It's been far too long since our last newsletter. There's a lot more stories to tell, but today I'm going to talk about some of the reasons I haven't written in so long: our customers.
Open Source Consulting: Helping people get the most out of Free Software
Web sites are the most visible thing we do, so I'd like to highlight a few of the ones our customers have launched in the past few months. Our newest core offering is an e-commerce system called ZenCart, and we've had two of them launch in the last month.
Charlene Feetham makes hand-made soaps and lotions out of her barn in Woodinville, and sells them in her stores in Maltby and downtown Seattle. Now, you can purchase her soap online in her new ZenCart store at http://www.arunningwildspirit.com.
Don't you love those fresh yard sheds made of real cedar? Star Lumber Sheds makes cedar shed kits. They had an old e-commerce site that nobody used. It was very plain, hard to use, and did not represent their products well. They hired Reveal Creative to give their site a makeover, and we set up a new ZenCart site with the new design. We also helped them set up a shipping module that lets users know up front how much it will cost to ship each shed to their location. You can see the new site at http://www.realcedarsheds.com.
Ned Frisk is a local photographer who does stock photography, working with both publishers and models. Instead of printing a portfolio to provide to his customers, we adapted Gallery2 to make an online flip-book to highlight the best of his work. See his flip-book at http://www.nedfriskphoto.com.
Not many people in the Northwest want to talk about Iraq, but for those returning from the middle east after being exposed to all the violence and mayhem going on over there, one of our clients is there to help. Dr. Mike Colson specializes in helping veterans and contractors recover from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We helped him adopt LimeSurvey to use as a screening tool for returning contractors. When a contractor returns state-side, he takes an assessment test online at http://vettrauma.org, answering questions that can indicate the symptoms of PTSD. When they finish, the results of the survey are put into SugarCRM where Dr. Mike can schedule phone sessions to work with each patient.
Huntington's Disease is similar to Parkinson's. It's a chronic disease without a cure that affects motor skills of its victims, leading to substantial degeneration over a relatively short period of time. Huntington's Disease Drug Works is a non-profit organization founded by LaVonne and Nathan Goodman dedicated to sharing information about treatments and research about the disease. Nathan designed a test that people can take online at regular intervals to track progression of the disease. It turns out that certain supplements can slow or even reverse the progression of the symptoms. However, because these therapies use natural ingredients that cannot be patented, no bio-tech or pharmaceutical companies are interested in testing these therapies—there is no way they can have a monopoly on the resulting treatment. http://hddrugworks.org acts as a place where people can report the results of particular treatments, and share these with others, under the guidance of an MD who specializes in the disease. Freelock moved their old site to a new Joomla content management system, and showed their key personnel how to use the system to post new articles and stories.
Riverview Community Church in Kent approached us to build them a web site, and also chose Joomla to manage their content. We put together http://www.rcckent.org for them, installed an event calendar, and showed them how to use it.
For those who worship the outdoors, we helped Outdoor Research put together a community-driven web site called Human Powered Adventure, http://www.humanpoweredadventure.com. It's a forum for users to share adventures, experiences, and local conditions for outdoor sports, and it's built using Joomla, Community Builder, and Fireboard.
These are a few of the open source consulting projects we've done recently. We are also working with several customers on internal sales management/CRM systems, financial systems, knowledge base solutions, and document management.
Our development team has been busy at work doing custom templates, slight modifications for some of the projects above, add-ons to existing systems, and complete systems from scratch.
We've been working with Pacific Little League at http://www.pacificlittleleague.com to come up with a system to manage umpires for their games. People in their community who wish to volunteer as an umpire can sign up on their Joomla site we put together a couple years ago. The head umpire can assign them a level, which allows them to automatically sign up for any game marked as lower than that level. Each game has a minimum umpire level that qualifies to coach that game. If you know of any other little leagues or sports leagues who might benefit from such a system, have them give us a call!
The Snohomish County Public Defenders Association hired us to complete, enhance, and update a custom application to manage their clients and cases we had earlier built under another contractor.
After much delay, the completely re-vamped Seattle Jobs web site is launched, with a much improved members area. If you're looking for a job, go post your resume at http://www.seattlejobs.org. If you'd like to join a community of the best recruiters in Seattle, go apply for membership.
Our most recent completely custom project is the Guilt-o-Meter. Guilty or Innocent? You be the judge.
After working with a lot of open source software and reading code samples from programmers applying for positions here at Freelock, I've developed some criteria for evaluating code quality. I've written a series of technical posts about what makes for high-quality code, and posted them on my blog starting here. Before hiring a developer to do custom work for you, ask about each of these quality criteria so you get a sense for the level of experience of the developer.
Our system administration program is proving to be quite popular among web startups and growing businesses. Here are some of the sites and businesses who let us manage their servers, and come to us for advice on disaster recovery, scaling strategies, and more:
http://www.hybridcars.com just launched a new version of their site, moving from Joomla to Drupal. We helped them downsize their dedicated servers from two to one, advising them on how they could improve performance of their servers and make the entire site more maintainable.
http://www.youjustgetme.com is a fun project by one of our clients that applies some cutting-edge psychological principles using a sophisticated statistical analysis to compare what you think of yourself to what others think of you. Go try it out, and see how you match up to your friends, spouse, or family. It's also available on Facebook.
http://www.homesavvi.com provides a place for amateur and professional home remodelers to meet, discuss their projects, and find help. It started life as Alphabet Lane, and we've been managing the infrastructure of their virtual company since day 1, setting them up with private work areas, source code management tools, bug tracking, and more.
BlueView Technologies makes high-resolution sonar scanners. They hired us to manage the Linux server in their office. We've split out the services of this critical box to several boxes, improving their ability to recover from disaster, providing management, and being available to help when they had a problem.
Phytec America makes embedded controllers, processors, and boards for all sorts of high-tech uses. Phytec has engaged us to manage their servers, set up a better backup system, upgrade their hardware, and provide other consulting services.
We could keep going, but that's enough for now. In 2007, we had 65 active customers, and our business grew to 6 employees. We'll be at 7 next month. Here's a big thank you to all of our friends and customers who have helped us get where we are today, and best wishes for 2008!
Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. I was featured in a video interview on the front page of Network World's small business section for a week earlier this month. See and hear the interview at Network World.
About Freelock Computing
We're the go-to company in Seattle for open source business solutions. We provide three core services: Technology consulting with an open source approach; Linux and open source administration; and custom software development of LAMP applications.
We love to help businesses discover great free software, and help them make computers work for them in their business. If you know any businesses that need help with technology, send them our way!