Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Free software project update

Update 12/27/11: here's what I ended up building

I received over 20 ideas for my free software hackathon project, and also a lot of encouragement. Here's a quick note to update everyone who has expressed interested in the project.

About half of those ideas were from people who want to start businesses. I'd love to help them out but I can't go into business with someone I've never met, especially if they don't live in Baltimore. If you are in that situation I recommend you hire someone to build a prototype as that vastly increases your credibility. Better yet, you should try teaching yourself how to code so you can build it yourself.

About two-thirds of the ideas were far too ambitious for me to tackle in one week. I'm exploring those for future endeavors, though.

About three or four of them look specific enough for me to create a basic solution in a week and I'm investigating each right now. The ones I ultimately pick will be based on how responsive the original customer is and what I think my chances will be to deliver the product within one week.

People are definitely fed up with crappy software. Many of my correspondents talked about existing solutions that are too expensive, buggy, or simply too bloated. They end up hacking things together with Excel or a web calendar. Based on this simple market research I definitely can confirm the "many competitors, little competition" thesis and it's something I hope to attack with this project.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Two of the smartest computer security precautions you can take

  1. Turn on 2-factor authentication for any cloud services you use that offer it, especially email (or switch to a provider that has 2-factor authentication). I've been using this with Gmail for a few months and it's pretty great. The extra hassle is totally worth it: email is at the center of your online identity and is really the "keys to the castle".

  2. Sign up for Cloak or a similar service that secures your wi-fi communications when using an unencrypted network (like a coffee shop or library). Cloak is by far the easiest one to setup that I've seen.

Friday, November 18, 2011

I want to build software for you for free

If you need someone to build a web or mobile software project to solve a business, institutional, or personal problem, today I'm volunteering to build it for you for free.

Update #1: here's the response to this offer.
Update #2: here's what I ended up building

Why am I doing this? 

I'm looking for awesome ideas for my next startup. I'm hoping that by solving your problem I'll learn enough about your industry/your life that I'll stumble onto something that a lot of other people also need, something I could build a business around. You can only get good ideas by working on real problems.

I also just really enjoying making things that people will use, and I'd really like to spend time delighting people with code. I was really inspired by Derek Siver's co-op business model post.

  1. This will be a win-win transaction. You'll get your problem solved (or you'll find out how hard it is to solve if I fail) and I will learn about a potential software niche in your world.
  2. I will build a prototype-quality application that solves your fundamental problem without a lot of bells and whistles. I'll probably use an HTML template to make things look OK, but it won't have the same polish as a full-blown application that had a designer working on it from the start.
  3. I will own the source code but will grant you an unrestricted license to use it or modify it as you wish as long as you don't resell it to others. If you want me to build a prototype for a product you can sell on your own then you would need to hire me as a contractor. Or you could hire Chris Granger to build it, who also inspired me. I'm looking for people who don't want to start a software company, who just want their problem solved so they can get on with life.
  4. You will always have free use of the prototype. If it becomes a business and I spend a lot of time improving the prototype I may need to charge you to use the new awesome version (much like what Derek Sivers described).
  5. I will be documenting the whole process on this blog and on GitHub so if your idea is a big secret then this is not for you - but I can keep any details of your involvement confidential.
  6. My primary tools are Ruby and JavaScript. If there's a mobile component I'll probably build an HTML5 app which could later be wrapped with Phonegap to make a native app for Android, iOS, etc. I will likely host the app on Heroku but I can host it on any *nix-based system you have.
  7. I'd really like to hear from people who currently have to struggle with crappy, expensive software that I can disrupt.
  8. Nonprofits and government entities also encouraged to apply: I could see making something free for a smaller entity and later commercializing it for larger institutions.
How to Get In Touch

If this sounds cool just email me!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Conclusion of my Ruby credit card processing post

Just a quick note here to say I finished updating the How to Setup Credit Card Payments for Your Web Application post, where I ultimately decided to use Braintree as the payment gateway coupled with my bank's merchant account. So far everything's going well. If I end up writing more code or switching something around I'll start a new post.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ruby Concurrency Realities

At B'more On Rails I recently presented a new talk I've been refining called "Ruby Concurrency Realities". The slides and research links are below (I also drew heavily on the Ruby docs and the Pickaxe book):

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Looking to meet some early customers

I'm looking to meet some potential early adopters for two awesome software products I've been working on this year. If you know someone who fits into either category and could make an introduction (my email is mike@subelsky.com) I would be very grateful:
  1. People who spend money on online and offline marketing and would like to measure it more precisely than they do now (to figure out the best way to use their marketing budget).
  2. People who own or manage retail stores. I'm looking for stores that have electronic records and would like to get reports from that data that help make the business more profitable (e.g. who are the most reliable suppliers, what are the optimal levels of stock of various items, what is the seasonal demand for each item in my inventory). I'm particularly interested in small retail networks of around ten stores (big enough to have a lot of data, small enough to not have nice software that makes sense of it).


Friday, November 4, 2011

Preparing audio files for Apple's HTTP Streaming protocol and uploading them to S3

I've been getting inquiries about how I prepare MP3 files for Apple's HTTP Streaming protocol and uploading them to S3 which I mentioned while discussing my PhoneGap example. I thought I would post a gist of the rake task I use to help people get started. The whole process is explained on Apple's site.

You'll need to install mediafilesegmenter and mediastreamvalidator from Apple (which I weirdly can't find now but may be part of Lion at this point). If you need to downsample the audio quality like I do, you'll also need ffmpeg and libmp3lame.