re:publica Widget

As you can see from the sidebar, I’m going to re:publica 2011. As a convenience to other WordPress bloggers, I’ve made a small widget to include the re:publica Banner on your blog. You can download it from my blog.
To install:

  1. Download re:publica XI Widget.
  2. Unzip and upload the contents to the directory wp-content/plugins/ inside your WordPress installation. You have to upload the directory ‚republica-widget‘ to the plugins directory, not just the file.
  3. Log in to the WordPress backend and activate the plugin
  4. Move the Widget to your sidebar in the Appearance > Widgets menu
  5. Select the banner you want to use, and you’re all set!

Have fun and see you there!

European Software

Reading that the German Foreign Ministry is about to change their computing desktops back from a GNU/Linux-based system to Microsoft Windows and their Office offerings, a thing that has been on my mind for a while comes back again.
I think it would be very worthwhile to start an initiative to foster european software; I think that wherever software produced in europe is available, it should be favored over other products. There are european operating system vendors – especially in the GNU/Linux arena. Why are they not getting the money, but rather the big vendor from Redmont?
There also is the point that I think particularly for sensitive information, an operating system where the code can be audited and traced is a good idea. I am not sure that you should be trusting the operations of a highly sensitive network to a company that is not all transparent about it motives, or its potential connections to the intelligence community in its home country.
I think that strategic investments would also do wonders to stimulate activity in the software market. Working towards the goal of eroding Microsoft’s dominance would be a good thing in my book. Considering that there have been many pushes towards fostering something like a european (or german, or british or …) Silicon Valley, this could just be the way to get the european software industry to focus on providing competitive offerings for basic functionality like office and desktop operating systems.

Nokia/Microsoft vs. …

I get the very distinct impression that MicroNokia are not setting themselves up to compete against Apple, but much rather primarily against Google’s Android. Largely, this is because again we’re seeing a split between hardware and software companies. In splitting apart those kinds of development, they are at a disadvantage to bring about the same quality of user experience as Apple shows the world as attainable. That’s also why the PlayBook and the new HP TouchPad are, to me, more likely to work well – because they are enabling themselves to just focus on what the entire package delivers to the user and do not have to compromise for their technology partner that they have decided their fate to be linked with.

And, whilst we are at it, I’m idly curious as to whether the folding of the talks between Google and Nokia was in any way relevant to Eric Schmidt giving up the CEO role at Google. Of course, one can envision that the talks between Google and Nokia were much more one-sided: Google can negotiate from a position of strength in the smartphone market; they see no necessity to bring on board a vendor who has good device knowledge. After being publicly ridiculed for the Kin and never really being successful in the smartphone market, was probably more egalitarian in the relationship. Much as I can understand that position, it also shows the fate the two companies do share in the smartphone arena and it holds little promise to how they might move forward together. That Elop was a Microsoftie and knows the culture of the company well is also something not to be forgotten. And I think that after the lack of success in delivering a Linux deliverable even though they had been at it for a while (anybody remember the Nokia N700?) might also have been a factor. If you can’t trust your inhouse Linux people to get something reliable out the door, why should they be able to do based on somebody else’s Linux-based smartphone stack?

What I am curious about, now, will be the third-party developer strategy – and that’s the very point where the interests of the two technology partners are not well-aligned. Nokia will want the developers to have their products run exclusively on Nokia devices, and will probably work hard to have a competitive advantage over other WP7 products in User Interface and probably other APIs. (They need to – they’ve already sold out Search, Maps and other key components to be the same as with the other WP7 vendors.) Microsoft, on the other hand, should have in mind to not let the platform fragment too much, or else they will also draw bad blood from their development base. The people who have stuff in the Ovi store these days are burnt anyway, because they need to completely write off those investments and, in the worst case, get their eyes set on an entirely new ecosystem. (Of course, Nokia could be providing transitioning tools, or a HAL that allows for Symbian apps to run on WP7, but I’m not sure that the phones will be up to that kind of tasks.) And as Sun learned in the transition from SunOS 4 to Solaris: Developers having their apps broken do not respond kindly.

So these will be interesting times ahead indeed. But I’m sceptic that the new Nokia Windows phones will really get that kind of market traction that other platforms enjoy.

Why IMAP is a good model for cloud services

I do admit it: I like the IMAP protocol. I regularly use multiple computers and my iPhone, and I read and write email on all of them. IMAP makes that convenient: I have the same view of my folders and my inbox on every computer. We also use a Webmail client that uses IMAP as its underlying technology, so even via webmail, everything looks the same. And apart from the fact that I quite enjoy the way that I can look for all stuff that was sent my way, I much more like the fact that I have just one folder of email that I sent out. It doesn’t matter where I am when I send something off: it all ends up in my sent box on our mail server.

IMAP is a well-specified protocol. One can argue whether it’s a well-desgined protocol, or whether parts of it are a total nightmare to understand and implement. But is is that, well-documented. Given enough programming talent, you can sit down and write either a client or a server for it. (And given the track record of various IMAP clients in the wild, it does take a certain kind of dedication and a good load of skill to really get it right.) But it’s not a technology that lets you guess what a certain field on all requests might mean or why the answers look so different on every second friday of a month starting with J.

The fact that it’s documented means multiple implementations exist. That means if you want, you can set up an IMAP server and just use that; or pay somebody to do just that. Personally, I’m not so fond of the idea of giving all of my email away to somebody who I don’t really know all so well, so my IMAP store is on a server that we run ourselves. But if your preferences are different, there are plenty of services that allow you to use their IMAP server, and be happy with that.

This is where I believe cloud services should be heading. Like so many, I’m a fan of Evernote (I’ve written about that). I’m impressed by what Google Documents can do inside the browser. But for either company: do I know who else has access to my data? What laws are even applicable for stuff that I put up? I’m sure that both Google and Evernote are subject to US subpoenas, but what about german legal demands to hand over data? Or, say, those originating in India? What happens to all the data should Evernote or Google fold? I’d love Evernote even more if there were a way to run a server of my own – because then I know for sure who has access to my data. Or the protocol they use were well-specified so that others could also contribute to a public server my Evernote client connects to.

Ah, if it only were so easy as with IMAP.


Ausgehend von einer Twitter-Konversation, an der auch ich mich beteiligt habe, ist bei Maxxolution ein Blog-Artikel entstanden: die Kaffee-Frage, Meinung erwünscht. Auch AIXhibit beteiligt sich auf deren Blog: Kaffee Frage. Ausgegangen war die Diskussion ja davon, dass ich kein grosser Freund von Nespresso bin; nicht zuletzt, weil das Kaffeepulver pro Tasse in einem der energieintensivsten Verpackungsmaterialien überhaupt geliefert wird – und zwar egal, ob die Home oder Professional-Serie.

Auch die Verpackung von Pads ist ja, wenn man es genau betrachtet, nicht so das Gelbe vom Ei, wenn es um die ökologische Verantwortung geht: Papiererzeugung ist jetzt auch nicht gerade resourcenschonend. Das gilt für Filterpapier genauso wie für Schreibpapier. (Warum muss das Papier für Pads eigentlich Hochweiss sein? Warum tut es nicht ein Öko-Braun, das weniger Bleichen bedeutet.)

Bei uns in der Firma gibt es den klassischen Vollautomaten: Bohnen in einem Container, es wird tassenweise gemahlen und dann weggeworfen. Das Pulver kann problemlos in die braune Tonne. Man kann dann den Kunden zwar nicht aus einer Vielfalt von unterschiedlichen Sorten wählen lassen, aber genau genommen fragt da ja auch keiner danach.

Tee machen wir tassenweise mit Beuteln. Und andere Getränke (wie z.B. Sprudel) gibt es bei uns aus grösseren Flaschen. Alleine schon, weil ich nicht die kleinen Fläschchen transportieren möchte. Aber oft ist es bei unseren Besuchern so, dass die entweder Kaffee oder Wasser trinken – andere Sachen sind nur selten relevant, auch wenn wir sie anbieten.