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Family guy, geek, entrepreneur, software craftsman: Visual FoxPro, C#, SQL Server, MySQL, Linux consultant, conference speaker

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Get Blogged by JoKi

Jochen Kirstaetter (2014)

The only frontiers are in your mind, welcome to my blog sphere. Your host at is Jochen Kirstätter aka JoKi.

Dive into the weird world of a professional Software Craftsman and follow his daily victories and struggles with modern technology at IOS Indian Ocean Software Ltd. Although living on a tropical island, I'm a business owner and entrepreneur in different industry sectors. Mainly operating in the development of tailor-made software solutions since more than 15 years, I also venture into the world of beauty and body care. You can either meet me at the weekly Code & Coffee meetups of the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community or reach me on Twitter @JKirstaetter

This blog is also about Flic en Flac and the beautiful island of Mauritius, my home.

Sincerely, JoKi



Preparations for Developers Conference 2015
Community 20 February 2015 - 

The First of its Kind in Mauritius

Developers Conference 2015 is the first event in Mauritius, maybe even in the Indian Ocean which is organised as a "classic" conference. Yes, there have been various vendor-specific bootcamps in the past but never anything like this.

"From craftsmen - For craftsmen"

This year's conference is first time organised by the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community (MSCC) in partnership with a number of local and international companies. Although the MSCC was founded back in 2013 it quickly became clear that our tropical island has a certain lack of informational and technical events. During some monthly meetups we spoke about this situation and that it would be very interesting and delightful to organise such an event.

Also, the monthly meetings of the MSCC are usually topic-centered and most amazingly we had solid technical information and good presenters - even though none is a professional trainer - during the last couple of month. The Developers Conference is just the consequent development of this process - our thirst for more information in the world of modern IT.

Mauritius has been branded "Cyber Island" in the Indian Ocean... Opinions in those matters vary but with this conference we strive to improve the general attribution of our island. Mauritius has great political stability and economical advantages for foreign investors, and the most precious resource Mauritius has to offer is people's knowledge.
The ICT sector in Mauritius is growing since years and maturing as the fourth pillar of our economy. With its geographical position Mauritius is also welcome as a business and knowledge hub between Africa and Asia.

Welcome to the first ever Developers Conference in Mauritius!

Extras & Specialties - It's not all about sessions

Apart from the technical sessions and presentations during the day the conference is going to be complemented with additional activities of different types. Our venues provide lots of space for some extra fun...

Stroll around and get some inspiration from our side activities. Socialise with other attendees offline and seize the opportunity to get some ideas for DIY projects from others.

Global Azure Bootcamp Again!

In April of 2013 we held the first Global Windows Azure Bootcamp at more than 90 locations around the globe! In March 2014 we topped that with 136 locations!

This year we are again doing a one day deep dive class to help thousands of people get up to speed on developing Cloud Computing Applications for Azure.

In addition to this great learning opportunity we will have another set of hands on labs.

Hack-a-thon - Programming is a lifestyle

Tired of listening and talking? Let the source code fly!

The Developers Conference is a great chance to show your programming skills. Team up with other developers and solve a variety of challenging tasks. There will be different categories of competitions and we will organise different prices for the winners and runner-ups.

A hack-a-thon is not only fun but also a solid way to put your skills on the table. Be part of it...

Touch-typing Contest - Show us your keyboard skills

Working with computers is bound to typing your source code, specifications or any kind of documentation via keyboard since decades. New alternatives like speech recognition are still in their early phase of development and practical use. Which leads us ultimately to the following questions:

Do you know about touch-typing or speedtyping? How good are your skills?

Show us and other participants your impressive speedtyping skills and compete among each other in various competitions and races. The typing speed is usually measured in words-per-minute (WPM), and a word is standardized to five characters or keystrokes.

Ubuntu 15.04 - Celebrating Vivid Vervet

The next version of Ubuntu is highly anticipated with its continuous development towards an unified user experience on the desktop, on the server, in the cloud, or on the mobile platform. Welcome the Internet of Things (IoT).

Mark Shuttleworth introduced the new version Ubuntu and its foray into the mobile space some months back:

"This is a time when every electronic thing can be an Internet thing, and that’s a chance for us to bring our platform, with its security and its long term support, to a vast and important field. In a world where almost any device can be smart, and also subverted, our shared efforts to make trusted and trustworthy systems might find fertile ground."

Bring your laptop or USB pendrives to receive a copy of the latest incarnation of Ubuntu, and step into a world of open source.

DIY projects - Raspberry Pi, Arduino, any...

You are more of a hardware geek? You like to pull up your sleeves and get cracking with single-board computers (SBC) like the Raspberry Pi, the Arduino, or other models? Then the maker space will be the right place to demo your Do-It-Yourself (DIY) projects to the rest of the audience.

Learn the latest trends about small hardware projects and get some inspiration from others.

Networking - Communication and exchange with others

Communication with your environment is an essential part of everyone's life. And it doesn't matter whether you are actually living in a rural area in the middle of nowhere, within the pulsating heart of a big city, or in my case on a wonderful island in the Indian Ocean. The ability to exchange your thoughts, your experience and your worries with another person helps you to get different points of view and new ideas on how to resolve an issue you might be confronted with.

Take the chance to exchange with other attendees in the reception area or on the balcony. Have some interesting conversations about software development, latest information gained during one of the presentations and let others know about your ups & downs in your projects.

Also, join the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community and be part of the local IT community.

The MSCC is a community for those who care and are proud of what they do. For those developers, regardless how experienced they are, who want to improve and master their craft.

It is a community for those who believe that being average is just not good enough.

Join the community and stay informed.

 
Introduction to Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community
Community 21 January 2015 - 

Whether you are working in the field of Internet Technology (IT) since a long time or you just started your studies in Computer Science recently, at some point in time you might have the urge to meet and exchange with other like-minded people. Communities and user groups are surely the way to go and most likely there is an active user group already not far from you. Although user groups are not new concepts it was a bit surprising for me that discover the lack of an active community here in Mauritius - I mean active ones. According to some search queries on Google you can easily find relicts of previously existing user groups; but unfortunately most of them aren't active anymore.

While having a closer look at the search results and with the experience I gained during earlier years as a member of various communities and even being responsible to organise monthly meetings for more than two years, I finally decided that Mauritius should have a vital and thriving IT community again. No offense towards the other existing ones but as said, they were either long forgotten and abandonded or acted very dormant in some remote corner of the island. Anyway, back in May 2013 I started to organise myself a little bit and officially announced the existence of the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community, or short: MSCC, on various social media channels.

What is the MSCC?

Let me quote the official "About Us" statement from our official site:

"This is a community for those who care and are proud of what they do. For those developers, regardless how experienced they are, who want to improve and master their craft.

This is a community for those who believe that being average is just not good enough."

A simply mission statement. The MSCC is technology-agnostic community and spans an umbrella over any kind of technology. Simply because you can't ignore other technologies anymore in a connected IT world as we have. A front-end developer for iOS applications should have the chance to connect with a Python back-end coder and eventually with a DBA for MySQL or PostgreSQL and exchange their experience. Furthermore, I'm a huge fan of cross-platform development, and it is very pleasant to have pure Web developers - with all that HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript and JS libraries stuff - and passionate C# or Java coders at the same table. This diversity of knowledge can assist and boost your personal situation. And last but not least, there are projects and open positions 'flying' around... People might like to hear others opinion about an employer or get new impulses on how to tackle down an issue at their workspace, etc. This is about community. And that's how I see the MSCC in general - free of any limitations be it by programming language or technology.

Having the chance to exchange experience and to discuss certain aspects of technology saves you time and money, and it's a pleasure to enjoy. Compared to dusty books and remote online resources. It's about humans!

Elements of a successful community

Within less than 1.5 years the number of registered craftsmen in our community reached 200+ members. The MSCC is now the largest IT community in Mauritius, maybe even in the region of Indian Ocean but there are have been a couple of techniques to make this happen. Following I would like to describe some key indicators that helped to thrive this user group. Of course, the list is not complete and they are surely more aspects in play to achieve this goal; at least it might be some starting point for others.

Regular dates, easy accessible locations (and stick to it)

Trust me, especially at the beginning it might be frustrating and discouraging. The first two or three meetups, I was sitting on my own at a local bistro and couldn't talk to anyone else about my current struggles in coding or about discussing some vital ideas with someone else. Be persistent! It takes time that other people in your area take note and they also have to see whether they can arrange their schedule to come and visit. The MSCC has currently two schedules:

  • The weekly Code & Coffee session every Wednesday morning
  • The monthly topic during the last Saturday of a month

Of course, you don't to have to stick to this one but at least focus on regular, easy to remember dates, ie. third Monday evening, or similar.

Organise topic-specific events and give away SWAG

During the weekly meetings we usually exchange about recent news in the IT scene, talk about various ideas and technologies and sometimes put our heads together to work out an issue a craftsmen brought on that day. Personally, I'm enjoying the time out of office, and for a good number of times I got great hints from others and was able to improve my daily routine and productivity. You would be surprised about how much a short personal chat with someone else could help you to get better on your job.

Our monthly meetups are usually centered around a specific topic, and most of the time it is other community members that share there experience in a certain field with all the other attendees. Usually, we choose two sessions of approximately 45 to 60 minutes and then have a nice Q & A session afterwa

Active contribution to social media channels

Creating awareness of the community and keeping an open communication channels for announcements and exchange between members is very important. The MSCC is present on all major social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. In case that this might take too much of time, there are multiple tools on the market that allow simultaneous posting to all of those platforms. Your user group members have different taste and preferences, so don't miss the chance to be present for all of them.

Engage with members and ask for assistance

An IT community is about latest news in technology, IT-related promotions and other cool things that are worth sharing and discussing. Again be persistent and post interesting information through the social media platforms, retweet, share postings and be an attractive source for your members. Even though there are endless numbers of news publications don't be afraid to collect some good ones and redistribute them through the user group.

In general, it might be also interesting to engage some selected group members to assist you. Especially, about publication of news and promotional offers. Engage, encourage, share the load and have great fun together.

Also, in terms of work related scenarios it's great to have some vital communication among user group attendees. The number of project offers, requests for some freelancing work and consulting activities has constantly increased between our members. The networking sessions during our monthly meetups are highly appreciated by the MSCC craftsmen as they offer the chance to get in touch with skilled people. Someone might be looking for a job while another attendee is desperately looking for talent to fill an open position.

Work together with other communities

Do not distinguish or isolate yourself from other IT communities. No, quite the opposite: Embrace their activities, learn from each and other maybe even organise common events. Despite the short period of existence of the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community there are positive connections to several other user groups here in Mauritius. Most interestingly, the MSCC acted somehow as a catalyst or igniter for them. Back in 2013 the local Linux user group - LUGM - was kind of dormant with very low profile and irregular get-togethers. A bit inspired by the our communities activities the LUGM experienced a wave of new motivation. There have been several Linuxfest events since then, and future events are planned together. Another example is the newly founded chapter of Startup Grind in Mauritius. The founder is one of the MSCC craftsmen with great ideas and ambitions in the field of entrepreneurship. You see, communication and networking are essential to keep an IT community like the MSCC prospering.

Your future looks bright

Running and participating in a user group or any kind of community usually provides quite a number of advantages for anyone. On the one side it is very joyful for me to organise appointments and get in touch with people that might be interested to present a little demo of their projects or their recent problems they had to tackle down, and on the other side there are lots of companies that have various support programs or sponsorship especially tailored for user groups. Don't be shy! Contact them and ask for gimmicks that you could hand out in small contests or raffles during one of the upcoming meetings. Usually those companies provide all kind of goodies, books free of charge, or sometimes even licenses for communities.

Meeting other software developers or IT guys also opens up your point of view on the local market and there might be interesting projects or job offers available, too. A community like the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community is great for freelancers, self-employed, students and of course employees. Meetings will be organised on a regular basis, and I'm open to all kind of suggestions from you.

Please leave a comment and join the conversations on social networks.

 
Children are happy using their Kindle Fire HDX
User Rating:★★☆☆☆ / 5
PoorBest 
Android 04 January 2015 - 
Kindle Fire HDX 7" Tablet on Amazon
Source: Kindle Fire HDX 7" Tablet on Amazon

Another bargain from Amazon made it to our paradise island. This time I went on the hunt for tablet for our children. Even though I already use a variety of tablets - both iOS- and Android-based - for professional reasons I was looking for a more secure solution for children than what is possible with the default systems. Whether you are using an iPad or a stock Android or a Samsung enhanced UI tablet they somehow always fall short in terms of profile management for multiple users, there is lack of safety measures for children, and it surely leaves a gut feeling with the adults when the kids are using "their" device.

Some months back I ran into the unpleasant situation that one of our children did an unwanted purchase on the Play Store. Fortunately for me, Google changed their refund policies recently and I was granted a refund. Grateful, it happened only once and just a minor amount. Due to this incident I did a research on several "child-friendly parachutes" for Android. None of them really convinced and so I put it aside...

Amazon again...

Then came Amazon and only by chance while browsing some products in their Kindle department I came across their special offers for the Kindle Fire HDX tablet(s). Reading through the family features on the device combined with the additional cloud options it became obvious that the Kindle Fire would be wonderful solution.

Here are some of the key factors - taken from Amazon product page - that mattered most for us:

Profiles so you can share your tablet

Kindle Fire HDX (OS 4) lets each family member create their own profile, including individual home screens, email, Facebook and Twitter accounts, bookmarks, and game levels—making it easy for a family to share a tablet and give everyone a personalized experience, rather than buying multiple devices.

Set Screen Limits

Many parents choose to limit their kids' screen time, but doing so without the proper tools is difficult. With Kindle FreeTime, parents can set daily limits for tablet use, or restrict certain categories—like games and video—while leaving unlimited time for reading.

Perfect for Parents...

Kindle FreeTime is built from the ground up to help give parents peace of mind when it comes to tablet use. Parents can create a profile for each of their children and choose what books, apps, games, and videos they want to give their kids access to. Kindle FreeTime is free on every new Kindle Fire.

...And Perfect for Kids

When kids use Kindle FreeTime, it's like they have their very own personalized tablet. The background color and fonts change to a kid-friendly design, they only see the titles that they have access to see, the home screen carousel shows their recently viewed titles, and they can even navigate visually to content based on characters or topics—for example "Cinderella," "Dinosaurs," or "Puppies."

Just the combination that we were looking for.

Profile creation and protection

The Fire OS 4 used in the Kindle Fire HDX allows to setup a family with 2 adults and up to 4 children. Being used to the Amazon Store App on my other devices and already owning a small library of Android apps as well as a collection of (children) books the Kindle Fire would be the right selection for our household. Actually, our toughest decision was whether we should take a rugged version or stick to the Origami cover...

Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition  Kindle Fire HDX with Origami Cover
Tough decision between the Fire HD Kids Edition (left) and the Fire HDX with Origami Cover (right)...

In general, I would suggest that someone might opt for the Fire HD Kids Edition depending on the age your child(ren) of course. But honestly I have to admit that the technical geek in me won the decision battle and we purchased the regular HDX with higher display resolution. Although the offer with 1 year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, and a 2-year worry-free guarantee sounds amazing.

Well, personal preference... 

Initial configuration

This is pretty much a standard procedure. Our device(s) came almost fully charged and therefore it was about the first log in with the credentials of an adult Amazon account holder. Following the various steps took me less than 10 minutes and the device was operational. Of course, first things first... Check for updates! And yes there is a newer minor version of Fire OS available. Some bugfixes but also some new and enhanced features compared to the currently installed version.

Next, it's about going into the Settings menu and there you get access to Profiles & Family Library. That's the place to go to... I quickly added two child profiles and made my choices regarding allowed content for their particular age. It's easy to provide different books, apps, games, videos and settings for each individual profile. And more interesting you are able to set daily goals but also set time limits and usage constraints. Optionally you can give profile passwords or even hide profiles completely on the device - nice feature to keep the kids restricted to a) their profile and b) their device.

Overall I have to say that Amazon's Fire OS experience is more complete and polished than any children-safety app that I have tested since now.

Content and battery lifetime

The children got their tablets as present from Santa Claus... And of course, he is very gentle person he already pre-loaded a good number of apps from the Amazon App Store. I'm not quite sure but it seems that each app is downloaded for each profile. Leading to duplicate downloads and higher storage requirements. But I'm not sure about that yet. The Kindle Fire HDX is completely isolated within the Amazon realm, and you don't have access to Google's Play Store or any other sources - which might be good or might be bad depending on how you would like to see it. Personally, I don't miss the access to the Play Store and again it gives me more peace of mind knowing that the kids cannot download and install any inappropriate software.

Regarding battery lifetime it seems that the tablet has enough "juice" for their daily allowance without the need to charge it in-between. Well, I have to admit that I didn't load any movies yet on the device. But up till now, the kids are happy with their playtime using games, drawing apps, reading children books or listening to music.

Camera situation

The Kindle Fire HDX is "only" equipped with a front-facing 720p HD camera. Which is perfect for Skype conversations among each other, or family members, or friends outside our immediate vicinity. And of course "selfies"... Hm, our little artists discovered this drawback during the first evening and were not quite happy about that. As we didn't comment on this they found a solution on their own: Turn the tablet and hold in front of the belly to shoot photos. Simply but effective.

Resume

Even after this short period of less than two weeks I'd say that we made the right decision with the purchase of the Kindle Fire HDX and the Origami cover. The children are pleased with their toys, and we as parents can relax - they don't ask anymore for our devices and we feel secure that they won't do any unwanted purchases.

Feel free to leave me a note (or two) in the comment section below. Thanks!

 
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