Wednesday, March 28, 2007

First Whitepaper Posted

I just posted a whitepaper that I co-authored with Jan Ariyasu on the web which describes how to configure diskless systems using HP's version of Debian for the telecom environment. Running diskless is especially important when your systems are in a remote bunker somewhere. There are 2 versions:

  1. PDF. This is up at

  2. HTML. This is up at

Go click on both and increase the hit counts on my document. ;-)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Ruminations on Traveling

Now that I've finished my 26 hour trip home from Tel Aviv (that's door-to-door), I thought I'd take a moment to jot down some thoughts I had while I was traveling. Maybe I'm becoming a grumpy old man or maybe I'm just getting noticing more of the stupidity involved with world travel.

Why I hate Lufthansa:
  1. No Economy Plus. This is becoming a bigger and bigger deal to business travelers that are becoming accustomed to the extra leg room offered by United, because the Lufthansa seats are so cramped that my knees literally touch the seat in front of me. I wish United would open more direct flights from Denver to Europe.
  2. Have to fly through Frankfurt, where people smoke everywhere inside the airport
  3. Have to fly through Frankfurt, where you almost always have to take a bus to and from your plane because they don't have enough terminal space.
  4. No personal TVs in the steerage chairbacks. Hell, even United has these now, and they're the biggest cheapskate international airline on the planet. They have only small monitors above the center section, so if you're in a window (like I was) you literally have to look at a 45 degree angle to see the screen. Couldn't they at least put screens over the side sections?
On the plus side, Lufthansa does give you real metal knifeware, so you don't feel like you're at some cheap carnie food booth when dining with your single-serving friends (bonus points if you catch the movie reference).

How I know for sure the TSA is suffering from a Rectal-Cranial Inversion:

When you drive to the Tel Aviv airport, you are stopped at a toll-booth like plaza, many lanes across. 30 feet in front of you, in each lane, is a man with a machine gun in case you try to drive through the plaza. Someone looks in your car to make sure it isn't full of bombs, and looks at your passport. Americans get it relatively easy... I can only imagine what happens if your name is Mohammed (yes, the great irony of the world is that Israeli Jews are extremely racist). When you get out of your taxi, you pass another security guard who does a cursory inspection of your things and looks at your passport. Then it gets interesting.

Before you can check in to get your boarding pass, you have to pass the ultimate layer of security, which is serious questioning from airport authorities. In my case, I was grilled by 2 men, who clearly took their job very seriously. Below are some examples from the exchange:

Q. Why were you in Israel?
A. Business Trip. (I present a letter from the customer I was working with, addressed to Airport Security Group explaining the company, and my situation).

Q. What kind of business are you in?
A. I work for HP. We make systems to sell to telephone companies.

Q. What kind of business are your customers in? Who are their customers?
Q. Why did HP have to send you instead of sending a local person?
Q. Who are your local contacts?
Q. What is the details of your job?
A. (How do you explain Linux kernel programming to security guards holding weapons?)

Q. Do you have any technical documents explaining the project you were working on?
Q. Tell us again about the business your customer is in?

Q. Can we see your HP badge?
A. I didn't bring it, as I was not going to an HP office. They did walk away with my business card for a while though, presumably verifying address information.
Q. Where is your customer's office?
A. Azrieli Towers.
Q. Which building?
A. The Triangle One.

Q. What is this "Saba" place in your passport?
A. A caribbean island. Although if you ask my friend Rhett, it's "really just a giant rock that shot up out of the sea floor with a few brave souls clinging to the ledges".

Q. Did you send any sort of status update to your boss?
A. Yes.
Q. May we read it?
A. (Boots Laptop and shows status message)
Q. Who are all these people on the CC list?

And on and on and on. The whole process took 1 full hour. Then I got my ticket and headed to the lounge to rest because even though my trip was just starting I was already exhausted. Going on 2 hours of sleep didn't help.

Now, what does any of this have to do with the TSA in America? After all the security and machine guns and questioning, the guards at the x-ray machine didn't even blink an eye when I took a full 1.5L bottle of water in my backpack through there. Believe me. If there was any chance that 4 ounces of water (much less shampoo) would blow up a plane like the American authorities would have you believe, there is NO CHANCE that Israel's would let me take 1.5L of water through security.

So that's it. I'm too tired to post pictures from my day at sea and my day in Jerusalem, so I will try to do that this week.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Why google is the bomb

I've been storing my events, meetings, and travel plans in Google Calendar since it came out last year. It is a great way to organize my appointments because I can access them from anywhere and don't have to worry about something stupid like the battery on my palm pilot dying. I also use it for sending out invitations for things like home poker tournaments, because the interface is so much cleaner and easier to use than evite.

Today I discovered that if I go in and change my current location to be Tel Aviv, it time shifts all my appointments appropriately. Now I know that that 9am MST conference call is really 6pm here, without having to think about it. This will be especially helpful once I finish school and start traveling more for work. Maybe one of these days I'll get something other than the free Verizon phone so I can see my calendar when I'm out walking around without access to a laptop. Access to gmail would be nice too.

Yay Google!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

And the Lord said unto them...

"All thine applause shall degrade into synchronized quarter note clapping". I went to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra tonight to see Lang Lang, a Chinese pianist performing Tchaikovsky. At the end of the performance people were clapping and giving standing ovations... and they wouldn't stop. It eventually degraded into synchronized applause, and he gave an encore performance. Then people were clapping and giving standing ovations... and again they wouldn't stop. Again it degraded into synchronized applause, and Lang Lang gave ANOTHER encore performance.

I think this is the first time I've seen a professional guest soloist give two encores like that. Absolutely amazing. Makes me wish I hadn't fallen asleep during part of the performance, but I couldn't help it. I was sitting up next to the soundboard and I was jetlagged. I think I only missed about 10 or 15 minutes though.

Supposedly tomorrow night we're going to a belly-dancing dinner show. The wife of one of my hosts here has a best friend who is a professional belly dancer and she says this is one of the best places in town, so there you go. If you can't trust the best friend you've never met of a wife of one of the colleagues you just met, who can you trust?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

We need more holidays in the US

Jewish people seem to have holidays all the time. It doesn't mean they get the day off work, but it is a reason to celebrate and party. Right now they are celebrating Purim, which is a holiday where everybody gets dressed up in masks and costumes and has parties. The customer I'm visiting is having a Purim party tomorrow night where they've rented out a space and hired entertainers and all that. I'm invited and of course I'm going.... in the interest of maintaining good relationships with the customers, of course. There are 2 problems. First, I don't speak hebrew and that is what all the entertainment will be in. Second, I don't have a costume. If I'd known this was going on I could have brought a sweet costume with me from the states, but I didn't. Maybe I should have cracked that Frommer's Israel guide before I got on the plane. Anyway, now I've gotta go to the mall and pick something out so I can blend in at the party. Until I open my mouth to speak, that is.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Tel Aviv -- Wow!

As soon as I stepped out of the airport I knew I was in a great place. Warm and sunny, with no clouds in the sky, it is absolutely beautiful in Tel Aviv. I am absolutely exhausted after the trip, which took almost 27 hours and 4 airports. I start work in the morning so I'm just trying to stay up and go to bed at a normal time in order to adjust.

Check out this view of the Mediterranean from my hotel room balcony:

Mediterranean Beach View

Thanks folks, I'll be here all week!