Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Rough itinerary

So I've just checked the travel plans, and here's a rough itinerary of the trip:

(All times are based on the time zone of the location described.)

Wednesday, March 4th, 6:50 p.m.: Departure

Washington D.C., U.S.A. (Dulles)->London, U.K. (Heathrow)->Frankfurt, Germany->Doha, Qatar->Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Friday, March 6th, 6:40 p.m.: Arrival in Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City->Hue

March 6th-April 8th: Spend time in Hue

April 8th-April 13th: Travel around Vietnam/Cambodia.

April 14th, 8:30 p.m.: Depart Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City->Doha->Frankfurt

Wednesday, April 15th, 6:50 a.m.: Arrival in Frankfurt

April 15th-May 4th: Travel around Europe with parents and brother. Norway, Amsterdam, random other places.

May 4th-May 24th: Travel around Europe with just brother.

May 25th, 2:10 p.m.: Depart from Frankfurt.
Frankfurt->London->Washington, D.C.

Monday, May 25th, 8:05 p.m.: Arrive at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C.

Time differences:
EST switches over to EDT two days after I arrive in Hue, so I'm going to base these time differences on EDT to simplify things.
Frankfurt/Most of Europe that I'll be in: EDT + 5 hours
Vietnam: EDT + 11 hours

7 days until I leave, 89 days until I get back.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Why I'm writing this on a Mac

I used to absolutely hate Macs. Back in elementary school and middle school they were the bane of my existence. This was right around the time of the emergence of the original iMac, the rounded, fruit-flavored blobs. I just hated to use them. I preferred Windows, because of its better (at least in my opinion) interface, the fact that it granted more control to the user, and also the fact that it's simply what I grew up using.
In high school I wasn't really exposed to Macs all that much. In junior and senior years a few friends had MacBooks, and they looked like they worked pretty well. The user interface was much better, given that now Apple had released OSX, and they were fast and reliable. I still used my trusty Dell, but I wasn't as die-hard anti-Mac as I once was, especially given that iPods are, well, awesome.

In freshman year of college I got a MacBook Pro to replace my dying Dell. It worked well, but around Christmas (I had gotten it in September) the keyboard and touchpad inexplicably stopped working. Luckily it was under warranty from my school, so I had them replace the keyboard and touchpad for free, but it was still annoying.
Even more annoying was when the exact same thing happened again near the end of the semester. They replaced the parts again. And then near the end of the summer. Again, replace the parts. Once more, during October, it broke. I took it in to get fixed. They replaced the keyboard and touchpad. Twenty-six hours later, it broke again. It wasn't a complete break this time, though, my dad did find one way to make it work: keep the body under about 40 degrees.
After just using it with externals for a few months, in January I got in touch with the folks at Apple in California and sent it off to them. They replaced the keyboard/touchpad, part of the case, and they fixed the logic board, and sent it back with an apology about all the breaks.

Thirteen days later, it broke again. I got in touch with them and sent it in again, this time for replacement.

Yesterday, in the mail I got the computer on which I'm writing this. I sent them a 160gb MacBook Pro from the fall of 2007, one of the older-generation models, running Tiger. They sent me back a 250 gb new-model MacBook Pro running Leopard.
This isn't my only experience with Apple's repair/replacement services, either. Last winter my 80gb 4-generation iPod died. I may have been treating it a bit roughly, but not much, and it was still within the one-year warranty. I took it to an Apple store. A service rep looked at it, held it up to his ear, heard the hard drive was off-balance, checked the serial number to make sure it was still under warranty, and handed me a new one identical to my old one, except it worked perfectly.

I've never had to deal with customer service or repairs at Dell, as I've been able to fix everything with that computer on my own, but I would be very surprised if it's as helpful as Apple. Apple is trying to gain ground in the computer market, and the way it's doing that is by having happy customers. If there's a problem with one of their products, they fix it. The next OS edition they're releasing isn't a new-improved GUI like Vista was. Snow Leopard will be identical, appearance-wise, to Leopard. All the improvements will be in the code itself, making it simply work better.
It's things like this that make Apple a company to rely on. My two current computers are this Mac and an Acer InspireOne running XP, due to the lack of a low-cost Mac netbook. The MacBook Air, while awesome, was just not made for a good market. Will people buy it? Yes. Are there some people for whom it's the best option? Probably. Would Apple have been better off making a portable computer that doesn't cost more than my car? In my mind, definitely. If Apple made a small (10" or so) netbook for under a grand, I would get one. Until then, though, Windows will survive.
(Note: I will, just because of my nature, probably always maintain a non-Mac computer. Right now, overall, I have one Mac and 3 Windows machines, but I'm working on switching the two older Windows boxes over to Linux.)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Vietnam and Europe

So, in nine days, on March 4th, I'm leaving for Vietnam. I'll be there for about a month or five weeks, and then I'll be in Europe for about a month and a half. I won't be back until May 25th.

I've traveled abroad a few times before, so I'm not too worried, but Vietnam will certainly be a bit of a culture shock. I've been to Egypt, which will probably be the closest, culture-wise. Europe and Canada, while different than the US, are close enough that I feel just as comfortable there as I do in any city apart from Charlottesville or DC.
After Vietnam I'll be taking a short trip into Cambodia. I am, admittedly, a little worried about this. I suppose some of it is because of Cambodia's somewhat shady reputation and past. I know nothing bad will happen, but still, I get nervous easily.
After Cambodia and perhaps a little more Vietnam, off to Europe. We'll be going to the Netherlands and Norway, primarily. I was born in the Netherlands, so it's exciting to be heading back to see it. I don't remember a thing, as we came back to the States when I was just a few months old. Norway will also be a blast. I've always been a fan of Norwegian history and Norse mythology, and the country is beautiful.
After that, I'll be on my own (well, with my older brother, but he's more like a younger brother, and I'll be needing to take care of him, probably. He's never traveled much, and when he has it's always been with our parents. He's nearly finished with grad school and still living at home, and is rather far away from ever being a functional adult). I'm a little nervous, as it'll be my first time traveling any serious amount where I'm the one in the position of authority (as opposed to a parent or a teacher being in charge). It should be fun, though. I still haven't decided all where I want to go. Germany, France, Spain, probably Italy and Greece, if I can manage. I've been to those two before and they were awesome, Greece especially. I have a friend studying abroad in France it'd be fun to stop by and see. If it isn't too expensive I might take a hop over to Britain, but that requires train tickets separate from my Eurail pass, so we'll see about that.
And then I'll be flying back from Germany at the end of May (I get back on the 25th, but I can't remember what day I actually leave from Europe).

It will all be a blast, I'm sure. I know it'll be an eye-opening experience I'll never forget, and all that usual jazz about stuff like this. I just also know that it'll be rough at times. I will miss my friends here dearly. The first week will be very tough, as will the last week when I can't wait to get back. And I expect the ones in the middle will go by in an excited blur.

Also, a note: This blog will be listed with dates and times corresponding the the east coast of the USA. If it says I published something at some crazy hour, say, 4AM or something like that, keep in mind that Vietnam is 11 hours ahead of EDT, and that Europe is on average 5 hours ahead.

9 days until I leave, 91 until I get back.