Thursday, January 31, 2008
It's an amazing telephone alternative that uses the net to allow you to make phone calls. To any phone. And while you can enhance the experience with a variety of handsets and headsets and video cameras, you really don't need anything except your computer. This morning I called Lucy from my laptop on a wi-fi connection at Coffea Island. That's just cool. Did I mention that the connection includes live video? (assuming your laptop is connected to a webcam or such)
Plus it's free and/or unbelievably cheap (less than 3¢ a minute to call any phone in (practically) the world. Go sign up and install the Skype software so that I can have more Skype friends. It's free to talk skype-to-skype, and that includes a video feed, if you're into that kind of thing. Even if you don't have a video feed from your computer, you can see somebody else who does. That would be me.
OH. One more thing — Skype is just one implementation of Voice-Over Internet Protocol (VoIP for short), which is going to change The Telephone forever and for everybody. Why not get on board early? It's already happening. Some claim there are currently at least 1500 companies vying for a foothold in the nascent VoIP business. You've probably at least heard of Vonage, the biggest kid on the block currently. That could change; ebay bought Skype for large dollars and that was way back in late 2005.
I'm mickjeffries on Skype, should you choose to play.
Skype official website
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Friday, January 25, 2008
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
One of my favorite things about Amtrak is a certain goodnatured haphazardness that seems to run collectively throughout the organization. One of the best examples of this was shortlying into our voyage. It's what I like to call the Free Sandwich Debacle.
The explanation: Over the PA, in a typically longwinded address, we were told that due to the breakage of "certain equipment" in the snack car (read: refrigerator) that "arrived in Portland that way" (read: not our fault), everybody on board was going to get a free sandwich, with chips and a cookie. In a box. With a coupon.
The fallout: In order to get our coupon, we were all instructed to return to our seats. No mention was made of any individuals who might for some unknown reason not want a free sandwich. After receiving our coupon we were encouraged to proceed fairly immediately back to the snack car (4 cars away in many cases), to get our sandwich. This led to a herd of people moving all in the same direction on the train, without consideration of the fact that these very people, in a very few minutes would need to move in exactly the opposite direction.
Now, the aisle on the train is somewhat larger than that on a plane, but still, folks, we're talkin' one lane. I got my sandwich and watched the well-intentioned hilarity unfold.
The Cardinal dumped me out here only an hour and a half late at 7:30am and I've found a nice little diner a block from the station with super wifi and bottomless coffee.
I'll post some video here in a bit..
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Welcome to my weird mobile officing experiment.
I'm currently on Amtrak's Empire Builder, next to one of only two serviceable AC outlets (okay, there are two others located impossibly behind the arms of seats) on the car.
I've got my brother's Sierra Wireless Broadband Modem card, some snacks and variety of wires, a flip video camera and a yen for long trips. Really long trips. Like 50 hours long. I'm in coach, which is fine. Amtrak ain't the airlines. I've got major leg and elbow room (elbow room diminished greatly if somebody decides to sit next to me, please lord no), no "fasten your seatbelts" sign, relative quietude (except for several people with repeatedly ringing cell phones -- "vibrate" people!), and a barcar and lounge car, too!
It's dusk now... we're truckin' right along. I love the train.
I've done a bit of wandering and real quickly made some friends in the observation car, and as we discussed predicting the exact moment that the bar car might open, there was an announcement that went kind of like this:
"Attention— due to the malfunction of certain equipment that is in our snack car — it came to us this way from Seattle — we will be giving each passenger a free sandwich. We will come through the cars and you will each get coupons for a free sandwich and some chips and maybe an apple or possibly a cookie. After the free sandwiches have been distributed, then we will open the lounge car for beverages. Now, everyone please return to your seats so you can receive your free sandwich coupon."It's hard not to love Amtrak, if not simply for their congenial weirdness.
North Dakota. It's at least 10 below zero here, but not where I sit in the observation lounge.. Internet access through Montana and ND has been super sparse and I haven't bothered to try much, but here in Minot — magical wi-fi appeared to me! So had to take the opportunity.. Video to come..
Sunday, January 20, 2008
My experiment in mobile officing has begun and here's video to prove it, currently I'm headed east, away from Portland on the Amtrak Empire Builder. I bribed a couple of employees with chocolate (very nice chocolate) to get first dibs at a seat with an electrical outlet. (very rare in coach. But I've got it, and my bro's broadband wireless card is working an away we go!
I came to Portland with a strange and kismet-like destiny and that was to discover that: 1. There is a vibrant community of stereo photography fans here; 2. I happened to have brought, coincidentally, my grandfather's stereo camera; 3. I found and purchased — by sheer coincidence — a stereo photography projector. Here's a video of that. There are also two other parts, which you can find by clicking on the video and going to my youtube site.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Had a BIG time today on my first visit to the Pacific Northwest. Portland is basically wonderful. Under the direction of the Eames clan, Lucy and I checked out the Japanese Garden and then made a monumental visit to the 3-D Photography Museum where we were treated to a special viewing of some of the curator's favorite features. Plenty of public transpo, too. Later, after a fab dinner, we hit the Doug Fir Lounge for an unexpected performance by what I'm calling the Balkan Iron Maiden, Kultur Shock. Fantastic! Video soon to come, since I was in front of the mosh melée with nearly $2K of photo equipment in hand. I must admit: It feels good to defend that kind of investment, and yet still throw the goat.
Also, earlier in the day, I made a visit to Union Station and straightened out my ticket with the extra-friendly Amtrak folk. On Sunday at 4:30pm, you see, I embark upon my 50-hour trip on the train from Portland all the way to Ashland KY. With Internet, in theory. Much more to come!
BTW: with so many links, how could Portland not be great? Portland is great.