So, hoping this will not be used against me, I live in Trinidad, in the West Indies. Note that I said “West Indies”, not Caribbean. The West Indies is a place where people live, small islands that are isolated communities, having been used and abused by Europe, sucked dry and discarded. The Caribbean, on the other hand, is something that exists on tourist brochures, in advertising, and has nothing to do with the daily grind under the hot sun. Just so you know.
As to ODK, I cannot at this moment recall what led me to it, but sometime in April this year, I stumbled across it. Guidance, I suppose. I have been searching for years for a useable mobile data collection platform. This started when I worked for a courier service back in the 80’s. Never found one until now. ODK blew my mind.
A mobile platform that you program using Excel? Excel? What? Are you kidding me? And all I have to do, is figure out how to set up a Tomcat server? Well, I’ll get right onto that, never mind I’ve have no idea what Tomcat is.
So, with Yaw Anokwa’s help, I got my Tomcat server running and I’ve built some forms for my wife’s restaurant.
But then, one Friday, I woke up with the idea, “Can I put her Spanish hymns on ODK?” You see, she’s loves the old Spanish hymns and wants to preserve them in her valley. Which is called Lopinot, BTW. (Where we didn’t have internet until I went down to protest 5 years running at the local internet and broadcast authority.)
So, I spent a day working on her hymnal and now she has Spanish hymns on her cellphone.
I know it doesn’t seem like much, but it’s the start of my plan to take over the world! Absolute world domination, here I come!
So, besides ODK, I work with an open source platform called Odoo. It’s out of Belgium, which, despite their horrendous history in the Congo, and despite their never having made any reparations for the devastation they inflicted on that place, have managed to produce a really good piece of software.
The core of Odoo is only about 40K lines of Python code, which, the next time I am in hospital, I thoroughly intend to read through, a perfectly manageable size. It comes with some basic modules, accounting, etc. But the key thing about it, is that you have the source and you can build your own modules.
So, for the past 2 years, I’ve been working with my brother to write a module to help manage the loans at our credit union. It’s been fun, difficult (coz I’m old) but fun.
The screens are all XML, just like ODK!
I’ve been trying to get Yaw Anokwa interested in Odoo, but he hasn’t seen the potential yet. Say what.
The other BIG piece of software in my life, is Twiki. If you don’t have a personal wiki, start now. I’ve been maintaining mine since 2002 and I wish I had started before. Every script, every configuration, every blessed screenshot I ever needed, is in my wiki. Hey, it automatically does version control! So, my young friends of the ODK community, take some free advice from your old buddy, Seth and set up a wiki TODAY! One day, your memory will begin to fade and you will find yourself trying to remember something you shoulda written down but didn’t. Then, you will kick yourself and say, “You know, I really shoulda listened to that old fart, Seth.”
Fun fact: just came back from Abu Dhabi, the longest journey of my life. It’s really hot there. Not joke hot, real hot! They have MILES of water pipe to feed plants. Every plant you see, has a pipe feeding it. They want to grow a forest in the desert.
I stayed in a university, which has a garden filled with tropical plants. Even sugar cane, that blood-soaked weed. Cane needs water, a lot of water. They got it to grow.
The Emiratis are a determined people. They don’t play around. I have real respect for their force of will.
Ah! now I remember how I found ODK!
I went to a lecture by Dr Patrick Hosein. He’s one of our local unsung geniuses. No really, the guy has 5 degrees from MIT, 40 patents to his name. He’s one of the most humble men you will ever find. No setta big talk from him, just straight and simple. He’s even kinda shy.
So, on a whim, I went to the lecture, just to support him really coz we’ve gotten along well in the past, though I’ve only met him a few times. He hired me to set up a server once. That kinda thing.
Anyhow, he’s managed to get the university to offer a Master’s degree in Data Science, a new thing for them. He’s done lots of research in his career and thinks we need data scientists here.
So, I got inspired by his ideas, did some searching and found ODK. I offered to come on and set up the Tomcat server for him for free, but so far he hasn’t bit the hook. World domination takes time.
Also, I got distracted by the Abu Dhabi trip. But now, I’m back. Fell back into writing scripts and such, but this week I’ve going to start working with ODK again. I want to see if I can get it to talk to Odoo. Might not get it to talk directly but we’ll see how far I get.