Saturday, January 28, 2012

Red Cross technology update

We are visiting the Disaster Services Maintenance Center (DSMC), in Austin, Texas. We arrived late Thursday afternoon, said hello to the DSMC team, and then had dinner at local icon Trudy's with our friend Paul. Yesterday morning our friend CC drove down from Killeen, and we spent the morning reviewing and practicing the latest server, printer and workstation installation procedures. As a fresh set of eyes, we were able to pick up several issues with the written text, and those were corrected before we finished.

I also got a chance to put my hands on the new MSAT satellite phone equipment, which works on the Lightsquared Skyterra network. Unlike the Iridium units, which use LEO birds that have a nasty habit of passing out of sight before your call is finished, these MSAT units use a geostationary bird, so once they are set up and working in any given location, the calls should not get dropped.

We had a nice lunch at Torchy's with most of the DSMC crew. It's always great to spend time with these folks, whom we see only once a year or so. And being up on the latest that's going on here helps to inform my decision-making in the field. This center is a mostly invisible and often under-appreciated part of our relief operations.

After seeing my last blog post, a local friend from my distant past as a volunteer with DECUS, a user group for a now-defunct computer manufacturer, contacted me to see if we could get together. Clive dropped by yesterday evening and treated us to a nice dinner at Justine's, a very trendy French place oddly located in an industrial part of town. Dinner was tasty and it was great catching up after a decade and a half.

In a few minutes we will head north to Killeen to spend some time with our friends Don and CC. We'll make a brief stop first at the local wastewater treatment plant, though, which has an RV dump station.

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