I'm on a plane cruising over the pacific ocean, so it must be time for another instalment of "Julien writes a blog post about a Cory Doctorow book while sitting in (premium) economy on-board a Qantas jet flying to/from the US".
First of all, the Qantas A380.
It's an interesting aircraft, unlike the 747 it lacks that massive sense of power on a fully loaded take-off roll. Overall it's a nice plane, but I still hold a torch for the 747. It is quieter which is nice as I somehow lost my custom earplugs. Premium economy is about the same as in the 747, except it's upstairs which ads to the privacy (despite requesting upgrades to business on both outbound and return I failed to win the upgrade lottery although I did luck out with an empty seat next to me on the way out). The bathrooms seem smaller then on the 747, although given that it's over two years since I've flown on one of those that could just be wishful thinking. The entertainment system seems like a small, but nice, improvement over the 747. One thing that makes me very sad however is that Qantas (or possibly one of the aviation regulators that they're beholden to) felt the need to keep lit "no smoking" signs, which doesn't help people like me sleep with all those extra points of fairly bright light. However for some strange reason the in-seat power doesn't seem to work for my thinkpad (tried multiple chargers both 60w and 90w, one of them [the 90w] nearly brand new, with both Australian an US plugs), fortunately this one still gets over five hours of battery life even though it's coming up on 18 months old with the original battery. (Update: of course when the flight attendant tried it worked fine, go figure), of course then the plane decided we're on a landing trek and turned all the lights on and killed seat power which took a few minutes to resolve.
It's a real shame that Qantas don't offer the SYD-SFO service any more, evidenced solely by the number of people connecting from bay-area flights there's still demand for it, and Qantas did state it was a profitable route, I hope when more A380's come that they'll reintroduce it as a 747 route.
I also feel obligated to give a shout out to the cute PM from Oracle with whom I had a nice chat in LAX while waiting to board (another Aussie working in the valley).
As I've been in the states for a few weeks I've done a bunch of shopping, picking up a few things that are unavailable, or just too expensive in Australia.
The item longest on my list was a Unicomp keyboard, particularly the version with the inbuilt trackpoint (or whatever female body part you prefer to call them). It's so nice to have a solid keyboard again, and I'll certainly enjoy having a good keyboard to work off, Google offers a decent variety of keyboards for their staff, but none were ones I was particularly happy with.
Next comes a slightly odder one, Pelican, well known for making hard cases came out a year or so ago with their "1510 LOC" which is a 1510 case (supposedly the maximum dimensions for a carry-on bag, not that anyone respects that) but with inserts that make it into a small overnight case, with a neoprene laptop sleeve in the lid, it's a very nice combination, and (hopefully) somewhere below me is mine carrying many of my newly acquired gadgets.
In terms of new gadgets I picked up the two newest form of Amazon's Kindle, neither available outside the US, the Touch and the Fire. I've never owned an e-Reader of any sort before so these are new to me. My general view is that the fire, for anyone outside the US is a waste of money (unless you want a 7" tablet for custom apps, which was my plan). The touch on the other hand is a much nicer device, only let down by its lack of physical page-turn buttons, and well worth the US$100 price. (For more of my view on the fire see the Delimiter review and my comments on it)
I picked up a FitBit Ultra for a friend and decided to try one myself, not a bad little unit, but once I've got my typical daily stats I suspect the novelty will wear off and I'll not bother with them, the sleep tracking I gave up on after less than half a night due to the uncomfortable wrist band.
The rest of my purchases were fairly minimal, a couple of random bits from a Frys trip and other odd pieces from the Amazon order.
As mentioned I was in the states for a few weeks, only a few days short of a whole month. My trip started with a big off-site for all of NetOps (and associated groups) down in San Diego, of which many of us from Sydney missed much of due to the need to cover our Sydney shifts combined with an unexpected critical update we had to roll out across many of our devices. I will say that even the basement of a five star hotel is a nice place, and ordering many hundreds of dollars of room service on the company is oddly fun.
Given the number of (staff) visitors Google has in Mountain View they've bought up a bunch of corporate apartments which was my home for this trip, combined with the Google shuttle bus' for commuting, and that I ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the office nearly every day (notable exceptions were the days around Thanksgiving when much of the campus shut down) during the week this allowed me to have eyes only for the company. But even with this I don't think I'd actually move there, this trip reinforced for me that outside a few major cities it's close to impossible to live in the states without having a car, and an inability to get to all sorts of places would get to me very quickly. It is annoying however that the en-suite bathroom in my corporate apartment was at least twice the size of the bathroom in my apartment in Sydney.
All this has been a nice distraction from actually writing about Cory's book "With a little help". This is a short story compilation so it's hard to actually give a good review of the content given its varied nature. The story on what Google could be like if we/they actually tried to be evil was scary, not least because I started thinking about the interesting technical challenges that would be involved, only to see Cory's note at the end suggesting that interest in the challenges as one plausible way that Google might head down that slope. One thing that I can comment on however was the physical aspect, I bought the hardbound version and am actually somewhat disappointed with it as a *book*, it's beautiful, but not quite as good as a typical machine binding, also the paper is a little too thick to be a nice read, but does give it some gravitas as a trinket.