Sunday, November 20, 2005

back from vacation

Back from two weeks in Beijing, Shanghai, Kyoto, and Osaka. One thing to bring up here: why is it that when I stay at a somewhat low-end Drury Hotel in St. Louis, I get free internet access, whereas when I stay at Westins and Swissotels, I have to pay $15+ per day for internet access? It seems like the more you pay for a hotel, the fewer things come with it for free. I recognize that many European countries expect you to pay for internet access that we in the U.S. have come to expect for free and in fact we tend to have cheaper or free internet access available to us while those countries are either highly regulated or are state-owned monopolies, so the hotel's own cost to provide us with access is higher.

I also have only recently begun traveling with my laptop (actually, my work-supplied TabletPC) so of course I should have expected in previous travels to pay to use a computer that is not my own to access the internet, a la internet cafes and hotel business centers. We did this in Bangkok and in Cambodia in our trip two years ago but of course it cost next to nothing ($0.50/hr in Phnom Penh), versus 5 euros per hour in Barcelona. Bringing the laptop not only allows you a familiar computing environment (and keyboard!) but also you don't have to worry about time limits, and you can install things (like Flickr Uploader) and keep backups of your pictures and whatnot which is very useful. I used the RPC over HTTPS connection to keep my own Outlook up to date on my work email and also enjoyed the Outlook Additional Time Zone feature (right-click above the time column in calendar view, Change Time Zone), which I had previously been using to stay on top of Central Time appointments for my St. Louis client, to keep track of the mind-boggling time difference between Eastern and China time (-13 hours + 1 day so 1:30PM Sunday is really 2:30AM Monday morning in China; add one hour for Japan time).

I had a weird travel experience where my Dazzle 4-in-1 card reader corrupted my SD card multiple times. I bought this along with my Dell PC almost two years ago and it has been fine for CF cards and SD cards, and I even brought it on my last trip (Berlin and Estonia) and used it with our CF card with no problems. However, the first day I went to copy the pictures and upload them, there were all the sudden no pictures on the card. Tried multiple USB ports and deleted the device from Device Manager and re-added it, and had no luck. This was a new SD card since we bought a new camera and card for this trip (Canon SD400, replaced a Canon A80 which we liked a lot but is like 4 times the size and 10 times the weight). I don't really know how to explain it. We bought a much smaller, SD-only reader for 1200 yuan (approx. $12.50) and it has worked fine throughout the trip and beyond. It is small enough that I'll probably throw out my shitty free 64MB USB keys and use it with my 1GB SD card to transfer important files (movies) to my STL coworker "AB".

That's all I got for now. Still catching up on sleep, email and laundry from vacation. More technical posts coming up this week...


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