Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Technology Platform for the trip

I really don't want to bring a laptop with us. A Sony Vaio is about as much weight as I'd be prepared to carry around with me, but besides being outside the budget, it's also not covered by the travel insurance (max item value 500 Euros). But I do want some computing power (well, connectivity power really) for a number of reasons.

  1. To update this blog
  2. To stay in touch with folks back home without paying a king's ransom (*)
  3. To chronicle (offline) thoughts and experiences during the trip
The solution has finally begun to form in my mind: a combination of Nokia's newest Internet Tablet (N800) and a foldable keyboard (there's no way we're going to use anything buy a 'real' keyboard to type in the thousands of words that 8 months travel will inspire). Thanks to Conor for his back channel advice on the N770 versus the N800.

I've already picked up the very smart Freedom Universal Keyboard, which is a lovely piece of kit and fits a proper keyboard into a space about 1.3 time the size of my wallet. Payday is Friday - I feel the arrival of the N800 may follow shortly afterwards.

(*) As far as normal comms are concerned, when there isn't a wifi network within a Llama's spit, I'm studying movements on Roam4Free.

I'm very tempted to follow up the next month with this, but I think I may exceed my wife's Ryanair-like geek baggage allowance.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hey Mister Hu , What did I do?

Dunno - I think I got myself on the wrong side of the Great Firewall of China. According to Google Analytics I don't have any Chinese readership (although to be fair, I don't have much of a readership any which way you look at it). And my friend in Chengdu couldn't access this blog. My blog on learning Chinese does however, so it's not some kind of blanket Blogspot firewalling. Maybe my excerpts from a chapter of Collapse did the trick. Hey - if you're reading this from the PRC - let me know!

[Addendum: Paranoid. Severely Paranoid. I checked Google Analytics (properly this time) and I do have a Chinese readership after all. Chengdu and Shanghai both appeared on my map.]

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Chengdu, Part Two

Waking up from the Summer months, where not a whole lot of thought or energy has been put into planning...

Just before Skype's recent outage, I noticed one of my contacts had "In Chengdu, China" as his Skype message. I fired him off a note, assuming he was on holidays, looking for any advice or tips he had. I wasn't expecting the reply I got, when Skype came back to life.

I met Erik Wiersma in 2006 when both he and I were presenting at SpringOne in Antwerp. As it happens we were presenting on similar topics so we got together beforehand to make sure we weren't overlapping too much. Eric was working for a company called jTeam in Amsterdam - and as far as I knew he was still there. Not so. Eric has now moved to Chengdu, the main city of the Sichuan province (though only a second-tier city in terms of population with a mere 11 million souls!!) and has set up his own software development outsourcing company. The company uses many of the techniques that have been used here in Europe and on the North American continent so successfully over the past few years: Agile methodology and lightweight frameworks, including the Spring Framework. He chose Chengdu because, amongst other things, the pay scales are 1/3 of those on the Chinese East Coast (but also because of an abundance of programmers - Chengdu was where the Ministry of Defense was situated in the 1960's and there are lots of IT universities as a result). I found the pay-scale difference quite amazing. I wonder whether it has always been this high, or if it is a result of East Coast wage inflation.

In any case, Erik has very generously offered to help us arrange stuff on the Chinese side, and to show us around Chengdu as well. He has also confirmed that the hostel we want to stay in is good and central. This kind of help is really invaluable and it wouldn't have happened without systems like Skype or the kind of virtual networking that is part and parcel of my profession.

Erik couldn't load this blog yesterday and suggested that it might be firewalled. If anyone is reading this from the PRC, I'd be obliged if you could comment and let me know. I'll check out Analytics as well.