Thursday, October 12, 2006

A Weekend in the Dolomites

Hmmm... I've been really very busy and had no time to add new posts here (but I'll come back soon!).
However, in September Silvia and I spent a long week-end in the Dolomites, the beutiful mountains in Trentino (Italy).
A few days in the Dolomites are the best way to get some rest and in fact Silvia and I have really enjoied our time off; here are some pictures we have taken.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Shine On, Syd

Syd Barret has died.
This news hit me yesterday, while I was driving, for work, from Padova to Brescia.
I'd like to remember him, with the lyrics of the last song he wrote before leaving the Pink Floyd. It was published in 1968 and it is a sad farewell piece by Syd Barret who, at that time, was already shrinking into a delirious state of mind.

It's awfully considerate of you to think of me here
And I'm most obliged to you for making it clear
That I'm not here.
And I never knew the moon could be so big
And I never knew the moon could be so blue
And I'm grateful that you threw away my old shoes
And brought me here instead dressed in red
And I'm wondering who could be writing this song.

I don't care if the sun don't shine
And I don't care if nothing is mine
And I don't care if I'm nervous with you
I'll do my loving in the winter.

And the sea isn't green
And I love the Queen
And what exactly is a dream
And what exactly is a joke.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Meeting around the Olympic Torch

Recently I had a meeting with a new customer, interested in adopting OFBiz for a subsidiary company abroad.
When I entered in the conference room, I was surpised to see, standing in the center of the table, the Olympic Torch of Turin’s 2006 Olympic Winter games:

It was there to remember that the Company implemented the special technology needed to light the torch with an inexhaustible fire.
However they told me that the technology was not enough when the anarchists, protesting against the Olympics, stole the torch (for a few seconds, and not this item) in Trento.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Implementing ERP systems and end user docs

As one of the core developers of the Open For Business Project (OFBiz), an open source Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, it often happens to me to read emails from users disappointed by the lack of the 'right' documentation they need in order to easily implement the system in their company.

Even if it's true that OFBiz's documentation can be improved, there is a lot of it already available (for free): quick start guides, reference manuals, videos, wiki based documents, the mailing list archieves etc...

However very often none of the above seems to meet the expectations of these guys, mainly IT managers that are in the process of evaluating the software, because they have problems to map their company's internal processes to what is available in OFBiz.

Nowadays, you can set up a web server even if you are not a system administrator; this is not true for setting up an ERP system for your company because this requires both technical and business level skills.

SAP, Oracle, Intentia and many other big ERP vendors ship their softwares with a lot of end-user documentation (well, some of them, not so much as you could imagine...) but I've never heard of a company that even tried to deploy these systems without the support of a consulting company.

In short, the underlying and real need is for free consulting, not for free documentation.

Deploying an ERP system only reading its documentation is much like translating a book, written in an unknown language, with the only help of a dictionary.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Fiorentina, Paradise or Hell?

Serie A 2005/2006, the top division of the Italian Football League, ended a few days ago and for the supporters, like me, of Fiorentina football club it has been a wonderful season, culminated, beyond all the most optimistic expectations, with the achievement of the fourth place, that means Fiorentina will play the UEFA Champions League next year.
This is a very remarkable result, especially considering the recent history of the club and the current set up of the Italian Football League, where mostly all the financial resources and the power are in the hands of a few clubs - Juventus, Milan, Inter - and their vassals - Roma, Lazio and other smaller teams. In this layout Fiorentina is struggling to maintain an indipedent but important position, relying on the financial resources of their owners (the Della Valle family), on a close group of motivated and talented players and on the huge push of their supporters (probably the most ardent of Italy).
In fact the "Artemio Franchi" Stadium, during this season, has been a bedlam where mostly all the opposite teams have been defeated; here are the highligths of this season:

Unfortunately we cannot really enjoy this moments, because the most schocking scandal in the history of Italian football is shaking the fundamentals of the Italian Football League:

Scandal Rocks Italian Football

This probably represents the confirmation of the worst suspicions over the last years: there was a plan that consisted of assigning friendly referees for Juventus games, and finding unfriendly ones for their rivals.
But what is really schocking the supporters of Fiorentina is that also Fiorentina is under investigation!
Here is the plot that is emerging in these days:

  • during the last season the Della Valle family (the owner of Fiorentina) was fighting a battle in the Italian Football League to try to get more equity in the distribution of money from the television between the bigger and smaller Serie A teams.
  • as a consequence of this, several Fiorentina's games have been conditioned by unfriendly refrees
  • the club struggled to avoid relegation, securing survival only on the last day of the season, but only after the Della Valle family gave up their battle for the tv money
If it will be proved that Della Valle gave up the battle for the blackmail of their enemies and so they were aware of the existence of this illegal organization, Fiorentina could risk severe penalties... that's incredible.

Now the question is: next year, Fiorentina will be in Paradise or Hell?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Two Days in The Eternal City

At the beginning of the last week I was contacted by a new customer asking me to provide a two days OFBiz training to its development team. They were in a hurry and so we scheduled the training for the end of the same week.
The nice thing is that the customer's site is in Rome and it was a long time since my last visit to the Eternal City.
Since the offices are located in a central part of the city, near the railway station, I went there by train (a comfortable 4 hours trip from Padova).
Unfortunately, even if I spent there two nights, I had very few time to play the role of the tourist so I don't have good pictures for this post, sorry.

Maybe next time.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A vote for A

During the last weekend, the Italian parliamentary elections were finally held after a very harsh political campaign.
The center-left coalition led by Romano Prodi won a narrow victory (25,000-vote margin out of 38 million votes cast) against the conservative party led by the billionaire Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Though the Interior Ministry has approved vote totals, Berlusconi refused to concede defeat and has already called for a recount of the Chamber of Deputies votes (43,028 had been disputed).

Let's see what will happen in this struggle for power... as usual, I'm calm because I know that no one will ever rule thanks to my vote:

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Tortoises' awakening

Spring is finally arrived and my three tortoises have woken up from their four months long sleep.
Here is a picture of one of them:

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The other side of the desk

This morning I did a presentation of the Open For Business Project - OFBiz - at the monthly meeting of the Java User Group of Padova - JUG.

I was invited there, due to my role of core committer in the OFBiz project.
I had never participated at the activities of the Group before today, and I was not sure about the subjects to cover: a technical and framework focused presentation or a features oriented one? I ended up with something in the middle (the audience was diverse), I prepared a few slides, a demo and I also showed some code and examples of implementation.
In despite of my doubts, the presentation went well: the partecipants have been very impressed by the OFBiz's features and by the framework and they did a lot of questions (that is usually a good indicator of an audience's interest).

The JUG's meetings are hosted by the Department of Information Engineering - University of Padua - and this is a nice thing for me, since it is where (some years ago) I got my degree in Information Engineering. I did my OFBiz's presentation in the De lecture-hall: if I'm not wrong, in that room I attended the course of Theoretic Computer Science (and probably a few other as well).
It has been really pleasant to go back there... even if this time I was at the other side of the desk.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Greetings from the 'sunny' Italy

As usual, this morning I woke up rather early (at 6 am) and I was reviewing some Java code at my laptop for two hours when incidentally I had a look outside of my window. Here is what I saw:

I went for a walk and took some pictures:

I really like snow, especially when, like today, I can stay at home - it's sunday - at the warm comfort of my apartment, with a hot cup of tea in my hands.

The Biggest Pizza in Town

I perfectly understand the great risk of being Italian and declaring that I like pizza: there are so many commonplaces about italian people around, and the one about our love for pizza and pasta is definitely one in the top ten list of them.

By the way, yesterday my girlfriend Silvia and I had dinner in a nice pizzeria in Padova: their pizzas are very good and probably the biggest that you can find in town... have a look at the picture Silvia took: how could we dislike this?


I'd like to publicly state here that, even if I'm Italian (and I like pizza):
  • I'm not a latin lover (I'm a rather shy person)
  • I don't dress with particularly smart clothes
  • I'm not fat
  • I don't have many children (I have no children at all)
  • I'm not religious (nor I think that St. Gennaro could play any special role in my life)
  • I don't play mandolin
  • I don't have affiliations with mafia

Thursday, March 09, 2006

About the supposed quality of proprietary software

Recently a client running a big and expensive ERP system (released by big ERP vendor) asked me some help to fix a buggy procedure. So I had a chance to dig into the source code - a Java class - and see from the inside how things have been implemented.

Here is a significant code snippet, but all the proprietary code in that file - a rather big class containing more than 1000 lines of code - was implemented according to the same style:

// I have changed all the names of the variables and methods
// to avoid copyright issues; however the names of the variables
// and methods reflect the original names i.e. they are totally meaningless.
// VAR45 and VAR62 are two boolean variables
// the following method returns a boolean value and,
// if an error occurs, it sets the VAR45 to true
(!( ! VAR45 ));

if( ! VAR62 ){
// Do something here...
} else {
// Do something here...

Just in a few lines the (salaried) developers succeeded in a very difficult task: they have violated mostly all of the Java coding conventions (variable and method names, indentation, the total lack of comments etc...) .
But most of all it's amazing to see how exception handling is managed (maybe try/catch clauses were not good enough for them) and how the (poor) boolean values are treated: my favourite expression is (!( ! VAR45 )).

As a committer of an open source project - OFBiz - I often review patches submitted by other developers: it's true, sometimes the code freely contributed contains some issues... but I've never seen something like this, really.

A Sliver of the WTC in Padua

The first european memorial for the World Trade Center has been presented in September 11, 2005 in Padua (Italy), the city where I live.

The Monument, located in the central area of the ancient city, near Cappella degli Scrovegni, is called "Memory and Light" and has been designed by the american architect Daniel Libeskind.
This is what Libeskind said to explain his work:
"The light of Liberty shines through the Book of History. This Book is open to the memory of the heroes of September 11, 2001".
In fact, the 'book' is luminous and it includes a section of a World Trade Center beam, salvaged after the 9/11 disaster.

The beam was donated from the United States to the region of Venice, and then to the city of Padua to thank it for the support provided during these days.

I 'm not really competent to say if the monument is really a work of art or not and if it is a good fit for the landscape of Padua.
However I'm getting to like it since I pass near the monument every day (two times a day) when I go to work by bike.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Open Source: a revolution in business, a revolution in life?

Thanks to Open Source Software, during the last three years the (family) company in which I work, Tau Informatica srl, has gradually changed its business activities: even if the services we provide are almost the same (i.e. ERP business consulting and software development), the way our business is carried on is completely different.

Now we are actively involved in the Open For Business Project, OFBiz, an open source enterprise automation software project: in fact I'm one of the members of OFBiz PMC.
During the last three years we have put a lot of effort to add to OFBiz the features needed by manufacturing firms, that are our main focus, (a lot of work still needs to be done) but now we are very happy of how our business is evolving and growing. We are sure that OFBiz is going to be one of our best bets/investments.

Before the switch to OFBiz, our services were based on DOMUS, our proprietary ERP system (for the iSeries platform). Somehow or other, DOMUS used to condition our decisions and strategies and limit our horizons, for example:
  • from a technological point of view we were strictly tied to one vendor: our employers were all RPG programmers, the hardware/softwares needed to run it were all delivered by IBM.
  • from a geographic point of view we were tied to one region, the north-east of Italy: all the clients and contacts were all here (with some remarkable exceptions)
As you can imagine the costs were also very high for a small software company and so I've convinced Mario (my father/boss) to gradually move to the open source software and to OFBiz.

Now the maintenance costs are lower (no more employers, even if sometimes we hire good developers on a per-project basis), we have the chance to play a role in several interesting international projects, we share code, ideas, plans with a big community composed by clever persons from all over the World.

Moreover, as an unexpected side effect we have realized that things are moving in the direction that the physical place in which we are and operate is no more so important: thanks to the way an open source project like OFBiz is managed and thanks to technologies such as SVN, Jira, VoIP, VNC, VPN etc... we are currently doing demos, contacting clients, managing and deploying projects remotely thru the Internet; we have never met face to face with many of our clients or partners.

Things are changing at the point that, during the last months, the dream of spending a part of the year in a beautiful exotic place (while continuing to work on OFBiz based projects) is attracting me a lot and it's becoming much more real as days pass.

At that point, OFBiz will be not only a revolution in business, but a revolution in my life.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Ghibellines in Florence

I am a supporter of Fiorentina, the football team of Florence, and yesterday, as usual, I went there (a 220 km drive from Padova, the city in which I live) for the football match: Fiorentina vs Siena.

Florence is the main city of Tuscany, while Siena is one of the small medieval cities in the beautiful country of Tuscany.

During the Middle Ages, Florence and Siena were hostile cities: in the conflict between the Guelphs and Ghibellines, Florence was Guelf and Siena was Ghibelline.

Several centuries have passed since then (the Battle of Montaperti, in which the two cities clashed, was fought on September 4, 1260) but the two cities have not forgotten their history.

In fact, the football match was very harsh and Fiorentina's supporters showed the banner in the picture to the visitors from Siena; the banner says:

"Ieri schiavi Ghibellini,
Oggi solo contadini!"
That in English sounds like (but the rhyme is lost):

"Yesterday Ghibellines slaves,
Today just country folks!"
For the ones interested, Fiorentina won the match (2-1) thanks to a goal of Pazzini during the last minute of the match: there was an explosion of joy at the stadium... Ghibellini will be slaves of Florence for another year.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Different languages, same idioms

It's interesting to discover that many idioms, that I believed to be specific of my language (I'm Italian), are used in other countries/languages as well.
The funny thing is that, even if the meaning is exactly the same, they are often phrased out in a very similar way, but with slight and amusing differences.

For example, a few days ago, in a mail from a guy from the United States, there was a sentence like this:
"to kill two birds with one stone"
Well, here in Italy, we use a very similar idiom to express this concept (i.e. to reach two goals with one effort):
"prendere due piccioni con una fava"
that in English could be translated:
"to catch two pigeons with one bean"
What to say... I must admit that I prefer this idom in the Italian version: I am for animal rights and I think that only a bad guy would kill birds with a stone but... yeah, also the guy that catches them with a bean is probably ill-intentioned.

Sunday, January 01, 2006


Saturday, March 18, 2006

I've presented "The Open For Business Project" (OFBiz) at the monthly meeting of the Java User Group (JUG) of Padua. For details see this page.
Also, have a look at the post about it I did in this blog after the presentation.


This is the book I'm reading right now:

"Americana" by Don DeLillo.

Started: Sunday 2, July 2006
Rate (1-10):

These are the last books I've recently read:

"The Collected Stories Of Philip K. Dick - vol. 3" by Philip K. Dick.

Started: Wednesday 21, June 2006
Finished: Sunday 2, July 2006
Rate (1-10): 6.0
""It's a machine," Perine said excitedly. "It's dead - blind and deaf."
"But it's in contact with the outside world," O'Neill pointed out. "There has to be some way to get to it. Specific semantic signals are meaningful to it; all we have to do is find the signals. Rediscover, actually. Maybe half a dozen out of a billion possibilities.""

"A Long Way Down" by Nick Hornby.

Started: Sunday 11, June 2006
Finished: Wednesday 21, June 2006
Rate (1-10): 6.5
""No, I get it," said Jess.
"Course I do. You're fucked."
She waved an apologetic hand in Maureen's direction, like a tennis player acknowledging a lucky net cord. "You thought you were going to be someone, but now it's obvious you're nobody. You haven't got as much talent as you thought you had, and there was no Plan B, and you got no skills and no education, and now you're looking at forty or fifty years of nothing. Less than nothing, probably. That's pretty heavy. That's worse than having the brain thing, because what you got now will take a lot longer to kill you. You've got the choice of a slow, painful death, or a quick, merciful one."
She shrugged."

"Pattern Recognition " by William Gibson.

Started: Friday 2, June 2006
Finished: Sunday 11, June 2006
Rate (1-10): 7
"Always, now, the opening of an attachment containing unseen footage is profoundly liminal. A threshold state.
Parkaboy has labeled his attachment #135. One hundred and thirty four previously known fragments-of what? A work in progress? Something completed years ago, and meted out now, for some reason, in these snippets?
She hasn't gone to the forum. Spoilers. She wants each new fragment to impact as cleanly as possible.
Parkaboy says you should go to new footage as though you've seen no previous footage at all, thereby momentarily escaping the film or films that you've been assembling, consciously or unconsciously, since first exposure.

Homo sapiens is about pattern recognition, he says. Both a gift and a trap.

"Fugitives & Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon" by Chuck Palahniuk.

Started: Saturday 27, May 2006
Finished: Friday 2, June 2006
Rate (1-10): 6
Quote:"This year will take me to England, Scotland, France, Italy, and Spain, plus forty American and Canadian cities, but I always come home to Portland.
If this is love or inertia, I don't know, but my friends are here. All my stuff is here. I moved to Portland in 1980 because it rains a tot. I moved from a desert town called Burbank, Washington, where my grandparents had a small farm. I moved to Portland because it's dark and wet, and all my friends from high school moved to Seattle. Because I wanted to meet new people. To hear new stories. That's my job now, to assemble and reassemble the stories I hear until I can call them mine.
I got my wish. What I traded my tonsils for."

"I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson.

Started: Saturday 20, May 2006
Finished: Saturday 27, May 2006
Rate (1-10): 7.5
"And he'd thought the past was dead. How long did it take for a past to die?"

"Omero, Iliade" by Alessandro Baricco.

Started: Saturday 13, May 2006
Finished: Saturday 20, May 2006
Rate (1-10): 6
"Piombammo sui Troiani all'improvviso, come uno sciame di vespe inferocito. Intorno a noi gli scafi neri delle navi rimbombavano delle nostre urla."

"Books of Blood VI" by Clive Barker.

Started: Sunday 30, April 2006
Finished: Saturday 13, May 2006
Rate (1-10): 6
We are all books of blood. Whenever we’re opened, we’re red."

"Bàrnabo delle montagne" by Dino Buzzati.

Started: Friday 28, April 2006.
Finished: Sunday 30, April 2006
Rate (1-10): 7.5
"Sembra che il tempo ci metta tanto a passare e poi invece fugge come il vento"

"Invisible Monsters" by Chuck Palahniuk.

Started: Friday 7, April 2006.
Finished: Friday 28, April 2006.
Rate (1-10): 7.5
"Your birth is a mistake you'll spend your whole life trying to correct"

"The House of Sleep" by Jonathan Coe.

Started: Sunday 19, February 2006.
Finished: Friday 7, April 2006
Rate (1-10): 7
"Huge, grey and imposing, Ashdown stood on a headland, some twenty yards from the sheer face of the cliff, where it had stood for more than a hundred years."

"The Incredible Tide" by Alexander Key.

Started: Saturday 14, January 2006.
Finished: Saturday 11, February 2006.
Rate (1-10): 5
This is the model city," she interrupted curtly. "The only one finished before the Change. And don’t call the food synthetic. It is the best food ever made, and the most scientific. You’ve been eating it ever since you were rescued."
"I wasn’t rescued," he retorted. "I was captured. And I’d hate to feed your food to a dog."

"Fever Pitch" by Nick Hornby.

Started: Friday 23, December 2005.
Finished: Saturday 14, January 2006.
Rate (1-10): 6
"I have learned things from the game. Much of my knowledge of locations in Britain and Europe comes not from school, but from away games or the sports pages, and hooliganism has given me both a taste for sociology and a degree of fieldwork experience. I have learned the value of investing time and emotion in things I cannot control, and of belonging to a community whose aspirations I share completely and uncritically."