Sunday Oct 14, 2007

Home again

Back home in the UK, and back to work. I'll be posting my blog articles about CEC over the next couple of days but shall back date them to near the time of occurrence. This shouldn't impact RSS readers, but if you read my blog through the HTML interface, you might like to return from time to time. Although I shall let you know when I've finished.

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Wednesday Oct 10, 2007

How real is Virtuality?

We travelled north up the strip, and had dinner at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba. It was a bit of a european thing with a bunch of brits, french and germans. This cafe has an excellent if more limited wine list and we were fortunate to have the advice of Eric Bezille and Dave Tong. Our waiter was excellent, knew what he was selling and very patient. It must be hard selling to a bunch of opinionated engineers.

We talked about a number of things, of which one was second life. If you've been following the suncec2007 technorati feed, you may know that we broadcast the general sessions into various rooms of second life and some of us have been preparing for the conference by signing up and preparing our accounts. Sun also haven experimental virtual world, about which you can find out more at Horst Thieme's blog. I don't think I spent as much time there as some of my colleagues, but the second life team had built a Vegas virtual world representing the two hotels we actually used. Now since one of these was the Paris, or is that Paris, we have a software implementation, of an imitation of a real place. Very eXtisenz! In fact, the first time it went onto the screen, Dan Berg on the stage in an imitation of Paris, met Dan Berg in Second Life, in a virtual imitation of Paris. This is odd, nearly as odd as Las Vegas. I didn't think highly of the video quality and wonder if it was due to the number of people in the 'island'.

My feeling is that the virtual worlds will take off as we develop new metaphors for problem solving. I wonder if one modelled a data centre, for instance, if you could enhance the systems management console, by for instance illustrating where jobs were using colour coded object overlays and illustrate the system utilisation. Visualising the temperature of the air and the systems would also be possible. This is a fairly poor example of what I mean in that new problem visualisation techniques are required that rely on having three dimensions (or more) and the 3D value becomes compelling. (I am not sure the above example is.) I have not yet tried to have a virtual meeting in Second Life, so I can't comment as to how effective it is in replacing the conference call, but there now a number of desktop tools that enhance the conference call, and second life conferences can't be joined if participants only have a phone, although the voice quality might be mightily enhanced by the necessity to use a laptop, connect to the internet and use voice over ip.

Mike Ramchand & Olaf Schnapauff also explored the theory that the Linden Lab scripting language didn't enable any insight into the problems being represented. One manipulates second life, and doesn't model reality, or even the virtual reality of the problem.

I am not sure I get it as a game, but if Second Life remains merely a virtual reality implementation of the real world, while it may not fail, it will not become the next big thing.

If you havn't already, see also "GetaFirstLife".

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The biggest wine rack in the World

I went down to the Mandalay Bay again to visit the Aureole. This is a wine bar with a four story wine rack. The bar staff use a trapeze to retrieve the wine. It has to be seen to be believed.

 

The Wine Rack at the Aureole

 

And now, you can see it! It claims to have 69,000 wines. As you can imagine a hard copy wine menu would be a bit of weight, requiring the restaurant to employ the world's strongest man as somelier. However, they use a tablet pc as the wine list, not quite web 2.0 but cute all the same. The service was immaculate and the company at the table can be pretty fussy. I thoroughly recommend you visit this place either for a "sharp one" or for dinner.

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Wrapping Up

I participated in Constantine's wrap of the show as the stage came down.

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Last Words at CEC 2007

Onto, the final general session which stars Don Grantham, Executive Vice President for Global Sales and Services. He talked about the progress over the last 15 months, and the revised focus for the next 12 months. While David Brent gets confused whether a companies greatest asset is its customers or people, and Dilbert's boss thinks its the paper clips, I believe Don Grantham's commitment to talent in people is real, substantial and genuine. One of the things that CEC reminds one is that we have great people, just imagine what we can do if we're equipped and empowered appropriately.

While doing the Q&A, Dan Berg, the CEC host and my new boss, stated that the CEC messaging team would produce a White Paper, documenting the CEC Messaging Platform. While no-one likes to be bounced, this is something we should do and I know that the two key developers are happy to do this. I'll keep you in touch.

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Queueing to ask Questions

We had a couple of services minders to help us understand the value of the questions. I have to say that volume is often a good guide, and we may have buried some good/important questions, but John Greaves and Ian White asked people to use the floor mics, and some good questions came in. This re-inforces the fact that many services staff do not have company laptops or mobiles.

Actually I am not happy with this; our experience is that many questions from the floor are self indulgent and of, at the best, minority interest. Have you noticed how they always introduce themselves? Actually the ones I hate are ,

"Hi, my name is xxxxxx xxxxxxx, I agree with everything you say, please could you say some more"

and my second most resented quesion is,

"Hey dude! What are you doing about the stock price?"

The best answer to this that I have heard is,

"What are you doing? I have stopped selling it!"

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Oops, where the DR consultant?

It started early when we turned up back stage to discover that two of our backstage laptops had been stolen. The security cables connecting nut had been smashed. The disastrous thing was that one of them had the SMS management software on it, and we had automated the feed from SMS into the database.

Over the last few days, we have adopted a permanent beta approach to our software (, or we like to flatter ourselves that we have, which meant that no-one knew how it works). I suspect we are on the third iteration of the software. This was exploited by one of my 'so-called' friends had guessed the database password, so we had, failed to, change(d) it the night before and none of the management software could log into the database. We looked completely shagged.

However, Rob Holt implemented our fall back plan for SMS and got version one of the software working, and was joined by Simon Cook who arrived just in time and allowed us to get the current version up an running. As John Greaves walked onto the stage, we were ready to go. It was a truly exciting 45 minutes.

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Tuesday Oct 09, 2007

Lunch

Earlier today I had lunch with Jonathan Schwartz, Constantine Gonzalez asked him to join his podcast round table, which we were making in the backstage area just after the general sessions. You can hear it at cecpodcast . We spoke about CEC and whether Web 2.0 helps, or is just a waste of time?

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Ultra SPARC T2 steps into the light

It's the middle of day two at CEC, and this morning, Jonathan spoke to us and then John Fowler, together with Andy Bechtolsheim and Rich Hetherington announced the launch of three new systems. They're all based on the new Ultra SPARC T2 processor, the T6320 Blade module and the T5120 and T5220 rack mount systems. This is covered well by Dave Tong in his blog and at sun.com.

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twitting the CEC

Over the last 24 hours, I have been half heartedly discussing with Shawn Ferry and others if we should consume messages from twitter to augment the Q&A technology we use to get questions to the speakers using mail, text and IM. Shawn pointed out that one can track at twitter now.

I have subscribed using the suncec2007 tag, and some of the correspondents are quite noisy, but I still don't really get it. I prefer IM using a laptop; its easier to type messages with a qwerty keyboard, than any phone I'bve seen.

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Wednesday Oct 03, 2007

Monterey Bay

I have spent the last three days at an internal symposium meeting some of the most innovative scientists in Sun. The meeting was at a Seascape, a hotel resort just to the south of Santa Cruz and on tuesday, we had dinner on the beach. The resort is on Monterey Bay in California.

 

Sunset over the Pacific

 

 The resort is on Monterey Bay in California. This was written seven days later.

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Tuesday Oct 02, 2007

On the way to CEC

I am in California at a pre-meeting for Sun's field premiere training event, Customer Engineering Conference, this is in Las Vegas and I shall be travelling there on Thursday. Its not the first time I've been there and I am looking forward to returning.

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