9/6 10am Frankfurt, Germany

(Note from Jan: my friend Andre is traveling and sends out these updates about his experience. He gave me permission to post these because they are just good reading. I have not edited them just copied the content verbatim.)

Champagne and Socks

Flying business class on a non-American airline can be summed up in a couple of ways: socks, champagne and a Barcalounger that can be adjusted 16 different ways, excluding the massage feature that was kind of creepy. The seats are a lot more roomy, with 12 seats taking up as much space as 32 seats in economy would. They’re sort of half egg shaped with a remote control on one of the arm rests that control a private Video on Demand screen as well as the space shuttle chair. The chair can go into almost full recline, theoretically allowing sleep if it were not for the crying baby nearby.

I confess to having trouble with the remote for the first part of the flight, having no six year old nearby to explain it to me, but once I got the hang of it, I used it like a pro. As soon as we were seated, the champagne came out in plastic cups and didn’t seem to stop for the entire nine hour flight. After two, the novelty completely went away, and I stayed with tomato juice. About two-thirds of the way through, I discovered the thank-you-for-paying-way-too-much-for-this-flight package. Towards the back of the armrest was a little travel package that contained a good toothbrush, a toothpaste tube that was small enough to hold only one serving and socks! I suppose the socks are for when you sleep in your fully reclined chair, but I’m saving them for the novelty.

I’m in the airport lounge now. An additional perk is that there are specific lounges depending on how much you’ve overpaid. There’s the Senator Lounge, which has amenities I can only dream of, but the Lufthansa Business Lounge has a mini buffet, fancy coffee machine, snacks galore, but most important: showers! Not only that, but due to my ignorance, I jumped ahead of a bunch of Indian business men that the attendant didn’t think that much of. She gave me a knowing look and scooted me in when no one was looking. This was one of the hidden perks of looking and sounding German. There’s still a healthy dislike of foreigners that kept me from smelling bad for long.

I arrive in Mumbai (Bombay) at 1 am and am hoping that there will be a driver waiting for me at the airport. I’ve been told that arrangements have been made, but I also heard that Mumbai is a strong competitor for the worst airport in the world. I will keep you posted.

On the flight to Mumbai

In economy class, the young children get a little toy of some kind to play with to help keep them passive. In Business Class, they get an entire lunchbox of various activities that would keep adults, as well as children, busy for hours.

It’s an older plane, so instead of being space shuttle high tech, it’s merely luxurious. Curious how quickly we adapt and make it the norm. Much of the Business class falls into two categories: Indian nationals and balding nerdy white guys in their 30’s and 40’s. I finally fit in!

Swapped out the system board

Earlier this week I received the replacement system board from Dell for my XPS 700.

The old system board was not always starting up. Sometimes it would take 4 false starts to get it to boot up; it it was more than 3 I usually just gave up and went to bed.

The new board came in an anti-static bag with one cleaning pad and conductive paste.

XPS replacement system board

The system board is attached to a plate that is held in by two screws. Once you get the cables put aside it’s straight forward to remove or install the system. Alek used the cleaning pad to make the top of the CPU spotless. The heat sink shined.


After the system was plugged in and running the fun began. The system would start and stop all without a hitch. That problem was completely solved. But the BIOS was not keeping the raid configuration, so the system could not boot.

I called the direct number I was given last week. I put in the extension and found out that my contacts voice mail was full. I could not even leave a message so I tried the general support line. While waiting I noticed that the BIOS was version 0.1.2 dated 5/5/06.

That did not fill me with confidence since the old system board was 1.1.3. After going around in circles, I unplugged the power, looked in the case at the connectors, and poof it started booting. I flashed the BIOS with the support person on the phone and all seems well now.

I’m going to call up the shipper and have the old system board picked up. In the meanwhile I’ll be pounding on the XPS 700 to make sure that it’s all good.

Labor Day scare

The plan for Labor Day was to invite family over, have a BBQ, and get ready for the boy’s first day of school.

Instead we ended up spending late Monday afternoon in the emergency room. My son ran up the stairs and fell hard on his chin. This opened up a 1 inch gash under his chin! It stopped bleeding almost immediately but he needed stitches to close the gap. So we took him to the emergency room.

The emergency room was okay and we only waited about an hour or so. He was not hurting and kept insisting that the bandaid was all he needed.

He really only did not like the pain killer shot they gave him to numb up his chin. Once that took effect, we all talked about toy trains while the nurse put stitches in his chin. Today it looks fine and Saturday we are going to have the stitches removed.

Dell still can't get it's act together (updated)

Update: 12:30PM 9/2/2006

After calling their 800 number, I got a gentleman who really knew what he was doing. It’s the system board. They are sending me a replacement system board.

The support technician actually restored my faith in Humanity!

That may be overstating it, but he really did his job well. I’ll see how long my replacement part takes to get here and if that solves the issue. Ought to; the error we were getting was the same each time.

Original blog entry here:

Sigh. Don’t buy computers from Dell. Give some other company a chance to screw up like Dell does.

I am really beginning to think that Dell’s only concern is to take orders and move boxes only. Their once really good support model is not really working.

Dell shipped me my XPS 700 and it works well. I am playing F.E.A.R. at 1920×1200 with all the options turned onto the max. I average about 112 FPS at that resolution.

It’s a great system. When it powers on that is.

Last night around midnight I tried to show Lily my new kick butt workstation. After 10 minutes of trying, the system would not turn on. The fans would switch on to max rpm and stay there. No BIOS messages on the screen, no sound from typing on the keyboard, nothing.

That’s bad on a new machine but that is not why I am complaining. When you buy something you expect it to work. But us “grown ups” know that sometimes this happens.

What really ticks me off is that Dell’s support system does not know my machine exists. I cannot get support because the service tag for my workstation is not recognized by their support system. I tried to call the support line and got the “Approximate wait time is 10 minutes” message. Having done that before, I figured I would try the online chat system.

The support rep I chatted with yesterday basically said “try back later”. 18 hours later the support system still does not know about my workstation. I tried the support chat again but since I did not have a valid service tag, the system would not even start a chat with the right person.

Instead I chatted with someone else who sent me to the correct queue. Which of course did not even start because I had did not have a valid tag number. One good thing about chat, as opposed to actually speaking with someone, is that I get a transcript of the chat, with me saying “it won’t work”. Doesn’t help me but I feel like I can at least track this nonsense.

I resorted to using the web page mailer to send a I’m-mad-as-hell message. I have no expectation that this will actually accomplish anything.

Sigh. Wonder if HP has decent workstations?

Dell XPS-700 arrived

The PC I ordered from Dell June 18th arrived today. No complaints about the time it took, I knew that was going to be the case for a long time now. And the projected arrival was October 17th, so August 31st really is not bad.

It’s a monster. The UPS sticker says the box weighs over 70 pounds and they weren’t kidding. I spent most of the evening installing GAMES CPU and graphic intensive applications.

The only potential problem is that sometimes when I power it up it does not get past turning on the fans. It gets stuck and I need to push the power button down till it goes off. Also standby does not work for me. Not too surprised since it usually only works for me on laptops. But I eventually got it working for my old PC so I’ll likely need to keep tweaking till it works.

Videotags this easy ought to be illegal

I frequent the WordPress support page to a) see if I can help someone and b) see if anything new is going on that might interest me.

Viper’s Video Quicktags is beyond interesting. It makes it ridiculously easy to add video to your post as so:

[ youtube width="425" height="350"]wMwoexR1evo[ /youtube]


[ googlevideo width="425" height="350"]4437565772125007816[ /googlevideo]

A space was added right after each [ so the plugin would ignore it. Without the spaces, this cheerfully produces

[youtube width="425" height="350"]wMwoexR1evo[/youtube]


[googlevideo width="425" height="350"]4437565772125007816[/googlevideo]

All into the posting. You can use the WYSIWYG editor that WordPress provides since Viper007Bond supplies you with easy buttons to produce a dialog box for inserting the codes.

This particular posting was made using BlogJet and not the built in editor. I used YouTube and Google Video but the plugin supports many more.

It’s well written, simple to use and works. Get it at Viper’s web page here.

Dirty window

FM RadioWe came back from Washington DC Sunday. It was an 8 hour painful, excruciating, non-stop lousy traffic, family trip up I-95. That’s not bad since Friday it took 10 hours to drive down there. Most of that was actually in New Jersey.

Around reaching NJ I turned on the radio. My 4½ year old boy suddenly says “that’s my favorite word! Open up the dirty window!” We asked him the usual “what? what did you say??” and he repeated himself.

The radio was playing Natasha Bedingfield’s song Unwritten. He pays more attention to the words than I do! We had to wait till the chorus repeated just to hear it.

Washington DC was fun and the GPS unit we got worked like a charm. The time driving was death and my son learned a new trick called “Car Sickness”.