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"Changing the way we think about..." Technology

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[NOTE: This article was originally produced for the Desk's Day Job's newsletter. Since the Desk has no idea if it was used, or if it will ever see the light of day in said publication, it did not want all the electrons it killed writing it to go to waste. So enjoy it for what it is anyway thank you- Dr. Leftover ]

Delaware Technology Conference 2005

      It began a little rough. Some things that should have been seamless or unnoticeable were glaring and unavoidable. Other things that should not have been an issue became one in short order. And some minor glitches that should have been worked out beforehand came up like a pimple on prom night, and demanded just as much attention, and covering makeup.
      Well. Yeah. OK. Don't worry, there's a point here.
      Part of the theme of the conference was Business Continuity and Recovery with several sessions on Disaster Preparedness. So the staff of the tech conference and its steering committee Continued and Recovered since they had Prepared.
      When one of the wireless network boxes refused to stay connected, there was a backup.


      The hotel had started a major remodeling project shortly before the conference blocking hallways and taking a set of rest rooms out of service and making the route to the break room something from a medieval labyrinth through several service corridors. So the committee recruited help to direct traffic and posted signs almost everywhere.

"Where's the bathroom? The big arrow says it's this way."
   "Behind you."

      In one booth a laptop with an attitude was soon set to rights as power for another booth was routed from here and there over a series of power strips. Before the attendees arrived the video of a department's specialties was playing full screen and a software company's display was suitably lighted.

"I'm gonna reboot it again."

      Registration was well under way bright and early. Most of the attendees seemed to be looking forward to an interesting and informative day. As well as a chance to restock their supply of free pens and maybe some other odds and ends.
"S through Z! S through Z!!!"

      Most of the vendor booths were staffed with people who were more technically knowledgeable individuals than you'd run into at a display set up from the same company at... say a 'home show'.
      When this writer buttonholed a couple of the reps from companies that sell VOIP equipment about the issues involving 911 calls from a VOIP PBX, not only did they understand the concerns, they were able to talk about E-911 compliance and outbound call routing so the correct ANI information is attached to the call and transmitted to the authorities. And, to be fair, they also admitted where their systems were still lacking and how certain problems could be corrected with third party software to bring them into compliance.

      Remember the old overhead projectors from grade school? Where the teacher had to write backwards and upside down? The ones that had the noisy fan and the bulb always burned out right in the middle of the Civil War? Yeah, those. They've gone really high tech now. And they're high tech to the point where your third grade teacher wouldn't recognize it.
      These 'visual presenters' have 125Mb of on board memory, USB2 ports so it can talk to a computer. They have digital zoom down to "see the dust?" levels and can even take and store photos of whatever is being displayed.
      Of course, such things do not come cheaply. And if you have to ask, your boss can't afford it.
      But there is still more. There are displays extolling the virtues of various competing software and hardware platforms. Outsourcing firms versus on site consultants. Teleconferencing and testing equipment with enough dials and buttons and digital displays and lights to make any techie smile with glee.

      Then there were the sessions.
      One of the best attended class sessions... it was so far beyond Standing Room Only there was a concern that the Fire Marshal might have been upset about the number of people in the room... was on Blogs and Podcasts and so on.
      The presenter was typical of those scheduled to speak and demonstrate the various technologies and concepts in the sessions for the day. She is the director of the University's technical program and teaches graduate level classes in the various applications.
      So while she is one of the reigning experts in the field and could have easily gotten so technical most of the audience would have needed resuscitation at the end, the lady only skimmed the surface but did answer audience questions with enough technical information to satisfy any appetite.
      And from discussions with other attendees, most of the classroom sessions went that way. If the audience was heavily weighted to the technical side, the speakers got heavily into it, and if the people in the seats only wanted a taste of the topic, they could deliver that as well.
      And it was the Blog and Podcast presenter that said the phrase that was borrowed for the title to this article. According to her, the new flavors of internet technology; blogs, podcasts, wikis, and combinations thereof, are...
      "Changing the way we think about information."

      And that would appear to be as much a theme for the conference as anything else.

      The way we think about technology IS changing. No, belay that statement. It HAS changed.
      And it has changed us.
      Most of us are more comfortable with our cel phones and laptops than we are sitting at a table where you are faced with three forks and three knives per place setting. And most of us use them more as well.
      Which brings us to lunch at the conference.

      As was pointed out by the speaker after lunch, technology is now an intricate part of every detail of our lives. It has gone further than just being an incidental to the way we do things, we rely on it. We have come to expect it to the point that when the speaker said he was doing his speech Without a visual presentation on the overhead screens, it drew a mixed reaction from the crowd. Some were surprised, others seemed relieved, this would be a speech, not a slideshow.
      "Thirty years ago, Bill Gates was a college dropout with an outlandish idea."
      It drew a laugh from the audience mainly because it is so true, in less than one human generation technology has gone from a curiosity and something from Sci-Fi TV shows to the reason most of the people in the room have jobs.
      The hurricanes in the Southern U.S. showed in the glaringly clear pictures from TV helicopters how vulnerable our technology infrastructure is to the whims of Mother Nature, not to mention human actions as in the Attacks of September 2001. The speaker pointed out that the money people in most business and government environments are usually not overly enthused about paying for redundant systems and off site information storage. But as most of the people in the room knew, when the bad times arrive, they are the first to ask where their spreadsheets went.
      The speaker didn't say it in so many words, but it was the heart of his message anyway. Part of the technologist's credo must be the old Boy Scout Motto: Be Prepared.

      It is not the glamorous side of technology. Nobody but heavy techie types subscribe to the latest podcasts on proactive disaster preparedness. But when you dry out the office and try to reopen for business, fail safe storage can mean the difference between picking up and moving on and having to reinvent the business from the ground up, or declaring it a total loss and everybody has to look for something else to do for a living.

      But enough of the sermonizing about how blind dependence on technology may not necessarily be a good thing, and in fact, can result in unmitigated disaster. Lunch is over it is time to move on.

      Is your aggregator querying the right XML source during its second generation RSS sessions?
      Well, is it?
      If you don't know, you should have gone to the session that discussed it.
      Or maybe you need to know the latest in wireless, or what exactly is computer forensics. How about the cutting edge of 'Mac/Windows compatibility'?
      If something from the technical world is key to your job or even just of passing interest to you personally, you'd probably find it at the conference.
      So maybe you should attend next year.


Links to... to... stuff:

All outside links will open in new page

Delaware Technology Conference's web site
Sheraton Hotel, Dover through
Delaware Dept. of Technology and Information DTI
The University of Delaware's Dr. Pat Sine

The Desk's Tech Page
(note: the graphic may be the best part!)

[NOTE: Thanks to (in no particular order): The Sheraton Hotel, Dover. The Delaware Technology Conference Committee and staff. The Delaware Department of Technology and Information. Dr. Pat Sine of the University of Delaware. Mr. Ed McNeeley and staff from the Delaware Department of State. And the assorted vendors and participants in the Conference. ]

[NOTE: The Desk Site Is NOT affiliated with any of the outside links listed above and said author DOES NOT SPEAK for either DTI or the State of Delaware, everything expressed is from the Desk and nobody and nothing else. Thank you ]

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