Tag: control


Frankly speaking, I don’t really understand the passion for the new Apple iPad (an "iPhone on steroids"?). It’s a beautiful-looking machine but it also jails its user in the "Apple ecosystem". It’s just consumerism.

Apple has a record of launching beautiful-looking devices and shiny products. In the beginning of the years 1980s, they popularized the computer mouse and the graphical user interfaces as we know them today. In the beginning, one would love the simplicity of use of Apple computers and software, especially compared to the MS-Windows or GNU/Linux versions at that time (I’m speaking of the years 1990s). The end-user was then at the center of the "computer experience". But now, it seems the end-user becomes a (paying) consumer, nothing else.

Since a few years, Apple developed its own, closed ecosystem and is now cleverly taking advantage of the miniaturization of electronic devices to sell content via this ecosystem. Indeed, Apple first developed the iTunes Store that was initially only a music store but later offered other multimedia content and applications (most of them for a fee). Legally selling music via the internet was disruptive at that time when most music available on the internet was only personal copies from some individuals. With the miniaturization of electronic devices, phones became "personal digital assistant" with the ability to play music, play games, run office application, take photos and videos, surf the web, exchange e-mails and instant messages, etc. Computers also became miniaturized, giving birth to netbooks.

The great thing about these small devices is that they are usually forced to save data in common formats in order for their clients to be able to use these photos (jpeg), videos (3gp) and music (mp3) on other devices than their phone or netbook. However, nearly all manufacturers also created their own "Store", websites selling multimedia content and applications (not only music anymore) specifically created for a platform but also specifically locked to a platform. One may argue that Apple iTunes Store is easier to use and provides more content than any other platform (which is probably true) but nevertheless, Apple is locking its customers to its platform.

The advent of the iPhone and now the iPad further locks its users to use Apple Store thus to use Apple-approved content, Apple-approved music, Apple-approved applications, Apple-approved books, etc. Of course, there is a way to open some of your own documents previously saved in a more usual format. But there is no way to share the content you bought from a Store with your child, spouse, parents and friends. Apple owns the content you bought, you are just leasing it from Apple for your own personal use.

So, technically, the iPad may be a nice looking device but it’s also an iPrison for your data and what you can/can’t do. I agree computers and electronic devices needs to be user-friendly and shouldn’t annoy users with technical details. But I also would like that the same computers and electronic devices give the freedom to modify, share content, look at details if that’s the user wants.

Finally, I like this citation from Laurian Gridinoc, before Apple annoucement:

HAL-9000: What is going to happen?
Dave: Something wonderful.
HAL-9000: I’m afraid.
Dave: Don’t be. We’ll be together

Don’t be afraid, indeed: Apple will know what you want, dictate what you’ll like but won’t disable any life support systems as it needs your money!

Revision control software migration question

In software development (as in many other fields, like paper or thesis writing ;-)), you often need a revision control software to effectively manage all the changes made to your source code (or sections and chapters). It’s even more important if you work with other people on the same files, on different versions of the same sources, with people in different locations and with different systems.

The problem I currently try to solve (or, at least, try to bring a solution to) is the following … The system doesn’t initially use any revision control software. People are able to edit any file they want, one at a time (file locking which is very annoying). Basically, there is only one version of a file per project: the current one. If another project tries to merge the same file from another project, someone has to manually review all the lines in order to see what should remain and what should be left. In order to reach a previous version of a file, you have to manually remove lines marked with the patch reference at a specific location on some lines (it does work in some programming languages and not at all in all others). In fact, a rudimentary revision control system exists but it’s completely outside the development environment. When a file is modified, it’s name is entered in a “patch system” with the reason why it was modified (when you are lucky). If you forget to enter its name, the system can’t do anything for you (since it’s not aware of anything).

Now, on top of that independent patch system, people started to use a real (closed source) revision control software (that even appears in a Magic Quadrant from an advisory firm so it must be serious!). But instead of reviewing the way people work, they just added a layer on top … After a programmer did everything for the independent patch system, a new procedure states the same patch reference needs to be added in the revision control software as well as all the files contained (an automated procedure is actually doing that for you, fortunately). In summary, the current system is depicted in the middle of the figure below (along with a basic solution on the left and a classical implementation on the right).

version control comparison

My question is: how to modify the current system which work more or less in order to approach a more classical and more efficient way of working (the one on the right)? (hiring an external consultant is not an option ;-))

Two nice schemes about Open Source

I don’t know how I stumble upon this report of a conference (English translation) from Avi Alkalay but I liked 2 schemes he showed.

In this first scheme (left), I like the way it reminds you that “Open” is not only about software, source code. But now that more and more people are aware of the benefits of Open Source software, it’s interesting to also stress the other sides of openness: open standards (like OpenDocument), open hardware, open architecture.
In the second scheme (below) is about the trend from private control / closed access to public control / open access (apparently from Rebecca Henderson; it could be interesting to find this whole presentation from 2004).

There is a third scheme in Avi’s post but there is something I don’t like in it, although it’s visually appealing. Although I understand that proprietary and open innovations should collaborate for the time being, I think that Open Innovation is the model to follow. Moreover, the “speed-to-market” criteria is, imho, better in the Open Innovation model (but maybe I should see Rebecca Henderson’s presentation).

GeoPolis – watching the watchdogs

Quuxlabs is releasing the alpha version of GeoPolis, a web service to gather and show the ongoing police control. More info can be found on the project website and on the Quuxlabs blog. I made some comments regarding the service accuracy, automation, security and independence but I’ll be glad to use the service once I’ll be able to drive again.

Btw, in the same topic — watching the watchdogs, my map of cameras in Liege (see announcement and update) is now located on the CCLV website. The database management is also handed over to them. Moreover Christophe Cattelain is now systematically taking photos of those cameras in Liege and he publishes them on Flickr