Historic notes

My computer career started in 1982 when I was 14 after attending to a one-week programming camp. Between 1982 and 1987 I passed some of my spare time by writing simple BASIC programs on a TRS-80. My father was at this time the proud possessor of a Tandy TRS-80 with 64 KB of RAM and a graphics resolution of 127 x 64 black and white pixels.

Before becoming a programmer, I studied Biology at the University of Namur (French-speaking part of Belgium), during two years from September 1986 to September 1988. Although I abandoned these studies, I think that these two years were not lost for me. They had a deep contribution on how I look at our world. I am most thankful to J.L. De Sloover for his teachings.

In June 1990 I finished my studies of Gradué en informatique.

After my studies I worked at Siemens-Nixdorf in Liège for 18 months (from September 1990 to January 1992). I got in touch with the operating systems UNIX and BS/2000. One of my projects was for example a parser who read a database definition file and generated a PostScript file that visualized entity/relations diagrams of the database.

In December 1992 I resigned at Siemens-Nixdorf because I had decided to change my vocation: I wanted to become a primary school teacher. Although programmer was a beautiful and secure job, I was not fascinated by what I was doing. In Belgium it is theoretically possible to make a diplome by learning on your own and passing a state exam (“Jury central”). I applied for acceptance to this exam. While waiting for an answer from the government I started a half-time job as programmer at PAC Systems in Eupen (January 1992). Half a year later I received the answer of the government: I was the only person asking for a state exam as primary school teacher, and they would not organize such an exam for me alone. This answer was not so disappointing to me because meanwhile I was enjoying my new job very much. I switched to full-time on September 1st, 1992. PAC Systems was at this time a company with three employees. Now there are 5 employees and three trainees.

During the next 8 years I worked at PAC Systems (renamed to AbAKUS in 2008) as software designer and programmer. I developed TIM, a customizable software application for small and medium-sized companies, used for invoicing, accountance, stock management, etc. TIM is written in Clipper (now compiled using Alaska xBase++) and runs on MS-DOS. Besides software development I also gave hotline and technical support for our customers. Besides working on TIM I gave computer lessons about Office software (MS Word, Excel, Access) to end-users in our training center or at the customers’ offices.

In 1995 I started to work on a “TIM for Windows”, using Borland C++. In March 1999 I switched to Java.

In August 1998 I met my future wife for the first time in Taizé, in January 1999 I met her again in Milano. In April 1999 we met for the third time for three days in Eupen and I fell seriously in love with her. In June we met the fourth time in Tallinn. (…)

In February 1999 I passed the “Ausbilder-Eignungsprüfung” in Aachen (Germany) and became responsible for the training of a 19-year-old future software application developer (IT-Fachmann, Fachrichtung Anwendungsentwicklung).

In August 2000 I announced to my employer that I decided to move to Estonia. I agreed to stay another year so that they have a chance to find a successor for me.

In October 2000 I married.

In August 2001 I moved to Estonia where I started a sabbatical year: continued the Java port project on my own and without getting money for it. I once tried a PHP port that got quite far but is now forgotten.

In August 2002 I announced to the TIM users in Eastern Belgium that I would continue to maintain and give support for TIM, but at new conditions, requiring a yearly fee.

In 2002 I discovered the Python programming language and abandoned C++, Java and PHP without tears.

When I discovered Django in the end of 2008, after having worked many months on my own database model, I was quickly fascinated. The ORM and database model based on ‘apps’ is simply genial. The way of how this is integrated into a web application server system: genial. But a few things disturbed me with Django, and I felt that I need to change them before I can be satisfied. That’s why I started to write Lino. After some search for a valuable user interface, I started to use ExtJS in August 2009.

Where is the songbook project? Where is your private blog?

One of my projects is dead. It was called songbook and was a tool to manage song collections and generate printable .pdf files with and without scores in different sizes. We used it to print the Estonian version of the Taizé songs (Taizé laulud). The project was designed to be of general use also for others, so the code repository contained some example files, one of which contained texts of over 200 German songs. Some of these songs had an empty author field, but I didn’t care much about copyright questions because this file was a plain text markup format and not directly printable. I just added a remark “It is not allowed to use this document for anything else than learning how the songbook module works. Before publishing this document or parts of it, you would need to check with the copyright holders of the individual songs.” And four of these songs were written by a German songwriter. The author discovered them, and he did care about copyright, and in august 2012 he asked me to pay a license fee of 630€. Even though I removed the whole project immediately and convinced him that I was not doing any business with “his” “property”. Oh my god. And it seems that this was still a rather cheap price for a sin against copyright. I paid it because I knew that the costs would become even worse if that guy decided to go to court. I then noticed that my private blog contained probably other similar sins against copyright. So I removed it before getting more invoices for license fees.