Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Online Collaboration

If you have read some of my previous posts you already know that I’ve been around in the ‘net for a long time. In those old days we didn't have such a vast collection of services and tools, the most advanced service we had for a real time conversation was writing to somebody’s else terminal or the Unix talk utility.

But I’ve been always convinced since then that the internet technologies (that’s the name of one of the companies I founded many years ago) were a very important factor to enable and facilitate collaboration and teamwork.

Since early January and part of February I spent a considerable amount of time participating in the online Vanishing Point Game.

This game was commissioned by Microsoft as part of their launch campaign for Windows Vista, and it was developed and run by the company 42 Entertainment.

The game consisted in a set of four puzzle boxes (one for each week), each box contained a dozen puzzles and was opened at the start of each week and a fictional character named "Loki" (the “Enigma Director”) guided us through the game history line and providing clues.

Singapore Besides the clues embedded in the actual puzzles and the ones provided by “Loki”, additional clues were provided with real world events around the world, starting with a spectacular light show in the dancing waters of the Bellagio Casino Hotel fountain in Las Vegas, skywriting in Sydney and other US cities, impressive digital projections over the façade of landmark buildings in Canada, Singapore, Germany, England and the US.

The grand prize ? A suborbital flight to the edge of earth’s atmosphere aboard the Rocketplane vehicle.

Besides the attractive prizes (which I won none), and the challenge to solve the puzzles, my real interest was to experience first hand the actual state of the art of online collaboration in a complete different context, not work related, completely unknown people of different ages and background around the world.

I’ve been always involved in discussion groups via e-mail lists, such as NANOG, IETF, technology forums, etc. In this particular instance after some searching I joined the community where I found some interesting information exchange related to the game.

Over 80,000 registered to play the game, hundreds if not thousands were participating in forums such as Neowin, or, real time chats on IRC, etc.

Since the early Internet days we had some sort of implicit and self imposed net etiquette, that if you recently had a chance to participate in some IRC chat rooms seems to have been completely lost.

To my surprise and enjoyment, the experience I had with the Neowinians was in all terms excellent, while the forum has moderators there was no need for them to get involved, a great exchange of information an ideas with a sharp focus to solve the puzzles and have fun playing the game was a constant.

I’ve not seen one message with obscene content or inappropriate language and the level of collaboration, also including exchanging information with the unfiction folks, was tremendous. The puzzles that were supposed to be solved in a week time frame got solved in just a couple of hours.

And it was really fun to be part of that (well what do you expect, I’m a geek!!), at one time we had one Neowinian from the UK streaming audio with great music and live comments about what was going on in the game.

After the game was over we had a chance to join a webcast conference with the Rocketplane folks and learn more about their pioneer work in developing commercial human space travel. Few days later another webcast with the 42 Entertainment folks about their experience and challenges putting the game and events together.

My prize ? I got to join a great new online community with interesting and talented people that openly exchange ideas, experience and information about Information Technology and other matters, and a great demonstration that online collaboration is still alive and a powerful way to get great things done (open source somebody ?) .


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Internet en Argentina y América Latina...

Los Primeros Pasos
Hace unas semanas atrás un viejo y querido colega y amigo me contactó para participar de una iniciativa que él viene promoviendo desde hace tiempo, y que consiste en cierta medida en preservar la memoria histórica de quienes como José dice tuvimos el privilegio de ser algo así como "los pioneros" en el desarrollo de Internet en América Latina.
José Soriano
Couple of weeks ago a long time and dear colleague and friend contacted me to join an initiative that he has been promoting for some time, it has to do somehow with preserving the historic memory of whom as José says had the priviledge of being some sort of "pioneers" in the development of Internet in Latin America.

José Soriano, entre otros, fué una pieza importante para el desarrollo de las redes en América Latina y en particular en su natal Perú donde con mucho esfuerzo y limitados recursos dió vida a la Red Científica Peruana (RCP).

José Soriano among others was an instrumental piece for the development of networks in Latin America and in particular in his native Perú where with a lot of effort and scarce resources he gave birth to the Peruvian Scientific Network (RCP).

Esta historia tiene muchas caras y muchas voces, inolvidables recuerdos y anéctodas que vale la pena rescatar, así que me siento halagado por la invitación de José y espero contribuir con gusto viejas memorias y lo que ha sido ésta experiencia desde mi punto de vista personal.

This history has many faces and many voices, unforgettable memories and anectodes that are worth to preserve, I feel flattered by José's invitation and I hope to gratefully contribute those old memories and what has been this experience from my personal point of view.

Pioneros Internet

Internet Argentina 1995
Gracias José por tu invitación

Friday, February 16, 2007

Passion for electronics

Since my teen days (early 70's) I was always fascinated and intrigued by electronics, I use to add lamps, wires and switches to at that time the equivalent of Lego's, and destroy all sort of electric appliances we had at home.

Things got more interesting when next to my home (in Buenos Aires) a small company established a representation of the Japanese audio equipment manufacturer AKAI.

This company imported different products completely disassembled, some parts were produced locally and the final product was assembled, calibrated, tested and packed in this place.

Somehow I managed to get in there and slowly I started to learn, first packing the final products and its manuals, mounting some mechanical parts, soldering the different electronic boards, and later calibrating and testing. It was a lot of fun and excitment when in those days an 8-track magazine player was Hi Tech !! (AKAI CR-80).

But there was a particular event that marked me for the rest of my life and gave shape to what later became my professional career. One day the company owner returned from a trip to Japan, and among the goodies he brought from there was a handheld electronic calculator with bright red glowing numbers. I've seen before other desktop chunky ones with nixie tubes but this one was different, it was really small for that time.

I had to resist my temptation to put the screwdriver on it, I had a vague idea of what was inside but I didn't have a clue how the thing worked, to satisfy my curiosity and anxiety to learn more about it I started asking about it to one of the young engineers working there. Jorge Perez (which whom later I had the pleasure to work with for a couple of years) had the patience to introduce me to logic gates and digital electronics, my brain was about to explode.

It was clear then that I was headed to get my education in a technical school with a career in electronics, which took place at the PIO IX school in Buenos Aires.

Gracias Jorge por mostrarme el camino ...

First time... it's always painful ...

Well it seems that I finally decided to create a blog account and join the blogsphere.

Do I need a blog ? may be, not sure. I've been with the internet mambo-jambo for many years (since '86) when with a group of other crazy folks like me we started a small project that later became the foundation to get my country of origin (Argentina) on the 'net.

Will see what comes out of this, I may post some entries in english, some in spanish, and most of the time mixing both.
I apologize in advance if I post any non-sense while I learn how to use this service.

Happy surfing ...