Hellooooooo Vietnam!

Posted by dave on Sep 25, 2005 11:33 AM
LXer; By Jon 'maddog' Hall

maddog announces two talks in Hanoi, Vietnam, and kicks off a couple of articles about Free and Open Source Software in that country which will continue over the next couple of days.

Free Lecture on Free and Open Source Software: Hanoi University of Technology, No. 1 - Dai Co Viet road - Hanoi - Vietnam, Monday, September 26th at 1830 hours Conference on e-government: Sheraton Hanoi, September 28th-30th, 2005, www.cosgov.org. This conference will be broadcast on television to the whole country.

"Hello, Vietnam!" Those famous words were the title of a movie starring Robin Williams, but they were also the first two words that came to mind this morning when I woke up in the Sheraton Hanoi (http://www.sheraton.com.vn/).

I am here to keynote at a conference on e-government (www.cosgov.org), sponsored jointly by IOIT, Institute of information technologies,Vietnam; InWEnt, Capacity Building International, Germany and INRIA, National Research Institute in Computer Science and Automation, France which will occur on September 28th to 30th, 2005 at this same Sheraton. In the meantime I have arrived early to recover from the inevitable jet-lag, to help out with pre-conference advertising and to re-acquaint myself with a city that I know has changed since the last time I was here in 1997

As is normal with talks where I have to travel a long distance, I try to encourage the organizers to have me do something other than just stand up and act as a talking head, so on Monday, September 26th at 1830 hours I am giving a talk at HUT - The Hanoi University of Technology (http://www.hut.edu.vn/html_only/html/index.php), where I am told they expect up to 1000 students to attend. I hope they all want to go out for Pizza and Beer later. My talk will center on why Free and Open Source Software is useful for universities, not only for teaching computer science, but for different courses such as business, biology and others.

Here in Hanoi they have very inexpensive beer called "bia hoi", which is "fresh beer". I have been told that this is very good, and since it is so inexpensive you can easily buy a round for the whole bar and not feel the pain, something around 10 USA pennies per beer. I asked at the restaurant that I attended tonight, but all they had was "Bia Hanoi", which was pretty good nonetheless. My waiter, San, was a student who knew a little English, but I was not sure if I got the concept of "Free Software" across to him.

The Sheraton is a nice hotel (the conference organizers put me up here, since the conference will be here, but the 10 USD. that they charged for dinner was a bit expensive for my tastes, so I opted for the smaller restaurant down the street where I met San. A meal of soup, stir-fried chicken and rice, the "Bia Hanoi" (and it was a large beer too) and a cup of coffee came to 4.43 USD, plus a nice walk around the lake on which the hotel is located. This allowed me to "meet" some of the locals, and even locate yet another nice restaurant to eat at some night in the future.

I tried to arrange a tour to some of the favorite tourist spots, such as Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum and museum, but they are closed on Monday, so I will probably just take a ride downtown in a taxi and wander the streets looking for souvenirs for my godchildren.

I am not the only non-Vietnamese speaker at the conference. Fran├žois Bancilhon, Chief Executive Officer of Mandriva Linux will also be speaking, as well as representatives of Bull, Red Hat, Intel and others. There will also be lots of Vietnamese officials and Vietnamese proponents of FOSS speaking.

I am really excited about this conference, since I first came to Hanoi in 1993 to speak to them about Digital's Unix systems. This was slightly before Clinton lowered the embargo that we had against Vietnam for 20 years, and Digital was going to open an office to sell their equipment.

There was a whole entourage consisted of about fifteen Digital people and some of their wives who had come along for the trip. We were to speak about VAX computers, VMS, Alpha, Digital Unix, Networking , Storage and lots of other things.

Our audience was made up of 159 people who had at least one Phd, most had two and some had three. They all could speak Vietnamese and English, most could speak French and quite a few could speak a fourth language. The last person only had his Master's degree, but they let him in because he arranged the conference. We talked to them for three days. They broadcast the entire conference to the entire country. The waiter in my hotel's restaurant had seen my presentation on TV, and "he had a few questions about Unix." On the third day when we finished, we asked them if they had any questions.

They then started asking questions that showed an extremely educated and knowledgeable group of people who wanted to know if we had considered bit-slice processors before building the Alpha chip. We realized that for three days we had been talking market-speak to them, and that we should have gotten "down and dirty". I will not make that same mistake this time. This time I will sit down with them and roll up my sleeves to make sure they are successful with FOSS.

Of course my previous trip was in 1993, one year before I met Linus, so I did not talk to them about Linux. I will not make that same mistake this time, either.

I will write more about Hanoi and the conference later this week.

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