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The Bay Area part two

On Friday afternoon we arrived to San Francisco. We started the weekend by going out – a bit of a change after a while. We danced in one of the local bars, but were once again dissapointed when all ended at 2 in the morning. But anyway- we had a busy schedule for Saturday.

On Saturday morning we went for a walk  and strolled down the world's most crooked street  - Lombard's street. Later we took a cruise boat to Alcatraz- a famous prison just a few miles from San Francisco. The last inmates left the island on March 21, 1963, and the prison officially closed its doors a few months later, because of deteriorating buildings and high operating costs. It was never filled to capacity – the highest number of inmates was 320. There are four cellblocks in the prison – A, B, C and D. A Block was not used to house inmates during the federal penitentiary years, cells in B and C were considered »general population« and unruly inmates were in block D – Isolation. In the 29 years that Alcatraz served as a federal penitentiary, 36 prisoners tried to escape; all but five were recaptured or otherwise accounted for. Three who were unaccounted for participated in the same breakout, the June 1962 escape, immportalized in the movie Escape from Alcatraz with Clint Eastwood. Alcatraz is now a unit of the National Park Service.

After spending a beatiful sunny day at the island, we headed back to Fisherman's Wharf where we took some time to enjoy the city beat, tasty food and cute shops. We even checked out the lazy sea lions laying on the pier, enjoying the warmth of the sun. We also saw China Town, The Financial district and Golden Gate Bridge under the starry sky.

The day that followed, we decided to rent bikes and bike across the Golden Gate Bridge and through the famous Golden Gate Park. We weren't so lucky with the weather- it rained almost all of the time and after four hours we returned the bikes wet and happy. Of course we crossed  the Golden Gate Bridge anyway.

In the afternoon we drove to Berkley, to meet with famous Slovenian swimmer, a winner of an olympic medal from Peking- Sara Isaković. She showed us around the beautiful Berkley campus and told us a bit about her time there. The weekend and our break was slowly coming to an end and we had another busy week ahead of us.

We slept at one of the Berkley motels and on Monday morning (Pi Day) we went to Berkley campus again. We met with dr. Gregorij Kurillo at Laboratory for teleimmersion. The laboratory is researching virtual reality and applications connected with teleimmersion systems. This systems  are able to connect different environments that are far away from each other in one virtual environment. They are using 48 cameras (12 modules – each with 4 cameras), 12 computers to collect the data coming from modules and 4 projectors  to display the virtual environment. The biggest challenge while dealing with this kind of systems is callibration of the cameras -  it used to take hours to do that, but this laboratory developed a new technology, which does that in a few minutes. The system is able to collect a picture in HD resolution, but is working at a slower resolution for now, because of technical limitations(processor speed etc.)

Later, we went to see another laboratory – Laboratory for bioengineering and met with prof. Boris Rubinsky. He had a great presentation prepared for us and even surprised us with a picture of our University in Ljubljana – he visits quite often. We talked about his work – electroporation, MEMS, cryosurgery, biomedical image processing, biomedical equipment, electrochemoteraphy and some other interesting projects he was and is working on.  We were even able to chat a bit with professor and his students over pizza and drinks after the presentation. Unfortunately we didn't have as much time as we would like because we were in a hurry to get back to San Francisco.

We had another company visit planned for the day , this time at S.A.S.  – Statistical analysing software. Company offers software, services and applications meant to collect and analyse complex data, create reports, manage data structures etc. S.A.S. is one of the best companies  in the field of business analysis, data mining and data analysis, data storage, artifical intelligence algorhytms etc. They are working with more than 50.000 companies worldwide, supplying their knowledge and services.  S.A.S. in on the top of the list of best companies according to Fortune magazine. When we finally arrived (parking in SF is a long and expensive process),  we were pleasantly surprised. S.A.S is located on the top floor of one of the skyscrapers in financial district, which offers breathtaking view of the city. The company headquarters and main part of the offices are located on the east coast though. After presentations and a chat we were on our way back to Sunnyvale.  

On Tuesday morning  we woke up early in a sunny morning and drove to NetApp (coming from Network Appliance), which was founded in 1992 by David Hitz, James Lau and  Michael Malcolm and is now the 5th best company to work for (Fortune magazine). NetApp is working in the field of managing and storing data. Overall this was one of the best and most professional presentations – we learned a lot, we saw a lot and were plesantly surprised by everything we saw - especially the data storage center, which is fascinating.

But the day wasn't over just yet. Next stop: SkyGrid, where we were greeted by a Slovenian- dr. Rok Sosič. SkyGrid is developing applications for Apple devices and Android supported mobile phones.  They are trying to change the way of searching the web for information. While using their application, user is able to pick his categories of interest and receiving valuable information regarding the chosen subject, collected from various web sources. Application is meant  for search of the current, fresh news and topics.  Again, we saw modern and open type of working space, which is especially typical for internet companies – it offers faster and easier communication between co-workers.

At the end of the day, we were pleasantly tired- it was a successful day, full of new information and new knowledge.  We finished our »to do list« for the day by doing our laundry. It's harder than it sounds, because there is 9 of us and it takes approximately 3 hours to wash and dry all of our clothes.

And then is was Wednesday  and IBM visit was approaching. When we arrived, we were surprised by 10 parking spots reserved especially for us and felt kind of bad, because we arrived with only one van (Slovenians carpool alot). IBM has more than 426.000 employees in more than 170 countries worldwide. That is more than entire population of the capital of Slovenia – Ljubljana. Company develops, researches, makes and sells computer software and hardware, offers infrastructure and consulting services etc. IBM was the first company to make and sell a PC- a product that changed all of our lives. Firstly, we took a walk around IBM campus which is located in a beautiful, green environment , and had a little geography and history  lesson. Later we went to Executive Briefing Center and  interesting presentations followed as well as a walk through the data center, which was a special honor.  We were able to see and feel true IBM spirit and we are definately not surprised by the success of the company as it has everething is takes to make it great. The most influential presentation was definately the last one – a global overview of the IBM future plans and innovations, which ended in an interesting debate.  It would definately last longer, but we were headed back to Stanford. We would like to thank to people from IBM for a great and interesting day – we loved it!

After that we returned to Stanford to meet and chat with the youngest professor teaching there- prof. Jure Leskovec, who graduated at Faculty of computer and information science in Ljubljana. We talked about his research work, social networking analysis, his life at Stanford and completely different atmosphere compared to the one in Slovenia. He told something about exams at Stanford- the system and culture considering that and afterwards wished us a great trip. This was the last night at our motel in Sunnyvale-next day we had two more companies to visit and than we were leaving to see National Parks.

Than came Thursdayour last day at Silicon Valley. We had two more companies to visit- TrialPay and Microsoft.

© november 2010, Društvo študentov računalništva in elektrotehnike - elektrošok, produkcija: Elektrošok | izvedba: Damjan Cvetan