Thursday, June 5, 2008

Day 2 and 3

I was too exhausted to write anything last night, so I'll combine the last two days into this post. Yesterday went very well. We got a bit more into some technical details. In particular, VMWare. For the uninitiated among you, VMWare is a software product that allows you run a different operating systems (machines) on your existing computer without impacting your current setup. It actually creates a single file with the entire virtual machine inside it, so you can easily move the VM around. It's truly black magic, and most of the conference attendees had never seen it in action. They were pretty impressed. It will allow them to install new versions of things and experiment (and learn) in a protected space. It was great example of how the US-based team can help the guys in the field. Not only were they not familiar with VMWare, but they don't even have the bandwidth to download a copy (we gave them a USB drive full of free utilities). We also talked a lot about virus protection. It's a serious issue in the field, and can be very tricky to solve. It needs a combination of user training, strong, enforcable policies, and good software - none of which are easy to do in their environments. For instance, you can have all the right software, and some policies, but when someone brings in a USB drive from home that's infected, none of the protections matter. So we have to work with them on this - it's taking significant time away from more productive tasks.

Yesterday, we had a presentation from a local IT entrepreneur who's a representative of Inveneo, a very interesting company that makes open source-based hardware for remote locations (like our field sites). People got very excited about that.

We also had some very interesting talks about the role of IT. They clearly understand the value of being more strategic, and all of them very much want to step up. It's tricky, though, given all they have to do, but it was great to see the passion and enthusiasm. My challenge, now, is to support them, both technically, and "managerially" from a significant distance. It'll be a challenge, but if I can create a sense of community with these folks, we'll be able to accomplish much together.

The timing of all this, coming on my one year anniversary at the IRC, is auspicious. As I look back, I feel like I've made some significant progress in terms of understanding the IRC, and this conference is a major milestone. I feel like all the pieces are in place, and now it's about flawless execution. Not small task, for sure, but the potential is huge. Looking forward to some R&R this weekend, then back to work.

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