Tuesday Sep 06, 2011

Travel Tips to Brazzaville, Congo and JCertif Speakers

Here are some travel tips to Brazzaville, Congo based upon my inaugural visit to Africa:

  1. 8 hours ahead of PT during summer, the currency is Central African (XAF), 1 USD = ~460 XAF, the market conversion is ~450 XAF), Altitude is 560 ft.
  2. The prominent language in Brazzaville is French and most of the local people (taxi, restaurant, airport) and even the conference attendees speak (mostly) broken to (very little) no English. So either learn or brush up your French lessons. I heavily used Google Translate for the basic communication or reading menus.
  3. Make sure to carry your yellow fever certificate for the Congo immigration. It does not matter whether you had your passport stamped with the visa, you should still carry it. Based upon other speakers' experience, carry a complete packet that is submitted to the visa office. If you don't carry then you be ready to shell out some extra $$$ for the immigration.
  4. Congolese and French cuisines are the most prominent in Brazzaville. The city has lots of Lebanese immigrants and so you'll find a good variety of middle-eastern cuisine as well. Other than that there is Continental, Chinese, Moroccan, and Pizza places as well. Make sure to try the local chicken sandwich and fried bananas combo. I've been eating snack items my wife packed for me. Anyway my tongue starts craving for Indian food after sometime so the samosas are very handy ;-)
  5. Do not hop in a taxi that has somebody other than the driver.
  6. No credit cards anywhere except hotels, all transactions are in cash otherwise.
  7. The Olympic Palace Hotel is marked as the best hotel in the town and offers free wifi but does not have a fitness center :( The breakfast buffet is pretty minimal but my supplementary food is helping there. Running outside even for 1.2 miles made me feel very dry so did some plyometrics and abs. The hotel front desk can exchange the currency which is super handy.
  8. The only English channel in the hotel is CNN which gets repetitive pretty soon. However audio streaming worked pretty seamless so could listen to some favorite music at least.
  9. There are no malls in Congo, just local shops. If you shop there then bargain heavily. Cut down the quoted price by 60-70% and eventually you might settle for 50% of the quoted.
  10. All the boys have a similar hair style - either short hair or clean shaven. Girls on the other hand have very beautiful and elaborate hair styles. Check out some nice hair dos captured at the conference and else where.
Most importantly, people are very nice and friendly and always willing to help.

Read more about Brazzaville here.

Now some tips specifically for the JCertif conference speakers, mostly in order to have you better prepared ...

  1. The conference started 1 - 2.5 hrs late on each day I attended. And some sessions towards the tail end were cancelled because the agenda was running late.
  2. There may not be Internet access for the hands-on lab so be prepared to run your lab in a complete off-line mode.
  3. The audience is very interactive (using a translator) and ask a bunch of questions. This is always the exciting part.
  4. About 30% are using Java in their daily life and about 10% know/use Maven. So tone down your presentations accordingly. Try to teach the basic concepts first and skip any advanced ones in order to make the attendees feel excited and accomplished. As always, ask your attendees what would make them happy and then be willing to change the course accordingly.
  5. The download speed in the hotel (the best one in the city) was 15-25 Kbps. The typical speed is much lower and so if somebody asks "where can I download xxx software" then your answer "its' on our website" will loose the audience. With that bandwidth, downloading JDK, NetBeans or even GlassFish with a mere size of 32 MB takes lot of time. Come prepared with media (CD or DVD) of all the software pre-loaded and share. I personally copied these bundles for several folks from my laptop.
  6. Text based documents for hands-on lab instructions are better received because of the low bandwidth. Similarly streaming videos (for screencasts) is not a viable option.
  7. Carry a jacket as the rooms could get cold sometimes where as the outside weather is more pleasant.
  8. The typical attendee laptop configuration is Windows XP or Windows 7 with 1 or 2 GB RAM. So make sure you know the requirements of your software and plan accordingly.
  9. The presentation laptops were placed in back of the room so either the speaker could stand on the stage facing the audience and use a presentation remote to change the slides or stay with the laptop facing audiences' back and show demos, or use a combination of the two techniques. This was a particularly a new experience as I've never seen this in any other conference and had to get used to it. In the first case, you are looking back at the main screen to view your slides.
  10. The attendees are always interested in taking pictures with the speakers.
  11. Free goodies, whether they are books, t-shirts, stickers, or USB sticks are always a hit.

I'll be on my way to home by the time this blog goes live. Thank you Africa for hosting and treating me nicely!

Sunday Sep 04, 2011

JCertif 2011 - OSGi-enabled Java EE Apps in GlassFish and Closing!

Read trip reports from Day 1 and 2.

Even though the conference originally had OSGi-enabled Java EE hands-on lab planned but we decided to change that to a technical session instead because of the limited Internet connectivity and audience awareness of Java. Here are the slides presented:

If you are interested in the intended hands-on lab then look at screencast #38 (using Eclipse) or screencast #32 (using NetBeans) that provide complete detailed instructions on how to create OSGi-enabled Java EE Apps and deploy them in GlassFish.

Do you know that GlassFish 3.1.1 now offer commercial support for OSGi/Java EE applications ?

I also attended a great talk by Michael Heinrichs on the Java FX 2.0 features (the only other talk at the conference in English :). Read more about the JavaFX roadmap or get started with this beginner article.

The evening was mostly the closing note and give away of goodies which is always an exciting time.

Here are some pictures from the trip so far:

And finally the evolving album at:

Max tells me that there is a TV interview and some fun activity scheduled for tomorrow and then finally heading back home!

Saturday Sep 03, 2011

JCertif 2011 - The State of Java under Oracle, GlassFish 3.1, and Stickers

JCertif 2011 was kicked off this morning by Max Bonbhel - the fearless president of JUG-AFRICA, an umbrella JUG for the entire continent of Africa, and the founder of Congo JUG. There were about 200+ attendees in the room. With a single track, the speakers had attention of all the attendees. I gave a keynote on "The State of Java under Oracle" and a technical session on "GlassFish 3.1: Deploying your Java EE 6 Applications".

The conference is well organized and the event staff is very knowledgeable and willing to help. Its amazing to know how Max knows each and every detail and going an extra mile to make the speakers and attendees feel welcome. The keynote was well received and the audience was extremely interactive after the presentation, which is the fun part anyway. And I experienced a similar level of interaction after the GlassFish session as well. I also shared brand new GlassFish stickers with the audience and it turned out to quite a hit (check the pictures below and in the album).

The slides from the keynote are available:

And the slides from the GlassFish session are available below:

Here are some pictures from the trip so far:

And the evolving album at:

Now looking for my last session on OSGi-enabled Java EE Applications using GlassFish tomorrow. You can check out Oracle @ JCertif 2011 for the complete list of sessions delivered by Oracle!


Friday Sep 02, 2011

JCertif 2011 University - Java EE 6 Hands-on Lab

Brazzaville is the largest and capital city of the Republic of the Congo and is the host of JCertif - the biggest Java community event in central Africa. Its a really long flight from San Francisco (about 22 hrs flight time) and takes you in the Southern Hemisphere. But the excitement in developers was every bit worth traveling. Also met this awesome guy in the flight working for World Health Organization who are consolidating their 100 disparate systems using Oracle CRM.

However I got the very first feel of Africa when I was stopped at the Congo-Brazzaville immigration for the yellow fever certificate. In spite of me clarifying multiple times that the visa is already stamped on my passport and I submitted my yellow fever vaccination certificate to the Congo consulate in the US, the immigration officer just kept repeating "phortee dhollar". The immigration office is no place to fight for your principles especially when you don't know the local language. So I cringed, paid $40, got a receipt, got a fake yellow fever certificate, and finally got out. The immigration officer was almost ready to inject the yellow fever vaccination to me which fortunately I avoided. But just as a travel tip, make sure to carry your vaccination card whenever you enter Central Africa in general. It does not matter whether you have the visa pre-stamped or not. Another fellow passenger was charged $10 because his vaccination fever was valid from a later date. Taking a taxi from the airport to the hotel was another challenge because of the local language. But the airport staff was very helpful and I finally reached the hotel safely.

Anyway, the first evening was spent in meet-and-greet the JCertif team. There were JUG leaders from Nigeria, Kinshasa, Togo, and other organizers. The expected attendees on that day were 70 and the actual were about 150 which posed a logistical challenge but they handled it gracefully.

Earlier today, about 50+ attendees got a 4-hr crash course in Building Web Applications using Java EE 6, NetBeans, and GlassFish. The workshop built a complete end-to-end application using Java Persistence API, Enterprise Java Beans, Contexts and Dependency Injection, Servlets, Java Server Faces, and other technologies. NetBeans wizard-drive approach and rapid deployment on GlassFish makes the entire process quite a breeze. Most of the attendees could complete the lab and then started helping other attendees as well.

The slides used in the workshop can be downloaded from here and the source code built during the lab can be downloaded here.

Here are some pictures from the trip so far:

And the evolving album at:

JCertif University is now over and the conference starts tomorrow. You can check out Oracle @ JCertif 2011 for the complete list of sessions delivered by Oracle!

Wednesday Aug 17, 2011

Oracle at JCertif 2011

The continent of Africa has a special place in my heart primarily because of some of the excellent runners it has produced over the years. Living in the United States one can only aspire to be like them :-)

However I'm excited to share that I'll be making my first visit to this continent and speaking at JCertif 2011 - the biggest Java community event in Central Africa.


Here are the different speaking sessions:

Sep 2 Java EE 6 Hands-on Workshop
Sep 3, 10:30am The state of Java with Oracle (a year later)
Sep 3, 3:30pm Deploying your Java EE 6 Applications on GlassFish 3.1
Sep 4, 1:30pm OSGi/Java EE: Architecture and Programming
Sep 4, 3:30pm Java FX 2.0

Here are some more links:

And I'm definitely interested in running together so let me know if you would like to join :-)

I'll be there, will you ?


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Arun Gupta is a technology enthusiast, a passionate runner, author, and a community guy who works for Oracle Corp.

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