Friday Oct 12, 2007

Final CEC Reflections: The Wynn, ZFS Under the Hood, Messaging wrap-up

I'm now back home, sorting through emails and cleaning up some stuff before a regular week of work begins. Here are some highlights from Tuesday and Wednesday during the Sun CEC 2007 conference in Las Vegas:

  • The Wynn: After visiting the CEC Party, Barton, Yan, Henning and I decided to have dinner at the Wynn. It's one of the newest hotels in town and a must-see. This place sure has style! We went to the Daniel Boulud Brasserie which is located inside the hotel at the Lake of Dreams. This is one of the few restaurants in Las Vegas where you can actually eat outside the ever present air-conditioning and enjoy a great view. The lake features a gigantic rectangular waterfall surrounded by a forest. The lake and the waterfall are part of several mini-shows that occur at regular intervals in the afternoon, featuring impressive animatronics such as a  head coming out of the water (with projected animated faces) or a gigantic frog leaning over the waterfall back which also serves as a huge video screen. Music, light and animation are perfectly synchronized so that for instance the head emerging from the water perfectly matches its projected upon face or the light ripples running over the lake perfectly match the animation on screen.
    This is definitely my favourite Vegas hotel now, I wonder where our stock price needs to be to afford having our nect CEC at their convention center :).
  • ZFS Under the Hood: This was a great session done by Jason Bantham and Jarod Nash. They went through the ZFS Source Tour diagram and explained the little boxes one by one while describing the basic processes, mechanisms and data flow that ZFS uses to write and read data. And they were fun speakers too! Plus each attendee that asked a question got a piece of chocolate thrown at as an extra incentive to participate :).
  • Podcasting: After the closing session, Franz, Matthias, Brian, Dave and I recorded episode 3 of the CEC 2007 Podcast. We reflected on our impressions of the conference and on our project to aggregate and display audience messages during the main sessions. Actually, I'm cleaning up and commenting the JavaFX code as we speak to publish it in the next post for your code-reading pleasure :).

Monday Oct 08, 2007

CEC 2007 in Las Vegas: Podcasting, JavaFX Hacking and HPC Software

Since I've arrived in Las Vegas on Saturday, October 8th, I've been busy with a number of things that are going on at the Sun CEC 2007 Conference:

  • CEC 2007 Messaging:  One of the cool things during the general sessions is the ability for attendees to send in their questions and comments via Email, SMS or Instant Messaging in real time, while the speaker is presenting.  Backstage, these messages are fed into a database. Then, two aggregate feeds are created: One goes to the CEC Message Visualizer, a Java Application written by Simon Cook which visualizes the flow of information in a very nice way so the audience can see where their messages are going. The other feed goes mainly to the presenters on stage so they know what the current questions are and answer them. That feed gets visualized through a Java FX Script application that I've been busy writing over the last weeks.
  • Podcasting: Tune in to the new CEC 2007 Podcast that is going live at this very moment. In the first episode, Hartmut Streppel, Eric Bezille, Matthias Pfützner and I sit together at the Gordon Biersch in Las Vegas (Prost!) while we discuss our plans and projects for CEC 2007, including Service Virtualization and Consolidation, ZFS, Flying Zones, the Message Aggregation Process and other cool stuff. Send me email or call my mobil phone if you want to participate in one of our next episodes!
  • HPC Software: In about an hour, Roland Rambau, Barton Fiske and I will present on HPC Software: Roland will cover the general state of HPC Software at Sun and talk about HPC storage solutions around CFS' Lustre filesystem, Barton will present the Sun Visualization Software solutions and I'll cover the Sun Grid Engine and some information on Sun Studio Developer Tools.
So, have fun listening to the podcast and see you at the HPC Software session if you happen to be in Vegas!

Friday Oct 05, 2007

Getting Ready for Vegas: My Favourite Travel Gadgets

Tomorrow I'll fly to the CEC 2007 event in Las Vegas, like so many of my colleagues. CEC is Sun's annual Customer Engineering Conference where Service People and SEs from Sun gather to learn about the latest and greatest of technology.

Contrary to many of my colleagues, I love Las Vegas!  And I'm not a gambler... Over the past 10 years or so, I happened to be in Las Vegas for a couple of times before and I can assure you, it can be great fun if you just accept it for what it is: A place to have fun. My wife's and my favourite TV show CSI takes place in Las Vegas and every time I see those camera shots from the "Strip"

But work comes before fun and so I've spent the last weeks preparing a lot of stuff for the conference. Together with Dave, Franz, Matthias, and some others' we'll be backstage and act as message aggregators. For this project, I've been digging deeply into JavaFX Script and NetBeans. A most interesting experience, but more on that in a future blog entry.

The last piece of work before Vegas is the flight over the Atlantic. It'll be a 14 hour flight with a stop-over in Denver. Being a good Sun employee, I packed a couple of useful gadgets:

  • My iPod. Well, no surprise there. It'll have some of my favourite podcasts and all of my music. Don't worry, it only has music that I ripped myself from CDs I own. That's still more than 30GB, so why bother with more music than you can hear before the next generation of iPods becomes mandatory?
  • A pair of Shure in-ear headphones. Trust me, this is the best way to enjoy your iPod in an airplane and I've tried many. Sound-canceling headphones can be good, but they are bulky and I don't like killing the problem after the fact. I find it much more efficient, elegant and easy to not let the problem in in the first place. That's where in-ear headphones come in: They sit inside your ear canal and won't let the outside noise in. Plus, they are made from a company that usually deals with musicians, so the audio quality is really good, too. Really good. I can listen to soft music at a low, comfortable volume and hear a lot of details even though I'm on an airplane with all that noise around me.
  • A Nintendo DS Lite game console. I'm an old-school gamer, but I don't have much time for it. So why not play computer games on a long plane flight? Coach seat trays are just too small for laptops and Laptop batteries don't last longer than a couple of hours anyway, so game on! Some of my favourite games include:
    • Anno 1701 DS: A real-time strategy game. It places a lot of emphasis in the build-up aspect and less in the war&destroyment which is typical for the german computer game market. In other words: It feels much more like Sim City and less than Command&Conquer.
    • Pokemon Diamond: No, I'm not a 6-year-old kid, but this game is still fun as an adult. It has some RPG elements in addition to the typical round-based combat of the series and there's an incredible amount detail and complexity built into the game.
    • Elite Beat Agents: This is the funniest game I've seen in a long time. I think it may be better than Guitar Hero in many aspects, and it is portable. Check out one of the many videos on YouTube to catch a glimpse of how funny it is.
    • Nanostray: A classic space shoot-em-up. What can I say? I'm an old-school gamer...
  • A Zoom H2 portable audio recorder. I'll use it to interview people and produce a podcast from CEC. Watch this blog for details...
  • A Nokia E61i mobile phone. I finally submitted to peer pressure from my colleagues. And I must say, this is a great business phone! And the best thing is: It comes with SIP VoIP support over WLAN. This means I can call home from one of the CEC 2007 hotspots for free. Using my provider Sipgate, I can call to the US very cheaply. Imagine: Calling from the US to Germany back to the US for a couple of cent per minute thanks to the magic of VoIP...

This is it for now. It's 11:28 PM and the alarm clock is set to 5:00 AM. Gotta catch some sleep before I go...


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