Virtuous cycle

Bartlomiej Owczarek weblog

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I’m going to try Rails on EC2

I’m not exactly in a stage of getting into technical details, but I already kind of decided that I will switch to Ruby on Rails for development of the current project.

Reasons: learning rails would probably be no harder than staying with PHP and learning framework like Zend, which is where I stopped last time.

And RoR promises much improvement with time-to-market.

Having sort of decision on rails, I wanted to have an initial idea of available hosting options, also for the needs of a “back of an envelope” business case.

I’m very happy with my current provider, progreso, but sadly they don’t support rails on shared servers, yet. If I wanted to host with them, I would have to buy a dedicated server anyway.

But as far as dedicated servers are concerned, Amazon’s EC2 looks much more attractive (at least at a first glance).

As for pricing, basic virtual servers are cheaper than in case of progreso (like, $70 a month excluding bandwidth and additional storage).

Additionally, path to hosting Rails applications on EC2 seems already well-beaten. For example here: Deploy a Ruby on Rails app on EC2 in five minutes. There are even Polish startups (shoptrix) who chose this solution.

And of course the most advertised benefit of using EC2 is the ability to increase capacity on pay-as-you-go basis, by easily launching new virtual servers when necessary.

Status: I’m almost done with the legal setup

Today I ticked tax office off the list, so the only thing remaining is visiting social insurance administration.

I registered for e-accounting solution (iFirma), which looks trendy, but whether they can provide enough expert support online is another topic. There is certain risk to it, but I wanted to give it a try.

I’m also finalizing desk research phase of Ogito and moving to actually talking to the people in the industry, which should be much more fun. Especially taking into account that the industry is fun in itself, by definition.

From technical side, I’m fascinated with Rails and waiting for the shipment of books from the UK.

I’m getting into ever friendlier terms with my Mac:

I discovered that I can use my legacy LCD as an extended desktop, which should be helpful later on.

Got a fixed phone number… from skype

I wanted to renew credit for skype calling, but in the process I discovered that I can set up a fixed phone number as well.

This is really cool, and just in time when I thought that it would be nice to have some kind of a fixed line number. But a fixed number without having to get actual fixed line is even better.

Unlimited local calls don’t hurt either.

If I figure how to set up a fax on this number, then it would really satisfy all my phone related needs.

Update: unfortunately it seems faxing is not really something you can do on voip.

City shops my data around as if there was no tomorrow

About a week ago I made the first step to formally become an entrepreneur – I went to the municipal authority of Warsaw (my district, actually) and applied for registration.

This was the first and only place that got the tip of this development, but I already received an unsolicited (but personalized with the data I gave to the office) offer from ING SME banking, and another from an accounting office.

Authority apparently has quite a liberal policy of sharing official information.

Surprise: HP wifi printer can’t print through wifi

I spent a good part of my day configuring a stupid HP printer.

Other highlights of the day included handling a visit of Ikea workers, who arrived with faulty furniture and now require another follow-up for replacement, scheduling another driving exam (last two attempts: one overslept, one missed due to calendar mistake), and watching the apartment being cleaned.

Not that productive day really. But these things need to be done to move forward so it’s not a complete waste of time either.

At least unpacking and assembling the printer (HP L7780 all-in-one) was kind of fun:

But then it turned that the best I could get from device’s wifi connection was scanning, but unfortunately not printing.

Files sent to the printer were like signals dispatched to alien civilizations, sent and gone met in a silence with no outcome whatsoever.

Maybe it’s the problem of HP’s lousy drivers for Mac.

Since printer is next to the router, lack of wifi is no big deal. But still frustrating to pay premium for functions which end up not working anyway.

Shopping in Ikea [economizing]

Ok so I’m not really great in cost saving, but at least I’m trying and that’s why I went to Ikea on Sunday.

Surprisingly the visit was a great success!

I covered almost all the gaps in my apartment (with a goal of making it a perfect SOHO office): sofa table, large book shelf, CD/DVD shelf, sofa lamp, paper trays, folders etc. Now sofa will become a secondary full-fledged work space. Or a chill-out space.

I’m still missing bathroom door, but this cannot be helped with Ikea.

By the way, isn’t it absurd that even though Ikea has: online directory, paper directory, transport facility – I cannot simply order stuff online? I think it is. I sent them feedback, and they replied that they are still developing.

Sadly, I cannot make myself try to familiarize with state health insurance… so I decided to prolong my corporate medicover coverage. Now I have to pay for it myself. But at least I will not have to worry about falling sick and not knowing whom to call.

Skills no guarantee of success, but important

Lifehacker’s list of skills important to succeed:

  1. Public speaking
  2. Writing
  3. Self-management
  4. Networking
  5. Critical thinking
  6. Decision-making
  7. Math
  8. Research
  9. Relaxation
  10. Basic accounting

I don’t really agree that skills are most critical factors for success (vision is), but surely many of these are important.

The ones I personally plan to work on in nearest future are relaxation and self-management.

From September I will have no choice but to master “basic accounting”, too.

Now Provident accuses social lending sites of unfair competition

See article in Gazeta Prawna. Provident, provider of home-delivered and rather pricey cash loans, accuses Monetto, a social lending startup, of unfair comparison of interest rates on its loans.

If Provident’s goal was to give social lending additional publicity, then it greatly succeeded. Average reader will remember from the article that you can get cheap loans on the Internet and that Provident is expensive and therefore afraid of social lending sites.

Fortunately for Provident, Gazeta Prawna is probably read by a tiny percentage of their target customer base.

Corporate workers compared to caged animals

Is working in a corporation a waste of life and learning opportunities?

Paul Graham attacks corporate way of work in his essay You weren’t meant to have a boss. The essay starts rather strong with the analogy based on observing a group of programmers taking part in corporate team-building event. He compared them to the programmers that he typically works with, who typically happen to be founders of their own companies:

I was in Africa last year and saw a lot of animals in the wild that I’d only seen in zoos before. It was remarkable how different they seemed. Particularly lions. Lions in the wild seem about ten times more alive. They’re like different animals. And seeing those guys on their scavenger hunt was like seeing lions in a zoo after spending several years watching them in the wild.

Then he goes into more detail and argues that people are not meant to work in too large groups. Of course, corporations are aware of this and divide people into small teams to avoid management problems:

Companies know groups that large wouldn’t work, so they divide themselves into units small enough to work together. But to coordinate these they have to introduce something new: bosses.

These smaller groups are always arranged in a tree structure. Your boss is the point where your group attaches to the tree.

The tree structure implies, according to him, that at a group (represented by a manager) should work as if it were one individual, otherwise a higher level group composed of managers would not be able to operate.

As a result, the higher the tree, the less freedom of action is available to individual team member:

Anyone who’s worked for a large organization has felt this. You can feel the difference between working for a company with 100 employees and one with 10,000, even if your group has only 10 people.

His conclusion: corporation does not provide a good learning environment, specifically for programmers. In corporation, programmer will see his ideas blocked by the structure and legacy way of doing things. As a result, he will learn less. Best way to start is through own startup or joining organization which is small enough.

Statements like this can provoke some strong responses. Jeff Atwood, for example, attributes all this talk to Graham’s narcissistic (and self-interested) idea of a perfect career path. It’s true, but Graham spent a good deal of his essay admitting his bias.

Almost everyone would agree that working in a founding team of 10 gives the individual more freedom than working in 75,000-strong organization. But not everyone would agree that one cannot learn anything useful in a corporation. Actually a lot of people, including me (though I’m not a programmer), treat working in a corporation as a learning stage before going after own ideas.

Also, corporation provides resources unavailable in a startup. Joshua Haberman commented about benefits of working in Google:

All the boring sysadmin stuff is taken care of. There’s extremely good components you can use for your projects so you don’t have to reinvent the basics (RPC, storage, monitoring, etc) yet again. Your job is to solve big, hard problems and your toolbox is filled with the best of what the brilliant programmers around you have come up with. They’ve iterated many times and solved problems you wouldn’t have even imagined at the outset. And yet there’s always more to do, because the data gets bigger and the appetite for bigger problems grows.

Then again, does knowing that all this stuff exists make it easier or more difficult to start your own company at some stage?

It’s better not to know that something is impossible because then you simple go ahead and do it. In other words, if you are going to start from scratch, maybe better start earlier, while you are happily unaware of all the reasons why you shouldn’t.

Looking at the people who went startup way from the very beginning it’s hard for me to tell if they are better off, because I still work in the corporation. But I’m going to find out.

Inteliwise, Polish AI company, will go to NewConnect

Internet Standard published interview with CEO of Inteliwise, a Polish company which deals with AI technologies in search. On market since 2005.

The company plans to debut on NewConnect, a Polish stock exchange for high-tech companies.

I don’t have time to investigate it’s products at the moment, but the Company seems to understand what is most important for the AI:

Inteliwise avatar

A decent front-end.

Other thoughts: looks like an interesting company to watch (or even invest in).

P2P lending on bootstrap – notes

Between burger and an ice cream in Hard Rock Cafe I jotted down notes from today’s bootstrap. I needed them in electronic form anyway. I wrote down stuff which seemed useful for me, so it’s not guaranteed to be complete.

This time it was in an unusual for boostrap form of a panel. Meeting took 3 hours, but I found it very interesting. Technical people might beg to differ, though, as tax/legal discussion was really exhaustive (exhausting).

I made some comments below in the notes, but here I can also share my “first impression” of the P2P lenders present. It is really first impression because I didn’t bother to check them myself, so some doubts below might be result of this.

  • Finansowo – approach to start as simple as possible, no collections or support in executing transactions between peers. The biggest risk is that some things that they ignore seem critical (collections).

  • Monetto (blog)- most advanced approach, ensured partners from the beginning, including bank (mBank) and collectors. The biggest risk is that they start with a very complicated machine that no-one will use.

  • Kokos – midway between the two, with the advantage that it is already up and running.

On a first glance I like Finansowo and Monetto, because they follow clear-cut concepts of simplicity and exhaustiveness, while Kokos was less clear, at least as much can be judged from the presentation, and also takes cautious approach regarding some legal challenges (e.g. possibility to grant anonymity and stick to electronic contract form).

(read more…)

Bootstrap: Ruby stuff and Blip, not a twitter clone at all

Today I visited Bootstrap meeting for the first time, so now I feel obliged to write a post about it. Even better to write it before Albert does.

In fact, I thought I would be horse riding at the time of the meeting. But you have to live by your principles, and one of my principles is, don’t ride horses in a shitty weather. The weather was awful all day.

The place

Chlodna 25. Nice place! Never been there either. It’s a cafe and there is also a room downstairs, where the presentations took place. And there are lots of board games available that you can play.

I arrived exactly at 12, took a chair from above because there was already no free places in the basement and ordered an apple pie (12 was early enough for me to miss breakfast), and the presentation started. (read more…)

China not so easy for the VC

Article by David Hornik (VC) on his impressions from trip to China.

One line summary (I’m in a hurry:): Chinese market is great, but there are few real entrepreneurs. And there is no effective legal protection for investors, so you have to count on the culture not to get screwed by Chinese entrepreneurs. But unfortunately the culture makes it ok to screw foreign investors.

Make others see things as you see them

?To succeed in business it is necessary to make others see things as you see them.?? John H. Patterson, 19th century industrialist and founder of National Cash Register Company (NCR). Patterson established one of the nation?s first sales training academies. (through FoundRead)

Approach to evaluate ideas

Just reading an interesting structure to evaluate ideas by Evan Williams (summary by FoundRead):

  • Tractability: How difficult will it be to launch a worthwhile version 1.0?
  • Obviousness: Is it clear why people should use it?
  • Deepness: How much value can you ultimately deliver?
  • Wideness: How many people may ultimately use it?
  • Discoverability: How will people learn about your product?
  • Monetizability: How hard will it be to extract the money?
  • Personally Compelling: Do you really want it to exist in the world?

Might come handy (I plan to check my latest ideas against these points).

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