28.12.04

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.

27.12.04

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.

26.12.04

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.

24.12.04

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 90ยบ 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.

23.12.04

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.

21.12.04

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.

20.12.04

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.

19.12.04

Still no trace

Woke up a tad too late, as usual. Showered, then woke up Steffen.

I actually had some food for breakfast today, a german grey bread and turkey breast sandwich, another one with "Bresse Bleu" blue cheese with the usual coffee and orange juice.

After we arrived at the office, I called our correspondant from the hardware vendor to make sure the machines were delivered today as it was told yesterday, only to receive the usual answers (customs, one paper missing, should be in our warehouse in the afternoon) I've been hearing for the last couple of days.

I decide to escalate the issue to the client, who actually ordered the stuff, and is paying for it. I am due to leave the country for my Christmas Break in the wee hours of the 22nd. December. But more on that later...

Things cancelled today:

  • Hardware delivery (as read in the earlier post)
  • Christmas Break (because I need to supervide the setup of the darn things)
  • Lunch break (because of Conference Call from Program Manager to the rest of the team, although he is on his break back home in Germany)

Although the first and the third are mainly of my concern, my wife is really impressed about the second. NOT! I do not really love your job for having that sort of things happening all the time was among the more sympathetic statements she uttered over the phone when I told her. I am, obviously, so sorry, but that doesn't help it much.

Part of the problem is that the Saudis, with Islam being the official and only allowed religion in the country don't really care about Christmas and the like, so they will expect us to do business as usual. Let's see what happens on the upcoing Eid alAdha festival at the end of the month of pilgrimage to Makkah, whether they stay put for work during the week, or whether they'll bolt away on us again, effectively bringing the project to a standstill for another week, despite the tight schedule we are working on.

Round-up

After all that happened yesterday:

  • Got notice that our equipment is going to arrive (really, really!) tomorrow mid-day or afternoon
  • Got home relatively early (19:00)
  • Ate part of a really nice turkey our housemaid deliciously cooked for us. The rest goes in the fridge for nice sandwiches tonight
  • Played a couple of games of Warcraft III - The Frozen Throne. I found out that, er, my accolytes do *not* need to stand by the building they're summoning all the time. D'oh!
  • Watched most of "Lord of the Rings - Return of the King" on M-Net, a .za satellite TV channel which we get fet via the really local cable at our compound.
  • Bed & sleep.