Wednesday 29 February 2012

Rent Intelligence in the future?

I'm taking an online course at the University of California, Berkeley via Just started with the first video series of the SaaS course and already it got me thinking.

In the course they were describing the SaaS infrastructure like Amazon and how you can rent huge computing powers for little money. You can actually rent a lot of power for $ 200/hour which is equal to the bill you get from a lawyer or consultant. So, if we're smart enough to package domain specific intelligence which you can then rent for whatever time you need it, it would change the world substantially.

I remember in my first startup when I needed a NDA document, I went to a lawyer to help me out. Well, in the future I would go to an online Intelligence Service and build up the NDA together with this all knowing AI system, using nothing but my tablet and a credit card. Looing at Watson, the big computer system from IBM that won Jeopardy, the technology is there.

Thinking about it, I wonder if my youngest daugher (4 now) will ever create here own homework...

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Catch up on todays web design and development

When baking pancakes for the carnival festive at my daughter's school I had sufficient time to catch up on  my online news.

Basically you create the dough and let it rest for a bit. You heat the pan and poor some pancake mixture and wait for 30 seconds or so, turn it and another 15 seconds.

In between you have a lot of seconds spare so I took a chair and my iPad and started browsing the web news.

One site struck my attention which is Although I'm not a designer, I found some very good articles on that site, especially    these ones:

All credits goes ofc to writers of DesignShack and the original authors, developers. 
If you are into web design, development or alike take a couple of minutes to read these articles and you'll be amazed and fresh of new ideas and appetite (although that could also come from the pancakes ofc :D) 

Don't ban your ideas too soon...

In the last year, I had at least 2 ideas worthy of an online company. After a couple of days swirling in my head I usually started to check the competition, see what was out there. In almost all cases I came back with my head down saying others beat me in the idea and were first. 

Looking back to it, I figure that there will always be competition. Sometimes you're the first, or sometimes you join the party late. Even in the latter case, it's all about the execution of your idea. You can still beat those competitors if you offer a better, faster, easier, nicer product. 

Take a look at the success story of pinterest who also came late into the game of image bookmarking: Their execution was just technically and conceptually better than the existing.

I will for sure not be scared anymore of the competition when waking up with my next idea; unless of course the competition is called apple or google :D.

Monday 13 February 2012

Orchard CMS command line tips

When working in Orchard CMS you'll probably come across the Command Line sooner or later. This shell allows you to automate certain tasks for Orchard or execute commands not available in the admin UI.

Here are a few tips to make life easier when working with the command line.

When you are running from the downloaded source code you need to prep a bit to make it easier.
If you are running an Orchard from WebMatrix, it is sufficient to navigate to the bin folder and start Orchard.exe in the command line from there.

You want to prepare yourself first to save a lot of typing and directory swapping stuff. We'll use the good old Windows environment variables PATH.

1. In Windows 7; go to Control Panel > System and Security > System and click "Advanced system settings" on the left menu.
2. Open the "Environment Variables" (button at the bottom).
3. On the lower section "System Variables" scroll to the "Path" variables and add the folder where the Orchard.exe file exists. 

Update: tbh, I made a mistake here, so let me correct this. In order to start the Orchard.exe command line it's actually simpler:

  • For source code downloads: navigate to the Orchard.Web project folder and type in a command window: "bin\orchard" this will position you on the correct directory (of the web project) to perform command actions
  • For the WebMatrix orchard site, just navigate to the site directory and  type in a command window: "bin\orchard" which will position you also on the correct location.
Open the command line
When you start the Orchard Command line, best is that you start it from the location of your website.

So, if your website is located for example at: C:\Users\JohnDoe\Documents\My Web Sites\MyOrchardWebsite, then start a command line from there. The easiest way to do this in Windows 7 is to shift-right click the folder and select "Open command window here".

Now you can type the command Orchard and you'll see your command prompt ready for use


Who wins?
When the website is running locally you won't be able to start the Orchard command line. So you need to stop it first.
  • If you started from WebMatrix, then you go to your system tray and find IIS Express to shut down the running Orchard site.
  • If you were running from Visual Studio then you just have to stop debugging your website to get it going.
Note that you can also work with IIS Express from Visual Studio instead of the original Casini Web Development Server. In that case you ofc stop IIS Express.

Friday 10 February 2012

Orchard CMS

Just like the weather changes from -12.5° to +30° I sometimes change from my work as Enterprise Architecture back to technical dev stuff. From focus point of view it may not sound great, however, I think it is important as advocate of technology within the business to maintain grassroots in the technology itself.

For a current project, the customer wanted to move aggressive onto the Internet with not a mere site but rather a whole platform. So, as usual there's the option to go buy or build. This time we went for the sweet spot in between; Orchard CMS.

The Orchard CMS is a modular CMS (like most systems out there today) but allows custom development with your ASP.Net MVC3 skills.

Out of the box there's already a number of modules and more can be downloaded via the Gallery. One of the interesting features here was to host a private gallery which is perfect if you want to use this as delivery mechanismfor customer specific modules.

Although Orchard CMS is quite young, it is a promosing piece of technology if you are customed to C# and ASP.Net technologies. Imho, surely a system to whatch out for.

After a couple of days later I found that learning the system is best done via:

Because I didn't developed in a while, I found the learning curve to be a bit steep, but worth it. My recommendation would be to try to learn the system first from a configuration point of view playing with the available modules. Then go over in learning about themes which will give you more insight into topics like layers and zones and widgets. After that you could dive into the development track.

An other interesting feat was the ability to develop a module that actually contains tasks that one would normally do via configuration. So instead of configuring a system using the admin, you could pour this all into a module and install it on different sites (like test and production environments).