That was the year that was

· by Steve · Read in about 5 min · (923 Words)

So, 2007 is going the way of Donny Osmond’s career at midnight, and I feel I should say something at its passing.

It’s been an eventful year but still it feels like it’s flown past - it’s the first full year that I’ve been my own boss, and I’ve learned a lot from it, in both the positive and negative poles - but mostly positive, luckily. I’ve had customers in 6 countries, and they’ve ranged from small start-ups right up to multinational corporations. Fortunately the majority of them have paid their bills, many of them on time too 😉 so there’s plenty to be thankful for.

I did a bit of business travelling this year, to Ireland, the UK (that counts as travelling when you’re on an island), and the USA. Of course one of the highlights of my year was heading over to Silicon Valley for the Google Summer of Code Mentor summit, where I got to meet a number of great people from Google and the wider open source community, including Xavier from the Ogre forums, and Sean from BZFlag (who I seem to keep running into whenever I’m in the States). As a bonus I also got to spend a day visiting NVIDIA and Intel while I was in the area, which was awesome.

Earlier in the year I also enjoyed meeting up with a couple of friends / former colleagues at a joint Linden Lab / NCSoft bash at the Develop conference; as you might remember one of the other notable things that happened this year was Windward Mark’s WindLight and Nimble technologies (both of which I had a hand in) getting acquired by Linden, along with WMI’s major staff members. I totally didn’t see that one coming - it was good to have a drink with them to celebrate their transition. And the day after I headed up to Milton Keynes to visit a company making ROV training simulators using Ogre (I like to pack in as much as I can while I’m off the ‘rock’ ;)).

Of course, Ogre has continued, with another major version becoming stable (Eihort), along with several maintenance releases - altogether we got through 9 releases this year, the latest just a couple of days ago. I spent a lot of the year figuring out how much effort I could afford to put into Ogre in ‘work time’ and thus continue to salvage something of a personal life again (the breakneck spare-time development of 2004-2006 largely robbed me of that), and I’m still adjusting. Experience early in the year regrettably indicated that I couldn’t afford to do anywhere near as much as I wanted to on work time, so now I’m back at about 75% spare time again now (and scaled down a bit from previous years), with the other 25% cross-subsidised from unrelated paying work or just happening to be a by-product of projects I’m on. Sometimes I think it would be nice for us to have some source of reliable funding from one or more large corporations - and there a small handful of them using Ogre now on various projects, and I’m talking big companies in this instance - in a similar way to how IBM sponsors Eclipse for example, but my gut says that’s not hugely likely; perhaps in part because we do such a good job already without any funding 😉 Such a setup might change the dynamics of the project a bit too, intentionally or not, so anything like that would have to be treated with great caution. It’s fair to say though that there are a relatively small number of people who put in a lot of time to altruistically support Ogre (rather than just working on the bits they need for their own projects), some of which are free agents like me and thus who could be persuaded to put more time in if the funding was there.

Another watershed this year was getting my first Mac. Generous donations from Ogre users helped make this possible, and the result has been improvements in our OS X support, including a regular automated SDK release. We’re not quite there yet, there are some issues with FBO and threading (with Apple GL contexts) still outstanding, but we’ll get there. Unfortunately my Mac broke after only a few months, and only got fixed just before our holiday, so I haven’t had as much time with it of late as I would have liked.

Perhaps most importantly, I can say that one of the most significant changes in 2007 for me has been in my stress level. Having made a lifestyle change by calling a halt to the 80-100 hour weeks (consisting of regular work, contract work and Ogre) that I somehow kept up for around 3 years running, I feel like a new man. I inevitably feel like I get a lot less done too, which can be frustrating to me at times (and to my wife, as she sees my frustration and berates me for it ;)), but overall I’m much happier. The regular twitch in my right eyelid, which I guess I should have taken as a warning sign, has gone, as has the need to consume 2 cans of Red Bull before lunch in order to maintain coherent thought (in hindsight these things may have been related). I spend more time with my wife, I play more games, and I’m learning to play a musical instrument again. These are all good things. 😀

Hope you all had a good year too. Best wishes for 2008!