Magento rocks!

I had to find the right solution for our online Chronos Coffee store, and preferred to find a SaaS (Software as a Service) application which would be flexible enough and also affordable. I looked at all the big players and also the smaller ones offering shared solutions, but none of them were flexible enough for what I envisioned: A scalable, controllable application with a plugin architecture to custom fit our needs. So I decided I’d give Magento a try again. I had fiddled around with it a year ago, but decided it was too infantile to be used in a production environment (and a web store always is). After having done in depth research, I now think it is actually very mature. It has a very large community and is widely deployed all over the net. Whats was even more interesting to me is the fact that it is built on top of Zend Framework, which I specialize in and am an advocate of.
So I arranged for a private virtual server to get it up and running, and must say I am really impressed. Compared to other web solutions out there, I find my install of Magento to be very snappy and responsive. The backend is rather sluggish, but that’s not such a big deal.
I have put the website online already, because we want to get out of the sandbox Google has put us in, and get a search rank asap. Don’t look at the design tho, because we have used a standard template, and still have to create product images. Here’s a link:

Chronos Coffee

When we came back from our 3 month cycling journey, I wanted to get some action. I met up with my longtime American friend Bryan who decided to start up an online coffee business that would dominate all the others online. He was aware that there are a lot of coffee stores and roasters online, but had a few tricks up his sleeve to truly accomplish that. He needed my skills and elephant skin to team up with. So I joined up as CTO, knowing I could make the technical side of it work the way it should. That was the start of my new professional career. Not only being a small part of the enterprise puzzle, but empowering myself to handle all aspects of the online retail game.
We didn’t have a name yet, so I thought up “Chronos”. I think it sounds nice and makes people associate with the God of Time, a wise figure to feel comforted by. It also allows for all kinds of catchy marketing lines, like: “Chronos. We make the coffee. You make the time.”
I am having a lot of fun at this already, but it’s costing almost all of my free time. Let’s hope I still get to travel 🙂

Barcelona policía es corrupta

Maybe not all, but certainly a lot of them.  This is my story of arriving in Barcelona on our recumbents.

After driving down the Gran Via towards the Plaza Catalunya, I had to wait for a red traffic light. I was checking Google maps on my iPhone and turned the screen off when the light turned green. I rode on my recumbent, behind another car, through the green light. That’s when I got stopped by a police officer. He wanted to give me fine for using a mobile phone while riding my bike. Which I obviously didn’t, so I got frustrated. I asked the man to produce this law that stated I couldn’t ride my bike with my phone in my hand. He kept stating this was the law and that I had to find out myself. If I wouldn’t pay the fine of 50,- they would take my bike. I decided not to fight this castle and asked where I could find a money machine. In the mean time a fellow officer arrived from across the street, noting me being upset, and telling me he saw me going through a red light and calling on the phone while riding! Two lies! Right there, next to his colleague, he pressed two extra charges based on lies. I got really frustrated about that and ranted to him about him lying two times in one sentence and that he must be corrupt. I also wrote down his badge number and asked for a police station to get proper help. I was then pressed again to get the money, or they would take my bike (I was later told by the top police people that any police officer can do as he pleases and that it is wise for me to stay low. Only afterwards can you complain about decisions made and hope to get rectification.)
So I went and got exactly 50,- out of the machine, since Corine and I have a split pot for everything, and I didn’t need more. But when I came back to hand over the money they said I also got an extra fine for going throught the red light! Another 50,- was charged, so I had to go back to the cash machine! I asked them if it would end at 100,- when I would return, because I did not trust them at all. But while walking to the cash machine I decided to walk to that police station to get help instead. I was later called by Corine that she had arrived at the scene (she had to get the keys for our appartement while I was in this situation), and that a tow truck had arrived and was uploading my bicycle. In the meantime I did my story at the police station, and was told that there was nothing they could do (ofcourse), even though the procedure was all wrong (which was all admitted to by the top police men):

  • It was wrong to charge me 50,- initially, and later add charges;
  • They also took all my luggage on the bicycle, which they were not allowed to do;
  • My passport was not given back, even though I am not allowed to walk the streets without it.

Then the two-faced chief officer that was in charge of the brigade that confiscated my bike came in to bring back my luggage and passport. They were all sorry about the failures, but didn’t help either. I was told to pay 164,- at their storage facility to get my bicycle back. Pfff….

My logical deduction of all this:

If a colleague is handing out a ticket, and a fellow officer is trying to help him (or f*ck with me some more), by bringing in false charges, and all this is done under the assumption that the ticket writing officer is actually agreeing with that (and thus also corrupt), then I assume it is in the nature of these police officers to bring in false charges more often, and that this is done in all of their team. They might of course be just “the two” corrupt ones, but I doubt that.
Also, the two-faced chief in charge of these cops, must also be aware of all this (Corine was contacted on the street by a guy who said this happened to him recently, having to pay for fake charges, and showed her the fine). Not only this chief officer had such false eyes, but also the guy he was with (and the lying officer too, doh!). I immediately felt as if this had been going on for a while, but nobody is there to put a stop to it. Corine wants to write an article and take it to the papers here. It probable wont move any of these rocks a bit, but hey, we’re in it for justice’ sake.

Hell, lets put in an extra link to all this translated to Spanish, just for Google’s sake: this page translated in Spanish

Hasta luego senor Fab

That is an actual songtitle (look it up), which is in line with my current state: traveling in Spain. Yes, me and Corine are at it again: three months on our recumbents to get from Malaga (most southward spot we could fly to) back to NL. We are currently close to Barcelona after 5 weeks of cycling. But I will save you the boring details. I am putting up photos and videos as always on my flickr page here, and Corine is blogging in Dutch (tnx so much dear) right here.

For those who really want to know when I’ll be back: the 13th of august if all goes well. But 2 weeks later I will already be flying to Las Vegas to attend the Burning Man festival ;p So I will eventually return to NL the 18th of september. Life is sweet 🙂


It was around 11am a coupla weeks ago, and I was happily coding away on my 3 yr old Dell XPS 1710 running Ubuntu 8.10 (and it was running fine too), when it suddenly gave in to some cosmic dust. Or whatever else that made it go bust. I was not too pleased ofcourse, and had to get myself another laptop asap to get back in business (and keep the company that hired me happy). So I went online to get a good deal, but couldn’t resist that voice in my head that said: “its time to get that Mac now boy”. And so I did, I fell for the powers of the dark side and got myself a brandnew MacBook pro. Hoping to find comfort. Which I did find, but lost pretty soon afterwards.

See, I was happily installing and configuring, using my new friend quicksilver, when after 2 days it wouldn’t start up anymore. The infamous question mark folder appeared after the infamous white screen of death, leaving my macbook locked for ordinary humans like me. Google couldn’t help me. Nothing on the net could help me out. On day one I installed all the updates it could find, so I figured all would be well. But no. I even reinstalled OSX that night, only to be left with the same white screen and questionmark folder upon first reboot. I was, however, able to deduct that the hard drive was fine (because disk utility said so after each test).

So the next morning I gave the machine back to the store, which gave me an entirely new macbook in return the next day, telling me they found the harddrive to be faulty (!). Too bad that I never got the chance to backup all my work, so I decided to do that every so often from now on. And that was no luxury decision. Because after another 9 days the same problem happened to me again! And again I could tell that the hard drive was fine. So I went back to the store and told them about my findings. I even mentioned my suspicions about a flaw in the EFI boot loader, because both disks proved fine. I asked them to backup the goods on the harddrive (which they said they would). But when the store gave me back my machine (after 3 days!), they said that they changed the harddrive because it was faulty (?). And when I asked them where my files were, they said that somehow that information was not given in time to the tech ppl. NOOOOOOOO! So much time lost! (back to scraping the interweb). They did however tell me with a friendly smile that they had already preinstalled OSX for me. How nice!

In the mean time I had found more posts regarding my macbook’s symptoms. Many people believe it has to do with a flaw in the EFI bootloader, but which is denied by Apple themselves. So by now I was worried that this new harddrive wouldn’t be the solution to my problem and wanted my money back. Hell, I can’t work on-site as a freelance programmer with a failing laptop! They would not do that however, hiding behind saying that the period in which I was able to do so expired. But when I asked them how long a period that is, since I only had it under 2 weeks, they said “we cannot disclose that information”. How frikkin weird and customer unfriendly that came across, you can imagine.
So off I went to work again, reinstalling my time machine backup, working through lots of hickups because of broken symlinks and files that disappeared somehow. (Strange.) But then I realised that my screen was too dim, and had only about 60 to 70% of the brightness as my first macbook pro. So I went digging on the net, and eventually found out that the store’s technicians had preinstalled one of the most ancient versions of OSX from late 2007 (9G55). And it was known to have a brightness issue. But worst of all, it had kernel version 9.6.0, which wouldn’t be upgraded to the current 9G2141 version with 9.6.2 kernel (that is on my install DVD). For heavens sake! Haven’t you Apple store airheads caused me enough grief?! That night I had to redo the entire days work. All in all I have lost over 3 billable days to this sharade. Pfffff…

Did I tell you that I have a friend who had his Mac repaired 5 times within half a year? Stoopid me knew this, but I decided to buy one anyway. Hoping that wouldn’t happen to me, reasoning about Apple selling controlled hardware with specialized software.

So whats my advice? Don’t buy one? I am not saying that, don’t get me wrong. Maybe I am the victim of a poor hardware/software combo, and if so, many with me (do you? is that how you found this post?). And I certainly feel that I was not helped by the Apple store and its crew, even though they were a smiling and friendly bunch. But I like a LOT of my Macbooks offerings, and am certainly willing to spend all that time to get used to its crippled keyboard layout (no delete key, no right CTRL key, bad keyboard mappings in Terminal), or find ways about cut and paste not working in Finder (only drag and drop will work, how painful!), or … pffff, what a list that has become. But like I said, I am willing to go ahead with it. After having had the pleasure of Ubuntu’s super functionality, I am crazed about the crispness of OSX. And to be able to use Quicksilver in all it’s might, as opposed to the flimsy wanne-be Gnome-Do (which not only lacks Quicksilvers usability and true powers, but also lacks a good team leader with vision in my opinion, you can find a post on this blog about that here) .

Anyway, it’s been a week now, and I haven’t had any problems since then. Time machine is backing up right now, using a custom sized sparsebundle on my external harddrive (thanks to a little app called TimeTamer).
Lets hope I don’t run into more MacDrama (which is how I dubbed my macbook :p). No coincidence. Did you know my first nickname is MoDrama?

Next time you check in here I hope to have filled up my fav OSX apps section. It will be worth checking out!

1995 is here!

Did you read my previous post? 1995 is here. Well, almost. I can now listen to or view any track, video or stream I want, since I have added dTunes and PwnPlayer to my iPhone. They rock!

dTunes is an alternative to iTunes. It doesn’t support podcast downloading/viewing (iTunes does that well and for free anyway), but does offer:

  • torrent downloading with a webinterface defaulting to website;
  • a SeeqPod interface enabling almost all of their online functionality such as:
    • searching/discovering/browsing music/video:
    • downloading/streaming music or video files;
    • browsing my Podlists (SeeqPod’s online playlists). Problem is that it wont let me start playback of a playlist, nor let me create new Podlists. So I am left to downloading/streaming one track at a time. (And that suxx, so where’s the SeeqPod app?)
  • a TinyTube interface (providing PDA-screen optimized video’s from well known 3rd parties);
  • shake and play: turn the feature on and shake yer iPhone to let it play shuffled songs 🙂

How kool is that? But like I said, one problem is that it won’t allow me to create podlists , so I am tempted into downloading tracks for later organising (which I am trying to avoid). However, at other times you are likely to rip your own or somebody else’s cd’s. So you are bound to collect media files sooner or later anyway. And for that we have the PwnPlayer, which is an alternative to the original ‘iPod’ player. It does everything the iPod player does, plus:

  • filesystem browsing and playing;
  • on the fly playlist creation.

One problem with the PwnPlayer is that it’s not so easy to sync it with desktop music apps like RhythmBox. (I think there are ways, but it involves hacking xml files on yer iPhone.) I use AirSharing to move files to its public folder on its webdav server, and created a symlink to that AirSharing folder in my ~/Library/Music folder. I also created a link there to the downloads folder that dTunes uses: ~/Media/Downloads. So now I can listen to and organise my incoming files from within PwnPlayer (or MobileFinder for more file management options).

iPhone home

I finally managed to go to a Belgian store and got me the last simlock free 16G black iPhone (of that particular week). Went home, tried to jailbreak it first over VMware, which fortunately told me in a rather early stage that it wouldn’t work. But then it dawned on me that I still had a dualboot XP setup (doh!), and JB’d that sucker in a whiffy.
WHY, oh WHY didn’t I get me one SOONER? With the port of apt-get in the form of Cydia, it’s just like my Ubuntu! I’m in heaven, going through all those repositories offering me all da goodiez from open source geekdom. But wait, there’s so much more. After viewing some apps in uncle Stevies appstore, I googled around a bit for some easier handling of my insta-app needs. And thats when I found that little gem called Installous. It can install ipa files, which are basically user created archives of an installed app, which can be created with Crackulous. Just go to, and you can see what people are sharing. It’s actually a better experience than the AppStore itself in my opinion. My mobile life will never be the same.

I have created a special iPhone apps page where I am listing and reviewing my favourite apps. If you haven’t JB’d your iPhone yet, I suggest you do that asap :p

Did I already say I am in heaven? I can play LastFM without even a bit of lag, and the same goes for any stream over 3G, even on the highway! Some of the time I listen to on ShoutCast, but I mostly crank it up for my favorite number 1 stream from InterGalacticFM 🙂 Finally, no more downloading music! Which is what I hoped for back in 1995, when I stopped buying plastic media and started downloading over dial-in….what a way to come :]

Music for me

At last at last! I am getting old and must be a little bit deaf, for I didn’t hear of this beautiful gem called PocketScrobbler. It’s a LastFM client for my Windows Mobile 6.1 device! Yoohoo! Finally I can stream LastFM over bluetooth in my car. I wished for such a thing to happen the day I heard of the interwebs existence, and alas, its here! Not that I will enjoy it’s meager interface/options for long, because my iPhone day is coming closer and closer. And they have many clients for LastFM, according to some wiki 🙂 Please God, let my current employer give me a couple of hours off to drive over the border of Belgium, so I can buy an unlocked 3G iPhone without that not so 3G, 2 year T-Mobile contract :p

Launchy vs Gnome Do: usability vs geniality

After a deadend hackintosh adventure of 3 days, I finally made the jump to Ubuntu 8.04 LTS 64b (and Linux for an OS that is) a couple of days ago. WOW! My Dell XPS 1710 seems to be at least 3 times as fast and stable. Pfff, I should have guessed 😛 The love for my über apps made me wait and wait, but the increasing instability of my Windows XP setup had me crying. So when I found a good replacement for my ‘first in command’ app Launchy, I was sold. The latest 0.5 version of Gnome Do was the Quicksilver lookalike I was looking for. So I thought.

I don’t understand why hardly anybody complains about this, but I found that Launchy has much more UI friendliness than GnomeDo for most of my day to day uses (which mainly involve the Launchy plugin ‘Weby’):

  1. I am doing searches on the web (info, torrents, anything), so I CTRL+C something, ALT+TAB, enter action shortcut, TAB, CTRL+V, maybe edit, ENTER…
    Here’s where Gnome Do fails me, for two reasons:

    • I am not able to paste quickly with CTRL+V, which has become second nature. I find it very counter intuitive to have to use the applet itself for a simple ‘paste’ action.
    • Secondly, I cannot edit my entered text. Why? This leads to redundant type actions.
  2. Again, I am doing searches on the web, and I didn’t find anything with my last query, so I want to redo/edit my last action.
    Hoorah! Launchy keeps state and preselects everything! :) But Gnome Do just loses everything. Why?
  3. For all of these searches I’m doing, I created shortcuts. So I start my launcher, type ‘g’+TAB and whatever I want to search for in  Google. Or ‘ct’+TAB and search for a torrent on
    How do I create shortcuts for url’s in Gnome Do? Like I can with Weby? Even Quicksilver has that possibility! I know about the ‘alias’ functionality in Do, but it cannot be applied to urls. And even if it could, it wouldn’t work the same, because there are no placeholders in aliases.

So handling these use cases alone in GnomeDo cost me a lot of time and agony, and therefore made me install Launchy on Ubuntu. It never hurts to have them side by side.

And now for some reverse psychology:

I have read that GnomeDo was built in Mono, which is some *nix port of dot net, so I’ve heard. And I start to wonder. Maybe the developers are Micros**t developers, and these never seemed to have much of an eye for Interaction Design. Hmmm… Also, most of the geniality behind Gnome Do can be found in Quicksilver (doh!). But why did they leave out the shortcut functionality? And why not improve instead of just imitate?

Well, at the end of the day, I am still a pragmatic, and hopefully awaiting the necessary improvements from the Do team. Since Do is an integrated approach, it promises to become the defacto ‘Action Handler’ for Gnome. And in case you wonder about it’s ‘geniality’ part…go check it out! And do switch to Linux if you have to for that :p

Oh darn, now that I completely switched to unix, I have to rewrite my favorite apps section :p

Waited too long :(

My bad. I waited too long for my HTC Tytn 2 to arrive on my doorstep. I waited for 2 months, because everything went wrong with the company I bought it from. (So don’t buy from, since these girls don’t bother to give any feedback if something goes wrong with your order.) Anyway, I am kinda fooked for 2 reasons:

  • I just read that the new iPhone will be coming out in NL on the 11th of July, and I was actually waiting for that. One solace: I wouldn’t be able to use a new iPhone with my brand new Vodafone internet contract anyway. I will have to wait for somebody to crack the new iPhone wide open. Only then will I buy one. (Of course that won’t take too long :p)
  • HTC just released their Touch Pro, which looks and performs (with its Qualcomm® MSM7201A™ 528 MHz processor) way better than my Tytn 2 🙁

But that won’t bother me at all, since I can trade my hardware with less tech savvy users at eBay anytime ofcourse. Should I do just that, and already trade my pimped Tytn 2 for that Pro? Hmmmm…nah, I guess I can wait for the iPhone. In the mean time I will keep you informed on the goodies for my Tytn 2 in my favorite PocketPC apps section.