Last Build Date: Wed, 16 Sep 2015 17:59:13 +0000
Sun, 14 Feb 2010 13:26:00 +0000I recently came across an article entitled "The Complicators Gloves" which demonstrates how easy it is to fall into the trap of over engineering a solution. It reminded of a story I was told last year whilst visiting the Kennedy Space Centre about how NASA required a pen that would write in space in the 1960's. They spent millions of dollars developing many prototypes and the requisite technology to push ink in a zero gravity environment. After several years they finally had a functioning pen.
Wed, 03 Feb 2010 13:45:00 +0000Now the world looks to be coming through the recession, we at altFusion are looking to strengthen our brand to become one of the leading developers of new technologies. We want to be at the forefront of building new and innovative online and offline systems.
Fri, 22 Jan 2010 10:55:00 +0000All of us at altFusion are proud to announce that our new website has been launched. When altFusion started out we initially put up a website that, it can be argued was only suitable for search engine spiders, and wasn’t interesting to look at from a human point of view. The initial intention was to have something that gave us web presence and experiment with different search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques. It allowed us to understand and play with different online tools, but it became apparent that nobody wanted to look around it. You can shoe horn in as many effects and technical tricks on a web page as you like, but the resulting content may not be something that will draw attention. Realising that the internet is after all, supposed to be a tool that makes life easier and more interesting for humans, not search engines, we came to a point where we needed to update our website.
Fri, 30 Oct 2009 11:28:00 +0000It looks like there is a healthy debate coming up on the mobile apps market and that is who should we be looking at developing for.I think I already know the answer and will put forward my argument because I want a healthy debate so I am well informed before buying my kit and jumping in.In an earlier posting on here I was looking about for an iPhone job. I had heard rumours that the USA developers were cleaning up and in some cases demanding $200 an hour because of the demand for apps writers.This obviously made me want to get an iPhone right away and a MacBook and get right into learning COCOA and XCode so I could claim some of this lucrative market.Firstly I wanted to find these people that are paying extortionate amounts for developing apps. What I actually found across the Apple developer communities is people who want to sell their ideas for you to run with and see if you can make something with it, or they all want to give you the idea, have you do all the work and write it and then split any profit with them 50/50.So it seems there are a lot of people that want to leverage the iPhone to make money from apps, but they don’t want to pay developers to do it, they all want rewards from just coming up with a concept. And while original concepts are worth paying for, most of these ideas are bound to be rehashes of current ideas.I also thought about my own ideas for what could be handy for an iPhone developer, I had loads, from auto handwritten Postcard services from when you are travelling, to help me solve the Rubik’s cube apps.It turns out that everything has been done before (that is why I can put some of my ideas up here because I know they have already been done).Everything from shopping lists that are linked into your supermarket account, thru to games that use the accelerometers to bounce a basketball.I heard recently that there are about 400 new Apps per day coming out on the iPhone so chances are whatever you want as the saying goes (there is an app for that).So I want to see what competition is out there.The main runners as I see it in the smart phone world are:iPhoneAndroidPalm PreWindows MobileI think personally I can dismiss Windows Mobile because even though they are trying to claw back some reputation for their ASP.NET compact framework, they are too far behind now to compete in this market and are better placed for touch screen panels and Pocket PCs and other areas.I can also dismiss the Palm Pre, because although I love the look and idea of it, I think the fact that they are now under an O2 exclusivity contract is going to stop them from ever getting to the stage to fully compete with the iPhone.So this leaves Android. Good old faithful Google...I guess I started writing this post because it has just been announced that Google has launched its free Sat Nav service this week. This is a sat nav service that not only can show Google Earth photographs, but can even go down to use the new Google Street View. It can also hook up with Google traffic watch, and basically does everything that a top end Tom Tom or Road King can do (on a device that costs less and can be used as a phone as well).I believe with one foul swoop they have probably just killed off the Sat Nav device business and firmly positioned themselves as the best and cheapest (free) service, so who can compete?I also believe that because Android is Open and the phones aren’t locked then I can take my Vodafone pay as you go SIM and plonk it straight into an android phone and it will work (unlike the iPhone with its locked device state).So what about the business models and their future?The best analogy I've heard is that Android is like Windows - runs on many different hardware set-ups whereas iPhone OS only runs on iPhone hardware. So it's the classic Windows vs MAC debate all over again. And the windows approach (lots of hardware support) is the proven winner over time. I don’t want to start a Mac / Microsoft debate on here, and I am not saying which is bet[...]
Tue, 18 Aug 2009 10:46:00 +0000Many moons ago Victoria Sills provided us with some designs for our web site. We liked them a lot since they were clean and concise which was exactly what we were looking for. She's a talented designer and artist - check out her work at http://www.outofcontext.co.uk
Mon, 17 Aug 2009 13:55:00 +0000Even though we've been doing this as a company for four years (and as freelancers for much longer), it always surprises me how long it takes to do internal jobs. Several months ago we intended to relaunch our web site, the designs for it had been done and it should have simply been a case of converting those into a proper site structure and adding some content.
Thu, 13 Aug 2009 13:07:00 +0000Because there are many ways that a web page can be built up then it is important to ensure that what you are paying for is done to the highest possible standard. We are currently seeing a lot of people looking for HTML rewrites of their pages because of the following reasons:· When originally written it was made to look good in Internet Explorer 6 only, but the website no longer lines up correctly or looks like it was originally intended. This is because the newer browsers (like IE7, IE8, FireFox, Safari, and Google Chrome) use higher standards of HTML validation. So invalid code will now become far more obvious when people upgrade to the newer browsers. It used to be a case of Internet Explorer was the only widely used browser so other flavours didn’t need to be considered because the time taken to tailor the HTML for them was too expensive for the market share they owned.· Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) works best on a website that separates out its content from its styling using properly formatted
Fri, 18 Jan 2008 15:51:00 +0000I have worked with a lot of large corporations, and as a lot of others reading this might understand all too well, getting anything done always takes far longer than doing the same thing for a small business (SME)Usually the people who hold the purse strings don't talk to the people who want the system, and there are company procedures that have to be completed before a design is signed off as ready to implement. In fact I remember an old job where the pressure really came on (from the accounts department) to get the code written and delivered. Then once we spent all hours hitting the deadline, we found out that the IT department weren't ready for the system for another 4 months, and it sat on the shelf until they were ready. Aaah well, you have to laugh (or cry).Well a few years ago, I was working through another software house similar to mine, which in turn works for a very large corporation.Because my contact wasn't the major company then I can sit back and laugh at the procedure for getting this product to market. Don't get me wrong, I feel sorry for my customer because he is now going through what we have gone through before, and you can just see the frustration building up.I am not going to name customers or reference these on my website as a customer I have provided a solution for, so there is no need for you to try and find out who it is. The fact that I have my main customer as another SME shields me from the fact that the larger corporations can recognise me.Some large companies are fine (in case any of my repeat customers are reading this - it's not you heheh). But this project has the main paying customer (Company A), then another IT security company handles, well the security (Company B), and another large IT company handles the hosting, and server (Company C). We - well basically we do all the work.I wanted to just catalog the list of errors, because it may entertain some, and it may also show some, the pitfalls to avoiding these situations in future.So this is a system that has moved servers (decided by Company B and handled by Company C) and had an upgrade to server technologies, fully rewritten by me. Obviously being way down the chain, I cant get access to the server (there are many servers, ranging from development, to testing, to final server). We get an ftp to the development server, and there are some fancy replication things going on to get it to the other servers when signed off.So, major balls up number 1:The system gets written, and then goes to the development server and in turn the testing server, it goes through testing and some pages aren't accessing the database correctly. Instead of Company C seeing the blatant error message on the screen (Invalid database connection string) and sorting that out, the information gets passed down to my customer who then passes the problem to me. Except I cant get access to the server to find out the database user accounts.So I have to write a simple page with a textbox to enter a connection string, and then attempt to read a record from the database. I put that on the server, and allow Company C to enter connection strings, or set up database accounts until my test page says (Connection Successful).Then I can take that string and add it to the system. So what should of been a case of a network admin seeing the obvious error, changing the string and fixing it in ten minutes, this took a week to finally get fixed. But fair play to them, they managed to get the problem fixed and can tell their boss that they never compromised security doing so.Major Balls up number 2:The system finished testing and goes live. However the paying customer (Customer A) was never told about this, and now the public can use it, but the office admin hasn't been told about new procedures or account changes, and so get locked out of this very expensive system they have just paid for and don't kno[...]
Wed, 16 Jan 2008 11:09:00 +0000We've been doing small business websites, which used to be bread and butter work, especially when we were sole traders. But recently we've been making the decision to throw back some of these jobs, and give more of an advice role in the customer producing their own websites.More often than not, the customer doesn't appreciate the work involved in doing something like set up a simple website, with contacts page, and allowing to change content on a few pages. Perhaps adding a gallery for uploading previous work.By the time we tie down branding and logo, ease of use, navigation, and guiding the users eyes around the pages. Then building the structure and the admin side CMS, and making it SEO friendly (W3 standards, and all the Google toys set up) your looking at minimum 3 days work so over a grand and creeping up to 6K.The customers response might be:"Ooooph I only want a 6 page website, I was thinking more along the lines of 3 or 400 sheets?"So is the market coming to an end for this sized customer?We used to always take work on, and thought as long as work was coming our way then we couldn't fail.However, this end of the market, the small business that wants an online presence, or has had a simple electronic business card type website for years and wants a little more now, is turning into a non profit minimum wage job. If another design house does manage to sell the solution at a higher price then they take the profit and pass the technical stuff to us. Either way we get squeezed to produce the mechanics. Looking to the future, it becomes hard to see how the business is going to boom. The customers are seeing more and more automatic tools for creating templated sites, and wonder why a tailoring company charges so much. They are right to feel this too, the tools out there to get yourself a web presence or online shop are now vast, and it might be better for customers to take a little time and do it themselves, or employ a student at a cheaper rate to set up the CMS packages for them.We are now actively turning them away and giving more of an advice service to get them to use tools such as Google Apps.We did ask, should we be developing more of a generic CMS system ourselves that allows us to quickly knock out a website for someone, but over the last 10 years I have known at least 2 other businesses that have wanted this. The theory is back 15 years ago when I was doing my Computer Science Degree, the new buzzword was Object Oriented Programming. It was this great new thing utilising Borland C++, and was the wave of the future. It was going to allow us to create objects and eventually these objects can all be pulled off of the shelf and plugged into each other making systems development easier.Well that never really went according to plan, the way the university envisaged it, although we do write code for reuse ability, chances are when we come to reuse it, there is some new way, or new technology we have to consider and so rewrite or even recreate the object.But like I say other companies have tried and failed at CMS systems, and when I see the successful ones (Kentico, Sharepoint, or Commonspot) then to accommodate for all of the individual things a customer might want, these have turned into a programming language in their own right that could easily have a training course purely for themselves, so have moved away from the easy off the shelf packages they first tried to be.So where is the money now at in IT?We are skilled, I can get a computer to do anything, so if I try and leave the minimum wage market of programming websites for other Small Businesses, then where can I go to grab the big bucks?Creating our own products of interest to a market and getting funding.Recently I was on a stand at the Thames Gateway Forum (ExCel centre), and competing with Gordon Brown and Ken Livingston's speeches to get my p[...]
Thu, 13 Dec 2007 10:55:00 +0000Well I always swore by the Z800 headset back when I was thinking of writing software, tools and games for the Virtual Reality market.
Thu, 08 Nov 2007 12:09:00 +0000Well I am seeing more and more now about how mobile devices are taking off and people are talking about how easy it is to work while on the move.I have seen recent success stories, and other not so successfuly stories.This is at the front of my mind at the moment because I have just finished writing a project for Windows Mobile 2003 and Windows Mobile 5 Devices.I have always liked the Microsoft Compact Framework, right back from when I was working with Windows Mobile 2002, and leaps forward with some of the frameworks communications tools and GUI controls have made recent projects very impressive for the end users. The latest application I have written is to tie in with a Server application written by us so that it can go out in the field and gather data.It connects to the network either by a Cradle to PC connection, or a CF card with a SIM card connected to a networks GPRS, or with WiFi hotspots.Thinking about 2 of these 3 ways of connecting (GPRS and WiFi) I thought I would write a little something down about my experiences with working mobile a couple of years back and what are the differences now.2 years ago I went travelling with my girlfriend. We ripped the seats out of a Landrover 110 and fitted a double bed, fridge, power points and an auxhilliary battery, so I essentially had a mobile home / office that could off road to some beautiful spots for a few days at a time.Firstly we took it round the UK for a couple of months because there is always loads on your doorstep that you never appreciate, and back then people were getting into WiFi. A lot of houses had never even heard of encryption and WEP and WPA and it was quite easy to pull up on a roadside, link into a network and send work in and get the next assignment. Hotspots were a little more expensive in that I remember up in Glasgow I wanted to link into the BT hotspot at McDonalds. It was 10 pounds for 24 hours access which wasnt too bad, but when you moved around it was quite difficult to find parking within range of these spots. More often than not I was having to sit in cafes and public places and work which wasnt the plan, I wanted to be sitting on a beach working. I can remember one time up in the Highlands I had no WiFi hotspots nearby and had to rely on my GPRS to work with. Back then it cost £1 per MegaByte. I was working on a flash project which was a 7MB file, so cost £7 to download it, £7 to upload the new one, and I invariably then got comments from the customer to say "Oooh can you just tweak this or change this text". Simple changes, but always cost me another £7 to get the update to them. So back then GPRS was very expensive, and WiFi was too few and far between to be able to rely on it and keep customers happy that they can always get hold of you and get files to and from you.NOW however I still have my Landy kitted out, and were thinking of heading off again. Only 4 weeks this time, but it is a little too long to leave work totally, so I will be expecting to work on the road again.With setting up GPRS for my latest project I saw that the deals now are £1 per day (15 MB maximum content) which is fantastic because you can get GPRS coverage from the beach. I have also signed up for a new deal with BT where I allow part of my BT broadband to be used by anyone (public access) and in return when I travel around I should then have access to other peoples broadband that have made this same pledge. The scheme is young at the moment, but the final intention would obviously be to WiFi the whole of Britan so that you can get free access wherever you may be. These 2 things combined (GPRS cheaper price and BT WiFi sharing scheme) makes it extremely attractive to try and go travelling around now and carry on working. Perhaps I was a little premature in tryin[...]
Thu, 18 Oct 2007 13:08:00 +0000Well its been nearly 2 years since us 2 freelancers decided to club together and start up our IT Software Solutions company and things have progressively got better and better.
Mon, 01 Oct 2007 08:58:00 +0000Well we are growing at a good pace now, and I can see that there are some things you have to really make sure you keep a control of as a company before they get out of hand.
Fri, 15 Jun 2007 14:35:00 +0000Well the IT industry seems to have taken off recently.
Thu, 12 Apr 2007 12:14:00 +0000Hi again. A quick update to my blog now to show some of what I have been playing with since I wrote my first game to use the Wiimote and nunchuk.It is obvious that the main intention of the Wiimote and Nunchuk is to provide the gamer with an input device that is a little more realistic than just a joypad with buttons. Part of the Wii's huge popularity at the moment is the fact that you can swing, punch and swoosh the control about and it reacts. People at the moment dont really care that the tennis game doesnt allow you to position your player on the court and tactically read what the other player is doing, as long as it hits the ball when you swing your Wiimote then that is enough for now.So I had a play around with Wiimote and Nunchuk, and it brought back all of the memories of going to the sea front with my dad when I was a nipper and putting £2.00 (which was a fortune in them days) into the VR machines on the sea front arcades and playing a Dogfighting game with the huge Virtual Reality headsets on. I find it a bit sad that Virtual Reality didnt take off as much in the end and fully blame the games console for this. Dont get me wrong I love the console, but it did mean that development was lost in the Arcade machine. On another side note, whatever happened to those Sony Hologram Cowboy machines? They dissapeared off the face of the earth heheh.Anyway I am detracting.So I am sitting at home with my new Wiimote Game and I am wondering what can be done to make this kind of thing more immersive and more like Virtual Reality seeing as this is what is being hinted on with the Wii in the first place. I then remember that I have a projector, and some edimensional 3D shutter glasses, so I get them out to play and dust them off and I had a blast.Now this is something I didnt expect, instead of just copying Wii games and motions, I am now probably the first person who has immersed themselves into a world stood in front of my wall (projector screen) which the shutter glasses makes look full 3D and I am boxing. I am actually seeing the boxing gloves in front of me swinging when I swing my arms. THIS IS GREAT. And this got me excited.Perhaps Virtual Reality could get a second wind and make a come back. So now I am thinking about all of the possibilities that a projector, 3D shutter glasses, a wiimote and a nunchuk could actually have, and how this could re crown the PC as the king of the games machines once again.Before I go on, a brief bit about my games writing history:I started off 20 years ago writing 2D games moving sprites around on the Commodore 64. I quickly progressed to using STOS on the Atari ST (for those of you not in the know it was a hacked about version of BASIC specifically meant for 2D games writing).This was all schoolboy hobby stuff and never really went anywhere.Since then I got my qualifications and got into the wide world of programming applications for business which consisted of loads of grey dialogue boxes with grey buttons that did the job but never looked very cool.More recently most of the work has gone back to Web applications which although they still need to do the teccy stuff, now demand that they look cool, so programmers had to become designers and vice versa. It was at this time that I realised I could get back into the world of games development and away from the grey boxes. It is also true to say that it is no longer kids spending their £1.99 for a Mastertronic cassette tape down at the local newsagents, but it is a business that is big enough for people who know what they are doing to make a fair bit of money.Well the good news is I havent forgotten my childhood dreams and I have got back[...]
Wed, 11 Apr 2007 16:24:00 +0000I have done it.I am so proud.To be honest anybody looking at it may think that it looks like a load of old pants, but I dont care. There was a fair bit of work involved, but I have completed my first game using a Wiimote and a Nunchuk to control it.At the moment I havent sorted out the 3D engine license to mass release it so it is playable for people who have a license for the TV3D engine only.I intend to let anybody have the source code who wants it and who wants to play around with it and make their own additions to it. If you do make any changes then could you please let me know either in this blog or on my website to let me know what other people want from wiimote games.Anyway the game:It is basically a punching game. I thought along the lines of the punching games at an arcade where you punch as hard as you can and see the results on the screen.When you start up the game you will see a smiley face and a couple of boxing gloves and you punch using the Wiimote and the Nunchuk to cause damange to the face. I want to take this oppurtunity to thank Terry Bailey for supplying the 3D boxing gloves as I am not very good at 3D modelling. I may colour them in at some point if this game starts to prove popular with anybody.After a determined amount of damage has been caused then you will get a final score on how long it took you to knock Mr Happy out.You can walk around using the Wiimote direction buttons and you can look around using the Nunchuk Joystick.Because the Wiimote and Nunchuk are secondary controls then you can also control the game using the PC (using the mouse and cursor keys to move and look around and using the I and P buttons to punch).It has taught me a lot, especially the intricacies that are involved with understanding the acceleration readings that comes from a controller and translating that information to an in game action.I may take this game further and add multiple faces that you can hit, and make the images editable so that you can use your own images to punch which might make a nice little stress reliever for some people. I may leave it here and move onto a different game and try out some other types of Wiimote and Nunchuk motions. I havent decided yet.But if you want to have a play, then please feel free to get the game from my Wiimote Games section of my fun website here:If you want to leave any comments or ideas then please feel free to leave them on the message section of my website here: Or email me through our Main Software Development Website contacts page here:Thanks,L.[...]
Fri, 30 Mar 2007 23:36:00 +0000This is an update for where I am with writing PC Games that utilise the Wiimote and Nunchuk.
Fri, 16 Mar 2007 10:12:00 +0000I have had a couple of days spare between jobs and I thought about some viral marketing for our sister website for fun and useful applications to experiment with. Partly because it is always good for a company, but also because it gives me a chance to write something funky and fun.Games are always a passion of mine, and I have gained some skills recently with the Truevision 3D games engine, specifically to do with First Person Shooter (FPS) style gameplay. While looking around I became amazed by the breakthrough that has been made with getting the nintendo wii controls to work on a PC. There seems to be a few drivers emerging now and I have had a look at them to see what would aid me the best in a C# set of PC 3D games.The best used wiimote driver has to be the GlovePIE set up.I have found problems with this, in that you have to run the GlovePIE program and run a script before you can run your own program. This is too fidly for me. I then saw that somebody had embedded a wiimote driver inside a Half Life 2 mod which looked much better. They havent released their source code yet, so I have had to look elsewhere.At the moment I am settling on one of two solutions:1- A C++ driver that I should be able to translate to C# and embed2- A C# driver.I think I will go for the C# one because I believe that includes nunchuk support.I think these drivers will be getting better and more robust. If they could attempt an auto pair setup with the wiimotes then that would be excellent but for now, you have to go through pairing the wiimote yourself before running any code. A quick hint on doing this is hold down the wiimote buttons 1+2, and add bluetooth device, then skip pairing and click finish, the wiimote should now be useable with your PC (I know some bluetooth stacks have had problems with this but I now think that these issues are fixed).Anyway onto the game. The control is excellent, I have played around with oscillators and seen exactly what the PC reads when the wii is held in all manor of positions and moved.I am not using the sensor bar for the main reason that I would like it if somebody could just go and buy a wiimote for around £30 and start using it on the PC. The sensor bar is only for steadying the pointer anyway so it isnt needed for the types of games I am thinking of doing.This does lead me to think that there could be a whole new market opening up here for the PC gaming market. Nintendo have recently announced that they are selling their games development kits for around $2000, which while it is a lot cheaper than development kits for other consoles, it still isn't as cheap as Visual C# Express for the PC (its free). This means there is guaranteed to be a lot more homebrewers ready to develop games on the PC platform but using the wiimote's original input style. It also means there is a much bigger audience for the games.While trying to find out the legalities with this and what Nintendo may try and do about it, I have come to the conlcusion that if I write a game for the PC, but it also caters for wiimote and nunchuk controlling then that should keep me legal as far as releasing any games to the masses.I didnt want to get bogged down with the 3D graphics, and game design yet until I was sure that all pieces of the puzzle would work together. So for my first test I have so far put together a little world that you can run around, and in front of you are two objects: A wiimote, and a banana. These items were grabbed from the Google sketchup warehouse, there is no nunchuk there so that is why I chose a banana as it is a similar shape. A[...]
Mon, 12 Mar 2007 09:56:00 +0000We have recently registered some other domain names.
Mon, 05 Mar 2007 15:25:00 +0000It was brought to my attention recently that Google Apps had re-branded and are now trying out different tools to help people with their web presence.We wanted to register a new domain to have a play around with this, so I joined up and registered a test domain here: Cambridge and Peterborough software developers test partner website.So I signed up at the Google Apps pages, and registered the domain.From the front menu there is a bit of confusion with 2 categories of pages to sort out. There is a link to sort out the start pages, and there is a link to sort out the web pages.I didn’t know the difference, so I thought I would sort out the start pages seeing as it makes sense to start at the start.What happened then was I sorted out the content, and put on a couple of blogs, a weather report, and a calendar. I then waited to see this start page turn up at the http://www.altfuzion.com and after about a week, it still never turned up. It always stayed at start.altfuzion.comSo I went back and re visited the account and saw that the webpages were still blank even though the start page was set up. I then set up the webpages which at the moment is a title and a piece of text just introducing what I am trying to do with the Google Apps account.That now does come up at the intended application URL. Because I now have an ASP.NET (dot net) website that I don’t want to break so I will leave that alone, and I can now use www.altfuzion.com as a blank canvas to try out any number of tools and technologies. I have found so far that Google states they do not give any preferential treatment to pages or websites that are held and created on Google Page Creator.It just has the same precedence as any other website on the internet.It should be worth mentioning: We have registered our test domain http://www.altfuzion.com to run through googlepages, although with my googlepages account I can actually register 4 domains in total to have other domains to experiment with. These domains are all within the http://########.googlepages.com area however so I don’t really see a need to explore this further, I will be sticking with http://www.altfuzion.com which points to http://www.altfuzion.com-a.googlepages.com/ only for my experiments.I am now looking into Google Gadgets and Widgets to see what it is about, and there seems to be a wealth of Widgets that have been written for google pages.Some of these are free and some are costly, but all are supposedly easy to install through my main Google Page Creator.I am going to have a test page to hold gadgets and widgets that I will make public.You can view my google widgets test page here.Questions I have to be answered are:Can I make a robots.txt and sitemap.XML ?It does state there is 100MB of storage space. Can I upload pages directly to my space, or do I have to go through their interface.If I can upload pages, can I upload aspx (ASP.NET) pages, or is there any kind of server side technology that I can utilize?Is there any database technology that I can utilize on their storage space?[...]
Fri, 02 Mar 2007 15:29:00 +0000I don’t want this post to be a rant, because it is a serious question that I want to explore and invite comments on, to really try and find an answer to this problem.The main underlying question is:Why should we have to charge £1000+ a day to get the big contracts?It's not a bad thing I guess if you can keep getting those contracts, but consider the following scenario:Buying a car.When buying a car you don’t go for the cheapest because you perhaps want a little bit of luxury (say an air bag and an alarm).You wouldn’t buy the most expensive car because you know that in this industry you can sometimes pay a lot for essentially the badge on the bonnet.So you would read reviews, and take test drives and weigh it up and try and find something in the middle that offers good value for money.So there is a massive difference between the car (and other) industry and the software industry that I would like to try and highlight.After spending my time in the saddle getting experience working on some very large projects I can confidently say that I know what I am doing.Some of my systems are now being used in the front line of today's technology, and I am proud to be able to point out different solutions and say "I did that". What’s more, I did it correctly, and it is still useful many years later.As well as the bespoke software solutions that I have provided with my company, I had written many huge systems while working for other companies.I wrote the system that automates Sunblest bakeries, so all bread including Kingsmill is made on my SCADA system. Its the same for Quavers crisps, and a lot of Britain’s pasta.I wrote simulators and emulator device drivers for Hitachi smart cards and micro controllers, so I can say that today's state of technology with the microchip and smart card systems is partly (maybe even largely) thanks to tools that I generated.I have also had input to the Ministry of Defence and know that systems I wrote for them are still being used today to help defend our country (Details are bound by the official secrets act).And I wrote some of the tools for the initial Tandem systems that were the building blocks for online banking.So now that I own my own business, why do I face problems when trying to sell my skills to a large company for a cheaper price than other software houses that have half of our experience?This is an interesting question at the moment, and I think it can have a lot to do with the first impression given merely by the quote.When a small business like mine tries to approach a customer to let them know that we are the best people to provide their software system, then we can always hit a problem because we are competing with professional sales staff from other companies. I know that when trying to sell something then, a sales professional is going to be better than a software engineer, but is that really what the customer wants? Problems that can arise from this is that the software engineers cannot actually provide half of the ‘blag’ that a sales person has said to get the job, and this is where projects fall down (NHS and Passport office are prime examples).So on top of a sales professional knowing to say exactly what the customer wants to hear, what else could be tipping the scales away from small businesses on getting these contracts?I know that larger software provider companies have many expenses including the following: employing a sales team, an accountant, a secretary, the director probably doesn’t know[...]
Thu, 22 Feb 2007 09:54:00 +0000While trying to learn something about Search Engine Optimisation, I had a customer that wanted their website promoting.This was great as it gave me the opportunity to hone my skills while earning a little bit of money from it. This opportunity would hopefully allow me to get some experience and reputation to say that our company can now offer successful search engine optimisation and a solid online marketing plan for other small businesses that want to raise their web presence.My task:The main search engines to optimise for were the main 3 for the UK and .COM so that was:www.google.comwww.google.co.ukwww.yahoo.comwww.yaho.co.ukwww.msn.comwww.msn.co.ukand I was optimising mainly for the following 3 search terms:CIM, CMI, ISMMWith a view to secondary optimisation for the following search terms:marketing course, Marketing qualification, Marketing course London, CIM Course, CIM London, and CIM qualificationI think I have come into this at the right time because things are changing, especially with Google. They have released a lot more tools recently to help people like me to monitor, test and plan my Search Engine Optimisation strategy. These tools are Webmasters tools including sitemaps, and Google Analytics.Last year they changed the way that they were going to index the internet. It was becoming more apparent that they weren’t going to be able to hold everything public that is on the net, so they had to think about dropping old content, and keeping the useful stuff. This was the ‘BIG DADDY’ update and it showed a way forward that they are aiming to stop tricksters from pushing their search results to the top using lazy methods.More recently (well currently) from January to March 2007 they are making more updates to their search spiders and they are totally changing the way in which it works. There is a lot of speculation now about the way in which this will work, and people are keeping an eye on what Matt Cutts has got to say on the issue, but it looks like it will be another step to stop quick fix methods and to reward people who have put in the legwork. Anyway, Since the start of the year and trying this out, I have been keeping records of search positions for certain words for my customer’s company, and I am proud to say that I have jumped him in the search results from around 150th in the list now up to 7th so they are now on the first page.I am proud of my efforts because it means that I was working on the right tracks, and I believe that I know what to do as well as what to steer clear of in future.I will now be advertising that we can help with Search Engine Optimisation as one of our skills on our company website.Regards,Lindsay.[...]
Sun, 18 Feb 2007 14:24:00 +0000I thought I would write a little something about my marketing findings and the way that standard search engine optimisation (SEO) seems to be pulling solutions away from geographic locations. This is also generating new problems for customers who are looking for a bespoke I.T. solutions provider and would prefer to find one near to them.altFusion is based in Anglia (offices in Cambridge and Peterborough). I would say that only about twenty five percent of our customers are actually based in the Anglia region however. Currently there's the Cambridge Professional Academy based in Cambridge, The Edge Agency based in Elseworth, BEA building and clay products based in Huntingdon, and St Edmundsbury and Uttlesford Councils.This doesn’t usually produce a problem in that we can work remotely, and would only need to meet the customer once to gain their trust and then we can be left to work and communicate through the internet to build their bespoke applications.Some solutions do require more travelling. We have had to travel to places like Westminster and to the Welsh National Assembly a lot more for researching and systems implementation.As I have said earlier, some customers might want to find a solutions provider that lives close to them as it gives them a piece of mind that they can visit any time and keep more of an eye on their solution/application to aid them with their project control. But with the communications revolution at the stage where it is now, it allows the same trust and control to be built up no matter how far apart the solutions providers and customers may be.One main example of the way this may be hurting customers finding providers is; recently I received a request from a company in Leeds who used an American website to find a UK software application programmer. The website was taking bids in dollars only - so was meant for USA contracts to be advertised and found.The truth is that their solution was a simple back office product using Coldfusion and MySQL, and chances are there would probably be a solutions provider that could of done it for them that are based within 2 or 3 miles of their offices.It seems a shame that they now have to pay this USA company royalties and go through their Escrow payments system, and lose more money to try and find their solutions provider, when they are probably working to a set budget for the whole software application anyway.One very good way that I like of getting around this problem is the Google Maps directory, and the Microsoft Local directories of companies. I believe that this will revolutionise the way that customers can find people to provide applications, programs or anything really. I would like to see more of gmaps and MS Local being used in other areas of the web say in things like ebay bids, so that you can know how far away something is from you visually and instantly, to see if you would rather collect it yourself, than pay the delivery charge.I think that wanted ads and requests would also benefit from these mapping services greatly so that you can request something and specify a radius from a central point of where you would like that request answered. This would make the sourcing of solutions providers vastly more efficient for the company with the problem, and then the money spent on a solution could be spent more on its development rather on the advertising and procurement process.I do have a lot of experience with writing Google gmaps[...]
Wed, 14 Feb 2007 09:52:00 +0000I have been hearing a lot of buzzwords lately about ROR sitemaps.