Ok, it’s day 1 (or actually day 2) for AstriCon 2009 – and here’s my report for the day.

Yesterday was kind’a of a hectic day for me, as I was teaching a full day track of Asterisk and Cloud Computing, specifically, implementing Asterisk systems with Amazon EC2. I started the day with a class filled with 20+ people, and ended the day with a similar number – so in general I’m very happy. Not many people tend to attend the pre-conference days, so having that number of people and their positive reactions through out the day were very reassuring to me.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from this experience, it is the following: If you give a full day track, don’t arrive at the hotel 24 hours prior to it – you need at least 48 hours! People didn’t really notice (I hope), but through out the day I was suffering from a splitting headache – one that would usually send me right into bed with a couple of Advil’s. But hey, that didn’t stop me and I powered through it, I’m fairly proud of myself for doing so – as at the end of the day I regained back my strength and was livelier.

Today was the first official day of the conference – I gave the opening talk for the Cloud Computing track of the day. My talk was about how to build “IP Centrex” like services, without building an “IP Centrex”. I guess that I didn’t really introduce a brand new concept, but actually talked about something that many are thinking about, but are not inclined to try it on their own and burn some cash on. I guess my talk helped them out saying: “Hey, we’re not talking out of our asses here, this guy makes some sense and what we thought of isn’t that far fetched”.

Previous to that, Digium announced the 2009 Digium innovation award winners, where my company won an award in the pioneer category. This is the second year in a row my company had won the award, and I’m really happy with being acknowledged for this specific work. Having being a part of the community for over 7 years now, this award, at least to me personally, says a lot – it’s basically saying: “Look, you’ve done good, you’ve done some work that really helps out the project and the community in general – here’s a beer and a toast to you – hip hip” – well, that’s kind’a of a mouth full, but you get what I mean. I think that this is actually the place to mention that the award was for developing a high-powered Dialer/IVR platform, used in the Israeli elections and the work was contracted for a company called Shtrudel.

The all conference party is tonight – so I better rest up and be ready for it – should be fun. I guess beer and food are always a good mix when a bunch geeks are getting together 🙂

Well, as some of you know, I’ll be speaking at this week’s AstriCon convention, being held in Glendale, AZ. I guess that in normal days I wouldn’t be starting to write about it prior to the actual convention, however, this time I decided to write about it earlier. I guess the title of this post can be changed to: Tosche Mark Spencer.

In order to understand what I’m talking about, we need to take a trip down memory lane, to be more exact – 2.5 years back memory lane.

Date: January 2007, Location: Tel-Aviv, Israel. Mark Spencer along side with Schuyler Deerman of Digium are on their way for their first time visit to Israel. Both of them are flying to Israel together after spending their Christmas holidays in the Middle East, mainly Egypt. Back at that time, I used to work for a company called Atelis – we were the Digium Israeli distributor. To make a long story short, Mark and Schuyler got held up at the airport for almost 4 hours, by Israeli security. The only thing that helped was for me to call my brother in-law, back then at the NY Israeli consulate, to try and find out what happend to both of them. Aparently, they were held up for questioning – without notifying anybody on the outside – who were waiting for them – what is going on.

Fast forward…

Date: October 2009, Location: Philadelphia, USA. I’m being held for a seconday inspection and the immigration control at the US border. The funny thing is, this is not my first trip to the US this year – I was here last February. The immigration officer looks at me and decideds that I’m a candidate for an illegal worker for some reason. Maybe the fact that I came in on an e-Ticket and didn’t have my itenirary printed throw him off, maybe the fact that I looked somewhat young to him, or maybe the fact that I’m continuing to Phoenix flagged me – I don’t know, in any case,
I’m now being held in secondary inspection, while I have only 50 minutes to get to my connecting flight – talk about turning up the heat. So, here I am, infront of this immigration officer, who I had to admit does his best to be polite and correct about the way he does his job. I gotta hand it to these guys, I guess they come across some of the worst scums in the world, and yet, they are able to sustain a professional and polite manner at all times – brava. Any way, he starts questioning me about my travel to the US, who paid for it, where am I going, where do I work, etc, etc. So, I
start explaining to him what AstriCon is, giving the guy the 5 minute “Asterisk is” introduction, and for some reason, it doesn’t really cut it with him. So, I decide to pull out the ultimate weapon – The Internet. I ask him if he’s able to logon to www.astricon.net and see that my picture is on the website. He looks the site up and indeed my picture is on there. The guy is now convinced that I’m here to lecture and nothing more – thank god. I get my passport back, pick up my stuff and run like the wind to my connecting flight – getting to it right before they close the boarding doors.

So, although I didn’t get the same 4th degree Mark/Schuyler did, I understand what they must have felt like in there. I guess it could have been worse, another guy that was in there with me got deported back to where he came in from (don’t know where that was) – not a very pleasent scenario.

Points for travelers

  1. You’re coming to the USA, have your itenirary printed and ready
  2. Have you flight invoices printed and hotel reservations printed – it may be required
  3. If you are staying with friends, not at a hotel – state that when asked, don’t hide it.
  4. If you had memorized your answers, these guys will pick up on it really easy – they know their job.
  5. If you are lecturing in a convention or tradeshow, make sure you can point the officer to an online mention of your talk – this helps smooth things faster.

Tomorrow’s update – AstriCon Cloud Computing class