Aperte

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It's time to Django Bingo!

I finally got around to putting a version of Django Bingo online:

Django Bingo at Github

For an example dashboard, see my network monitor.

Note that it is very rough, I hope to improve the code over the next few
weeks. But at least you have something to play with!

Give it a try and let me know what you think (both good and bad).

Pervidet launched and bday!

After a few weeks of work on-the-side, today Pervidet sees the light! Aperte Pervidet (to survey openly) is a free web survey/questionnaire service that has grown out of a number of different Aperte projects. I'm still tweaking it in various ways and working out the kinks but if you are interested give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Technically I've dived into various technologies to make Pervidet tick. jQuery is something I've dabbled in for quite some time and I've made decent use of it in Pervidet (it makes Javascript nearly useful!). Also I've taken an interest in the design of dashboards, which I'm fleshing out in the survey-building interface of Pervidet. Naturally PostgreSQL and Django purr along happily in the backend.

Pervidet has an about-page for the full story, but it came about mostly due to being annoyed about all the existing web survey platforms. Over the next few months I plan to look into setting up other kinds of web services, hopefully a few where my AI-background comes into play too. Nothing in your portfolio beats a couple of real-world tools that are actually useful.

In other news, I turned 27 today. Getting grayer by the day! :)

Funambol replaces BES as Zimbra replaces Exchange

Since setting up Zimbra, the email migration has gone quite well. The Outlook-connector works as expected and the more adventurous users are enjoying the fully-featured Zimbra web interface (which is much better than Outlook and Gmail, it could only be better if it made you lunch).

The next step is agenda and contact synchronization and sharing, especially on mobile phones.
Blackberry's are prolific among my client's employees, but not enough to go for a blackberry-only solution. I've looked into Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES), but the high costs and increased complexity made me look for other, simpler solutions. Zimbra does offer a web-based mobile client and a J2ME client, which are quite decent. Their Blackberry connector however requires a BES...

Installing Zimbra 5.0.13 on Debian Lenny, and migrating from Zarafa

My usual email-server setup includes postfix and dovecot, and works flawlessly. Recently, a client of mine was having problems with their in-house email server (based on Zarafa, that I had nothing to do with). They were used to server-side agenda/contacts in Outlook, so I gave Zimbra a try. Even though you have to pay for the "privilege" of full Outlook integration, it's a decent groupware package and I really like the web and admin interface.

Unfortunately, they currently (march '09) only support Debian Etch. I managed to install Zimbra on Lenny, but it wasn't pretty. Even so, here are the steps I took. YMMV.

How to not waste your time as a freelancer

Every now and then you have one of those days that just takes a nosedive. Today was such a day (and it's barely noon!)

Through Aperte I generally work for two types of companies: those that don't have the developer-capacity (think small/medium-sized businesses) and those that require specific knowledge on a topic (be it OSS, AI or distributed systems).

Recently I've also been looking at temporary on-site gigs (Dutch: detachering), if only to fill in the gaps between projects. The downside is that you commit yourself for a stretch of time, but if the projects are interesting who knows. There have been a few promising leads, however today was a different story.

An "intermediary" contacted me a month ago, said (in very wordily terms) that he might be able to get me in contact with a couple of companies. I'm always wary of these types, but gave him the benefit of the doubt and we meeted up. He convinced me to have a meeting with him and one of said companies.

This company, being quite high-tech (they develop driving simulators), was a bit out of my profile. These types of companies tend to have enough nerds around, because we tend to converge towards companies that do interesting stuff. They might require specific knowledge, but I'd be the last to think my knowledge is unique and said nerds wouldn't be able to figure it out on their own. Heck, I noticed a few published papers from this particular company, so that should have said enough.

Anyway, this morning was the meeting, and we were done in about 5 minutes. After I introduced myself, and the types of projects I've been doing via my company, the owner asked if I was applying for a job or looking for projects to do via my company. Alarmbells went off, as I mentioned the latter. We were outside a minute later, after the owner kindly pointed out they didn't hire external staff. This "intermediary" clearly hadn't even communicated to the owner what we were meeting for.

It was a waste of everyones time and including driving-time a waste of a fine morning for me. Thus, a few pointers for those freelancers and consultants in order to steer clear of <censored> recruiters:

* Listen to your instinct. If someone can't communicate clearly, think: shipwreck!
* Don't try to ignore the BS. If someone is spouting a lot of it: shipwreck!
* Ask straight off if someone is a recruiter. I did, and got half an answer. It's a yes-or-no question. Anything but no: shipwreck!
* If they ask for an editable version of your CV: shipwreck! (you and I know how to edit a PDF, they don't)
* If you agree to meet a company but have any doubts, contact said company beforehand. Make your intentions clear. It will save everyones time.
* You have more to waste than just your time. You make a bad impression in an age where image is everything (despite what Sprite might say). Sure you might want to give someone a chance, just remember that every hour you waste on said recruiters is an hour you can't work for your clients.

Rant off! I'm just glad I didn't have high hopes for today, but I couldn't have believed it went the way it did.

Let's make some noise

Been playing around with TrackMeNot, a Firefox extension that generates random search queries. Although I've been using Clusty for a few years now, this is a type of action that lets you fight back against privacy erosion. Now if only the general public would become concerned about the privacy, we might get somewhere. Thankfully, our government is actively working on raising privacy awareness, using think-of-the-children arguments.

Yesterday I went to a networking event for Amsterdam-based entrepreneurs. Besides meeting interesting people, there was a presentation on collaboration between companies. The Senseo and Jure's Nike+Apple running thingies were a few of the examples. One of the issues was how to balance the advantages within such a collaboration, but in the Nike+Apple case it seems like a win-win situation. Nike gets to target the Apple fanbois^Wmarket which gives them a high-tech image, while Apple gets a more sporty image and has an extra widget to sell to those millions of iPod-users.
In the long run Nike will pull on the shorter string though, as anyone can attach the apple-pedometer to their shoes (Nike or not). It might have been smarter for Nike to develop their own pedometer, which would have given them more leverage with Apple (connect your Nike-meter with your nokia-phone, for example). Then again, nearly all the effort was put in by Apple, so cost-wise Nike has nothing to lose with this collaboration.

In other news, I've been hacking on various bits of Ogre3D (python-ogre and the et module) for my hush-hush project. Added save/load support to the editable terrain library sample, and I'm working on a few other improvements in order to turn this into a viable terrain editor [screenshot]. I've also been fooling around with bullet, which is a great library but unfortunately seems like overkill for me atm.

I've also modified my morphix autobuild scripts, daily iso builds are available once again for those interested.

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