25 December 2012

A merry Christmas to you all!


We woke up at eight. It was a warm Christmas morning. Nice and cozy, a proper morning.

The city of Pula was covered in a light, calm fog. It was warm for December and it was quiet. Sven and Tijana had breakfast before me.

As I was eating my milk and cookies they started dancing around the room. My family loves to dance. The five year old jumped and swirled all around cradled in my wife's secure hands.

My wife was a dancer in her youth and it still shows in her elegant and delicate movements.

The most important part of the morning is down stairs. A real, living, Christmas tree with all the blinking lights, crystals balls and presents for all.

The entire extended household grouped together and we shared presents. Then my mother in law , who I love dearly, ushered us outside the house to make do by our selves on the oh, so warm, streets of Pula until lunch was so well and ready.

We went to the city. The streets were empty. The church of St. Antun was completely covered in fog. We only saw a glimmer of its tall white tower. Our car raced down the Omladinska street in a really gentle slope. The town was empty, there were not many people on its streets.

We found a parking spot near the Istrian National Theatre and the proceeded on a slow walk from the town market, trough the golden gate and Sergijevci street towards the old Roman forum and my loved temple of August in the historical center of Pula.

Later we progressed towards the harbor where a new citizen only riva was being constructed. The city was so calm that we stopped at the ACI Marina for a cup of coffee. We watched sea gulls and other sea birds glade slowly into the calm harbor waters, catch fish and eat it.

It was wonderful.


On our right we saw the church of St. Antun hiding behind the magnificent roman coliseum. On our left we saw the Mayer villas a set of high end apartment buildings built before the second world war by the Trapp family portrayed in the famous Hollywood film “The sound of Music”.

As a piece of trivia some members of that family are buried in the Naval cemetery of Pula.


The return trip to our car was beautiful. We met several family friends and talked to them and the we went to the Verudela peninsula were an ice skating court was set. There my loving son Sven took his feet for the first time to the ice helped by my wife as I filmed and photographed the events.


20 December 2012

Croats at work

Aleksandar walked down the old roman street. Renaissance buildings loomed around him filled with shops and dolceries. The street was filled with people both native and foreign to this old city from Greek myth. 
Aleksandar was too busy to notice what was going on all around him. The street was named Sergijevci. A noble important family which stuck with the first Roman emperor and helped him defeat Cleopatra and Marc Anthony in the naval battle of Actium.
Behind him the Golden door of the Sergiai family welcomed more people in the streets ancient womb.
The unemployment office was glass building set between the social security office and a computer shop. Aleksandar paused there to look at open positions posted on its crystal walls and read those focused on software development. Behind him children laughed and played in a playground filled with centuries old roman stone sarcophagi.
A men approached him from behind. He was older, thin, neatly dressed in an official sort of way. He stood beside him and studied the same open position as him , that of a lowly developer in one of many small software companies located in Pula.
“I think I’m going to go to work outside the country”, said the man.
Bored Aleksandar said, “Why, what is wrong here?”
“It is hard to find proper work, the money is not so great for us and people out there know how to work and pay a man. I have a friend who is a foreigner and his lives here, he is married to a local girl and he says ..”
“.. that he is shocked and surprised at out mentarly, how our government works, how people work and where he comes from is completely different and better and we are yet to achieve that level of perfection.”, Alesandar finished for him.
Aleksandar was irritated by the old man, he heard the same spiel many times and something always chaffed him about that. Now he finally got it in a flash of inspiration.
“Oh, yes. That’s exactly that”, said the surprised old man. “I mean isn’t he right?”
“Of course he is right. He properly should be.”, said Aleksandar. “He comes from an another country, from another language, another history , another culture and another set of genes. But what is wrong is that we automatically assume that we are ‘wrong’ and he is ‘right’!”.
The old man looked at him quizzically and asked. “What do you mean?”.
“Why are we under developed, what is wrong with us and our system?”, asked Aleksander and then continued. “We are ten years from a war, the world is in a recession and we are struggling. But people are generally content, people try and learn to work and improve them selves. The law protects workers rights and we are covered for health insurance. Each of us speaks several languages per default . I speak three of them not including my own. I’m well versed in culture, history and sciences. And I’m a highly qualified software engineer not under qualified work monkey.”
“But surely you do not forget the problems out system has with long waits and byzantine bureaucracy?”, asked the man irked.
“No! But every country has problems with its system and everybody struggles in some way and then everybody chimes theirs is better. All, except us.”, said Aleksander. “My point is that we are not the ugly step child of Europe. We are not worse then everybody else. Out engineers are talented, work hard and work long hours and go to great lengths to satisfy the client. The clients I worked with were all satisfied with out work.”
“Well then I see I have your options set”, said the old man. “I bid you good bye then. I have trip to prepare.”
With that the old man tipped his head, turned and walked in the direction of the old austro hungarian ship yard.
“Bye.” , said Aleksandar.
He stood there a few moments. People passing around him. Some searching for work, searching for a better future and others going on their way to their place of business. There were a lot of lawyers offices and local official buildings in the area.
Aleksandar shrugged and turned around In the opposite direction the old man left towards the forum of the city to glance to the temple of August and rest his thoughts on the city Julius Cesar built.

17 December 2012

I love my family doctor

I love my family doctor. She is the best there is. What I hate is when I need to go to the hospital to do specialized exam or a checkup I need to carry with me a big wad of papers and for each new (or re -new, since docs forget you the minute you leave) I have to tell my sick story in about two minutes.

If I would be so lucky for my story to get there. If I need to do some further checkups I then need to receive signed sleeps from the currently visited doctor, or go back to my original doctor with a written diagnosis/opinion for sleeps for new doctors, thus adding to the pile of papers I need to carry around with me and then I need to send an e-mail (from my home) with scanned medical sleeps and then wait for a couple of weeks or months (the waiting is an endemic problem, and necessarily part of my rant) to get to a doctor who will not know anything about my condition, will not read or will read briefly my papers and will listen to me only for two minutes.

What I would like to have is a centralized national patient system where all patient data are stored centrally available to all medical professionals trough secured web services.

No carrying of paper work.
Automatic registration and list entry for medical services.
Every doctor will have a tip of his fingertips all my medical history.
I will finally have a fully recorded medical file (do you really think I go back to my doc with all the pieces of paper I get and she then retypes every sentence of every paper).

Some progress was made when the health ministry introduces on-line drug recepies. Which is a really neat thing. I go to my doctor. She types into her medical application, I get up go to any pharmacy flash my health insurance card and get my meds. No paper work, no talking, everything done transparently and paperless. What a saving in paper only that is.

I would really like for every service provided by government functions or activities requested from citizens to be either exposed as web services for people to build applications for (like Facebook applications or tweet decks for example) or to provide on-line web applications for me to use.

If for example I need to pay for a document to be printed, why can't I flash my bank card login to web page type my request, card info and e-mail address and then wait for an e-mail notification which will tell me where and when to just pick my paper or god forbid pay extra for mail delivery if I'm not in a such a hurry.

The Croatian ministry of finance did a really great things this year. They will force every cash business (e.g. a business which receives cash for products or services rendered) to register each transaction via a web service with the tax department which will in turn send back a unique transaction code which will be printed on the receipt given to the consumer or client of the selling company.

Now a lot of software and a lot of companies will need to crunch new software to comply with this specification. A great win for the software industry in Croatia, thank you government!

Another good thing it will force companies , imho, to standardize on common domain elements in their systems (does it really make sense to have on company object created in every application when you are required to send a company object to the fiscal service, or a bill?).

What if all government elements would work like this. We could also have open source components for common integration providing all the domain objects requested by those services. So no longer multiple bill and company or point of sale object, or patient, or doctor or whatever; the government non-intentionally may have stumbled on the read to standardize the Croatian software industry.

For example I really can see someone creating an open - source project for financial ministry web services. It would be easy to write , the services are not that complex, and could really boost the market and production. Need fiscalization, get the library , customize it to your needs and carry on with the business.

Heck, why do all the fiscalization affected companies even rewrite the code to access the services. Why not write once and provide for free or for a nominal fee.

Why doesn't the government provide such libraries. It would really easy for the company that wrote the fiscalization services to crank a library in all the popular languages (C#, Java, PHP, Python and Ruby) which will provide common client features with it (domain objects, functionality for all scenarios, catalogues for integrating with the service).

Here are some links to files related to the fiscaliazation process:

  • http://www.porezna-uprava.hr/fiskalizacija/fiskalizacija.asp
  • http://www.porezna-uprava.hr/fiskalizacija/dokumenti/Fiskalizacija%20-%20Tehnicka%20specifikacija%20za%20korisnike_v1.2.pdf
  • http://www.porezna-uprava.hr/fiskalizacija/dokumenti/Fiskalizacija-WSDL_v1.2.zip
  • http://www.porezna-uprava.hr/fiskalizacija/2012_09_12%20Fiskalizacija%20(centralizirani).pdf
  • http://www.porezna-uprava.hr/fiskalizacija/2012_09_12%20Fiskalizacija%20(pojedinacne%20blagajne).pdf

14 December 2012

MS Community : The lean software development talk

Is it proper for my ninetieth post to be about a talk I held today at the monthly MS Community Istra gathering on the topic of "The Lean software development process"? I don't know but well it was a wonderful evening.

There were some news around it. It was the first talk I held as an independent consultant since I left Labirint/Cenosco earlier this month.

And second it was the first talk I held by using only my browser as the presentation medium using the amazing Prezi service and YouTube. Prezi is presentation re-imagined, it allows for a more dynamic and spacial orientated presentations and is easy to use. You can see my work in the frame above this text.

There were around twelve people present which was nice. I started the talk with some ground rules and my estimate how long the talk will run. I said one hour and half, it took me one hour and twenty minutes.

The talk was broken into four sections :

  1. Lean and muda
  2. The cycle
  3. The steps
  4. The practices
In the first section "Lean and muda" (muda is an Japanese words meaning waste, but in Croatian it means "balls" so figure it out ... are balls a waste? ) I introduced the basics of lean in production by focusing on the Toyota production system and the seven wastes (transportation, inventory, waiting,motion, over -processing, over-producing and rework) and their correlation in software development. 

I also introduced the seven principles of lean in software development and the key principle of kaizen whose examples I talked about in the whole talk.

The second section was the most fun for me. I talked about the basic lean software process I used trough out my carrier what are its rules and how can it be constructed. The principal accent was made on limiting cycles and steps into cycles be value delivered not time (time is important but the first delimiter is value not time, time is used to remove the fat of the value delivered to deliver first what the client wants to see more).

There is a note in the second step which is not visible in the prezi, squares represent big chunks of work and circles represent smaller chunks of work.

The group

The third section covered each step in a typical cycle : requirements, architecture, development and deployment. This was the most fun, since I elicited input for the public. For example when I discussed architecture I did a quick collaborative high level architecture diagram about a system for tracking cargo loaded. I asked do we need a database and got answers : " A small database, Oracle, SQL server ". So we picked SQL Server, then we picked stored procedures as a way to interact with the database and then Silverlight as the UI technology. For each decision I asked a dozen questions to show the group that architecture decisions matter and define how the rest of the project will progress. 

In the final section I covered the practices of doing daily standup meetings and pair programming which I consider real important practices. 

After the prezi was done I showed a clip on you tube which was a satire on the "Fall of Hitler" movie about an agile project going wrong oh so typically. This video is not about my political, or religious beliefs and its intent is only to show how agile projects often fail not to offend any one,