Browsing articles from "January, 2007"

50M Lines of Code in Windows Vista

I enjoyed this article on the differences between Windows 95 and Windows Vista… more than 10 years later!

Jan 21, 2007

Our Patagonia Itinerary

For those of you who have asked, here is our itinerary through Patagonia. One change you could make if you were going to do this approximate itinerary would be to fly into Buenos Aires and do the El Calafate / Chalten part of the trip first, and then head into Chile. That said, the Fitz Roy was the most visually impressive part of the whole trip — had we seen that our second or third day in, everything else might not have been quite as cool! As it was, we were amazed by the incredible beauty of the Torres Del Paine, and then when we got to Chalten, we were astounded that we could see something even more inspiring.

We booked our frequent flier tickets back in February of 2006 — about 11 months before our actual trip. We also reserved far ahead for the huts in Torres Del Paine since they have somewhat limited availability. When we went, in December, most of them were full up every night. The food at the huts was quite good — big meals, hot drinks, even wine and drinks.

On the ground, transportation was very reliable. Every bus we booked departed and arrived on time. Most of the bus companies use Mercedes or Volvo buses; all the ones we rode on were in good condition. You can book the buses ahead by going to the bus company office the day before or call a travel agency — we had a local travel agency book all the buses for us which made things very easy — highly recommended if you don’t mind paying a bit extra for them to do the work.

We traveled with our good friends Eric and Kim. A lot of people have said, “wow, how did you guys possible travel together for three weeks?” The answer is: it was fun traveling with another couple. Traveling, especially in foreign countries, always has challenges, but what really made this work for us was: a) Flexibility and b) independence. That is, we didn’t try to do absolutely everything together. We would have a great dinner as a foursome and then split the next night and do our own thing — or the guys would go grab pizza, etc. This worked out well.

I haven’t described the scenery too much in words because… a picture speaks a thousand words, or, in the case of the scenery in Patagonia… no words could adequately describe the amazing scenery we saw. I also tried to describe mainly what we did in the notes below — some day I will capture all the people, sights, and emotions from this trip in writing, but the photos do it best for now…

Day 1: Flight to Santiago, arrive next day.

Day 2: LAN Airlines, same day, 4 hour flight to Punta Arenas. The flight was not full, but apparently they are pretty full during January and February, at the height of the season. We stayed at a Hostal this night, which I would not recommend, so I am leaving it un-named. It wasn’t bad, but it could’ve been better.

Day 3: Early morning, Bus to Puerto Natales (3.5 hours). We used the afternoon to buy some supplies, get some rest, and chill out. We stayed at the Amerindia Hostal. This hostal was a great base for us in Chile. The people are friendly, breakfast is good. Internet access is slow to unbearable, but if you don’t need that (or are willing to walk 5 minutes to a local Internet café), it’s perfect. Rooms are shared bath or private bath. We wanted somewhere low-key and not too ritzy since we were going to be starting our week-long hiking trip — hostals love back-packers and we enjoy meeting other people who are out traveling around. Down the block is the local Laundromat… where you can pay to have them wash, dry, and, yes… fold all your clothes in a matter of a few hours. We left two big rolling bags we had with us at the hostal, and just took our backpacks into the park. Puerto Natales is a cool little town with lots of good, small restaurants. You can get cash from the cash machines using a US ATM card. If you want something more upscale, the hot new hotel in town is the Hotel Indigo, which used to be a hostal — they rebuilt it and turned it into a hotel. It has awesome views of the water but because it’s right down by the water, it was ultra windy when we were there.

Day 4: Took the “JB Bus” into the park, arriving there at 10am. Then a little shuttlebus, which you pay for in the park, to Hosteria Las Torres, a really nice mountain hotel. Great restaurant, small but comfortable rooms. This hotel was actually a lot nicer than I had anticipated — we could have stayed at the mountain hut, a few hours hike away, but it was great to have a nice bed, our own shower, etc. for our first night in the park. Email: info@lastorres.com. Tel 363-363.

After dropping our bags at the Hosteria and having some lunch, we started the “W” hike, which is named for the shape of a W that the hike takes — look on a map of the area and you’ll see it. The “W” is part of a larger circuit but is more popular due to the availability of huts for the entire hike; the circuit requires some camping. We hiked up 19KM to see the Torres — which cleared for just long enough that we could see them, after hiking through some driving rain and even a little snow. The weather is variable — it could pour for 30 minutes and then be perfectly sunny for the rest of the day. All in all, though, I would say we had amazing weather our whole trip. Back to Hosteria Las Torres, dinner at the restaurant with wine and “pisco sours.”

Day 5: We left mid-morning and hiked 11K to Refugio Los Cuernos. The bunks here go three high and the top bunk is pretty high off the ground! Great place, good food, good wine, and a beautiful location. They rent sleeping bags so you can rent one for the night and not have to carry your own. I would say it was around here that we really settled into the trip and realized we were on vacation — the park is a long way from anywhere and until this time we were sort of just getting from our home to the vacation! Los Cuernos can be booked via Las Torres. Having made all these reservations via email, it was pretty cool to show up in another country and for them to have our reservations all set. (I did call about 3 weeks before our trip started to reconfirm all the huts. They can all be booked but are a little challenging to book. An email, followed by a phone call, then another email seems to work great.)

Day 6: We got up early and hiked 25KM to the Grand Paine Lodge. This lodge has nice bunkrooms — it was recently built and is a huge place. The bunkrooms have 3 bunkbeds (6 beds) in each room. Very nice, if somewhat impersonal. I found the other three places we stayed at to be a lot more personal. This day is the highlight of the hike — you hike up a long hill to the French Valley, where you see the amazing glacier. You can keep hiking farther after that (which we did), but if you turned around after seeing the glacier (shown in the video earlier in my blog), you’ve seen the most beautiful part. When we saw this, we figured this would surely be the highlight of the trip — it was spectacular, beautiful, and incredible but… there was more to see.

Day 7: We hiked 11KM to Refugio Gray. We were pretty tired by the time we got here — the previous day is a long hike. You can continue hiking a bit further — hike 20 minutes and you get to a great lookout onto Glacier Gray; hike an hour and you get to a second lookout (called “mirador” in Spanish). This is a real mountain hut, the hosts are super friendly, and the food was excellent. The rooms are more rustic, but it has that real mountain hut feel to it, which we loved. We hiked a bit further to see the Glacier from the lookouts.

Day 8: We got up early and took the boat from Glacier Gray back to Hotel (Hosteria) Grey. This little boat takes you right up near the glacier and up to the ice chunks that have broken off into the water — where we saw some of the bluest ice ever. It was a beautiful end to a great hike. They serve you whiskey on glacier ice on the boat, which is neat. At the hotel, we had a warm lunch, went for a little walk, and met up with a tour group from the agency that had booked all the buses for us. They took us in a mini-bus back to Puerto Natales where we returned to the hostal, did some laundy, ate dinner, etc. All of the huts we stayed at had hot showers, hot food, etc.

Day 9: We took an early bus to El Calafate (Argentina). A minibus picked us up in town and took us out to Estancia Alice (this is both a farm and a very upscale hotel — we stayed at the farm for 2 nights). This place was ultra quiet and comfortable, and had a huge buffet dinner and show. We also saw sheep-shearing (something you may want to see once but once is probably enough!) and we hiked around a beautiful bird sanctuary that is part of the farm.

Day 10: We took a guided tour into the park and saw the Perito Moreno Glacier. This glacier is huge — photos cannot adequately capture it. A few years ago, so much water pressure built up that a huge part of the glacier calved off and fell into the water. This was spectacular. We also got to go climbing “mini trekking” on the glacier, which was very cool — crampons and all.

Day 11: The hotel gave us a ride back into town and we took the 8am bus to Chalten from El Calafate (4 hour bus ride). El Calafate is in the middle of nowhere, but Chalten is really in the middle of nowhere. Because a number of valleys meet up where the town is, the wind blows constantly — all the buildings, even the smallest houses, are made of brick and concrete — even the inner walls in a lot of places. You see people hunched over walking against the wind. It’s a cool little town with good places to eat and hang out. This afternoon we went for a hike where we got a glimpse of the Fitz Roy. We stayed at Hosteria El Puma — a fantastic place with a fabulous restaurant — highly recommended.

Day 12: We got up early and hiked the main Fitz Roy hike. The hikes are at the edge of town and you just walk out the hotel door and start hiking. We hiked up and up and up; the clouds parted; and we got to see an awesome view of Fitz Roy (see photo on blog). Up until this time we had bragged to each other about how lucky we were to have seen the French Valley and Glacier in Torres Del Paine NP; but then when we saw the Fitz Roy in all its glory we were just speechless — Wow. I think this was a 12 mile hike, but have to check.

Day 13: We got up early and took the bus back to El Calafate. From here back to Puerto Natales, Chile (all in one day), where we returned to the Amerindia and did more laundry, etc. The next day we took a bus from P.N. to Punta Arenas (where we started out 2 week earlier), and checked in for our Crucero Australis cruise. Before the cruise, we had a pretty funny lunch at a very fancy touristy place and then bugged out to a coffee shop to have coffee and dessert (it’s funny what you remember.). It was quite the contrast going from being really far away from anything to the “big” city of Punta Arenas. We boarded the boat around 6pm.

Day 14/15/16: The next four days were spent on the cruise — going from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia, Argentina by way of Cape Horn. On the cruise we were able to get off on Zodiacs and go see penguins, more glaciers, and sea lions. The penguins were the coolest, of course. (More to come about the cruise.)

Day 17: We arrived in Ushuaia, Argentina (actually, the cruise arrives late the night prior); we disembarked and took a cab to the airport to pick up… our rental car! Thankfully it only took me a couple minutes to get comfortable driving a clutch again (good thing for that Toyota Starlet 15 years ago.). We stayed at Hosteria Los Fuegos, just outside of town — very quiet, really nice rooms, good food. We had an amazing meal in town (restaurant name coming soon) for lunch and then drove out to Estancia Halberton. It was fun being mobile. It’s also amazing how much luggage you can pack into a little car.

Day 18: We went for a long hike up to a lake (somewhat hard to find) and went into town this day — the hiking was very quiet… almost as if they didn’t really want to encourage you to hike out there — not like Chile where all the trails are marked in great detail. We had dinner at a restaurant with a great view… again, name coming soon. The best food however was the dinner at the restaurant and the lunch in town.

Day 19/20/21: We dropped off the car and flew to Buenos Aires on Aerolineas Argentinas (about 3 hours), where we stayed at the Design Suites. We met Mariano and Claudia, who built sypad.com, thesalesbell.com, and a host of other sites, which was very cool. (It’s pretty awesome meeting your off-shore developers in-person having never met them before.) We also met a friend of Eric’s from business school. They were all incredibly nice and took us out to some excellent meals. We went out to dinner on New Year’s eve and had a great time along the river watching the fireworks and dancing. (More details about Buenos Aires, or B.A. as we got fond of calling it, to come.)

Day 22: A rest-day, we walked the city (which was experiencing a heat wave!) and packed up — flight home that night.

Jan 21, 2007

Takeaways from FlashElement

You have to love the overnight popularity of FlashElement TD.

Takeaways?

1) Content rules. Better content beats a more complex platform any day. No complicated download, no complex platform – just a killer app. I’m rooting for FlashElement to break Alexa 1,000…

2) Hits can now come from anywhere and skyrocket in popularity overnight. The big game companies have teams in the hundreds of people each to create a killer title. Granted, FlashElement doesn’t have 3D graphics or real-life photos, nor is it multi-player, but it does have deep logic, lots of levels, and a highly addictive quality to it. This title came out of a single programmer in the UK.

3) One amazing programmer or a small team of great programmers beats a big slow team. Of course we’ve known this ever since The Mythical Man Month was published; but the rule still applies that a phenomenal coder or coders can put together something cool a lot faster than a big team can. I’ll take a small nimble team any day.

Jan 17, 2007

The Most Addictive Videogame Around

Who would’ve predicted – a flash based online game. Check out the Alexa ranking trend. Wow.

Jan 11, 2007

Apple Announces iPhone

The long awaited announcement is finally here… now, as my friend Andrew Chen says, we just need iTube.

Jan 9, 2007

Best Online Greeting Card 2006

In case you did not see the Blue Print Ventures online greeting card

Jan 4, 2007

Patagonia

Fitz Roy

Patagonia was nothing short of amazing. Not only did we find incredible scenery but we also met really wonderful, genuine, and friendly people. By way of Toronto we flew to Santiago, Chile, where we met our friends Eric and Kim, and then flew four hours south to Punta Arenas, Chile.

The “W”
We hiked the “W” in Torres Del Paine (pronounced “Pine-eh”), staying at four mountain huts (one of them, Hosteria Las Torres, was actually far nicer than a mountain hut – it was more of a mountain hotel). Now I finally understand the difference between “Refugio” and “Hosteria” (to be explained later). After the “W” hike we took an incredible boat trip back from the last hut, during which we got closeups of Glacier Gray and the very blue ice blocks that fall into the water from the glacer.

We spent time in Puerto Natales, Chile, then went to Argentina to visit El Calafate, and El Chalten, where we did two days hikes and saw the Fitz Roy, probably the most incredible scenery of the entire trip.

Cape Horn
We also took a cruise to Cape Horn from Punta Arenas (it’s pretty cool going to the “end of the world”) and spent a long weekend in Buenos Aires where temperatures reached all-time record highs.

If you need any evidence of global warming, you can find it in the Southern hemisphere, where not only was the ozone layer ultra thin but the glaciers are receding at an incredible rate.

I took more than 2000 photos and, for the first time, some video. I uploaded the video here using a service called Fliqz.

That’s what having multiple 1 Gigabyte memory cards will do for you. I used a Canon SD800IS which took great photos, although for the next trip I will definitely buy a higher end camera with a bigger zoom. That said, the 800 took great photos and the increased memory size for the first time made me feel comfortable taking video. The digital video camera really is the mainstream video capture device. I still cannot believe that a 1GB memory card can be had for less than $30.

Jan 4, 2007

Office 2007 Review By Walt Mossberg

Walt Mossberg has a nice writeup on Office 2007. I haven’t yet tried it but have heard it has some great new features in Outlook and Powerpoint. Mossberg highlights a number of new key features, including better formatting capabilities especially in Microsoft Word. For example, you can now preview formatting changes before making them live. The Ribbon replaces menus for providing commands to various Office programs. While the learning curve is steep, Mossberg seems to conclude the improvements are worth the investment of time requried to adopt the new features. Can’t wait to get my copy and try out the new features.

Jan 3, 2007