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My travels with a computer 6 April 2001
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You'll notice that I didn't say laptop.  That's because I don't own a laptop.  But I wish I did.  If you get one message from this article, it will be the advantages of a laptop over a tower case.

This trip was planned at very short notice.  I decided on Wednesday that I was flying on Monday.  Usually I have at least a couple of weeks to plan any overseas trip.  Despite my shortened preparation time, I was good and had most things packed by Friday.  The plan was to leave the computer alone and pack it up on Sunday night.  This is the first trip in which I've taken a computer with me.  Previous trips home to Ottawa meant I spent a great deal of time at a local Internet cafe downtown on Bank Street.  But this trip I decided I was going to take my computer with me.  Initially I was going to take only the components (motherboard, disks, etc) and buy a case upon arrival.  I discarded that idea when I remembered how long it took me to assemble the Xeon.   Instead, I stopped off at my local computer shop (Quay Computers) and obtained some styrofoam packing and two boxes.  I needed two boxes because my tower case wouldn't fit any of the boxes they had.  But I could use the second box as a [very tall] lid for the first box.  And then just duct tape the package together.

How to pack a computer
I'm very good at packing.  I can put stuff into a suitcase like nobody else.  My clothes come out unwrinkled.  I can find everything when I need it.  And there's more stuff packed into that suitcase than viruses built for MS software.  So I had no problems with packing up the computer safely.  There was lots of spare space in the box so I filled that up with clothes, books, etc.  Then I weighed the box.  It was 40 kgs.  Hmmm, that was just a little over the 32kg max I was allowed.  So I took out the books, the power supply, CDROM, the DAT drive, and the floppy disk.  That got the box down to just on 32kg.  Good.  So I duct taped the box up.  Very securely.  I taped all the corners.  I didn't want that box opening up while in transit.

Then I weighed my suitcase.  It was well over 60 kg.  Hmmm, that sounds odd.  Then I weighed myself.  Oh oh.  I was reading the pounds.  Not the kilograms.  DOH!

That meant the computer was much lighter than it had to be.  OK.  I opened up the box and put back the power supply, the CDROM, the DAT drive, and the floppy disk.   I piled in some clothes, some books, and some more clothes.  The computer was still under the 32kgs but there was no more room in the box.  I taped it back up and set it aside for the morning trip to the airport.

It was about this point that I started thinking that a laptop is a good idea.

On a wing and a prayer
On this trip I was flying with Air Canada and I was hoping to use some of my accumulated air miles to upgrade to business class.  When flying long trips, the upgrade can make a difference.   Unfortunately, Air Canada doesn't allow you to upgrade like that.  You can use air miles to buy tickets only, not to upgrade.  Bummer.

Air New Zealand does allow you to upgrade using air miles.  Unfortunately, my airline of choice has always been Canadian Airlines, which was bought by Air Canada.  And you can't transfer air miles between airlines.   So I have 97,281 points which I couldn't use to upgrade this trip.  But luckily, I did have some points from a similar reward scheme which I could transfer to an Air New Zealand plan.  I now have 42,667 points with Air New Zealand, which I hope to use on my next trip.  Because of the Air Canada policy, I'm going to quickly redeem all my points with them and then ditch them.

The flight from Wellington to Auckland is about an hour (roughly the same as Toronto - Ottawa) and was about as good as you can expect for such a short hop.  The Auckland - Honolulu flight had me sitting in an exit row with an empty seat next to me.  This was good.  I had lots of leg room and managed to get a short nap or two.  This flight was about 8 hours.  At Honolulu, I asked about getting another exit row seat.   I got the last one.  Lucky me!  Unfortunately, the plane was 90 minutes late in landing.  So of course it would be 90 minutes late leaving.  When I got to my seat, it was indeed an exit row.  But just being a bulk head.  I had no room to stretch out.  When sitting in a normal position, my feet could go forward about an inch before they hit the wall in front.  I did not sleep very well.  I was uncomfortable the whole trip.  I guess that made up for the first flight.  I slept as much as I could, but the 8hr 30 min flight was quite boring.  Eric, who had been hanging around the airport waiting for me, gave me a lift to my parent's place (who, by the way are still in Portugal).  We unpacked the computer and set it up.  It ran, no problems there.

Choosing an ISP
I was good.  I did some research.  I checked into what ISP I would use when I arrived in Ottawa.  This in-depth and comprehensive research consisted of asking on the IRC channel #Ottawa.  They recommended Look Communications.  I decided that their $23 a month unlimited dial-up was just what I wanted.  I signed up with them over the phone.   They also provided technical support for setting up my computer.  It turned out all I needed was their DNS servers and the phone number, but it's good to have that technical support there.  The bonus was that Look is having a special promotion.   $9.95 a month for the first two months...!  How could I go wrong with them?

So far, Look have been impressive.  No busy signals.  No disconnects.  And good response times.  I can access my boxes at home with very little lag.  In fact, the ping times back to New Zealand were about 410ms.  I can live with that.

I have always liked the minimalist approach of the Google homepage.  My appreciation has increased since becoming a dial up user.

Don't forget what you first knew
I've said this for years.  As you learn, you forget.  After you've been driving a car for a few years, you forget how much concentration it first required.  You forget how much balance you have acquired since you first started riding a bike.  You forget that you were once a toddler before you walked.  And as you learn more about FreeBSD, you forget what it was like when you first started using FreeBSD.

Yeah, OK.   To the point.  I'm now a modem user.  Eric has loaned me his 33.6 Sportster.  I'm using a dial up line.  My DSL is still there.   But it's in New Zealand.  Web pages  which normally take 2-3s to load now take 25 agonizing seconds.  I'd forgotten what it was like.  Some web designers are assuming we're all on high speed connections.

The world is flat
I lived in Ottawa for about 10 years.  I never noticed it was flat.   It was just something I was used to.  I'd been in Wellington for about 5 years before I visited Melbourne.  It was there that I realized Melbourne was flat.   And that Ottawa was also flat.  And that Wellington wasn't really flat at all.   And I've missed the hills of Wellington.  Already.

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