Monday, December 29, 2008

Color Bulles Solitaire - Another Cool Casual Game

Color Bulles Solitaire is another casual games that I particularly enjoy. It is simple, challenging, yet fun and not totally repetitive. Its main disadvantage comes from the difficulty at some upper levels. Indeed, starting with level 7, it becomes extremely difficult to win and most of your success (or failure) will depend solely on chance and on the order in which you receives the balls.

I'm also not too happy with the scoring system. Why having to deal with a score when the real purpose is to pass through levels ?

Monday, December 22, 2008

WoW Connect - Good Casual Game

I consider a good casual game any game where I can play for only a few minutes without any time constraint and that I enjoy playing again a day or two after; and this for a few weeks.

WoW Connect (based on a World of Warcraft theme) is a typical casual game I really enjoy. Besides, it is good for your memory and observation mind.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Evaluate Your WebSite

Would you like to know how much your website is worth ?

It is possible. Simply go to WebsiteOutlook and try with yours.

You can find below "my" own website value (Star Wars Combine at but I can already tell you that it is out of the question to sell it for such a small price, especially when considering I live in Europe and the US dollar to Euro exchange rate is ridiculously low. Our 10 years of collective investments and efforts are definitively worth more.

My site is worth $33601.9.
How much is yours worth?

And I'm not even talking about the unveiled potential.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ten years of Online Gaming Presence

Historically, it was on the 3rd of December 1998 that Frederic "Fizzban" Waymann, Mario "PtJedi" Dominguez and myself (known online as Veynom) decided to start an online game on the ashes of a defunct one called Star Wars Simulation. Unlike any game editor, while we had a few hundreds players around us eager to play, we had absolutely no game to offer. We could only propose hope, dreams, and a perpetual answer that would quickly became famous: Soon™. Yet, on that day, we founded the Star Wars Combine.

Ten years after, hundreds of people have contributed to the growing success of the Star Wars Combine. Our membership has always grown (even if sometimes slowly) despite ups and downs in the game development. showing that one of our biggest successes is doubtlessly the community.

Now, like once every ten years, I will rather tell a small story instead of boring the world to death with a “we’re the best” type of speech. So here comes one of my Uncle Vey ’ stories which I will name "The Lost Days".

A long time ago in a not so far far away galaxy …
errr no. Wrong story.

Today is the 3rd of December. Today is the official tenth anniversary of the Star Wars Combine. Yet today is Year 10 Day 3 by standard Combine Galactic Time (CGT) - an in-game time reference. Where does the difference come from ?

Is the memory of that old Sim Master acting crazy and forcing him to believe the Combine was started on December 3 while it was in fact on December the first ?
Did some well-known thief manage to steal two days from the Combine ?
Did an Imperial historian make a mistake while re-copying the official Combine chronicles ?
Is this … a feature ?

Absolutely not. This is no feature, this is a bug !
This is simply a bug due to how CGT code converting calendar dates to our own system which does not stake leap years into account. As consequences, we lose a day every four years and one of those years we will need to fix these days. Enjoy,

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Stress at Work

First day at Work

You listen to Stevie Wonder. It is your first day, the sky is blue, girls are nice, and everything goes well.

After three months

You listen to HOUSE music because you are already overloaded.

After six months

You listen to Heavy Metal and start seeing everything double because you work from 8.00am till well over midnight.

After nine months

You listen to Hip Hop. You became fat because of stress and suffer from constipation !

After one year

You listen to Gansta Rap. You blink, all the time and for no reason. You are deeply addicted to caffeine.

After two years

You listen to Techno and your life is a perpetual rave party. Beat after beat you become crazy.

And ultimately...

In a pure and sincere desire to reduce mailbox sizes and help poor IT administrators, I decided to put online this joke instead of forwarding the mail. Credits go to its respective authors.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Something has changed ...

Eight years ago, in a not so far away country ...

Today, something has changed.

Reality strikes back.
Wazaaa !!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Between Theory & Practice

Today I found back an old article I had written for a few friends of mine a few years ago while working as R&D software programmer and wanted to share the story again as it remains pretty much true and applies to other fields of IT as well.. Do not worry; you do not need to have a master in advanced telecom technologies to understand what is written below.

Back then my job consisted to design and implement a communication bus (SMBus); in other words think telephone line as it is easier to understand. This digital bus was composed of 2 wires: the clock wire and the data wire. The following devices were connected on the bus: a PC, a laptop battery (yes, you can talk to a battery, the very same battery you have inside your laptop and believe me it will answer you), and a power supply control card with a microcontroller (MCU) and a small memory chip on it. All these 4 devices had their own bus address (think phone number), and they were able to call each other in order to send and receive data (like talking on the phone or sending a fax). Last detail, all these components were grounded (linked to the ground) for electrical security reason. The theoretical schematic of the bus looked like this.

Didn't it look so nice on paper ?

In order to check the data transmissions and receptions (ie, monitor the communication), I had also connected an oscilloscope on the bus.

Now, the reality was slightly different and the result I obtained looked rather like this:

Tell me you got scared by reality.

But don't trust Murphy's Law on this one as it actually worked. This being said, I am confident you will feel reassured by knowing that similar busses are present inside your computers, your car, the trains or the planes you take, and so on.

Friday, September 19, 2008

CMS Watch SharePoint Report 2008

We purchased it and I just finished reading it: The excellent SharePoint Report 2008 from CMS Watch.
Is it useful ?
Definitively yes.

If you have only played partially with SharePoint like only using some WSS features or only used it for a specific and limited task or for a limited number of users then CMS Watch's report will provide you with the insight to go (or not go) further with SharePoint.

The main advantage and strong aspect of this report is the detailed analysis provided on a "per feature" basis. Eight different Business Services in SharePoint are reviewed, discussed, and analyzed: collaboration, Enterprise Content Management, Web Content Management, Portal Services, Business Intelligence Platform, Forms Processing, Enterprise Search, and Application Platform.

For each of these services, pros and cons are reviewed and discussed into much detail while providing insight as to better use (or not) SharePoint in a small or large enterprise environment.

The report also contains a nice section about evaluating customization and additional development which provides excellent hints about what should be taken into consideration.

All in all, this 195-pages long report is a kind of a must-read that can spare you days of consultancy just to arrive to the same conclusions for a higher price. Of course this report will not decide for you but it will make you understand why you decide for or against SharePoint (MOSS).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Finally Office 2007

Finally, I got it: the full version of Office 2007, including Visio, MS Project, OneNote ... The migration(or update) was needed in order to test some fortchoming software integration (Share Point, Exchange).

Some cool features I discovered and start using immediately:
- Under Outlook 2007, importing mail server certificates has become so much easier. As under Outlook 2003, you are first prompted to accept or decline the certificate but now you can also view them and copy them in order to easily install them.
- The task integration between Outlook and OneNote is cool.
- MS Project has a nicer look & feel.
- The dynamic toolbar from Office is simply great. As opposed to many people I liked it at first glance and from first use. It is nice, handy, and not too different. To me it is intuitive.

The main problem so far is speed. I work on a Lenovo T61 with 2GB RAM and Windows XP and most common operations seem to take more time: open, save, print ...

You can expect more reviews about Office 2007 in the coming weeks.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Google Chrome Review

Like everyone these days I downloaded, installed, and started testing Google Chrome browser.

So first things first, my very first experience with the brand new Google Chrome browser has been ... a bug !

Funny, as this is the last thing as I expected as first experience with the new Google browser.

Now except this minor annoyance that vanished upon a simple click, the test was rather positive in the beginning. Google Chrome is fast upon displaying the pages, light to load but still eating quite some memory. So what are my first negative impressions ?

- Google Chrome does not support activeX meaning you cannot use it to connect to some corporate VPNs.
- Google Chrome uses Internet Explorer's proxy settings. No progress there.
- Google Chrome seems to load and process the web pages before displaying them all at once. This can result in disturbing waiting times where nothing seems to happen until your requested page suddenly appears.

I will check and test this browser further as it can impact the development of the Star Wars Combine.

This post has been written with 100% recyclable electrons under Google Chrome.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Multiplication of little Bits

The explosion of information data is no more a hypothesis but a fact now. Analysts keep predicting an exponential evolution of data growth for the coming years.

Each and every one of us surely heard such comment more than once. This is no news and does not really bring anything useful to the debate. As corollary, hard drives and other memory cards capacities also increase at a surprising path. This is still no news but this is rather cool for our mobile devices, digital cameras, GPS systems, MP3 players and other computers.

But where are all these data coming from ?
Of course, anyone who brags to know a bit about hi-tech will immediately accuse voice and video applications to be the main source of data explosion. Other people with a bit more experience will talk about automated sensor devices measuring and recording data about almost everything from environment (temperature, pollution level…) or car traffic (traffic jams) to security (alarms). But what most people forget about but which remains the nightmare of quite a few IT managers is email. Emails are the perfect example of useless data replication in frightening proportions. Here comes a couple of examples.

Let’s start with something simple. You just decided to invite 10 of your friends by mail for a barbecue. You send them a nice and small text email of only 1 kilobyte (1kb). You just hit the send button and – Miracle – your email has been decupled. Ten more copies have been created, each of them surfing on the world wild web network and hunting for their recipient mailbox. Now when each of your friends will reply, they will most likely include your original message in their email along with their response. If we suppose that such a reply will make 2kb in size, then there will be 31 created emails for a total of 51kb of data. How did we manage to create 51 more data ?
- 1 original email still stored in your “Sent Items” folder (1kb)
- 10 emails stored in the recipient mailboxes (10x 1kb)
- 10 received answers (10x 2kb)
- 10 original answers stored in the Sent items of your friends (10x 2kb)

Out of these 51kb, the only interesting information are your invitation (1kb) and the answers of your friends excluding the part of their mail which includes your original invitation, making it only 1kb of meaningful data per answer. If we sum it that way, we have 11kb of meaningful information and 40kb of uselessly duplicated data.

And sometimes it can goes even further and have more impressive consequences. Here is an example directly issued of my past experience. As member of a workgroup of 10 people, I received a document of one megabyte from the group leader. Each workgroup member had to fill a part of the document and send it back. Can you estimate the amount of data that such process flow will generate ? Well here is the result according to the previous method of calculation.
- 1x 1MB for the original document stored on the hard drive of the sender.
- 10x 1MB for the original document stored on the 9 recipient inboxes and in the sender sent items.
- 9x 1MB for the 9 local copies including the recipient updates.
- 18x 1MB for all 9 replies stored 9 times in the workgroup leader inbox and once per workgroup member sent items folder.
- 1x 1MB for the final document gathering all updates and stored on a shared folder.

We already have 39MB of data for only one megabyte of useful data and mostly because most members wanted to keep all of their email for as long as possible (ie, forever). And was it finished ? Not even. All members of this workgroup were equipped with laptops and each of these laptops had an automated backup system on it, copying all data onto network NAS. As a result, the total data volume is doubled to 78MB; seventy eight megabytes of data for only one megabyte of final useful information.

Is this a bad thing ?
Well it is certainly a bad habit to desire to keep all of his emails at all costs instead of concentrating on the final deliverable (when applicable). Therefore, it is probably more a problem of people than of technology and people are hard to change. As a side note, tt means also that IT managers need to plan for storage space and that CEOs must give them the budget for that.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Port Side of Telecom Operators

A few years ago in our little country named Belgium, the Mobile Number Portability was introduced. It enables mobile telephone users to retain their mobile telephone numbers when changing from one mobile network operator to another.

I now use a mobile since over 10 years with still the same Proximus number as of day one. When joining my first employer, I had no problem to keep the same mobile number when they started paying the bills for me as it became a work tool. Back then I had only to fill a simple form and a couple hours later, the mobile bills were no more part of my concern - and of my budget. So far so good as this step did not involve any port-out/port-in operation.

So last month, I joined Aliaxis and would still get a mobile from the company. Unfortunately -- for me but not for them they say -- they use another mobile telecom operator named Mobistar.

As I used my number since over 10 years, I asked my company if I could keep it and have it transferred from Proximus to Mobistar, knowing the portability rule would apply and that it was technically possible . My company accepted immediately, which was a real relief to me.

And this is where the crusade began. We contacted Mobistar and requested the transfer. On the next day, they also requested -- god knows why -- a copy of the last invoice concerning my mobile number. So I had to contact one of my former colleague, kindly ask him to dig into the Proximus monthly invoices, find the pages involving my number, scan them along with the cover page, and email me back the resulting PDF. I could then forward it, hoping it would be solved within 2-3 days. After all, I had already initiated port-in of private numbers to the Proximus account of my previous company and it always transferred within hours. Therefore 2 to 3 days did not seem utterly optimistic to me.

Two to three days -- and rather three than two -- were indeed necessary to get notified by Mobistar that we needed to provide them a signed letter from my previous company stating their agreement to the transfer. So I contacted the new Telecom Manager of my previous company, asked him for such a letter, received it (and it was a very nicely letter, very professional), forwarded it to Mobistar, and prepared my minds to wait again for an additional two to three days.

After three days, the push-email service on my Blackberry stopped working. This was anticipated because it used a temporary SIM card and I had received a new SIM card for my own number. I plugged the new SIM card and quickly discovered a very nice message on my Blackberry screen:
SIM card rejected
Of course, this had to happen on a Friday afternoon while coming back from a business trip and with none to call. The idea of spending the weekend without my Blackberry services was not as frightening as the realization that it would surely still not work for my business trip planned on the next Monday.

On Tuesday, when back to my office, I learned that the transfer was not authorized by Proximus because the signature on the letter was not the same that the one in their database. Of course it was not, I was the previous Telecom manager and I left. At that point, I was extremely tempted to modify the letter and use my own signature to have this solved. I resisted to the dark side and decided instead to call the Proximus account manager as I had still her contact info.

From there, it took still four working days, several phone calls and emails to have the situation settled. But on Friday 13 of June 2008 around 6.00pm, my mobile number was finally ported to Mobistar and I could start using my Blackberry 8320 as email and telephone device while dismissing my old Nokia phone.

Now, I "just" have to re-customize my mobile with my own screen background, specific ring tones, and so on. Some say it is the funny side of the job...

Friday, June 13, 2008

We're Hiring !!!

We are urgently looking for a Software Development Engineer (junior or not) based in Brussels willing to become an AXAPTA guru. For more information, please visit the job description. If interested, please send your resume to Mr Elie Vulfs. Don't forget to mention the job description.

Great company, great opportunities.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Small Bag for a Man

With my new job, I’m much more on the road, spending a day here, a couple of days there or even a full week at yet another place. This is quite a welcome change from my previous comfortable position of ICT Director where travelling was rather the exception than the norm. During the last weeks, I have been quickly accustomed to trains, hotels, having lunch in a city and dinner in another.

Now, every married man would tell me that sooner or later I will have to be careful. Being away from home too often can potentially lead to disastrous family situations. Starting with an unhappy wife, it can quickly lead to hell.

However note that miracle do happen sometimes. Last weekend was father’s day here in Belgium and I got a nice surprise. My wife offered me one of these nice Samsonite boarding bags. The kind equipped with wheels, able to carry your laptop case, and authorized with you inside the plane without having to registering it. Needless to say that I was extremely and positively surprised while reinsured about my future business trips. I guess from now I can comfortably travel without worrying too much.

Isn’t life wonderful ?
At least mine is. :-)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Attack of the Mouses

A new job is always full of little surprises and when you work in an IT environment, you also receive a lot of shiny toys. There is of course the laptop (an IBM/Lenovo T61 with Win XP and 2GB RAM) considered as the must-have work tool. At the same time, I also received a Blackberry so that I could be harassed by emails 24 hours a day. Then of course, I got the full environment necessary around these two devices: a docking station with an extra screen, an external keyboard from the latest generation, and a wireless rechargeable optic mouse. Wow, a wireless mouse, the typical gadget you don't find in offices because they are expensive and don't last as long as wired mouses.

So far nothing unusual except that until today, I was used to deliver similar environments to users but this time, I was on the other side of the line. Everything was installed by a charming assistant who went as far as unpacking, placing, and plugging in the keyboard herself before cleaning the office from all extra plastics and garbage - and still smiling all the time. Definitively something has changed in my life. But don't think I was granted any extra treatment here; my colleague got the same only a few days beforehand. it is only the norm where I work now.

However after having contemplated all these toys, work had to start. After minutes I started complaining about the mouse. Movements were not so accurate and the left click-button did not always respond timely. I was about to curse and migrate back to a reliable wired old-fashion mouse when I noticed that my colleague next to me also had problems with his mouse. Being IT professionals (at least this is the official reason why we got hired), it only took us minutes before discovering that the mouses were in fact interfering with each other. Worse, some quick small shaking movements with once mouse could completely jam the other one. After checking the manufacturer's website, we found out that the mouse bases should be distant from at least 3 meters. Of course we tried by 3.20 meters and changing the bases' orientations but without any success. There was a permanent invisible war between our two mouses just in our office. And then we knew that our office was planned to hold five IT people with five cordless mouses ...

My colleague was faster to react by plugging in his wired mouse to fix this little annoyance. As such he eliminated himself from the list of wireless users. There are situations where being the fastest is not always recommended.

Until next time...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Turn Off the Lights when Leaving

Last Friday was my last day at work. I spend over 5 years at Cherokee Europe with over two of them as ICT Director. I enjoyed that period very much as it has been a wonderful experience.

Now, leaving a job should not really be worth a post on a blog as it has become common these days. But as responsible of all informatics and communication services for the plant, my last action has been quite uncommon for a day of work and is maybe worth mentioning. I spent my last hour at Cherokee to shut down all servers and systems because of a planned maintenance operation. While proceeding, one of my colleagues told around something like:
He is really a nice guy; he even turns off the lights behind him when leaving.

I thought it was indeed funny.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bye Bye Cherokee !

It is now official. I resigned from my extremely comfortable job of ICT Director at Cherokee Europe, the European business unit of Cherokee International. For over two years, I have been in charge of all information and communication matters for our entire European activities and it has been great. On top of that, I was also a member of the Management Team and as such could access to a lot of information and participate to strategic decisions. Within this position, I learned a lot and had the opportunity to work on several interesting projects ranging from Sarbanes-Oxley audit compliancy to IT security, ERP customizations, or even Business Intelligence.

During a little over two years, I could work at various company levels from the company strategy to day-to-day operational issues. I had the opportunity to both maintain existing systems and implement new ones, while working with a great team. But everything has an end and May 16, 2008 will be my last working day at Cherokee Europe.

So why did I decide to leave then ?
Well, I found something that looks even better. Or to be completely honest, they found me. The new company looks better (and everyone around me confirms that), the job description and responsibilities are awesome, I will have the occasion to travel a bit more, and the package is even more attractive.

The name of the new company and my new role ? Well, you will have to wait for one of my next posts. I will then tell you everything. Just let me make the switch. ;)

To be continued...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

It's Good to be Praised

Last week, I have been traveling to Paris to attend the QAD Users Conference. QAD is our ERP supplier here at Cherokee Europe and we use their product - MFG/Pro 8.6E - since ten years already.

Unlike similar events, this time I was not only there to passively attend some seminars and workshops but I was also there to present a 30-minute seminar about a Business Intelligence project I started implemented last year for my company. Two hours before it all started, I got the surprise to see Cherokee Europe awarded the QAD 2008 Performance Improvement Trophy. It happened during lunchtime and when you think "lunch" in France, you can be sure you will not be disappointed.

Soon after lunch and the trophy ceremony, I presented my seminar and was pleasantly surprised to have to talk in front of a crowded room - which is way better than an empty room. If I judge by the many compliments and nice words I got afterwards, I dare to say I did well.

But aside of my personal little success, I must see this day was really entertaining and pleasant to me. First, when you go to France, you can always rely on the legendary French hospitality: nice people, good food, and good wine. Then in this case there was the QAD team: Delphine, Louise, Dan Marie, David, Jean-Philippe, Gilles, Jean-Claude, Hans.... I would really like to thank them all for this great day. It was extremely interesting (QAD Finance 2008 is what I dream to have installed here), very well organized (Kudos to Delphine), and we all felt fantastically welcomed. My recyclable electrons will not forget this anytime soon.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I'm on the First Page of Google !

This week I got the pleasant surprise to discover that when one searched under for ICT Director then I appeared on the first page of results. It works also under and quite a few other countries as well.

Wow, I feel proud. :)

Two months ago I had indeed decided to increase my visibility on the Internet. By this I wanted my profile (and mostly my professional profile) to be easy to find. In order to reach that target, I looked at some of the existing online tools but at the same time, I knew already I would not want to waste too much time into this and certainly not spend a dime for it.

Therefore, I started with what I had: LinkedIn (which I find quite useful to keep tracks of friends' and former colleagues' career). I made sure to complete my profile, added a few more connections, and joined a couple of pertinent mostly IT-related groups.

Afterwards, I considered the too-famous FaceBook and filled a profile soon discovering that I really hated it. To me, FaceBook seems the best way to waste time and I am still waiting for any return from it. I already decided not to invest more time in it but to loosely maintain it.

My third step was to start this blog - The Voice of Recyclable Electrons - where the title is based on a sentence I used at the end of all my emails since the mid-nineties. I had first wanted to share impressions about movies but since then, I discovered that I preferred talking about ICT topics or experience. You could have guessed so from the recent posts by the way.

The fourth steps was to join the newly created Naymz network. I can tell you already that Naymz is extremely powerful to promote your profile, especially once you reach their RepScore level 10. At this stage, I am not even sure that you can go down after you reached level 10. Naymz uses all tips and tricks to promote your name and a few associated keywords through Google. It works quite fine with minimal effort from your part. I reached the level 10 within two weeks and started harvesting the benefits.

But all these registrations would probably not have worked as effectively as hoped if I had not decided to cross-link them all. On my blog, you find links to my LinkedIn, FaceBook, and Naymz profiles. On my Naymz profile, you will find again links to this blog and my other profiles. And so on, and son. Thanks to this mini web, I increased my own pertinence according to Google ultimately benefiting from the power of each site. Quite an interesting experience.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Book Review: Wikinomics

I just finished reading the book Wikinomics from Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams and wanted to share my feelings about it.

Wikinomics describes various examples of how mass collaboration already started changing the world-wide economy, in many sectors and levels. It is a book that clearly depicts Web 2.0 technologies and some of their impacts on how to conduct business. As such, you will find information about FaceBook business models, about Ideagoras, about the mashups culture and trends, about Wiki and peer-production. For all these parts, Wikinomics is a great book and probably a must-read for any CxO or manager. It opens your mind and update you on a few recent Web 2.0 concepts.

I would add however that some of the concepts or theories pushed by this book are to be taken with a grain of salt. It was obviously written by Evangelists of the concept and as such, they sometimes tend to create theories from examples instead of illustrating demonstrated theories with these examples. Similarly, it sometimes goes "too far" in some directions but maybe it does so hoping that half of the message will pass through.

In short, Wikinomics is a great book for managers interested in some consequences of Web 2.0 but as every new theory, it has to be pondered.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Day at CeBIT

Let's face it, CeBIT is huge. Compared to that location in Hanover, the Brussels Expo site (Heysel) is a confetti. As first consequence, my day at CeBIT was first and foremost a walking day. I walked a lot just to cross all 23 buildings tentatively trying to look at every stand. At least I did try. Happily, the weather was nice and shiny allowing me to walk outside all facilities while enjoying the architecture and design of the place. Well to be more precise, I should say I kept doing it while passing from one palace to the next one. For the rest, I spend most of my day in overcrowded facilities.

Now what can I say about the content ? For someone working in IT, an IT fair is not much surprising. All large IT companies are present but these are also present in your country when trying to push you from prospect to client inside their funnel. Some of these will have huge stands fully equipped with banners, gadgets, sexy hostesses to attract people and serious male managers to actually do the talk !

Among the funniest gadgets, I noticed a fully automated warehouse management system built using some toys I played with back when I was a kid (Fischertechnik). It was fully controlled by a program and I could watch the crate moving all along the supply chain path while different robots were detecting it and automatically performing the right operation with it (pick, move, store, lift...). A real pleasure for the eyes.

I won't hammer you with all Chinese copies of keyboards, video cards, computer fans, mobile whatever, USB sexy sticks and other electronic devices I saw. You can find them all at Wal-Mart or on the Internet. Most "consumers" devices exhibited there are well-known anyway. Instead, I will only list a couple of the most interesting innovations I could test. First, there is video on paper. Right, you print it like a picture, then when put in front of a special lamp, it starts moving. Think about an animated GIF picture but on a sheet of paper. Then there were computers you could command with your eyes. It is easy to use and quite relaxing for your right hand (no more mouse to use).

All in all, a day is just too short to get into everything, especially as there are so many technical sessions you cannot attend because you have not the time to spend there. However and on second thought, it did not really matter as 85% of all explanations or documentation was in German. That was the negative surprise of the day. it was a permanent fight to track and find English documentation !!! And I thought there were no IT outside English ...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Free Ride to CeBIT

I just learned that I won a free ride to the CeBIT. From Brussels to Hanovre, all-in (place, food, entrance ticket, freebies...), this is a great opportunity that I got from IT - JobBank.

About CeBIT:
CeBIT is the world's largest trade fair showcasing digital IT and telecommunications solutions for home and work environments. The key target groups are users from industry, the wholesale/retail sector, skilled trades, banks, the services sector, government agencies, science and all users passionate about technology.

Don't miss my next posts, as you will tell you more about this one-day trip into the trands of the future of ICT.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Start Harnessing the Power of Web 2.0 !

As of today, we all heard about Web 2.0. Many of us have an account in at least one of the well-known social networks like FaceBook, LinkedIn or actively use YouTube, MySpace, SecondLife, or any other similar N-Gen service.

However today, I want to insist on a simple yet effective way to really take advantage of all these brand new cool technologies. Something that everyone can use with minimal setup effort and benefit day after day without being one of these "nerds" spending more time as a virtual avatar that in the real world.

We all need and want to access news everyday. From radio newsflashes while in our car to TV news in the evening or newspapers while at home, we are all avid of news. The most active of us also consult some online news channels or blogs to get additional details or opinions about particular topics. And all these searches consume your time. Time being too precious to be wasted, let's see how to spare some.

As of today, I am confident at least 70% of you use Google as home page and therefore Google is the first page you see when opening your browser. Before going further, let me help those who use Internet Explorer 7 (IE7). If you use IE7, don't use Google as home page, and want to keep your current home page then simply go to "Tools ==> Internet Options" and add a new line after your home page. Type there For everyone else, just replace by

iGoogle Login
Then go to ig Stands for iGoogle and it will allow you to customize your own Google page with tons of things that interest you only. So first you need to create an account with Google. If you already have an account with Google because you use Gmail, Adsense, Google Analytics or whatever, then you do not need to create an account. Instead, simply use your existing login and password to log in.

Congratulations !
Now you can make the news come to you automatically. You can transform your iGoogle page into something similar to the below screenshot by adding RSS flows and/or widgets.

What can you add to that page ?
Well you can add widgets (think virtual gadgets) that provide a permanent link to an online translation service or to the Wikipedia search engine. You can display the time in any part of the world (useful if you work in an international company). You can watch some shares value ... There are countless widgets available, just click on the "Add stuff" link on the top right of your screen.

And what about news or blogs ?
RSS IconThis is where is comes easy and powerful. On all of your favorite news websites or blogs, you will find a RSS icon similar to this one. Then if this is the kind of site you frequently visit, just click that icon. Upon clicking, Google will ask you if you want to add this page to your iGoogle page or to your reader. Select the iGoogle page. Repeat the same procedure for all interesting blog or website (and I hope you will add this blog as well).

My iGoogle Home Page
That's it ! From now, you can decide to remove some widget or RSS flow. You can change how they are organized on your page using the good old simple drag-and-drop system. You can have some RSS displaying 3 headlines or more. It is up to you to decide and your home page will always provide you with news you are interested in. If that's now harnessing Web 2.0, then what is ?

If you look at my own home page as example, you will see that I use it to get general national news (La Libre), world-wide news (CNN), economical news (L'Echo, Trends), political news (some blogs), news from my online game(Star Wars Combine), news about IT or Telecom stuff (Datanews, Joel on Software, video games news), and then some widgets like I described earlier..

And you know the best ? It works. It is easy for me to read what I want when I have time, to add a new RSS flow or to remove something I never check; all this using some Web 2.0 technologies and Google.

I hope this small article will be useful for you. In any case, do not hesitate to post a small comment, a suggestion, a critic, or whatever.

Monday, February 18, 2008

What is Web 2.0 ?

This is a question many people ask themselves since the terminology was first introduced by Tim O'Reilly back in 2004. In 2005 he even started describing the concept quite extensively and I can only suggest people to read one of his excellent articles about "What is Web 2.0?".

However all this is quite technical and being a strong adept of the old saying "A small picture is better than a long speech.", I could not resist to share or re-share the following picture that got presented to my attention last week during a Star Wars Combine Developers Meeting. So here is a view of Web 2.0 (picture originally from

As you can see, Web 2.0 is all around us already and this map makes it so much understandable. Simply brilliant !

Monday, February 11, 2008

Overloading Second Life

Today, I learned something funny from Kristian Köhntopp, a Principal consultant from MySQL Berlin. Second Life, the famous online virtual world, uses a partitioning system based on the geographical location of its universe. In short, this means that each server supporting Second Life only supports a small area of the universe. If more than 200 players gathers in the same room or building or island, then you have a serious chance to see it crash.

Why would it be this funny ?
Simply because I wrote my Master thesis on Networked Virtual Environments back in 2001-2002 back when I was still studying at the Free University of Brussels. For it, I describe a model of partitioning which was also based on the geographical locations and I even wrote a small prototype with two servers using my own online game the Star Wars Combine.

We live in such a small world ...

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Vista & Outlook XP

Today I fell across the famous bug where Outlook XP does not remember your email account password when installed on Vista. This is extremely irritating and frustrating.

But the worst from the worst is that Micro$oft forces us to buy its products. As Office XP is no more supported, no new patch will ever be released so this problem will never be identified. As today all consumer computers are shipped with Windows Vista instead of XP, it leaves many people with only 3 choices:
  1. Live with the bug, one way or another.
  2. Buy the expensive upgrade. (150€ for the Home edition, 450€ for the Pro)
  3. Switch to openOffice.
I like Office XP and 2003 and I think they are great products. Similarly, I am a strong supporter of Windows XP both as home and office operating system. But the current policy of Micro$oft does its very best to push me toward alternate solutions.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Vista, a vergence among the Windows

As ICT manager, I have to deal with the arrival of Vista. So naturally I tested Vista like a manager can test it. I attended to several demo organized by IT suppliers, watched them showing me Vista, accidentally listened to them while they pushed for it, ate and drank what they could offer, chatted a lot about how everyone preferred staying on Windows XP, joked about Micro$oft and so on, and so on.

Afterwards, I started reading more reviews of Vista in various IT magazines, attended more demo, asked my team to test Vista in our virtual environment, and congratulated them for doing so. One year passed and I had still never installed my own Vista or used it for more than a few clicks. Of course, like (almost) anyone today, I could recognize it at first glance but how serious is that for an ICT manager ?

But it all changed yesterday.
Yesterday, I replaced my old computer (a Pentium II-300 with WinXP and 128MB RAM) that I had generously given to my wife with a brand new Dell Inspiron I just purchased with her. Needless to say that today’s consumers computers all come with a nice Windows Vista onboard. The Vista Family Premium they call it. Ain’t that sexy ?

I started unpacking the beast around 8.00pm, mentally ready to stay up until one or two o’clock in the morning. It took me half an hour to re-cable the room like I wanted, passing wires behind various pieces of furniture. I then booted it up and everything came on nicely … until I wanted to import the old data.

I had forgotten the network cable … so I could dig all under the desk once more, try a first cable, found out it was defect, plugged a second one to test if it was the cable or the router and finally plug the “final” one. By then the computer showed a lot of signs of activity. Hard drives don’t lie, do they ?

So I retried to import data … and the typical Micro$oft mess started all again. Control Panel freezing, import guide freezing, 30-days demo version of McAfee antivirus freezing upon registration, IE7 freezing when trying to connect to MSN live (default page) and so on, and so on. The good side is that it allowed me to see how responsive is the new “CTRL+ALT+DEL” of Vista. At last, Windows obeys promptly! Sadly, it is only to telling that is searching for a solution, not about finding one or even solving the problem. Well … bad habits seems to be resistant in Windows and therefore, I had to use the old trick: when in doubt, just reboot. At 9.30pm I rebooted Vista for the first time and it worked just fine. It told me it installed 14 Windows updates successfully and started running like … well like a common OS should run: just fine.

From that point, everything went faster and smoother. Importing the gigabytes of data took less than half an hour, including the large PST files and the favorites. Indeed, recognizing the old Pentium on my home network was immediate and the transfer could start within two clicks (but only after changing the group name of my Pentium to match the one from the Inspiron as I could not find that under Vista in a snap).

Ok, it was 10.00pm and I had still to install a network printer and Office XP Pro (the complete version). I started with office and – O Miracle – it went so smoothly I did not believe my eyes. It took only 5 minutes to install the first CD and no reboot was required. I then started the installation of all clip arts and stuff available on the second CD. It took more time but only because there were so many files to copy. Afterwards, the installation of the network printer was incredibly fast. Only 4 clicks to have it detected and installed. This is progress.

11.00pm, the end of the tunnel was in front of me as I only needed to create a second user account, import a few more data, login, set up a mail account or two, check that everything is perfect in my virtual world, then go to bed. On paper it sounded nice. In practice, I forgot about the automatic updates and the installation of Office XP Service Pack 3. I had to reboot right in the middle of my nice course of action and there, I had the bad surprise: a black screen after the Bios boot. Not one of these all too familiar blue screens of Microsoft with a frightening “FATAL ERROR” message, just a black screen indicating nothing happens.

I cursed.

I rebooted the computer and it agreed to start normally. I could log, see the SP3 installation failed from a pop-up event message, even if I had largely guessed it beforehand. Nevertheless, I tried reinstalling the SP3 and it worked like a charm. It asked to reboot afterwards and I complied – while hiding a heavy hammer behind my back, just in case. And believe me or not, Vista behaved like a good OS should. No more errors, no more unresponsive programs and not even midnight yet. I could go to bed.

What can I conclude from all this ?
Well that Vista is easier for home use; less clicks to perform to achieve the same results than before, less time to set it up (remember doing the same with Windows 98 or 2000 and Office 2K). Vista looks shiny and it is certainly for Home usage but I am not ready to roll it out at work yet. Microsoft progressed with Vista on some fronts but the war is far from finished.

Until next time...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

To blog or not to blog

Like thousands of people, I wondered if I should start my own blog or not. Finally, I decided I should at least try.

So here it is where is starts. I will blog about various ICT experiences, movies I watched, books I read, websites I visited, some Belgian politics possibly as well. This blog will evolve in small steps, at least as long the experience is worthy.

Here we go...