Scratch Coder Dojo Guides

More explanation later, but a useful place to keep Coder Dojo Related Resources

 

Scratch Belt Tests

Starting Games in Scratch

Scratch Team Challenges

 

Book Review – JBoss Business Process Management

Quick Review

I would have bought the Packt JPBM workflow book even though I got a free review copy. I wish I had it when I was first learning Workflow / jBPM

Long Review

I like workflow, which doesn’t tend to make me very popular at parties. But, since you’re reading this blog, I’ll assume that you have some interest in Workflow, and will now proceed to tell you all about it (if I’ve got this wrong, and you’re using Google Reader, hit the ‘J’ button now to speed on to something more interesting. We’ll forget all about this in the couple of days when I next blog).

Still here? While most computer programs aim to finish as soon as possible, workflow programs can run over many hours , days or weeks (stick with me, this gets better). Most of the difficulties that programmers face when coming to workflow aren’t technical (workflow is no more difficult than using one of the many web frameworks out there) but  conceptual.

  1. Trust the force, Luke; If you’re used to writing your own programs, it can be a bit of a switch to writing small actions to be embedded into a larger workflow framework.
  2. Forget about Hello World. Workflow is used to solve complex problems. It’s going to take a bigger investment of your time to appreciate the true power of  workflow .
  3. Tip of the iceberg (aka Why can’t I write my own?) Most people start out not needing an entire workflow framework, but to solve a specific problem. So they begin to write their own framework. Then they find another requirement, then another. By the time they realise that they need an ‘off the shelf’ framework, they’re reluctant to to dump their investment.

So where does the book come into this?

jBpm Java Business Process Management book cover

jBpm Java Business Process Management book cover

Put simply, the book lets you overcome those  three big problems more quickly.

Yes, it deals with the ‘nuts and bolts’ of workflow – how to setup the framework. How to use the Eclipse based editor to draw / design your workflow. How to the use the various tasks that come bundled with the framework, and how to write your own. How to persist your workflow so that even if the system fails, the business can still recover. But all of these are covered quite well in the JBoss jBPM documentation, even though having it in book format is very useful.

Where the book is really good is that it talks you through the concepts of workflow, why you should be using it, and gives you the big picture straight away. It also will help convince you (or your boss) that an off-the-shelf framework is much, much better than even thinking of writing your own.

Combined with the fact that jBPM is open source, and is available for free download from JBoss / RedHat (i.e. it is low cost to start, but is credible enough to deploy in the enterprise), this make the book an ideal way to experiment with workflow. Even if you choose (or somebody else chooses for you) to use an alternative workflow framework, once you mastered the concepts (which are the same for most frameworks), picking up the technical details is relatively easy.

Things I didn’t like about this book; One is partly jealously – the style of the book (making a complex subject easily available to beginners) is one that I wish I had mastered in my own book. The other is that while the examples are very good in each chapter, it would have been good if each sample built on the one previously, so that you ended the book with quite a sophisticated system. Given my interest in other JBoss projects (such as JBoss Rules / Drools) it would have been good if these were mentioned and explained (e.g. the Drools rule engine integrates well with decision making nodes)

Minor gripes, and all very specific to my interest in JBoss technology.  I would still buy the book if despite knowing all of this, given that it introduces the concepts and technology so well.

Link to Book on Amazon.

Enterprise Ireland Best Connected Blog (Soft Launch)

It’s been about 18 months since I started my new job, and if you haven’t already noticed the update on my LinkedIn status, it may or may not surprise you that I’ve been working for Enterprise Ireland.

I’m pleased to announce the (soft) launch of Enterprise Ireland’s third blog – BestConnected. (For the record , the other two are the very successful EI Americas, and EI Research and Commercialisation blogs).

Best Connected is the overarching theme of Enterprise Ireland’s software strategy (pdf). It aims to take advantage of Ireland’s size (where everybody knows everybody elses cousin) and link together the tech community, EI Client Companies, Multinationals , 3rd Level Education and the Public Sector. The BestConnected Blog also features specific channels for Public Sector , Financial Software and Services, and Cloud / Software as a Service providers (with more to come).

In line with Enterprise Ireland’s mantra of promoting exports, export led jobs, there are specific sections for company profiles for software and solutions companies.

Company Profiles on EI Best Connected Blog

Economist special report on social networking

If you’re a consultant, the place to make money is just before an idea / process / technology goes mainstream. Too early and you risk been seen as a nutcase. Too late are you get lost in the chorus of ‘me too’.

The best method of gauging when a technology idea is going mainstream is the Economist Magazine. When they publish an article about an emerging idea / technology, they’re doing it on behalf of their readers – the ‘informed mainstream, including the decision makers that you’ll be pitching you proposal based on that technology to. So far , they’ve called it right about the Internet, Agile Projects, Open Source and Cloud computing.

So, for all that have been calling for the last 18 months that ‘Social Networking is going mainstream’ , the Economist has published a special report on the issue.

Well worth a read, even if you think you know it all about Social Networking already.

Foresight – Getting things done for Outlook

Currently playing with Foresight, a Getting Things done plugin for Outlook.

Foresight Logo

It’s now free, and fixes the traditional problem with the Outlook task list of not being able to handle anything beyound the most simple of projects. Watch this blog for how it goes.

JBoss jBPM Book on its way from Packt – Java Business Process Management (Workflow)

In a previous life, I’ve been lucky to work with two very good JBoss Products – JBoss jBPM (Workflow) and JBoss Drools (Rules). Just in case you missed it; slides from the IJTC conference (jBPM), Rules presentation to the jBPM conference and of course not to forget the Rules Book. The lines between jBPM and Drools have blurred slightly, but the competing open source teams just enhance the quality of both products, and which one is best very much depends on the problem that you have at hand.

jBpm Java Business Process Management book cover

jBpm Java Business Process Management book cover

So, I’ve been asked by Packt (the guys how published my book) to review the new jBPM Developer guide book. So, not only do I get to help a fellow author (Good Karma), I get the catchup on features of jBPM I may not have used yet in my professional capacity, and I get a free book. What is there not to like?

Disclaimer – getting free copy, but am otherwise free to write good / bad / or completely off the wall ideas about it. Watch this space.

iPhone as an Enterprise Platform Event – Dublin

Full notes and links below. Key Learning points

  1. User Experience. User Experience. User Experience
  2. iPhone currently the leader, revolutionized Mobile app sales, but market (and devices) evolving very quickly.
  3. Good case for usage in Enterprise (cost reduction, growing use of iPhone platform in Enterprise, New channel to customers) but be flexible, be ready for the evolution.

iphone

The iPhone as an Emerging Enterprise Platform

1.15pm Wednesday 2nd December 2009
Venue – The Alexander Hotel  Dublin .

The iPhone has captured significant mindshare since its launch in 2007, and in particular the application development model and the iTunes App Store, which has had over two billion downloads of over 100,000 applications.
There has been a move from games and other ‘fun’ applications to software companies looking to add mobile channels for their products. Enterprise focussed companies like Intuition are developing iPhone applications in order to add to the value of their core product or service.

As part of the Enterprise Europe Network, Enterprise Ireland are hosting an information and networking event on December 2nd in Dublin.

This is a chance for software companies to explore the opportunities presented by mobile applications and Apple’s iPhone in particular. Topics covered will include:

  • What is so special about the iPhone?
  • How does one develop applications – what are the skills required?
  • What are the costs?
  • How to deploy enterprise applications?

There will also be an opportunity to meet with the iPhone developer community in Ireland.

Enterprise Features iPhone – Dermot Daly, Tapadoo

What is an iPhone?

  • Basics ; phone, location/direction/tilt aware , quality web browser and multimedia,Document and pdf viewer)
  • And apps

Enterprise features

  • Originally consumer (02 contracts reflected this)
  • Latest iPhone 3GS had enterprise (not emphasised) e.g. Compass Video Cameria
  • Enterprise Mail (e.g. ActiveSync from MS, but also POP/IMAP/CALDAV/LDAP)
  • Centralised Config (e.g. App lockdown, can prevent changes)
  • Security Enhancements (e.g. FindmyIPhone, RemoteWipe)
  • VPN out of the box (all internet standards)

All stuff Nokia/ Blackberry do, but iPhone slicker

Apps

  • iPhone enhanced website
  • Website with iPhone specifc css
  • Similar to Mozilla Prism?
  • No deployment / easier to deploy
  • No access to underlying hardware.

Native Apps (code to phone)

  • Underlying hardware access
  • Objective C & SDK Libraries
  • Number of ways to deploy

iPhone SDK (4 layers 20+ frameworks each)

  • iPhone OS / based on MacOS/ derived from BSD Unix
  • Core Services (e.g. Core Data, backed by SQLLite on phone) , contact , addressbox, GPS, StoreKit (for upsell) within app e.g. eBooks)
  • Media (Quartz 2d animation, Open GL 3D in Hardware, iPod Library and Core Audio / Video)
  • Coco Touch – User Interface / controls ; Messaging UI; Map Kit (with Google Maps); Game Kit (P2P Games)

Sample Native Applications

  • iPhone version of existing e.g. RTE Breaking news
  • Own staff to allow

Challenges

  • Deployment to public via App store
  • To own own staff
  • Enterprise Deployment (more than 500 employeees – Limited e.g. University of Ulster)
  • Ad Hoc Deployment (Management Overhead – need to gather specific device ID’s – limit up to 100)

The Market

  • Nobody will release figures on iPhone in Ireland (est 50k – 150k based on app downloads – guess)
  • 02 -> Vodafone Q1 next year (around Feb?)
  • Expects Market to double overnight
  • Expect Vodofone business plan
  • UK – 5% – 1m phones and pushing other platforms
  • Better than any other single handset (as opposed to single manufacturue) – one app works on all iPhone
    – e.g. no problem of testing like Java phones
    – Worldphone – 50m devices (inc iPod touch)

Developer

  • Need to develop on Mac
  • Object C, DSK and App store process (need to learn)
  • xCake Developer community / apps.ie
  • Cost (people expect it to cost less / yet usage pattern very differnt – little and often) similar to Senior Java
  • Base on Spec (like most software projects)

Intuition Keith O’Loughlin (CTO)
“Intuition’s experience with iPhone”

Scaling / eLearnging

  • Don’t repeat same mistkaes; think of user experience
  • Intuition provide professional learning applicaiton to corporates globally
  • Mobile started Blackberry, client demand led to iPhone – also on Windows Mobile
  • Mobile allows eLearning in users time / on their terms
  • Not a Laptop as that experience is more akin to desk based (e.g. phone always there, always ready unlike Laptop)
  • iPhone Experience (Emotional attachment)
  • Three modes of use (Bored Now / Repetitive Now e.g. stock or Football news/ Urgent Now ) – from Google
    – 6 Month old can use iPhone (but not Blackberry!)
  • iPhone has created market for mobile applicatoins (Blackberry, Orange, Vodafone all trying to copy idea)
  • Free apps; usage over time ; shelf life tails off sharply over 3 days ; What is user call to embed in their

Lifestyle (use again and again, evangilise) – doesn’t happen for PC’s.  All about the user experience

iPhone and Enterprise

  • Blackberry v Apple
  • 2 millon  Apple iPhones  in Corporate , growing hughely , 35m Blackberry, overtake in 3 years at current rate of growth
  • Beware of Google (space evolving very quickly – like 1980 in PC space)
  • More smartphones sold last year than Laptops
  • Enterprise benefits : rich apps / improve effecienct / workflows / reduce costs / grow revenues
  • Issues: Security (percieved issue) / difficult deployment / Early adoptor days

Developer: good that single screen size and form size (develop once) , only 3 OS v Java experinece

  • First app on apple platform in 6 weeks
  • Some API missing e.g. to turn off phone API not exposed

Apple; focus on qualiy and brand – control!!

  • Won’t allow apps with bugs (and Apple decide what bug is!)
  • Limited develop support
  • App store very easy to use
  • A lot of applications – easy to get lost
  • Low cost of entry / but slow process / very thoroought process

Repeat: Not about the technology, about the user
Average phone replaced every 2 years – very easy for market to change

Opportunites / Pitfalls

  • Scale
  • Devices Big Picture (be flexible; devices will change, Apps will not) – iPhone good place to start.
  • Style v Substance
  • Platform subsistence
  • 2 models
  • consulting / developer
  • existing product , new channel

MyHome.ie Keith Mahon
“Experiences with MyHome.ie on the iPhone”

Head of Technology , Irish Times digital group.

  • Phoneware created local based search engine, fitted with what MyHome where thinking of doing.
  • Involved since Dec 08 (12 months); 4 Months to develop while Irish Times learned
  • Apple is ‘blockage’ in systems – useful to get professional advice!

Lessons Learned

  • Reduce functionality to what users really want
  • Traffic with not reach mobile (yet) for iPhones – set expectations – more strategic move for future.
  • Estimates market at 15,000  users (note – estimate of user based  much less than Dermot Daly)
  • At least one month to get on Appstore, 1 week for each update; but no committment to dates from
  • Need to promote, like any other website

Success

  • Number 1 Irish app store 12 days / top 50 for 2 months- will change up and down over time.
  • Give credibility with other users, even if they don’t use iPhone themselves.
  • Strong commuter audience (morning and evening spikes).
  • Agents started getting calls / emails directly from iPhone – very visible change!
  • Writeup in Sunday Business Post – can lead to spike in Traffic.
  • 449,000  page views within 15 days; Tiny v Main web sites (15million  in same time) – but new and growing audience

App

  • Shows map with homes for sale (will include rental)
  • Virtual overlay (look through camera, see available houses around you)
  • Give app away free , but looking how to get people to subsribe

Strength and Weakness

  • Smaller , restriced audience – shortage of supply of devices, being kept expensive. Maybe wider when Vodafone sell iPhone Q1 2010.
  • Does not work on stardard iPhone – needs 3GS iPhone
  • No SMS integration like normal mobiles (maybe later versions)
  • A lot of strengths (Locaion aware, excellent delivery channel)

iPhone –  a new Frontier for payments
WorldNet TPS

Enterprise Ireland  HPSU ( Startup) – provide secure online payment (Payment Gateway) going 2 years, product 1 year.

See Opportunity as enabling business – promote iPhone as payment terminal
Complements existing business / other virtual access points such as laptop / PC

For business this means  e.g. Tour Operator / Sell items on Tour Buses while promoter is still on road

Competitor to iPhone in payments space is Desktop – very different proposition (good and bad)

PCI Compliance (part of Visa contract) means storing credit card info on PC / or paper means fines up to 25,000 Euro  for each infringement

Moving to (all ideas that have been tried before , with various success, mainly due to societal factors

  • Cardholder present transation
  • Pay by mobile instead of credit card
  • P2P payment applications

A lot of the leading payment players behind these ideas – will market take off?

OS3 – Damian O’Suilleabháin
“Approaches to iPhone development & the Irish iPhone Developer community”

OS3 develop iPhone apps (3 public , more on way)

Can’t activate iPhone without giving Credit Card details – very low friction sell through AppStore – like DoCoMo model.

Why iPhone?

  • Trip to future; demographics – about 25% Western world only know internet on mobile / social network natives . Don’t like ads,  but friends think it’s cool.
  • Growing rapidly.
  • 2 Billon n apps downloaded in last 18 months – last month 500m
  • Major brands have apps available
  • Opportunity; Extra revenue / new customers through new channel / association with coolness

Web Apps v Native Apps

  • Web development use existing web technologies (Simple) Apple Browser the best mobile browser – compares well to many desktop browsers. Doesn’t do flash.
  • Web App +: Write in (web) langugae teha you’re familar with) Easier upload – no dealings with Apple. Dynamic. Reused web application for other mobiles / from Desktop.
  • Native Apps gives (almost)  full power of API.  Mac Based Operating System – very powerful. e.g. Gesture Capture, Compass.
  • Native App can be used offline. Easier to Monetize app (sell through appstore).

InHouse v Outsourced Development

  • Same as traditional software development pro’s and con’s.

iPhone Developer Community in Ireland

  • xCake - loose developer community / act as group when talking to Enterprise Ireland , O2
  • Apps.ie – evolved from XCake – showcase for Irish iPhone apps, evangilize mobile applications in Ireland.
  • Members; available on site include 21 developers from companies to individuals
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