Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Done Voting? Good. Pay More for Gas.


Guess all those conspiracy theorists that were saying gas prices were down just for the elections were true. They're already going up.

Where's my hydrogen-hybrid RX-8?

Tap, tap, tap...

Yes, I voted today. Yes, we had electronic voting machines. Yes, they were Diebold. Yes, they had voter verified paper trails. Yes, I used it.

Seemed to work pretty well. I didn't have any problems with the machine not registering my vote correctly, so I guess my machine was properly calibrated. I also went after work, so if there had been any issues hopefully they got worked out. They also had paper ballots for those who needed to cast a provisional ballot and I suspect if I asked I could have gone that route. Which I would have if they didn't have the paper trail.

The only potential problem I saw was that the paper trail was pretty narrow, so some of the issue titles were cut off. In particular I think all the judge confirmations looked the same.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Decisions, Decisions

Well, I was planning to vote to reelect Susan Davis, since she did vote against the Military Commissions Act (you know, the one that lets the President define what torture is), but then she went and supported a bill to prohibit joint-use at Miramar. I'm also not fond of the idea of the Republicans keeping control of the House.

I wonder what Davis' proposal is for an alternative solution to the airport. Does she really want to build an airport in Imperial County? Does she really want to dislocate many people in order to build a second runway at Lindbergh? Or does she prefer to keep the airport as is and watch Lindbergh get busier and busier, and hope that the problem just solves itself.

Which is wishful thinking, because it won't. We can't just demand airlines bring in larger planes, unless we want to alienate San Diego's largest airline, Southwest, which doesn't have anything bigger than it's current 737s. We can't rely on Orange County and LAX to relieve us, as they have their own capacity problems to deal with, and Ontario is no better alternative for us than it is for LAX.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Inter-Island Airfares

One cannot deny that the arrival of go! in Hawaii's inter-island market has lowered airfares. What there seems to be a lot of misconceptions about is just how high fares were before Go arrived.

Our tale starts in the good old days. The standard method of purchasing inter-island travel was the coupon. These were pre-paid vouchers that were sold primarily through travel agents. You bought the coupon, and then booked your reservation. Or not. If there was an open seat, you could just show up at the airport, hand the agent a coupon, and get on the plane. You could also book your reservation by calling the airline, then buy the coupon. It didn't matter. Hawaiian had them. Aloha had them. Island Air had them (but they were more expensive). Mahalo had them. Air Molokai had them. Coupon prices fluctuated; when there was more competition (such as Mahalo being in business), prices were down. Then they'd slowly go up. Different agencies sold them at different prices (Bankoh ATMs were usually a bit more expensive, but you couldn't beat the convenience of buying one at the Bankoh ATM in the Honolulu airport on your way from your flight from the mainland to your inter-island flight. I did that once.)

As you can imagine, yield-management, the practice of controlling price and inventory so as flights get fuller, prices go up, was basically impossible.

So what happened?

The same thing that wrecked everything else in the airline industry. 9/11.

Coupons went away. In its place came yield-managed e-tickets. Actually, they had yield-managed fares for inter-island flights before, the difference was that people who knew about them went the coupon route.

For the most part, the fares were a bit higher than what coupons left off at. But not always. But what really matters here is how it forced a changed in the way island residents had to travel. Instead of being able to get on the flight for a relatively fixed price, last minute travelers would generally end up paying more, because the more popular flights would have long sold out their lower fares. To get the lower fares, it became necessary to plan ahead and/or settle for a less desirable flight time. Which is how it works everywhere else in the country. Even on Southwest. People paying $200 or more to fly on a round trip inter-island ticket didn't plan ahead or insisted on taking a more popular flight time.

All the arrival of Go did was cause the bottom end of the fare range to fall back into places it hasn't been... well, since Mahalo was around. Go still has a range of fares, though to be fair their fares top out lower than Hawaiian's or Aloha's. If you pick the more popular flight or don't plan ahead, you'll have to pay more.

If you want the $39 flight, you'll have to plan ahead and be flexible. It doesn't matter whether you're doing Las Vegas to Phoenix with Southwest or US Airways, or Honolulu to Kahului with Hawaiian or Go.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Star Trek HD!

The rumors have been floating around this week, but you know it's confirmed when it's on StarTrek.com. In mid month, the original Star Trek will return to TV with new digital special effects. I've had thoughts now and then that this might be a neat thing to do, so I'm excited about it. It's going into syndication so I'll have to track down which local station will be airing it.

The TV Guide article has a photo of the new Enterprise.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Intel-Native Office: The Sooner, the Better

Oh, and while I was at Best Buy I also stopped to briefly try out a MacBook. I was particularly interested in checking out the new keyboard, so when I walked up to it (a black one, for the record), I clicked on the first word processing application I saw in the dock: Word. Wow, it was slow to launch. I didn't time it, but I just tried it on my 2001-vintage, 500MHz G3 iBook and it brought up Word a lot quicker. I didn't try doing anything but opening a new document and typing a little, but just the launch time alone would have me wishing daily for an Intel-native version of Office.

And for the record, the MacBook's new keyboard didn't bother me, nor did the shiny screen.

Vista, First Impressions

Best Buy has a Seagate 120GB hard drive on sale for $50 -- with no rebate nonsense -- so I decided I'd pick one up to throw Vista on. Read on for some of my first impressions.

The installer was a bit lame. I booted off the DVD I'd burned and it installed ok. But when it came to reboot, it booted off the DVD again and wanted to start the install again. I'm not sure if that's just because of my particular PC's BIOS settings, but from when I've done XP installs, I seem to recall it managing to reboot to the hard drive without issues. They could at least add a message saying to remove the DVD before rebooting, since it isn't needed after reboot anyway.

My video card is weak (64MB GeForce4 MX 440) so I can only use the Vista Basic theme. So no Aero for me. Do get at least some of the new effects though. The pulsing blue default button reminds me a lot of Mac OS X. But I do think the new progress bar effect is pretty neat. In programs that support it correctly, anyway. Firefox doesn't. Window borders for non-maximized windows are too big and take up too much space.

The sideways folder icon is silly.

Since I have separate Vista and XP installations, it would be nice if Vista could still recognize and use the apps I have installed in my XP partition, so I don't have to reinstall stuff to use under Vista.

IE7 has tabs. Nice. Firefox was still the first program I downloaded and installed.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Windows Vista Is Too Big

I downloaded Windows Vista Beta 2 to install on the spare 6GB hard drive in my PC in order to check it out. It won't fit. I guess Vista will have to wait until I get around to buying a bigger spare hard drive, assuming it ever gets on the PC at all (it's already iffy with my low-end 64MB GeForce4 MX 440 graphics card).

I didn't figure that part out until I'd already wiped out the Ubuntu install on that disk. But that's not a big loss, since I still have Gentoo as my main Linux install on the machine, and the Ubuntu install had completed its purpose of my testing a Linux distribution to recommend besides Gentoo. I approve of Ubuntu, and the network manager in Dapper Drake looks like the next best thing to Mac OS X I've seen yet.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Why Boot Camp Doesn't Mean the End of Mac OS X

There's been a lot of discussion going on ever since Apple released Boot Camp, a program that sets up Intel-powered Macs to dual boot Mac OS X and Windows XP. A lot of that discussion has speculated as to what it means for the future of Mac OS X. Some people think it means that software developers will stop supporting the Mac. After all, why bother with a Mac OS X version when people can just reboot to Windows and use that?

Because people won't reboot.

My home PC is actually currently set up to triple boot, with the option of Windows XP Home, Gentoo Linux, and Ubuntu Linux (the latter just to play around with so I can give some advice on a good Linux distro for non-geeks, and so far I'd have to say it fits the bill a lot better than Fedora, though I still don't care much for Gnome...) But this is a viable setup for me since I don't use the PC as my primary computer -- that's what my Power Mac G5 is for -- and spends most of it's time powered off. So when I do want to use it for something, I just select which OS I want and go.

As an aside, it's really nice to have a second machine, I don't have to stop doing what I'm doing on the Mac. Instead I just turn to the PC and use it. It's really nice when I need directions for something: I can have the directions up in a web browser, Adobe Reader, or whatever, on the Mac while doing whatever it is I'm trying to do on the PC.

Which leads to why people won't want to reboot when they need to do something in Windows on an Intel-powered Mac. To do that, you have to stop whatever you're doing, restart the computer, and bring up Windows. If you're having an AIM chat with someone, you have to tell them you'll be right back, then log out of iChat when you reboot, then log into GAIM once Windows gets started and resume your conversation. It's a pain.

My work computer runs Fedora Linux. But there are some things that I need to do that I can only do with Windows. While my computer is configured to dual boot with Windows XP, I haven't actually done that. Instead, I also have VMWare Workstation installed, and when I need to do my Windows stuff, I just start up VMWare, resume the virtual machine, and do whatever I need to do. I don't have to close KDevelop, Evolution, Konsole, or any other apps I might have open, and can freely and smoothly move back and forth between Windows and Linux.

Yeah, it can be a bit slow (I used to have the virtual machine set for 188MB of RAM... not nearly enough for XP), once I noticed that and set it to 384MB things got better. There are some things that wouldn't work so well in the virtual machine, but nothing I need to do runs into that problem. I have heard that VMWare is working on a version to run on Mac OS X, and have also read the reports about Parallels Workstation, a competing product (a less expensive one, I might add).

So why won't developers say they don't need to create Mac OS X versions anymore, we can just run them in VMWare or Parallels? Two reasons.

One, this isn't really anything new. For one, Mac users have been able to run PC applications for years. I was running MS-DOS on a Mac LC II in the mid-1990s thanks to SoftPC. VirtualPC has taken over the market since the introduction of the PowerPC, and has been a viable (if not speedy) option to run Windows on Macs ever since. While virtualization products like VMWare and Parallels are faster since they don't have to emulate the Intel x86 processor architecture, it's still not quite as fast as running Windows naively, and having to start a second operating system on top of the first isn't that elegant. Plus, you're running in a window, or full screen, and not even semi-integrated like OS X's Classic mode.

More importantly is cost to the user. Neither VMWare, nor Parallels (the beta is, but the final version won't), nor Windows are free. Even if it was legal to do so, the version of Windows XP that comes with most store-bought PC's wouldn't install on an Intel Mac anyway, since it's not a full installer. Instead, what many manufacturers do is they ship a CD (or set of CDs) that contain an image of the contents of the hard drive the way it was when the computer shipped, with Windows and the bundled applications. Some companies don't even do that, instead including the image on the hard drive and telling the user to create a backup image using CD-Rs. There's no Windows installer to run.

So that means any switcher, who just got a new Intel-powered Mac, now has to go out and buy a copy of Windows XP. And not the upgrade edition either. That's $200 right there, for XP Home. Toss in another $100 if you want XP Pro instead (prices from CompUSA's web site). That's going to turn off a lot of people right there.

So even with Apple providing a way for users to dual boot with Windows XP, and third party vendors providing virtualization solutions, the Mac OS X application market isn't going to die.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

So How is the Air?

On my way home from work today, I heard a story on the radio that an Environmental Protection Agency study had determined that California has the second dirtiest air, after New York. No real surprises there I guess, having spent plenty of time in LA.

But then they said that the study was based on air quality surveys taken in 1999, the most recent year that information is available. So in other words, California had the second-dirtiest air seven years ago. While it's nice to know how bad things were then, it would be a bit more useful if they had more recent data. Or if the study had come out, say, six years ago.

Monday, February 13, 2006

My Favorite Train

People who know me know that I have a thing for airplanes. What is less well-known is that I occasionally develop an interest in trains as well. Recently though, that interest has focused itself onto one train:

The Disneyland Monorail System.

The Mark V train is, quite simply, the best looking train in the world. It's sleek "LearJet" lines beat out those of the similar, but boxier and uglier Mark VI used at Walt Disney World. The Bombardier M-VI, a commercial derivative of the Mark VI used in Las Vegas, is uglier yet. Maybe it's just because I grew up at Disneyland, but to me a Mark V is what a monorail should look like.

The problem though, is that the Mark V isn't actually a full-size train. It is smaller than what you'd normally do, to help it fit in with Disneyland. So you'd have to make it taller (like the M-VI) and you'd lose the proportions. To compensate, you'd have to make the train wider as well, but since I'm not a Transportation Engineer, I can't say if that would introduce more problems.

That said, it's time to get your last rides on the Mark V, which has been in operation since 1987. It's currently running one way trips between Tomorrowland and Downtown Disney during construction of the new Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. Later this year, it will close completely and in 2007, will reopen along with Nemo. At that time, new Mark VII trains are slated to appear.

Swiped from a MouseTimes Message Board thread, here's the concept drawing of what the Mark VII should look like:

I'll reserve judgment on it until I see the real thing, but in any case I'm sure I'll miss the Mark V.

Just don't get me started on Disney's using Disneyland's 50th Anniversary to advertise Walt Disney World. You'd think that at least in California, they'd advertise our park, the original, but no....

Friday, January 20, 2006

Honolulu Still Doesn't Get It

From the Honolulu Star-Bulletin:
He learned from City Council members that widening the entire roadway means a speed-limit reduction from 45 mph to 35 mph.
Let's see: Traffic congestion on Fort Weaver Road is a problem, so we'll add another lane. Good. But we'll also lower the speed limit.

Um, yeah. That makes sense.

In my opinion as a driver who learned to drive in Southern California, Hawaii's speed limits are already lower than they should be, and the cynic in me assumes that it is to generate additional revenue from speeding tickets. Whenever there is any sort of traffic accident in Hawaii, the media will nearly always say something along the lines of "speed may have been a factor."

Get over it already. Hawaii drivers aren't bad drivers because they drive too fast, they are bad drivers because the driver's education system in Hawaii is bad. Speed doesn't cause accidents, speed differences do.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Ba-Le in the Star-Bulletin

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin has an article today about the sandwiches at Ba-Le. Now I know they're called Bahn mi. And they are very yummy, however I wish more locations carried the teri beef sandwich, in my experience the one on Nimitz Highway near the airport is the only one that has them consistently.

Too bad it's 2,600 miles away...