My travels with a computer

My travels with a computer

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
) 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
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?

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

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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