Creating another time lapse video

Time lapse videos intrigues me and after I created my first one earlier this year I kept thinking about another one, but this time with a much better quality. I didn't want to spend any money, but then I realized that I have gotten a DSLR in the mean time.

You can see the result below or on on YouTube and Vimeo. Make sure to watch it full screen in HD, when you have a good eyesight, you can see the church clock moving.

For those interested, this is how I did it and what learned during the process.

  1. I used a Canon 60D DSLR in combination with the Canon EOS Utility. The EOS Utility allows you to control your Canon camera from a computer (Mac in my situation) and it can automatically create a sequence of shots and store the images directly on your computer.
  2. Put the camera in a sturdy position and put everything on manual. This included timing, exposure and white balance, but also auto focus and image stabilization. Especially the last one took me a while to figure out. When you leave auto focus and image stabilization on you won't get perfectly aligned images and the end result is a shaky video.
  3. I aimed to create full HD video with a 1920*1080 resolution. The camera takes by default pictures with a much higher resolution, but that is not necessary. I reduced the resolution of the pictures to 1920*1280 pixels, otherwise the amount of data too process quickly gets very high.
  4. Now I took a little over a 1000 picture with a eight second interval, a time span of a little more that two hours.
  5. Since the images are slightly higher than the required HD resolution I used a little tool to bulk crop the images at the right height of 1080 pixels. This makes the processing into a movie a lot easier, because no resizing or realigning is necessary.
  6. I used Final Cut Express to make the movie, just start a new project, import the pictures and you are done. Add some titles and music and all set. Of course you can also your own favorite movie editing tool.

The next challenge is to create movement. I would like to shoot pictures at a higher resolution and then slowly move the video viewport during the movie, to create a sense of movement. Well I haven't really figured out yet how to do that. Next time.

How I became an Apple fanboy

In the twenty plus years I've been using computers most years was spend behind a Microsoft Windows PC, but in recent years this has shifted towards Apple products. It's interesting to analyze how after so many years working with Windows I made the shift.

In my early engineering days I was interested in the internals of the computer, I could dream Charles Petzold's Programming Windows 3.1 and loved to hack around a bit. Working with early beta releases of  Windows 95, Chicago if I remembers well, Windows NT, 2000, XP, etc. was fun and very educational. Crashes and frequent reinstalls were all part of the game and accepted. I call these my early IT years and over time my professional interest changed from what the computer can do toward what you can do with a computer. I maintained a high interest in the technology, but lost interest in the computer internals and gained interest in the solutions offered. The computer wasn't the central point of attention anymore, the focus was shifting towards the person behind the computer.

During all these year I also had an interest in good design and esthetics. I drove Italian cars, may be not the most reliable, but pretty and build for the driver. I remember buying a Dell computer because it was black and not the ugly off white/beige that was the standard. I also spend a small fortune on a first generation 15" flat panel, just because it looked better and paid too much for a Sony Vaio laptop with a carbon fiber casing. You probably get my point here. I'm prepared to pay a premium for something good looking.

So how did this all make me an Apple fanboy. The first Apple product ever was a simple iPod, but about 4 years ago the first generation iPhone changed something. It was a gadget beyond imagination and showed that something simple to use can be powerful too. However one gadget doesn't make a fan yet. That came a bit later with the launch of the Macbook Air, a beautiful, elegant piece of hardware. I just had to get one and did so almost immediately going for the expensive SSD version. When I bought the machine I actually never ever did something with Max OS-X. I didn't buy for the software, I just bought it because of the looks, the love for the OS came later. It quickly became the computer of my preference, it was light, instant on and off and reboots had become a thing of the past. Now more than 3 years later it's still in operation, a bit less, but this post is for instance still written on my very first Mac computer.

From that point on there was no going back anymore. A year later a bought a Macbook for my girlfriend, this one of the best investments ever, because it always worked and I never had to give support again. When I decided to buy a desktop computer the choice was easy too. Today this household has gone Apple, not because Windows is bad, but because a tight integration between hard- and software just gives a better user experience. The Microsoft model with various hardware partners competing on price using the same software just can't offer the experience I desire. This all said, I'm looking for a pretty looking Windows laptop for a while already. Any more tips?

What Exact should do with the flagship product

This is an extensive response to Ten things Exact should do with the flagship product by Barry van der Meij

First some background. I was one of the early innovators and engineers of Exact Synergy (of Baco at that time). It was pre Internet bubble and technology was primitive but hip and cool. We created a product that structured business processes and provided transparency on the performance of your business. That was then, today it's a different world, I left Exact, technology has advanced enormously, a wave of consumerization in IT has taken place and users have become much more IT savvy and demanding. What hasn't changed is the need for efficient and structured business process, but the way we work has changed and puts new perspectives on those business processes. Running a business requires deeper expertise and has become a much more collaborative effort than before, not only within your business but also outside your business.

I usually don't comment on Exact products and services, because those products and services are a proud part of my professional live and I don't want to bring them into any discredit. However here I can only partially agree with Barry's suggestions, because it's a typical more of everything will make it better list. I believe we are at an inflection point in the industry where it's not about more features, but about the emotional value of the features. Like Steve Jobs once said: It's not about the mega pixels of the camera, it's about taking good pictures!

In the introduction I already mentioned that today's users are more demanding and expect a fluent and smooth experience. I absolutely agree with Barry that Exact needs to pick-up speed in this area. The preview was launched when I was still Exact and I'm sorry to hear that this hasn't become the standard yet. I also agree that many tasks, like document and work flow management need to become a lot easier to do. However lets not forget that a lot of the complexity has been introduced based on feedback from customers as Barry is serving. The key challenge for business software today is to balance feature richness versus usability. As long as the purchase process is feature driven instead of user driven it's very difficult break this pattern.

I also mentioned that I find Barry's suggestions in the category: more of everything will make it a better product. I don't agree with this approach, it might be on the very short term, but it's not sustainable over a long period of time. Looking at the product life cycle I would opt for a completely different and more radical approach, because the future of business solutions for the SMB (Exact's target market) is in cloud with easy to start, easy to use, low cost, no customer lock in solutions. Saying this I also realize this is not the most preferable option for Exact partners like Barry's employer Nobel, but change is the name of the game here. What would I do?

  1. Take the current product and strip 40% of the least used features, including many of the personalization and customization features.
  2. Bring the product to the cloud as a multi-tenant single instance Software as a Service offering.
  3. Authentication based existing identities (e.g. Google Account, Windows Live ID, OpenID)
  4. Expose all functionality with a consumer web REST API with OAuth authentication. This API will allow the eco-system to integrate other products, build extensions and even create customer niche specific user interfaces.
  5. Have a two layered offering based on the platform (with OEM licensing for partners) and the product.
  6. Build a market place around the platform where Exact can distribute the eco-system solutions
  7. Integrate with Exact Online.

Now back to Barry's points

  1. User Experience, this should already have been done.
  2. Document and 3. Work flow management are for the most part of 1. User Experience. The rest is about building extensions based on the API.
  3. Work flow management has a bit of a challenge in the 4 steps, but the bigger challenge is that work flow is about status change based on rules. It's not a carrier of information, but that is how it's currently used in many situations.
  4. Flexibility, can only be achieved with a proper easy to use and flexible API.
  5. Reporting, The integrations with companies like Qlikview, Business Objects, etc. is something where the eco-system should jumping and offer the integrations via the marketplace
  6. Social CRM and...
  7. Social Interaction, this starts with authentication and separation between business and personal identities. The product and only become truly social if the product is open enough to interact with existing social platforms, because for building your own there is not enough scale.
  8. Marketing, integrate with anything you want based on the API!
  9. Cloud, the only cloud is a public multi-tenant cloud. Anything else is just a temporary solution
  10. Successor for Exact Globe, that is why Exact Synergy and Exact Online need to merge into one Software as a Service platform exposed with a common API serving multiple products.

Just to remind you: I've no insights into the road map of Exact and this is my personal view on the matter. I believe we are at an inflection point in the industry that requires to take a step back, before it can move forward again.

If you agree or don't agree or like or dislike, let me know in the comments below. If you believe some of my ideas can help your business, feel free to contact me.

Google, you have broken the internet

Dear Google.

I've always been very supportive to anything you have been doing. I could almost say I adored you, but recently you have become very broken.

Over the years I've started to use more and more Google services including Google Apps since I'm living a Apple and Google lifestyle. Reading back this blog you can see that when I wrote about my favorite applications you could see they are very influenced by Google and I for instance also shared my experiences when migrating all my services to my Google Apps account. I did this all because I believed your promises, that it would become a lot easier to manage everything with a single account. I accepted that I would miss Google Buzz and a Google profile for a while, because you told you are working on it and it would be available soon. Unfortunately I'm still waiting, but that is ok! I can handle the lack of Google Buzz and a Google profile, I started to use alternatives and continued to work. I didn't really miss anything and the stuff I have is working.

However this all dramatically changes when you started to release Google plus, first with the buttons and now with the whole Google plus thing. My web and working experience suddenly have become very broken.
  1. You have plastered the web with Google + buttons that are all broken. Pressing results in:

  2. You send me advice to improve my Adsense performance (see the email here). I should implement a Google + button! Well done, I can't even test my own Google + button, see the message above.

  3. You are brainwashing the Silicon Valley Technology bloggers to adopt Google + so they start tweeting and sharing links to Google + articles. You know how they show up?

    Another false promise, because pressing results again in.... the above Oops message

  4. On the iPad the experience is even worse

    You got me to think I needed to enable something... but not.

So you have by now broken the Google web experience. I realize you didn't do this on purpose and you probably just got to busy fighting Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and the rest of the world and forgot about the experience of your loyal customers. I also realize that things go wrong and new developments need to go through a beta period for a select number of people, however this doesn't mean you can just break the web for so many other people. 

This is a crises situation and I expect you to step up and do something about it. I've a few suggestions:
  • Give Google Apps accounts access like other gmail accounts! They don't need anything extra, just a profile so they can continue working.
  • Give clear messages when things go wrong and provide real promises on the availability of fixes.
  • Stop treating your Google Apps accounts as second citizens. 

I can deal without Google +, but I can't deal with a broken Google web!

Best Regards

Why a Tablet is NOT a PC

The Tablet computer form factor is already over a decade old, but only since a year they are the talk of the town and we hear the wildest stories. Some say they will replace the PC as we know it, while others claim they are just temporary because the mobile phone will eventually dominate and take over the tablets tasks.

For more than a year I'm using a tablet computer and it hasn't replaced anything yet, it just changed my who computing behavior. I'm using the full range of computing devices, from smartphone, tablet, laptop to a desktop computer and each of them has their specific usage and I don't want to miss any of them.

Just consider a typical day. I get up in the morning and want to know what is going on in the world. At breakfast I grab my tablet and browse the news, check if there is important mail, scroll down some tweets and catch up with some overnight news from my RSS feeds. After breakfast I go to work, this can be in my home office, in a shared office or going to an external meeting.

In the home office I've proper desk, a good chair and a big screen desktop computer. Working from home requires me to virtually collaborate with others meaning video chats, sharing screens, co-editing documents and making notes all at the same time. The current setup is good for my sometimes trouble some back and provides heaps of screen real estate.

In a shared office it depends on the expected activities and duration of the trip. When I expect a full day of collaborative content creation (e.g. preparing a presentation, or writing a plan) I bring a laptop. However if I only expect a few hours of brainstorm, and only limited note taking is require I bring a tablet. This is the only area where I notice a blurring between the two devices and sometimes I even bring both. I'm not yet seeing developments solving this issue, unless someone can build a 12" convertible laptop, that is half the thickness of a Macbook Air, weights less than 2 pounds, has a 12 hour battery life and boots in less than a second.

When going to an external meeting I predominantly bring a tablet computer. The only reason for bringing a laptop is when I need to do a presentation and I prefer to be rather safe than sorry and don't want to rely on external supplied hardware. The tablet is good enough for taking notes and made it possible to skip carrying an ugly laptop bag when traveling. All I carry is the tablet because I don't needs anything else.

At the end of the day I just want to relax and while watching a movie I might pick up the tablet to check out some movie stats, or during commercial breaks browse some other news, stumble upon some websites, etc. It's a floating device, it doesn't have a place and that makes it so differentiating from the other devices. You phone is in your pocket, your laptop in your bag and you desktop on your desk. You tablet is where you are!

Living with so many devices also brings new challenges. The devices and their used software are all in different stages of their maturity and aren't equal in capabilities. This is why there is so much future of the cloud and cloud application, because it reduces the dependencies on software on the various platforms. All you need is either a web browser on the device or a device specific client connecting all to the same central cloud based information storage. This allows me to take notes on a tablet and process them into a document in my office on a desktop computer without having to transfer or synchronize any information.

I was inspired to write this article based on Microsoft's WPC announcement that tablets are PCs, but so far I haven't had the need to connect to networks (other than the internet), using USB drives, to print and using Office. Tablets today connect to the internet (the reason why I do have a 3G capable tablet) and the internet allows me to access cloud storage and print. I don't created full featured co-authored documents and presentations on a tablet, but make only notes instead and there are many note taking solutions with a central over the internet accessible datastorage. May be I'm just not looking a head far enough and in a years time when Windows 8 powered tablets are available my world has changed.

How do you use your tablet, leave a comment below

There are NO conservative customers

InnovationFirst I apologize that it took so long since the last article. After relaxing for quite some months I've recently been super busy helping companies to innovate and at the same time kickstart my own software business.

Many of the companies I work with are software vendors that see their world is changing and are searching the right path forward. They are confronted with changing customer demand on business models, price pressure as a result of new entries into their market, a technology push towards the cloud and a growing opportunity in mobility. These are of course only a few of the challenges, but those are the ones I see most of the time. The companies have a 10-15 year history and have a successful on premise (most of the time) offering, but this success is at the same time one of their challenges.

When talking to these companies I often hear back: 'We have very conservative customers' and they are using this to defend their slow move or hesitation towards the cloud. It's not so much about the conservative customers, but about their challenge to deal with all the changes they are facing. The companies have millions of lines of on premise code and already have a hard time dealing with all the customer feedback and adjusting their product to the latest standards and platforms. They just lack the the resources to invest into the cloud or mobile solutions. It's not only a huge investment, it's also something they can't justify in a business case, due to upcoming price pressure on their products.

For many years they had a comfortable operation with releasing a new product version with many new features every two to three years. The product features were used to motivate customers to migrate to the new version in the next few years and the cycle repeated itself again. This was a very nice and predictable model, however due to the changes mentioned earlier this doesn't hold up anymore. It's time to bite the bullet and start to do things differently. It's time to start innovating for your customers. Get inside there business and figure out what they need and this isn't necessary what they want! You might consider your customers are being conservative, because you believe they should innovate more! They on the other hand expect a software vendor that helps them to innovate. Just forget the past, open your visor and look into the future. The changing world offers so many opportunities, you just have to grab them.

Just remember: There are NO conservative customers, there are only customers that are waiting for their software vendors to help them innovate their business.

Btw, those that are curious about my own software business need to be patient for a while. It's still too early to share what I'm up to. Just subscribe to this blog and you will be the first to know.

Image: Vermin Inc