Sunday Sep 30, 2007

GlassFish Day Milan 2007

The first ever GlassFish Day, as part of Sun Tech Days, wrapped up last week. The event started with around approximately 60 attendees and a good part stayed all the way late in the day. The slides of all the sessions are available here and read a complete coverage of the event here. Ed Ort particularly talked to some of the attendees and captured the dialog as part of his report.

GlassFish is not only a fully open-source, production-quality and Java EE 5 compatible Application Server, it is also a community. And that's why Raffaele from Imola presented on "Imola JBI Binding components" as part of Open ESB story.

There were lot of attendees who came at the GlassFish Booth and were interested in finding out how to get started. Really it's very simple - Download, Use and Let us know. And this one image captures the distinguishing feature set of GlassFish V2:

The pictures below show how the attendees were involved and enjoyed the sessions.

View the complete album here:

See you in Beijing Tech Days!

Technorati: sun suntechdays glassfish conf glassfishday milan

Saturday Sep 29, 2007

ATA Quark Hotels, Milan - Thumbs Down

We stayed at the ATA Quark Hotel (Via Lamepdusa 11/A) for Sun Tech Days, Milan. This hotel completely defied "the first impression lasts for ever" philosophy. We were promptly checked-in at the service desk and were given a really nice room (with a separate office room and a walk-in closet) and that impressed us. But there after it was all down hill. Here are my experiences in the hotel and with it's staff. Other colleagues had similar experience as well:

  • Basic Office Room - The office room was nice and spacious with a separate TV but there was no phone. In fact the only phone in the "suite" was near the bed. And even though the hotel claimed that wireless network is expected to work in the room but they just could not debug why it was not working for me. It worked very well in all the conference rooms though.

  • Non-smiling Staff - We decided to have dinner in the hotel restaurant on the first night of stay. None (really none) of the waiters had any smile on their face. They barely knew any English so we had to show them the number in the menu to place our order. I always feel that a big smile on your face is the first language all humans should know. That certainly was not visible in most of the staff at the hotel, although some knew the English language to be able to communicate. Although I was quite surprised to see a smiling staff member at the reception desk.

  • Mysterious Fitness Center - The first morning I inquired about the fitness center and told it's on the 5th floor. The 5th floor is like a regular floor with directions to other rooms, no mention of Fitness Center at all. On further asking for explicit directions and I was told it's between room # 513 & 514. I thought may be this hotel uses fraction for room numbers but on the 5th there were directions to room 500-515 and 513 was the last room in that segment. There were two rooms right after #513. Initially I was skeptical to swipe my card on those rooms but because of the information received from the front desk I tried to swipe my card to no effect. These rooms were of course locked as well so even the door was not open. I got slightly irritated spending my first 15 minutes in the morning running up & down and dealing with the front desk instead of running on the tread mill but decided to call them again. I was told somebody is coming over right away which happened good 6 minutes later and this person was quite surprised when I approached him. So it seems like he was just wandering through the halls and I happen to approach him. Anyway, upon explaining (forget about apologies) he said let me find out where is the Fitness Center. It seems the hotel staff is not aware of the facilities within. Finally he opened one of the hotel rooms converted in the Fitness Center.

    And it's a true conversion because the room barely had workout machines (of course all the instructions in Italian only) with no workout towels. Anyway, I was glad that the treadmill worked :)

  • Disappearing Shower Towels - Room Service every morning did the expected job but then always took all the shower towels with them. This has never happened with me during all my travels. But anyway we asked for the shower towels for on the first morning and the Room Service came back with just one thin cotton towel. We mentioned that we need towels for all of us and this guy comes back with 2 more cotton towels. These towels become with the first touch of water and in no way can be used effectively after a shower. On further explaining, this guy finally comes back with the real shower towels and a weird frown on his face.

  • Expired Room Key - The hotel room key expired the night before itself and it had to renewed at the Front Desk late in the night. Although this is not very uncommon (never happened with me) but lot of other colleagues were complaining the same issue in this hotel.

  • Shower Tub Wall - This is probably a more Italy thing but both the hotels we stayed at (in Rome and Milan) barely cover the shower stream. In this particular hotel just turning the shower (that had a big shower head) was spilling the water out of the the tub. The bathroom used to be flooded after anybody takes a shower. Strangely there was a glass wall on the other end of the tub where there is no water or nobody could possibly take a shower because of the fixed shower head.

  • City Knowledge - The amount of knowledge the reception desk (there was no Concierge) had about the City was pretty "amazing". They only knew about the nearest Metro station and City Center. Everything else was left for the hotel guests to explore themselves. And they did not have any resources on how to gather further information. I sometimes really wondered the hotel staff was probably from some other city.

  • Taxi Fare - The taxi fare from Malpensa airport to anywhere in the city is fixed at 70 Euros. I asked the front desk about this and was told that it would be approximately 95 Euros (which is typically what the meter would show). Fortunately the taxi driver who dropped us at the airport was a great guy and charged us 70 Euros even though the meter showed 95 Euros. I really wonder how much the hotel staff really know about moving around the city.

The ATA Hotels website has disabled right-click, gosh such a cheap trick. So even though you can click on Business, Hotels & Resorts and see the list of hotels available but right-clicking (in order to Copy The Link Location) shows following:
 

If you are planning a travel to Milan, I'd certainly recommend to look for an alternate hotel. At least I'll stay in a different hotel if I happen to visit the city again.

Milan by itself is a great city though. Read my travel tips to Milan here. All my travel tips to Europe are aggregated here.

Technorati: traveltips ataquarkhotel milan

Travel Tips to Milan

  1. Milan : Milano :: Rome : Roma :: English :: Italiano. In simple terms, Milan and Rome are English names for Milano and Roma in Italian (called as Italiano in Italian). Everybody will understand if you say Milan or Rome but When in Rome, live like Romans and so pretend-like-a-local.
  2. Airports: Milan has two airports - Linate and Malpensa. Linate mostly caters to the domestic traffic and Malpensa to both domestic and international. Malpensa airport is out of Milan and Linate is in the city. Make sure to check which airport is closer to the hotel (especially if you are planning a domestic and international trip out of Milan) and book your flights accordingly.

    The airport in Rome is Leonardo DaVinci and is located in Fiumicino city. But all the locals call it as Fiumicino airport and even all the directions mention Fiumicino.
  3. The taxi fare from Malpensa airport to anywhere in the city is fixed at 70 Euros irrespective of what comes in the taxi meter. The driver who dropped us from airport to the hotel of course did not convey that to us because the meter in his taxi showed 95 Euros and he happily took the money we gave him. The taxi driver who dropped us at airport told us about this so make sure to not pay more than 70 Euros if you going to/from Malpensa.
  4. In all my experience so far, Taxi drivers take only cash. So make sure you know the approximate distance/time/cost from the airport to your hotel and have sufficient cash. All the airports have an ATM machine which is very convenient.
  5. Keep a jacket handy depending upon the city and time of the year. Make sure to check the weather before packing your clothes. In winter times, it's good to carry an Umbrella. We checked the weather online before starting our trip but it turned out to be complete reverse of what we expected.
  6. "Grazie" is "Thanks" and "Ciao" is "Hello" or "Bye" in Italiano.
  7. If you are traveling with kids, it helps to mentally prepare them by sharing the itinerary, giving them an estimate of the flight time, amount of walking/waiting required (especially in Rome which needs lot of walking) for any tourist spots and of course carrying some handy snacks for them if the wait is too long or if the meal is delayed. In Rome, Gelato was easily accessible through out the city and worked as a great incentive for my son :)
  8. Having breakfast included in the hotel package turned out to be a big boon as it gives a good head start for the day. You can always have breakfast in the hotel anyway but it might be more cost effective to be included in the package.
  9. Avoid flights during peak office hours. We spent an extra 45 minutes because our flight arrived at Malpensa airport at 5:30pm and then got stuck in traffic going to the hotel.
  10. Both the hotels in Italy (Melia Roma Aurelia Antica and ATA Quark Hotels) did not have Iron boards for some inexplicable safety reasons. This might be a trend in Italy hotels so make sure to carry clothes that need no ironing, or wear them without iron or use the laundry service to get them iron. The later option requires you to give the clothes a day in advance and pay an exorbitant amount for getting a simple tee-shirt ironed.
  11. Most of the tourist spots in Milan are accessible using public transport. We bought a day pass (for 3 Euros and available from most of the kiosks near Metro stations or Light rails) that is valid in Metro, Tram/Light Rails and other public transport. This keeps you mobile and provides option to move around.
  12. McDonalds are available at most of the places in case you care.
  13. In terms of places to visit, Duomo of course is the main destination in Milan. There is a Fashion Galleria right next to Duomo and a significant part of the day can be spent there. The Last Supper painting has a 2 month wait but you can always talk to one of the local travel agency who typically buy the tickets in advance and can take you inside.

Here is my travel album:

All my travel tips to Europe are aggregated here.

Technorati: traveltips milan europe

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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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