Monday, July 27, 2009

A brilliant business idea

There has been a lot of excitement recently in the Irish media concerning the fact that IKEA are opening their first store in the republic of Ireland today. To be honest I am not sure what all the fuss is about, but maybe I am just sceptical because I have never been to an ILEA store and my first visit might turn me into a convert.

However, IKEA is not the only furniture store to have embraced the idea of getting the consumer to assemble the product themselves. Since I am often the person assigned to do the assembly work I can confirm that the assembley is often far from simple. Some bright sparks (I have no association with them) have set up a business where they will deliver and.or assemble IKEA furniture for people who don't fancy spending half a day building their own furniture. This sounds like a great idea and I can see the idea really taking off.

The video below gives you a rough idea how "simple" a job it is to assemble IKEA furniture.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Even Microsoft realises that Open Source sometimes makes business sense

When the Open Source movement started in the 1980s, most of the people involved were mostly concerned with utopian ideals about what was morally right and wrong. Many of the developers of open source software worked in publicly funded institutions and had no interest in making any money out of their work. At this time open source an commercial software were seen as opposites and nobody believed that it was possible to make money from working with open source software.

However, in the 1990s and early 2000s it became clear that it was indeed possible to build a business that was based upon open source software. A number of different models became popular:

  1. Many web companies (e.g. Google) made huge profits by using open source software to deliver services.
  2. Some companies (e.g. RedHat) made money by providing support for open source software
  3. Other companies (e.g. IBM and Sun) used a mixed model whereby some software was made available for free under an open source license (e.g. eclipse and Java), but other software was sold under a traditional license

Almost all software companies seemed to come to the conclusion that open source played some significant part in their business model. The one exception to this rule was Microsoft, with both Bill Gate and Steve Balmers frequently lecturing on the fact that they saw the open source model as being either unrealistic or even evil and bad for business.

I was very surprised to read an announcement from Microsoft yesterday that they are releasing 20,000 lines of code to the Linux community under a GPL license. It now seems that all major software companies are in agreement that open source sometimes makes sense.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Are people willing to allow strangers share their internet connection through WiFi

A few years ago I signed up for the FON service whereby in return for allowing free access to my internet connection to any FONeros who happen to be in my neighbourhood, I get access to a range of internet connections that have been shared out by other FONeros throughout the world.

I thought (and still do think) that this was a great idea. However, as far as I can tell my access point has only once been used by a visiting FONero (probably because I live in a quiet suburban area rather than a busy city centre location that would get a lot of traffic. In additoon I never actually used anyone else's internet connection when travelling. A few times I looked up FON access points in an area that I planned to visit, but in all cases I found it hard to find the FON access point that was indicated on the map and surprisingly enough I always found that there was somebody not associated with the FON service who was already sharing an open wifi signal.

As it happens, I had an Open wifi access point in my home even before I joined FON because I am not really concerned about the fact that any visitor might want to share my internet connection. I wondered how many other people share a similar attitude to me. To find out, I installed the Barbelo application on my mobile phone and ran a scan while I was walking the dog though the neighbourhood where I live.

What I found was that about 7% of wifi signals are not encrypted. Because I live in an area with a lot of houses, there were plenty of open wifi points available (as summarised on the following map).

View Open Wifi Points in a larger map

I am sure that some of these people left their wifi signal open by accident and did not intent to share access to their internet, but I am sure that several others are deliberately leaving their wifi signal unencrypted as a courtesy to strangers who might be in urgent need of access to the internet.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

John Treacy's finest moment

John Treacy may have won a silver medal in the Los Anngeles Olympics, bit the finest moment of his career was when he went on a training run in Porterstown Park with Brian O'Donovan.

View My Run with John Treacy in a larger map

Unfortunately the picture did not come out clearly because the sun was shining through the window directly behind us. :-(