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"The only frontiers are in your mind"
30 | 07 | 2014
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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. I am a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) for Visual FoxPro, was Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for Visual FoxPro in 2006 and 2007, and from spring 2004 until end of 2006 I organized monthly user group meetings as regional director of German FoxPro User Group (dFPUG). Based on this community activities I am also member of Microsoft Community Leader/Insider Program (CLIP) and PASS Deutschland e.V.

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

Sincerely, JoKi



SUPINFO International University in Mauritius
User Rating:★★★★★ / 2
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General 14 July 2014 - 

Since a while I'm considering to pick up my activities as a student and I'd like to get a degree in Computer Science.

Personal motivation

I mean after all this years as a professional software (and database) developer I have the personal urge to complete this part of my education. Having various certifications by Microsoft and being awarded as an Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) twice looks pretty awesome on a resume but having a "proper" degree would just complete my package. During the last couple of years I already got in touch with C-SAC (local business school with degree courses), the University of Mauritius and BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT to check the options to enroll as an experienced software developer. Quite frankly, it was kind of alienating to receive that feedback: Start from scratch!

No seriously? Spending x amount of years to sit for courses that might be outdated and form part of your daily routine? Probably being in an awkward situation in which your professional expertise might exceed the lecturers knowledge? I don't know... but if that's path to walk... Well, then I might have to go for it.

SUPINFO International University

Some weeks ago I was contacted by the General Manager, Education Recruitment and Development of Medine Education Village, Yamal Matabudul, to have a chat on how the local IT scene, namely the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community (MSCC), could assist in their plans to promote their upcoming campus. Medine went into partnership with the French-based SUPINFO International University and Mauritius will be the 36th location world-wide for SUPINFO.

Actually, the concept of SUPINFO is very likely to the common understanding of an apprenticeship in Germany. Not only does a student enroll into the programme but will also be placed into various internships as part of the curriculum. It's a big advantage in my opinion as the person stays in touch with the daily procedures and workflows in the real world of IT. Statements like "We just received a 'crash course' of information and learned new technology which is equivalent to 1.5 months of lectures at the university" wouldn't form part of the experience of such an education.

Open Day at the Medine Education Village

Last Saturday, Medine organised their Open Day and it was the official inauguration of the SUPINFO campus in Mauritius. It's now listed on their website, too - but be warned, the site is mainly in French language although the courses are all done in English. Not only was it a big opportunity to "hang out" on the campus of Medine but it was great to see the first professional partners for their internship programme, too. Oh, just for the records, IOS Indian Ocean Software Ltd. will also be among the future employers for SUPINFO students. More about that in an upcoming blog entry.

Open Day at Medine Education Village - SUPINFO International University in Mauritius
Open Day at Medine Education Village - SUPINFO International University in Mauritius

Mr Alick Mouriesse, President of SUPINFO, arrived the previous day and he gave all attendees a great overview of the roots of SUPINFO, the general development of the educational syllabus and their high emphasis on their partnerships with local IT companies in order to assist their students to get future jobs but also feel the heartbeat of technology live. Something which is completely missing in classic institutions of tertiary education in Computer Science. And since I was on tour with my children, as usual during weekends, he also talked about the outlook of having a SUPINFO campus in Mauritius.

Apart from the close connection to IT companies and providing internships to students, SUPINFO clearly works on an international level. Meaning students of SUPINFO can move around the globe and can continue their studies seamlessly. For example, you might enroll for your first year in France, then continue to do 2nd and 3rd year in Canada or any other country with a SUPINFO campus to earn your bachelor degree, and then live and study in Mauritius for the next 2 years to achieve a Master degree.

Having a chat with Dale Smith, Expand Technologies, after his very interesting session on Technological Entrepreneurship - TechPreneur
Having a chat with Dale Smith, Expand Technologies, after his interesting session on Technological Entrepreneurship - TechPreneur

More questions by other craftsmen of the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community
More questions by other craftsmen of the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community

And of course, this concept works in any direction, giving Mauritian students a huge (!) opportunity to live, study and work abroad. And thanks to this, Medine already announced that there will be new facilities near Cascavelle to provide dormitories and other facilities to international students coming to our island. Awesome!

Okay, but why SUPINFO?

Well, coming back to my original statement - I'd like to get a degree in Computer Science - SUPINFO has a process called Validation of Acquired Experience (VAE) which is tailor-made for employees in the field of IT, and allows you to enroll in their course programme. I already got in touch with their online support chat but was only redirected to some FAQs on their website, unfortunately.

So, during the Open Day I seized the opportunity to have an one-on-one conversation with Alick Mouriesse, and he clearly encouraged me to gather my certifications and working experience. SUPINFO does an individual evaluation prior to their assignment regarding course level, and hopefully my chances of getting some modules ahead of studies are looking better than compared to the other institutes. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to go down the easy route but why should someone sit for "Database 101" or "Principles of OOP" when applying and preaching database normalisation and practicing Clean Code Developer are like flesh and blood?

Anyway, I'll be off to get my transcripts of certificates together with my course assignments from the old days at the university. Yes, I studied Applied Chemistry for a couple of years before intersecting into IT and software development particularly... ;-)

 
MSCC: Purpose and benefits of Version Control Systems (VCS)
User Rating:★★★★★ / 3
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Community 29 June 2014 - 

Logo of the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship CommunityUnfortunately, there was no monthly meetup during May. Which means that it was even more important and interesting to go forward with a great topic for this month. Earlier this year I already spoke to Nayar Joolfoo about doing a presentation on version control systems (VCS), and he gladly agreed since then. It was just about finding the right date for the action. Furthermore, it was also a great coincidence that Avinash Meetoo announced on social media networks that Knowledge 7 is about to have a new training on "Effective git" - which correlates to a book title Avinash is currently working on - all the best with your approach on this and reach out to our MSCC craftsmen for recessions.

Once again a big Thank you to Orange Ebene Accelerator on providing the venue for us, and the MSCC members involved on securing the time slot for our event. Unfortunately, it's kind of tough to get an early confirmation for our meetups these days. I'll keep you posted on that one as there are some interesting and exciting options coming up soon.

Okay, let's talk about the meeting and version control systems again. As usual, I'm going to put my first impression of the meetup:

"Absolutely great topic, questions and discussions on version control systems, like git or VSO. I was also highly pleased by the number of first timers and female IT geeks. Hopefully, we will be able to keep this trend for future get-togethers."

And I really have to emphasise the amount of fresh blood coming to our gathering. Also, during the initial phase it was surprising to see that exactly those first-timers, most of them students at various campuses here on the island, had absolutely no idea about version control systems. More about further down...

Reactions of other attendees

If I counted correctly, we had a total of 17 attendees this month, and I'd like to give you feedback from some of them:

"Inspiring. Helped me understand more about GIT." -- Sean on event comments

"Joined the meetup today with literally no idea what is a version control system. I have several reasons why I should be starting to use VCS as from NOW in my projects. Thanks Nayar, Jochen and other participants :)" -- Yudish on event comments

"Was present today and I'm very satisfied.I was not aware if there was a such tool like git available. Thanks to those who contributed for this meetup.
It was great. Learned a lot from this meetup!!" -- Leonardo on event comments

"Seriously, I can see how it’s going to ease my task and help me save time. Gone are the issues with files backups.  And since I’ll be doing my dissertation this year, using Git would help me a lot for my backups and I’m grateful to Nayar for the great explanation." -- Swan-Iyah on MSCC meetup : Version Controls

Hopefully, I'll be able to get some other sources - personal blogs preferred - on our meeting.

Geeks, thank you so much for those encouraging comments. It's really great to experience that we, all members of the MSCC, are doing the right thing to get more IT information out, and to help each other to improve and evolve in our professional careers.

Our agenda of the day

Honestly, we had a bumpy start...

First, I was battling a little bit with the movable room divider in order to maximize the space. I mean, we had 24 RSVPs and usually there might additional people coming along. Then, for what ever reason, we were facing power outages - actually twice in short periods. Not too good for the projector after all, but hey it went smooth for the rest of the time being. And last but not least... our first speaker Nayar got stuck somewhere on the road. ;-)

Anyway, not a real show-stopper and we used the time until Nayar's arrival to introduce ourselves a little bit. It is always important for me to get to know the "newbies" a little bit, and as a result we had lots of students of university - first year, second year and recent graduates - among them. Surprisingly, none of them was ever in contact with version control systems at all. I mean, this is a shocking discovery!

Similar to the ability of touch-typing I'd say that being able to use (and master) any kind of version control system is compulsory in any job in the IT industry. Seriously, I'm wondering what is being taught during the classes on the campus. All of them have to work on semester assessments or final projects, even in small teams of 2-4 people. That's the perfect occasion to get started with VCS.

Already in this phase, we had great input from more experienced VCS users, like Sean, Avinash and myself.

git - a modern approach to VCS - Nayar

What a tour!

Nayar gave us the full round of git from start to finish, even touching some more advanced techniques. First, he started to explain about the importance of version control systems as an essential tool for software developers, even working alone on a project, and the ability to have a kind of "time machine" that allows you to inspect and revert to a previous version of source code at any time. Then he showed how easy it is to install git on an Ubuntu based system but also mentioned that git is literally available for any operating system, like Windows, Mac OS X and of course other Linux distributions.

Next, he showed us how to set the initial configuration values of user name and email address which simplifies the daily usage of the git client while working with your repositories. Then he initialised and added a new repository for some local development of a blogging software. All commands were done using the command line interface (CLI) so that they can be repeated on any system as reference. The syntax and the procedure is always the same, and Nayar clearly mentioned this to the attendees.

Now, having a git repository in place it was about time to work on some "important" changes on the blogging software - just for the sake of demonstrating the ease of use and power of git. One interesting question came very early: "How many commands do we have to learn? It looks quite difficult at the moment" - Well, rest assured that during daily development circles you will need less than 10 git commands on a regular base: git add, commit, push, pull, checkout, and merge

And Nayar demo'd all of them. Much to the delight of everyone he also showed gitk which is the git repository browser. It's an UI tool to display changes in a repository or a selected set of commits. This includes visualizing the commit graph, showing information related to each commit, and the files in the trees of each revision.

Using gitk to display and browse information of a local git repository.
Using gitk to display and browse information of a local git repository

And last but not least, we took advantage of the internet connectivity and reached out to various online portals offering git hosting for free. Nayar showed us how to push the local repository into a remote system on github. Showing the web-based git browser and history handling, and then also explained and demo'd on how to connect to existing online repositories in order to get access to either your own source code or other people's open source projects.

Next to github, we also spoke about bitbucket and gitlab as potential online platforms for your projects. Have a look at the conditions and details about their free service packages and what you can get additionally as a paying customer. Usually, you already get a lot of services for up to five users for free but there might be other important aspects that might have an impact on your decision. Anyways, moving git-based repositories between systems is a piece of cake, and changing online platforms is possible at any stage of your development.

Visual Studio Online (VSO) - Jochen

Well, Nayar literally covered all elements of working with git during his session, including the use of external online platforms. So, what would be the advantage of talking about Visual Studio Online (VSO)? First of all, VSO is "just another" online platform for hosting and managing git repositories on remote systems, equivalent to github, bitbucket, or any other web site. At the moment (of writing), Microsoft also provides a free package of up to five users / developers on a git repository but there is more in that package. Of course, it is related to software development on the Windows systems and the bonds are tightened towards the use of Visual Studio but out of experience you are absolutely not restricted to that. Connecting a Linux or Mac OS X machine with a git client or an integrated development environment (IDE) like Eclipse or Xcode works as smooth as expected.

So, why should one opt in for VSO? Well, one of the main aspects that I would like to mention here is that VSO integrates the Application Life Cycle Methodology (ALM) of Microsoft in their platform. Meaning that you get agile project management with Backlogs, Sprints, Burn-down charts as well as the ability to track tasks, bug reports and work items next to collaborative team chats. It's the whole package of agile development you'll get.

And, something I mentioned briefly during the begin of our meeting, VSO gives you the possibility of an automated continuous integrated (CI) process which builds and can run tests of your source code after each commit of changes. Having a proper CI strategy is also part of the Clean Code Developer practices - on Level Green actually -, and not only simplifies your life as a software developer but also reduces the sources of potential errors.

Seamless integration and automated deployment between Microsoft Azure Web Sites and git repository
Seamless integration and automated deployment between Microsoft Azure Web Sites and git repository

But my favourite feature is the seamless continuous deployment to Microsoft Azure. Especially, while working on web projects it's absolutely astounishing that as soon as you commit your chances it just takes a couple of seconds until your modifications are deployed and available on your Azure-hosted web sites.

Upcoming Events and networking

Due to the adjusted times, everybody was kind of hungry and we didn't follow up on networking or upcoming events - very unfortunate to my opinion and this will have an impact on future planning of our meetups. Because I rather would like to see more conversations during and at the end of our meetings than everyone just packing their laptops, bags and accessories and rush off to grab some food.

I was hoping to get some information regarding this year's Code Challenge - supposedly to be organised during July? Maybe someone could leave a comment on that - but I couldn't get any updates. Well, I'll keep digging...

In case that you would like to get more into git and how to use it effectively, please check out Knowledge 7's upcoming course on "Effective git". Thanks Avinash for your vital input into today's conversation and I'm looking forward to get a grip on your book title very soon.

My resume of the day

Do not work in IT without any kind of version control system!

Seriously, without a VCS in place you're doing it wrong. It's like driving a car without seat belts attached or riding your bike without safety helmet. You don't do that! End of discussion. ;-)

Nowadays, having access to free (as in cost) tools to install on your machine and numerous online platforms to host your source code for free for up to five users it's a no-brainer to get yourself familiar with VCS. Today's sessions gave a good overview on how to start using git and how to connect to various remote services like github or VSO.

 
Emtel Knowledge Series - Q2/2014
General 20 June 2014 - 

Emtel Knowledge Series in MauriitusFrom Cyber Island to Smart Mauritius

Cyber Island? Smart Mauritius? - What is Emtel talking about?

"With the majority of the population living in urban environments today, the concept of "Smart Cities" has become an urgent necessity. "Smart Cities" refer to an urban transformation which, by using latest ICT technologies makes cities more efficient.

Many Governments are setting out ambitious plans to build the cities of the future based on massive connectivity, high bandwidth communications, intelligent sensors and analysis of huge volumes of data.

Various researches have shown four key enablers for smart city success - Government leadership, suitable technology infrastructure, solid public-private partnerships and engaged citizens. It is around these enabling factors that telecoms companies can play a vital role in assisting governments to deliver on the smart city vision."

The Emtel Knowledge Series goes in compliance with Emtel's 25th anniversary celebrations throughout the year and the master of ceremony, Kim Andersen, mentioned that there will be more upcoming events on a quarterly base. As a representative of the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community (MSCC) there was absolutely no hesitation to join in again. Following my visit to the first Emtel Knowledge Series workshop back in February this year, it was great to have another opportunity to meet and exchange with technology experts. But quite frankly what is it with those buzz words...

As far as I remember and how it was mentioned "Cyber Island" is an old initiative from around 2005/2006 which has been refreshed in 2010. It implies the empowerment of Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) as an essential factor of growth by the government here in Mauritius. Actually, the first promotional period of Cyber Island brought me here but that's another story.

The venue and its own problems

Like last time the event was organised and held at the Conference Hall at Cyber Tower I in Ebene. As I've been working there for some years, I know about the frustrating situation of finding a proper parking. So, does Smart Island include better solutions for the search of parking spaces? Maybe, let's see whether I will be able to answer that question at the end of the article. Anyway, after circling around the tower almost two times, I finally got a decent space to put the car, without risking to get a ticket or damage actually.

International speakers and their experience

Once again, Emtel did a great job to get international expertise onto the stage to share their experience and vision on this kind of embarkment. Personally, I really appreciated the fact they were speakers of global reach and could provide own-experience knowledge. Johan Gott spoke about the fundamental change that the Swedish government ignited in order to move their society and workers' environment away from heavy industry towards a knowledge-based approach. Additionally, we spoke about the effort and transformation of New York City into a greener and more efficient Smart City. Given modern technology he also advised that any kind of available Big Data should be opened to the general public - this openness would provide a playground for anyone to garner new ideas and most probably solid solutions of which no one else thought about before.

Emtel Knowledge Series - Q2/2014
Emtel Knowledge Series on moving from Cyber Island to Smart Mauritus

Later during the afternoon that exact statement regarding openness to and transparency of government-owned Big Data has been emphasised again by the Danish speaker Kim Andersen and his former colleague Mika Jantunen from Finland. Mika continued to underline the important role of the government to provide a solid foundation for a knowledge-based society and mentioned that Finnish citizens have a constitutional right to broadband connectivity. Next to free higher (tertiary) education Finland already produced a good number of innovations, among them are:

  • First country to grant voting rights to women
  • Free higher education
  • Constitutional right to broadband connectivity
  • Nokia
  • Linux
  • Angry Birds
  • Sauna
  • and others... 

General access to internet via broadband and/or mobile connectivity is surely a key factor towards Smart Cities, or better said Smart Mauritius given the area dimensions and size of population. CTO Paul Valette gave the audience a brief overview of the essential role that Emtel will have to move Mauritius forward towards a knowledge-based and innovation-driven environment for its citizen. What I have seen looks really promising and with recently published information that Mauritians have 127% of mobile capacity - meaning more than 1 mobile, smartphone or tablet per person - it will be crucial to have the right infrastructure for these connected devices.

How would it be possible to achieve a knowledge-based society? YouTube to the rescue!
Seriously, gaining more knowledge will require to have fast access to educational course material as explained by Dr Kaviraj Sukon, General Director of the Open University of Mauritius. According to him a good number of high-profile universities in the world have opened their course libraries to the general public, among them EDX, Coursera and Open University. Nowadays, you're actually able and enabled to learn for and earn a BSc or even MSc certification on your own pace - no need to attend classed on campus. It was really impressive to see the number of available hours - more than enough for a life-long learning experience!

Networking in the name of MSCC

As briefly mentioned above I was about to combine two approaches for this workshop. Of course, getting latest information and updates on Emtel services available, especially for my business here on the west coast of the island, but also to meet and greet new people for the MSCC. And I think it was very positive on both sides. Let me quickly describe some of the key aspects that happened during the day:

  • Met with Arnaud Meslier and Kellie, both Microsoft to swap latest information on IT events. Hereby, I got an invite to Microsoft Windows Phone 8.1 Dev Camp.
  • Got in touch with Arvin Lockee, Emtel to check our options to meet with the data team, and seizing the opportunity to have a visiting tour at the Emtel Data Centre.
  • Had a great chat with Avinash Meetoo, Knowledge 7, Kim Andersen and Mika Jantunen about the situation of teaching and learning in general and specifically in the private sector here in Mauritius.
  • Additionally, a number of various other interesting chats...

Once again, I'm catching up on a couple of business cards in order to provide more background information about the MSCC, and to create a better awareness of MSCC within the local IT businesses. There is more to come soon! 

Resume of the day

The number of attendees during this event has been doubled or even tripled this time. The whole organisation has been improved massively and the combination of presentation and summarizing panel discussions was better than during the previous workshop back in February. Overall, once again a well-organised workshop and I'm already looking forward to join the next workshop in Q3.

 
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