Adventures in Beijing

March 2nd, 2005

I’m in Beijing again, after a hiatus of 10 (actually 11 years). I’m here for the Fifth Asia Open Source Software Symposium and for another event which I’ll describe later. The Symposium is quite interesting, it is an update on what some 20 countries in the Asian region are doing to promote the adoption and development of open source software. I came because both the Symposium and the other event coincidentally happened to be scheduled for the same week, which made the trip seem worthwhile despite the costs of being away from the office for a week. I have some Internet access, which is wildly different than Beijing in 1994. But there are still a series of problems that make working from here difficult — the internet cable in my room doesn’t like my computer, so I have to go to the business center and try to work when it is open. For some reason I time out when trying to connect to the IRC servers, even when I can successfully connect with websites. And mail is truly wacky. Sometimes I can receive mail but not send. Sometimes I can send mail but not receive. I think the problem is with my provider, since something like this happened once before. But it’s a hard problem to fix from here.

So, if you’ve tried to contact me and haven’t gotten a response please give me a few days to get all this sorted out.

Being in Beijing has brought back many memories. I was actually in Beijing in the fall of 1994 when I accepted a job offer from Jim Clark to join Netscape. At that time I was astonished to be able to send and receive faxes from my hotel. I had lived in Beijing a few years before when I was an exchange student at Peking University. During that era the idea of sending a fax was beyond comprehension. There were a few foreign law firms downtown that maintained fax machines. But exchange students never saw these! And besides, we were at least an hour bus ride away from downtown. In those days the only way to make an international phone call was to go to a PT&T (Post, Telephone and Telegraph) office, wait your turn, and have an operator place the call. We were very lucky that the dormitory for foreign students had such an office, but it could still take 45 minutes to make a call. So in 1994 sending faxes was a novelty. Today there is a fax machine in my hotel room and my problems relate to imperfect internet access. Quite a change.

The hotel where I’m staying is in a neighborhood where I used to spend a reasonable amount of time. During my student days in Beijing this neighborhood was the transfer point between the two halves of the bus trip required to get from the University to downtown. I can hardly wait for a chance to get outside the hotel and walk around.

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