race track

PANTHEON.tech joins Slovensko.Digital

PANTHEON.tech has recently joined the watchdog community Slovensko.Digital.

Since 2015, Slovensko.Digital has been advocating for better electronic services provided by the Slovak state. It is monitoring inefficient spending of public funds on digital projects and fighting for improvements in solutions provided by the government. The association also provides consulting, in forms of know-hows and analytical capacities. It also aims to assist the government and public administration in reaching these goals.

We believe in the idea, that high-quality public electronic services should be a standard.

With our skills and experience, we are confident that the Slovak public can get better digital services from the state, public administration and their agencies.

This is one of several important groups and memberships that PANTHEON.tech is part of.

Martin Firák

PMD-85 & Personal Computing in Czechoslovakia

At the end of November 2017, a very special talk took place at Banská Bystrica’s Matej Bel University. Within the broader “Extrapolations and the Scientific Colloquium” program, a lecture featuring the legend of Czechoslovak computing and father of the PMD-85, Roman Kišš, took place. Why is he a legend and why was it a must for me to see him talk, even though I only received the invitation for the event three hours before its launch?

Roman Kišš is the inventor of the most successful Czechoslovak computer of the 1980s, the PMD-85. He has also developed its Didaktik Alfa clone. In case you attended an elementary or secondary school, or the youth Pioneer organization in 1980s communist Czechoslovakia, you definitely must have had a close encounter with a PMD.

An 8-bit computer, built by Tesla Piešťany using the MHB 8080A processor, it was a clone of the Intel 8080. With 48KB RAM and 4KB ROM, it was considered ahead of its time. In spite of consisting of low-quality components, its performance was unmatched.

My first ever experience with a computer in the 1980s, was with a PMD. Roman Kišš’s work, from a technological point of view, was on par with what Jobs and Wozniak had done in the US.

When I had the chance to go see Mr. Kišš’s lecture, I could not have refused. Nostalgia, curiosity, and the almost mystical aura encompasses his personality.

The lecture was divided into two segments:

  • PMD-85 and how it came to life
  • Microsoft Azure

I was mainly curious about the PMD-85-focused segment.

During the first segment, Roman Kišš discussed how things worked in communist Czechoslovakia (or, how nothing worked). Stores had no supplies, nothing was in stock and anything you were able to lay your hands on was either rubbish, or stolen from somewhere.

There was a popular saying that if you stand out of the crowd, your head will be chopped off. Or, as a late 80s punk song recommended, everyone shall write with a blue pen. Look the same, behave the same, and do not deviate from the crowd. Unfortunately, many of these habits still persist, especially one that has become a part of our folklore: do only what we are told to. This is also called the “zero fails given approach.”

Mr. Kišš talked a lot, but, unfortunately, not enough about technicalities regarding the PMD. He discussed organizing his work, research and people, which was of great value to me. He talked for over an hour and even though he swamped us with information, it was not even a tenth of what he’d want to say.

For me, the main takeaways were three messages that I’ve been thinking about for weeks to come.

01: You need to leave. You’ve outgrown us.

When Roman Kišš reached the stage that everybody in Czechoslovakia wanted a PMD, his head of team at Tesla Piešťany had a chat with him.

“Roman, we’ll need you to leave. You’ve outgrown us.”

To this, Roman‘s reply was brief,

“It’s your fault that you haven’t moved an inch!”

I could immediately imagine a young enthusiast, not really fitting the “zero fails given” environment. The main problem was, that they could not afford to employ him, unless he was supposed to be a department of his own. Without them as his colleagues. Of course, you would not want to employ a colleague who turned everyone into his enemies by achieving something within several months, that others had been struggling with for years without any results.

With the money Mr. Kišš had earned for patents and sales of older PMI 80 computers, he was able to put together enough of his own resources, to fund a team of enthusiasts who had helped him with prototyping. What were his objectives? Motivating people with potential and willing to work.

He built an exclusive club of co-workers, which a number of people wanted to join. He paid for team buildings in exclusive restaurants, keeping open tabs. Even though, looking back, it might look like PMD-85 was an achievement of an individual, it was, in fact, the achievement of a team. The PMD-85 computer was a proof of concept which needed transforming into a product. Kišš knew this and he did everything that could have been done.

He managed to build a team which was much better and stronger than the communist economic model, based on five-year plans, could imagine, even in its representatives’ wildest dreams full of shots fired at Saint Petersburg’s Winter Palace. He’d done everything he could so that the team could continue growing. Taking trainings and improving their education. He had a clear target and kept focused at achieving it. A good team leader keeps his target in the cross-hairs.

02: You can’t be both a good father and a great professional

This sentence came together with an explanation: you can’t be perfect doing both at the same time. You can’t be completely devoted to both your work and your family. One of them will always be sidelined. Mr. Kišš admitted that he didn’t spend enough time with his family as he spent almost all of it at work. This made me think – what has changed compared to the 1980s?

Team work is one of the most important soft skills, yet you come out of school without ever having heard of it. We have better access to better information. We have the tools and procedures how to learn better and faster. We’ve got everything we need, but is that enough? Most probably not.

Having the means but lacking motivation is worse, than not having the means at all. We primarily need motivation to work hard – this was true then as it is now. However, everything is a matter of scale: do I work hard because I want to improve myself and advance the team, or do I work hard because I always want to be the best?

In the first case, you are cooperation-oriented, leaving enough room for both being a good father and a great professional. However, the second case is strongly competitive and leaves room for nothing else; the drive to be the best always needs someone to compete with.

And now for the philosophical question: is it better to be a strong member of a strong team which would also be able to thrive without a specific individual, or be the dominant member having a fully dependent team, which, if losing the dominant member, ceases to exist? I’d go for being a strong member of a strong team.

What about you, dear reader?

03: Money should never be your goal, only the means for reaching one

As I already mentioned, Roman Kišš spent a lot of his own resources on materializing his ideas. He spent it on people, literature, electronic components, and whatever he currently needed. Making money has never been his goal. As he mentioned, he received only 4 Kčs per each o125 000 pieces sold of the PMDs-85.

He also earned a little designing the Didaktik Alfa computer for Didaktik Skalica. He’s invested all the funds into moving his projects forward; and to live off during his emigration period in Canada. This was after he had realized, there is no room for hos further growth in Czechoslovakia. Also, no one wanted to employ him any more, but that’s a different story.

After relocating to Canada, he had to start from scratch. He’d been doing a semi-legal PhD. This means, he had done everything other PhD students were doing at the university, but without receiving a salary. What was his reward? The professor who led his research arranged that Kišš could attend all the lectures and take all the exams. Almost a normal university study – without receiving a diploma at the end.

His motivation was purely about acquiring knowledge. However, he did not hesitate and accepted: after you’ve reached certain skills, no one is interested in what you’ve studied, only in what you know. Your knowledge is the only thing you truly own. Roman Kišš’s knowledge and skills have helped him reach much more net worth than those 500 000 Czechoslovak crowns he spent for his diploma-less studies.

Here I have to ask myself: what’s the sum of all my knowledge when Google has an outage? It may be an over-used phrase, yet I truly believe that this gentleman is a living example that everyone should do what they consider meaningful, not what makes them a fortune. Do your best and money will come.

…and back to PMD-85

The PMD-85 computer is a piece of technology holding a very special place in my life. It’s primarily a personal nostalgia, as it was the first computer I got as a third grader. My father built it from components that he honorably stole, which was the standard way of acquiring most possessions in a socialist economy.

I started learning BASIC first, later switching to Pascal at Banská Bystrica Pioneer organization, which was, by the way, located in the same building where PANTHEON.tech has its Banská Bystrica office now. Later on, a second piece was added to my private collection.

I took them both to Roman Kišš’s lecture to meet their creator. I got them both signed. And I thanked him for PMD-85 being responsible for my career, for doing stuff that I truly like, for living.

Mr. Kišš seemed to be happy, and so am I. Thanks to Mr. Kišš, PMD-85 and my father.

Martin Bobák
Technical Leader

PANTHEON.tech @ PyCon 2017 in Bratislava

The PyConSK 2017 conference took place at Slovak University of Technology’s Faculty of Informatics and Information Technologies in Bratislava over the weekend from March 10th to 12th.

First day & its challenges

The first day, the Slovak Day took place. The presentations in the large auditorium were focused not only on Python, but also on Robot Framework, artificial intelligence, Open Data, e-government and many other topics. Presentations in the Small auditorium discussed education, elaborating on best practices in teaching Python at high schools.

The presentation “Alternative Methods of Running Tests and Evaluation of their Results” gave a good insight into using test suites and their interpretation. Another interesting presentation was “Custom Python Libraries for Robot Framework,” which was an inviting introduction to Robot framework for beginners. Another two presentations caught our attention: the first one, by Exponea’s Jožo Kováč, was rather more serious.

In “How can Artificial Intelligence in Python Help a Company Grow?” he gave examples of AI’s benefits for e-commerce. The second one, and also the last presentation of the first day, was the funniest of the whole conference. Speaker Michal Kaukič shone out from others by his excellent sense of humor on the topic, which was otherwise boring – “Graphics in Jupyter Notebooks.” He did not give us much opportunities to fall asleep, as twenty per cent of the time the whole auditorium was laughing.

Second day & Django Girls

Saturday’s presentations were mostly in English. The first one was given by Pavel Serbajlo: “What Makes Silicon Valley Software Developers Special?” Since he spent over 4 years in the USA, he knew what he was talking about. It was interesting for all of us to hear what the values in Silicon Valley are, how people work, communicate, commute and how they live.

Other two presentations, “Making Monitoring Boring” and “Building Data Pipelines with Python” were presentations which I definitely wanted to hear due to personal interest in data mining and Linux administration.

The lunch break was a perfect time to establish new contacts, or simply talk to each other while enjoying a great meal. There were several sponsors booths representing RedHat, Fedora, Mozilla, Exponea, Kiwi, Eset, Kistler and others.

After the lunch break, I attended an interesting presentation, “From Code to Community,” which was focused on a community and its ability to organize not only smaller meet-ups, but also bigger conferences like PyCon.DE. The last speaker that day, Adrian Holovaty, co-BDFL of the Django web framework, had a humanely-focused speech about the community aspects of open source.

On the event’s third day, Sunday, I briefly visited the Django Girls workshop and shortly after that I went to Code Analysis with Coala sprint. I did not know much about Coala, so I really appreciate that I could learn something new about this great open source project helping developers improving their code quality.

Two presentations in the large auditorium were interesting for me as well. In “Object Calisthenics,” Pawel Lewtak discussed nine steps leading to a better code. He showed us how to use nine rules called Object Calisthenics in order to write the code shorter, more precise, easier to read and easy to test. At “Automating Network Equipment with Python,” by Elisa Jasinska, we could learn about automated access to devices by Cisco, Juniper, Arista and others.

I can recommend such a great conference, as PyCon surely is, to all Python enthusiasts. Videos from the event can be found on YouTube.

Ján Hradil

Software Developer

We believe in women in IT

The biggest Python conference in Slovakia, Pycon 2017, is being held during the weekend of March 10 – 12, 2017. We have decided to grant sponsorship to a one-day workshop called Django Girls. The project believes in women’s potential in IT and since the co-owner of Pantheon Technologies, Janka Švorcová, is a woman, we considered our support as a matter of course.

The workshop is focused on website development and thanks to sponsor contributions is completely free of charge. Also, a grant programme covering the travel and accommodation costs for the participants was set up. The application was open to all girls who speak Slovak or English and own a computer. The participants do not need any previous skills or knowledge in this field, since the programming curriculum covers even the very basics.
The whole project and workshop take place as a part of Django Girls, an international initiative and NGO aiming at making IT more attractive to women. Django Girls’ learning tools are being used by volunteers to teach programming skills all around the world.

 

Gabriel Žifčák

Marketing officer at Pantheon

Sources:

https://djangogirls.org/

https://www.pycon.sk/2017/

 

OpenDaylight @ OpenSource Weekend 2016

Open source has a long history in Slovakia, reaching back to late nineties, when the community was organized around Slovak Linux Users Group (SK-LUG). They were quite successful in their Linux Weekends, gathering a followership of young enthusiasts, mostly college students. As this generation grew up and became engaged in everyday life, these gatherings have fizzled, with no apparent successor.

The Society for Open Information Technologies, has stepped up to fill this gap. It has started organizing an Open Source Weekend,  the latest iteration of which took place during the weekend of 9-10th April 2016.

It has marked the first time the SK-LUG and SOIT communities have come together in a cooperative fashion, broadening the topics covered.

I had the pleasure to hold a presentation on OpenDaylight, at least in broad strokes, its role in shaping the network industry even though it is an open source project, and also on how much of a difference Slovak people are making to it. You can find the presentation below.

For the first time, a panel discussion was introduced at an OSS Weekend. The idea came to us after an exchange on a social network, which has shown that there is great disconnect between what established corporations expect and what FOSS companies deliver — at least in Slovakia. I think the format of having multiple views and added interactions with the audience has resulted in better idea sharing and definitely in more fun. You can find the recording below (sorry, no subtitles in this one).

All in all, I found it refreshing to engage with the community. We have already made plans for more and better content, so stay tuned!

Róbert Varga
CTO in Pantheon Technologies