Big thanks to Francine Hardaway, Phil Blackerby and Ed Nusbaum for inviting me to speak with their class on monday and share what we’ve learned on product development in our experience in building JumpBox. Fastrac is a great program sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation. I went through 2 semesters of this course a few years ago and it’s an honor to be invited back as a presenter. Note: realistically Kimbro is the visionary behind our product and he should be the one to give this talk, but I did my best to distill the 10 lessons I’ve gleaned around product dev while riding shotgun in building our our company/product offering. Here are the slides (feel free to share, embed, email, whatever):
We played the “product box” innovation game and had two teams invent and sell a new type of lawn mower in 10min. This is a great exercise to grok the difference between features, advantages & benefits. Here are the product boxes they came up with:
We had a little friendly “industrial espionage” given the proximity of the teams ;-) but good times. If you’re starting a company I definitely recommend looking for the fasttrac course in your area. It’s inexpensive and “gets you out of the building” and talking with other people who are in the same boat.
Oh and I try to share helpful info and links for entrepreneurs and software startups. If you use Twitter follow me for those tidbits.
I periodically do video tutorials for the various applications that we package at JumpBox. The idea is to not just make the software easier to work with, but also to provide the instruction and motivation to help you get over the hump of doing something productive with it. With the one I did this morning we just hit the two-dozen mark and I felt like it was an appropriate milestone to do a “table of contents” post. In no particular order here are the videos (hover over the graphic to see the title and classification):
We have a nifty new feature that allows you to work alongside the tutorial by launching an instance on demand using only your browser. There’s nothing to download or install and you pay only pennies per hour for the time you use it. To learn more about that service go here. And if you find the videos useful and want to be updated as new ones come out, subscribe to our blog and tell a friend.
A solid one-two punch following the JumpBox for SnapLogic release last week, we put out another winner this morning. The JumpBox for Dimdim is now available and gives you a way to instantly deploy an Open Source online meeting system. My favorite feature of this one is the shared document capability – basically it gives you a real-time collaborative whiteboard with your Powerpoint or PDF in the background. You can mark it up with other people and discuss the changes with video/audio chat. Kudos to the people at Dimdim for producing a solid and usable Open Source alternative to the WebEx’s, Gotomeeting’s and Acrobat Connect services of the world.
I did another screencast to run through the basics on how to get started with it. That video is below and you can find a full time-coded table of contents to the video here. Enjoy.
We just released the SnapLogic JumpBox today. This is an Open Source app that allows you to easily integrate data from different sources (web pages, databases, spreadsheets, applications) and transform the data into something useful.
To demonstrate how SnapLogic works I made a screencast that walks you through the process of building an application start to finish. You can watch the video below and get a time-coded table of contents and all the resources I used here. The app we’ll build in that video is one that reaches into a SugarCRM instance, grabs the contacts and then compares them against a list of “enemies of the State” maintained by the Federal government. It’s a quick rudimentary app but gives you a free and quick way to start working towards OFAC compliance without paying exorbitant fees to vendors that sell that service.
While this particular app may not be all that relevant to you, it should get you thinking about how you could use this tool. Ponder for a minute all the mini-challenges you encounter in IT when you have these isolated systems with bits of data that need to be brought together in one place. What could you do with a tool that lets you wrangle records out of a MySQL database, scrape data off a web page, mash it up with data via a public web service and transform it into a web page or an RSS feed or a csv file or an email or… This is an extremely interesting JumpBox and definitely worth playing around with. If you want to tinker, skim the video to get the basics and then launch your own private instance using the orange button on the widget below. And visit SnapLogic.com to learn more about their offering. If you’re really into this stuff, take a look at Yahoo Pipes and compare how the two systems work. Happy tinkering!
Long story short: it’s possible. Not officially supported, but possible. Here’s the blog post that lists the caveats to watch for and here’s a hi-def screencast that shows the setup process from start to finish:
This is significant because right now the main options for deploying JumpBoxes on Intel Macs are two commercial products: Parallels and Fusion. Sun’s VirtualBox product is a cross-platform, open source alternative that now gives Intel Mac users a free deployment option. Please post any questions or comments regarding this topic on the JumpBox Blog post here. And if you like the screencast give us a quick digg to promote this capability.
News sites and blogs are abuzz right now with reaction to Richard Stallman’s statement that “Cloud computing is a trap.” Unfortunately none of the commentary I’ve read so far has caught the key fallacy here: he has confused two entirely orthogonal concepts, Software as a Service and Utility (Cloud) Computing. While often seen together, the two are completely independent of one another (ie. you can have a SaaS offering delivered via servers running in your datacenter, and conversely you can deliver OSS software on a cloud-based system – we in fact make this very thing possible now with various JumpBoxes on Amazon’s EC2 service).
The vendor lock-in he’s railing against in his interview (and wrongfully attributing to the cloud computing aspect) is actually related to the fact that most SaaS offerings are based on proprietary software. But it’s the same dependence one develops to proprietary software running on the desktop only it’s easier to take the first cocaine hit when there’s nothing to install. That offering may happen to be delivered via servers that are running in the cloud but that’s completely tangential. I doubt Stallman would take issue with a site like opensourcecms.com using a cloud computing service to host free demos of open source software in order to encourage its adoption… Making the argument he has is about as silly as going after the steel industry because you don’t like guns.