Thursday, June 24, 2010

iPad Unlimited

Spurred largely by AT&T's announcement that the unlimited data plan would be dropped from their available iPad connection options, I went ahead and ordered one before the cut-off date of June 7th. Earlier this week, it finally arrived on my door step, seemingly no worse for wear following it's long, long journey from Shenzen where doubtless small bands of happy elves, living in a forest full of honey, dates and unicorns, knocked it together using fairy dust.

The original promise was that AT&T would still honor making the unlimited plan available to customers who bought their device ahead of the deadline. However, it turned out that there's no longer an option to sign up for this unlimited plan on-line at the time you first set-up the iPad from the internal configuration menu. Seems that for all new devices, the only options offered directly from the device are the 250Mb and 2Gb plans.

After poking around the relevant support boards on the Apple web site to try and fix this, two things became clear:

a) Apple says it's AT&T's problem not theirs, and

b) Be prepared to spend a long time on the phone.

I can agree with (a) and soon discovered the accuracy of (b).

I called the number being mentioned (1 866 640 5125) the next morning and heard a cheery voice say that "due to high call volume, expect to wait more than 20 mins", which was a bit of an understatement given that after 90 minutes of suffering through the single tne playing again and again as hold music, I had to give up and go to a meeting. I tried again that afternoon - and here having a speakerphone on your desk is a godsend - but once more had to duck out after one hour, thirty-eight minutes of listening to exactly the same tune all over again. (Reading some posts that day, others reported wait times of approx. 2 hours so, annoyingly, I wasn't far off getting to actually speak to a human being.)

Next day I tried calling early in the morning (7 am PST) and had the on-hold call in the background wile watching England finally win a game instead of drawing them. This time, I reached an operator in an hour and 45 minutes, but I do have to say that once I got there it all went through very quickly. Basically, they collect some details from you, a step which entails your reading some numbers off of the device (so have it to hand and powered up). You then complete sign-up on the iPad for the 2Gb plan and they say that you'll get a message in up to 10 days noting that you've been switched to the unlimited plan and will be charged accordingly. However, one caveat: don't let it lapse. If you drop down to a lower plan or forget to update your CC card details and a charge is declined that that's it - the unlimited plan is gone and you cannot get back onto it.

Any-hoo, the device is now running both AT&T and Wi-Fi, and I'll post something more about my initial experiences once I have had a chance to use it for a while and hence have, err, experienced something.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Stockholm's old town, Gamla Stan, is largely on Stadsholmen island and located right in the city centre. It's small, compact and very walkable, at least in the summer when not shrouded in snow and ice that otherwise makes the cobbled streets treacherous in the winter months. (And yes, I speak from experience!)

The architecture is what you'd expect - solid, Germanic-style buildings, plain and with little adornment. Interestingly, that description also seems to apply well to the Royal Palace that's also located here. Compare what's here with, for example, what's to be found in cities like London, Paris and Vienna and you'll see what I mean!

Head down the main thoroughfare to the water and you'll find a frontage of old merchants' houses and maritime offices. During the Great Power Era, Stockholm became the centre of Sweden's push to become a major mercantile force in the region, leading to a period of prosperity and architectural development.

The shot above is of one of Gamla Stan's narrow cobbled streets glowing warm in the early evening summer sun.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Spring In Stockholm

Back now from Stockholm where, for at least one day, it was mild and sunny, both at the same time. At this time of year, it's quite possible to do a day in the office, grab something to eat and still find enough daylight to make walking around with a camera a worthwhile experience (sunset was around 10 am with dawn breaking a mere 6 hours later at 4 am.)

On a tangent, it's hard to figure out how to photograph a large church with a small camera and still get something interesting. Details can work, but it's rare you have a lens that can deliver sufficient reach to make that workable. Going wide is perfectly do-able, but often not very interesting.

Art is never easy!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Yosemite #2

Not likely to post much this week as I'm heading off to Sweden for a few days and will only have my work PC with me. However, before I leave I thought I'd post something a bit different from Yosemite - a view of Tunnel View's eponymous tunnel!

Sounds like conditions there right now are perfect. The snow is melting fast and the river is running so high that the Lower Falls campground may close. However, Tioga seems to be open and it also looks like the Glacier Point road is now free-and-clear too. Only thing to note is that while we were there, a couple of weeks ago, there were roadworks along the Wawona road between Wawona and Tunnel View meaning that instead of taking around 40 minutes on average to get into the Village it was over an hour on occasions.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Yosemite #1

As heralded earlier, last week we headed off for a few days R&R in Yosemite. The original plan was to time this so as to hit pleasant spring weather combined with enough snow melt to make the waterfalls suitably impressive. In summary, we missed the first but nailed the second.

S managed to find a cabin rental in Wawona, a small community located about 40 minutes south of Yosemite Village but still inside the precincts of the park. Although booked a bit on-spec, it turned out to be a great location. The privately-owned cabin had been recently updated and so despite being, well, a wooden, rustic cabin, it boasted a very nice kitchen and bathroom and came complete with marble counter tops, stainless-steel appliances and, amazingly enough, free DSL!

The shot above is of a single rock standing firm in the midst of a fast-flowing Merced river. Actually, these kinds of pictures are made much easier with overcast skies to the absence of spring clearing was quite beneficial in that regard!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

2010 ALMS Part II

Largely, I'll spare you all from a sequence of shots of sports cars and allied racing goodies filling up the pages here over the coming days, with sole the exception of the above. This was a 6 hour race which means that by the time it finished (8:30 pm) it was almost completely dark. As you (may) know, I did some racing myself both in the UK and US, but never in the dark, though I did have to run in the rain once without any functioning wipers which was itself, err, interesting, so it's hard to say just how tough that must be.

It would be fascinating, though, to see how the lap times varied as the light changed. My guess is that for the front runners it made little difference. Once you are in the rhythm, by all accounts an important part of endurance racing, it's probably not going to matter as much as one might think. However, spare a thought for the back markers who are now being overtaken by things they probably don't even see until there's a set of extremely bright lights burning into their retinas from the rear-view mirrors, followed immediately by very angry-sounding engine roar as they fly past. Now that would help you stay focused, night-time and all!