Folks,

Another busy couple of weeks at work ..

I had the opportunity to visit Vodacom’s machine room here in Cape Town.

This is a large airconditioned room the size of a football field, with row upon row of DEC 8400s - maybe 40 or more. These are big computers. They have several fast CPUs, a few Gig of RAM apiece, and hot-swap RAID disks.

What do they do ?

Billing. You could argue that they are what make Vodacom all their money - since they enable them to send bills.

They have already run out of room, and are building another building out at Bellville, with four floors of computers and 2 28 Ton UPSs.

There may be a perception that Africa is “behind” - and in certain areas like education for the masses it is. However, when there is money to be made, the South Africans think like everybody else, and spend on the best. Components may be a little more expensive, cars as well, but it does not mean that anyone settles for second best if they can afford the top tier.

Individual parking meters in Cape Town take cashcards. ATM machines will dispense cashiers checks. You can dial up a service from a fax machine and have your bank statement faxed to you. You can buy more time for your cellphone with a credit card and the phone itself. Cellphones are a way of life.

Engineers dream of working in the USA. They are short of high-tech workers in the States, and loud noises are made there about reducing the immigration requirements for skilled workers. Spare a thought for the developing world, which finds it hard enough to train local doctors and engineers, without contending with the inevitable brain drain to the USA. Speaking from experience ..

Last week and this all the programmers went on a Java course here in Cape Town. I was ecstatic - Java is the new, darling, language, and I went through my education before many of todays programming principles were laid down. It is always good to be learning.

Over the weekend we moved Vodacom’s internet service from our machines in Johannesburg to their machines here in Cape Town, from sendmail to Post.Office, with some messy historical issues to deal with, and some custom Mail notification to phone software to port. And the folks from the USA who write the software call me on my cellphone .. long distance tech support - and a part of the clout Vodacom pulls.

The last day of the Java course was my birthday - so some of us went out to try (again) to find some good beer in Cape Town. My roommate Corrina then took me out for some more ..

Thank all of you who wished me well for my birthday - I hope to get around to writing individually. My mailbox overfloweth, and my days are long ..

The weather is great, and I have not had enough time to really get out on my bike. I went up to Stellenbosch last weekend.

Cheers, Andy!