Is it still worth going to school?

I first wondered about this question considering my personal case: since I was young, at least since 8 years old, I have been attracted by computers and software. I learned by myself a lot, mostly in books and magazines, but at this time there was still no Internet, no Wikipedia, so you couldn’t learn everything. When I went to college and passed my “baccalaureat” (this is the exam you pass in France when you are 18, just before going to University), I had always the maximum note in computer sciences because it was so… simple. Then I went to Uni and had still to study physics, chemistry and mathematics for 2 years before specializing in computer sciences and software engineering. During this period, I (and all others) became a kind of specialist of n-dimension spaces, vectorial spaces, Schrödinger and Maxwell equations, orbitals, neutrophil and electrophil molecule sites, pKa, pKb and a mountain of things that were very interesting and exciting. But for computers sciences, I only got 2hours a week + a specialization in OO programming. Serious things only started the next three years when I was able to end (totally) with Physics, Chemistry and Maths, and focus on software development and related. At this stage I was 21. I really started to study computers sciences and learn something about it at 21! Of course, I started to learn a lot by myself on the net too (and still doing!), but I had to start doing something in my life. It’s already been a long time I wanted to start a software project/company and at 25 years old I was able to do so. I really think I could have started sooner. I like Physics, Maths and others, but really, I was in computer sciences since 1982, and couldn’t participate sooner while I’d had loved to do so. Now with Ulteo I’m meeting software developers who, at 18 or 20, have the same or better programming skills of people who, in the past, usually had to wait to complete their cursus and be 24 or 25 and acquire some experience for several years in real situation. These young guys I’m meeting (and trying to hire!) have been into software development for years, learned everything on the Internet (and also learning with others on Internet). They are going to school at the same time, because here, you have to get your exams and diplomas or your salary will be miserable. They are just going to school to have the University or school diploma and get a good position. Is it serious? The only benefit they get by continuing to go to school is to learn something else than computer sciences, just for their personal benefit.

D.A.N.C.E. – a rocket!

Yesterday, while driving my car and listening to the radio, I was thinking that I hadn’t heard anything exciting for a long time. And boom! I listened to this Paris-based band called “Justice” (what an odd name for a band), and their latest single “D.A.N.C.E.”. Thirty years of club music revisited in four minutes, with awesome vocals. I bet you’ll love it.

Note: this streamed version from was probably recorded from Radio 1 (BBC Radio1 I guess) so sometimes you can hear the DJ speaking over the song. Pretty bad, but enough to discover the song.

The benefits of green walls

That’s still an “underground hype”, but green walls are catching up attention from many people in Europe who see them as a real way to improve our environment, especially within towns and surbubs. The principle is to cover a building wall with a substrate where moss and various plants can take roots, grow up naturally and cover the entire surface of the wall. Expected benefits include: thermal isolation, phonic isolation (up to 16dbA), aesthetic and… depollution, including absorption of air’s CO2.  The best green walls benefit from the ambiant air’s humidity and are self-maintaining! More sophisticated ones require a regulated water and nutritive contribution system. Several technical options for the initial structure are available, from steel grids that encapsulate the substrate, to affordable cut felt!  Read the Wikipedia entry in English  (quite short though) or better the French Wikipedia entry

Green Wall at Quai Branly museum, Paris.

pre-history (Jobs vs Gates)

The former is certainly a visionary, he has started Apple, NeXT (besides other companies), and more recently has launched the iPod and iTunes, making Apple back to success. The latter has built Microsoft and he certainly knows how to make business. Both of them are very rich, and are 50 or so. While I’ve always been fascinated by Jobs and what he’s done, I’ve never liked Gates that much since the first time I heard from him in 1983. Anyway, for me both of them represent the past of the computing industry. We can love them or not, that’s not the question. They are unlikely to spark any new technology revolution but they certainly can be respected for what they have done (in good or… bad!), which is basically: bring computers and software to the masses. Will you like it or not, they recently met in a show and where asked some question between their relationship since… 1977. Interesting links also include: the full transcript and video extracts of older Jobs/Gates meetings.

Favorite PDA?

110119011023.jpgRecently, I have been looking around for a PDA. Not that I really need it: it’s been so many years I’ve kept on using paper for my agenda, or to take notes and maitain my todo list… Anyway, although I never had a PDA so far, I always loved them. So I started to wonder why I don’t a PDA yet, and while at the same time I love them!? I think I love them because it’s kind of an ideal device. It brings the concept of *personal* computer to its highest. You can bring a PDA everywhere you go, and now it’s even supposed to have the capability to communicate with the rest of the computer world. So why the hell I still don’t have a PDA!!? Actually, I think I had already two “ideal PDAs”… Once was a Toshiba Libretto 100CT that I used at the early Mandrakesoft times, because I spent much time travelling on train between my home and Mandrakesoft’s headquarters. The 100CT is a marvelous machine, very outdate though. I could run Mandrake Linux on it, and catch emails (and even browse the web a little) by connecting it to my cell-phone. It was very small so I could just put it inside my document bag. But I had to abandon it because it was too limited in performance and it’s been harder and harder to load it with an up to date Linux system. One year ago, I  was eventually seduced by a small “ultra-portable” ASUS laptop that I can still carry with me everywhere I have to go to meet people for the Ulteo project. It’s very nice, has wifi and is very fast. I couldn’t find an easy way to connect it to the net through my cell though. Which is kind a regression compared to my Tosh. But still it is not *really* what I would imagine as an ideal  Personal Digital Assistant. So I started to look around for an ideal PDA. And I discovered a strange world where I couldn’t really find what I need. First deception was that most of these PDAs are now provided with the Microsoft Windows Mobile OS, which is something I obviously can’t support. Some others are provided by other proprietary OSes but seem to rather limited as well (or did I miss something?).  I could find a few appliances that run Linux (such as a Nokia…) but as far as I understand, most of the time it is loaded with a limited version of Linux that can run their exotic processor. Of course I heard of the Yopy a few years ago, and I put great hopes in it. But it turned to be rather deceptive. Another aspect of the PDA world is that nowadays the frontier is thin between the ones that do only agenda, the ones that are a real PC, the ones that can communicate through wifi and or gsm/gprs/umts, the ones that provide a GPS and a map, the ones that can take pictures or videos. Sometimes they provide several of these options at the same time, but I’m not sure I even saw any that offers *all* the options at the same time. So I’m really stuck at a point where I couldn’t choose what fits my needs: a PDA that would be not too big (I could bring it in my coat), that would offer a small keyboard (or virtual keyboard on the screen), that would offer wifi access, that could connect to gsm/gprs(/umts) directly or through a cell-phone, that would have a camera, and that would offer me a real (preferably Linux) OS where I could run a real webbrowser (even with java plugin), a VNC viewer and a ssh client.  And that could play ogg/mp3 files of course. So if you have a PDA to recommend or share you experience with a Linux PDA, just tell me! 🙂

Linex, the success of a regional policy

Linex, a version of Linux, has been successfully developed and deployed in the educational field by the regional government of Extremadura, Spain, Europe. Discover how this project, by getting rid of the Microsoft dead end, has made Extremadura one of the most equipped region in computers and Internet access : watch this Euronews video (English) (French version).

Wines… (really not Emulators!)

vin_477.jpgIt’s quite unusual to talk about Wines on a blog which is mostly dedicated to the computer/software/IT world, but I wanted to share some of my best and most recent experiences with wines. Especially French wines indeed. I won’t talk here about Bordeaux, Grands Crus and Grands Crus Classés. You know them, we like them, and they are expensive. But besides the worldide Wine “revolution” that is making some nice (but too much formatted) wines all other the world (California, South Africa, Chile, Australia), France is entering a new area about wines, that you may not be yet aware of. In particular, several (small) wine producers – “vignerons” – often young and newly installed on a domain, have started for 10 years to focus on quality in regions that were not well considered until now. They are using a real terroir, and try to produce only quality wines from many different cepages (Sirah, Carignan, Grenache…) that make them different from the well-known Merlot, Cabernet or Sauvignon that are present in most Bordeaux wines. These quality wines that often benefit from great “terroirs”, often offer a great and complex taste experience, and most of the time quite low-cost (at least for now), which makes them *very* interesting for people who are interested in tasting wines. In particular, there are many interesting “new” wines in the Languedoc-Roussillon area, including Coteaux du Languedoc, Terrasses du Larzac, Saint-Chinian, Cabardes… But even in other “not so famous” regions, such as the Loire area, I’ve been very surprised to find some great stuff that I wouldn’t exchange for a great Bordeaux (see after: “L’enfant terrible”). I’ll try to post regularly some interesting wines I’ve found. For now, I would recommend : “Mas de la Serrane : Le Clos des Immortelles 2003” (Terrasse du Larzac), “Le Clos des Treilles : L’enfant terrible 2004” (Anjou). “Chemin des Olivettes 2002 (Roquebrun)” (Languedoc). Back to the Bordeaux area, my two preferences for a while, at an affordable price (about 12euro) have gone to “Chateau La Vieille Cure 2002″ (Fronsac) and “Chateau Musset Chevalier 2003” (Saint Emilion Grand Cru). Last is an interesting initiative “web vignerons“, which lets you participate to the whole wine process, from the grapevine to the degustation! And that’s not only a virtual activity 🙂