Famille Du Pentium

Another Day, Another Llama Video

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sigfried & Roy

posted by Michael Humphries-Dolnick at 3:05 pm  

Friday, April 14, 2006

Travel Review – Super Shuttle New York

In March / April 2006 I took my family of five (two adults including myself, three kids aged 2, 3, and 8 years old) to New York City for a family vacation.  Because we were staying downtown and sightseeing in that area, I did not need a rental car and didn’t want to pay $21 a day parking plus car rental just to get to and from the airport.  Also, I was concerned that we would not all fit into a standard NYC Taxi, especially since we have two kids in carseats. 

I went online and booked my trip, prepaid, from the Super Shuttle website.   The sign-up was fairly easy, although a bit confusing because they want you to book your trip to the airport first and your trip from the airport second.  

On March 31 at about 11:00 AM, Upon arriving at LaGuardia and making my way downstairs, I found complete chaos.  The hotel shuttle desk was staffed, but with people who were clearly not in control of the situation.   My prepaid instructions told me to go directly to the phone and press the button for Super SHuttle, so I did.  It dialed me through, and a surly person asked for my confirmation number and promptly put me on hold for ten minutes.  Given the chaos that was ensuing at the counter, I held.  Finally I got through to someone who took my information and told me that a shuttle was on the way, and the driver would know my name.  No estimated arrival, no van number, they just gave me that and hung up.  So I took in some of the activities at the desk.  The lady behind the desk was handing out tickets to people who were already waiting, so I asked if I needed a ticket and showed her my pre-paid email confirmation.  She simply walked away as if I spoke another language.  After firmly reasserting myself, she acknowleged my existance and told me to go pick up the phone.  When I told her I had already done that, and was just curious if I needed to exchange my voucher for a ticket, she told me to go pick up the phone.  Mind you, she was wearing a Super Shuttle badge.  Meanwhile, passengers who had been waiting for hours were complaining to both people behind the desk, and drivers were coming in, calling out people’s names, asking where they were going, and replying "I don’t have enough room for you."  So I was getting a bit worried.  Finally one lady behind the desk advised me to call their dispatch center (the other end of those mystic phones) back, and ask them to look up my van number and ETA.  I did, and was told 10 minutes and a van number.  I watched the chaos continue.

 In about 10 or so minutes, my van actually arrived.  I had a pile of luggage (three kids) plus a stroller and two car seats; he grabbed the car seats first and I figured he was going to put them in the van seats.  When I arrived outside with our luggage, I found that he had packed the car seats into the back of the van.  Upon entering the van, I learned why – even though I had made reservations for five and had confirmed five when I called their dispatch, there was only one bench seat open, that would normally hold three.  No room anywhere for car seats, and given the chaos in the terminal, I wasn’t about to take my chances and wait for another one.  We held our kids tightly and hoped for the best.

 Luckily no accidents occured but I was miffed to learn that I had been routed on a shuttle that had to drop off three passengers at upper Manhattan hotels.  My hotel was the Marriott Financial District, nearly as far downtown as you could go.  We ended up taking a little over an hour to get from La Guardia to downtown.

On the return trip, the van was wide open and plenty of room for car seats.  The driver was much more courteous, and he seemed to be training a new driver.  The driver arrived on time, loaded my bags, helped me secure the car seats, and helped us up into the van.  Upon arrival at La Guardia he unloaded our bags to the curb and helped me unload the kids and car seats.  

The service at Super Shuttle seems hit-or-miss.  I probably won’t use them again, because when I’m travelling with my family I can’t afford to take risks like holding my kids because the van can’t accomodate a car seat.  Also I don’t think I want to take a chance of waiting hours for a shuttle in the future – I’m sure I lucked out this time but next time I could be that poor schmo who waited nearly two hours for his shuttle.   

posted by Michael Humphries-Dolnick at 6:58 pm  

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

The $100 PC, MIT, and Bill Gates

This might turn out to be a "Rant and Rave", or maybe a political entry.  But for now, I’ll leave it "Technical".

MIT Professor Nicholas Negroponte has made a rather public announcement recently that he intends to have MIT develop a "$100 Laptop" that MIT will then leverage to get technology into the hands of developing countries.  This is both a technically ambitious and charitable effort – the ability to produce a $100 PC in quantity has long been a holy grail of cutting edge PC manufacturers and upping the ante to make it a laptop makes it even more interesting.  This will require a great deal of new technology development, hence the need for MIT to do it, because the components today just simply aren’t cheap enough in quantity to maintain production at a zero or miniscule profit.  So the boys at MIT have their work cut out for them.  I’m rooting for them.

 Apparently Bill Gates is not.  He is mocking them.  Apprently sensing a threat to his new "Tablet PC", which has nothing to do with putting technology in the hands of developing nations, Bill Gates has come out saying:

“The last thing you want to do for a shared use computer is have it be something without a disk … and with a tiny little screen,”

He went on to mock the crack that provides power when a battery is not present, and other features of the PC.  I guess those Ugandan children really ought to learn to plug their laptops in – to what, I don’t know.  Maybe Bill envisions electric goats or something in Africa.

Clarly Bill Gates is put off by anyone who challenges him both at technology and charity.  The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is certainly very generous… with some causes.  But it hasn’t promised to put technology into the hands of the masses like MIT has.   Also, Bill completely misses the point of the project… to provide A PC to every child in the developing world, not a SHARED PC.   I think Bill engaged his mouth before checking the brain gear position this time.  

First of all Bill, unlike your world, it’s not about $100.  Ugandan children can no more afford a $100 dollar PC than a $3000 PC.  That’s not the point.  The only people paying a dime for these PCs will be developers, who will likelly run, not walk to get the opportunity to develop software for the billions of emerging markets.  Oh and probably some NGOs, and even government organizations.  But certainly not some South African tribal pre-teen.  And Bill’s higher spec tablet PC will be as interesting to them as … well, you get the point. 

The point is, that MIT is working to make a notebook so cheap that a real difference can be made by organizations that do have the money to buy them.  That’s a far cry better than Gates is doing right now.

Some news links after the jump. 


posted by Michael Humphries-Dolnick at 8:08 pm  

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