OTN APAC 2014 : Beijing – Day 2

For some reason, unknown to me, I could not sleep. I left the restaurant at about 22:00 and switched between attempting to sleep, watching TV and playing on the computer until 06:00 the following day. I have no idea why. When 06:00 eventually came I went down for breakfast, then got back to my room and attempted to sleep again. This time I went out like a light and was woken by Bjoern at 12:00 asking if I was coming to lunch. Of course I did not turn down food, so I threw on some clothes and went with him. After that I hit the shower, then was ready to start the day…

I had no presentations on the second day, so I originally planned to work most of the day. That didn’t happen…

I went along to seeĀ Giuseppe MaxiaĀ speaking about MySQL replication. The MySQL track had a great turnout of attendees. Giuseppe asked about usage of a few different technologies to get a feel for the audience. Interestingly, when asked who uses Hadoop, the crowd didn’t seem to react, but when asked about MongoDB, lots of hands went up… I’ve had some time to speak with Giuseppe over the tour and he’s given me some ideas about what I need to look at next to improve my MySQL installations. The networking at these things is really the best bit. šŸ™‚

Following that session we did some mingling and some group photos and the event started to wind down. Bjoern must have taken a photo of himself with every woman in the place. He was loving the attention. In the evening we did a quick walk around the local area, including looking at a high-end shopping mall that was pretty much empty of customers… šŸ™‚

Then it was back to the hotel to check out and book a taxiĀ for 04:00 the following morning…

Big thank you to all the folks in Beijing for making this happen. This event certainly has a buzz about it now and I hope it keeps going from strength to strength. I look forward to coming again to see how it progresses in future.

Tomorrow I’m flying to Bangkok…



OTN APAC 2014 : Beijing – Day 1

Having an extended period of sleep was really good. After a week of minimal sleep I felt vaguely human again…

On my last visit to Beijing in 2011 the conference had about 500 attendees registered and we used translated slides and live translation of the speakers. This time it was a much bigger event. Over 1000 people registered, split over 3 tracks. The keynote room held in excess of 1000 people and there were people standing. Quite impressive. Also, there was no slide or live translation for this event. I was going to use my Chinese slides from Shanghai, but the organisers said they preferred the attendees to listen to English and read the English slides. That is quite a change in 3 years.

Another encouraging sign was the number of slots for English speakers was quite limited. The aim of the Oracle ACE program is to encourage a stronger local community, so ultimately it would be good if overseas speakers were totally surplus to requirements. It certainly looks like China is moving that way, which is great. Interestingly, they do not seem to have any interest in the apps side of Oracle. It seems to be purely a tech conference.

In addition to the growth of the conference, there was also a growth in the vendors having stands at the event. It’s kind-of freaky looking at Dell’s Spotlight running with Chinese text. šŸ™‚ I thinkĀ the growth of the event is really encouraging. I hope it continues to grow.

Since most of the sessions were in Chinese, I spent most of the morning playing catch-up with some stuff for the website. I met up with Bjoern for some food at lunch time, then went to do my session. The room could hold about 500 people. Tom was in the room before me and not surprisingly he had it packed out. I had less than half that number for my session,Ā but IĀ was pretty pleased with that considering it was a straight PL/SQL session and I’m a foreign speaker competing against native speakers.

In the evening we went to the Hotel’s Brazilian Barbecue. šŸ™‚ It was a meat-fest, but there was plenty of Chinese veggie stuff for me to eat and I took full advantage of it. šŸ™‚

I was expecting a really easy night with loads of sleep, but things didn’t work out that way. More about that tomorrow…



OTN APAC Tour: Beijing, China (update)

Following on from my previous post, once the OTN APAC event was over I managed to see some of the sights of Beijing and the surrounding area, including the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall and Ming Tombs. I’ve uploaded some photos here, but it seems my photography skills are getting worse, not better. I’m ashamed to say these are the better photos. Let’s not discuss the ones I’ve not bothered to upload. šŸ™‚

I have a few suggestions for any travellers to China:

  • Do not consider driving yourself. The traffic is crazy! I’ve never seen anything like it before. I experienced several “we’re all going to die” moments in every trip I took. Probably the worst was when two lorries moved together with our minibus between them. If our driver had not sped up in time, I’m quite convinced the ACE program would have lost several members. As you may have already read, some of the ACEs were in a crash, but came out of it unharmed. I was only able to wear a seat belt on one journey because all but one of the vehicles either had no belts, or belts but nowhere to plug them in. This takes a lot of getting used to.
  • If you have any sort of respiratory issues, it’s probably best to avoid Beijing completely. The pollution is very bad. It quickly makes you feel like you’ve smoked 40 cigarettes for breakfast. Even at the Great Wall (50+km from the city) it is still really bad.
  • Make sure you have printed copies of the Chinese names for any locations you want to visit. Having an English address is pretty much useless. Even with the Chinese addresses, it was often very difficult, especially if the print was small.
  • Don’t rely on any cloud services for your journey. You need local copies of everything and any apps you want to work with should have full offline functionality. Why? The Great Firewall of China is very effective at blocking a variety of services. Most Google services were trashed. Gmail wasĀ intermittently offlineĀ and I was never able to access attachments. Google Docs essentially doesn’t exist. Google Reader would work for about 5 minutes at a time, then fail bigtime. Most annoyingly, I was unable to use Google to search for anything. šŸ™ I was able to search with Bing, but I could only see results in Chinese. Even when I switched to English, I still got results in Chinese. Like I said, be very well prepared because searching for information is not easy. I’m sure there are ways to cope if you are clued up, but I was a little naive and went with very little preparation as far as logistics were concerned.
  • Take money with you. I was able to get cash advances from my credit cards, but the ATM failed to get cash from any of my bank accounts.

I’m now stationed at my friends house about 40 minutes from Auckland. There are cows in the garden, including 6 new calves which are pretty funny, and two pre-school children who are pretty funny too. Although I’m very much a towny at heart, I must admit the change in pace and air quality is very welcome. Last week I was talking about Oracle and this week I’ve chopping down some trees, cleared some scrub and pretended (very badly) to be a farmer. I’ve nearly mastered saying, “Get off my land!”, or as the Kiwi’s say it, “Gt ff my lnd aye!” I’m trying to introduce vowels to the natives, but with the exception of the word “aye” that is added to the end of every sentence, vowels seem to be lost forever. šŸ™‚

In a few days I will transplant to Auckland and start the NZOUG conference.



APAC OTN Tour: Beijing, China

My flights to China were rather uneventful. The Birmingham to Dubai leg was delayed by an hour due to fog in Dubai. I had a 4 hour connection in Dubai originally, so the delay was no big deal.

Arriving in Beijing was a littleĀ unnerving. I misplaced the Chinese version of the hotel address, but had the English version. Finding someone to translate it proved very difficult and as it turned out they translated it incorrectly. Fortunately I found a cached version of the address on my iPad, so that saved by bacon. The second hitch was that I couldn’t get cash with by debit cards. Just a flat-out refusal from any ATM in China. Arrrggghhh! Fortunately, I was able to get cash advances using my credit card. I’m going to pay through the nose for it, but at least I can survive.

Today is the first day of the conference and I had a morning slot. For the English speakers, we had one screen showing our slides in English and one showing the Chinese translation. I was asked to speak more slowly than usual (kinda difficult for me) and as a result I had to reduce the content somewhat. I did a run through last night to make sure my timing was OK with this adjustment.

The conference has a single track, so you get a room full of peopleĀ from different technical areas. This is always a littleĀ unnervingĀ as you worry about the relevance of your material to audience. Here are a couple of photos of the audience I took while I was setting up.


Everything seemed to go OK. I hope they understood my accent. šŸ™‚

With a bit of luck I will get to see some of Beijing over the next couple of days. I’m behing the Great Firewall of China, so some sites (Facebook and Twitter) are blocked completely and many other sites (like Gmail and any other Google related services) seem to come and go. For the time being my blog seems active. If I lose access to it I will update things once I get to New Zealand.