28 October 2006

Last Day at Dharamsala

Conference Notes

My Perch in the Auditorium

The conference began today with a lecture on the developments of WiFi spectrum from a former chairman of the IEEE, the organization that makes that standards that govern wireless. He wasn't a bad speaker, per se, but he really didn't provide much more than a history lesson of the standardization process. What he revealed, when asked a question about involving other people in the IEEE standardization process, was a complete lack of interest in people who are neither high level academics or powerful business interests. It was actually rather depressing.

WiFiDogThe next panel was about VoIP, Voice over IP, a service that has been popularized by the Skype application. It was virtually useless if you knew anything about VoIP. Perhaps if you were a complete novice, this might have been interesting.

Then there was a discussion about WSFII, the organization that hosts the conference. I frankly found the dogs who kept coming into the auditorium to nap more interesting.

I had lunch with Sherrin Isaacs from the Meraka Institute. He gave me a very valuable perspective on what the plans of the Meraka Institute are, as well as the political terrain I am going to be walking into. I'm excited about what they are doing, which is to work on a multiple stakeholder initiative across the entire continent of Africa. We talked a bit about how that might be achieved and what strategies might be fruitful in moving forward.

Dave Chastizing Hardware Manufacturers for Being Bad ActorsDave's PanelThe afternoon panels were much better. There was an interesting discussion about innovation and cost efficiencies in wireless. Dave was on this panel. What was particularly interesting to me was the sense of agreement that surrounded Dave's argument that hardware manufacturers are being unreasonably difficult when it comes to releasing documentation about their products. This has been a problem for CUWiN from the beginning.

The final panel of the day was about how to replicate wireless best practices. The obvious thing for the panel to talk about was documentation. Naturally, no one really addressed the problem of documentation. I wanted to make a point about this, but they didn't allow comments or questions on the panel, which was pretty frustrating. In any case, I see a real need for a formalization of the documentation process for wireless technologies, both for the techies who develop and implement wireless networks, and for the ordinary person who uses the network. I'm not quite sure yet how to make it happen, but I have some ideas that I hope to bounce off of people over the next few months.

My overall impression of this conference is rather negative. I felt that previously formed cliques tended to distance other participants. I felt that the one auditorium, one presentation approach was impossible, given the need to satisfy vast extremes of interest and knowledge. Moreover, too many of the speakers were too oriented toward lecturing and not nearly interested enough in the perspective of others. Perhaps this is skewed because I missed day 2, which by all accounts was pretty amazing.

Post-Conference Headache

A Photoshop Assisted Panoramic View

DuskAfter the conference concluded, I went back to my hotel to catch the Himalayas by evening light. In some ways, it is even more spectacular than the morning. I took a few pictures and caught a cab down to McLeod Ganj. I was supposed to meet Dave at 18:00 at the Ashoka Restaurant. I was running late, but as it turns out, so was he, and we decided to sit outside. It was a surprisingly warm evening compared to the previous evenings, and the streets were alive with conversation and lights. We had heard that the Ashoka was very good, and we were not disappointed.

McLeod Ganj by NightWhen we left the restaurant, we went next door to do some gift shopping. There were some absolutely beautiful pieces of cloth. I decided that presents were in order for some people that I will be visiting and even decided to splurge a bit. The problem is that the credit card companies hate me. I suspect that this is due, in large part, to the fact that they think I am not capable of being in India. But when I called them on Monday and told them that I am indeed in India and that they should lift the restriction, they failed to do so. I am so angry right now I could scream. What happens when I get to South Africa and they still won't release my credit card accounts? Will I be stuck at the airport without the ability to rent a car? Moreover, what would have happened if I had been ill and needed money to pay the doctor? I assure you that I am going to ream them a new one when I get back to the US. And all of this was compounded by the fact that the only ATM machine in town would not dispense money. In the end, Dave was gracious enough to purchase the items on his credit card, which seems to work just fine, and I will owe him money when I get back to the US.A Hand-Stitched Table Runner

I'm not sad to say that I will be leaving here tomorrow. I am tired of feeling light-headed from the altitude. I am sick of constantly smelling waste, both human and animal. I'm also tired of feeling like everyone around me sees me as a money dispenser. Tomorrow I will pay for a cab ride to and from the airport in Delhi, and that will be the end of it. I don't hate India, but I'm not ready to stay here for any extended period of time.


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