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Archive for October, 2010

FlightAware officially rocks

Monday, October 25th, 2010

In case you’ve never heard of it, FlightAware is a cool website that allows you to track flights.  I’ve been following them since I first heard about them back in 2006 in BSDtalk PodCast #42 (I just realized it was #42 in looking it up again).  FreeBSD, PostgreSQL, and aviation all in one PodCast — I was riveted.  I stopped being an active pilot in 2001, so it wasn’t something I needed, but I’m always curious about traffic around and it’s a neat way to see some of what is coming and going.  Today, FlightAware officially rocked it and made my day.  It started last night.  I was looking at what traffic had been coming and going to the little GA airports around town and noticed an Avantair Piaggio Avanti was enroute to town.  This was almost midnight, so this was just interesting.  I looked a bit closer at the travel history and realized that it probably wouldn’t be leaving too early today (by my standards).  So, when I got up in the morning I checked if there was a filed flight plan — nope.  I then actually signed up with FlightAware so that I could setup alerts and did just that.  I setup an alert for that flight number in case they filed a flight plan, departed, etc.  It wasn’t long and I got an alert.  They’d filed a flight plan for a departure in 15 minutes.  I grabbed the camera, jumped in the car, and headed to the airport.  Timing was great as I was able to see the plane startup, taxi, and take-off.  I can now say I’ve seen a Piaggio Avanti.  I’ve certainly seen pictures, but there’s something special about seeing something for real (not up close in this case, though).  It’s a beautiful plane.  I was surprised that it wasn’t that loud while taxiing.  I certainly heard the distinctive square wave noise as it did a run-up, but I didn’t get to hear it take-off as a Skylane started up some 25 feet from me while the Piaggio Aero was doing it’s run-up.  I got some okay pictures.  This had me jazzed, though.  Later in the day I saw that a Piper Aerostar 600 was scheduled to arrive.  Wind was such that I figured the approach would be visible from the house, so I stood outside for a few minutes before arrival to see if it came by — it did.  Nice.  So, now I’ve seen an Aerostar.  I love Ted Smith designs and the Aerostar has a reputation for being one of his best.  Great day!

Earl Grey. Hot. (warm, anyway)

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

So it’s a phrase known the world over to geeks.  Even those that aren’t Trekkies know Jean Luc Picard’s common replicator request.  Well, I’ve now developed a taste for Earl Grey myself.  While we were in Sandakan we had lunch at the English Tea House and had some English style tea.  It was wonderful.  I’m now quite sure it was an Earl Grey and I’ve picked up a box for preparing at home.  I don’t do hot drinks, but otherwise I must agree with Picard’s taste.  Too bad I don’t have a replicator.

Target mobile. Target iOS.

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

I work in eCommerce.  In the last year I’ve seen a number of presentations touting the push into mobile web.  I don’t doubt it.  I’ve seen some numbers showing significant growth in mobile web utilization in our own customers. My question has been about where and when to focus that energy.  I’m not anymore.  Do it now.  Do it for the iPhone (iOS really).  Keep Android in mind while doing it.

Maybe it’s bad to base my conclusion on anecdotal evidence of basically a single observation, but my gut is shouting loud here.  I was in Singapore on Friday.  It was a 12 hour layover, so we (the wife and I) took the free Singapore tour and then decided to see the sights some more.  We wound up wandering pretty far from the airport (Changi).  For the return we decided to try the subway.  At one point, while the train was pretty crowded, something dawned on me — everyone had an iPhone.  I mean everyone.  Even me.  More surprising — they were mostly iPhone 4′s.  Some were playing games, some surfing the web, some on calls, some listening to music, some were texting, and some just pulled them out to check the time.  This is on a subway at almost 23:00 packed with people (on a Friday night).  There was that much disposable income standing around.  I had noticed several people with iPhones and iPads in the various airports we had been in and out of, but that’s sort of expected.  Here we were on a subway with normal folks going about their lives, not just transiting the international terminals.  We passed through a good 15 stops including a transfer station and crossed a good portion of the city.  Very few people went all the way to the airport like we were, so it wasn’t just travellers happening to be on the train with us.  Lots of folks would flow in and out of the train at the stops and it was the same the whole time — tons of iPhones, and a significantly large portion being iPhone 4′s.

So, target mobile. Target iOS.  Keep Android in mind (I say that because I’ve met a number of folks that refuse to get iPhones and only see Android devices as their alternative).

Micro-sim in Malaysia

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

We were in Malaysia recently (more on that later).  We brought along our iPhone 4′s intending to get some pre-paid sim cards so we could use them while travelling.  Well, the iPhone 4 and iPad both use micro-sims and not just plain sim cards.  I knew this already and started researching it before the trip.  From the press releases I saw, Maxis had them out and it was big news to iPad owners who’d brought them in on the grey market.  Users on some forums rejoiced.  So, I had little doubt we’d be fine.  After arriving, it was another story.  Cellphone shops are plentiful.  You can’t go anywhere without seeing a plethora of them.  Honestly, I don’t know how they all stay in business.  The market must be huge.  We went to several shops and we got a lot of blank stares when we asked about micro-sims.  We were told there were no such things.  We were told we were looking for SD cards.  We were told they weren’t in Malaysia yet.  I said I had read a Maxis press release and eventually was pointed to an official Maxis store.  They did have them, but would only sell for post-paid accounts.  There was no way I’d sign up for a 1 or 2 year contract to use for 3 weeks.  I recalled that you could cut down a regular sim to micro-sim specs, so I asked around about that as well.  Nobody had any idea.  It took 3 or 4 days, but my brother-in-law brought us a cut down pre-paid sim.  He’d found someone that had a cutting tool.  We were up and running — even with 3G data.

Now, that’s were my happiness wanes.  We were on DiGi.  I’m not sure if Maxis or Celcom were the same, but my DiGi service was less reliable than I’d have liked.  Hand-off between towers wasn’t too smooth.  3G data could be spotty.  By that I mean that despite having the 3G icon show up and even full signal bars (with iOS 4.0.2), data would stop working.  I found some consistency in the data issues depending on location.  Occasionally, though, I’d even get the ability to tether and that was wonderful.  Speeds when data worked was quite good.  Cost was reasonable too.

Near the end of our stay, the iPhone 4 was officially released by Maxis and DiGi, so I expected compatibility to be remarkable.  I think it improved slightly after the release, but not much.  Oh well, it was only 3 weeks.

I finally updated to iOS 4.1

Monday, October 4th, 2010

I finally updated my iPhones to iOS 4.1.  Three things stuck out to me from the announcement that I’ve been dying to have:

  • Proximity sensor issue fix (this one has really been affecting me)
  • Bluetooth fixes (I didn’t know this was a known issue, but it has been affecting me)
  • HDR photo option (cool new feature)

I’ve been running 4.1 for less than 24 hours now, but I can definitely say the proximity sensor and bluetooth issues seem to have abated.  I haven’t tried the HDR photo option yet.  Otherwise, the Game Center seems gimmicky.  The operational animation has smoothed out (especially on my work-issued 3GS).  I can’t quite tell about battery life changes yet.  I suspect it’s worse due to how low my 3GS’s battery was after a 4.5 hour conference call.