Archive for July, 2007

O Canada

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

So, finally, the announcement hit the wires that we were acquired by Xandros, a Canadian company which specialises in an integrated Linux distribution. I’ll leave better people than me to talk about synergies and paradigms but it means the product that I’ve worked with since 1996 continues.

A side-benefit of this is that I get to go to Ottawa for a couple of weeks to train some of the engineers there.

So, I’m writing this from an Ottawa hotel room after having my first experience of US domestic air travel that didn’t leave the best taste in my mouth 🙁

There’s no direct flight from SFO to YOW ( Ottawa ) so I had to change at Detroit.

I was scheduled to fly on Saturday at 12:40pm which was a reasonable time to fly although I wouldn’t land in Ottawa until 10:49pm Eastern. I tried checking in online on Fridy and got a notification that they’d cancelled my flight and rescheduled me. Slight panic ensued as I realised that they’d brought forward my flight by 12 hours which meant that I would need to be at the airport by 10:40pm on Friday. I wasn’t packed 🙂 Not only that but I would have to make 2 stopovers to reach my final destination….I don’t think so !

So, I had to contact the airline to find out what they could do about it. The problem was, the flight was booked through Xandros’ travel agent and he couldn’t do anything other than tell me to contact the airline. I tried the airline’s 1-800 number and got through to a recorded message explaining how their call volume was busy and they couldn’t process my call at that time. Then they hung up.

Because I live so close to the airport, I drove down there and explained the situation to them at the ticketing desk only to be told that they couldn’t do anything about tickets from there and I would have to call their ticketing line. Pause for breath….

Luckily, they had some magic number they could dial and I was connected with a helpful customer service agent who rebooked me on another flight at 7am the next morning but I would be flying to Newark and from there to Ottawa.

The next morning, my taxi arrived at 5:30am and I got to the airport to find that the flight was delayed for 1 hour because the crew got in late and they have to have 8 hours beauty sleep by law. Well…maybe they shouldn’t have stayed out partying for so long :-S

The electronic check-in desk was telling me that they found an alternate route for me if I still caught the SFO to Newark flight, I could then get the Newark flight to Ottawa that would be taking off 3 HOURS BEFORE THE SFO FLIGHT LANDED !!!

Pause for breath….

The ( unsmiling ) woman behind the check-in desk looked at my times and said I would still be able to make the Newark to Ottawa flight because it would be 40 minutes between landing and next take off. So, I got my boarding pass and sat down to wait for the delayed flight to take off.

That flight was pretty uneventful. I dozed off, sandwiched between 2 complete strangers.

We arrived on time but it took 20 minutes longer to taxi and park at gate C90 and I needed to be at gate C130. So, I walked quickly and got to my gate, looked up at the flight display and saw that gate C130 was a flight to Miami.

I had to wait around for another 5 minutes before the drone behind the desk acknowledged that I was standing in her presence. She checked the flight and told me it was delayed for 2 hours.

3 and a half hours later, we finally took off in the smallest plane I’ve been in. Luckily, I was sitting on my own and my bag, which was too big to fit in the overhead lockers ( not because it’s bigger than the allowed standard but because the plane was small and the overhead lockers are not standard size ) got it’s own seat next to me.

The flight was over before I could blink; 1 hour wheels up to wheels down according to the pilot. I sailed through immigration, which was basically: why are you here, where are you staying, who are you working for, and picked up my bags.

I wasn’t able to pick up a rental car from the airport because they were sold out for that day and the hotel shuttles didn’t go to my hotel so I needed to get a taxi. Before I could do that, I needed to get cash from the ATM.

Two machines later, I had enought cash for a taxi. The first one was because I didn’t read that they wouldn’t accept Mastercard. The slogan is usually “For everything else there’s Mastercard”. The fine print reads “except when you need to get cash for a Canadian taxi and it’s late in the evening”.

CAN $ 40 later, I arrived at the hotel. Without a car I couldn’t go exploring for a candy store to get soda and nibbles so I stayed in the hotel bar and got drunk with 2 of the bartenders and their friends. Saturday was a Dave convention because everyone sitting at the bar that evening was called Dave. Yes, really !

As the bar was Irish, I had my regulation 3 Guinness minimum and I was introduced to Boots (?) which is a shot of Sambuca and Jack Daniels. This must be downed in one. I think I’ve found a competitor to Jagermeister.

Ottawa is on the East coast so they are 3 hours ahead of Pacific time. This meant I slept until 10am the next morning (helped along by the alcohol) except for the 2 minutes where I couldn’t find the alarm clock at 6:25am where the previous guest had set it and nobody turned it off. 6:25 is really 3:25am for me so I *really* appreciated that one. Staying asleep until 10am is a luxury. However, if I’m going to attend the office on time *and* have the complimentary continental breakfast from the hotel, I’ve had to set the alarm for 7am (which is really 4am) so I’m going to be a real barrel of laughs.

This week I will be mostly on my own in the evenings but next week more of m’colleagues will be joining me so it’ll be like old times when I used to come out to San Mateo.

I’m sure I can interest them in some Boots.

iPhone Schmi-phone

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

Did a new phone get released last month ? I can’t say I saw any of the publicity what with all the fanfare and hype that surrounded the emergence of the Apple iPhone.

This caused near-hysteria and stories of lines outside various Apple and Cingular (now the new AT&T) stores.

I admit that I watched the How-To video that Apple released on what the iPhone was capable of and thought for a moment as to whether I was going to have to go to the finance committe (Mrs Ravelox) with a plea for cash.

There’s a number of things that attract me to it. In particular the style-over-substance approach that has been Apple’s trademark for quite a while. It’s a cool accessory to have. For the moment. Until the next thing comes out.

Apple claims to have revolutionised the phone. If there’s one thing that Apple does well, it’s UIs. Using the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle, they win hands down every time but what does the iPhone offer me that I don’t already have ?

For as long as I can remember, I am a hard and fast supporter of “One device, one function”. To this day, I don’t like an MP3 player in my phone. I don’t want to take pictures with my phone ( unless it’s for an insurance claim ). The only concession to this is that I purchased a Treo 680. I had a Dell Axim x50v which I used for contacts and calendaring and came to the realisation that it made little sense to carry a phone and a PDA at the same time.

I already have a 30Gb iPod. It works really well ( aside from the DRM issues ) and is smart and compact. This was an “upgrade” from a 40Gb Creative Zen Xtra that just didn’t have the accessory support any Apple product seems to have.

So the points that stop me from buying this product are:

  1. No current unlocking strategy. I’m European. I’d like to be able to use the phone if I travel back there without the hideous roaming charges. I can’t change the SIM in the iPhone like I can in the Treo.
  2. 8Gb is not enough for an MP3 collection especially if you’re going to be storing photos as well.
  3. No ability to load other applications. There is a burgeoning Palm software market based on the fact that you can do just that on Palm devices.
  4. High price point. The stories at the moment is that it costs $200+ for the hardware components. So, that’s $299 or $399 in software cost recovery ( plus any standard Apple mark-up ). Time will tell, as people use the devices, whether that investment is warranted.

As much as I’d like to have this as the fashion accessory it so obviously is, I don’t see that it trumps anything I have today.

The phoenix rises

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

Forgive me blog-readers, for I have sinned. It’s been 6 months since my last blog entry.

There are some (partially) valid reasons for this and none of them are related to us disappearing off the face of the earth.

I can’t go into detail about what they were but it was related to work and whether we should move back to the UK or not. Developments this month mean that we’re staying for the foreseeable future.

So…what’s been happening outside of work in these six months ?

Well, January saw my birthday come around again. The arrival of another year is always welcome. When that stops happening, I’ll get worried. This year’s festivities was an entertainment-packed weekend. Thursday (birthday proper), Rachel and Joanna paid for me to go to the cinema and see Happy Feet. They bought popcorn and drinks with their savings. This year, unlike last, I stayed awake throughout the whole film. Friday took us bowling in Pacifica and Saturday had the Kelly family ice skating.

The ice skating was more a bonus than anything else. A couple of weeks previously, we were invited to a birthday party at a local rink for one of Rachel’s school friends. The rink had booked the party room from 2:30 to 4:30 and the price included skating for everyone. What the rink had failed to tell the mother was that there was an ice hockey game on the same rink between 2:30 and 4:30. Quite what they expected the children to do in a party room the size of a small cupboard is an explanation I’m waiting to hear. Still, after some heated negotiation, we all got free skating passes and I got to use them for my birthday.

I was quite impressed that I was able to stay on my feet all the way around. It might have had something to do with Rachel and Joanna clinging on to us like limpets and slowing us to a crawl. The only dilemma is what to do in the occurrence of a sudden ice-to-butt event. Do I fall first and catch child next or do I throw child to the ice so that my landing is cushioned ? We’ll leave that question to a game of Scruples.

February is a short month interrupted only by Valentine’s Day. This is another Hallmark holiday overrun by political correctness at school. No child is allowed to send just one card. They have to write out a card for each of their classmates so that nobody is left out. When are they ever going to learn that life is just a series of rejections and you move from one disappointment to the next ? Maybe the reason why you don’t get a card is because you’re ugly and nobody fancies you. (cue blurry dissolve into flashback of school life at Alderman Callow School and Community College)

March was Rachel’s birthday. Because she enjoyed bowling on my birthday, she decided that she wanted a bowling party at the same alley. Enough of her friends turned up to make sure it was fun but there were 553 reasons why we’re not going to be doing that again ! We weren’t allowed to bring our own food and a couple of fruit trays that we ordered ( through the alley ) came to at least 90 of those reasons. I’m not sure where all the other reasons went. Rachel came away with a genuine bowling pin signed by all her friends.

April and May have been a bit of a blur. Work got incredibly busy and World of Warcraft even more so. I’m going to blog separately on my current WoW status so that the uninterested amongst you don’t switch off.

I was trying to work on a couple of audio-visual experiments. The first was to finally complete editing on my father’s birthday experience video. When they visited the UK back in 2004, he made use of the glider voucher we got him for his birthday the previous year. We videotaped the whole thing and the intention was to make a DVD for him to watch. 3 years later and I got the camera working to the extent that I have the files on disk now and I’m playing with a video-editing suite to turn it into something respectable. It’s time-consuming and I’m sick of hearing the Thunderbirds theme tune that I thought was really clever at the time but now it’s driving me crazy.

The second experiment was to turn this blog into a podcast and have my dulcet tones ( along with the rest of the Kelly clan ) coming out of your speakers. I’ve got as far as recording an introduction 🙂

It’s obvious I have a lot to learn and I need to spend more time on these things. Maybe spending less time on WoW ?

Other significant events this year…

Rachel was one of 5 students in the school to achieve GATE (Gifted And Talented Education) status which means she’s currently going to summer school to keep her mind oiled and working. This status, apparently, sets her up for bigger and better things in the future. I’m hoping that means full scholarship at university 🙂

Both Rachel and Joanna achieved more swimming distinctions at La Petite Baleen swim school. They both got their next level ribbons and continue on to aquatic glory. They’ve achieved so much since joining the school that they’re confident in the water, although Joanna looks like she’s doing controlled drowning at times. They can also both dive in from a standing position which we would never have seen them do back in the UK.

We’re into the second or third week of the summer holidays here and Sam was going crazy not having a car. So, last week I bought a 1997 Saab 900s convertible with the assistance of those nice people at Addison Avenue. Sam and I both love it but the girls are not sure because they don’t like the roof down. We drove down the freeway at the weekend and they had their heads down and hair flying into their faces.
I guess they’re going to be walking everywhere from now on.