Working with the people you admire

posted in Internships on May 23rd, 2008

Let me tell you a story: a couple of years ago, back when I was still living in Austria, I discovered an application, called Trillian, a multi-network chat application that just worked.

Trillian was (and still is being) designed by Pak-Kei Mak, better known as kid, who, back then, was “just” a student who won a design competition.

Trillian’s design appealed to me; it was new, it was non-standard, it carried the mood factor and it had emoticons that, to this very day, make me smile (or frown, depending on the selected emotion).

Kid, besides being a kick-ass designer, also did some PHP coding on the side and created a script that would index a directory in the same (visual) style as Windows XP, and I loved that, as did Ben.

In fact, we enjoyed the greatness of said script so much that we basically created a clone of the whole indexer, distributed it amongst friends and made a few people happy with it, oh, and Ben and me close contacts of each other, often conversing long hours on the most interesting (or the most ridiculous) topics.

Fast-forward to January 2007, when I was invited to the Trillian Astra Alpha-testing cycle and decided, on a whim, to start a conversation with Kid, after all, this was my chance to talk to one of those that I admire.

One conversation quickly became many, admiration was joined by respect, advice, dare I say: (online) friendship? In any case, we felt that we struck a note with each other and we got along very well, so well, that Kid and I started working together.

At first, our collaborations only included brainstorms on various things, basically toying with ideas and sharing some dreams with each other, up until a point where I asked Kid to step up to the plate and design something for me. His work turned out great (more on that in another post) and we decided to continue our collaboration in the future.

A couple of weeks ago, when my first internship was entering the home lane, I had to make a decision: would I go for the medium or big company with the well-known name and earn a few pesetos but probably do stuff I have been doing the past couple of years, or would I go for the company that is not even a company but much rather an idea.

In my (professional) life, most of my choices have been about doing the thing that I am the most passionate about, I am interested in learning new skills and hone old(er) skills much more than I am in making a big buck (at least, right now) and so I went for the idea that I am passionate about.

From June 3rd, 2008 up until, at least, sometime mid-August 2008, Pak-Kei and me will be on a journey, a journey of exploration. We will be battling against many of the same things that (web) start-ups have to deal with and if bad meets worse on the way and they manage to get along well enough, we might end up with nothing but great experiences.

And in fact, the few people I discussed this with mostly told me, often in very specific terms to drop the idea of makin’ a big buck and just go work for an established company and be done with it.

While I value the input of the people around me, I believe that the following quote sums it up best:

He who tries and fails is wiser (and happier) than he who does not try out of fear of failure

And that is why I am going.

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geeky tools you will want to use

posted in Guides on February 8th, 2007

FYI: If you’re living in the Netherlands, this post might be of some interest to you, if not, the following information has little value to you:

This is just a short post about some “tools” I’ve been using for quite some time now: MSN Chatbots that don’t care about mining social data from their users but rather provide them with a service.

Bot #1 is - a chatbot that provides Dutchies with information about movies that are currently running in theaters around the country.

The first step is to tell the bot where you are, then you select the number of the movie you’re planning to watch and you’ll get all the information you need:



Bot #2 is - this chatbot is powered by ABN AMRO and provides users with an update on their bank account’s balance.

This one is really simple, there’s only one step actually: say “Saldo 1234″, whereby you exchange 1234 for the last four digits of the account you’d like to check and you’ll get an update.



Hint: If you’re using a custom IM Client, like Trillian, you can turn off logging for this account to ensure your privacy.

Bot #3 is - this chatbot is actually available to everyone. Like the name says, this is the Encarta bot. Encarta is a digital encyclopedia, that rose to fame before Wikipedia was conceived but has lost quite some users in recent years. Nonetheless, this bot is very useful, even more so if you have Encarta installed locally:

This bot is the smartest one of all, it is able to do maths and answer simple questions and follow up with stuff. It also remembers if it spoke to you before and tries to emulate feelings, so be kind:



I’m quite certain that other countries have similar services available, good luck with finding them!

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Missile Impact!

posted in Tech Talk on January 6th, 2007

Normally, I don’t blog this late (or early, depends on how you look at it) but I had to get some work done for a client of mine and as such, I kept checking my email every now and then for new stuff. I was just about to close down when the one email I’ve been waiting for for quite some time finally arrived.

Cerulean Studios just opened up the Trillian Astra Alpha to a bigger group of testers, me included. Now, if you know me, you know that if there’s one thing I try to evangelize, it’s most definitely the software that, more or less, controls my online life. While this piece of software might be a simple replacement for MSN Messenger, AIM, Y! Messenger or Google Talk, Trillian, to me, is truly the hub of everything online.

Back in May 2006, the lead developer of Trillian offered people a chance to be included in the beta testing, I signed up and now, more than half a year later, I’m looking at the goodness that is Astra. I can’t write much about it, yet, since I haven’t anything, but rest assured, over the following days I will certainly blog about my favorite software some more.

For now, you’ll have to make do with this here.

Note: the title refers to a weapon system of the same name as the fourth version of Trillian is called. See here for more information.

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tagged with:

tools of the trade

posted in College on August 28th, 2006

As a student, I find that I have little time and loads of work to do, so I like to streamline my workflow. Part of that streamlining process is my hub to the digital world - my Tablet PC, a pimped out Toshiba Tecra M4 running the latest Windows Vista build.

I strongly believe in the formfactor of Tablet PCs and I expect them to be the standard amongst students in about 5 years - well, I hope so anyway and if prices go down, that might just happen.

Financial issues aside, I know that I’ve had a better learning experience last year because of my Tablet PC. Thanks to applications like Microsoft OneNote 2007 (currently in beta testing), I’m able to take notes during classes. I don’t have to worry about bringing the right set of pens or markers with me, OneNote 2007 (and 2003 too, naturally) has it all. Other great features include the ability to transform ink into text (which tends to work even with my chicken scribble) or enhance an image to make the text inside that image (!) searchable. And if you’re too lazy to write yourself, just take audio notes and listen to the session at your earliest convenience. Feel like sharing your notes? Just export to a PDF and share it with any Windows or Mac user.

Apart from OneNote 2007, I also strongly depend on Outlook 2007, which basically handles my day. Once it’s sync’ed with my Smartphone, I can always see which class is coming up next and where I ought to be. Doesn’t get much easier than that.

No matter what you study nowadays, chances are that you’re gonna use the internet. A good browsing experience is key and as such, I prefer to use Firefox. I don’t dislike Internet Explorer or anything, I’m just a lot more satisfied with the features Firefox offers me.

Studying is no fun if you can’t socialize and since everyone prefers to use a different network (be it MSN, ICQ, Y!, AOL or Skype), I went with Trillian a few years ago and haven’t looked back once. Trillian is truly the hub of my online life, showing me the information I need (Wikipedia integration, information about Timezones for people from abroad) and enabling me to chat without being annoyed by ads about dating sites or car insurance policies.

Apart from those four, there’s also Adode Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Flash, as well as Photoshop and Illustrator. Couldn’t live without any of those really, but the first four, I believe should be installed on any student PC - that is, if you’re serious about getting good grades.

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