Unlike last trip to San Francisco, when I had a free day before the course started, the free day was on Saturday after the course this time. So nothing spectacular (well, except for the course :-) happened in the first couple of days. I spent one day in the San Francisco office, re-meeting friends and colleagues like Amanda and Kimberly of the RMA team and Carson and Matt of the IT Support group. After that I sat and exchanged ideas with the TAC team. The good news for my productivity was that until Friday afternoon I wasn't aware of a The Adams Family pinball machine on the fifth floor kitchen/relaxing area, I surely would have spend more time there if I had known.
The course itself, the Advanced Steelhead Configuration and Troubleshooting course, was great. It was about 25% new stuff for me, after all I've been supporting these devices for the last one-and-a-half years and I have had the course materials about a year ago, and it put everything into perspective. Since it was 30% theory and 70% lab, I made sure to make about every mistake there could have be made (unvolunteraly!), so that I know about all the issues which could go wrong with it and how to spot them.
On Saturday I rented a bike and cycled over the bridge (again) towards Sausalito (again). It is a nice way to get the wind through your hair and get your brains cleaned up. It was the first bicycle trip after my flu-attack three weeks ago and I felt it in my legs.
It was a french day: In the morning I had breakfast at Cafe de la Presse and I went to to the Museum du Automatique, which is a collection of old mechanical amusement systems, varying from "simple" (but at that time high-tech) dancing puppets to fortune tellers to giant replicas of farms and amusements parks. Also old videogames were there, like the Atari Battle Zone, the Star Wars flying game, an original two player Galagah-table and of course pinball machines like the Indiana Jones and the Adams Familiy ones.
On the way back I visited Fort Point, under the bridge, which is an old fortress from the 1850 - 1900 era.
The hotel I stayed in, The Triton Hotel, is a very colourful hotel: Lots of bright colours of paint, lots of modern paintings on the wall, paintings in the rooms. No guest-laundry though, and no waterboiler in the room for tea or coffee.
So, how is San Francisco rated this time? It was as warm as it was last time I was there, which was in winter (Or like Mark Twain said: The coldest winter I experiences was summer in San Francisco). The amount of homeless people and beggars seem to have doubled or gotten even higher. Starbucks has free Wifi internet access now, and still has hot white chocolate milk. When walking on the street, people don't see each other; Well, they do spot each other but don't look at each other.
Today (=Sunday) I went on the CalTrain towards Sunnyvale where I will hopefully meet up with Jos Backus (again), former colleague at Atos Origin. The CalTrain smells the same as an airplane smells :-) Right now I am on my way through famous names like Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View and Sunnyvale! In Sunnyvale it is about 23 degrees Celcius, warmer than in San Francisco but still not making me want to take off my singlet from under my shirt.
As stated before, I'm in San Francisco right now. And the flight to here with United Airlines was kind of a nightmare...
I might be spoiled, but with in the travelling I've done in the last ten years, I didn't encounter an airliner which on its long haul flights didn't come with complementary eye-patches and inflatable neck pillow. Oh, I did this time, and it sucked.
Also the "entertainment system", for a lack of better word, were old-fashioned TVs hanging on the roof and a projected on the wall in front of me. So, no eye-patches and this light constantly flashing in front of my closed eyes: To sleep you don't need brain-stimulation like that! Getting rid of these TVs would be a good thing.
The people in the plane where acting like they were on a school trip with zero clue of what was going to happen. The plane left at 14:00 Body Time, which means that it got dark at 17:00 Body Time. So far so good. The cabin crew turned off the main lights and everywhere the reading lights went on and people started to talk loudly and laugh. Did I tell you that there were no eye-patches? AAAAAAAAAARGH! So at 23:00 Body Time everybody kind of fell asleep (finally), but then at 01:00 Body Time the guy next me opened the plastic cover in front of the window and kept it open because he wanted to see the sun. Still two hours to go and had barely any sleep.
Now the good news... I digged up a set of Bose noise-cancelling headphones before I went, new battery in it and oh man, that noise-cancelling works great. Too bad I didn't have an inflatable neck-pillow so I couldn't easily wear it, but the quietness was kind of what prevented me from going totally insane on the plane.
The flights I had went from Sydney to Los Angeles and from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The transfer time I had in Los Angeles was 60 minutes before boarding and 90 minutes before take-off. That was a close call... First you have to go through the DHS checks, which takes 25 minutes before it is your turn, then you have to get your luggage and go through customs, another 20 minutes. Then it's getting rid of the luggage and run towards terminal 7 (It is warm in LA, so my jacket and shirt and singlet were way too much, huff puff). And then you see this huge queue in front of the security check to get towards the gates again. And you hear in the distance "Flight UAsomething to San Francisco is now boarding". Talking to customer representatives doesn't help, the queue is one giant string of people and you just have to wait until it is your turn. Tick tick tick... And finally when they announce the final final boarding call for flight UAsomething, it is my turn and I woosh through. With my laptop and my belt in my left hand and my backback and jacket in the my right hand (I know that it sounds impossible, but that it how it happened) I ran towards the gate and was the second last person to enter the plane. Just in time!
And then San Francisco... Covered in brownish clouds (ugh). They still haven't fixed the awful sounds on the BART trains, I wonder if people who travel daily with it wear earplugs or get compensation or just go deaf early...
But now everything is fine. The hotel is close to Chinatown, so the food will be good, and I had a walk through the area (more or less randomlay walked from the hotel to the west and to the south and to the east until we came to the water and then back to via the Abraham Lincoln Brigade monument and the Villancount Fountain while lots and lots of water was pouring out from it. Very impressive.
Later this week more.
Part two of the training (hands on, dirty details, procedures) was done in the Sunnyvale offices of Riverbed. Were the offices in San Francisco in the middle of the city (well, mostly), these ones were in the middle of Sunnyvale. Going there would be simple, grab the BART train, grab the Caltrain train and grab a taxi for the last two kilometers. I mentioned the issues with BART earlier, now its CALTrains turn.
Caltrain was GREAT! It started with the buying of the ticket where I didn't get 14 dollars back in quarters, I got 14 dollars back in dollar coins. I knew about the existence of silver dollar coins (collector items), but that was the first time I have seen normal dollar coins. Later in the week I found out that it costs the US government about 500 million dollars per year to replace all the worn-out dollar bills while it would only cost a fraction of that if they moved to dollar coins which would last about 30-40 years before they need to get replaced.
The second great thing was the bell on the front of the train, which gets sounded when it arrived at a station or a railway crossing. The third great thing were the railway crossings, something which I haven't seen for a long time but remember from an earlier life: One in eastern Eindhoven and one in Geldrop. Bing-bing-bing-bing they go when the train drives by. The fourth great thing was the presence of a train conductor which was there for questions and support. I am not sure if they are on the CountryLink trains in Australia, but they surely are not in the Sydney CityRail trains.
The design of the interior of the train is euhm... interesting. (Fifth great thing!). To get in the train you have to climb from the platform (which is at a certain height) up three steps into the train (which is thus higher). That is the ground level of chairs, in two rows with each two chairs on your both and left hand side. Then the upper level of the train, which is accessible via a step of stairs leading you to about one-and-a-half meter above the ground level. That distance is not high enough to make it possible for the people on the ground floor to stand up, so they have upstairs only one chair per row, both on the left and right hand side of the train, and a huge gaping hole in the middle of the upper level. Like I said, interesting design but not worlds smartest I think.
Two zones later, from Millbrae to Sunnyvale and I was at the place I would call home for the next week: A Best Western hotel. The week before I was in a hotel in inner San Francisco, now a Best Western hotel. Let me describe the differences:
|Queen-size bed||King-size bed|
|Shower and bath||Shower and spa|
|Internet (wired and wireless)||Internet (wired and wireless)|
|42 channels on TV||At least 99 channels on TV|
|Movie on Demand ($$$$)||Video library (Free!)|
|Breakfast ($$$$)||Breakfast (Free!)|
|Dinner / Bar||Pizza / Starbucks near the supermarket|
|Soda vending machine||Soda + Snack vending machine|
|10 minutes walk to work||10 minutes walk to work|
|US$ 279 per night||US$ 119 per night|
On average, Sunnyvale was better for the money, but San Francisco had the location. And less crap on TV :-)
Because the availability of the video library, I took the opportunity to watch some old movies: Timeline by Michael Crighton (for medieval castle lovers), Snatch (very funny movie) and Rat Race (always good for a laugh). There was a fourth one but I can't remember anything about it.
Just as I met up David Thiel and Anton Holleman in San Francisco, I met up with people here too: Jos Backus, former colleague of Origin and FreeBSD enthusiast, Xen Li and Marcel Moolenaar, both FreeBSD developers. Thanks for the hospitality guys!
The time in Sunnyvale flew by and before I knew it was time to go back to Australia. This time I was lucky on the plane: The two people next to me didn't show up and I moved from an aisle seat to a window seat (I did offer it first to a mother with her child but she refused for some silly reason) and I slept for about ten hours on the plane. Business class comfort for an economy class price!
At home, Project Vegetable Patch needed moral support and some pruning, but it has survived my absence. Little Dirk had his hair cut, Hanorah has learned to walk and Naomi was very glad to have me back and take care of the kids for the rest of the weekend :-)
The first part of my trip to San Francisco went easy and successfull: Customs in Australian didn't search my bag, the plane left on time (I watched (Video On Demand with Qantas is great) the movie "Where is Osama Bin Laden" by the same guy who did "Supersize Me" I think and the Australian movie "Cosi", both movies worth mentioning) and except for some nasty bumps over a couple of minutes it was all smooth, customs in the USA didn't ask too many questions (I guess I am just a statistic for them), my luggage was there on the caroussel when I was ready and the hotel was not too far away from the Montgomery station and the weather was nice (read on for more on that one...). With regarding to forgotten luggage: razor blades and socks: I only brought one pair of socks!
To go from the airport to the hotel I decided to go by train with BART, or Bay Area Rapid Transit for long. For U$ 5.35 (otherwise US$ 30.- for a taxi) you can't complain too much. The trains are clean and not too slow, but they make an awful noise when going around bends, so much that it started to hurt my ears. Note for people who need to keep receipts to bill back to work: Make sure you put 5 dollar-cents more on your ticket so you get it back when going through the final gates. I am not yet sure how to go from here to Sunnyvale, since the BART railroad doesn't go so far south.
The Courtyard Marriott hotel has free internet, but it requires a daily recharge, which comes by going to the frontpage and clicking on "1 Day Free Internet". The good news is that there is wireless network support too and that is used for the Riverbed provided laptop. If you are overseas and the people you try to call don't have Skype or internet access available, use the Skype dialout service! For three cents per minute I could talk to my wife and children yesterday (I know, this sounds like a bad ad)
The weather... It was wet, very wet. So I didn't do much walking outside yesterday due to ENOUMBRELLA. But I did walk through it to get some tea bags (the hotel does have free coffee but no free tea and the waterboiler, due to its use in the previous years, is now smelling like coffee even if there is no water in it) which ended up in an hour walk through the suburbs and I acually enjoyed having gotten my hair wet like this, it has been ages ago since that happened. Today (Sunday 07:00, DST stopped here today so I have one hour more today) it is dry so far but still a 40% chance of rain.
So what is on the menu for today? First I want to have breakfast because I'm hungry like a wolf, then I'm going to find a place which will rent me a bicycle so I can cycle over the Golden Gate bridge, buying some more socks and then I will meet up with some people of the FreeBSD project.
The coming two days I'll be at the IPv6 Workshop of APNIC. Of course this workshop is in the middle of nowhere, which is impossible for a Sydney based event so let me rephrase it: It is held in a non-central location unreachable by train. The options? Take the train to the city (one hour) and then the bus (one hour) or take the train to Parramatta (1.5 hours) and take a taxi from there.
But the good news is: thanks to the speed of the Cronulla / Bondi train this morning I was able to catch one train earlier at Redfern, and that one only stops at Strathfield, Lidcombe, Granville and Parramatta, which will save me some hassles... I hope :-)
On the sideline, I checked out when my first IPv6 capable program was created: It was the Fatal Dimensions Mud server and the commit date was 29 April 2000, eight years ago. The IPv6 connection came via FreeNet6 in Canada and that was a IPv6-over-IPv4 tunnel. Thanks to my FreeBSD port of their tunnel software I got a tshirt from them!
Update: That taxi took half an hour to get there....