November 2007

DemoCamp 16 — Monday, December 3rd

by Joey deVilla on November 30, 2007

DemoCamp 16

Sometimes it’s hard to believe, but it’s true: this Monday, December 3rd, we’ll be hosting the 16th DemoCamp at the Toronto Board of Trade (located in First Canadian Place). What started as a boardroom gathering of a couple of dozen Toronto-area developers showing their current projects to their peers has grown into the city’s premier techie networking event, and the inspiration for other local “Camp”-type gatherings.

Here’s the schedule of events:

5:00 Doors open
6:00 – 7:00 Demos (see below for details)
7:00 – 7:30 Break
7:30 – 8:00 Ignite presentations (see below for details)
9:00 To the pub!

Although the Toronto Board of Trade’s meeting room is very large (and has a cash bar to boot!), it has a limited capacity. If you want to attend DemoCamp, you need to sign up on the EventBrite board. As of this writing, there are 59 free attendance slots remaining; if those get used up, there are 78 $10 donation slots, the money from which will be used to help pay for the venue rental.

Some Quick Explanations

Demos are five-minute presentations where the presenter demonstrates one of his or her current projects in action. This isn’t your ordinary presentation: we only want to see your software in action — no slides are allowed! Think of demos as a geeky show-and-tell showing actual software in action rather than a marketing slideshow with a lot of handwaving.

Ignite Presentations are rapid-fire presentations in which the presenter talks over a set of 20 slides that are timed so that each is shown for 15 seconds (the slideshow runs automatically; the presenter just does the talking). The format helps to ensure that the presentations are interesting and get to the point!

And now, the demos and presentations…

Demos

Teaching Test Driven Development with UTest (Igor Foox)

UTest logo

UTest is a tool developed at the University of Toronto to allow students to submit test cases to be run against a professor’s solution to a programming assignment. We will be demoing UTest, as well as an Eclipse plug-in for UTest and explaining how we think it will help undergrad computer science students learn TDD. The community will get to see a new tool to improve the testing skills of their future employees! They will be able to tell us their feedback and so indirectly influence the skills that students graduating in a few years will have.

Sketch Based 3D Modeling with ShapeShop (Ryan Schmidt)


Shapeshop’s demo video. Can’t see the video? Click here.

I will demo a 3D “sketch-based” modeling system called ShapeShop that anyone can learn to use, and scales from simple toy models to significant complexity. Think Google SketchUp, but for everything from CAD to complex organic characters, instead of just blocky shapes.

I have been building it as part of my MSc/PhD research, since 2004. It is under active development, there have been 2 public releases and I just started releasing betas of version 3. My demo should be selected because everyone I have ever shown it to has enjoyed it, from 6-year olds to jaded computer graphics researchers. Also, it’s a good example of what is possible in university research environments.

The community will get a sense of where 3D modeling and user interfaces might be going in the future, and learn about some of the other stuff happening in the UofT lab that BumpTop came out of. They will also get some new software, because ShapeShop is free. 3D modeling software is really hard to use. I have spoken to lots of tech people who maybe want to make a 3D logo, so they try Blender, and it’s incomprehensible, so they give up. ShapeShop isn’t like that – a real, non-trivial model can be sketched in seconds. And it’s fun. And learning the basic interface is extremely easy. When I get kids using ShapeShop on a SmartBoard, we always have to tear them away. So, I’m pretty sure I can “wow” the democamp crowd. As for inspire, the only thing I can say is that I have recently been demo’ing ShapeShop at UofT recruitment events, and there is always a jump in downloads the next day. So, hopefully some people might be inspired to give 3D modeling another try. I guess it might also inspire other students to try to turn some of their projects/research into usable software.

Last but not least, I might have some huge new top-secret features that I will release during the demo, but I can’t promise anything until Monday when the conference reviews come back…

HealthSpoke Demo (Dan Donovan)

HealthSpoke logo

We will be demonstrating an early version of the HealthSpoke practice management and integrated wellness application. We will focus on some of the automated test tools (NUnit, WatiN) we are using and frameworks (Microsoft Application Blocks) that make our development life easier. This will give the community another example of the application of these tools to real-world projects, and hopefully give people some ideas on tools they can try as well.

Coming from Waterloo, I am looking to get involved in the Toronto tech / startup scene, and DemoCamp sounds like a great opportunity. We are working on an interesting Web 2.0 / Social Networking application applied to a niche market. Our presentation will provoke some thought on automated test frameworks, and how these can be implemented with limited resources from Day 1!

Web Groups – Virtual Team Collaboration (Scott Annan, Mercury Grove)

Webgroups screen capture

My name is Scott Annan and I have been involved in the camp scene for the last 2 years and an active member of the Ottawa startup scene, (where I live). I have also introduced and organized the democamp concept in Cincinnati and Lexington, KY.

I will be doing a demo of our Web Groups collaboration software which is used by over a dozen fortune-500 companies and several more small businesses ranging from floral consultants to international advertising agencies. I would like to provide a perspective on how we financed our business through consulting, and are purposely growing it without ANY investment in a traditional sales team or marketing (including Adwords). We may be able to use DemoCamp to make a new release / killer feature announcement.

SlashID – Anonymous Identity Provider (Zeev Lieber)

SlashID logo

We will demonstrate a fully AJAX-based Identity Management system which allows you to manage your passwords and personal data without disclosing them to our own server. Our approach to authentication and identity management differs from traditional ones in that nobody has to ever rely on us or trust us in any way to complete user authentication and personal data disclosure to different web services. We believe that SlashID is the right way to do identity management in the internet setting (as opposed to enterprise setting), since people are becoming increasingly aware of privacy and trust issues.

We want to raise awareness of our approach with the community, and demonstrate the benefits that our system provides to the websites – ease of registration, one click login, single sign on and keeping user’s data always up to date. All these result in better user experience and more users willing to register – which may translate to direct profit for commercial websites. While the procedure of logging in to a website has always been a hassle rather than something inspiring, we believe we can clearly show that hassle going away. We will show how you can login to any SlashID-enabled website with a single click.

We will also show how updating your personal data on our website automatically propagates to all websites you registered with. All this is possible to do from any computer with just a browser. No data stored on your computer, no data disclosed to our server, no plugin installation required. Our system was launched October 16th, and is available at our website.

Ignite Presentations

Co-Creating the Creative City (Mark Kuznicki)

Mark KuznickiRichard Florida, author of Rise of the Creative Class and Flight of the Creative Class now calls Toronto home. How can creative people – from artists to software developers – be engaged in the act of city-building? This presentation is intended to quickly get the community up to speed on the creative city idea and to inspire them to participate in making Toronto a better place to create.

By showing the connections between DemoCamp/BarCamp and Burning Man, I hope to shift the perceptions of the community to see how an artist and a developer might have values and interests in common, and to inspire the audience to find the spark of their creative souls while making the city a better place to live and work.

Understanding What Is and Isn’t Critical (Fraser Kelton, Adaptive Blue)

AdaptiveBlue logoIn a start-up, where resources are always tight, it’s important to understand what’s critical and what’s not needed. This Ignite Presentation will explore lessons learned (so far) while building our start-up. It’s a study in what we know now, what we didn’t know then, and what we (luckily) got right all along. The goal is to help the democamp community understand what is and isn’t necessary for building a web start-up. From product development to building community, biz dev to IT infrastructure, human resources to pitching VCs… all done in 20 slides. In 5 min.

This presentation should be selected because what we’ve learned over the past year will benefit many start-ups. The learning has occurred through a mix of hard work, serendipitous events, painful mistakes, and reflective moments and we’d like to share these lessons with the community in a fun, 5 min, presentation. Contrasting what we have and what we don’t gives some insight into what is necessary and what a start-up can do without. We have over one million downloads of our first product. We don’t have a single server. We have people in three countries. We don’t have an office. We have a CEO who handles front-line support. We don’t have company email… and so on.

The presentation will entertainingly explore how we got to where we are today by loving constraint and learning to bravely question everything. Inspiring tales, told over 15 seconds, drills home what is and isn’t critical to growing an idea into a company.

[Cross-posted to The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.]

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Vintage Ad Against Using Recorded Music for Movies

by Joey deVilla on November 29, 2007

Back in the 1980s, I was a regular reader of Keyboard magazine. I always rolled my eyes at the two-page ad spread usually near the middle of the magazine that bore the headline “Don’t let them do DAT”, a campaign whose purpose was to keep DAT — that’s digital audio tape — recorders out of consumers’ hands. The worry was that giving consumers access to technology that could produce recordings that could be duplicated perfectly would kill the music industry (you young’uns would laugh at the audio fidelity of compact cassettes). The ad looked like a contest — in exchange for adding your name to their list of musicians who wanted to keep technology out of people’s hands, you’d get a chance to win some nice musical gear. Needless to say, I never participated in that silly campaign, which these days seems as quaint as Ned Ludd and his followers.

That’s not the first time that there’s been tension between musicians and technology. Back in the late 1920s and early 1930s, movies with sound were still new. Most films were “silent films” with the dialogue appearing on screen and music performed by live musicians in the theatre, a la Vern and Johnny, the vaudeville duo from Family Guy:

Vern and Johnny, the vaudeville duo from “Family Guy”

Here’s an ad that talks of the dangers of using recorded music in movies instead of musicans from 1931 titled The Robot at the Helm:

“The Robot at the Helm” ad
Image courtesy of the Paleo-Future blog. Click the picture to see the source article.

Here’s the text of the ad:

Here is a struggle of intense interest to all music lovers. If the Robot of Canned Music wrests the helm from the Muse, passengers aboard the good ship Musical Culture may well echo the offer of Gonzalo to trade “a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of ground.” Are you content to face a limitless expanse of “sound” without a sign of music?

Monotony of the theatre — corruption of taste — destruction of art. These must inevitably follow substitution of mechanical music for living music.

Millions of Music Defense League Members cordially invite you to join them in putting the Robot in his place. Just sign and mail the coupon.

As neat as having live musicians performing in sync to films would be — and hey, there’s room for that sort of thing — if anything is killing art, I’d say it’s Hollywood’s lack of creativity.

[Image from the Paleo-Future blog. Cross-posted to The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.]

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It’s a slow news day, so I thought I ‘d show you the package art for the upcoming Grand Theft Auto IV game, slated for release sometime in the new year. It looks like they don’t want to mess with success:

Package art for “Grand Theft Auto IV”
Needs more candy-licking!

According to the Grand Theft Auto IV site, a new video, titled Move Up, Ladies, will appear on December 6th at 3:00 p.m. EST.

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Take the New Ruby for a Spin

by Joey deVilla on November 28, 2007

Man on motorbike with beans by the handlebars and a large nozzle up his butt.
TURBOCHARGE! It’s assrockets all over again. What is it with people and sticking objects up their butts?

The real point to take from Antonio Cangiano’s article, Holy Shmoly, Ruby 1.9 smokes Python away!, is not that Ruby 1.9 runs circles around Python, but that Ruby 1.9’s performance appears to be dramatically better than Ruby 1.8’s.

Keep in mind that the article cites only one benchmark, a simple Fibonacci script:

On Cangiano’s machine, Ruby 1.8 took 159 seconds to run the script. Ruby 1.9 completed the task 13 times faster, clocking in at just under 12 seconds.

I’ll repeat what I said earlier: this is just one test. If you want to give Ruby 1.9 a proper performance shakedown, you’ll need to install it on your machine and compare its performance with Ruby 1.8 using a number of scripts. Luckily, the Ruby Inside blog has an article titled How to Start Playing with Ruby 1.9 Right Now! that provides easy instructions for acquiring and installing Ruby 1.9 in its own separate directory. I may just have to take 1.9 for a spin soon.

Links

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“Dilbert” on Extreme and Agile Programming

by Joey deVilla on November 28, 2007

Recent posts on Reddit have pointed to a number of Dilbert comic strips poking fun at extreme and agile programming; I thought I’d gather them in one place. Here they are, posted for your enjoyment (for as long as I escape the notice of United Feature Syndicate):

Dilbert comic on extreme programming

Dilbert comic on extreme programming

Dilbert comic on extreme programming

Dilbert comic on agile programming

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The World’s Best Gamers, Circa 1982

by Joey deVilla on November 27, 2007

Here’s a photo that’s just over 25 years old — taken on November 7th, 1982, it’s a Life magazine photo featuring the best players of arcade games of that era:

“Best videogame players” photo spread from “Life” magazine, 1982
Rockin’ it old school in 1982! The best videogamers of 1982 pose by the games they’ve mastered. Click the photo to see it at a larger size.
Photo courtesy of Miss Fipi Lele.

The games featured in the photo are:

For more about what happened when this photo was taken, see this article at Classic Arcade Gaming.

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Scenes from Day 1 at the New Job

by Joey deVilla on November 27, 2007

The New Company

People from the SororityLive and FraternityLive home pages
The “mascots” from the SororityLive and FraternityLive home pages. Party! Whoo!

My new company is TSOT, a little start-up specializing in social software. The company’s first products are SororityLive and FraternityLive, social software with special features for people in — you guessed it — sororities and fraternities. It’s pretty interesting software, and it doesn’t hurt that the customer base relies on social networking and has some money to throw around.

The New ’Hood

151 Bloor Street West
151 Bloor Street West. It’s smack-dab in the middle of a lot of fancy-pants shops.

The photo above shows the office building, located at 151 Bloor Street West. It’s a short walk away from the intersection of Accordion City’s two main streets and at the west end of the Bloor/Yorkville neighbourhood (also known as “Mink Mile”), which has a lot of posh shops, hotels, restaurants, pricey condos and office buildings.

It’s a sort of homecoming. OpenCola, the last start-up for which I worked, was located on the east end of Mink Mile, a short walk away. Like TSOT, OpenCola was a start-up in an unlikely location.

This neighbourhood is quite different from my old work ‘hood of Liberty Village, which consists of old factories that have been converted into office space. Liberty Village borders on Parkdale, a rapidly-gentrifying neighbourhood that still shows a few signs of its “Crackdale” past, such as colourful neighbourhood characters like “Low-talking Burger King Bible Lady” and “Incomprehensible Pee-reeking Guy on Roller Skates and Ski Poles Who Thinks He’s Running for Mayor”.

There is a similarity between my old and new work ‘hoods: both feature people who appear to be talking to themselves. It’s just that in the new ‘hood, such people are very likely to actually be talking into their Bluetooth headset phones.

The Temporary Office

TSOT’s office, which will eventually be on the building’s 11th floor, is currently under construction. In the meantime, the company is divided between two offices, with the programmers at 151 Bloor West and the management and “biz dev” a couple of blocks away. Being temporary, the current office setup definitely has the classic start-up feel, being sparsely furnished with folding tables acting as desks. I’m getting big-time deja vu.

The developer room at TSOT’s office
The developer room in the temporary office. Sure, they’re folding tables, but the computers, chairs and people are excellent!

My New Gear

When I got into the office, the guys showed me my desk, which had the following arranged into a neat little pile:

  • 15″ MacBook Pro, in its original packaging
  • Extra RAM for the MacBook
  • A Mac OS X “Leopard” install DVD
  • One of those new really flat Apple keyboards
  • A FraternityLive pen and mousepad
  • A copy of Barron’s Speed-Reading for Professionals
  • A Post-It note from CEO Kris White that read “Welcome, Joey! Here is some stuff to get you going. Cheers, Kris.”

15″ MacBook Pro, OS X Leopard DVD and other goodies waiting for me
Here’s what was waiting for me when I showed up. Well, this stuff was still in the original packaging when I showed up.

Now That’s What I Call a Welcome!

Kris White, the CEO, knows that I keep a spare accordion handy at the office and knew that I’d be bringing mine in on Day 1. He decided it would be a good idea to get some small instruments — a cowbell, maracas, drums, a xylophone and a harmonica — from the nearby music store for the other employees, as a “welcome to the club, can we join yours?” gesture. Now that’s what I call a welcome!

Box for OS X Leopard DVD and a toy xylophone
What every start-up needs. Mac OS X “Leopard” and musical instruments.

Perquisites

Among the perks of working at TSOT are some free food from Whole Foods in the kitchen and the programming department’s main room, which features some beanbag chairs, a big screen TV and a Nintendo Wii and XBox 360 Elite.

The game room at the TSOT office
All work and no play makes Joey a dull boy. Nintendo Wii and XBox 360 Elite! Whoo!

So in addition to getting up to speed on the code base and Ruby on Rails development, I’m going to need to work on my Mii and Wii bowling score.

Wii Bowling at the TSOT office
The cornerstone of co-worker bonding: Wii Bowling. I need to work on my Mii.

I think I’m going to like it here.

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