Le geek

Are we in the post-PC era?

Mike Elgan’s article in Computerworld, Dispatch from the post-PC revolution is about “well, I’ve told you so!” PC fading away in favor of tablets.

He has all the right to do so, since he was one of the pundits who have predicted this phenomenon at the launch of the first iPad, two years ago. His predictions are confirmed by statistics, there are way more tablets sold than PC’s and the numbers are looking better and better for tablet makers. PC is something that covers quite many different types of devices, but in this post, I will follow Mike Elgan in calling PC a workstation or a laptop.

Can anyone say no to Mike Elgan or to Tim Cook and all the other gurus? Will anyone, by looking at the numbers and listening to these guys, claim we’re not in a post-PC world?

Let me be the one saying it, but let me add to it, we’re not yet in the post-PC world , but we’re heading towards it with full speed. Here is why:

Tablets are not replacing PC’s

Tablets (and here I would include smartphones too) let you do things that with a workstation or a laptop would be quite cumbersome, like accessing the Internet on the go, or while laying on a sofa while watching TV. Touch screens are way more intuitive to use than a mouse or a trackpad, hence the popularity of tablets even among non-technical people.

PC’s are still more ergonomically adapted as tablets

As intuitive as it is a touch device, it is still not as efficient as PC with a keyboard and a mouse, when it comes to ergonomics, it’s OK to write an email or a blog post on a tablet, but I would like to see that secretary who has to type every day hundreds of emails doing it on the screen of a tablet. I’m sure at the end of the day her neck and her wrist will be soar as hell.

What it would take to really talk about post-PC?

Tablets have succeeded in taking over from PC the entertainment part, but they are still far from dominating the workplace, because of productivity issues. In response to this deficiency and because the tablet market is expanding, there is a whole new sector mushrooming, the accessory producers. There are plenty of keyboards already that work with tablets, that will make typing more easy, but we still have to solve the problem with the limited screen size of a tablet.

Be that a wired or a wireless solution, in the end we will need a way to connect tablets to a bigger screen or why not, to several of them. It’s a long known fact that having a fast computer with enough screen that you don’t have to juggle with windows on top of each other, will improve productivity.

When we talk about big screens, sorry, but touch is out of question and the good old mouse or something similar to it, will be a lot more easy our wrist than stretching out to push a screen, especially when it comes to repetitive movements performed over a long time.

For storage, I think tablets are doing good, maybe the 16G version won’t be too practical in a professional environment, but I’m sure SSD prices will end up dropping and we’ll laugh at the price Apple is charging right now for the 64G iPad.

What is your take on this, are we or not in the post-PC era?

 

About Startup Weekend Montreal and why I left after the first day

Yesterday, was the first day of the first Startup Weekend organized in Montreal .

Startup Weekends are events where people come together from different areas: developers, designers, marketing, investors, etc. and spend together a weekend to build startups from scratch, it’s a bit like a matchmaking orgy for entrepreneurs. The way it works is that Friday night, people come up on the stage, one after the other, and they have one minute to present their idea, then it’s the voting period. Those who get more votes will go to the next phase, where they have to recruit people to get the project started and take it as far as possible by Sunday when a jury will decide who the winners are.

It’s a great concept, especially for those that would like dive into the world of entrepreneurship head first and all they need is a partner or some expertise that would make a difference.

Since lately, with my friends, we were bouncing around ideas of project we could do for fun on weekends, we said, let see grab this opportunity and pick an idea to pitch at SWMontreal. Who knows, maybe people will like it, and than we could get useful feedback and mentoring to get it started.

Before the pitch fire, there was a panel of VC from Quebec, there was JS Cournoyer from Real Ventures, Yona Shtern founder of Beyound the Rack, Chris Arsenault from iNovia and François Gilbert from Anges Québec. It was a very interesting discussion about how to get founded when you have a startup that has potential and all it needs if money. There were so many great advises given in such a short time, that I really hope someone was filming it and it will end up on Youtube to benefit as many people as possible.

Here are a few ideas I retained:

  • Before approaching a VC make sure it is in the right league, don’t go with a something that needs seed money to someone that is giving minimum 250k and goes up to millions.
  • VCs don’t necessarily look for amazing ideas, they invest in people, in their skills and their determination to go beyond their limits.
  • Be ready to pitch an idea many times and if you got a number in your mind when you hear the word many, multiply that by at least ten, that is how many time you will be refused and you have to be ready to continue.
  • Related to the previous point, if you know you’ll have a chance with a VC, don’t start with that one, because pitching is an art that needs to be developed over time, you need exercise. When you presented something 30 times, it sounds a way better than on the 10th time and on the 50th time is way better than on the 30th, so don’t rush it because you risk to burn some bridges.
  • Be honest, don’t lie.
  • If you don’t like the VC, be ready to refuse the offer, just as VCs look for great opportunities that fit their vision, you also have to make sure the VC you are approaching is someone from who you would accept advices. Be informed, talk to people that got funding from them.
  • Yes, VCs are giving more than just money, be ready to accept advices, usually they know better than you.
  • People are afraid to give up control, to accept advices and are stubborn, VCs don’t like people that are not flexible. Not because they want to run your company, no they don’t; these people are wealthy, they don’t want to work shit hours like you have to, they just want to make sure that the direction of the company is the right one. Mr Gilbert even paraphrased another investor, by saying the VCs are like grandparents, they like to give the candy, but they are not the ones to administer spanks.
  • Be ready to commit heart and soul to the project, several of the presenters were bragging about how little time they spend with their kids and I could feel that they would look for people that would put as a number one priority on their life the advancement of the company. Of course, this is what every shareholder wants, that their investment would return one day multiplied by many, many times.

As the average age of the room was in the early twenties and I was wondering about this last point. Is it really the only way to succeed in this field, by committing 110% and sacrificing everything else? It’s nice and dandy to push forward success stories, of people that did not care about their family and than by hard work they ended up to become millionaires. But what about the others, those that screwed up their personal life and went bankrupt? I don’t have hard numbers to back this, but something tells me that the wast majority ends up screwing up everything for nothing.

With my friend, we knew that if our idea won’t get enough votes to go further we would leave and not because we wanted to break the party, but rather we knew that our life is wired differently and we won’t be able to commit to other people’s projects on a full time basis.

Yesterday there were more than 50 ideas presented, and out of these 50, 18 ideas where selected. There were a few really great ideas, that I hope will go further to become real products one day.

It was good to see so many bright people gathered in one place, fuelled by their ambition to do something in life and I know that a handfull of them will end up as successful entrepreneurs. I wish all of them good luck!

Drupal Camp Montreal 2011

I spent this beautiful autumn weekend with fellow Web geeks at the 2011 Montreal Drupal Camp. Three days of talks about nodes, fields and other intimidating codewords. Although I consider myself a beginner, I still managed to follow to a certain degree a few intermediate level presentations and some of them I really enjoyed.

Since we were in Montreal, for obvious reasons, many presentations were dealing with current, or upcoming internationalization features of Drupal. I found especially interesting Gábor Hojtsy‘s presentation about the future of i18n in Drupal 8, a project on witch he’s working on with a bunch of other developers. I’m happy to see that the interface is going to be cleaned up, a lot of junk will go away and there will be a lot of effort put into making the Configuration translatable.

He also held another great presentation about Drupal security, where he basically went trough the OWASP Top 10 Web Application Security Risks for 2010 and talked about how to use Drupal to avoid these problems. If any of you want to learn more about Drupal security, according to Gábor, Greg Knaddison’s Cracking Drupal: A Drop in the Bucket is a must read.

I also attended Jake Strawn’s presentation about responsive design. He’s the guy who developed the popular Drupal theme, Omega. He’s main messages was that design should be done with mobile in mind first, and only once that is sorted out to think about larger screens. There were a few case studies presenting different approaches and techniques to achieve a responsive layout.

Overall it was a great conference and as always, attending the presentations was just as fun as the breaks, when I could meet really interesting people. I found the presentations of only 45 minutes to be too short, often there was not enough time for questions. Maybe next time the presenters should cut down on their slides and leave more time for Q&A.

It was my first time at a Drupal Camp and if I would compare it the Wordcamp we had back in July, I was surprised to see so few participants. I met with people who came down from Ottawa and they were really happy to be here, so I don’t know where were all the other Montreal Drupalists? For sure I’m looking forward to Drupal Camp Montreal 2012.

Black screen problem solved

CR2032 battery

The other day, when starting up my computer, it would not boot… I could hear some buzz, probably from the hard drive or the fan, but there was no beep at all, and my screen was black.

Not a good sign, my thought have immediately went to the story I heard about the high number of solar explosions this year, and how they are going to affect our gadgets. It was the last thing I wanted to do, to change my computer… It was behaving just right, nothing fancy, doing what it was supposed to do and now I am looking at a black screen.

I started googling, to find a solution, but most of the websites were talking about short circuits on the motherboard and other scary scenarios. Not finding an easy solution I turned to Tweeter to see what tweepl can recommend as a laptop to replace my desktop. A friend of mine recommended an Assus machine from Newegg.ca, great specs and amazing price. I slept on it and the next day I bought it with extended warranty, just in case the solar explosions would play me another bad trick.

I started getting used to the idea, that I’ll have another computer and that I’ll have to spend a whole weekend to set it up the way I need it, when I made one last try and I found a website mentioning the battery on the motherboard.

Bingo! That was it, all it took was to replace the battery that came from the factory with a new one and now my computer would boot normally ( I’m actually writing this post from it).

Now the big question was, what am I going to do with the laptop that I just bought? I logged in to my account on Newegg and I saw that the order is still processing and it was not shipped. I contacted customer support over chat, in 2 minutes my order was canceled and I was fully reimbursed.

Conclusions

1. Sometimes all it takes is a battery to get your computer back to normal.
2. Social networks are great places to start
3. Newegg.ca has very attractive prices for well equipped laptops
4. and they also have great customer service

How to install Java on Kubuntu 10.10

Yep, I have Kubuntu too installed on my machine and I love it. But… There are still some stuff that a newbie like me will find hard to achieve. Sometimes even such obvious task as installing Java will surprise me with some unexpected challenges, but hey, we’re not afraid of them, are we? I could not find the answer on Google, but I was lucky that my good friend Boris gave me a hand. Here are the steps we took to have it up and running:

1. First of all, you want to make sure you don’t have Java installed already. Open the terminal and type:

java -version

In my case, this gave me this output:

The program ‘java’ can be found in the following packages:
* gcj-4.4-jre-headless
* gcj-4.5-jre-headless
* openjdk-6-jre-headless

2. You will need to check if the file /etc/apt/sources.list has these two lines commented out (meaning that they have # in front)

# deb http://extras.ubuntu.com/ubuntu maverick main
# deb-src http://extras.ubuntu.com/ubuntu maverick main

3. If that’s the case, you’ll have to go back to your terminal and type:

sudo kate /etc/apt/sources.list

This will open the same file in Kate, but you’ll have writing privileges. Find the above two lines and remove the # in their front and save the file.

4. Go back to the terminal and type:

sudo apt-get update

5. Type:

sudo apt-get install sun-java6-jdk

It will ask you if you’re OK to install Java that will take up a bunch of space on your hard drive, you should press the y key to agree and continue.

6. At the end you will get a window with the licence agreement, to get to press the OK button, you first have to hit the Tab key and than press Enter.

That was it for me, I hope it will help you.

Update
In case it doesn’t work for you, in step 3. uncomment:

deb http://archive.canonical.com/ubuntu maverick partner
deb-src http://archive.canonical.com/ubuntu maverick partner

Thanks Lars for the feedback!

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