Friday, May 30, 2008

#priceline Priceline win: hotel Sunnyvale 1-2 Jun 08 $45 bid; $58 total; compare with Hotwire $72; Country Inn & Suites site $195

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Xpenser needs recurring trip templates. Google Talk / GTalk interface would be nice as would placeholder entries with blank/zero expense.
Trying Xpenser for tracking expenses. Seems to have a lot of input methods: IM, email, twitter,sms, jott.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

George Anders piece in WSJ on why airlines (30% hedged) don't hedge fuel as Southwest (70%) does.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

tabs for Google services (Calendar, etc.) in Google Apps are http, not httpS Not a good thing.

Monday, May 26, 2008

twine needs tag suggest and autocomplete (or better tag auto-population). The tags it populates currently include a lot of noise
Priceline win: car LGB Economy 27-29 May 08 $22 bid; $88 total; compare with Hotwire $138; Costco Alamo $153; Orbitz $225

Great Wall Advice Compilation

A compilation of advice on viewing Chinese Great Wall sites, mostly in the Beijing vicinity:
Great Wall close to Beijing?

I'd recommend trying to see the Great Wall at Simatai. It is in Guidebooks. I believe Simatai is the furthest publicly open section that still remains an easy day trip from Beijing. It takes about two hours by private car to reach it. I suspect that the difficulty arriving there by public transportation is the reason it is not smothered by hordes of tourists. There will be other people at Simatai, but nothing like the choking crowds at Badaling (which is easily accessible by public bus).

Simatai also offers the advantage that it has some infrastructure, but it has not been extensively or obtrusively rebuilt. Unlike Badaling, there is no Starbucks or movie theater. Some bricks are new, but most are not. It's very easy to find and photograph bricks bearing their original dates of manufacture. There is a cable car and tram to take one most of the way up the mountain (about 2 kilometers from the parking lot, over relatively inhospitable terrain), and then there are steps built into the mountain to walk up the last 600 meters or so.

The Wall at Simatai location is built along the crest of a steep mountain ridge. The views are breathtaking. Even though the wall is only open for about 1 Km at this stretch, I did not feel deprived in the least. There are many watchtowers and guard houses to explore. If I recall, the guardhouses appeared to be their original condition. After one walks along the wall through several watchtowers, a fence blocks the rest of the way with the announcement that beyond this spot the wall is not open to the public. I would not have ventured past this area anyway, for safety reasons. There are sheer cliffs and crumbling brick.

When I visited Badaling last Fall, it was a huge disappointment after having been to Simatai. The Wall is still spectacular, and I think the portion open at Badaling may be longer, but there is no comparison otherwise.

David Kasper wrote:

In reality the Great Wall at Jinshanling is the furtherst that one can go and still make it a day trip from Beijing.

Indeed, the turning is less than 20km further on and it's a shorter distance from there to the Wall itself than at Simatai.

It takes about two hours by private car to reach it.

That time will have been cut, or will shortly be cut, by the opening of the Beijing to Chengde expressway. This might also affect the volume of visitors, but there are certainly currently far fewer there than at Simatai, which is the darling of now innumerable tours run at (often absurdly high) prices by budget accommodation. Still, you wouldn't call Simatai crowded.

There are even fewer people than either at Panlong Shan, which is between the two (from a driving point of view). The three sites run west to east: Panlong Shan, Jin Shan Ling, Simatai. Panlong Shan might well be the best choice for Wendy, since just a little bit of work has been done to keep it intact, possibly quite illegally by local peasants who appear to be running the show and may not in fact have proper permission to do so, although a proper ticket is issued. The entrance fee is half that of the other sites, the decay of the Wall just enough to make it romantic yet easy to walk on, and there's none of the massive rebuilding to be found (although also to be walked away from) at Jin Shan Ling and Simatai. There are no cable cars, chair lifts, zip lines, or souvenir sellers of any kind. The problem with souvenir sellers is most intense at Simatai, and on the walk from Jin Shan Ling to there. They cling limpet-like to visitors for long periods and can completely spoil the experience for some.

It's possible to walk from here to Jin Shan Ling in about five hours at a steady dither, but about 1.5 hours of that is spent off the Wall as a military camp has to be skirted, and without detailed directions it's not hard to get lost.

I suspect that the difficulty arriving there by public transportation is the reason it is not smothered by hordes of tourists.

But in the case of all three sites it's only a matter of getting on a Chengde bus and jumping off at the turning, then either walking or negotiating with waiting transportation.

Simatai also offers the advantage that it has some infrastructure, but it has not been extensively or obtrusively rebuilt. Unlike Badaling, there is no Starbucks or movie theater.

Wasn't there a 'Lonely Planet Restaurant' last time I was there?

Mutianyu has the benefit that it can be reached at weekends on Chinese tour buses, and it's a very green site; busy, still with some backpacker tours, but not as busy as Ba Da Ling (nowhere is). It's cursed with souvenir sellers, but under better control, a chair lift, and a sled for coming down.

Anyone wanting a quick trip would be better to choose Juyong Guan over Ba Da Ling: It's nearer and has one tenth of the visitors (or less). This is a long swooping section completely rebuilt about ten years ago, no more or less authentic than Ba Da Ling. Souvenir sellers are kept under tight control and made to stay behind a line. It's easily reached by express aircon bus for ¥12 or less.

Decayed, not legally open but well-known, and not easy by public transport, would be Huanghua Cheng (where people walk round big signs forbidding entry, and pay local farmers a few kuai to walk through their orchards), and Jiankou, which is exceptionally steep even by Wall standards, and with its surface very badly broken up. It's possible to walk from here to Mutianyu, but serious boots and a head for heights both needed.

Result: For Wendy's requirements I'd recommend Panlong Shan, turning both left and right after mounting the Wall, with Jin Shan Ling as second choice. The Panlong Shan entrance (it's a 3km walk from there to the base of the Wall) is on the right immediately before the entrance to the Gu Bei Kou tunnel. Make an early start, buy a ticket for Gu Bei Kou on any Chengde-bound bus, and hop off at the entrance. On the way back cross the road, and flag down any bus with the Beijing characters in the window. Best to be doing that by 4pm or so. You have the other alternative of taking a bus going to Miyun, and a bus back to Beijing from there, the last one leaving around 6.30pm.

Peter N-H
May 26, 2008 at 10:29 AM
iphone case summary with comments

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Malware test: use

QQ messaging

Signed up for the QQ messaging system, largely used in China, on English page. Now to see if QQ will/can be supported by meebo

update: Ok, QQ supported on GAIM structure, whi9ch had been discussed in 2006, so not impossible for meebo, just not now.
Buying a high end piano^Great piece in 22 May 08 WSJ by Anne Marie Chaker on buying a Steinway
Google Health^How does a non-expert in health issues decide if there's sufficient value at this point in the deployment?
reviews are all over the map for Olympus Stylus 1030SW. It would be great to have a ruggedized camera
can't find hi-res imagery of Pittsfield, MA to locate Crewdson photo of burning house seen in June '08 Smithsonian

Saturday, May 24, 2008

What's fatal about the interaction of Firefox on Vista and Google Maps? It reliably kills Firefox. IE is fine.

Friday, May 23, 2008

WWAN 3G data speed in Garden Grove CA 22 May 08, 7AM using Verizon very slow. Verizon points to MSoft kb 940646, though that wasn't it
why is GMail link on iGoogle http: and not https:? (On GMail page Google service links are https: however)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Getting Help with Google Apps

So, as an extra duty, not assigned, I've been trying out Google Apps for a work site and have become frustrated working through the on line help for user management.

(The backstory is that we started with Google Team. Some users were invited, but not registered. We converted to Google Apps Standard Edition. The users who were invited, but didn't register don't show up on the user accounts management page and can't be deleted. There's some reason to believe that the stale invitations with the associated accounts will be deleted, perhaps in 5 days. Maybe not, though.)

Anyway, here's a posting in the Google Apps Admin help group that's seems helpful.

So if you are like me, you needed help and couldn't find out how to
reach the Google Apps Support Team. Sure, you signed into Google Apps
with an Administrator account, and you clicked Help. Then you found a
tantalizing little link labeled "How do I contact the support team?"
which takes you to:
Then you hit brick wall number 1. No email address anywhere on that
page. In fact, here's the text so you can read it yourself:
Need to contact our support team directly? We provide limited email
support for a small set of critical issues, where a service that was
setup correctly has stopped working (not including POP or IMAP). While
we read every email that we receive, you'll only hear from us
(generally in two business days) if we need to collect more
information. Please search the Help Center for instructions on domain
verification and activating email. If you need to report a service
that stopped working, we suggest visiting the Frequently Reported
Issues page.
Then you started digging through the Help Center and the Discussion
Groups, and they said either... 1) log in as an administrator, go to
domain settings, go to account information, then find the section with
your Customer PIN: and the contact information on how to reach them.
Bang! Brick wall number 2. Sure you found your Customer PIN, but
there is mysteriously no link / email or anything else to use it with.
or 2) you find some random post in the Discussion Groups which says
you just need to email them at '' with your
Customer PIN and screenshots right? Did that, I got a nice rejection
message stating:
Thanks for your interest in Google Apps. This is an automated
The message that you submitted won't reach our support team.
If you need assistance, please visit the Help Center at, or by clicking 'Help' in your control
panel. You can find answers to many frequently asked questions, and
get in touch with our support team by clicking 'Contact us.'
Feel like you are running in circles? Or did you get sneaky like me?
I followed the link above, and I was back where I started. I found
the link that "How do I contact the support team?" is supposed to take
you to, copied it and googled it looking for a cached version. Bingo!
The original support section read:
Need to email our support team? Classify your issue. Based on the type
of issue you're experiencing, you'll have the option to email us your
question or ask the admin community in the Discussion Group. We
generally respond within two business days via email.
The phrase "Classify your issue" was a hyperlink to
Finally, oh wait! Another brick wall! There is no "Other" section
under "Administration" / "Get help with a technical issue" which is
where my issue would fall. NOTE: My problem is the bad user count
issue many others had. So then you methodically search through each
of the technical support issues searching for the correct email
address or link to finally reach support and....
You found a webform.. hooray, and it has a field for your Customer PIN
which up until now was completely useless. You fill out the webform,
and you get an actual confirmation email later, they got the
submission. And you attach screenshots to you reply... yeah! I hope
I get some support now.
This post is for the rest of you hunting for help from the Google Apps
Team. Kudos to those of you that skipped to the bottom.
Now to find the customer PIN...

Update: Customer PIN is only needed for Premier and Education accounts

Monday, May 19, 2008

wondering who has analyzed the Google Health Ts & Cs in detail

Friday, May 16, 2008

thinking it's too bad I can't do a bulk upload of mobile numbers to Joopz for sending SMS msgs
what was clear yesterday and seems confusing today was simply a misinterpretation of what has been obvious the whole time

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Best credit/debit card for foreign exchange
Whoops, don't use + Gmail, look at the comments in
"Send" large files by sharing them online using Gmail and
Review use of twitterfeed for blog/news/general awareness Example: Google
Use WIA Windows Image Acquisition instead of TWAIN for scanning

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Lenovo Thinkpad disk encryption is poorly explained on the Lenovo website

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Proposed Grand Central priority list: 1. service availability; 2. problem management internally; 3. problem reporting; 4. everything else
Did I complain earlier about the way that Grand Central handles extensions? I should have.