Friday, April 28, 2006

Memories of Collaborate - Part 1

Well Collaborate '06 has come and gone and I thought I would jot down some of the memories of the event as seen through my eyes. For me the event started on Sunday with an all-day Discoverer workshop. As I live in Cookeville, TN, which is only 80 miles from Nashville, there was no need for me to fly and I was able to avoid the crowds of Collaborators at the airport.

Saturday April 22, 2006
Because Sunday was scheduled to start at 8:30am I decided to drive down the night before. So following dinner, Darlene, Byron, our son, and me set off in two vehicles with all our equipment for the one and a half hour drive to Nashville. After an uneventful journey we went straight to Kinkos to collect our workshop manuals. As has become the norm with Kinkos these days, not all of the material had been printed and they asked us to come back in the morning for the rest. How can they consistently get our printing requests wrong beats me. Fortunately our hotel for the night, the Hampton Inn near to Opryland, was only a couple of miles away and we were able to be in our beds by about 10pm.

Sunday April 23, 2006
After what seemed like only half an hour, we received our 5:30am wake up calls. With less than three hours to go to the workshop there was no time for any dilly dallying. A quick breakfast, and it was quick because sausage in gravy is not my idea of food, was followed by the second trip to Kinkos and then the short drive to the Opryland hotel. If you have never been here, this is a must see hotel, one of the very best in the world in my opinion. Unlike some of the other attendees who were taken aback by the sheer size and beauty of the place, because I live in Tennessee this is a place that I now take for granted as we frequent it often. I also knew the nearest parking place to the conference center so at about 7:15am we were able to start unloading our equipment. This is where the day started to go pearshaped.

First of all, there are stairs going both up and down from the conference center entrance. Our allocated room for the day was on the upper floor, but guess where the elevator was? It was on the ground floor, down a flight of some 20 stairs. Was there an elevator down from the entrance to the ground floor? No, of course not. That would have been too much too ask. So having found one of the hotel trolleys we off loaded all of our equipment and wheeled it into the building. After off loading again to climb the stairs we then man-handled the trolley up the stairs before reloading it for the trip to our room. Anyway, we made it and by 8:30am we were all set up.

The morning of the workshop went well. Our attendees were able to connect to one of our two servers and we had a quite enjoyable couple of hours. Then, for some inexplicable reason, from about 11am the hotel decided to undertake maintenance on their really powerful wireless network. I had thought ahead and purchased a brand new Linksys wireless router but this was no match for whatever the hotel were using because every 20 minutes or so they would zap the airwaves and knock my little network into the next century. Of course I did not know this at the time as it was only the next morning that the hotel apologized. They apparantly had not understood that this was a hi-tech conference! Maybe Oracle isn't hi-tech after all. Maybe its only us who work with it who think it is. Makes you think though, doesn't it?

Despite the interruptions to the wireless network, we were able to complete the workshop and get through all of the material by hard wiring my laptop to the server. At about 4:30pm, Mark Rittman joined me for a short question and answer session. After this it was pack up and go home time for Darlene and Byron, while I went to my hotel for the night. No, I was not staying at Opryland. I know how much it costs. Instead I had a rather lovely two bedroomed suite in a timeshare complex about half a mile away. I'm not stupid.

That night, unaware of what the hotel had been doing with the wireless network, I got on the telephone to Linksys and started giving them stick about my new router. They tested it out and told me there was nothing wrong with it. Hmm, I thought, so what was wrong then? Sleep could not come quick enough.

Monday April 24, 2006
The next morning I had a lie in and then casually wandered over to the conference to check in. After collecting my materials I headed off to the speaker room to let them know about the previous day's fiasco. On the way I bumped into Faun de Henry and her husband outside the BI/DW SIG meeting. Faun and I go way back to the early days of the SIG when I was secretary. I had to give that up when the company that I was working for at the time decided that I could no longer go to conferences. I think its time for me to get back into the SIG. Also outside the SIG was a lady called Marcia Livingstone, someone that I had emailed with with last year when her company was a prospective client. Giving my apologies to everyone I was in a rush to get to the speaker room to find out if anyone had complained about the previous day.

When I arrived at the speaker room, before I could say anything I met Samantha Falkiss from the OAUG organizing committee. She told me she had heard what happened as the hotel had been doing maintenance and I wasn't the only person affected. So now the cat was out of the bag and I could call home and let Darlene know that it was nothing to do with anything that we had done. This news made us all feel a lot better I can tell you.

After that good news, and after checking in and picking up my speaker's badge I set off back towards the BI/DW SIG where I sat in for the last session. There it was that I met up with Mark Rittman for the second time (link). After a few pleasantries and the now obligatory "I know why my workshop network did not work" exchanges with some of the folks who had been in my workshop, I headed off to make my introductions to the conference bookstore.

As I was saying hello to Carolyn Thompson from the bookstore (link), who should be standing there but Lisa McClain, our publisher from McGraw-Hill. What a pleasant surprise that was and we had a really pleasant conversation. Then reminded me that I was due to be the guest speaker on the Oracle Press booth that evening during the opening session of the conference exhibitor hall. To be honest, I thought this was on Tuesday evening so it was fortunate that she reminded me. So at just after 6:00pm I arrived in the exhibit hall and made my way to the Oracle Press stand, conveniently situated in the middle of the hall alongside the main Oracle demonstration area. Phew, the next hour flew by as dozens of people stopped by to get hold of the free Oracle Press t-shirts that we were giving away. By 7:30pm I was tired and went back to my hotel.

Tuesday April 25, 2006
Today was my main presentation day as I was giving a live, two-hour demonstration about how to build a Discoverer End User Layer. I knew this would go well because no network was required! Anyway, like a good Boy Scout, I like to always be prepared and so I went to the speaker room to make sure my presentation was right and that all my accounts were set up on my database. While I was there, who should walk in but Don Burleson, his dear wife Janet, accompanied by John Garmany. If you have not seen it, Don and John and the co-authors of the Oracle Press book "Oracle Application Server 10g Administration Handbook".

As lunch was rapidly approaching, Don invited me to join him. What followed was a rather pleasant hour and a half under the vast dome of Opryland reminiscing about old times. You may not be aware of this but Janet runs an organization (link) that uses miniature horses instead of dogs to help visually impaired people. I had the good fortune to visit to their place in Kittrell, North Carolina, last year to give some Discoverer training. While I was there, I fell in love with the "minnies" as they are affectionaltely known and bought three. They now lead a happy life on my ranch in Tennessee. I had hoped to meet up again with Mike Ault, another of Don Burleson's army of experts, but alas it was not to be. Mike was giving a presentation and did not make it for lunch.

The early part of the afternoon was spent in the exhibitor hall, once again meeting up with lots of old faces and acquaintances. Right by the entrance was the big TUSC (The Ultimate Software Consultants) stand so I thought I would drop in and see who was there. Presenting at the time was what looked like a familar face with a new look, Tony Catalano. I say new look because Tony is now sporting a rather interesting looking goatee! Tony was project lead on a project that I did for TUSC in Kansas City a while back. Also there was Joe Trezzo and Matthew Kundrat. Joe is one of the owners of TUSC and he was responsible for setting up my first project. Matthew leads TUSC's training operation and he smilingly took me to one side to let me know that they had just lost a training deal to us. He was very generous and said that he did not mind missing out on a client to us. I told him the same thing applied the other way and that if a prospect of mine said that they were going to TUSC I would be ok.

My wanderings in the exhibit hall continued and I met up with my friends David Fuston, Maggie Tompkins and Kathleen McCasland on the ODTUG stand. I was reminded that I still have to submit my paper for the ODTUG Kaleidoscope (link) conference in June. I will do it, I promise! Actually, this looks like being a great conference. My paper, which is part of the Business Intelligence Summit, will be on making the most of calculations inside Discoverer.

Following this, I went and sat in on Dan Hotka's tips and tricks presentation on Discoverer. I'm so glad that a second Discoverer session made it to the conference and, as luck would have it, Dan's presentation was in the same room as mine and immediately prior. Good planning, good luck or whatever you call it, I got to relax for an hour.

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