Tag Archive | en

Q42 Founder’s letter

Q is for question. Wahlberg, Bromance & Failing is the answer.

Last year Q42 turned fifteen years old. A happy occasion for a happy place for nerds. But, with celebration, also comes realisation. Fifteen years of playing with Legos and Nerf guns at the office: it gets old being that childish. We have to start being serious if we want to compete heads-on with the leading system integrators in our country. And honestly, it was kind of an act on our part the entire time. We wanted to come across young and hip.

Kars, CTO: “We’ve been denying ourselves the desire for a professional corporate business structure for too long.”

Stef, CEO: “Suddenly, it was crystal clear: having a financial marketing and HR background and an endless love for business to business relations, this happy place for nerds never really suited me. To be perfectly fair: a suit is what suits me. Pinstriped, if it is up to me. Our 15th anniversary seemed to be the perfect timing to start thinking about a more serious relaunch of our business.”

So since our anniversary, we’ve been working on our relaunch as Wahlberg, Bromance & Failing. WBF for short. Some of you might have noticed the upcoming changes at our offices. Legos were slowly disappearing and a growing number of colleagues started to wear dress shirts occasionally. From now on, occasionally starts being continuously. All of our upper and lower staff have received a gift certificate in their inbox for a nice suit and tie at one of the biggest suit suppliers of our country. Thanks, C&A for hooking us up! Some also for the hairdresser.

Tim, Project Manager: “As a project manager you just feel really comfortable in a suit. Crazy how it works. I’m glad we took this decision.”

With this relaunch, we are not just changing our name, attitudes and outfits. We are also starting to change course of our actual business models. Of course, we will continue to work with all of our current clients, but we’d love to have an open discussion with them about how we will change the direction of their VR apps to apps that will be more appropriate in the B2B-environment we’d like to conquer.

Chris, COO: “We did one VR/drone job after another. Games, apps, a slide in the office, even a happiness committee instead of a works council. It seemed like everything was about the happiness and fun of our employees, instead of the work. I’d like to put work back on the top of our list and preferably a lot harder and serious than before.”

Kars, CTO: “E-bikes out, e-solutions in!”

This new structure will allow us to keep tremendous focus on the extraordinary opportunities that lay in the field of e-solutions. Q42’s website will be redirecting to our brand new business website from next week on. But, we’d like to invite you to read more about our new focus today already, at: WahlbergBromanceFailing.com

We hope you’re as excited as we are and we’d like to meet you at one of our offices to talk process, business and IT. You can arrange for a meeting in one of our conference rooms here.

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Steam Early Access: Intergalactic Road Warriors

Good news travels fast between the galaxies. Especially when it’s brought by Cluck in his little racecar. Intergalactic Road Warriors is available on Steam Early Access right now! Go get it so TurtleBlaze can keep on developing the game. Free updates for life included.

In Intergalactic Road Warriors you enter the Intergalactic Grand Prix, a massive racing tournament that takes you to all the corners of the known universe. It’s a side scrolling speed racer combined with the chaos of a Metal Slug game.

Characters with character

So who’s this Cluck, bringer of good news? Cluck is a chicken. Actually, he’s a rooster, but we call him chicken. Fun fact: this isn’t the first game he takes the spotlight in. Benjamin and Richard wanted to build a side scrolling race game, so Richard started building a prototype and needed a character to drive the car. Cluck, the main character of one of his previous games, DuckSoup Dungeon, was still sitting on his desktop. Long story short: he used and kept Cluck. During Early Access, you can already ride with this little chicken. And good news! More characters with character are coming! Such as Juoi, the main character of Benjamin’s Ludum Dare game jam entry from back in 2014.

What happened until now?

Benjamin and Richard started out by building a prototype in just three days last fall. It was so well received at the office that they started development on the full game. 2016 started with a blast when the game was Greenlit just before Christmas. Watch Turtleblaze’s latest devlog above and if you want to see what happened over the last three months you can take a look at their YouTube channel where they keep all their devlogs.

As of now the game is playable on two racetracks with up to four players. You can make your friends’ lives miserable by using special power-ups during the race.

Help with the development

During Early Access you don’t just get the game with all future updates free of charge, it’s also your chance to take a look inside the garage and help develop the game further. On the community hub you can join the discussion, give feedback and follow updates! Planned future features include:  a tense singleplayer story, unlimited car customization, local / online Multiplayer,  galaxinous worlds to race on and even more crazy dangerous powerups.

And now it’s time to give Benjamin and Richard some love. Play the Early Access version of the game and help them create the best side-scrolling combat racer ever. Ready, set, go!

Girl Code meets Meteor

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Last week Girl Code decided to shake things up a little. Instead of your regular talks only meetup; Ineke, Katja and Kristin organised a hands-on meetup to take place at our HQ in The Hague. After some noodles and a quick intro everybody went on to code their very own game of Tic Tac Toe in MeteorJS. All levels were welcome.

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Because MeteorJS is so accessible, it is just the right framework for a workshop suited for all levels. With the right tutorial someone who hasn’t ever coded before can code their first Tic Tac Toe quite easily and get a taste of how much fun programming is. While at the same time, professional developers can easily go deeper and get more familiar with Meteor and code an advanced Tic Tac Toe.

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We had a full house and the workshop proved to be so much fun even the first time programmers were behaving like proper nerd developers: everyone was buried in their screen, coding the ultimate Tic Tac Toe and forgot to take care of themselves. The amount of candy bars and drinks we’ve got left is proof of that, lol. Girl Coders at the meetup told us this hands-on meetup was a welcome and a cool alternative to the regular talks-only-meetups. So this is one to get a rerun.

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Rerun!

A rerun like on tv and as good as any good old Friends rerun. We want to offer a second chance to everybody who couldn’t make the first Girl Code meets Meteor because it was in The Hague. So this night will be at our Amsterdam office and we hope you all join us there. We also would like to re-invite everybody who did come already and just want to do the workshop again or want to go on with their Tic Tac Toe they’ve coded last week. Whilst enjoying the good company of other Girl Coders and Meteor tutors of course. You can RSVP here: Girl Code meets Meteor Rerun at Q42 Amsterdam.

Meteor meetups

After coding your own Tic Tac Toe you might be hungry for even more Meteor. You can start on the tutorials Meteor.com offers and join the Meteor NL meetups which we at Q42 also organise.

Learning to code

If you’re just starting out learning to code it can be hard to know where to start. That’s why we made this list with tools and websites which offer ways to learn how to code at home:

Codecademy
Khan Academy
Microsoft Minecraft
Codescool
Udacity
Coursera
Treehouse

Thanks to all the Girl Coders who joined us: you made this night a real success!

For more photos of the night check this album. Girl Code is open for everybody: all levels and genders ;-) You can join Girl Code here.

Update March 18 2016:

Meanwhile, Girl Code meets Meteor Rerun at Q42 Amsterdam is also behind us. And wow! What a turnout. 50(!) of you joined us for a night of coding. And we have pictures to prove it :-D Thank you all for coming!

You can finish or start the Girl Code meets Meteor Tic Tac Toe tutorial here.

NTR Hieronymus Bosch: an interactive documentary in Micrio

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Commissioned by the NTR and together with our friends at Fabrique we built the interactive documentary for the transmedia triptych about Hieronymus Bosch by director Pieter van Huysteee. The documentary is called ‘Hieronymus Bosch: The Garden of Earthly Delights’ and affords you to discover this painting in more detail than ever. To be able to discover this image of extremely high resolution, a new engine to zoom and scroll over the painting smoothly had yet to be developed. This engine is called Micrio.

Triptych of a triptych

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2016 is the year that Dutch town Den Bosch celebrates in the name of Hieronymus Bosch. Not without reason: this world famous master painter died exactly 500 years ago. For this occasion several directors, dancers, designers, componists, art historians and other creatives let Bosch inspire them anew. Director Pieter van Huystee was one of those re-inspired creatives. In collaboration with the NTR he produced a transmedial triptych about Bosch: a documentary, a VR-experience and this interactive documentary which Marcel, Michiel, Tim and Silvy built.

Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights

The triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights was extraordinary back in the days because of its almost infinite details. And it has never lost this extraordinarity. Every time you look at this painting again, you will discover and stumble upon new creatures and stories. Because we have built the documentary in Micrio, you can now discover the painting in even more detail than at the Prado in Spain from behind the little fence they’ve put in front of the painting. We worked close together with the NTR, Pieter and music componist Paul M. van Brugge to develop the interactive tour next to the ‘freely explore’ option. The voice of Redmond O’Hanlon guides you through the painting to explore the deepest details and gives you information about the mysterious symbolism behind the strange creatures in this Bosch painting. We’ve also built a (Dutch) Klokhuis-tour for children. You can rediscover this painting here.

Micrio

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We have worked with big images before for the Rijksmuseum. But, the hi-res image of ‘The Garden of Earthly Delight’ is so extremely big (120.000 x 70.000 pixels) you can’t even download all of it at the same time. That’s why we had to think of something new. Marcel got inspired by this fact and came with Micrio: an online viewer for extremely hi-res images. At the core Micrio is a HTML5-library that streams the biggest images of the internet with minimal effort. From the start it’s developed with performance and minimalism in mind. Because the streaming should be extra smooth on smartphones, tablets and retina-screens too. To make sure a visit to the triptych doesn’t use up all of your mobile data, data usage has also been successfully minimized.

FYI

Micrio has already provoked some attention of its own. At this moment it’s being implemented in several projects we’re working on and it’s already implemented in the renewed website of Museum de Lakenhal. It was on show at Border Sessions 2015. And several Q’ers have built an open image service around it (Dutch article): the Micrio Dashboard. All in all it took a full year to take it from the first prototype to the full blown stable version it is now. How such a simple thought as “This has to be better!” led to a tool that’s now running in several of our Q-projects, is something Marcel hasn’t expected: “This journey has been really cool! I wonder where it goes from now.” (If you have any extremely hi-res images laying around don’t be shy to upload them to Micrio or get into contact with us!)

But for now! Please enjoy the interactive docu and Micrio in ‘Hieronymus Bosch: The Garden of Earthly Delights’.

You might have read this article before. That’s very well possible. Almost two weeks ago we posted the exact same post in Dutch with the launch of the documentary. Since then the interactive documentary has gotten more views and attention we could have possibly hoped for. In just one week the site has reached more than 40.000 views already, after two weeks more than 100.000 and after being on the front page of Reddit since last night we’ve passed 200.000 views. Not only Reddit picked up our interactive documentary, a lot of people are talking about it on social media and several blogs posted articles about it, Colossal for example. The attention thus isn’t only Dutch anymore so we thought it would be helpful for our international audience to translate our piece in English. The picture below is of our extremely proud Marcel, the creator of Micrio, who after a tip it being posted on Reddit last night, is watching on his phone how ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ gradually reaches the frontpage.

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Printr jumpstart: 3D printing made painless by a Dutch-based startup

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3D printing can be a real pain. You’ve got so many printer variables to set up it can feel like you’re sending a rocket to Mars. And you’re either stuck at the printer with a USB cable or you’re getting no info about your current print, because you’re using an SD card to print your miniature Millennium Falcon. So painless, even enjoyable 3D printing just almost sounds too good to be true. Dutch-based startup Printr is making it a reality though. Not only on the hardware, but also on the software side.

Printr

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Everybody knows printing in general is just a horrible experience. 3D printing is even worse, because most companies see 3D printing as a niche market for professionals only. Printr sees things differently and wants to streamline the 3D printing experience, both for the abovementioned professionals and every average Joe and Joelene as well. With FORMIDE, they already offer a 3D printing cloud platform for schools, makers and offices on which everybody can log in and manage multiple printers, projects and users for greater productivity. Their new piece of hardware makes the experience even better: the Element provides for a way get the info on your current print, without being stuck at the printer with a USB cable. That’s because it streams STLs or Gcode generated from any slicer (the tool you need to convert your file into instructions or say slices) directly from your device to your 3D printer, both locally and through FORMIDE. To complete serving everyone in every situation the next step is Katana,  a free 3D printing app everyone can download to simply start printing without having to use the cloud, for individual users.

Jumpstart

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Printr had several reasons to build Katana. One of them is to serve their customers across the board. Another is for easy onboarding to their other products. But the main reason is because the experience of 3D printing until now just sucks. Printr wants to fix that. Since UX-fixing is sorta kinda our thing, this jumpstart was a perfect match. So, in just one week of only, we built Katana, together with the Printr team. But not only that: next to coding the app we helped them with the typical startup struggles. We introduced their team to the Q-way of working together, helped them polish their ideas about 3D printing, assisted in increasing the viability of their product, tested Katana with objective testers and thought along about the steps they should be taking next. So in other words: a jumpstart isn’t necessarily only valuable for the viability of your product; it can help jumpstart your whole business as well.

Katana

For Katana we used Node.js and Angular, because Printr’s finished software was built with it too. To turn it into a desktop app, we used Electron. Two steps of Katana were already finished and could simply be tied together, because Printr provided us with their powerful slicer software and 3D viewer. So we tied it together and built the remaining steps of the app.

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Upon starting the app, you first choose your printer. Printr already created profiles for different printers, to make your life a little easier. The next step we built is selecting your 3D model. You can do that by selecting a file on your computer or you can just drag and drop it. Then Printr’s 3D viewer follows. In this viewer you can edit your print any way you want to.

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Then it’s time to choose the material you will use and which quality and speed you want to print at. Because of the printer profiles Printr already generated for you, you don’t have to set up any variables yourself. But because our testers expressed the wish to still be able to control those during our jumpstart, you can still click the manual controls and tweak the variables to your own desire. We generated the duration of your print by calculating the quickest one in the background of the step before. With this information we can calculate the duration of all print qualities in this step. Then, when you’re ready, it’s time to press print or save your print job to an SD card. When you choose ‘print’, Katana keeps you informed about printer status and duration. After the jumpstart Printr was ready for their next step: building support for the Element too.

Jumpstarting your startup

We helped Printr with coding Katana, but to be honest they could have done that by themselves too. Their team is not at all short on geniuses. So with coding Katana and steering towards a new fresh interaction design, we’ve mostly helped them keep their app simple by offering a fresh pair of eyes on their product. We helped them to build a prototype in just one week and introduced them to our way of working. We’ve really enjoyed spending the week together in one room. Because working that close together made it possible for Printr to improve their code immediately on subjects that weren’t finished yet or simply not thought about before building Katana with its own specific use cases.

By using it as an accelerator for their business Printr proves jumpstarts aren’t only for established companies, but extremely valuable for startups too. With their vision, hard- and software, talented team and this jumpstart experience we believe nothing is holding Printr back to take over the 3D printing world.

BREAKING: Intergalactic Race Warriors up on Steam Greenlight

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w00t! Richard and Benjamin, aka TurtleBlaze, just put Intergalactic Race Warriors live! That means: our first non-puzzle, non-mobile game is up on Greenlight. You should go watch the trailer. And then vote for it. So we can get to Early Access. And you know you want to, because that means you can beta test the game! Let your nerdgasms convince you to vote and share here: Intergalactic Race Warriors for president

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Update December 11th: In the top 100 o/ Keep voting, sharing and caring to boost us to the #1 finish line!

ProDemos’ BinnenhofCheck: why to go with Meteor when your app has to run partially offline

ProDemos’ BinnenhofCheck app is a connected multiplayer quest for high school students around The Hague’s Binnenhof (the oldest House of Parliament in the world, still in use). While that doesn’t sound particularly extraordinary (ahem), the challenge this project encountered is. We built an interactive game with a crucial sidenote: players have no internet access for a considerable amount of time during the session. Meteor proved to be the perfect answer for a case like this.

No internet?

Yup, no internet. Because, ProDemos’ WiFi reaches to the door of the Binnenhof, but no further. And, because of security regulations that restrict WiFi at the Binnenhof itself, extending the signal wasn’t an option. “What about 4G?”, I hear you thinking. Sure, there’s 4G coverage at the Binnenhof, but giving 30 tablets 4G subscriptions will cost you. Besides, why spend so much when internet connectivity isn’t really a necessity anyway, because the solution can be so simple?

Meteor’s ‘elevator pitch’

Meteor convinced us rather conclusively, during what you can call a literal elevator pitch. Before this app, we built another Meteor app for ProDemos. During that project, the question of whether the app would still function when connection was temporarily lost came up. Remco was kind of sure it would, and tested it by stepping into the elevator. Because of course: the world of elevators is an offline one. And it did! Without internet connectivity he could still use all the app’s functions. In fact, stepping out of the elevator, the app synced automatically with the server again. That is what makes Meteor so powerful in a case like the BinnenhofCheck. Packages like MiniMongo and autopublish make it so that an app fully runs on the client, even when it’s offline. And then it automatically syncs with the server again when connectivity is back – without you having to set it up to do so yourself. That’s valuable time saved  to spend on user experience instead of trying to fix the problem of the lack of internet.

Latency compensation

Writing your code for the client is clean and simple in Meteor. And because every Meteor client has an in-memory database cache, there is no need to manually cache data to dodge slowness in talking to the server, program detailed invalidation messages to every client when data changes or implement individual RPC endpoints.

The server publishes defined sets of data through publications, and the client subscribes to these sets through subscriptions. When the content of these sets change, the server updates them in the client’s cache too. The client code is extremely simplified, by using its cache as a fast local database. Therefore, for reading the subscribed sets of data, no connectivity to the server is needed. This saves time, and makes the app faster. You can easily make your client even snappier by turning subscriptions on and off to control the amount of data kept in cache and manage the network traffic. Turning one off means it will automatically delete all its data from your cache.

So the server automatically updates subscribed data on the client when data on the server changes. The client, as a MiniMongo, does something similar. When data is changed on the client, for example through an action of the user, it automatically sends a message to the server with a request to change it on the server too. The server checks its allow/deny rules, and when all those rules pass, it changes the data and updates the change to other clients with the same subscriptions too. No need for you to code this yourself.

In short, these methods realize latency compensation, which means you can still use the app locally in full function when connectivity is lost and it automatically updates the server when connectivity is back.

You can read about these techniques in more detail here.

Publications and subscriptions in the BinnenhofCheck

For the BinnenhofCheck app, built by Silvy, Jeroen and Remco, this means MongoDB is the database on the server at ProDemos. And the tablets (the clients) function as MiniMongo. At the start of the quest the supervisor creates a group and session in the dashboard of his or her tablet. This group then receives a code, and with this code the students can add themselves to it on their own tablets. Now the quest can begin. During the quest the tablets are offline, but still run the app in full function. Back at ProDemos, connectivity is back and automatically publishes all the changed data by the students to the server to see who has won the quest. After this, the supervisor presses ‘stop’ to end the session: this automatically archives the subscriptions and deletes the data from the caches of the tablets. Clean and ready to start with another group immediately.

Asset manager package

However, data like text is fine, but you don’t want to upload all the images and videos to the clients every single session. That would be a serious waste of time. So we weren’t there yet. We ended up fixing this by creating two different collections on the server. One for all the text, questions and locations (these types of data are small enough in size to quickly upload and delete every session through the publications and subscriptions) and the other one for the images and videos. For this collection we built an asset manager package. Through scheduled tasks, this collection synchronizes with the clients. You can find this asset manager package here.

We really enjoyed building this app in Meteor for ProDemos and are very proud of the result. If it’s up to us, this case proves building an app in Meteor is the simple solution when you’re facing a similar problem with connectivity in your projects.

PS We think a nice future addition would be to add GroundDB.