Back seat

As alluded to earlier by MJ, I’m taking a back seat when it comes to Infurious.??? This is because I’ve spent most my spare time this year working on SyncBridge and I feel like I need to redress the work/life balance a bit – I think my family needs more me time (and I need more time with them).??? I also think I’m suffering a little from burn-out – software for the day job and software for the night job is very like burning the candle at both ends.

We’ve started looking for other developers to join Infurious, to help bolster the team and get some more products in development and out there.??? Interested? 🙂

On changing your life, being your own boss and going bedouin

This article at Entrepreneur.com speaks volumes:
“When I was researching my business concept, I interviewed owners of 100 businesses that had closed,” says Williams. “I found that three-quarters were nowhere close to failing financially. They closed because of highly personal reasons, such as a health crisis, or they just woke up one day and [realized they] didn’t enjoy it any longer.”

I guess some people when they start a business are looking for something different. Gus Mueller wrote an excellent article on living the life who worked at his own business as a second job for THREE YEARS (1068 days to be precise). As he says in the article ” I’m not getting rich but I’m doing alright.” – He’s his own boss, he has got a lot of kudos from making a load of cool products and he’s doing alright with the bank balance. Can there be anything better than that? Really?

I enjoy being my own boss. Some people can’t handle it. I’m a born procrastinator which is bad. But I react to deadlines well, I work very well under pressure. I like helping the guys in my day job and part of that muct be the whole Mac-Daddy thing. But it’s more than that. There are things you can do as a boss which you find very hard to do as a cog in a larger machine. I certainly found it hard to change things as a single voice of reason in a company with 90 000 people. No more. Small companies make change easy. And easier being the boss.

As for the Bedouin thing. It’s a lot harder when there’s very few places which cater for the Bedouin lifestyle. We found this today when we settled in Clements in Royal Avenue. No WiFi within range, never mind FREE WiFi. Go elsewhere and you find plenty of pay-for WiFi but this is 2006 for god’s sake! It just made everything that little bit more difficult and it’s fortunate that we’re pretty IT-literate.

A Bedouin environment should provide SIMPLICITY. It’s about time we so-called Bedouin started to work on improving the environments we work in. We’d do it if we were working in an office, why not when working in someone else’s place? Speak up – advise the caf??? owner. And don’t forget that a real Bedouin would understand the rules of hospitality. What are they?

“Hospitality in the desert is the recognition of want; it has grown into a social grace. The stranger who comes to a tent comes, or at least in the old days came, because there was nowhere else to go. To turn a man away was equivalent to murder.
In the same way the environment has made bravery a Bedouin necessity, where differences of opinion or the right to the scanty pasturage, are always, and have always been, settled by cunning and force of arms, only the wily can hope to survive. The Bedouin is both of these almost by definition. His liberty and independence of spirit are also due to the life he leads, and are a direct byproduct of his migratory habits.”

Flipping the competition

For a while now, the MP3 player market has been dominated by Apple with their iPod and they’ve had Creative nipping at their heels with their range of copycat players. Creative, unhappy with being trounced at the MP3 market, launched a series of patent disputes against Apple based on the iPod user interface which they claimed to have invented.

Lending credence to this, Apple just settled for $100 million dollars. A drop in the ocean for Apple to be sure (with their on-hand cash now exceeding $6 Billion). And in addition to this, Creative has now become a member of the “Made for iPod” program. It means they’ll be producing their speaker systems, their just-introduced line of earphones and headphones, and their future family of X- Fi audio enhancement products – MADE FOR IPOD….

So…they turned the number one competitor in that space into their staunchest ally. Creative made a packet out of this (which kinda shows they’re a bit a David among the Goliaths) and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re going to start winding down their MP3 player sales.

Why?

One word. Zune.

Microsoft’s previous attempt to FUD the heck out of the digital music market has now been shown to be a bit of a disaster. As a result, the Great Beast has now decided that the slim pickings from licensing their codecs isn’t enough and they have now decided to devour the ecosystem they created for Creative and other MP3 player manufacturers. (As an aside, the Zune will allegedly have VoIP capabilities which is what I thought the original iPod would have been…)

So, isn’t that just perfect. Turn your greatest foe into an ally, get them to call of their lawyers with a payment that will give them a happy Christmas while reducing wastage and bar PR and flipping the bird to your biggest potential future customer. Sweet.

Monetising..

There are few words I hate more than “monetising” (that’s “monetizing” in the US).

Because we need money to buy food, keep a roof over our heads, pay for broadband, upgrade our computers and buy shoes (yes, those are in order of importance), we find ourselves considering ideas on a basis of “how we can make money”. Not all the time of course but there’s lots of cool things out there that haven’t been done because of the costs – the set-up is too high, the bandwidth costs are high, the lawsuits would be costly (that last one was a joke, awwright?).

YouTube is a perfect example. They’ve brought in bazillions of dollars of investment revenue and yet the burning question that invades my mind when I think of YouTube is really “how is this going to pay for itself”. I spent a couple of hours on YouTube the other day watching a few dozen videos. Everything from a home-made Jackass (dude, that’s SO gonna hurt in the morning when he wakes up), hot girls at a party (honest, I thought it was something else), the first youtube from some english grandad guy, the painful diaries of a really cute but preppy redhead to the internet re-run of the Big Brother final interview with a crazy guy (face it, he’d be crazy even if he didn’t have Tourette’s). Some of it snoozeworthy….some not so.

The burning question being – how does this make money. Are they going to cut these micro-episodes with advertising? At some point they are going to have to make some money. Bandwidth costs alone are adding up to a million dollars a month and they’ve been raising a lot of VC cash to support their business. It just seems so Web 1.0 to me. It’s gonna crash hard and everyone’s gonna get annoyed. (the solution obviously for the bandwidth costs would be to tie it into a P2P/BitTorrent sort of solution where you reduce your storage and bandwidth costs….but I digress).

The point being that as cool as YouTube is, there’s currently no raison d’etre other than “It’s really cool”. Those VCs are going to want their cash back….which means they’ll likely sell the business to one of the big media content names. (to be honest, I’d rather the BBC bought YouTube than wasted all that money on Radio 1, but I digress). YouTube needs to be monetised because the costs of running it are so high.

The reason this is a burning issue for me is that we’re considering what we’re going to do with SyncBridge Server. We had always envisaged that we would not be doing 90% of the hosting work for SyncBridge – it ws always meant to be out there for you guys to host your own. Our own SB server was simpy for the guys who didn’t want that hassle or who didn’t want to mess with the difficulty of having a SB server behind NAT for road warriors. Releasing it as open source is attractive for all the best karmic reasons but it still represents a lot of work. So what are the options – release it for free and try and make money through technical and code support? Frasier Speirs said yesterday “Oh, how I hate Open Source software monetized through support! Where’s the business case for making the install easy?” and that’s a very fair point. (nevermind the fact that RT files just look like binary code to me because I don’t read Perl). Add in a licensing cost on a per server basis? How much would this need to be? Gah! I think I’ll put that in the TOO HARD basket until tomorrow.

I’m not really worried about YouTube though it may seem I’m stricken with hysteria about their business plans. Someone will buy it. Built to flip and all that.

This monetising thing. Well, think of the number of good ideas which are just not being done or quickly die because people can’t figure out how to make them pay for themselves. This goes for the huge number of abandoned projects on Sourceforge as well as, frankly, the amount of old games out there which have no longer make money for anyone (and this part of the rant came from poppig into a local toy store for a present for kids and spotting some of those Atari-style joysticks that have 80-odd Atari 2600 games built in. And I searched and searched and none of them had EITHER Space Invaders (I mean – Duh!) or a tank game called “COMBAT”. These games were pivotal in my development as a geek. Damn.

Anyway – every discussion I’ve had recently with VCs comes down to monetising. They’re interested in this and interested in that and talk to me about how they can monetise it this way and that way. Mleh. I’m in two minds about VC money. One one hand I feel the need to be responsible and, you know, keep the burn rate low so we’d not end up burning out in 6 months with really expensive office chairs. On the other hand I’m sick of cheap Ramen and driving a knackered 3 door. 🙂 How do people manage the dichotomy there. I dunno. Answers on a postcard!

Cocoaheads: 2nd meeting : Tuesday 15th August

Last night, we held the second Cocoaheads meeting in Roast on the Lisburn Road. Coffee was not bad, bagel was gorgeous.

Present was: Aidan Rogers, Edward McCaughan, Matt Johnston.

We discussed:

  • Our coding: Not much had progressed since SyncBridge came out. Edward expressed some frustration in getting stuff finished. I think this goes for a lot of open source projects that start. After 1000 lines of code, it starts getting tough.
  • Leopard: We discussed Time Machine, Spaces (wondering how it fits in with Expose, Apple-Tab and Hiding apps) , iCal Server (and Darwin Calendar Server), Mail 3 (and how it looks more broken than Mail 2), iChat Theatre, CoreAnimation, XCode 3 (garbage collection, refactoring) and Resolution Independence (an explanation of why it would be desirable).
  • The Mac Pro – and how we all want one.
  • The winners of the Apple Design Awards and how there were some surprises (iSale) and some non-surprises (TextMate).
  • Discussion on Mail 3.0 and what’s really needed is a Camino-esque project for Thunderbird or similar. Something to make it more Mac-like. Email is still as important as it ever was and yet it seems relegated to being an afterthought in favour of more buzzword-compliant protocols (like RSS). We figured we wanted tabbed mail views, Growl notifications, Tagging, great Search, GOOD HTML support, and a suitable license
  • We finished up with discussing a putative agenda for next month.
    Cocoa 101 Lab
    Bring a friend (so we can get the numbers up)
    
  • And we discussed Widgets being a future Cocoa Lab. Edward also suggested we might want to work on a group project.

Donald J. Boudreaux teaches ecology/biology/medicine/genetics

Donald J. Boudreaux is an idiot. I don’t care if he’s the current chairman of the Department of Economics at George Mason University, he’s a disaster as an orator. Apparently his knowledge of economics, love of capitalism and lofty post gives him unprecedented insight into medicine, the environment and social issues.

His advice “The case for neglecting global warming” is that because we’re living longer and have full bellies that we should ignore the OTHER trends we see about us.

We should ignore as stray data the growing obesity of our children. We should not pay attention to the changes in our climate. We should close our eyes and not observe the oceans as they devolve to a prehistoric state.

Capitalism will make us healthier and weathier he says. Being an economist it’s natural that he should see the cure for all ills being in the very field of study he’s devoted his life to. To be honest, I’ve never seen such a god complex in someone outside of medicine.

His argument, of course, is flame bait. Capitalism is not opposed to health and environment issues. This is not an either-or argument. Boudreaux gives credit to capitalism for healing the developed world of their ills missing the point that a lot of the benefits he enjoys are a result of “science”, “philanthropy”, “medicine”, “engineering”, “innovation”, “inspiration”.

We’re reaping the benefits of the short term gain of the last 100 years of science. His article waffles about how humankind has undergone “a form of evolution that is unique”. Bollocks. We’re seeing the environmental gains of good food, healthcare and increased leisure time (which of course we use to exercise, right?).

Boudreaux sees fit to ignore the long term losses. The concern about global warming is not about saving the planet. The planet is doing fine. It’s about ensuring that the humans on the planet stick around to enjoy their increased lifespan. While we enjoy the warmest summer in recorded history here in Ireland, I can only wonder what the winter brings us as we have had progressively colder winters with worse blizzards and storms. As we come into our Autumnal season, I think we’ll find out.

He also ignores some of the other trends out there. For some reason we’re seeing a huge upswing in allergies, we are seeing increased rates of congenital defects, more and more young people succumbing to these illnesses. The fact that the grey-hairs in Boudreaux’s college staff room seem to be living longer is to their credit but are hardly a representative sample.

Donald – being concerned about the environment does not mean you are anti-capitalism. Decrying those who do have concern for the long term future of the human race just makes you into an idiot. From a geneticist point of view, I hope your drivel does not live on in the genes you pass to your children.

The Cafe Question

Mark Morford writes: There are always choices we can begin to make, changes we can begin to invite, rules we can work to upset, angles of penetration we can try to explore. And if that’s not worth trying, well, what is?

His article is about how we have become enslaved by society, trained to become productive little monkeys. We cherish our weekends while at the same time laughing at those we consider to be corporate wage-slaves slaving away into the night because they just don’t get it.

Ever wonder if you got it? Does a 48 hour weekend constitute breaking away from the establishment?

He continues – “Any given weekday you can stroll by any given coffee shop in the city and see dozens of people milling about, casually sipping and eating and reading and it’s freakin’ noon on a Tuesday and you’re like, wait, don’t these people work? Don’t they have jobs? They can’t all be students and trust-fund babies and cocktail waitresses and drummers in struggling rock bands who live at home with their moms.

Harsh words.

The Cafe question he alludes to is the heart and soul of what I want to do with Infurious. Read the article and tell me that you don’t harbour a secret envy for the sister, the SO and the CEO. We don’t want to work in a cubicle, in a butt-widening chair, reporting to self-obsessed middle managers who like to check web logs to see if you’ve wasted company time reading the news or checking your bank balance. (Hi Ian, Hi Noel – this is you) Why would a manager of PEOPLE spend so much time obsessing about print quotas and web surfing if he wasn’t actually in love with the idea of victimising people. For too long Information Technology was used as a club to beat people down. Microsoft’s Zero Admin nonsense just made it worse. It’s the antithesis of what makes modern computing great. And if you need to force your people to work in this way then you really need new people and these unhappy workers need to take a look outside and follow their dreams. Yes, you say, but someone has to clean drains and someone has to pick up litter. That’s fine – if the individuals involved are happy doing it. But for your own sake, look at what makes you happy and re-arrange things for the better.

Not everything you do will set the world on fire. From bitter experience I can tell you that pushing for change and attempting to make a mark can end up with frustration, disillusionment, divorce and other bad words. Remember that you are the only person that you truly trust when all is said and done. Betrayal of the self is therefore that much more cruel.

I find it very pleasing that the subtitle of his article is:

“Is it maybe time to quit your safe job and follow your path and infuriate the establishment?”

Coming alive

??????Don??????t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who are alive.??????
???????Harold Whitman

I got that quote from PicoBusiness just now.

I spent too long working for [big company] and then I spent some time working doing work that I loved for [small company]. I guess I’m saying that I’m still not settled and I don’t feel 100% alive. I feel I need something that will absolutely set me on fire. It’s going to have to involve other people I guess and I hope that I’ll recognise that someone, or some-people when they come along.

Infurious provides part of the spark I guess. Moreso at the start. Aidan and I recovered from the shock of iCal Server by having a brainstorming night. Half of the evening was spent reconciling our old plan with the new plan (which is not called the current plan) and the other half was spent thinking up new products. As Ben Bleything says in the comments here it is probably more of an opportunity than anything else. Ben has done some additional work with SyncServices which, if you’re into Ruby, you really should look at. In fact, go do it now and come back in a minute. [waits] Okay? Right, where were we.

A few months ago we laid the groundwork for these product ideas by idly wishing that [insert cool thing] was easy and accessible and didn’t get in the way of getting stuff done. This seems to be the model for any small project. The areas we’re working on are in “tagging” and also something to help the end user with sharing big files. We have other stuff in the pipelines too. I think it’s fair to say that while we’re a little tiny company with no offices, we have some amazing ideas for products. Put it another way, I’d ignored tagging before….now I can’t wait.

There are some other changes too. We’re on the hunt for new faces and I’m happy to say that we’re going to have a new face appearing on the blog too. Watch this space.

WWDC Afterthoughts

WWDC left us with some very exciting technology to look forward to. I’ve started learning ObjC again – with a sprinkling of Cocoa so maybe I can turn into a programmer. The additions to ObjC, such as garbage collection and a lot of script-to-framework libraries will make a difference to who is able to create Mac apps. Apple is also embracing ruby a lot more by including Rails and Mongrel as part of the distribution on Mac OS X Server.

More and more of the older Carbon APIs are dissappearing ( QuickDraw, Code Fragment Manager, Sound Manager, etc ) and being replaced with modern Cocoa equivalents and Carbon itself is being updated so it can use modern Cocoa views.

We’re liking some of the other features (Spaces, Time Machine) purely from a user perspective and it’s not hard to see where Apple is going with some of their new options.

Resolution independence should be better implemented. I see this as being a way that I can reduce the size of some windows, while retaining control over them in exactly the kind of Expos???-type hack I’d been hoping for.

We’re putting in an order for a Mac Pro in the next week or two as well. It won’t really mesh with us being Bedouin and Aidan will have a hard time wandering around with it strapped to his back, but he needs the exercise 🙂

I guess we all know by now that Apple is releasing iCal Server as part of their Mac OS X Server suite sometime next year. We’re obviously affected by this but only peripherally.

  • iCal Server is only useful if you have or can maintain a Mac OS X Server.
  • It needs to be live on the net if you’re going to use it when you’re on the road.
  • Access to iCal Server means putting people onto your Open Directory

Some of these things are real show stoppers for the road warrior. The limitations of keeping a server behind NAT as well as live on the net (which are real limitations). Small businesses don’t have the resources to maintain their own server and putting one in place for your family and friends to share calendars seems over the top. Lastly, much like you wouldn’t give friends and family access to your company server data files, you may not want them to have access to your iCalendar server.

We’re working on adding CalDAV support to SyncBridge for the future and we’ve got the guts of three quarters before it’s going to be released so we’re not worried about the timeframe. I’m glad that Apple is stepping up to the plate and realising that calendaring and groupware are important. The next thing we’re working on, howver, is Google Calendar compatibility.

One Dot Oh – the beta ends!

This week brought our 300th user as well as 100 000 events processed by syncbridge.com.

It also brought us out of Beta and you can see the new website at syncbridge.com., have a look at the new tour page with the accompanying movie (voiced by both of us) and last but not least download the full, final version of SyncBridge.

Last but not least, I had a speaking role on Spodcast #28 [EXPLICIT LYRICS] where I discussed the Mac Pro and got to pimp SyncBridge a little.

Didn’t you hear me? We’re finally out of beta!!!!!!

This means everyone who has registered has just under a month of free syncbridge usage as everyone gets a free month. 🙂 And it was free throughout the beta too.