Just a reminder to my American friends that the UK ended Daylight Savings on Sunday and so we are back to UTC - that means this week there's just 7 hours difference between California and the UK, for example. If you're expecting a meeting with me and I'm not there, you may wish to call and check we're both expecting the thing to happen at the same time.
The blog went quiet over the last few days and the reason was that I went with my family for a short break in Rome. Very hot, and apart from the huge distances walked very relaxing. We had some fine meals, most notably as guests of Dana and Alex at The Library very near Piazza Navona yet amazingly far away from the crowds and the hawkers. We wholeheartedly recommend the ambiance and, if you mention my blog, Dana will be pleased to bring you a complimentary glass of Prosecco on arrival.
As you'll see from the photos, we covered a lot of ground in a long weekend and I now want to go back for a longer, more relaxed break. One more thing - anyone know the story of the pillars in the picture above? They are opposite the Colosseum on the edge of the Forum. They appear to be translucent and I'm guessing they are part of an art installation.
I've reached Guangzhou in China ready for the China Open Source World conference tomorrow where the organisers have arranged a stunny line-up of speakers. The journey here was pretty ugly - Lufthansa cancelled my flight, put me on Air France via Paris and then the connection was delayed too, making it touch-and-go right up to midnight. I'll be pretty busy here and in Seoul on Friday for LinuxWorld Korea so my apologies if I'm not very responsive in the busy thread here and on OSNews.
Is it just Apple UK? Or is the quality of Apple service degrading locally?
I have been using a Mac for nearly 5 years now. In that time, I have had cause to call Apple for help only a few times. Each time I have called them for help, they have gone out of their way to keep me going - especially when my old Powerbook failed in November 2005, when the manager of the Valley Fair Apple Store was overwhelmingly helpful and accommodating, way beyond what was required of him. Today, seeking support at a Genius bar in the UK for the first time, I met my first Apple jobsworth and I'm furious.
The problem is that the display is gradually failing on my Powerbook G4. I have Applecare, so I'm entitled to service. But the guy I spoke today took each opportunity presented him to be negative, and ultimately found a way to choose to interpret a clause in the Applecare terms to deny me repair service.
I'll stop there (at least until I am no longer furious). However, I'm wondering whether this is a UK effect or whether it represents a general downward gradient - I have noticed a similar difference in service attitude between, for example, Avis in the US and the UK, so it may just be I should stick to Apple US for service.
Quick note to my friends, colleagues and critics in America: Europe has switched to "Daylight Saving Time" (we call it Summer Time here in the UK, so the abbreviation is "BST" for British Summer Time) so we're back on normal time differences again. Please keep on being sensitive to those 8 or 9 hour differences though!
A bright good morning to all my American friends and colleagues, and welcome to Daylight Saving Time. I am delighted for you that your government has decided to start summer before the equinox and wish you every happiness.
However, those of us over here in Europe would like to remind you that we'll not be starting with summer time until after the equinox. That means we're not the usual 8/9 hours away this week, so all those carefully planned meetings we have worked out now fall in all the wrong places. It's going to be messy, and it's going to be messy for two whole weeks, until March 25th, while we are 7 (to UTC) and 8 (to CET) hours apart.
So, on behalf of all of Europe, I'd like to ask you to look carefully at the calendar and make sure everyone invited to those meetings knows when everyone else is expecting to show up. I expect you'll blame us for all the times we aren't there when you're expecting, but remember, it was you that moved - this is your government saving energy and enhancing Halloween, after all.
[Fixed an impossibly stupid error in my first attempt at this posting! Usually the DST switch happens in Europe first so the 9 hr gap happens in spring and the 7 hr gap in autumn, but with the switch moving 3 weeks in the US it's reversed. Saving the first version for Autumn...]
In the spirit of Dr Lessig, this is by way of admission that I just archived around 4000 messages from January among which were at least 400 unread. I spent time travelling every week in February and I have just got so hopelessly behind that I'm calling a truce (February mail is still being digested).
If you sent me a message before February 1st and you have still not heard back from me chances are I have just archived it and you should write again if the subject is still important. Apologies if I have left you hanging there, mea culpa.
Yesterday was spent travelling by car to Limerick in Ireland. You know, it's a very long way. What with two hours on the ferry, it took 14 hours door-to-door. The reason for the trip was to give a keynote at SkyCon, the birthday conference for the University of Limerick Computer Society. I'll be speaking after Val Henson to an audience (including Alan Cox) who have no idea why I am there - I didn't show up in the advance publicity, quite unusual for a keynote! Hope it works out...
The new year has already arrived here in the UK. Happy New Year to you! I'm hopeful that 2007 will be a breakthrough year for Free and Open Source software in general, for the great people working to make it real and especially for the communities of which I am a part, including OpenSolaris, OpenOffice.org, OpenSPARC and OpenJDK. My resolution for 2007 is to make things better, one step at a time, throughout Sun's engagement with FOSS.
In a move that seems a rarity for 2006, I am actually at home today with my family in Southampton celebrating Christmas. It's been an amazing year and I am truly thankful of the privilege of being in charge of Sun's Free and Open Source software strategy in the year that both SPARC and the Java platform were liberated. It's left me exhausted so I am not too much fun to be around, but everyone else is bouncing with energy so no-one will notice!
Early on at Sun I noticed that there were plenty of people around who liked less-than-serious videos. I just found my favourite to date up on YouTube, along with three others I'd not seen before (of varying funniness), all under the title "The IT Guy". Give these a try:
Episode 1: "Good Enough" is still Good ... Right? ("Xeon Roasted")
I had the chance to prowl around the new Project BlackBox datacentre-in-a-box today in the car park at Sun's offices in Menlo Park, and I must say I'm impressed by it - it's not just a load of gear thrown in a container. Danny Hillis has done a stunning job designing the optimum use of a shipping container as a computing unit.
All you have to do is connect three-phase, networking and chilled water and you have a working, 250-U data centre up and running in just a few minutes. The internal packing density is incredible - by aligning the servers front-to-back in two racks along the sides, water-cooled air is blown through them and that combined with their already low heat dissipation (it's packed with Sun low-energy servers) is enough to keep them happy. The detailing is great - lots of creative thinking on environment, management, contingency (fire, particle contamination, water and shock are all allowed for) and flexible yet efficient space usage.
I can easily imagine this thing providing end-of-year computing to a business, or an emergency datacenter in a disaster or a drop-in facility for a special event. What's more - and I think the point the designers were getting at - it makes the value of utility computing clear. This is unit-compute-power; big unit, yes, but as Nick Carr points out, just the same sort of unit power as was Edison's business in the transition from bespoke electricity to utility electricity.
This was a market that did not know it existed until today. Now it does - the phones have been hot all day and the market is alive. Just think of these pre-loaded with a full stack of open source software, waiting to be switched on on-demand. Seems plenty of people can already imagine that.
You may recall that I recently wrote about attending FOO Camp, the archetypal "unconference" that Tim O'Reilly runs each year to cultivate the community that powers his publishing business. An unconference is a gathering of the sort of people you'd find at a conference doing the sorts of things people at conferences do when they aren't in sessions. I wrote:
Unconferences are less about deconstructing authority and more about expressing the connectedness that comes about when "the network is the computer" express itself when people come together too.
I'm not saying the more structure sessions weren't valuable ... But the world will be changed by the relationships formed at FOO this year, not by the sessions that were presented. That's what good unconferences do - rescue us from content and return us to the power of relationships.