Many Pies

Many Pies

Friday, March 31, 2006

I was one of 15 people selected to receive the pre-release copies of Naked Conversations (about Business Blogging, not as exciting as you may think) and I gave a fairly short review on my other blog. (I wish I had had time and skill to do a fuller review, in accordance with the privilege of being one of the chosen few.)

It's interesting to hear two sides of one meeting between the authors of the book and Werner Vogels, CTO of I'm not taking sides, I just think it's interesting. If I were to break rule 1 then I'd say something about the way the debate has been conducted after the meeting...

Monday, March 27, 2006

Today I have mostly been writing procedures. Procedures are our lifeblood, but you can't get away from the fact that they are boring. Like with programming, test driven development, would have been a good approach, but I didn't think that it might apply to what I was doing before I started. However I will be writing tests next, as the thing that the procedure is covering (Direct Debit) could get complicated.

Writing procedures is a bit like programming, but what you can't be sure is how your "compiler" will treat the "code".


Thursday, March 23, 2006

I did a training course last week for some of our Raiser's Edge users. I cannot recommend Creating Passionate Users highly enough if you are involved in training or software production.

Charity news from the budget.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I'm sure many of my colleagues working abroad could tell some good stories and show some good pictures, but not many do. Mark Woodward, however does. And his site is updated regularly, unlike some.

Monday, March 20, 2006

More interesting news from the NRSI. They are putting Graphite into 2:
"This project integrates the Graphite smart font rendering engine for complex non-roman scripts and writing systems into 2.0.0, the well-known cross-platform FLOSS office suite."

This is where Open Source really comes into its own, when you can extend a powerful application to make it really useful in the parts of the world where the normal font rendering software won't do what you need. It's still got a few rough edges, and is "not extensively tested", but it really opens up possibilities for people needing non-Roman script support.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Spikesource is an interesting company. They do thousands of tests on open source software and sell you "stacks" of pretested software. Their supported platforms are Fedora, Red Hat and Suse Linux. So you get the features of open source software, and the comforting thought of commercial support.

I came across this with the announcement that SugarCRM are reselling their stuff.


Monday, March 13, 2006

With a new project comes the inevitable question of the appropriate technology. We have a project that needs a bit of database stuff, some data entry, some automatic processing of files (originally emails) and some production of XML files. One of the top priorities I have is maintainability. We have two people supporting our information systems and we can't be sure that over the next few years there will always be those two. If we had a larger team we could assume there would always be someone around.

So the maintainability criteria for technology choices is for when there is no-one around, and we have to appeal for some volunteer help. We want to pick something that it is likely a volunteer will be familiar with. So we choose Access, which we already have as part of our MS Office desktop installation. For some of the processing/glue stuff we're using Python. In the past we've chosen Perl, but Python is recommended because it is easier to work out what it is doing (see Maintainability). There are newer scripting languages, but we're trying Python for the moment.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

More on the Charity Finance Directors' Group's IT Conference:
Michael Jackson from Sage gave the opening speech on lessons that charities can learn from the commercial world. He spoke for 15 minutes when he had a 45 minute slot...

Ian Smith from Oracle UK had more to say, particularly on "Embedding CSR (Corporate Social Responsiblity)" - their involvement in Childline for example.

The thing that stuck in my mind from the presentation was the comment "People should fit their process around the software". The reason he gave was that if you have people using standard software then upgrades are cheap, because you don't have to upgrade all the little customisations that have been built in. I think he's talking about big off-the-shelf-and-customised packages.

This does go against my programmer's brain as the user is (almost) always right, but I can see how it applies to big systems. I don't know much about the new NHS central booking system, apart from the fact that it's late, but as I said before, sometimes there are cases for not fitting in with the way that thousands of GP surgeries do their business.

On the other hand, I could go into a surgery and be told "we can't do that because the system won't let us" and get annoyed with that. I really feel tension with this point.

Maybe it comes down to cost. If you can pursuade people that its better to fit the software because it's cheaper in the long run, and you want to keep your job don't you, then they may accept it. Healthcare is pretty much free in the UK, and I would guess that GPs aren't paying for the new system, so they don't see the cost benefit in standard processes.

Monday, March 06, 2006 - does what it says on the tin (sorry for the UK only cultural reference). Seems to have similar interests to this blog.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I don't know much about Bibledit, except that it's a used by some of our translators. I've just found out though, that it's been ported to the OLPC (One laptop per child). Instructions are here.

A survey of free font licenses. It would be nice if these could be combined, and maybe combined with the work that those nice Creative Commons people have done. Still, at least people are finding ways to keep fonts licensed, but still free.