Archive for February, 2006

Anyone for Golf?


I played my first ever proper round of golf last night. Does this mean I can now become a proper manager at Sun?
Mrs Saul’s been taking lessons as part of an after school club she’s been running. I’ve had a go with her on the driving range before and we also played on the sand course when we were at Jebel Dhanna the other week. She suggested a game last night, so we headed over to the Dubai Creek Golf Club’s 9 hole par 3 course. There are some fun photos showing its construction here.
I really enjoyed it. I managed to go round the course in 64 shots, which is somewhat off-target, but at least I beat Tabu! The only minor problem is that I seem to have done something terrible to my back whilst practising at the driving range. Bending over is now agony. Hopefully it’s nothing serious, but if I’m not any better tomorrow I’m going to have to go and see the doctor. Hopefully it’s just a pulled muscle and nothing worse.

Preventing Thunderbird from downloading attachments


I’ve searched the web and searched Thunderbird’s options, but can’t find an answer to this.
When working from home I connect to Sun via our VPN. Performance is usually fine, but downloading email attachments can take time. I’d like Thunderbird not to download attachments by default – I’d like to be able to click on an icon and only download attachments I want. Can this be done?
As I write this, three large presentations I don’t need to view at this moment in time are downloading, blocking me from checking the other 100 mails I need to get through 🙂

Parents beware!


Although I am not a parent, I can sympathise with some of the emotions expressed in this article.

Drink and be idle.


Considering the subject of this obituary lived to be 92, he clearly avoided both contemporary and recent health warnings. Yet still managed to live to 92. Interesting.
Whilst I suppose I am now a reader of The Telegraph, as The Weekly Telegraph is the only decent UK paper I can get in Dubai, I was never a reader whilst Michael Wharton was writing his Peter Simple column.
The reason for the blog entry is the wonderful line in his obituary – “Young Michael was educated at Bradford Grammar School and Lincoln College, Oxford, where he learned to drink and to be idle.” He appears to have managed to do so for at least the next 70 years or so after being rusticated.

Morons with stupid plugs


Why do Palm ship units that are purchased in the US with a stupid US adaptor that ceases to work when plugged into a 240V supply, the kind that is used the world over? Do they not expect their users to travel ever? Are we meant to fly back to the States every time it needs charging? Is it not possible to ship an adaptor that can be used, shock horror, in more than one country?
I was about to write a positive review of my new Palm TX, but now I feel like stamping on it.

Jebel Dhannat


Mrs Saul and I spent a weekend at the Dhannat Resort, Jebel Dhanna, two weeks ago.
The resort is a new hotel up near the Saudi border, about an hour and a half up from Abu Dhabi, or three hours from Dubai. The hotel’s good, if a bit overpriced, but well worth spending a couple of nights in. More than that and you’d probably run out of things to do, unless your aim is actually to be completely in the middle of nowhere with only a bit of swimming and lounging in the sun on your daily itinerary.
The drive up is fairly safe, although you can expect to have plenty of tinted windowed Land Cruisers and GMC Suburbans with Saudi plates whizzing by at around 200KMh. Speed limits be damned.
The highlight of any visit is the chance to see Sir Bani Yas island. A lump of sand and rock just off the coast, the late Sheikh Zayed transformed it, thanks to his foresight and wisdom, into a wildlife sanctuary with its own desalination plant, lots of grass, trees and thousands of antelope, oryx and even the odd lama and lonely looking Sudanese giraffe.
I gave Tabu a Sony DSC-R1 as an early birthday present as she’d been wanting a decent ‘prosumer’ level camera for ages. She took these great pictures whilst we were there.

I was allowed to have a go on the camera whilst Tabu was deep in conversation with a giraffe.

Whingeing Brit


Most Brits enjoy a good whinge from time to time, usually finishing off with a slightly hypocritical ‘oh well, mustn’t grumble, just have to get on with it, don’t we’ (if we really believed that we wouldn’t bother compaining). The thing I like most is when I get to whinge directly to a company that’s really annoyed me. My Dubai based mortgage company gave me that opportunity yesterday.
They shot themselves in the foot from the outset by getting the person telephoning to ask me all sorts of questions that they should already have known. ‘Have you got a such-and-such loan with us?’, ‘How much did you borrow’, ‘how old are you’, etc, etc. I pointed out that it was a bit odd to be asked that by the company that had leant me the money in the first place. Had they lost my documents? Was I going to get away with not having to pay anything back? No, I don’t think so, the embarrassed market reseracher replied, these are the questions we’ve been told to ask.
That pretty much sums up this financial powerhouse’s approach to doing business with its UAE based customers. God knows what it thinks is going to happen when it opens its London branch.
Things got even better when I was able to rate the service I’d recieved. Unusually I was actually able to give verbal comments, rather than just use a set rating scheme, so lots of choice adjectives were employed – ‘abysmal’, ‘truly awful’, ‘utterly incompetent beyond belief’. I even spelled some of the words out to make sure every bit of venom I was spewing was faithfully transcribed.
I felt a lot better after that. But then again, what can you do, mustn’t grumble, just have to get on with it, don’t you?

ThinkThin blog


Craig Bender has started a group blog concentrating on thin client stuff. You can find it here.
In the future I’ll post any technical thin client stuff there instead of here, leaving these pages free for rants and raves and my thrilling travel updates and offroad adventures.
A while ago I gave myself a target of one ‘technical’ or general work related post a week, but haven’t managed it. Still, no point writing if there’s nothing particularly new to say. This new blog should encourage me to get down to things again and post some useful Sun Desktop related stuff.

Inconsiderate New Yorkers reroute Chris


Due to New York rather inconsiderately deciding to get itself covered in snow, my flight from San Francisco to New York with a US carrier and on to Dubai with Emirates was cancelled and I’ve been rerouted through Dallas to Gatwick, where I’m about to get on an Emirates flight to Dubai.
I found this out when I went to check in at around 1200 at SFO, which left me about 8 minutes to rush through security and get on the 1216 flight to Dallas. They’d tried to call me, but our travel agent hadn’t provided a contact number with my booking. Once again I was pulled apart by SFO security, something which this time meant I had to stand in a bizarre tardis like thing whilst compressed air was blown on me. My bags were then all opened up and rubbed with cotton wool pads. No idea what this new machine and the associated cotton pads are supposed to do exactly – it was actually rather unsettling, as I had no idea that I was about to squirted with air as I stood there in my socks, trying to hold up my beltless trousers.
I found the attitude of the security people pretty irritating. Even though I explained I had about 2 minutes left to catch my flight, no discernible effort appeared to be made to do the checks quickly. Thorough needn’t mean slow in my book. When I asked if they could speed things up I was given a tedious lecture on the importance of security features. Guys, I’m well aware that you’re only doing your job, but whether you like it or not, you’re the public face of the US in these situations and nearly causing people to miss their flights because you’re too lazy to walk quickly from one machine to the other doesn’t really cut it.
The quality of the US carrier compared to Emirates was shocking. Awful food, no choice of entertainment, no screens in the seats and blankets that appeared to be covered in hair from all the other people who’d been subjected to them for the last 20 years. Yuck.
Emirates have saved the day – the new £3 million lounge in Gatwick for First, Business and Skywards Gold members is astounding. Brand new, smelling nicely of leather, fantastic range of food and drink along with very attentive staff. Ten out of ten.
Being able to use an airline which gives you access to a lounge, priority seating and so forth is something that our travel agent doesn’t seem to understand might be important. If I’m flying a single hop to Vienna from Dubai I might not actually use the lounge at either end. When I’m doing these long haul flights however, it makes a huge difference to me to be able to have a wash, eat something nice, not have to queue, get priority seating and generally not be treated like a product being shipped from a to b. So, sorry, but for the next trip to the US I’m still going to ask to fly Emirates, unless the cost and connections really don’t make sense, even if it is easier just to book me a BA flight.

Desktop Meeting sum up


As usual, I’ve left the six monthly Desktop Practice meeting feeling pretty positive about the future of the product line we have and the improvements that are coming into Solaris and JDS to provide a decent desktop experience ‘out of the box’.
What makes me particularly happy is the increased focus on how best to sell the products that we have. Product quality’s never been the main reason why Sun and partner sales teams haven’t focused as much as I think they should on the desktop space. The problem’s traditionally been more to do with a scattergun approach pushing the message to customers where it doesn’t resonate, as opposed to concentrating on those areas where Sun Ray and SGD fit best. Another problem has been the a lack of strightforward sales tools to give the average sales guy something concrete to latch on to and give to his customers to get things going.
We’ve now got some more solutions focused material to plug that gap, covering healthcare and telco, which I’m really looking forward to promoting to the field.
On a personal note, it was nice to see some familiar faces, as well as to put a face to Craig Thin Guy Bender’s name. I’d known of Craig for several years via internal email aliases. Since rejoining Sun I’ve had various email exchanges with him, read his blog, etc, etc, but had never met him face to face. As he pointed out in a similar blog entry, we got on well and share a similar sense of humour. We also both have sideburns, a stylish essential found amongst a disproportionally high number of Sun Ray fans around the world that I’ve met. Another thing we have in common is that his phone got pinched during the week, whilst mine was nicked the week before. Let’s hope noone steals his jeans as well over the coming weeks 🙂