Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Going to Munich

I'm on the plane to Munich for the Golf Europe 2006. We'll be using an internal version of our new website design for the Show Closest 2 the Pin Contest, not as ready as we'd like it to be but ...
Hopefully we'll get some German translation from our distributor in key pages, like the leaderboard that we usually show on a TV screen. Using the GXTranslation Tool it should be pretty easy to import the new literals back into GeneXus, we'll see ... Time differences with software factory and Oktoberfest permits ;)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Google Paradigm: Web as a Platform

To me the release of Google Spreadsheet and the purchase of Writely was a turning point. This means without a doubt what we all knew, Google is competing directly with Microsoft in a very evident way. This same battle, has been attempted by many, particularly by the operating systems Mac and Linux before. What's different this time then?
I believe the huge difference this time is Google is looking at things totally out of the box. They believed in the web and embraced the platform. They re-invented web search and they provided a variety of tools that eventually will make web a self-sufficient platform. Some day, following the Google paradigm, we will be getting to any device web enabled with a simple browser of any kind and we'll be doing all we need to do for our daily tasks. Once this is true, we got complete independence from the operating system, we freed ourselves from the operating systems battle and the battle will be happening completely on the web platform arena. New computers will provide the cheaper operating system out there as it really will be un-important which operating system you're using. Computers won't need so much processing power, storage capacity, etc, it will be a comeback of the server power and a total minimization of the thin client (which makes a lot of sense applying the concepts of Grompone on dialectics and double negation, I'll come back to this in some other post). It looks like Microsoft got the message as well as they declared some time ago (in 2006!!) the web as primordial priority for their company. Probably, I would think, too little, too late ...
In order to accomplish this Web Platform Paradigm there are many issues that need to be faced. Some of them I can think right now: security of the data, extent of the data stored (we need higher amounts of data out there which means users might need to get used to pay for their storage space), users need to feel like they own their data by being able to backup and export to different service providers.
Once the web platform gets established in users minds and hearts there is one great advantage that Google has and it looks to me like it's being over-viewed (but of course I don't know what is happening behind the scenes ;). They have all these applications but they have very little coupling among them. I'm talking of applications connectivity, I want to see emails suggesting links to Google Maps, suggesting creating a Google Calendar appointment, document attachments being opened in Writely and spreadsheets opened in Google Spreadsheets, etc. I've been waiting for this to happen with the suite of Windows products for a long time, and I know Google is closer now as they already have the AutoLink functionality in their Toolbar. The AutoLink functionality if implemented in a Web Browser itself or at least between Google applications would be amazing, specially if some day we end up having the Semantic Web. Right now it's like we have applications (tables in a simile with relational database world) but we can't link to other applications as we should. To me applications need to grow in the same direction relational databases did. SOA might be part of the answer, but we definitely are in time to think of applications interconnectivity.
To me it's really awesome to see a company going with such resolution and great execution in this direction. I personally believed and embraced the web since the early years when DHL's tracking system was an example to follow, one of the first dynamic database web applications out there. Years later I still see a great opportunity for the web and those who believe in it.

GeneXus Usability, bringing down barriers for the American market

When Breogan Gonda, in the typical closing of the GeneXus Event, presented the graphic with the axes Productivity, Completeness, Universality and Usability and announced the company has gone to great extent in the three first axes and now is working hard in Usability, it reminded me of a user comment I heard some years ago.
In 1998, I was doing some consulting and training for Direct TV in LA. At some point in the training a user got frustrated with some simple usability issue GeneXus would not handle correctly and he told me: "This tool does not have industrial strength. I can tell there have not been enough number of users for it so far". It was a tough moment for me and I always remember it. The project got aborted arguing different business reasons. Before I went back to Kansas I got to drive all the way along the cost up to Point Reyes near SF, an unforgettable trip. Anyway, lots of improvements, years and versions later it's great to see that ARTech is working on bringing down probably one of the last barriers to get into the American market, community and usability strength.
Users like Enrique Almeida are doing a great contribution to this purpose with his blog series "Usabilizando GeneXus" (sorry, spanish).

My brain was out for some fun in Southamerica

It's always great to get together with all my old friends from Uruguay.
Other than the personal friends, which I always love to see, I had some great technology related conversations.
During the event, I got to pick on Gustavo Moreira's brain in multiple conversations on Artificial Intelligence, we talked about rule based systems, decision making systems and neural nets as well. He pointed to Weka as an open source tool for data mining and other AI subjects. I definitely need to look into it. After taking to him I came up with a better idea on how to combine rules and bayesian networks for the memory assistant project that still obsesses me. (I'll post an entry with an example of how it'd work soon).
My last night I went to Italo's home (we stayed up to 6:00am, luckily I could sleep on my way back to California on Thu). I got plenty of philosophic ecstasy. Ernesto our dear friend from high school times joined us and Maria from Spain who was visiting Italo was there as well. Italo met Maria when he was doing his Doctor degree in Mechanical Physics in Spain couple years ago. Maria is more into the chemical engineering thing but she's very broad. Ernesto is into IT as well. We covered sooo many subjects from macro-economics, to neural nets, to evolution (a classic). It was awesome. Italo recommended the book "Shiva's dance" by Grompone, got it but not read it yet. At one point the three of them got me against the net in a discussion about how kids today don't know how to do math anymore and they just rely on a calculator. I was arguing that we need to find another way to teach logic to kids other than math alone. It would be cool to introduce some basic pure logic and fun programming to kids in their early years. This reminds me of Alejandro Panizza's blog about teaching his kid Squeak. I got to get back to this as well ... Nicole will love it ...

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Biomedical Ethics and Genomics Research Program

I'm very very happy today. My brother Roberto just told me he got his post-doc in the recently boosted Biomedical Ethics and Genomics Research Program in Mayo Clinic.
I'm super happy for him, but I confess I'm soo happy for myself as well as genetics was my frustrated love since my young years (computers took over). Now I have a chance to be very close to what I think is going to be one of the most polemic subjects in the next 50 years. Well done bro!!

GeneXus XVI International Meeting

As always a great event! Very glad of having been there, to be part of this new development paradigm and to be part of such a wonderful community. GeneXus development team (which I was once part of) can and will always impress me. The TCP of Rocha's version left me wooowing ... The SOA architecture of the tool itself and the extensibility possibilities that come with that is amazing. The power of patterns becoming internal to GeneXus and dynamic is going to be of great impact in productivity and consistency of interfaces. I guess a cool application of extensibility would be to make a tool for reverse engineering from a canonical pattern example to a pattern itself, making then this powerful tool available to everybody in the community. It's not trivial but it's possible. Other than that in my personal opinion, this particular event reflected a bit the internal status of the product. GeneXus is in a moment of profound internal reconstruction and all the fun will happen when Rocha is released hopefully next year.
The welcome party for the international clients/distributors was a lot of fun. Tango is not one of my favorite styles but after that I could get up to date with the rest of the music Uruguayans like. I apologize one more time to everybody for not knowing the song "Tengo la camisa negra" de Juanes ;)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Beware! Hard drives do crash!!

I was so worried trying to disable every possible little service so my 2 batteries would be enough for my long trip to Uruguay until after a blue screen, 2 reboots, a very wired sound and a total crash my hard drive died.
I've got to admit that I felt pretty lost without my computer and it took me some hours to get over the thought of getting farther and farther away from my home backups ... In the meantime I was trying to review the inventory of my memory. What things I desperately need would be on my brain memory and which on my extended RAM??
Anyway, I decided that I could only relax until I get back from my trip and get re-joined with a new harddrive and backups. Also, I decided that I'm getting one of those online backup systems as soon as I'm back up. Logmein seems to have a cheap service for backup, I'll probably try it.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Back from Prague - plane hotspot

I'm back home!! I got a plane with hotspot on my way back, that was way cool! Of course, as soon as I signed up I started this casual conversation with my neighbour, that lasted mote than 4 hours. It was worth it anyway, she was a cool gal and we discussed about religion with as much logical thinking as we could, she was a christian, open to any reasoning except any entertaining of any scenario that would make her one and only truth be questioned (this one being that Jesus is the only way to God). I tried to question the relativity of a one and only truth, the concept of reality vs. interpretation of reality, etc, we couldn't go far on that side ... but still it gave me some historic perspective to finally understand the sacrifice thing. It was a respectful and good discussion. On the other side, as sleepy as I was I got to MSN with my brother and sister, dear friend MJS and whoever else wanted to say hi as they new I was in a plane.
As always I enjoyed meeting everybody in the international team. UK guys smart and funny as always. We have english guys in the UK, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and a new one now in Dubai (P.J. a total character). The russian guys always ready (after a few drinks) for some traditional songs are tons of fan. Met new people from Taiwan, glad to see a women there, Sophia.
Anyway, a great trip, and always nice to be back in Prague even if only the last day I got to walk to the Castle and astronomical clock.