About

This is Rich’s fine and wonderful creation. An amazing 14 year old history for this blog that started first with FrontPage and its simple extensions in 1996, that then became a MovableType blog in 2002 (one of the first!) and now in 2008 has become a WordPress blog with Gallery for photos. For more great stuff, check out:

* Qiming Ventures where I hang my hat in Shanghai
* Ignition where I hang my sandals in Seattle
* Market Playbook a brilliant work that John Zagula

Canadian roaming

If you get to Canada often then there are two options:

# If you have AT&T then get the “AT&T Canada plan”:http://www.wireless.att.com/learn/international/roaming/affordable-world-packages.jsp#4, they have a $4/month plan where roaming in Canada is $0.59 per minute and any calls from the US to Canada are $0.19/minute while and text messages to the US are $0.50 per message. You can turn this plan on or off, so essentially, if you do more than 10 minutes of calling at the $2/minute roaming rate, it makes sense to sign up. Only draw back is Canadians have to pay international rates to call you, but it is your phone number.
# According to “GeckoBeach”:http://www.geckobeach.com/cellular/intro/pre-paid.php a prepaid account makes sense if ou are using 30-50 minutes of air time. The best plan for folks that are going to Whistler or skiing would be the “Rogers”:http://www.rogers.com prepaid SIM with $100 prepay card. That’s because all the other cards expire after 30 days and you lose the number whereas the $100 card lasts for 365 days. So perfect for the once a year trips to Canada. The airtime charges are incredibly “confusing”:http://www.rogers.com/web/content/wireless-products/paygo_rates?content10=paygo_rates, but they are $0.25 for first five minutes a day and then $0.15 there after for calls to Canadian numbers and $0.66/minute for calls to US phones. So that means you should get a prepaid if you are going to call way more to Canadian numbers, otherwise, using the AT&T Canada plan makes more sense. In all cases, either plan is better than the rack rate $2/minute roaming that is really highway robbery. the big benefit of course is that you have a local 604 number so you feel like a local 🙂
# “Skype”:http://www.skype.com/prices. Skype is the other way. If you pay $36, then you get free calling from your PC to any number in US and Canada and you get a $12 credit for calling to other cities. You also can get a SkypeIn number (so your PC has a phone number 🙂 for $36. A pretty good deal.
# “Maxroam”:http://maxroam.com. “John”:http://www.theludwigs.com pointed this one out to me. It is fantastic because you can have multiple phone numbers attached to the same SIM, so it solves the having a separate sim for a bunch of countries. It is $30 Euros and you get a phone number in the US and can add 50 numbers from China, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan. So for instance a call to the US is ).67 Euros or about $1, so it is more expensive. A call to Canada is about the same. So it is expensive but convenient.

For your data devices like a Blackberry or an iPhone:

# “BlackBerry International”:http://www.wireless.att.com/learn/international/roaming/affordable-world-packages.jsp#3 is $64/month that gives you unilimited email in 140 countries for $70/month. This is only worth it for folks who are there for a week or so as the email traffic really adds up.
# “iPhone Global Data”:http://www.wireless.att.com/learn/international/roaming/affordable-world-packages.jsp#iphone-international. This is $25/month for 20MB of usage in 3 countries including Canada, China, Australia and Hong Kong and India and most of Europe.

Flexcar now Zipcar

Someone was asking me about cars and how to manage them. Well, if you live in Seattle, you can actually rent a car for $10/hour. it is something called “Flexcar”:http://www.flexcar.com. You call a phone number or logon to the web, you reserve a car in any of most garages in Seattle, then you use it for some period and then return it. Incredibly convenient and you don’t pay depreciation and most importantly, if you bike or take a bus in, you don’t need to have a car. Pretty cool.

Flexcar is being acquired by “Zipcar”:http://zipcar.com, so the rate structure is changing. For business, it is a $75 signup and then $25 per person, but the rates are a little lower at $8.95 an hour. For personal, it is $75, but there is a $25 credit if you are signing up in Seattle.

Beware don’t get Mac Office 2008 Student Edition…

Yikes, the Windows Student Edition was just cheaper, but “Anandtech”:http://anandtech.com/mac/showdoc.aspx?i=3215&p=2 points out that this Mac version has a $130 student edition *without* Exchange support while the $350 version has Exchange support. I now own two copies of an absolutely useless Student Edition as a result. Arrgggh! There is an even more useless Special Media Edition which is $440 (can you believe that?) that has some sort of media cataloging application.

While this version is native Intel, it does lose VBA support so macros essentially aren’t going to work anymore. And of course there is yet another new file format to deal with!

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Mac transcoding video

If you’ve got videos say in MPEG2/DVD format and want to convert into smaller H.264 format, then the Mac choices are pretty different from PC. Essentially, you need four tools:

# “Handbrake”:http://trac.handbrake.fr to take it from a DVD and convert it into a computer quality (e.g,. high quality .AVI or .MP4).
# “MacTheRipper”:http://mactheripper.com. This is a general tool that takes a DVD and decrypts it and puts it onto your hard drive. Then you can use any of the tools below. Or you can make a backup of your DVD. Version 2.66 works with most DVDs, although some of the new DVDs (Hannah Montana!) have advanced protections that this old program can’t deal with.
# “isquint.org”:http://isquint.org is the freeware that takes essentially any format that is a computer format (like Divx or Xvid) and converts it into a iPhone or iPod video. Personally I upgraded to VisualHub which adds PSP. Use it to take all things generated for computer viewing and convert it into ipod, iphone and psp formats.
# “ffmpegX”:http://fmpegx.com. This takes any video format essentially and transcodes it. Finally, if you have an iPhone, iTouch or iPod Nano 3G or iPod Video, then you can also use Handbrake to take a DVD and turn it into the right .mp4 format.

“DV Review”:http://www.dv.com/reviews/reviews_item.php?articleId=196602910 has a good overview for the Mac coders who are pro’s and ready to pay $1,000s of dollars for software. Personally I use “Visualhub”:http://visualhub.com if you are willing to pay or iSquint which is the free version to do most iPod encoding.

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Anandtech MacBook Air review and Mac Mail reviewed by me…

“Anandtech”:http://anandtech.com/mac/showdoc.aspx?i=3226&p=23 has done the first full Macbook Air review that compares the SSD performance. As an aside folks are asking me how the new SSD is on the MacBook Air. First, the system is completely quiet. Second, for normal use, like Internet browsing and reading email, it feels just as fast and responsive as my MacBook Pro. That is quite amazing as most ultraportables feel sluggish. Anand’s main point is that unlike the iPhone, the MacBook Air is an ultraportable with real tradeoffs. I actually don’t completely agree with his point in that the iPhone had everything that other smart phones had, it just does a few things better. The screen come to mind and the performance as well plus the user interface and the physical sturdiness and elegance. Funny thing is that I think the Macbook Air has the same attributes. The kind of curved shape, the really sturdy feel and finally the keyboard and screen are amazing. Like the iPhone, it does give up things. I just can’t stand the recessed headphone plug and have ruined plenty of plugs trying to smash it into the iPhone. To me anyway, the optical disk and the single USB ports really aren’t much of a tradeoff in modern environments. The only real issue is lack of Wifi in many places, so you have to carry a $30 Ethernet to USB adapter. I don’t use my optical for much anymore except kids DVDs when they are around. I personally rip everything to AVI or some other format.

He does a great review of “SSD”:http://anandtech.com/mac/showdoc.aspx?i=3226&p=13 and even shows you how to install one for yourself. “DVNation.com”:http://www.dvnation.com/ sells naked Samsung SSDs, so you can install them on all your computers. “Ludwig”:http://www.theludwigs.com is right, as prices come down, I’d install them on everything I own. They feel faster but most importantly they are by definition completely silent, so having a laptop with no fans on is an amazing experience. I’ve found that unless the AV Clam Sentry is running, the Macbook Air fan never does go on in normal usage and that is wonderful. As an aside, DVNation sells the “Samsung MCCOE64GEMPP-01A”:
http://www.king-cart.com/cgi-bin/cart.cgi?store=dvnation&product_name=Samsung+64GB+ZIF+SSD&exact_match=exact for $1600, so it makes the $900 price for upgrade from Apple look like a real deal 🙂

h2. Performance

Well, the real world performance load times is pretty stunning which is perhaps why I like my Macbook Air with SSD although for compute read intensive tasks. Overall, the subjective point is that it feels faster because read performance of SSD is faster than write and most folks are reading.

| Launch Apps | 80GB 4200 | 64GB SSD |
| Photoshop CS3 | 18 sec | 6.9 sec |
| Word 2008 | 28.8 sec | 11 sec |
| System Boot | 54.4 sec | 32.5 sec |

h2. Battery life

They are getting battery life what I’m getting. That is about four hours plus. Now “Bill”:http://lala.com says he was getting terrible life of three hours so it is probably under heavy use. Here is what Anandtech has seen:

| Test | HDD | SDD | %Improvement |
| Internet + MP3 | 4:16 | 4:59 | 17% |
| DVD Playback | 3:25 | 3:56 | 15% |
| Download, XVID and Web | 2:26 | 2:42 | 11% |

They also compared it with other Apple laptop for Wireless Internet + MP3 playback:

| Machine | Time |
| MacBook Air SSD 1.8GHz | 5 hours |
| MacBook Pro (Core 2 Duo 2.6GHz | 4.5 |
| MacBook Air | 4.3 hours |
| MacBook Pro (2.0GHz) | 2.7 hours |

As an aside, I had not really used Mac Mail (technically called Mail 3.1) much, but must say it is the fastest Mail app I’ve used since Xenix Mail (now I’m dating myself!) at deleting, searching and finding mail. Makes Outlook look very sluggish and Entourage positively snail like. Even Thunderbird isn’t as good particularly for searches, like all mail from “Rich Tong”. It is as keystroke fast as searching for a song in a 20,000 song iTunes directory which is to say keystroke fast. I really recommend it for anyone with lots of mail. The main bummer is that I just can’t get Address Book sync to work with Outlook Web Access. There are no error messages I can find and I type the OWA URL in and it just won’t sync. So I’ll probably have to load Entourage just for the Address Book and iCal sync features in it.

The only other problem which I’ve seen too is that the MacBook Air takes a long time to charge. I’ve had four hours to get it to charge. It is interesting to see how bad battery life was for the first generation of MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo’s. I agree with that. Mine’s really does last about two hours.

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Bittorrent privacy

Now that we know “comcast”:http://www.macworld.com/article/132101/2008/02/netneutrality2.html is shutting down traffic, its a good time to safeguard your privacy and make sure that you are in good shape with all those prying eyes. The first thing is to encrypt as much as you can. The second use a VPN or encrypted tunnel so no one can figure out what you are doing. “Whalesalad”:http://whalesalad.com/2006/08/27/tunneling-bittorrent-over-ssh/ is an 18 year old developer (!!!) in Hawaii who has done just that.

Basically you go to “Silenceisdefeat.org”:http://silenceisdefeat.org and get a shell account for $1. Then you go double click on /Applications/Utilities/Terminal on your machine and run the command *ssh _yourusername@silenceisdefeat.org -D 7777″. The port number you pick can be any port that isn’t being used.

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Top Mac Games

“Gamespot”:http://www.gamespot.com/games.html?type=games&platform=42&tag=header;logo has a good list of Macintosh games. With all the Macs, the kids are asking, what games can I play. Interestingly, they have Age of Empires III, Need for Speed Carbon and Prey all available on the Mac and they get good reviews from “Macworld”:http://macworld.com

Also there is a really fun game called sketchpad that is $20

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