A lot of IT guys have to work in home office now or are at least encouraged to do so.

This is nothing new, because some companies have been entirely working like this for years. And people live anywhere in the world. They meet maybe once in a year for a company gathering.

There is some difference, though. These „remote only“ companies can choose their employees, their working area and their technologies in such a way, that it fits this model.

Some people feel more comfortable with going to work and going home, hopefully not with a very long commute, and having these two areas of life clearly separated. This is gone for the moment. But we IT people are lucky, because most of us can continue working with low risk of being infected with COVID-19.

Another important aspect is, that in person meetings are often better than just talking on the phone. Of course, when the working progress is established, smaller issues can easily and efficiently be handled by phone. But for larger issues that may be more complex, controversial or just require not only words, but also white board or something like that, it is usually better, to meet in person. At least if it is not too far to travel.

Also it is very easy to ask colleagues who sit nearby a question, it is nicer to drink coffee together…

So apart from the advantage of saving travel time the home office has its disadvantages.

But now we are learning to work like that and maybe that will benefit us, because the possibility to use homeoffice like a couple of times in a month may be useful even in the future.

Some interesting technical aspects are worth noting:

There are different ways to do the work. Some companies have the policy „bring your own device“. The work is mostly done on this device and probably VPN is already in place. So working at home just works immediately.

Also companies that use company owned laptops are often quickly set up, because they just need to setup VPN and maybe rules about the home network security.

But even for companies that use desktop computers, there are ways to deal with this. One approach is to just leave that computer running and redirect the display. This is built into the X Window System of Linux and Unix. It has been there already 30 years ago. In conjunction with Cygwin this is also possible for MS-Windows, but somewhat limited and difficult with non-cygwin applications and somewhat hard to set up. But other technologies like VNC, RDP and probably some others exist. It just requires enough band width, give a little bit of a delay, but it is absolutely possible to work with this. It may be useful to consider moving some things to the local computer, for example the IDE by just accessing the disk remotely, if that is possible with the company policies and the licenses for the IDE. Also confluence, JIRA and thes web applications might be accessed with the local browser instead of the browser on the remote computer.

Now for meetings it is good to find a good tool. Maybe use different tools simultaneously. We need to talk with good voice quality. In a group. It is better to have video. We want screen sharing. And there are even tools that do something like shared white boards. A lot can be done. Sometimes it is good to use different software simultaneously, because one has good voice and video, the other one good screen sharing and collaboration features. It is possible to use the mobile phone for one part and the computer for the other part. Good earphones can be helpful, so you can talk with your hands free. Unfortunately they are sold out in many online stores.

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ScalaUA 2020

I like visiting ScalaUA conference in Kiev every year in March or April. I did so in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

So for 2020 it was kind of difficult to perform a regular conference. So there are two options, either it could have been cancelled or it could have been postponed. That is what all other conferences did. ScalaUA being an innovative tech conference opted for a third route. The conference was held, but totally online. It is agreed that it is worth to travel to the location and meet in person. But since that was not an option, it was an innovative and reasonable approach to run the conference online.

So the question is, how did this work?

There was a bit of a fight with the tools. We used Zoom, which was probably a good choice, because it has rich features. The schedule was more or leas as it would have been normally, so the 15 minute break between was enough to get some coffee or whatever, because no lines and no distances had to be dealt with. The talk was delivered in such a way that the speaker was seen full screen when no slides were shown, but usually the slides took up the whole screen and there was a small window in the corner, which could be moved around on the screen which could show the speaker. It was possible to ask questions and put oneself on video as well as a spectator. But for better support a Slack channel was provided for each talk plus a general one and a few that I did not use. They are kept around for a week after the event, so questions can still be dealt with.

One talk was done by two people. One of them wrote on a transparent board, that was between the camera and him, which was very impressive. Of course it was converted to allow him to write from left to write and us to read from left to write. His presentation partner showed code on her computer. This talk actually did something that is not possible in the usual situation.

What was important: Starting the Zoom channel for the talk about five minutes before, because it sometimes took some time to start.

What is more challenging: If the talk is not really very interesting, it is a bit harder not to get distracted. Sitting in the audience, you have to listen.

You can see the agenda. I did not speak myself this year.

Scala 3 (former Dotty) took up a lot of space, because many things have to be redone in Scala 3 or at least can be redone in a much more elegant way.

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Apple giving up on information technology

Apple has reinvented itself radically many times and done so when things were still going well. This is part of the companies success story. And the CEO Tim Cook apparently plans to continue with this strategy. Major reinventions where:

  • Moving from the Apple II to Macintosh
  • Dropping System 9 and replacing it by the totally new OS X
  • Shifting the priority from computers to the i-pod
  • Moving from i-pod to i-phone and i-pad

There were more, but these transformations could all be explained by early anticipation of an end or major shrink of the existing business. For example i-pods were nice music players, but then each phone contained a music player and every person had a phone in the pocket anyway, so the usefulness of an i-pod was tending to zero. Apple fans are very loyal, so they kept buying apple products, even when they were becoming obsolete, but that can only work for a short time. So they made a i-phone, which was theoretically a phone, but the phone-functionally did not really work. I assume, with more recent iphones they have fixed this.

But Tim Cook is moving on. What are the strengths of Apple? Design, marketing and sales. Especially including the fans in working for free for the company to enhance sales. This is an essential part of the success story. We are already used to the fact, that useful features are radically removed, like the DVD player in laptops, when DVDs were still important. Or the standard earphone plug from phones. Apple fans feel flattered by this, because they are so advanced by losing something first that later on actually becomes obsolete.

So the next step is coming now: Apple will move on to fashion. They will design clothes, shoes and jewelry. Then they can concentrate on their real strengths, reinvent themselves once more and remain in business for another long future. Computers, tablets and phones will be phased out.

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