Bandung Indonesia

On the second day of my new job, Yanick, a Wi-Fi teammate, came into my office and said we were going to Bandung, Indonesia next week. Wow! Even though I expected a lot of travel, I just didn’t think that it would start on my second day.

The trip was to perform a proof of concept, which is a demonstration of our product capabilities. These are sometimes done as part of a ‘bake-off’ with other vendors to be allowed to bid on future contracts or to win an existing RFP. I would be traveling with my co-worker and would have help from our Indonesian office.

The trip to Indonesia took 33 hours including layovers. I flew from Ottawa to Toronto, where I met up with friends for dinner before heading back to Pearson for the 15h40m flight to Hong Kong. This flight flew up over the pole and down through Siberia, Mongolia and China. From Hong Kong I flew to Jakarta (4h50min) and met up with Yanick, who had flown from Detroit. The Indonesia office booked a car to take us the 2-3 hours to Bandung.

The view of the southern part of Bandung, as seen from my window at the Hilton.Bandung is a city of about 2.4 million that is packed on the weekends with Jakartans who want to escape to the cooler climate in Bandung. Many families own homes in both cities. Bandung is well known for its international brands outlet shopping area and people often come from the surrounding countries for a discount-shopping weekend.

We arrived at the Hilton in the late afternoon and had dinner with the Head of Sales. The next morning, we prepared for the first meeting with the client. We were also waiting for test equipment to arrive from Jakarta. We arrived at the customer premises in the late afternoon. We had a very high-level overview of what we planned to accomplish over the next two weeks and planned to reconvene the next day for a full test plan review.

The next day we again waited for more equipment from Jakarta; it was hard to scrounge up exactly what we needed (routers, switches). While we waited, we continued to review and refine the test plan. We also visited the BEC – Bandung Electronic Center. The BEC was amazing; my teammate and I were gobsmacked. It was four floors containing hundreds of electronics businesses. The first two floors were just cell phones and SIM cards. The upper floors had PC components (video cards, motherboards, drives, printer, and so forth) intermixed with a few camera stores. I was drooling over some of the high-end camera equipment that was available.

We were looking for a cheap Layer-3 switch, but we could not locate one. We also had to buy an unlocked Android phone for Hotspot 2.0 testing. We had a special firmware for the phone to Hotspot 2.0, which is still very new and not yet officially supported on any device. We also bought a SIM card for the phone.

For the proof of concept, we broke the work down so that we could run multiple tests at the same time. I took on the Access Point (AP) Throughput and Outdoor Performance tests.

The first test was interesting. It is basically the RFC2544 test suite. We received a testing unit from Jakarta and wired it to two APs, then tested the throughput between then with various different packet sizes. The test was simple in execution but it required a lot of time for set up and to run each test. We had to perform the same tests on both the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz channels.

Late in the first week I started to come down with an upper respiratory tract infection. It hit me hard and by the weekend I felt really awful.

Shops along the lip of the upper crater of the Tangkuban Perahu volcano.On the weekend, we planned to play tourist in the area around Bandung. We reserved a car and driver for Saturday and went north to Tangkuban Perahu, a dormant volcano. There were two areas to see at the volcano. The first was the main tourist area where a long line of souvenir huts lined the rim of the upper crater (named “Kawah Ratu”). There was a modest amount of steam rising from the crater. Even with illness diminishing my sense of smell, the sulphur smell was very strong. The volcano last erupted in 1983.

We took a few pictures and walked through the souvenir shops. We found that there was another crater (named “Kawah Domas”) down a forest trail, but we were only permitted to go if we hired a local guide. This sounded interesting, so we hired one. It started to drizzle, and the trail became very slippery.

The drizzle turned to light rain as we reached the lower crater. It was hellish. There were pools of steaming, boiling water turning the crater into a scene from a war movie. Locals were boiling eggs in the water to sell to the tourists. We were allowed to walk around inside this boiling cauldron before the heavier rain chased us back to our car.

IMG_0294For a late lunch we stopped as a well-known restaurant, the Kampung Daun. We invited our driver to eat with us. We sat on cushions around a low table under a palm-roofed hut with a gentle brook burbling beside us. We had typical local cuisine (“nasi timbel komplit”), which included chicken, rice, tempeh and some very spicy condiments. It was delicious, but my illness was taking a toll. Instead of continuing on to the discount shops, I was dropped off at the hotel to rest.

Before the trip, I had researched interesting things to do. I found that there were weekly ram fights (“adu domba”) in the villages around Bandung. The rams are not hurt by the fighting, as this is the normal way they determine superiority. The villagers bet on the fights.

However when we asked about it, we were told that they were were no events that weekend, so we could not see them. I will have to find a way to see this spectacle sometime in the future.

The second week was spent completing the test plan. We were able to finish the most difficult tests including the outdoor coverage test. This test was made difficult by the heavy rainstorms that would start daily around 11:30 and last for the rest of the afternoon. This meant we only had about 90 minutes each day to set up the equipment and test area, run some tests then rapidly tear it all down when we could hear and see the wall of rain advancing on us.

My return flight was Saturday. It was suggested that we should stay in Jakarta overnight and head to the airport from there, saving 3-hours of driving and reducing the risk of a traffic jam causing me to miss my flight.

We stayed at the amazing Ritz-Carlton hotel in Mega Kuningan. After a delicious meal at Loewy, we went out to Dragonfly, a nightclub frequented by the rich and the beautiful of Indonesia. We stayed out far too late and returned to the hotel well after 3AM. I checked out around 7:30 and was on my way back to Canada.

I am so pleased to have this opportunity to learn on the job and to visit an exotic country like Indonesia.

[Dec 31, 2013: little did I know then that I would return again to Indonesia many times, spending a total of 14 weeks in the country over the following year.]

My new job

After nearly 10 months as Release Technical Leader (Sustaining) for CDMA OA&M, I have moved to a new role in our new Wi-Fi organization.

Early this year, as the future of CDMA R&D was in great doubt (as CDMA spending was expected to decline as 4G wireless technologies ramp up), I had a terribly stressful time looking to secure my future. I was not told that a position was being held for me, so I assumed that there was no job for me. It was a horrible 3-4 months not knowing what was going to happen but seeing everyone else around me get job offers.

This time, I was kept in the loop about my future. I was put forward as a candidate for our carrier-grade Wi-Fi unit. I had one interview with my future boss over a late lunch, then a second interview with a future co-worker.

The new role is in a customer-facing role, different from my technical/project leader role I have held over the last 10-11 years in CDMA. My role will involve up to 50% of my time traveling to customer sites for testing, demos, proof of concepts, technical support and even some training.

In the interviews, and re-emphasized by the HR prime, everyone wanted to make sure I was ok with the travel demands. I spoke with Rosa and had an honest appraisal of my desires, and agreed that I would welcome the travel.

With that, I was offered the job and I accepted.

Today is my first day. It is a different office building than the rest of the Ottawa teams. But I already know many people from Ericsson (and even one from Nortel).

I have spent the day going through the training program again. I want to ramp up on Wi-Fi technology and our products quickly. I want to be useful to my new department as quickly as possible.

I am really excited to have this opportunity! I am really looking forward to my future in Wi-Fi.

Last Chance At The Glen

Watkins Glen International logoThis past weekend Bruce, Jay and I raced the ‘Last Chance at The Glen’, a 4-hour endurance race at historic Watkins Glen International. The race used the 3.4 mile “long” track configuration. It was the first time at The Glen for both Bruce and I. For me it would also be the first time driving Bruce’s #80 Ford Mustang.

The racing was only on Sunday, as there was a school on Saturday. We left Ottawa Saturday morning, stopping near Syracuse for a late lunch. The Finger Lakes area of New York State is magnificent the the fall – still lakes and lush forests of green, red and gold on the rolling hills. We arrived at the gate at 5:30PM, but we were not allowed to enter until we were registered. As the registration did not open until 7:00pm, we parked the RV, truck and trailer next to registration and started the BBQ for dinner. Registration took some time while we applied for a 1-day SCCA license (based on our CASC-OR licenses)

It was completely dark when we finally parked in the paddock, and we did not have time (or light) for a track walk. Our first experience would be on the hot track Sunday.

Bruce took his Mustang out for Qualifying the next morning. We intended to do a drivers change half way through the 60-minute session, but the session was black-flagged due to tire wall damage before we could swap. The session clock eventually ran out. This meant that I did not have a chance to drive the track before the race.

Bruce's Mustang at Calabogie.
Bruce’s Mustang at Calabogie. Photo & Copyright by Richard Coburn (

We had a quick lunch, topped up the 80-litre fuel cell, checked the other fluids and changed to another set of tires. We decided that I would start the race. The logic was that at least I would have the pace lap to see the track before I had to race.

On false gird, we elected to start last (44th) instead of our qualifying position of 37th. Jay explained this to the grid marshal, “It’s his first time at the track and first time in the car.”

The grid marshal replied, “Are you really sure that’s the best strategy?”

The grid was unusual. Of 44 starters, 32 were Mazda Miatas. They were like a pack of mosquitoes to the bigger Mustang. They were quick, nimble, and they were everywhere. While the Mustang had big-ass acceleration (about 400hp at the wheels), the Miatas owned the corners like a pimp.

Watkins Glen track map
Watkins Glen track map

I had watched two laps of the track on YouTube, and studied the track map next to registration, so I knew the left and right of the track, I was surprised to really experience the elevation changes, especially the hill rising steeply through The Essess.

At the start, I stayed back to follow the other cars for two laps before I started moving up. It took me until the fourth lap before I could reliably find fifth gear, which is really an overdrive gear. It provided no more acceleration, but it dropped the revs and the fuel consumption.

I was able to use the straight-line speed of the Mustang to pull off a few of the Miatas, but there were others that eventually started lapping the Mustang. I let them through rather than fight corner after corner in a car and at a track with which I was unfamiliar. Sometimes, I lagged back on purpose so that they could pull away.

There were many full-course yellows during the 4-hour race. The first one came around half way through my stint. When we came around for the restart I thought I should just give’r. I was feeling more comfortable with the car. I used the 400hp to pass four Miatas down the front straight. It was awesome. I lost one position on the run up the hill through The Esses, but got it back again on the back straight.

I love the bus-stop. But never felt I was near the limit for the following carousel, although I could use the shoot down to the boot to gain some speed. I also know that I lost a lot of time in turn-9 and 10 where the boot rejoins the NASCAR circuit. I never quite figured out those two corners in the Mustang. The camber and runoff made me cautious with the big, torquey V8 engine.

Near the end of my stint, I began to hear a noise in the front of the car. I grew more and more worried, so I came in to the pits. It turns out it was a known steering noise, and was nothing to be concerned about. I went back out, but I had lost a few positions.

I came in after about 75 minutes during the second full-course yellow. Fueling the huge tank and a driver change took 8 minutes; Bruce was the second driver. He drove his full session without incident, but had three full-course yellows.

Our second pit stop took much less time than the first, as there was more fuel in the tank due to the yellow flag periods. Jay took the final stint.

Jay had a good race, really mixing up with the Miatas, but came into the pits for 2 extra pit stops. The first time was because he was confused by the American blue flag (which has a diagonal yellow stripe); this was clarified by one of the pit marshals. The second time was because the interior mirror fell off and was sliding around the floor. As the Miatas were everywhere and sometimes hard to see, he elected to come in an have the mirror put back on with a few metres of racers tape.

Jay took the checkered flag at the end of the 4 hours. He also set the fastest time, 2:17.903 and had many other laps close to that time. My best lap was 4.7 seconds slower, and my laps were not consistent. Overall, we finished 29th of 44, after starting dead last.

With the extra pit stops and novice drivers, we were never in contention for any trophies. We were also the only car in our class, so there was no one to directly compete against.

Over all, we had an awesome time. Myself, I learned so much from the dual challenges of a new car and a new track. It was a relaxed weekend with no issues, which was a nice treat at the track.

NAC open house

Rosa, Mama, and I went to the National Arts Centre open house this afternoon. I have often wanted to see the backstage area, so I was excited to go.

It did not disappoint. All of the dressing rooms, both huge workshops, and the back stage areas for all four stages were open. I was amazed by how large the workshops and back stage areas were. Equally surprising was how labyrinth the dressing room areas are. Like most of the building, the backstage and dress room areas are in octagon shapes. The workshops created props and staging for the various performances.

Glenn Gould's piano
Glenn Gould’s piano

Neil Armstrong 1930 – 2012

I am sad to hear of the passing of astronaut Neil Armstrong.

There are many photos of Armstrong, but my favourite is this one take after the successful landing. Armstrong was a humble and private man, but the emotion displayed here is of someone who has just done the near-impossible.

Neil Armstrong in the LEM after the lunar EVA
Neil Armstrong in the LEM after the lunar EVA.

At the time of the moon landings, Neil was age 38. When I think about what I was able to accomplish in my life when I was 38, and what those brave, brilliant explorers of space were able to accomplish, I gain a perspective on what humanity can really achieve.

I only wish I could see with my own eyes what those 24 Apollo astronauts saw.

2012 Lumière Festival

This evening Rosa, Mama and I went to the Ottawa Lumière Festival in New Edinburgh.

Once the sun had set, the site was magical. People were dancing with light sticks, making lanterns, drinking coffee and basically just relaxing in the warm summer evening.

The highlight was the fire dance by Sophie, Brigitte, and Amber of Fire Weavers.

2012 Lumière Festival - coloured hulahoops.
2012 Lumière Festival – coloured hulahoops.
2012 Lumière Festival - Fire Weavers.
2012 Lumière Festival – Fire Weavers.
2012 Lumière Festival - Fire Weavers.
2012 Lumière Festival – Fire Weavers.

2012 Oshkosh Air Venture show

Helmet on a Yak-9
Helmet on a Yak-9

Over time, my father and I have been more and more distant from each other. Of course, the physical distance plays a role in our emotional distance. Over the last year, I have desired to reconnect with him (and my entire family). In the spring, he suggested that something he has always wanted to do was to go to the Oshkosh Air Show. I thought this would be a good opportunity to spent time with him.

As he lives in Nova Scotia, I arranged for us to meet at Pearson for our flight from Toronto to Milwaukee.

I worked Thursday morning then left for the airport just before noon. Once in Toronto, I went to the gate were I hoped I would meet up with Dad. I waited and waited, while continuing to work using my laptop (I still have a heavy work load). The time passed and there was no sign of him. I tried calling his cell phone, but got no answer. I grew more and more concerned. Eventually, the plane started boarding, but still no sign. Once I was seated, one of the crew stopped at my seat and asked my name. I told him. As he walked away, I thought that there might be some confusion, so I told him that my Dad and I have the same name. I explained that he was missing. They then closed the door, with the seat beside me empty.

The stewardess stopped by to ask about the situation. She allowed me to make a final call to his cell phone, and finally he picked up. He had just arrived – his flight left Halifax 3 hours late. He would have to rebook somehow. The person behind me, who had overheard my situation, suggested that he book on a flight to Chicago and take a special hourly bus between O’Hare and the Milwaukee airports. The stewardess said I could make one more call if I could do it quickly. Thanked her a million times and called Dad to give him the details. Then the plane took off.

Once in Milwaukee, I took my time getting my bags and looking at the General Billy Mitchell museum in the terminal before I attempted to call Dad again (in case he was still on the way to Chicago). He picked up immediately. He was not able to get on the Chicago flight, so I would need to pick him up the next morning when he arrives on the morning flight from Toronto.

Luckily, I brought my iPod for listening to audiobooks, because it is 2 hours from the Billy Mitchell Airport to our hotel in Appleton.

Dad in front of the B-17 Aluminum Overcast.
Dad in front of the B-17 Aluminum Overcast.

Once I collected my dad the next morning, we drove straight to Oshkosh. As a special treat for us, I had bought tickets for a flight on a B-17G bomber, named “Aluminum Overcast“. We had to check-in for the flight just after noon, so I wanted to get to the pick-up location quickly. I didn’t know how long it would take to walk from the parking to the check-in both (or how difficult it would be to find), so we rushed.

We got there with lots of time (they were about an hour behind schedule), but I am glad I made it a priority to get there early. Oshkosh is huge! It was the 60th Anniversary of the airshow. There would be about 508,000 spectators during the weekend, 10,000 to 15,000 planes of all sizes, and 4,000 volunteers. The planes ranged from an Air Force C-5 Galaxy to ultralights, from vintage biplanes and World War II Warbirds to an F/A-18 Hornet, plus the Goodyear Blimp.

The B-17G flight leaves from nearby Outagamie County Regional Airport, which is in Appleton. From the check-in booth, we boarded a shuttle bus for the 30-minute ride. We arrived just as the previous flight was leaving, so we got to watch the plane take off.

Once it returned, we were given a quick safety overview and allowed to board. We were told we could unbuckle and start to walk around the plane as soon as all the wheels were off the ground.

The climb-out was gentle, which was best when people are climbing around the fuselage. As we took off, I tried to imagine what it would have been like for those World War II airmen taking off to bomb Deutschland – the tension, the fear, knowing that sometimes the planes don’t come back, facing uncertain death before your 25th birthday.

I took in all the sights and noises. It was actually a lot of fun to take the flight. The views were amazing. We could go up to the bombardiers seat up in the nose for a spectacular view. I didn’t dwell on what it would have been like for the bomber, knowing he would be dropping 4-tons of ordinance on people living in a city not dissimilar his own hometown.

Head in the airstream, from the B-17 Aluminum Overcast.
Head in the airstream, from the B-17 Aluminum Overcast.

The flight was about 20 to 25 minutes long. I had an opportunity to go through the entire plane, from the tail (but not tail gunner’s position), the waist turrets, the radio area, the bomb bay, the cockpit and the bombardiers position in the nose. In the radio section part of the upper fuselage was removed and you would stick your head out the top of the plane and look around. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done. The turbulent air stream blew me around as I had a completely unobstructed view of the ground and the topside of the plane.

I didn’t want it to end, but it did. Too soon we were back on the ground. In the hot afternoon and exhausted from the thrill, I fell asleep in the bus ride back to Oshkosh.

Once back at Oshkosh, we mostly wandered through the Warbirds section.

In the evening, we had dinner at Bennigan’s across the street from our hotel. I ordered a Monte Cristo. I thought a grilled sandwich would hit the spot. What I did not expect was that Bennigan’s deep-fries the Monte Cristo and dusts it with icing sugar. And it has two sandwiches, not just one. I was shocked when the dish arrived. I cannot imagine (nor does Bennigan’s display) how many calories were on the plate. They offered to make another one without deep-frying, but I hate to waste an entire plate of food so I went ahead with this monstrous meal. I could only eat half which made me feel bad for the waste. I also felt physically awful all night long as the massive amount of oil worked through my veins.

The next day we walked around another section of the huge air show. In one plaza were the modern jets, including the C-5 Galaxy, E-2C HawkeyeF-16 Falcon, P-3 Orion, KC-135, a DC-10-based Eye Clinic, and another B-17.

We walked around the nearby displays. At the GoPro booth, I ordered a new Motorsports Hero 2 and the battery backpack. The Honda HA-420 Hondajet was interesting, clear-paper design. There were many booths and displays for safety gear and lots of tools for  navigation.

Members of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Members of the Tuskegee Airmen.

We caught part of the talk by the Tuskegee Airmen, but missed the talk by one of the Doolittle Raiders. We watched two Ford Trimotor’s taking load after load of passengers for short flights.

After lunch (mmmm, BBQ pulled pork sandwich), we found a spot to view the afternoon air show.

The show lasted about 3 hours. There were stunt planes, an F/A-18 demonstration, Canadian Forces Skyhawks and Liberty Parachute teams and a huge re-enactment of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the war in the Pacific.

Tora! Tora! Tora! Enactment team.
Tora! Tora! Tora! Enactment team.

The Pearl Harbor demonstration was both awesome and disconcerting. While I understand that the event was an important historic event, I wondered if anyone else thought it was strange to re-enact what was basically a massive American military defeat with a large loss of life. The demonstration included later American victories like the daring Doolittle Raid, so I guess it’s a wash. But then, so many battles are still re-enacted through the world, such as the American Civil War – it’s not a new phenomenon.

On the other hand, the re-enactment was awesome. All air shows become more fantastic with large amounts of dynamite and gallons of gasoline. The explosions were huge!

During the air show, I tried to get some good quality photos. My goal was to create photos good enough for I had rented the Canon 100-400mm f/3.5-5.6 from Lens Rentals Canada. Being able to focus on a fast-moving plane was much harder than I expected. I was using my used Canon 50D while my 7D was being repaired.

The air show ended late in the afternoon. For dinner, my dad recommended we try the Golden Corral Buffet. They have a lot of choice so I could pick and choose, and the food was good. I could get some veggies as well as a selection of BBQ meats, pastas, Asian dishes and desert.

We talked about the family and about the future. For me, the key for this trip was to reconnect with my father. We rarely talk with each other. I wanted to open the door to normalize our relationship.

The love of flying. Thumbs-up from the Ford Trimotor pilot.
The love of flying.

For the final day of the air show, I wanted to go back and take more photos of the Warbirds that I had missed on Friday. However, when we got to Oshkosh many of the planes had already left. Sunday was the fly-out day for most of the planes. More than half had already disappeared overnight.

We stayed until the afternoon to watch the fly-out, including formations of Warbirds, and the grand finale of the C-5 take off. What a huge aircraft. It never looks like it is moving fast enough to take off. I suppose with an empty cargo hold that it must handle better than when it is fully loaded.

In the evening, the rains started. We had avoided all but a little drizzle, and I was very happy with the weather we had during the previous 3 days.

Early Monday morning we left Appleton for the airport. I planned lots of extra time to get through the rental-car return and airport security. I’m glad I added some buffer, as the TSA randomly choose to go through my luggage.

Dad and I at the famous Oshkosh arch.
Dad and I at the famous Oshkosh arch.

On our flight back to Toronto, I had little more to say. As the minutes ticked by, we sat in silence, side by side. I realized a fundamental truth. Although I want to get closer to my dad, in many unchangeable ways, we are just different. We have different points of view, different personalities, different priorities, and different social worlds. I was hoping to close the chasm between us. But we don’t have to be the same person – we are individuals. Instead, with this understanding, I can still talk with my father but I won’t set my expectations that we will ever become part of each other’s world.

Dead Camera

While we were on our recent Danube cruise vacation, my beloved Canon 7D died. It was late in the afternoon in Regensburg.

Canon 7D
Canon 7D

As I have only one DSLR body, I frequently change lenses. I switch between my walk-around EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 to my ultra-wide EF-S 10-22mm. The camera had been acting strangely during the day. I could clear it up by turning the camera off and back on.

When it finally died, I had just completed another lens change and tried to turn it back on. It would not power on at all.

I removed the battery and CompactFlash (CF) card and reinserted them and tried to turn the camera on again, but it still didn’t work.

It was late in the day, and our boat would leave soon. So I decided to head back to the ship to try to troubleshoot.

On the boat, I looked up possible remedies. I changed the battery and the CF card. I found the time & date battery and removed that too. I changed lenses. Nothing worked.

Two days later in Prague, I tried one last effort, buying a new time & date battery. The new battery didn’t work either. My camera was truly dead. I was heartbroken.

Sony NEX-5 photo by decltype
Sony NEX-5 photo by decltype

Luckily, Rosa and I had purchased a backup camera, a Sony NEX-5N. As it was smaller, lighter and simpler, it was normally carried by Lemin. In this case, I borrowed it to continue for the next 3 days of photos on our trip.

But I felt empty inside. I didn’t feel like a photographer any more. I looked with intense envy at other tourists walking around with DSLRs hanging from their neck.

The Sony is a good camera, and I got most of the shots I wanted, and I really liked using the sweep panorama feature. But it just wasn’t the same for me.

When we got back home, I looked up my warrantee information. I had bought the camera 2 years ago from Henrys and I had bought the extended 3-year warrantee. I was relieved that it would not cost anything for the repairs. The downside is that it will take 4-to-8 weeks for the camera to be returned.

So in the mean time, I needed something I could use. I have tickets to the AirVenture Oshkosh in a few weeks.

I decided to buy a body on eBay and then sell it when my 7D comes back from repair. It would be much cheaper than renting a DSLR body for 2 months from my regular rental location.

After a lot of back and forth between a Canon 5D and an APS-C body, I settled on a Canon 50D. I won’t be tempted to keep it and it’s not too expensive. A Canon 60D or a replacement 7D would be much more expensive, a Canon 5D would lack many features, and a Canon 5D II would be too expensive. I was tempted by the full-frame sensor in the 5D series, but now is not the best time to experiment. I would also loose the ability to use my EF-S 17-55mm; although I do have the wonderful fixed EF 50mm f/1.4.

I will take the 50D with me, along with a EF 100-400mm rented from Lens Rentals Canada, to the Oshkosh Air-show.