Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Naked Element is Hiring!


Company Administration Apprentice


Naked Element are looking for a new apprentice to help with our company administration.

The the successful candidate will be involved in the following areas;

  • Company administration – learning how to run a company, including keeping up with legislation, wages, income tax returns, VAT returns, invoicing, other administration (including social media and marketing)
  • Project Management – learning how to review projects daily and liaise with clients and the internal development team

The role will include client interaction and networking and will require the candidate to be reasonably flexible with respect to the times of day they can work. Within the 3 to 6 months, the candidate will also be trained in sales and shown how to identify and contact clients. There will be an element of ‘warm’ calling as part of the role.

For more details and to apply, please see the full description here.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Come to Breakfast with Paul Foster of Microsoft - Engaging children in technology


What: Engaging children in technology

When: Wednesday 15th June 2016 @ 7.30am

Where: Maids Head Hotel, Tombland, Norwich, NR3 1LB

How much: £11

RSVP: http://www.meetup.com/Norfolk-Developers-NorDev/events/229668663/

Engaging children in technology – the micro:bit satellite inventors kit

The original BBC Micro enabled and inspired many of us to start programming and pursue a technical further education and career. With the BBC microbit, the BBC are trying to inspire the current generation of young people to get creative with technology. The microbit is a ‘thing’ in the Internet of Things era. This breakfast meeting will introduce you to the microbit, enable you to get hands on programming (if you want to bring your laptop), and present the ambitious plans behind the Satellite Inventors Kit for microbit which brings science and technology together with an exciting Space context.

Although schools can obtain microbits for free, and there has been tremendous effort producing lesson plans for teachers, the fundamental state of our education system requires the support of the skilled technical community. We need to step up and support our teachers, schools and pupils by helping to deliver technical materials. It would be a fantastic outcome of this meeting if we could start a movement in Norfolk to do this, your input on how is most welcome!

Paul Foster

Since joining Microsoft in 1994, Paul Foster has worked across a wide range of sectors and with a wide range of customers, providing a mix of technical and strategic guidance around the creative use of technology in relation to their business needs.

As an established public speaker across Europe and having spent a considerable amount of time working on the cutting edge of technology providing leadership and inspiration on topics like Smart Devices, Cloud Computing, Education and App Development, Paul is currently working as a Principal Technical Evangelist for Microsoft UK’s Developer Experience Group, focusing on the building of next generation sensor webs which automate the gathering of data from disparate sources, and how to enable the creative analysis of this data to start a new era of perception.

For a short time Paul was a member of a high-wire flying trapeze circus troupe, and is a keen roboticist.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Norfolk Developers brings Virtual Reality and the Final Frontier to West Norfolk

What: NorDev West Norfolk: Space, the final frontier & Designing for room scale VR

When: Wednesday, May 11, 2016, 6:30pm to 9:30pm

Where: Heacham Manor Hotel, Hunstanton Road, PE31 7JX

How much: FREE

RSVP: http://www.meetup.com/Norfolk-Developers-NorDev/events/230069172/

Norfolk Developers are trying a number of meetups outside of Norwich. Come along and find out more about NorDev at our first West Norfolk meetup!

Space, the final frontier 
Dom Davis (@idomdavis)

So we can send a spaceship 4.6 billion kilometres to rendezvous with something that's only a few kilometres big, but we still can't strip spaces from telephone numbers. In a world where computers can beat humans at Go there are still some fundamentals we can't seem to get right. In this talk we're going to look at a few of these and ask "why are they so hard?"

Dom Davis

Dom Davis is a veteran of The City and a casualty of The Financial Crisis. Not content with bringing the world to its knees he then went off to help break the internet before winding up in Norfolk where he messes about doing development and devops. Dom has been writing code since his childhood, sometime in the last millennium – he hopes some day to become good at it.



Designing for room scale VR experiences 
Richard Bang (@FreekstormUK)

With the arrival of the first consumer virtual reality headsets the world of computer interaction and gaming is experiencing large changes in the way that we handle the Human/Computer Interface. Old rules get thrown away, new rules are discovered. The world has suddenly changed.

What are the challenges we face as we move from a world of the flat screen into the world of immersive virtual reality?

Richard Bang

Richard has been a self-confessed computer geek for over 30 years and has been obsessed with gaming for as long as he can remember. He designed and sold his first computer game “The Key of Asmar” at the tender age of 14 and after mostly gaming his way through a Physics degree, he was seduced by the Dark Side and entered the heady world of business software, whereupon he built his own successful software company and designed one of the world’s leading email software suites.

Despite this exciting career in internet communication software, he always wanted to create computer games again. So in 2008 he decided to do just that, and thus Freekstorm was born.

When he is not polishing his alter-ego, the dastardly Doctor Kvorak, our resident genius likes to play games and make short indie films, largely because he’s a big kid at heart.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Making Connections: Responsive Systems & Neil Sedger

Everyone knows the monthly Norfolk Developer meets attract speakers from around the country to talk tech to us, but we were reminded recently that we also have a more practical function. To bring like-minded programmers together. One such successful collaboration began in March last year between John Heaser of Responsive Systems and freelance mobile developer Neil Sedger. The conversation they had resulted in a wildlife tracking app, which has recently been published on the Apple App Store and Google Play.
John posted in the NorDev Meet-up group that he was looking for help with a Cordova phone app and then decided to attend a meet-up himself. “I went along to my first NorDev meeting on 25th March 2015 and during the pre-meeting beer I overheard Neil talking about Cordova – so I asked him if he was interested in working on the project and he said yes, he had some time available, so I was very lucky! There are five of us working at Responsive Systems and whilst we have good skills in some areas we can’t be experts in everything! Neil helped us get started on the project – he is a nice chap to work with.”
“I’ve used Cordova on a few projects now” says Neil “It’s great for quickly building a cross-platform mobile app, especially if you already have a responsive browser-side web front end. It’s not for every project but it’s worth considering.”
Neil describes the app as a wildlife database with an built-in questionnaire to help users identify a creature they have found. “ ‘Dragon Finder’, has been built for the wildlife charity Froglife who are dedicated to the conservation of amphibians, reptiles, and their habitats. Users are encouraged to report sightings of creatures which can include location, habitat description and photos; this is uploaded to Froglife’s central database which they use to monitor populations, spread of disease and non-native species, and feed into other conservation projects.”
“We have brought in outside help on previous projects” says John “and I believe that co-operative skill sharing between small software businesses will play a key role in making Norwich a centre of technical excellence and that NorDev can facilitate this.”
Check out the finished app here:

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Event: Xamarin & Azure double header with Christos Matskas


When: Thursday, May 12th, 6.30pm to 9.30pm.

Where: The King's Centre, King Street, Norwich NR1 1PH

RSVP: http://www.meetup.com/Norfolk-Developers-NorDev/events/229344509/

Cross platform mobile development with the power of Xamarin

Are you a .NET developer? Do you develop for mobile platforms or would you like to get started but you don’t know how or where? Then you should join Christos Matskas as he shows you how to get off the ground with mobile application development using the power of Xamarin and explains how to build powerful, full-featured, native applications that can run across all platforms. You will learn how to speed up your development cycle, reduce overhead costs and create “the one codebase to rule them all”.

Introduction to Microsoft's Azure cloud platform

Microsoft Azure is Microsoft's application platform for the public cloud. With over 60 service to choose from, Microsoft's open source cloud platform is enabling developers and companies to develop solutions that can run faster, scale better and work more reliably than ever. With full support for all major languages and easy to use SDKs, Azure is the best platform for mobile, desktop and cloud-based application. Join Christos in this session for a guided tour around the platform and find out how to leverage the different services to create powerful and reliable applications.

Christ Matskas 
@ChristosMatskas

Christos Matskas has been working as a software developer for the last 12 years. He is an entrepreneur, founder and CEO of SoftwareLounge, a software consultancy firm. His portfolio includes collaborations with some great companies such as MarkIT, Lockheed Martin and Barclays. Over the years he has worked on numerous exciting projects from mobile applications to data crunching back-end solutions. He writes about his adventures in software development on his blog https://cmatskas.com. Christos is an advocate of Open Source Software and a regular contributor to numerous projects. He’s passionate about public speaking and he regularly speaks at conferences and user groups about .NET, the Cloud, mobile applications and software development in general (.NETFringe, DevWeek, MDevCon, SwanseaCon, Software Architect).

Saturday, 2 April 2016

There's Something About Europe

I'm sitting writing this in the Legoland Hotel in Billund, Denmark after a full day in the Legoland park with my wife and all three of my boys (4, 5 & 13). The park is closed and it's a few hours before our flight.

If you're thinking to yourself, Paul don't you know there's a Legoland in England just outside of London, then you wouldn't be the first. We've been there and it was ok, but it's not as good as the real thing and wouldn't have given us the opportunity to take the younger two on a plane for the first time and to a different country (which isn't Wales). Of course there are other ways to achieve this, but as we learnt when we took our eldest to Munich a few years ago, city breaks and kids often don't mix.

There are two main reasons that Legoland in Denmark is better. Everyone, without exception who works in the park and the hotel, has been friendly and enthusiastic - everyone. They've all played with our kids and there isn't the reserved, arms length approach we see generally in the UK. Our kids have been gently teased and even occasionally prodded with a rubber sword.

The attractions are excellent and better than the equivalents at the UK park. Our kids have never been so engaged and we've never spent so long in a theme park as we did in Legoland, Denmark.

It got me thinking, this has nothing to do with Legoland. I think it might be a European thing. I've spent time in France, Germany and now Denmark over the last ten years and it just feels better. Three western European countries in ten years is hardly a comprehensive survey, but my gut feeling is that I'd find other western European countries much the same. Of course I haven't been engaged as an observer in the local politics, as I am in the UK. Maybe Europe is how it's meant to be and our cold, unfriendly, British reservedness and lacklustre approach to good customer service is what's letting us down. Even more so in Norfolk.

I'm more relaxed when I'm in Europe and could really see myself moving to somewhere like Munich to live when the kids are older, maybe even left home. Usually when we visit a theme park in the UK it's a long way from home and knowing there's long drive when we finish and shattered kids to put to bed when we get there knocks all the enjoyment out. Tonight we only needed to go the the airport and then straight into the Premier Inn at Stansted when we land.

One thing I am sure of is that I want to spend more time in Europe, both for work and pleasure. The ideal, for me, would be to achieve both at the same time.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Making Connections: Epos Now & Kevlin Henney

Norfolk is very lucky to have a thriving tech scene, one which supports growth and encourages its members to help each other where they can. Adrian Pickering from Epos Now experienced this firsthand when he was after an experienced educator for his developers and was introduced to Kevlin Henney.

Adrian saw Kevlin give a talk on ineffective coding habits in 2015 at the annual nor(DEV):con and thought he might be the right person to help train his developers. "He’s a world-class speaker and educator of object-orientated programming best practices.  More than just being hugely capable and knowledgeable, Kevlin is witty and charming, making his lectures pleasurable and memorable. He gave a two-day workshop on code quality, TDD and SOLID practices for our developers at Epos Now, with a lecture-style presentation on day one and a workshop on day two.”

"I ran a software craftsmanship seminar and workshop for them” says Kevlin "covering a range of development practices from alternative ways to think about code and techniques to testing approaches and how to improve their existing code and practices.”

Not being a native Norfolk-ian, Kevlin was in a unique position to see our tech scene from an unbiased point of view. "It seems to have a particular character, very much its own, well interconnected and vibrant. My hometown of Bristol has an increasing number of technical meetups, often very focused (by technology, by process or by discipline for example), and a couple of conferences, but the style and connectedness feels quite different.”

"There are a few key players in the Norfolk tech scene who are fundamental to its very existence and growth” Adrian explains. "These include Paul Grenyer, Huw Sayer, Fiona Lettice, John Fagan and Dom Davis (and countless others). They help to ensure that local events are inclusive and welcoming and their enthusiasm and drive are contagious.”


Join Norfolk Developers here: http://norfolkdevelopers.com

The cloud - What really is it? Why should I be using it?

Cloud computing means storing and accessing data and applications over the Internet, instead of your computer's hard drive. In essence the Cloud is a metaphor for the Internet. Nearly every internet user is using the Cloud in some way, they just might not realise it. The Cloud can be broadly divided into 3 different types:

Public cloud - owned and operated by third-party providers so no hardware or maintenance costs and offers a pay as you go approach to their IT services. Easily scalable.

Private cloud - bespoke infrastructures designed to cater for a specific business, hosted at a data centre or on-site.

Hybrid cloud -  combine the best bits of both public and private clouds depending on the operation you’re looking to perform.

More and more businesses are consuming IT through the cloud, but switching from in-house hosting to the Cloud can seem like a big step for some businesses.  As with most things in life and online, there are pro’s and cons associated with both sides of the Cloud coin. So, we’ve taken a closer look at cloud hosting versus in-house hosting to help you make an informed decision about what’s best for your business.

Cloud hosting

Pros


  • Easily scalable, can be added to as and when needed to help accommodate fluctuating demand or business growth. 
  • Employees can connect from anywhere at any time using their computers, mobile devices and tablets.
  • Your data can be backed up as regularly as every 15 minutes. This minimises data loss in a disaster situation.  
  • No need for on-site hardware or capital expenses, making Cloud computing a cost-effective solution and the solutions are on-demand so you only pay for the options you want.

Cons


  • If the internet goes down on either your side or the provider’s side you will not have access to the software.
  • Third party cloud services could have access to your data, however it is very unlikely.


In-house

Pros


  • Keeps critical data in-house so only you have access to your data.
  • Your own choice of hardware, as well as the option to upgrade hardware when you want to.

Cons


  • The significant cost of the purchasing and maintaining hardware and high-speed internet required for the software to run efficiently.
  • The technical skills required to maintain the server and keep it up to date with the most recent technology.
  • The need for specialist security tools to keep the software and database secure.
  • More susceptible to data loss during disaster situations. How often you take the data off-site will reflect how much data you lose in those situations.
  • No uptime guarantees.
  • Cost of electricity, air conditioning e.t.c to keep the server running.
  • Upgrading hardware requires a long installation process.

With lower cost of ownership, built-in business security, access to features and functionality and a whole list of other benefits to your business, more and more modern businesses are switching to the cloud.


Sunday, 27 March 2016

Norwich City Council Leader's Reception

When you think about networking and presentation venues in Norwich the castle doesn’t immediately spring to mind, but it should. Think about it. The castle has a prominent position within the city, offers fantastic views of the city, has plenty of open space inside for mingling and/or dinner tables and has, it turns out, a fantastic auditorium.  This was the setting for the Leader’s of Norwich City Council Business Reception.

As I walked across the bridge towards the keep, lamenting the old days when you could walk up the various steps which wind their way around the mound, I bumped into Huw Sayer who had just completed a circuit of the top of the mound. This is something I had never done, which is odd when you realise I was born and raised in Norwich and have visited the castle many, many times. Huw suggested we do the circuit together, so we did and took in the fantastic city of Norwich.

We were welcomed into the castle’s rotunda where drinks were available and we could mingle with the other guests. I took the opportunity to catch up with one of Naked Element’s competitors and we discussed our businesses and our involvement in the early days of SyncNorwich. At 6.30pm we were invited to the auditorium for the presentations.

Councillor Alan Waters, the leader of Norwich City Council, opened proceedings in his usual jovial, friendly and informative way. He reminded us that Norfolk has the happiest workforce and the happiest children in the country. Norwich City Council has been nominated for council of the year and is spending £80M on house building, is funding the Northern Distributor and constantly striving for equality in the region.

The most interesting and important things Alan had to say were around the devolution of the East of England, which includes Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. If it goes ahead this will mean more local control over areas such as health, skills and transport investment. The region will shortly be entering a period of extended consultation with a final decision being made in the summer.


Next up was Jason Wolfe of ServiceTick, a thriving local technology company, who told us about their growth. A group of ex-Norwich Union colleagues created a web agency called Internet Geeks. As with a lot of service based companies, it’s difficult to scale beyond a certain point. Internet Geeks took the decision to build a product and ServiceTick was born. ServiceTick helps companies take action from their customer feedback. ServiceTick spawned a second business and product called SessionCam, which records a user's journey through your website.

The third speaker tonight was Richard Peat, from the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) who told us about an initiative in Norfolk called the Enterprise Advisor Network, where the LEP encouraging business owners to form partnerships with schools to help them develop a plan for increased learning. Richard was followed by Philip Roffe, a local business owner, who is keen to help high school students in making the right career moves when leaving school.

The final speaker tonight was Louise Smith, Director of Public Health at Norfolk County Council who is interested in how everyone can be physically and mentally as healthy as possible. Louise has been looking at how work and health affect each other. There are an estimated 34 million days a year lost to sickness with a £12B cost to the economy. Symptoms include back pain, muscle pain, mental health issues and stress. Lifestyle has a huge impact and can cause obesity, heart disease and cancer. Lots of productivity is also lost due to alcohol.

Louise explained that employers should make health a priority as it will reduce sick leave and improve staff morale and retention. Employers must involve employees to get the best results. Learning how to talk to someone with mental health issues, reducing smoking breaks and helping people to give up and increasing staff physical activity will all help.


Following an interesting question and answers session with all the speakers, which included Jane Chittenden admirably reminding everyone of the Norwich Digital City project, we returned to the rotunda where we were seated for more drinks and canapes.

I was sat with nine others, including one representative from the council, for the traditional discussion of issues facing Norfolk businesses. This is an excellent opportunity for us to air our views and influence the council.

The majority of the conversation was around the aspirations of students in schools, especially outside of the city and in West Norfolk. The general opinion was that many parents don’t have aspirations themselves, due to a multitude of reasons, and therefore do not encourage and in a lot of cases actively discourage their children from aspiring to more than they have achieved themselves. We were each encouraged to contact the schools we had attended and offer to talk about our journey to help inspire students.

All in all this, my second Norwich Council Leader’s Reception, was interesting, informative and I was involved in some very useful discussions and inspired to try and make a difference. The receptions are quite infrequent, but I am looking forward to the next one, and hope to speak about Naked Element, Norfolk Developers and NorDevCon.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Experts in Integration

Integration is all around us.  It’s what makes stuff work together seamlessly and, when done well, it means we don’t even notice it.

An integration is essentially joining two or more things together. In tech terms we all take advantage of an integration every day when we charge our mobile phones or tablets. Our chargers plug into the mains with a three pin plug where there is a large alternating current voltage. Our chargers transform that large voltage into the smaller, direct current voltage required to charge our devices’ battery.  The charger also provides a smaller plug which fits into our devices. Our chargers integrate our devices with the mains supply so that they can charge safely.

Here at Naked Element, we are experts in integrating radically different computer systems with very different organisations of data (map locations, for example) so that they can talk to each other seamlessly. For example, we can:

  • take your database system and get it to talk to your sales system. Or your customer relationship management (CRM) system. Or take any one or more of them and get them to talk to your website.
  • get your marketing system talking directly to twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Mailchimp or Google Adwords.
  • enhance any of your systems so that they can look up your clients’ addresses and postcodes directly from Royal Mail data and display their location on a map.
  • get your vital business process systems talking to your suppliers or clients systems.
  • help you remove that costly, error prone manual step between any two or more systems. 

 An ever increasing number of companies suffer delays and losses due to a reliance on old or outdated systems for sales, fulfilment and many of their other business processes.

One of our clients is a company with a highly specialised product; the nature of their product means the choices they have to offer each customer are almost endless. Previously their field agents would make notes of all the requirements and options a customer had decided upon, then enter the order manually into the internal database when back in the office. The potential for error was high and the delay between taking the details and fulfilling the order was significant in a competitive market.

We were able to build them a cloud based ordering system for their field agents to use. We made use of our experience of integration and data mapping to speak directly to their internal database to automatically place orders in their existing system. We improved the efficiency and accuracy of their sales and order process which resulted in a significant return on their investment with us.

Give us a call today to discuss how we can help you make similar savings: +44 (0) 1603 383 458