Open for business?

Since the turn of this year, the government in the Netherlands has been required to utilize open source software and the [ISO ratified] ODF format for reading, publishing and exchanging information, there is some flexibility, but when open source software is not used, special reasons have to be given. I think this is a really important and positive step to have taken, since forcing a move away from the closed world of Microsoft Office guarantees that the people, groups and organizations that cannot afford an expensive Microsoft Office license, or those who use an OS not supported by Microsoft are not forced to either miss out on the information or use a pirated version of the software. Open Office (OOo) is available free of charge to users of Windows, Mac OS X and the various flavours of Linux, both for personal and business use, supports all of your old .doc Word files and is at least as secure as Microsoft Office.

So why do so many businesses insist on using Microsoft Office? “Because our customers do.”, just isn’t a good enough reason, seize the initiative and be a leader for once. You might like it.

After thought: As a software developer, I can understand that if your customer specifically asks you to produce code that can be built using Microsoft Visual C++ that you are obliged to do so (-ish), but that doesn’t mean that you have to use Microsoft Visual Studio. Why not make use of a cross platform, open source, IDE like Eclipse or NetBeans and just use the Visual C++ compiler? Expanding your CV with such transferable skills must surely be a good thing?

The List (I’m back bitch)

That’s right, the blog that shudders at the thought of conformity is back and ready to take aim on, well, everything. My enforced absence from the blogosphere lasted only about a month, but lots of stuff sparked my interest in this time and so I ended up working on several posts simultaneously and so without further ado, I bring you “The List”. “What’s the list?” I hear you ask, well I’ll just starting counting things off of it and I’ll let you figure it out.

  1. You know those adverts for HD content on Sky, one has Wayne Rooney in, well if you don’t have a Sky HD box then you haven’t seen it in HD. And yes fuckwit, even if you’ve got an HD tele, that means you.
  2. Between the Lord’s selling their votes to the highest bidder, through the complete ineptitude of the Speaker and on to the MPs greedily playing the expenses system for everything they can get. You all suck and you all have to go. And before anyone suggests that a General Election should be postponed until after the investigation into expenses has been concluded, I’d like to add that even if an election is called tomorrow an investigation should still be performed and anyone found to have stolen money from the tax payer should be prosecuted, regardless of whether they have paid the money back. Floating duck island my arse. None of you are sorry for what you did, you’re just sorry you got caught.
  3. I know she’s covered by the previous item, but she needs a special mention. Did anyone really need any additional reasons to dislike Hazel Blears? Can everyone say tax fraud?
  4. I’ve been on a bit of a binge recently, I’ve been consuming books about software development, and in particular C++ software development, at quite a rate and Scott Meyers’ books were recommended by quite a collection of people (a hashmap?). A lot of what I’ve read so far makes perfect sense; I’ve come across lots of items that have made me cringe when thinking about my own code and plan to do some serious refactoring because of this, but two things (so far) have struck me as really wrong: variables with names like ‘a’ (sure you can get away with ‘i’ or ‘it’ in a loop, but how does naming a variable ‘a’ help anybody) and splitting the contents of header files into two separate header files, one for declarations and one for definitions (just no). Expect further posts on this subject.
  5. Did you see last weeks edition of Click, it was a Windows 7 special? First came the Super Bar, then came the new improved Live Search and finally multitouch, or the Dock, Spotlight and erm, multitouch as they are known to OS X users. So not that ground breaking then, especially as the only laptop that the BBC could find that supported multitouch was a Mac. You just know that these features won’t work as well in Windows 7 as they do in OS X and for that reason Windows 7 is on/in the list, well that and the stupid Window shaking thing – see what happens when Micro$oft try to think like Apple.
  6. I tried to find out how my attempts to repay my student loan were going this week, but unfortunately they only have records for up to March 2008. Fine, Focus RS it is then.
  7. E Stan Kroenke, the owner of the Denver Nuggets, decided that his team wasn’t going to do it in the playoffs and so booked the WWE to perform in his arena this past Monday night. Unfortunately for Enos, the Nuggets did make it to the playoffs. Uh oh, double booking. No biggie, just turf the WWE out, to hell with the fans. Douchebag (great word).

Like I said, I’m back.

I want to be a minority!

A new product called U-Tag was brought to my attention recently, the premise is that it is a USB key that is worn as a dog tag and contains all of your emergency contact/medical information. It was designed for use by motorcyclists, or donors as they’re known in A&E (thanks Neil), but I thought that it would be a good alternative to my own stainless steel MedicAlert dog tag (worn to inform people of my serious allergy to certain medicines). I also thought that it would be a good idea for my Dad, who has had a heart attack and a stroke, and has a list of pills as long as the Nile (which would be very important for anyone treating him to have).

I visited the website and all looked good, until I discovered that they only support Windows users. [Insert joke about Windows users being most likely to crash here]. I emailed them to enquire about this completely uneccessary limitation:

I saw your product and thought it was a great idea. I currently wear a stainless steel dog tag which lists my allergies and other information, but currently would require someone to use the telephone number on it to contact Medic Alert to find out details of my medications etc. I also think it would be a good idea for my Dad, who has suffered a heart attack and stroke and has a long list of medication.

Why then do you only offer support for Windows users? I own a Mac, as do all of my friends. I also have access to a Linux machine, but no Windows boxes. I am a software engineer, and cannot see why you cannot display the data in html format, so that anyone can view it. You could easily have three different applications (one for each OS) for editing the data. Maybe I am missing something?

Their response:

Thank you for your question. The software is in Windows format because this is the most common operating system. It is extensively used throughout the emergency services and medical professions.

Yes, we could have gone straight to a HTML editor and produced a HTML file for all to read. After investigation, the security was not at a high enough level cross platform. Hence only going to windows. The software runs in windows directly from the USB device with no installation. We are currently recommending MAC users enter there details on a PC either a friends, a local library or internet cafe. The process is quick and intuitive.

I hope that answers your question, we are most defiantly not anti MAC far from it. All out design work was created using them. It was shear weight of numbers.

I decided that this was unacceptable, so I emailed them again:

Thank you for your response, it does explain things somewhat. However, I find it hard to believe that you can site security as the reason for not using HTML and then recommened entering personal medical information at an internet cafe or library. This is in addition to the fact that Windows (pick any version) is far from a secure operating system itself.

Anyway, thank you again for your response, maybe you can let me know when you become Mac friendly.



P.S. Mac and not MAC, that mistake is guaranteed to upset any Apple fanboy, like me!

So I guess that makes me a discriminated against minority! Cool!

Update: One of the lead developers for this product took the time to email me personally, from a cramped bus in the Middle East, to inform me that they are in fact working on a Mac version of this product!