Archive for category Technology

America?

Palisades Park

Ms. HalfEmpty napping in Palisades Park

You may be wondering why, after a week in Fiji and a week in New Zealand, I am writing about America.  Prior to this trip, I took easy/free internet access in the United States for granted.  After landing at LAX, we took a bus to Santa Monica to kill time before our next flight.  I expected that I would need to patronize a café to get on a network.  But I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could sit in Palisades Park and use the city’s free internet!  But on Likuri Island (our first stop in Fiji, where we used generator electricity during the day and none at night) there was no broadband internet, but you could pay per hour to sit in their office and use antique computers.

In Fiji and New Zealand, I have discovered that there is no such thing as unlimited internet.  They limit you by the hour or megabyte, and sometimes both, meaning that if you reach your megabyte limit before your time is up, you get booted.  Plus, the connections have been painfully slow, especially when every minute is counted.  These constraints add a lot of stress for a half empty perfectionist!

On top of the internet limitations, I know my half empty mind won’t be able to move on until I get these thoughts off of my mental to-do list.  But no worries (as the Kiwis often say), I have lists of observations and tons of images to write about.  But for today, I present you my final thoughts while leaving America for 10 weeks.

Before embarking on my 30/40 World Tour, I hadn’t been to an airport since Thanksgiving and hadn’t been to Dulles airport in much longer, so it was interesting to see all the changes. The first thing that caught my eye was TSA employees in tuxedo-like uniforms.  At first, I thought this might be a classy new concierge service.  But alas, no.  The tuxedo guys don’t check your tickets or bags; they just stare at you. I guess they are profilers looking for odd behavior.  I can tell you what’s odd — wearing a tuxedo at the airport!

The second new thing for me was the naked full body scanners. I felt very uncomfortable since I was not sporting metallic ink underwear. Mr. HalfFull told me later that he sucked in his gut and wanted to yell, “Shrinkage!” as they scanned his junk. Fortunately, he kept this thought to himself.

Dulles AeroTrain

Sleek AeroTrain @ Dulles airport

The third new airport feature was awesome! Dulles International Airport now has underground trams called AeroTrain. A lot of airports have these, but we have used people movers driving across the runways for years at Dulles. I was impressed – very efficient and sleek.  Perhaps some Scandinavian efficiency engineer from IKEA created the system of tram doors on both sides.  One side opens about 5-10 seconds before the other.  So people on the tram exit on the side with open doors, while people waiting to board are outside the set of closed doors on the opposite side.  We noticed a Dulles employee avoid the stampede off the tram, exit off the delayed side, and then scoot right up the escalator by himself.  This guy didn’t fall prey to the herd mentality.

Since we were not checking bags and had already printed our boarding passes at home, we didn’t have to visit the ticket counter at all.  With time to spare, Mr. HalfFull visited a tech gadget store in search of a single electrical adapter for all seven of our 30/40 World Tour countries. Lo and behold, they had one!  Plus it also has a USB charger and surge protection, all in a neat little package priced at $40.  Great success!

America store in airport

If you look closely, you can see the terrorist video above the register in the middle of the photo

While sitting on a bench with our luggage waiting for Mr. HalfFull, I noticed a store subtly called “America!”  They had t-shirts and souvenirs, plus a video playing above the checkout counter that was visible from my vantage point. I couldn’t hear any sound, but I could clearly see a reenactment of a group of terrorists with red cloths tied around their heads hijacking an airplane. Are you kidding me? They should have called the store “Tea Party!”  This seemed like an odd video choice in a terminal full of potential customers moments before boarding airplanes.

Capitol Grounds lattes

Capitol Grounds lattes & passports -- we're ready to travel!

As you know from my incessant mentions of coffee, I suppose I’m a bit of an addict.  With the new charger in hand, Mr. HalfFull set off to acquire small skim lattes with Splenda from Capitol Grounds.  (I haven’t found Splenda since leaving the US!  Hmm…)  As soon as he returned, our boarding group was called. Perfect timing!

Guess who was on our flight? NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, sporting a Milwaukee Bucks shirt!  I wonder if he travels under the name Lew Alcindor to avoid hassles with the tuxedo dudes.

  • Did internet availability overseas affect your travel?
  • What do you think of the tuxedo TSA guys?
  • Have you experienced the naked full body scanner? How did you feel?
  • Do you have metallic ink underwear?
  • Have you ever seen a terrorist reenactment video at an airport?
  • Have you flown with celebrities?

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Analysis Paralysis

Mr. HalfFull and I have been pondering the packing list for our 30/40 World Tour, and have decided to purchase a netbook.  Our home computer is an iMac, which of course is not portable.  We each have work issued laptops — a MacBook for Mr. HalfFull and a Dell for me.  My Dell is too big and heavy for travel, and Mr. HalfFull is unwilling to risk loss or damage to a laptop he doesn’t own.  So those are out.  Thus, we have settled on a netbook as the ideal travel computer for us.

Our primary uses for a netbook on the road will be blogging, email, photo storage/editing, banking, trip research, and booking accommodations and ground transportation.  Remember that we are each taking only one carry-on bag, so size and weight will heavily influence our decision.  Mr. HalfFull has been researching netbooks with dual core processors and came up with a few contenders.  He pokes fun at me for being thorough, but this pre-quest research seems to have tapped into a dark OCD corner of his brain.  Netbooks are intruding into his daily thoughts, and even affecting his sleep.  Can you please help us?

Netbook Price Weight Depth Size Battery RAM Storage OS Cool?
MacBook Air $1200 2.3 lbs 0.7″ 11.8″ x 7.6″ 5 hours 2 GB 128 GB Mac yes
ASUS Eee PC 1008P-KR $500 2.5 lbs 1.0″ 10.3″ x 7.0″ 5 hours 2 GB 320 GB PC yes
Lenovo IdeaPad S205 $550 3.3 lbs 1.1″ 10.6″ x 6.6″ 5 hours 4 GB 750 GB PC no

You may be looking at this list thinking, only 5 hours of battery life?  Aren’t there netbooks that can last for 10 hours?  This may be part of some sinister half full plot to keep me on vacation, as opposed to ISTJ work mode!  We will not have 24/7 electricity in some of our destinations, so my computer time will be [should be, suggests Mr. HalfFull]  limited by my netbook’s battery life.  In fact, when we listened to the Lost Girls speak back in March, they discussed Amanda’s incessant drive to work online during their trip.  Thankfully, her friend Jen finally persuaded her to live in the moment and experience their trip outside an internet café.

MacBook Air

11-inch MacBook Air

We loved our hands-on experience with the MacBook Air, but it’s over $1000, making it one of the most expensive netbooks (Steve Jobs would not approve).  One of our major concerns with such a costly investment is theft.  We don’t know what kind of physical storage will be available as we travel the world, but it’s unlikely that we will have a safe everywhere we go.  Also, the Mac brand is highly recognized and sought after, increasing the temptation for would-be thieves.  But we do have an iMac at home, so a MacBook Air would ensure complete compatibility for software and files from one to the other.  It is simply a beautiful machine — slim (0.68 inches at the thickest point) and lightweight (2.3 pounds) — despite being the biggest in terms of length and width.  But the Air is scheduled for a speed boost with the new Sandy Bridge processor.  So we would like to wait for that, but it’s not expected to be available until June.  Will it be in the first few days of June before our trip???  If we wait until June and it isn’t released, we will probably have lost our window of opportunity to order one of the other less expensive netbooks online due to shipping time.

Asus Eee 1008P Netbook

ASUS Eee PC 1008P-KR

The ASUS Eee PC 1008P Seashell Karim Rashid Collection Netbook was designed by an artist.  I consider myself to be very rational, but I also have a deep appreciation for aesthetics.  In the past, Mr. HalfFull has accused me of valuing form over function, which I don’t think is completely true.  The entire surface of this netbook is covered in Karim Rashid’s soft-touch “Techno-chic Digi-wave design,” which has the added benefit of not showing fingerprints.  This is form AND function!  The waves in this basket-weave design “adhere perfectly to the golden ratio” with a material similar to the soft matte rubbery coating usually found on mobile phones, which seems like it will be a great protector for travel.  To top it off, it comes in a color near and dear to my heart:  coffee brown!  Do you think Karim Rashid designed it just for me?  That’s genius…sorry, Genius Bar.  Another awesome travel feature of this netbook is that all the ports are covered, which could be handy in sandy locales.

Lenovo IdeaPad S205

Lenovo IdeaPad S205

Finally, the newly released Lenovo S205 includes far more memory and storage than the other models at a similar price to the ASUS.  In comparison to the others, it’s a bulky machine with a shiny cover that will surely show fingerprints, but it’s power lies inside.  This netbook is even capable of HD video editing.  I don’t plan to do a lot of videos, but I may want that capability in the future.  If I were purely tech focused, this would be the obvious pick, but it is a pound heavier than the others, which matters when your whole life is on your back for ten weeks.  But Lenovos are known for their excellent full-size keyboards, whereas the ASUS is only 92% of full-size.  Size may not be a big deal for me [Mr. HalfFull:  That’s what she said!], but a certain sausage-fingered gentleman could find himself constricted.

Mac vs. PC

Another thing that concerns me is cyber security.  Since we will be relying solely on open networks while traveling, will the Windows machines be more prone to viruses and hackers?  I guess there will be an added expense of procuring anti-virus software for the PCs.  The Mac tech geeks I know don’t install anti-virus software or software firewalls.

Of course we had to at least consider buying a used netbook on Craigslist.  There are a few MacBook Air machines for sale, but I’m not sure why.  Most of the posters claim that it’s a new machine, which seems suspect.  If I bought an older non-Mac netbook on Craiglist, I would be worried about the battery life, which is critical for travel, not to mention expensive to replace.  But at least in this case I would be paying a lot less upfront, and probably not care as much if it was stolen.

What’s the right answer?  We’ve only got 4 weeks left!

  • Which netbook do you recommend?
  • Is a computer critical travel gear these days?
  • What qualities are most important for a travel computer?
  • Do you consider the 11-inch MacBook Air to be a netbook?
  • Where do you fall on the form over function spectrum?
  • If you own a Mac, what security do you use?
  • Are you a Mac or a PC?

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