Friday Aug 28, 2009

links for 2009-8-28: Flight Delay Predictions; Store wind power as compressed air; WPA cracked; iPhone App Store trevails

  • FlightCaster - AWS-Powered Flight Delay Prediction - Cool idea, I'll give it a shot on my next flight. Blurb in story about it running on AWS and being built on a budget less than $1M. I'm not sure I'd call less than 60 minutes only "slightly delayed" though! Also interesting the web-site is free, iPhone app is $4.99, but then BlackBerry app is $9.99.
  • PG&E to compress air to store wind power - Sounds more efficient for handling bursts than the other alternatives.
  • Researchers crack WPA Wi-Fi encryption in 60 seconds - All the more reason to use WPA2.
  • Not wanting to expose NSFW links, 1 in 4 Firefox 2 users avoid upgrading to FF3 - This is hilarious.  Folks, if you don't want a trail, don't visit the site!  But the new feature is nice.
  • Dear Apple: Where’s Facebook 3.0? - If getting Facebook 3.0 out sooner will result in selling more iPhones and iPod Touches, Apple cares.  If not, they don't care about how quickly or even if apps get approved.  There are over 50,000 apps now and that is what they market.  And there is an existing Facebook app there already.  What difference does it make to the general population and thus their market, the consumer, if a few don't make it or this new Facebook app takes a little while?  Have we not learned that yet?  Further, if Apple were to give preferential treatment to approving this app quicker, that would only serve to set precedent that if you announce submission to the world you get better treatment.  I wouldn't be surprised if they actually drag their feet on this one to set an example.

Saturday Oct 18, 2008

Observations from a trip to Europe

I had the opportunity to travel to Munich for our EMEA Horizons event last week and had a fabulous set of meetings with our customers and partners sharing with them information, plans, and roadmaps around our products while hearing how they are using our products and what features and capabilities they are most interested in. All in all, a very worthwhile trip.

What the trip also allowed me to do was to experience travel and other behaviors in other countries and how they differ or compare to the United States, and perhaps see what we can learn from them.

The first thing one will notice of course is that passengers are treated differently (well?) on international flights and given a real meal (or several) for no extra charge. I even requested a special meal and found it quite tasty and satisfying (for airplane food) and would recommend that one look at what special meals are available and request one when flying internationally.

I had a connection in Amsterdam on my way to Munich, and something that is done at Schiphol airport is that escalators have motion sensors and turn off when not needed. This is a great idea, particularly for escalators that aren't in high traffic areas (this one was at a gate), but would seem like a very simple addition to any escalator that would help save energy costs. As you will read below, I found other cases where Europe seems to be more energy conscious than we are.

When going through security at European airports, they seem to be much more lax about making sure you remove liquids, shoes, coats, coins, etc. before going through the metal detector. I recall a trip a couple years ago where at London City Airport I was allowed to keep my heavy coat on with cell phone in pocket and nothing was triggered! On this trip I still followed US procedure out of habit, although the last time I went through security coming back at Schiphol I elected to leave my running shoes on (which have always been fine back in the day when I was allowed to keep them on in the states) and was just fine. To be fair this did vary someone from airport to airport (and even different sections of security at the same airport) but in general it was not surprising to see someone go through the detector and set it off. What was surprising is that when this happened, rather than sending the person back to remove things and go through again, they just elected to wand them down right there. It slowed the line down a bit but perhaps less than making everyone follow a strict procedure?

As I had time when I arrived, I took the opportunity to take public transportation rather than taking a taxi, both to save money (€9.20 vs €56!) and to experience a bit more of the culture. I couldn't figure out the automated ticket machine so did queue up to buy the ticket, but once I had it it was a nice and painless trip with one train change to a stop right in front of the Sun office. If you do have the time, I highly recommend using public transportation when visiting Europe rather than just hoping in a taxi.

At the Sun office in Munich, as is the case at many other Sun offices, motion sensors are used in rooms to turn lights off when not needed. What I hadn't seen at other Sun offices is that this was applied to halls too, taking the energy consciousness a step further. Another cool thing at the Sun office is that when there is a door in the hallway, there is a sticker on the door with both an arrow indicating the direction the door opens (away or towards you) but they are also color coded with red for towards you (warning, it can open towards you) or green for away from you. Very nifty idea that address those situations when you approach a door and don't know which way it opens so you can avoid the push or pull that is met with resistance.

At the hotel, the eco-friendliness was continued with the hallways having motion sensors, again saving what would otherwise be wasted energy. I have to wonder why this isn't done more widely in the US. Of course, the hotel also had a doorway to the stairwell that was 1.85 meters tall, and at 6'2" I am 1.88 meters and alas I did hit my head once. Ouch.

Some other observations were lots and lots of Audi's, Mercedes, Volkswagen's, and other interesting cars in Germany (the taxi's are very nice cars!), feeling safe on the autobahn while driving 150 kph (very nice, perhaps that is why the taxi's are high end cars), friendly people, and too much more to try to detail here.

Tuesday Jul 24, 2007

Nice customer service from Avis

I've been doing a fair amount of travel lately and typically use Avis for my car rental and have noticed some nice features they have to provide good customer service.

Something they started doing a little while ago is to e-mail a receipt immediately after the car is returned. This is nice if you happen to lose the receipt they give you when you turn the car in.

Yesterday, I again rented from Avis and for some reason they didn't have my car waiting through Avis Preferred. I had to go into the preferred office and they set me up right away (and gave me a car several classes above what I reserved), but what was a very nice touch was that an immediate e-mail was sent to me apologizing for the delay in service. Nice touch!

Wednesday May 23, 2007

Great travel/flight info site

I will be traveling to Australia soon (APAC Horizons) and was looking to find out if I was going to have power for my laptop on my flight and happened across a great site for frequent fliers.

SeatGuru will show you all sorts of information about the aircraft you will be on even showing you recommendations for good/bad seats. With this info I was able to change my seat from a questionable one (wasn't Economy Plus) to a better one but also told me I'll be without inseat power :(
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