10 December 2013 - Christmas Gifts

This week we went through the usual current projects’ problem and solution discussions. We also decided to chat about what we could do for gifts as Christmas is fast approaching. What simple ideas could we come up with that didn’t cost money and involved coding (because that’s what we do here)?

We came up with the following ideas (from simplest to complex):
  • Make a simple html home page for your mother’s PC with a picture of yourself or family. You could put up links to Facebook profiles or something like that. The html page doesn’t even have to be hosted, just save it on the PC and make it the home page.
  • Create a family timeline using the timeline js library http://timeline.knightlab.com/ and host it for free on a google apps engine website. Send your family the link and be the star of Christmas (PS make sure you add a simple php password to hide the timeline or don’t post anything too private)
  • Create a quick android application with family relevant information. Or add a song and picture of yourself to this one page app. Being an android application you can just email everyone the apk file and tell them to install the application. Too bad you cannot do this with other phones.
  • Make a JavaScript game with family members as characters moving around and doing something. You can use a JavaScript gaming framework like Crafty.js http://craftyjs.com/. You will have to learn how to use it so get going now. Then use a free google apps engine website to host the game.
Email us if you tried any of these ideas or have an even easier one.

3 December 2013 - Etolls, drones and Bitcoin

This week’s brainstorming session started off with a general discussion about current events we thought were interesting. These included e-tolls, drones and Bitcoin. We though that e-tolls might start to fail. Not due to the technology and systems collecting licence plates and issuing bills. But it might fail when trying to collect the money as most of the people we’ve spoken to are not willing to pay and it may be hard for law enforcement to investigate all the people holding back these payments.

The amazon delivery drones are really interesting and we cannot wait for this to become a reality. Our challenge here is to somehow convince the Developer Factory manager that we need to buy a drone so that we can build something useful for the company. In other words we really want this toy to play with. It sounds like amazon will have to spend a lot of time demonstrating to the public that their drones are safe.

Bitcoin the online currency we don’t really understand. You can mine Bitcoin, not from the ground but using your computer to solve a complex algorithm. Bitcoin is exchanged for real money and recently the price has shot up quite a bit. Are we brave enough to purchase some Bitcoin? Well none of us in the Developer Factory really understand the concept totally, so we probably won’t buy any. We also understand that mining Bitcoin no longer makes sense anymore as the cost of running your PC is more than the amount of Bitcoin you can mine.

19 November 2013 - Google App Engine

This week’s brainstorming session was a little quiet as we’ve had a number of developer factory apprentices move out to take on full time development jobs.

Even so we talked about Google’s app engine service which is a hosting service Google offers (http://developers.google.com/appengine). So what is this app engine thing all about? You can create a web application using Java, Python, Go (similar to javascript) or PHP and host it using Google’s infrastructure. The cool thing is you get 1GB free storage and enough bandwidth to serve around 5 million page views if you use the appspot.com domain. This is great because you can create a web service or your own website and not have to pay until you go over the bandwidth. Hopefully if you do go over at this stage you will have some kind of profitable service and can start paying for the service.

We signed up to try put up a simple PHP web page and we were successful. You need to sign up at http://developers.google.com/appengine with your Google Account, then download the SDK, install the SDK and develop an offline version of your website. Once done you upload the file to your app engine project through the SDK and you website goes live. We did a really basic Hello World web page and it is live here voltaic-quest-400.appspot.com (things may change on this site in the future) we used the yahoo pure css framework to make it scale nicely. So give it a try if you need somewhere to host your new idea.

We had to sign up for the PHP beta program, as the PHP version is still new but that was easy and in the guide they have on the site.

13 November 2013 - Security

What happened at this week’s Developer Factory brainstorming session? This week we have an ASP.net website and an android application in the works. The rest of the guys are doing training for their upcoming projects. After solving some development questions we had a brief discussion about security.

Some point we came up with:
  • Validate any form inputs; remove html tags, slashes and anything that could hurt your DB or site if you printed out the users input
  • Don’t save any unfiltered input to your DB
  • Use SSL if you are moving any XML/JSON to and from an API (mobile/website app)
  • Don’t keep information on your webpage, hidden by only CSS, someone could just read the source of the webpage
  • Don’t store any critical information in cookies, also set expiry dates on cookies
  • Put in error handling code into input forms, if you get too many requests (a denial of service attack) your website could die
  • Android don’t save any critical information on the SD card, anybody can read this

Some apprentices also visited a talk about JQuery plugins and Yahoo’s Pure CSS framework. Next time we may talk about this minimal website framework.

29 October 2013 - Brainstorming Session

Today the Developer Factory had another brainstorming session with the general topic of databases. After a range of arguments about the merits of the different database options including cost, support, security, size and more. We concluded that choosing a database probably depends on personal preference and type of application.

We also had a quick question about what to wear at an interview for a software developer. It is much safer to wear formal or ask the placement agency for the specifics on the company.

This week we got a couple websites, an Android app and Windows Phone app on the go at the Developer Factory.

18 September 2013 - Start up or start down

Most of us would love to launch the next big start up and instantly be elevated to the ranks of innovation icons Steve Jobs and Larry Page.

However, launching a startup could be a difficult journey and few people may believe in your big idea. Don’t be discouraged.

The upsurge in startups has provoked mixed reactions from economic and entrepreneurship experts. Some experts have warned that startups would reach a dip period in a few years.

Startups are different to other business ventures because they operate in a fiercely competitive space and are launched to grow faster than the latter. A Startup is measured by its growth potential. Google, Apple and Facebook are some of the most successful startups because they disrupted technology and changed the way we think. The rate of failure is high in startups but the returns can be higher if the company is successful.

Technology continues to be a player in many successful startups. Investors have flocked to funding these ventures. The risks are high but that goes for the returns too.

Paul Graham who runs Y Combinator, a programme designed to fund startups, writes that for a startup to be successful it has to go through three phases. The first phase is when the company starts to find its feet. Growth at this level is slow. The second phase involves the company distributing its product to the mass market and growing rapidly. The last phase is when the startup becomes a big company. Growth is slow because the company starts to face glitches from the market it caters to.

"...Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is - everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use..." Steve Jobs.

What are you waiting for? If your head is bubbling with an idea that you believe in, launch a startup.

17 September 2013 - Brainstorming Session

The developer factory interns had another brainstorming session today to catch up on what everyone is up to in the office. We have a number of mobile applications on the go right now; a job search tool, marketing tool, MP3 player and a couple more.

We also had a short demo of using data from a google spreadsheet to populate a php webpage. By adding information into the spreadsheet, making it public and reading it as a csv file with php you can have simple datasource for your website.
The example was taken even further by using a google script to allow a single row of the spreadsheet to be formatted into a PDF document and emailed to a recipient.

The procedure and code can be found here
The test page can be found here

We then had a chat about supporting different versions and screen sizes of android. We all agree it is a pain to add support for different sizes. Building your application on the lowest possible api level is a good idea. There are a couple methods here to help with supporting different screen sizes,http://developer.android.com/guide/practices/screens_support.html.

Finally check out this awesome new product coming soon, MYO a gesture control armband see it here.

12 September 2013 - How to be innovative in your job search

Graduation season is often filled with some sort of optimism, usually between a proud parent and a child. However optimistic the future may be, reality starts to sink in after graduation ceremony. These tips will show you how to be innovative in your job search.

Sign up for LinkedIn. Be active on the site and read up on ways to get your profile to stand out.

Don’t use social media just to connect with friends. Use it effectively to connect and share e.g. follow companies that you think might help you in your career.

Instead of typing your CV out, use visuals to illustrate work you’ve done. A visual CV will stand out from a typed CV and might increase your chances of landing a job.

Digital is the future. Showcase your work in video form. For example, if you’re in the IT industry, record yourself building a mobile app or if you’re a Graphic Designer, demonstrate designing a logo. Explain tools you use and why you think they are great.

Expert recruiters often complain about graduates who ace their job interviews but don’t get hired because once hired, they don’t know what’s required of them in the workplace. Graduates find it difficult to make that ‘school to workplace transition’ very hard. Read up on blogs that offer graduate advice.

Graduates always look for specific positions that they’re qualified for. Apply for a position outside your industry or take a low level job. You could learn a lot. Stop looking for work at big brand companies. You could discover that working at a small company could have the greatest impact in your career life.

The late Apple founder Steve Jobs spoke eloquently about doing what you love. “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

11 September 2013 - MOOCs - Has the rise of the Digital Age disrupted learning?

Free education is spreading all over the world, causing a paradigm shift in traditional learning and millennials are taking advantage of the system, siphoning the fruits of free education.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” declared Nelson Mandela.

The above words seem to be so prophetic and an apogee in the technological space. The introduction of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) triggered the democratization in education, a sort of revolution.

The introduction of MOOCs caused a seismic shift in online learning. They have come to be known as a ‘disruption’ to formal education.

First world countries embraced the MOOC concept. Although MOOCs are not academically credited, prestigious schools such as Harvard (edX) and Stanford offer online courses that are taught by professors and experts in various fields. The courses have attracted high admission rates among students, graduates and working people.

MOOCs are free. All you need is access to the internet and you will be ready to begin on your desired course.

Learning materials include eBooks and webinars. Google hangouts are one of the most popular features among users of MOOCs

Closer to home, how will it benefit the African child? Can MOOCs be a catalyst for education in Africa?

Did you know?
Google has its own MOOC called Google Power Search MOOC.
Courses that are offered include Introduction to Computer Science, Quantum Mechanics, and Biology etc.

17 April 2013 - An introduction to the Developer Factory

After much planning and hard work, the Developer Factory has finally been launched. The concept, having taken a number of years to develop, is unique in many respects, and is likely to bear fruit in the coming years...

Historically, globalisation and the ”efficiency debate” has led to many “blue chip” companies seriously considering outsourcing of non-core competencies, thus paving the way for innovative service offerings to be created, and consequently, many traditionally “in-house” job functions being handled externally.

This phenomenon was one of the results of the evolution of the IT market, and some insightful players offering creatively packaged products and services emerged. Unfortunately, many IT jobs were engulfed by this value proposition.

South African companies also embraced this growing trend – outsourcing key areas of their business to highly qualified, and often expensive service providers, locally and internationally, compromising valuable job opportunities within the South African economy.

I am not in any way advocating preferential treatment for domestic service providers, but morally, South Africa has a mandate– especially in light of the current high unemployment rate, to develop more, highly skilled individuals,to service the local IT industry.

To make a success of this initiative the Developer Factory requests participation and commitment from the following role players: Newly qualified graduates – go to our website: http://www.developerfactory.co.za and apply to become an Apprentice.

Corporate South Africa – we have growing a pool of newly qualified Apprentices, with highly developed technical- and business skills, as well as commensurate corporate etiquette.

Lastly, we also require the support of South African government as skills development is at the heart of the country’s mandate for growth and empowerment. The Developer Factory wants to assist with this important facet of building South Africa’s future.

The Developer Factory aims to nurture and strengthen a new breed of IT professionals, who are able to offer much more to organisations than other recently qualified graduates.

We embark on this exciting journey with a significant goal in mind – to one day be able to reflect on how we have made a meaningful contribution to South African society, with the Developer Factory having become a “household brand” in vertical markets throughout the country.