Sunday, February 21, 2010

20th of February 2010 : Hypothermic Half-Marathon of Montreal

First competition of the season (January is too cold to run in Canada ;-). I have register to this event thanks to my ironman training buddy (Jocelyn Normandin aka "Le vieux" ;-) in order to test my running form early in the season.

My main event is Ironman lake placid (25th of july 2010) and, in Canadian winter, let's say that cycling is not so easy to practice (long trainer sessions are boring, to say the least) and so I'm focusing on swim and run since the November 2009. My running buddies ( have been very helpful with the run part of the equation : I never had such good sensation when running and I was able to run fast for long period of time.

As a consequence, I was confident and happy to wake up at 5:45 AM on the day of my birthday to drive (well, sleep ?) with Jocelyn to Montreal. The weather was OK in Sherbrooke : -5°C or so, light snow and light wind (in Sherbrooke). When we arrived in Montreal, snow was a bit more intense and wind stronger (the hypothermic half-marathon is run on islands in the middle of the Saint-Laurence river and it is more often than not colder and windier).

We were on site one hour before the start and we quickly pick up our race kit that include bib number and champion chip. We changed cloth to be ready for the, not so hypothermic, weather.

It was the first time I ran this course and, as often, it is difficult to estimate what to expect : don't know the circuit, first competition in winter for me, etc. Anyway, based in my training experience, I decided to set up for a 4:18 pace -> 1h30 half marathon). The circuit is a loop of 7 kilometers that has to be run three time.

The start was surprising because we were chatting and discussing. Anyway, we were in the first 100 runners I guess and because there were no info of where you should place yourself, lots of slower runner where in front of me. The first two kilometers were a bit painful and slow (4:30/4:40) because of this and I decided to run fast (4:00/km) for the next two kilometers in order to reach my goal.

On several sections of the circuit, black ice was hidden below a few inches of snow and I've seen several people glide and crash. In those area, I decided to go slowly and make sure that I don't felt instead of following my desired pace. Anyway, it really felt great until the small climb on the Gilles Villeneuve circuit where the wind was just in front us and cold. Ice started to form on my face (left eyebrow) and most of the runners at this point. This gave most of us a funny look I guess with beards, hairs, eaybrow becoming white and snowy.

At the end of each circuit, we have to climb a small hill to the start area and this was snowy and somehow icy as well : not great conditions. Anyway, first circuit  went well with 30 minutes and 30 seconds. A bit slower than my goal. I ran basically alone during the 4-7 first kilometers and then, most of the time, I was able to see for one or two other runners in front of me. With snow and wind this was a nice experience where, for long part of the circuit (where no public was present) we can really feel like we where alone in the world, running in the snow.

Second circuit was OK but I had a beginning of side stitch before the small hill climb on the Gilles Villeneuve circuit so I kind of slow down. However, I was passed by a guy with a pink hat (bib #475, V. Ruelle) and because my side stich was feeling better, I decided to follow as much as I can. We discussed a bit and his objectives were on par with mine : around 1h30 would be great !

After the climb, my side stich felt OK and and I ran a faster pace in order to try to keep my objective. Some guy crashed in the snow/ice in front of me. He went up quickly and started over and we exchanged a few words. This event keep my mind busy for the next 5-10 minutes : without focusing on it I was worried that this could happen to me. When my mind finnaly forgot this point, I was approaching the end of my second lap. Last hill and I can measure my time :  31:00. At this time, I knew that I will not finish this event below 1h30...

Anyway, I decided to give everything for the final lap and it started downhill (cool !) and I was in "pursuit" mode since a few kilometers : another athlete was in front of me and he was somehow my target for the next 2 kilometers. I finally catches with him 500m before the climb on the Gilles Villeneuve circuit. But it looks like I did not have any leg left and I was barely able to follow him now...

At this time, I was simply hoping to finish and I decided to enjoy the remaining of the course knowing well that my time will not be the one I expected. Mind tend to play games with you when it is hard and it was exactly what was happening to me. I kind of played with the idea and started to accept it when Mister pink cap cames from the back (I would say that I was running at 4:30/4:40 and he was running 4:15 for sure!).

It put my mind in action and I decided, on the fly, to follow him : it was happening at the same point (almost) of the lap as the second lap and I knew that it was the last difficulty. I was able to follow up to the end of the climb and after that I gave everything I could to keep him in my line of sight. We pass the last bridge where spectators cheers at us and it really helps me finishing strong.

The last hill was not so easy and I slides and almost crashed for the last turn before the final climb. I decided to push it as far as I could and I started to see some stars (halo in fact!) in my eyes but I can now hear the music and everyons cheering and encouraging us. I take left instead of straight on (I was not interested by another lap ;-) and this is the arrival gate ! Two mats and ... that's over. I chatted then with my mysterious Pink hat buddy and I thank him for his help for the last lap and I waited for Jocelyn and Marc.

O'all                                 Gun       Class       Gender  Pace   Chip
Place  Bib         Name              Time      Placing       Place   /Km   Time   City
----- ----- -----------------      ------- ----------------- ----- ----- ------- ----------
  1  222 Terry Gehl             1:17:09 HM40-49    1/87       1  3:40 1:17:09   St. Charles
20   475 Vincent Ruelle         1:32:51 HM30-39   11/121    20  4:25 1:32:47   MONTRÉAL   
 21  149 Benoit                 1:33:12 HM30-39   12/121     21  4:26 1:33:01   Sherbrooke
 41  405 Jocelyn                1:37:03 HM40-49   11/87      40  4:36 1:36:52   Sherbrooke
 90  102 Marc                   1:44:47 HM30-39   39/121     79  4:58 1:44:05   MontrĂ©al 
451  224 David Gelinas          2:46:22 HM30-39  121/121    278  7:54 2:45:43   Delson

In the preceding weeks, I did my regular Ironman training and this week I did my usual : swim (monday), run (tuesday), bike (wed), run (thursday) + swim (thursday), bike (friday) and my half-marathon (well, I did a "kind of" taper Thursday with some speed series and lot of recovery time but that's all).

Even with a regular training load, I had a great experience and I really enjoyed this race : I was able to control my pace even if I was a little short on the endurance side of things (at the speed I targeted) but still, I made enormous progress. Before that, my personal best on a similar distance was (Half marathon of Montreal/Scottia Bank 2009) with 1:35:05.6 on a regular race (no snow, no ice) later in the season.

Other reviews of the same race :

I really hope this will pay on the run for Ironman lake placid...

Friday, February 12, 2010

I've got a feeling : is Open Source at an inflexion point ?

Personal experience

Revolution Linux experimented more than 35% growth during the last year and things seems to follow the same trend this year. For us, it has been a great experience (not exempt for some growing pains !;-) and, when I look around, at open source companies, I can definitely see a trend.

Local Market (Quebec)

In our local market (Quebec province in Canada), we have more mature companies and they tend to have more people this year than the precedent (growth) and most of them seems to have find/defined a niche of some sort. Large companies are less and less generalist and have one or several specialties/focal points. We also experimented in Quebec some mergers between existing companies and this is clearly the sign of a more mature market.

Open Source at the International Level

At the international level, a continuous flow of Linux migration and open source adoption by companies,  as well as a bunch of acquisition/mergers occurs as well with, once again, a more focused approach for the existing players. Some leaders start to emerge with a sound financial model and extraordinary growth and profit.

Open source = competitive solutions

More and more, open source software is used/bought, not because it is open source/free (speech/beer) but because it is a good software (intrinsic value). The fact that this software/solution is open source is not the determining factor that make customers buy it. On a head to head competition with closed source alternative, a bunch of open source players emerges (Firefox, Apache, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Tomcat, etc.) and are in a position to become market-leaders.

In practice, a few years ago, when we started Revolution Linux, we mentioned "we are doing open source, this is great". These days, we say "we have an excellent solution for you. By the way, this solution is open source and this brings you several additional advantages ...". But clearly, the customers we are reaching now are not basing their choices on the fact that this is an open source software. They select the best technology for any given task and, more often than ever, Open Source simply compete ... and win.

"It's the fast that eat the slow"

A few years ago (10), Open Source companies where almost non existing and of very limited size. Open source software where ten time less numerous and had ten time less functions/capacity/line of code than today. If  "it’s not the big that eat the small…it’s the FAST that eat the slow" (see book of the same name by Jason Jennings & Laurence Haughton) is true, it means that open source development has proven that it is faster/more innovative than closed source development. And this will continue. But ... how fast ?

Inflexion point ?

My opinion is that open source is at an inflexion point : if the trend continue (i.e. : no major change from the competition, no major change in the environment, legal, financial, social domain), then the areas where open source is dominant because of its intrinsic value (i.e.: technical advantages, best solution, best product, etc.) will experiment a tremendous growth (exponential like).

Other open source solutions with smaller user base will either join the fast growing club ... or fade. Indeed, because several open source business model have a proven value, we see more and more companies joining the club and mimicking what is perceived as the root cause of the open source leader success. Some of them being coined with the not so sexy "fauxpen" term. Open or fauxpen companies fueled and increasing competition on existing solutions (including closed source one).

Open Source companies will follow the same trend : fast growing of fast waning.  In the last case, acquisition/mergers will keep the talent into open source and help fuel the fast growing company.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Next public speaking : Brainstorm K12 conference in Wisconsin

The Brainstorm conference will be held from the 28th of February to the 2nd of March in Wisconsin Dells. This is a dedicated conference for the IT+K12 world : the subtitle reads "For K12 techs by K12 techs".  K12 is a very particular domain where problems are somehow shared across the country and, I would even generalize a step further : problems in the US are the same as in most of other countries. Most of the K12 publicly founded education systems in the world don't have enough money to fulfill their core business.

In IT, this translate directly in terms of Student/Computer ratio. It vary from 3:1 to 7:1 depending on how you measure the statistics (computers that are older than 5 years, etc.). In the K12 IT department, the IT budget is only linked to the number of students, not to the number of computers that the IT department has to manage. Thus, increasing the number of computers really diminish the service quality : the same staff has to manage twice the number of devices !

All in all, we can say that education in general and K12 in particular can not leverage the power of networks and computers in a classroom environment : K12 schools manage scarcity while the IT world manage abundance (think Facebook, Google, etc.).

Open Source and thin-clients can certainly change this and empower students and teachers so that they can have one computer per user (when needed initially but, hopefully in a near future ... always) and, as a consequence, leverage the Web 2.0 and benefit from the global knowledge that is Internet.

I will present two conferences, one about large scale open source deployment in a K12 environment and the other one about Open Source thin clients, namely, the project Revolution Linux leads called LTSP-Cluster.

On another level, I will be co-chair of an Open Source round-table : my goal will be to make sure that every participants gets at least one of his question answered. We will prepare some questions and define the format. I will post our efforts on this blog.

Sessions that we will present :

  • Break-1841 - The New 1 to 1: Scalable and Affordable Ubiquitous Computing Using Open Source

    In this session, you will see how the concept of "Ubiquitous Computing" could help bring your 1:1 project to life by removing barriers that prevent access to technology. Learn to provide access to the same computing environment no matter the device or the location ! All this using Open Source technologies that can scale to your entire school district.
  • Break-1820 - Open Source Social Networking Tools

    MySpace, Facebook, You Tube.... Students in your school district are using them.
    Staff in your school districts are using them. Come and see how others are using internal open source social networking tools to leverage learning in a controlled environment. Get your feet wet using various open source social network and microblogging tools.

  • Break-1840 - A Comprehensive LInux Back-End Infrastructure

    This session will describe a cost-effective approach to a global open source back-end infrastructure large number of students as deployed by Revolution Linux in various school districts in North America. The main goal of these projects is to centralize various information services (such as file servers, printing services, email and collaboration tools, web and authentication) in order to better manage resources and to transfer expertise locally. Using open source software enables the school board to offer more efficient services, such as automated schoolwork management and the automated generation of school website CMS.
  • Break-1842 - Desktop in the Cloud with LTSP-Cluster

    See how it is possible to deploy and manage a large number of desktops in a private cloud using LTSP-Cluster. LTSP is the Linux Terminal Server Project. Using LTSP-Cluster enables you to deploy thousands of desktop in a scalable manner. You will be able to see and test yourself features that those Linux desktop offers using Thin or Fat Clients, such as 3D support, multimedia, 3D effects, and much more. You will also see remote access of the desktop in the Cloud, and support for Windows Terminal Server.
  • Break-1843 - Netbook and laptop management with Linux

    Know how you can use Ubuntu Linux Netbook Remix in your netbook 1:1 environment, and see the possibilities available to manage a large number of mobile devices like laptops and netbooks in a flexible and scalable way.
  • Open Source roundtable

    Come ask your question about K12 and Open Source !
I propose the #k12brainstorm tag for twitters out there.
Also, I have create a linkedin event :

N900 : A fully fledge Linux phone for non geek

N900 review

While the N900 has been avalaible for several month, I would like to review it and share my first month findings.

First of all, I'm a geek and having a Linux phone has always been part of my vision for a clear sky future. Of course, as the CEO of a Linux company it makes a lot of sense. Convergence is not simply a network issue but a platform issue as well.

But I will not (at least in this blog entry) detail and share the geeky functions. You'll find numerous reviews about the N900 on the Web with all the gory details like speed, CPU, RAM, etc.

The point I want to make is that this is geeky piece of technology has been designed for non geeks ! I was expecting some instability, command line, reboot and some other flashing and hackish magic (disclaimer : I _had_ to flash my N900 but ... I did really bad things and have been warned several time by the system before ... I obtain root privileges and finally broke the N900). None of this is mandatory and the N900 is great as is.


My life has changed since the N900 because it integrates in a transparent/user friendly way all the communication tools I have to use on a daily basis on my computer at the professional and personal level. Now, my laptop is in my pocket: I can do everything with my N900 !

Convergence is, for me, a way to abstract the medium used to communicate to concentrate on the conversations and user interaction. Out of the box, the N900 support : gmail/google talk, Jabber, SIP (VoIP standard), skype, facebook, flickr. You can add some additional networks later on ;-)

An application called Hermes connect to all the social network/accounts you have configured and help you grab the information (birthdate, profile picture, etc.) and then you can very quickly merge all those separates identities into one of your existing (or not!) contacts (of course, as a cell phone, it manages as well SMS, landlines, cell phones, etc. ;-).

Engagement and discussion !

So now, whenever I have access to a Wifi network (yes, the N900 can use Wifi) or if I decide to contribute to the poor telco companies using 3G (the N900 is GSM compliant and can function on every? GSM network) I have access to a unified communication device.

All in all, I had more and more contact with people (in no particular order friends, prospect, customers, family, etc.) on very various timezones because I can carry with me the N900.

Who should buy it and who should not ?

Non geek

  • you are not a hardcore fan of a particular phone brand
  • you have the use of one or more of the social network I mentioned and want them to converge in an easy to use/integrated way
  • you need a communication device with a keyboard : the N900 keyboard is very usable and I have been using it to review Office documents, write numerous emails, tweets, SMS, etc.

 Even if this is not the subject of my post, some arguments nonetheless :
  • Maemo (Debian) inside : yes, you can have a terminal, become root and break everything, patch your kernel, mount samba shares
  • You can install a chroot of your favorite Linux flavor
  • 3D & multitasking
  • Development tools : you can create your own application. Lots of example to build on
  • Lot of cool open source applications (openVPN, asterisk, python, etc.)
  • Some people reported success with ... Android (can be a factor for some but I'm not ready to change anytime soon!)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Scott Berkun "Confession" review

Book Review : "Confession of a Public Speaker", by Scott Berkun

I have found the Confessions to be very informative and to the point. In this book, Scott Berkun is somehow doing a complicated exercise : sharing his own experience of public speaking requires something that can be compared, somehow, to a kind of "mental strip tease". Most of the book is build around some episodes of Scott Berkun's life. Sharing very personal story about his life could have produced a boring and uninteresting book (aka me, myself and I) but this is not the case.

Because the book is very grounded, the experiences that are shared are always interesting and completely integrated into the story. Also, the book includes a lot of experiences from other famous (or not!) public speakers in order to illustrate certain points.

Several key points are covered in a nice chapter per chapter approach. Each of the point somehow resonate with my own (limited) experience as a public speaker and because of this connexion, It is very easy to understand and benefit from the book.

Occidental people in general and north american in particular tend to confuse theoretical knowledge and practical experience : after reading a book or two and after having watched a video or two, we tend to become very quickly a martial art master or a buddhist Yogi. Scott Berkun is very careful to destroy this myth in every bit of advice that he shares and I really think that this is a key point here.

Like Malcom Gladwell in Outliers (10 000 hours of practice of any activity will make you a world class performer) training and practice are at the center of the book. Exactly like a professional athlete, you have to practice and practice again, using camera or Webcam, until you are confident and the story you are going to tell, in public, flow naturally. Once you are comfortable with your talk/storyline (your performance but also your supporting material : slides, video, handouts, etc.) then you have a chance to perform well in front of a crowd. And back to practice again : the more you will talk to a crowd, the better you will be...

No silver bullet here : work work and work again.

I have found a lot of very interesting experience, hints and advice : how to repeat, practical advices on how to be yourself (somehow!) on stage, test the room where you will perform, what to do if ... the room is empty, you forgot your slides, the crowd is angry, etc. 

All in all a very honest and practical book that will benefit anyone that has to publicly speak. In my mind and in no particular order : scientists/students that have to present they research (especially M.Sc., Ph.D. : practice your show !), teachers of any level (how to engage your students), managers of any level (how to engage your employee), salesman that present during show/conventions/conferences (how to engage your prospects/future customers).