Even in the Quietest Moments...

Having been in iBook country for the last three weeks on the road, I decided to just keep on Mac’ing when I got home. So I shut off my PC and moved it to one side of the desk, plugged the ergo-keyboard into the iBook, and I’ve been using it as my primary work machine all week long.

The most noticeable benefit of this move? It’s quiet in here! My PC is not a particularly noisy one, but it has a fan and a hard disk and together they sound not unlike a colony of bees. While not particularly annoying or noticeable in the foreground, I’ve come to realize that the cumulative effect of living in the PC noise-o-sphere for hours at a time is brain-numbing.

My iBook has no fan, and it has a very quiet hard disk, and so essentially, but for the sound of typing, my office is quiet. It is a wonderful silence, and my productivity has increased and my anxiety decreased considerably.

Ob-tangent: I believe I actually uttered the phrase “we are so there!” when Dave told me that Supertramp was planning an eastern Canadian tour. Dave and I, by coincidence, share a love of Supertramp from our youth. The only concert I’ve ever been to that could properly be called a Concert was at Exhibition Stadium for the Famous Last Words tour. It was awesome (!).

Alas, Supertramp was not in the cards for me this time, as Johnny and Jodi had the gall to get married the weekend the band swung through. Oh well. It was a wonderful wedding, and I’m sure they’ll have another farewell tour. Supertramp, I mean.

iCal and City Cinema

It’s been almost a week since Apple released their new iCal calendaring program, and we’ve had a good chance to take it for a test drive here at the World HQ.

As many have noted, iCal is not a program without rough edges: it’s slower than I would like, and not quite as polished as Apple’s other “iApps” like iTunes and iPhoto.

That said, it is a work of calendaring beauty and power compared to Microsoft Outlook and the Palm Desktop, which is what I’ve been using to manage my datebook for the past five or six years.

The iCal interface is clean and elegant, and it’s dead simple to use right out of the box. But perhaps the nicest feature of iCal is that it’s a very web-literate application: you can publish your calendar to the web (either to Apple’s dotmac service if you have a dotmac account, or to your own WebDav server if you want to handle things yourself), and you can subscribe to other’s calendars that have been so-published.

Here at the World HQ, for example, Catherine and I are each using iCal, and I can see Catherine’s calendar and she mine, so we can easily manage conflicts, wee-Oliver care, etc. It’s nifty.

In this spirit of niftiness, I’ve added a new feature to the City Cinema website: you can now subscribe to the City Cinema schedule. If you click on that link and you’re iCalified, you’ll be prompted by iCal for your subscription details (how often you want to refresh, etc.) and then you’ll see a blorp on your iCal for every film on the cinema schedule.

If you’re not using iCal, but have some other system that understands vCalendar files, you may have some success too.

Let me know any comments or suggestions you might have.

xwave + icon data = when?

It says here that xwave, an arm of Aliant, announced their “recent acquisition of Icon Data Systems.” When I upgraded the DSL service into our office here last year and needed to buy an ethernet bridge, my Island Tel sales rep arranged to have it delivered from Icon Data Systems which, he told me, Island Tel had recently acquired. As such, their xwave announcement would appear to be a stretching of the word “recent.”

I-95 Hotels

Some notes on hotels we’ve hit on this trip along the I-95 down through New England.

Country Inn and Suites in Saint John (okay, not technically on the I-95) is a very nice place with very large two-room suites for less than $100. Nicest place we’ve stayed in Saint John so far.

Howard Johnson’s in South Portland, ME is tired and dated. We ended up in a smoking room, which was overpowering. Avoid if possible.

The Swissotel in downtown Boston is a very, very nice hotel. It’s got huge and well-appointed rooms, it’s very centrally located, and you can often find rates as low as $139 (good for Boston) on their website or on Travelocity. Killer is the parking (true of all downtown hotels in Boston): $28 for 24 hours.

AmeriSuites in South Portland, ME is a good deal at $84 for a large suite with breakfast. Nice little indoor pool. Crappy and expensive business center (dial-up Internet on an underpowered PC for 25 cents a minute). Very convenient to the Maine Mall.

Holiday Inn in Bangor, ME (the Civic Center one downtown, not the one out by the airport) looks tired and dated from the outside, but is quite pleasant inside. Local calls are free (a first for this trip), but you pay for breakfast (though not too much).

Pete’s secret hotel tip: I’ve booked all of our hotels on this trip using CAA/AAA rates and have saved about $100US doing so. If you think you’re going to stay in more than 4 or 5 hotels in a year, a CAA membership will pay for itself. That said, I’ve never been asked to see my CAA membership card.

Pete’s second secret hotel tip: the websites of most hotel chains have a “best rates” or “lowest rates” selection when you’re searching for rooms. If you select this option, you’ll almost always exclude rates that require membership (AARP, CAA/AAA, etc.) or other special qualification that you may, indeed, qualify for. What’s more, on the Holiday Inn website, you can often find special web-only weekend rates using the special web-only rates link; these rates often don’t appear in a general room search.

Pete’s third secret hotel tip: in our experience, if you have women in your party you’ll often get better service and a better room if you send one of them in to check in to a hotel. Both my mother and Catherine have benefitted from this: my Mom scored us a palatial suite at the Moncton Holiday Inn for $112 a couple of years ago and Catherine got us a large corner room at the Swissotel in Boston. This never happens for me.