Mini-jet-lag consequences

It seems that the last morning did not yet help me overcoming the two hours of difference. This, added to the fact that my all-new digital travel alarm clock (with picture of my wife and kid on the folding part) does not seem to have a workable snooze feature, which I happen to like quite a lot, have E. knocking on my room just two minutes before it is time to leave for work, with me not making it in time for the team's trip to work. We agree that they'd send the driver along at 08:00 to pick me up.

I shower, dress and have a sligtly more extense breakfast than usual, and start wondering that the driver is not here by 08:00 as promised, so I give him a call on his mobile. Well, he was not even aware that he was supposed to pick me up, so I have another 15 minutes to watch the news.

We start planning for further steps. The next task is to get a development environment ready for the Internet Banking team, so I secure an Intel PC with enough memory (1GB) and start installing an OpenLDAP server and Mysql. My various attemts at downloading WebSphere Application server from IBM's Developer Network fail horribly, since they have (once again) changed their authentication and registration scheme, so I have to migrate my ID. Of course, my migrated ID is no longer associated to my company's Partner World for developers subscription, so I´ll have to ask our subscription manager to give me the subscription code and authorize me again. Well, this will not be happening today, since it's weekend back in Spain.

I also set up a CVS pserver as a code repository, and the guys are pretty happy that it seems to work flawlessly at first try.

Same story as usual. Off from work late, M. who has just arrived from Germany joins the rest of us for Atkins-diet like dinner and off to bed.


First working day

Since yesterday I've been unable to sleep timely, because after all two hours difference is a difference, I wake up completely tired at 06:30, shower and help myself to the "breakfast of champions": A cigarette and a mug of coffee before we leave for the office.

The colleague in charge of the UNIX stuff is back from his new year trip to Dubai and explains how different this emirate is from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, how liberal, open-minded and nice it is there. After all, you still notice you're in an islamic country, but the general impression is much more modern and westernized.

The whole team and the Bank are happy to see me again. The machines that have arrived are running, with AIX installed and ready to receive any production sofware, if we had some network equipment. The rollout for the branches shall start mid-february, and the schedule is running tight.

We return to our residential compound, way too late, as usual, and after dinner we're off to bed.


Back from reality

My flight back to Riyadh has been quite eventful this time. I was booked on British Airways who will, by the way, discontinue their service to Saudi Arabia sometime in March this year because the line "is not yielding a profit". Well, the packed-to-the brim Economy Class from London Heathrow to Riyadh did not make that impression. But then, it's pilgrimage time.

I Arrive Barcelona airport for the first leg of my trip at 06:30, one hour before boarding time for my flight due to leave at 07:45. There is a loooooong queue at the check-in desk because a Ski Team is trying to get their equipment loaded. Inquring later on the plane I find out they're going to be flying to Denver from there on. Despite this, I manage to check in just at the time the boarding for my flight is announced, take my (aisle) seat and and we leave witout delay.

I sleep most of the flight, waking up just for breakfast, and as the Captain announces that heavy winds are causing some havoc at London Heathrow Aiport, and I witness what has probably been my worst landing ever. I fly roughly 100.000 miles a year, so figure that. The entire approach to LHR is extremely bumpy, but despite this, we're landed safely, proceed to our parking position and leave the plane.

I walk to the Tranfer Centre, and after clearing the security control most easily and swiftly, I proceed to Terminal 4, where my flight is supposed to leave at 15:45. Since I've "gained" an hour of time, it is now some minutes after nine o' clock, and I have plenty of time on hand. I decide that the best option is to proceed to the "Holideck" Lounge, shell out 16 UKP for the privilege of staying there and enjoying free drinks and snacks. A quarter dozen of nice'n'stiff Gin Tonics (doubtlessly one of Britain's great contributions to modern culture, along with afternoon tea, Golf and Worcestershire Sauce) help me relax appropiately and enjoy the full aroma of nice Cheddar cheese sticks with crackers. A smoking area is also on hand, and the wireless internet access works flawlessly and at a very decent speed.

Shortly before boarding time I proceed to the gate, we are taken to the plane by bus, I get on, almost miss lunch (I fall fast asleep once I board an Aircraft, and furthermore my entertainment system is not working). I wake up again as the pilot announces we are now over Saudi Arabia, get out my laptop and watch a movie for 45 minutes, before we are kindly requested to discontinue the use of any electronics prior to landing.

Once we're there, I clear passport control amazingly quick and get my suitcase (one of the last ones to appear). Customs also does not feel much like working after midnight, and so they process my baggage quickly and diligently.

Another team colleague from Switzerland was on the same plane, so we proceed to meet our driver, Nour in the lobby, get on our Ford Crown Victoria, and are off to the compound.
In the Villa, Steffen has obviously awaken due to the noise my luggage made when carelessly been taken upstairs, so he joins me in the kitchen for a quick, hearty snack before I'm off to bed.


Nerd Test Result

Thought so :-S

I am nerdier than 96% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!


Back home

After an uneventful day, the Christmas that never happened, and good tips from my fellow colleagues from the team on what to do and what not, and the most efusive best wishes from the bank staff, along with comments that "You can't leave for that long", I'll be back home until the 7th of January, and flying back to Saudi Arabia on the 8th. So, expect no postings until then.

Back home

After an uneventful day, the Christmas that never happened, and good tips from my fellow colleagues from the team on what to do and what not, and the most efusive best wishes from the bank staff, along with comments that "You can't leave for that long", I'll be back home until the 7th of January, and flying back to Saudi Arabia on the 8th. So, expect no postings until then.


The cable guy cometh

The degree of frustration has been raising again today. See, we initially provided the electrical engineering company who built the Data Centre for the new bank with a list of circuits, type of sockets and location in the data centre two weeks ago, so they could prepare the appropriate circuits and the proper type of plug.

Well, the cables are more or less there, but no plugs, no termination, no nothing. So the engineer from IBM comes, looks, amuses himself and leaves today.

We spend the rest of the day planning the distribution of the CPUs, I/O and RAM to the various partitions to be created on the big iron.


Uneventful Boxing Day

As the title for this post indicates, not much happened today. The technician from SBM started rebuilding the machines, I am aware that I sacrified Christmas back home for nothing, and I've two more days to work before I go back home for a short break.


Bahrain (II)

So after a good night's sleep, we all met for breakfast at the hotel dinig room at 10:00, to regain forces for the new day. Four of us decided to take a short walk to the beach, just to find out (as I warned the others before) that there was no beach but only some rocks and rather shallow waters (low tide) with patches of sand sticking out here and there.

At 12:00 we were all checked out of the hotel, and ready to go for some tourism in Bahrain. First stop was the very first Oil Well in the Gulf region, still producing a couple of barrels a day, and the small oil museum right next to it, with some interesting geological and technical displays, and even the very first oil concession granted by the then Emir/Sheikh of Bahrain.

Next stop was the Formula One circuit. Unfortunately the visitors' centre is closed on Fridays, and no offers of bribe or kindness to the security guards in charge could get us on the premises, so all we took were a couple of pictures.

This almost brought us up to lunch time, so we headed back to Manama for the Seef Mall, a shopping centre worthy of any western capital, and then we had lunch at the nearby "Chili's" Tex-Mex restaurant, where much too large dishes were devoured by us to strenghten us for the upcoming trip back to Saudi Arabia.

The border crossing was quite uneventful, except for two of us who had to take their passports to the saudi immigration office, where some official checked something on his computer, said that everything was in perfect order, and sent us back to the booth where we got our passports stamped, and off we went. Customs didn't seem to think we looked like alcohol smugglers, so we didn't even have to open the trunk or our suitcases and bags. I'm sure that the day I dare smuggling something, I'll be caught, and according to verbal accounts, it's a month of jail plus 20 lashes for a bottle. I also heard they drop the lashes for foreigners, and are happy with the prison term followed by deportation from the country.

After refueling having passed the border, we had two bizarre appearances: The first one was a car just besides us lose his left right wheel (complete, with the alloy and everything). The person driving our car was just uttering "Look, he's got a wide..." and in this very moment we saw his wheel unattach from the car, hapilly rolling behind him, and the brake drum start screeching over the motorway, with the corresponding display of sparks.

Some miles later, a couple of hundred meters in fron of us, we saw a vehicle cross the motorway in a 90º angle. In the middle of nowhere, not on an overpass or the like. He just crossed our lane, and possibly the other one as well.

After a (now) uneventful trip we made it back to Riyadh, deciding we'd skip dinner and headed straight off to bed. b

Back in the...

...Magic Kingdom after a night of food, western entertainment and some drinks - although for some too much to drink still seems not enough.

We lodged at the Crowne Plaza Manama, Bahrain, where in spite of a nice reception with the hotel personnel singing christmas carols, the service was, all in all, not up to snuff, the executive room I booked with my Priority Club was definitely a standard one, the king bed unexistent, and other small bits and pieces which I did not like.

After arrival, quick fresh-up after a 5-hour drive and first drinks at the hotel pub. Mind you, that although alcohol is available in Bahrain, the only establishments actually having a license are usually attached to a hotel, so the whole legal situation is a bit shaky.

A case apart is Jim's restaurant, run by a quite nice and colourful character of an irishman, and word has it that he's allowd to sell alcohol on the premises because his license was grandfathered after the british granted Bahrain independence in 1972.

After that, off to JJ's Irish Pub, a quite popular venue, and then to BJ's, the club next door, closing at two o'clock, therefore unable to stand the test against Spanish hang outs, closing not before five in the morning.

So after that we paid a visit to a 24-hour bar in one of the hotels - now that's what I call after hours - and O. and myself go back to the hotel and bed in a cab 15 minutes before the rest of the team decides to join us.

More information in the next posting.


Off to Bahrain...

... the closest by place where sex-segregation, non-alcoholism and other peculiarities of Saudi Arabia are not being enforced. Damn, they even had some sort of election last year. Back tomorrow, updates continue on Saturday.


Equipment arrived (II)

So, after a quite eventful offloading session yesterday, our equipment is now sitting in the data centre, waiting for an engineer to come and install it. I am not showing everyting but only the p570 (first picture) and the p595 with the CPU and the I/o drawer. Click on the images to see a larger picture, and sorry for the crap quality, the Zire31 PDA camera is obviously not up to it.

IBM p570IBM p595

IBM p595 CPU drawerIBM p595 IO Drawer

Do You think we've got enough I/O for the thing? It's the bottom right picture.


Equipment has arrived

Finally, at 15:00 the hardware appeared. Which means, another perfecly good day almost wasted. They're offloading the trucks as I write this entry, and cold sweat is pouring down my head an on my palms as I see the very precarious conditions in which the darn things are being offloaded and hauled into the buliding. The bank's IT manager has already stopped the works twice, and has called a carpenter in to fix a proper ramp for the damn things. I'm already in shock when I think that we'll have o move half of the equipment to a distant contingncy site one day when it's all ready...

Still nothing

Just back from lunch, and still no trace of the equipment. The mule on which they are bringing it from the customs warehouse must have got stuck in the terrible lunchtime traffic in Riyad, or something else, since they allegedly left the warehouse at 10:00 in the morning (I was really tempted to ask which day)

Equiment supposed to arrive today

For those technically inclined, and interested to know, the equipment we're getting today:

  1. IBM pSeries 595 with 16 CPU active and 16 CPU "on Demand Capacity" and 50 GB of RAM, plus a shitload of I/O in the cabinets
  2. Another one of these for Disaster Recovery
  3. IBM pSeries 570 with 16 CPUs and 48 GB of RAM, and again a lot of IO
  4. 4 x DSS4500 Enterprise storage with 5 TB raw disk in each
  5. 2 x 3584 LTO2 Libraries
  6. A lot of X-Series (Intel) Servers ranging from 4-CPU to 1 CPU
I hope everything clears Saudi Customs today and they can start putting the iron together and testing straight away, and that we can then start base software installation, partitioning and configuring next week, starting Saturday.