Thursday, June 17, 2004

Ok, ok, Chris is getting on everyone to post more , but little does he know that his new 9 to 5 will soon suck much of the post-able material out of his own life. The fact is that college, for all its drawbacks, provides much more interesting stories than real life, especially when your blog is primarily concerned with stupid people and stupid events.

Anyway, what I really came here for was to continue talking about my trip to Rome. Today's focus is on the flights themselves, on a Swissair A340 with a stopover in Zurich. Now, we all know that the Swiss are a) rich, as a byproduct of all those neutrality-protected bank accounts, and b) tech-savvy, as a byproduct of being rich, so it was little surprise to find that the plane had individual entertainment units for every seat, even those in coach. These units were basically thin-client consoles that served up a nice selection of movies, music, and games, controlled by a little joypad. There was even an option that used GPS to show your current position on a map and track your progress, as well live video feeds from cameras in front of and underneath the plane. These units weren't exactly the most responsive things in the world, and had the annoying habit of crashing and going out of commission for periods of half an hour or more, but it was still a wonderful example that someone out there is actually pushing thin-client architecture into a very pedestrian medium, although the days of your microwave talking to your refrigerator are still a ways off. Of course, it took a European company to do this, and I'm sure Japan did it eons ago, but for once I was the one experiencing it as an end user. I'd much rather look at a slightly unstable and unresponsive system than at the upholstery of the seat in front of me. When one of the machines in the row ahead of me crashed particularly hard, I saw Tux pop up on the boot screen - the Swiss may be rich, but at least they're frugal.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

There seems to be a rising tide of opinion that I never made it back from Rome, so I'm in the position of having to squash such rumors before people forget this blog exists ("people" includes yours truly).

I'll talk about touristy-type stuff in Rome some other time, but right now I want to mention my difficulties dealing with the seemingly complete absence of technology in Italy. As I mentioned in my previous post (I know, it feels oh-so-long ago), I brought a new digital camera to Rome with a 256MB card. I figured this would last me a good while of the trip, and if things got tight I'd have my sister's 128MB card in reserve. Needless to say, Rome being Rome, I had filled up both cards within 2 1/2 days, taking in the neighborhood of 250 pictures (5mp resolution for most, I like to reserve the option for later cropping), each picture as imporatant as the one that proceeded it, perhaps MORE imporatant.....

Anyway, Simpsons quotes aside, I had a contingency plan for this type of problem; I'd upload or burn the photos from the card at a internet cafe, hotel data center, or something similar. So, I found internet cafes, but words like USB or CD-RW were not typically in the proprietors' vocabulary, in English or Italian. Most of the PCs didn't even have CD drives, period. There was one place, a "data center" in a relatively fancy hotel, that had a 486 running windows 3.1. Eventually I went down a different road and tried to get the pictures transferred from the card to the CD. I found a little photo processing shop that would do it, run by an well-groomed old man in a nice suit, who happened to have a relatively new PC sitting around in the back room. For the hefty fee of 7 euro, I got a pretty italian CD (pronounced Chay-Day) with a pretty italian label: "DISCO_DI_DATI"

By the time the trip was over, I had 3 CDs and well over a gig worth of photos. I'm the kind of person that needs hard copies of photos, so the development costs after I got back to the States ran around 200 bucks. If I find a good way of posting them online, I will do so (although not on this site, of course)