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Soundbyte 109: The Pretender

2 September 2013

Writing a new soundbyte is one of the many fun things I do at Luminis. On Sunday evening I sit down with a good glass of wine. The first thing I do is pick a song. After celebrating my 42nd birthday on Saturday and being gifted a pre-order for the new Pearl Jam album, it would be obvious to select “Mind Your Manners”, the one track of this new album that has already been released, but I’ll hold off on that until “Lightning Bolt” is released in 42 days from now. 🙂 Instead, after just watching a “2 meter sessie” of the Foo Fighters, I decided to pick one of their most powerful and energetic songs: The Pretender. However, I could not resist embedding it in a full length, explosive concert they gave last year at Lowlands. Go to 14:33 if you directly want to be hit by the wall of sound or simply listen to the whole concert and let it inspire you. Whatever you do, don’t turn off after this song, as the next two songs are guaranteed to blow you away as well: My Hero and Learning To Fly.

Challenge

Earlier in the evening I had been watching an episode of “zomergasten” with Daan Roosegaarde, a highly inspirational artist, designer and entrepreneur. One particular highlight was his vision on openness and sharing, something we value a lot at Luminis as well. It is the fundamental principle that innovation happens most effectively if done in the open, shared with everybody that wants to contribute, that leads us to invest in open source, share our knowledge at conferences all around the world, write articles and books, and in general try to help people, both inside and outside of the company. I would like to challenge everybody to think about new ways in which we can do this and step up to “just do it”!

Highlights

Last month marked a series of highlights for Luminis Technologies. For one we released PulseOn 2.0 in time for the new school year. This is by far the biggest release we’ve done and it includes tons of new features and improvements. More importantly, it provides a great open platform for anybody that wants to provide learning content in a platform neutral way, leveraging modern web technologies. I could probably talk for hours about this subject, but that would be beyond the scope of this soundbyte. A tiny plug I want to make here is for a talk that Paul and I will do at ASAS 2013 on September 11th at the Gelredome in Arnhem, where we will talk about various different aspects of PulseOn. For a glimpse of that, feel free to read two blog articles we wrote, explaining how PulseOn was built on top of Amdatu. By the way, if you want to be present, we still have a couple of free tickets. Get in touch!

On top of that, last weekend Jago got married with Joyce. Together with a few colleagues we were fortunate enough to be part of the evening celebrations and we had a blast! The married couple is now enjoying their well deserved honeymoon and we wish them a great future!

Microsoft

I guess you all heard by now that Microsoft is looking for a new CEO. After Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer was at the helm of this company for quite a few years and recently announced his retirement. Speculation about the next CEO has started, and I would like to entertain you with my own vision if I were to be chosen as their next leader.

The first thing I would do is to move the company outside of the US because it’s no longer possible to guarantee your customers’ privacy whilst being in a stranglehold by the US government that will force and pay you to hand over any private information of your customers whenever they like. In general this is going to become a big issue for people that want to host their data in the cloud and moving Microsoft would give them a unique selling point that Google, Amazon and Apple don’t have and that should not be underestimated. By providing a cloud and and operating system without any back doors, customers can be assured their data is safe. In fact, by appropriately using modern cryptography, and encouraging customers to keep their own keys and encrypt all their data with them, there is just no way their data can be compromised anymore (short of them disclosing their own key to strangers).

My next move would be to focus on creating a unified version of Windows that can run on anything from a phone to a desktop. Leveraging the virtual machine technology that has been the cornerstone of .NET and its many supported languages I would come up with Windows 9 that can be optimized to run on the many different devices that are currently in our personal and working life. Integrating all of them is crucial, since our learning, working and family lives get more and more connected and intertwined, so we don’t want to have to switch contexts all of the time. Technology will become wearable, we are always connected, and pretty soon, according to the new Microsoft vision, everybody will be carrying his or her own data around, integrating these so called edge devices with the cloud. With the end user in full control about what is shared and when, the network will reach its next phase and Azure will be aligned to make this happen.

In the new world, people will form ad-hoc communities, become more and more self sufficient instead of being dependent on energy companies and being brain washed by a constant bombardment of commercials and other attempts to influence them. Microsoft will be ready for this, uniquely positioned and ready to adapt to whatever changes follow along the road! As far as research topics go, there will be a focus on languages, live translation and in general tools that improve communication between people. In the end, that is the task that computer and the network should facilitate: communication between people.

Serendipity II

One thing I would like to follow up on is Peter’s story about serendipity. I want to do so for a couple of reasons.

First of all, when we started Luminis, the tagline we used was “the art of software engineering” and I think that still is a great summary of what truly drives us. We want to make great software, and doing so is as much a science as it is an art form. This might sound a bit strange, as building software is often seen as a pure engineering discipline. In some ways it is, but the most important part of creating software is designing it and that is definitely a creative process. It is of course guided by requirements, but those still leave a lot of room for interpretation, so this is one of the areas where you should take your time and invest to really explore your options.

Secondly, and this is more closely related to the point that Peter made, you should not be satisfied too soon. This goes both for bug hunting or making sure you truly understand the solution you’ve come up with. Of course there is a balance, but in general it is your call to decide if you should be satisfied with the solution you came up with or not. That’s the professionalism and craftsmanship that people hire you for, and you should not compromise that. If you do, in general this will eventually backfire.

Finally, going back to the literal meaning of the term and open innovation, we all should invest time in just messing with stuff, just because we can. By simply experimenting and sharing our experiences, we might just come up with the next best thing and even if we don’t, chances are we’ve learned a lot by doing something new.

Gaming

Last week I was invited by Fleur Oudenampsen from Syntaxis to give a talk about Simracing for the first year students of the “gaming” education at Saxion in Enschede. Armed with a presentation that consisted of over 900 MB of video footage of racing simulations I twice did a talk that started out with the first ever racing game on a console and ended with the current state of technology, covering the thin line between simulations and real racing and how the current simulations are being used by various racing teams and even our current dutch pride in Formula One, Giedo van der Garde, to improve his skills and explaining them the basic architecture of a racing simulation. Reactions after the talk were very good, and it was nice to see people being inspired, even though they were at the start of their “introduction week” so probably by now they have already forgotten everything about my talk. 😉

Finally, for those still reading, another gem I found while listening at the Foo Fighters tonight was a cover of “Darling Nikki”, a controversial song by Prince. The original is hard to find, but these two covers by the Foo Fighters, the second one featuring Cee-Lo Green are definitely worth listening to.

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