Tag Archives: Munich

Openismus Over

Last week I was at a notary here in Munich to officially put Openismus GmbH into its liquidation phase, after seven years. The company is closing down, though with no debts and with a little left over. I feel good about that.

This has been the plan for a while since it became harder to get reliable customer work, though that was more a result of the company structure and my own time constraints than any particular change in the tech economy. It became possible once the last few employees had found good jobs to move on to.

I got past any sadness about this a long time ago. I guess it would be nice for things to be running along at their best again, but there was never a sense of security and always a stressful balance of risk and responsibility. It was a good problem to have.

For the last year or so I’ve mostly been busy with all the tedious work of shutting down the offices in Munich and Berlin along with the day to day paperwork involved in a company. Now I feel a sense of relief to be free of these responsibilities.

It will be a few months until I start to look seriously for what’s next. I’ll probably look for a nice stable development and management job here in Munich, and I’ll try particularly hard to find something that lets me work part time so I can pick my kids up from school.

In the meantime I’m enjoying the small sense of achievement that comes from taking care of all the little things I’ve let slip over the past few years and catching up with a bunch of tech stuff that I haven’t had time to learn in depth.

Openismus Getting Smaller

Openismus has recently had to let some great developers, and good friends, go. We are now much smaller.

This is really sad because it took us a long time to find and train these people, and they would be massive assets if the future looked better. Although they will be greatly missed, I am at least reassured that they will have no problem finding new jobs. I do hope that they don’t settle for work that is anything but worthy of their experience and enthusiasm.

This downsizing happened because we are now finally losing the customer work we had from Nokia, as expected since their February 11th 2011 decision to kill MeeGo. Nokia are not our only customer, but they are by far our largest. That gave us the opportunity to diversify, and we tried, but without much success. That failure is mine. On the one hand, it’s unfortunate that we have been so dependent on one customer. But, on the other hand, we would never have been so big for so long without them. I would do the same again without regrets.

I view the last few years of Openismus very positively:

  • We gave several young developers their first chance to prove themselves as professionals.
  • We trained new developers. They are now established as respected and experienced developers.
  • We made a few contributions to our favorite projects. For instance, natural layout in GTK+ 3.

Personally, Openismus has allowed me to work part-time, so I can spend time with my children. My first child was born soon after the company was founded, and for the first year, I worked from home, contrary to the myth that founding a company means working all hours of the day and neglecting your family. The tech industry is excessively male, with little understanding for men who want to share in the work of child-rearing, so I’m glad I had the freedom to work part-time. I am highly motivated to keep this freedom.

This has been a disadvantage, of course. For instance, I strongly suspect that I could win more customer work by traveling more to conferences and to customers on site. That has given good results when I’ve managed to do it. But this is simply an impossibility for someone who needs to take care of kids. I think the custom of business travel might be one of the greatest obstacle to women reaching top executive positions. It’s one of many things that won’t improve until men are forced to share more of the burden.

So, Openismus goes on, with some uncertainty. Our specific expertise in the Maliit input methods, in the QtContacts and EDS contacts systems, and in DLNA via Rygel should be very attractive, but time will tell. If you need help with GTK+ or Qt on Linux, from people who really know how, and are not afraid to tell you how, then we are still here and still ready.


Openismus is Hiring

Openismus is currently looking for a few experienced C++ coders, to work with our expert team in Berlin or Munich. We could really use some more Qt expertise. It’s an advantage if you have experience of GTK+ and GObject-based libraries too, though it’s not essential.

As usual, please email a description of yourself, along with a CV. I look forward to hearing from you.

Meyah Kathi

Our daughter, Meyah Kathi Cumming, was born healthy and perfect just a few days ago, on the 25th December 2010 at 12:25, 51cm and 2695 grams. She is our second child. Liam was born three years ago. We know how lucky we are.


Meyah is named after my mother, Maya Cumming, though we’ve changed the spelling. My mother was named Margaret Maya Lawrence, but there was apparently an argument about which Margaret she was named after. So her father soon decided to use her second name, though her official documents always showed Margaret. It was always pronounced May rather than the Mei that you’d expect in Europe or Russia, though nobody in that family ever spoke enough about anything for us to be sure that it was on purpose. There was vague talk of her father’s time in the pacific during the war, but that’s just vagueness upon vagueness. Anyway, it was her name for whatever reason. But now that we live in Germany, where there are many Mayas whose names are pronounced “correctly”, we thought we’d make the distinction clearer.

Her second name is from Sigi’s great grandmother Kathi Oma – Katherina Kiefer, wife of Hans Kiefer. Her maiden name was Thor and she was born in a German-speaking village in the Romanian Banat.

Both Meyah and Sigi are fine now, but it was scary for a little while. Sigi had signs of pre-eclampsia for a few months, which turned into definite HELLP syndrome on the 25th. She needed a full anesthetic so I had to wait outside the operating room for thirty minutes. Then I held Meyah in my arms shortly after hearing her first cries. It wasn’t our plan but it all worked out safely.

Liam’s third birthday was just four days later on the 29th. Unfortunately he couldn’t share it with his friends, or Meyah in the hospital, because we noticed the signs of chickenpox just a day later. Luckily he is not suffering much at all.

I am very grateful to our friends and Liam’s Oma for looking after Liam at home while I visited the hospital, first in the nighttime for the birth and later because he wasn’t allowed to visit.

Liam has looked forward to Meyah and Mama arriving home. He understands how little a baby can do at first and knows that she will grow bigger and learn to do everything that he can do. He’s very gentle and sweet with her. They will always have each other.

Openismus Wants More Trainees

A little over a year ago, we hired our first batch of Openismus trainees. After an intensive year gaining knowledge and experience, I’m proud to say that David King and Michael Hasselmann have now graduated to regular work on customer projects. They’ve become solid developers in whom we have confidence, thanks to mentoring from all our other employees. Personally, creating these new development careers is one of the most worthwhile things I’ve done in my career.

So we need some more people to repeat our success. Here’s the text from the first time:

If you are smart and enthusiastic but you lack experience then we can provide the opportunity. You would work mostly on existing open source projects instead of customer projects, just to get experience with C, C++, GTK+ and Qt. Our developers would provide technical guidance and encourage you to work and communicate in a structured way, creating software that’s actually usable and useful.

This is also a great opportunity to move to Berlin – a wonderful city for young people. Munich may also be a possibility if necessary.

I’d also like to point out that we are very much an equal-opportunities employer. We get almost no applications from women or minority groups and that’s not good enough. We are a small company so every new person can make the place more like themselves.

Please send us an email telling us about yourself. Show enthusiasm and show us anything you’ve done in the open source world already. As before, I will filter out the least suitable candidates by expecting you to find the appropriate email address yourself. Unfortunately, as before, it’s unlikely that we’ll want to deal with visa paperwork if you are not already working in the EU.

Update: We think we have chosen our new trainees already. Stay tuned. Do bug me if I have not replied to you.

Liam at Two

December’s long season of presents is over and Liam is now two years old.

He’s recently started the famous language explosion, learning several new words each day. He’s obviously aware that he speaks two languages, now learning to say both words instead of preferring the first one he’d learned. He still prefers hand gestures where he has learned them first, seeing no need to learn words for them too.

For the past couple of months Liam has spent the mornings in the crèche over the road. That’s why I’m online again every morning. It’s great for him to learn some independence and spend time with the same kids every day. Leaving him there in tears has been heart-breaking every morning for weeks, but now he’s happy to go there and is nonchalant about us leaving.

I was worried when he suddenly learned more German at the crèche, but that has settled down now. Still, I make an extra effort with plenty of English books and music and some DVDs of gentle British children’s TV from the 70s, such as The Wombles and Ivor the Engine.

The language explosion was accompanied by a sudden increase in general understanding and concentration. Now he happily listens as I read all of a Dr Seuss book to him and seems to understand narrative instead of just wanting to identify objects. His imaginative play is more complicated, with detailed routines.

We’ve had a little snow in Munich this week. Liam learned to walk in last year’s snow. I hope he remembers enjoying this year’s.

Revo Pico RadioStation

I am incredibly pleased with my Revi Pico RadioStation Internet radio. It’s easy to use and has a rechargeable battery so I can use it much like a regular portable radio. I wanted to have more English around the apartment so Liam hears more and to stop my vocabulary from degrading to the international English that I use in Munich if not speaking German.

Setting up the connection to my WPA2 wireless network was perfectly simple. I just chose the network then entered the pass phrase and it connected. Choosing radio stations is easy, by location, genre or search, with popular stations in “highlights” lists. When turned on it starts playing whatever station it was playing when turned off.

It gets the list of radio stations from wifiradio-frontier.com. I wish that we had access to a list like that on the Linux desktop, for instance in Rhythmbox. The website lets you set up groups of favorite stations, which then appear in the device’s UI. That’s rather clunky – for instance, I can’t correct the spelling of my “Scotlland” group without completely recreating the group. Likewise, I can’t move stations between groups. Obviously I’m concerned that the website might disappear one day, orphaning the device, but I expect the device to be technologically outdated before that happens.

The UI is very good, only limited by the two-line text display and the slow automatic horizontal scrolling. That’s particularly noticeable when choosing podcast episodes, which all tend to have the same long prefix in their titles. It would also be nice if it played podcast episodes sequentially instead of repeating the same episode. But that’s not the primary purpose of the device.

The company is based in Lanark, Scotland, though they manufacture in China. My RadioStation’s serial number of 1005 is surprisingly low.

Inefficient Crèche/Kindergarten Allocation in Munich

It’s hard to find a place in a Crèche (Kinderkrippe) or Kindergarten in Munich. As far as I can tell, this is how it works:

  • Every family puts their child on the waiting list at 50 Crèches. That’s 50 separate waiting lists. Each family needs different hours – such as half-day or full-day.
  • Every Crèche therefore has a huge waiting list, probably 50 times bigger than their capacity.
  • A Crèche fills the next available place by calling people on the waiting list. Many people they call already have a place elsewhere, because they registered at all the other places, because they have no confidence in any one waiting list, because the waiting lists are huge. Families have to take the first place that is offered regardless of suitability because they have no clue about their chances on the other waiting lists.

This is incredibly inefficient and ineffective. I am surprised that nobody has created an online system to match children to Crèche and Kindergarten places. It wouldn’t have to be specific to Munich or even Germany.

Liam at one year, standing

Liam is now one year old. The months have passed quickly but the progress is obvious. He can now stand easily though he only bothers when distracted by something shiny. He walks sometimes holding our hand and I’m sure that any moment now he’ll stop needing to hold on. Even without walking he gets around incredibly quickly, indulging his need to take things out of their proper place, take them apart, and then jam them all back together again.

Peek-a-boo and pretending to be chased are his other main interests.

For the last six months, I’ve been working part-time, spending two and a half days at work and two and a half days at home taking care of Liam, with not much time in between for other things. I am very lucky to spend so much time with him – if really helps you create a strong bond.

Hopefully in March there will be a place for him in a Kinderkrippe/Kindergarten for a few hours a day. He’ll need that to get enough time with other kids, and it will take some stress off my work routine, though I’m unlikely to be working totally full-time for the forseeable future.