching a series I, erm acquired off the net by Robert Cringely called Triumph of the Nerds. It basically traces the history of personal computing from the Altair through to 1996 when the series was made.

It comes down to Bill Gates vs Steve Jobs really, but there are a swag of personalities that shaped the PC industry we know today. It is a great series that any geek should watch.

If this ever gets back to Mr Cringely (hey you never know) - maybe you should make the series available as a paid download on your site? I have been also trying to get hold of Nerds 2.0.1 which chronicles the early Internet to no avail.

It would be cool if stuff like this that is a few years old and past it's commercial run, could be freely or at least available to download off the net. I think Cringely has this vision with NerdTV which is, if you dont know, a series avaliable via creative commons license. It's a great series and I download it as soon as it is available. It was supposed to be a weekly thing, but recently they have been a few weeks between episodes.

UPDATE:
It appears Triumph of the Ners is still available to purchase
Here

I would recommend it to anyone, and I will be buying it. Anyway, I think my point is still valid.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

F1 Season starts Sunday

Woo hoo. New F1 Season starts back this weekend. Last year was really boring. This year looks to be better with new teams, drivers and rules.

Rule changes of note:
Drivers can change tyres during the race again - upto 7 sets per week end
Choice of V8 or low capacity V10
1 Hour Qualifying back

Bit of a prancing horse fan myself, so hopefully they can improve from last years shocker.

BTW anyone interested I have a picks game at my site.

Free to join and should be introducing features over the next few weeks, including the ability to run a sub league for your friends. Stay tuned.

Comments etc to info@softwarex.co.nz

Cheers.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Programming: ramblings of a self taught man.

I have been a computer programmer (I prefer the term software developer for some reason) since I saw my first computer 22 odd years ago. I started off hacking away in BASIC on my brothers Amstrad CPC 464. In those days computer magazines were filled with BASIC programs you could type in to your computer. The programs - usually games - were often rubbish but the fun was learning programming and trying to figure out what was going on with the code.

I have been hooked ever since. I lived in a small town about as far away from Silicon Valley as you could get, however I always felt connected with the early computer era somehow. There was no Internet (well public Internet anyway) so most information was passed on word of mouth through friends, or through magazines, or more often than not through trial and error.

I moved on from BASIC on the Amstrad to Turbo Pascal on a 386 PC. Again mostly hacking away, learning by trial and error. The great improvement of course was the fact that the TP program would compile to an executable and could be used on any IBM Compatible in the world. This seemed like grandious stuff to a 14 year old from small town New Zealand.

Along the way I picked up Delphi and a whole host of other languages through to C# which I predominately use today. I did a 2 year tertiary course in Business Computing at a local Polytech to get a certificate, but I am extensibly self taught.

I have about 10 years commercial experience, but no formal - read university - training in computer programming.

Has it effected me in my career? No, definately not.

Would a University graduate know more about crafting a computer application from start to finish than me? No, definately not.

So why is this? Why am I so arrogant to assume that I, a self taught developer, could be as good or better at developing than someone with formal training?

That's fairly easy to answer really. Evolution of skills. Software Development is an ever evolving discipline. To be a succesful developer you must stay up to date with modern technologies and take the time to learn new things almost on a weekly basis.

The other thing a University education can't teach you is experience. By the time the graduate left University, I had 3 or 4 years actual work experience under my belt. The sort of real world experience that is, IMHO, worth any University degree.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

PC World(NZ) won't be getting my subscription

My subscription to PC World has just expired and I won't be renewing.

I have been buying this magazine either off the shelve or through subscription since the late 80's. I know this because I still have most of them.

It was a great magazine in those early days. Genuinely funny with good articles and reviews that were useful. It was more a magazine for the enthusiast in those days.

Now it appears to be aimed at entry level computer users. Just about every month there is some boring round up about Multi Function centers or "tips" to get the most out of Windows. I mean it's stuff that anyone who can actually used a computer would know inherently.

The one saving grace is Juha Saarinen. His articles still have some technical content - albient not as propeller head as they used to be.

So what has happened? Have I out grown the magazine or have they sold out to the Lowest Common Denominator? Probably a little out of column A, a little of out Column B.

Either way they are getting my 3 fingered salute.

Infopath 2003 - not what it could be

I'll start off by saying this: I like Infopath - well I want to like it.

It is VERY much a v1.0 program. Hopefully, Microsoft will continue to develop it further in the next few iterations.

The VSTO 2005 tools are a good start - this allows you to create managed code behind rather than ugly JavaScript. My issue is that it is really hard to do anything productive. I don't speak XPath at the moment, so it's really down to trial and error to figure out what to do.

Case in point, I was trying to autoincrement field in a repeating table. I did my usual things - googled, google groups, documentation - nothing found a solution. I tried quite a few things from Google groups, most didn't work at all and some would sort of work.

Anyway, after half a day of trial and error and reading the docs, it appears that I can use an expression field and have its default value set to position(). Thats great but it shouldn't take half a day to work out. I mean this is a fairly standard thing to want to do.

Hopefully in Office 12 Infopath will be improved. As I said before I think it has the potential to be huge - in our company for example, there are literally hundreds of documents someone has made as read-only Word templates available on the intranet, but these need to be printed out and filled in by hand. Obvious job for Infopath, however at current state it would be a big job to convert.

I might wait for the next version before I recommend that upgrade.....