Coach to India - The only way to go

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The first thing that always comes to my mind when discussing the chance of traveling to India is Seinfeld’s episode titled “The Betrayal” in which they travel for a wedding in India and Jerry replies to George on his experience so far of the flight with the title that I used for this post. I had different opportunities to travel to India on business but I was always able to avoid it and have someone else go or meetings just got cancelled, but this time I had no choice and had to get on a plane to Bangalore.

The first thing I had to figure out was the best (shortest and quickest) way to get to Bangalore. The first choice was obviously Continental or one of its Star Alliance partners, but all the options there included 3-4 legs from RDU and different stops either in USA (to connect to a US hub), Europe and even Delhi or Mumbai since almost no one flies directly to Bangalore. Then I came across a direct British Airways flight from London to Bangalore and since I have a direct flight from Raleigh to London with American, it made this the best option. Raleigh – London = 7:30 hours + London – Bangalore = 9:30 hours. A long trip but shorter in flight time and plane changes than any other combination. The only caveat is that on the return flight I can’t make the connection to Raleigh so I’ll stay a night in London to catch the direct flight the next day – Still a better option than running in 3-4 different airports or spending an extra night in India like other options offered.

The flight to India was surprisingly good. From Raleigh to London it is the best flight you can get. The plane is never full and this time I had a whole row for myself which makes it a great chance to make a flat-bed in coach. From London to Bangalore the flight was completely full but I have to say it wasn’t a mess like I was afraid. Flight was quiet and after sleeping the complete first flight I spent this one watching 3 movies on British’s 747 entertainment system. I can’t remember the last time I flew on a 747. I hate the 3-4-3 configuration, so what I did is actually seat in the end of the plane where the last 3 rows are 2-4-2. This way I’m seating in a window and there’s only 1 person next to me.

I didn’t have a chance to see much of Bangalore yet since I got early in the morning and it was still dark outside, but during my trip from the airport to the hotel I did see one cow crossing the street in the middle of the city Big Grin. It happened so fast (or was it the cab driver going so fast) that I didn’t have a chance to take a picture, but I’m sure I’ll see more.

They say that the first thing that you notice when landing in India is the smell. I didn’t experience any strong smells yet but it does feel difficult to breathe here (pollution?). The one thing that I noticed from the moment I got out of the airport and still didn’t stop even when I’m sitting inside the hotel, is the constant sound of hundreds of cars honking their horn. This thing doesn’t stop and I already have a headacheDoh

Continental Finally Installs First 777 With Flat-Bed BusinessFirst

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image The first flight operated from Hong Kong to Newark and marks the first upgraded plane of the Continental fleet that will install the new flat bed seats on all 777, 757-200, 767-400ER/200ER and 787 when Boeing finally delivers them.

You can track the upgrade progress in Continental’s web site which currently shows the 5% complete of 777 fleet (1 out of 20…). It looks like ship #13 got the seats, so you can always check the flight status page and see if it’s your next flight. Can’t wait to see if my flight to TLV next week is on that plane and I get upgraded Big Grin

Still Looking for an HTPC

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I’ve been looking for a while for a good HTPC (Home Theatre PC) solution. I still didn’t buy anything because I couldn’t find something that will give easy access to the available online content and replace the cable box that is connected to my HDTV (and for cable bill as well…). Two interesting announcements this week show that more vendors are trying to provide a solution for this and take the lead over Apple that still doesn’t deliver with Apple TV.

image The first announcement came from Boxee. They finally confirmed the rumors that a “Boxee Box” is coming soon. They plan to reveal more information on December 7th during their Boxee Beta unveiling in Brooklyn. This looks very promising and since it’s an open source project it could lead to a good solution if the hardware will support everything that is needed (HDMI, easy remote control etc).

image The second announcement came from Dell, when they revealed the Inspiron Zino HD which basically looks like a black Mac Mini but unlike the Mac, it comes with HDMI port, and can be upgraded to Blu-Ray, 1TB HDD, 8GB RAM and more. Price starts at $229 and this could be a great customized HTPC that will provide good functionality by simply using Windows Media Center along the Hulu plug-in, XBMC or the Hulu Desktop.

Sleep Box by Arch Group

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Imagine a situation where you get stuck in the airport or have a long layover and are desperate for some rest and personal space. Most airports have nearby hotels and some offer full service hotels right inside the terminal. The Japanese even have the crazy '”capsule hotels” that remind me of something worse. The Russian company, Arch Group has a better solution and they call it the Sleep Box. It is your personal space that could be in an airport, train station etc. and is a small mobile space of 2 meters by 1.4 meter and 2.3 meter high.

Here are some pictures:

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The Sleep Box would be equipped with automatic system of change of bed linen, ventilation system, sound alerts, LCD TV, WiFi, sockets for laptops, charging phones and space for luggage. Pretty cool! Check their web site for more info and pictures.

Good bye SkyTeam, Hello Star Alliance

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Continental officially left SkyTeam on October 24th and a couple of days before that I received my official Platinum Elite OnePass card with the Star Alliance logo and a new Presidents Club card with the Star Alliance logo as well. Both valid until February 2010.

Since the end of the year is approaching the question that comes to mind is of course if I should stick with Continental and its new partners or try to get a status match on Delta and stick with SkyTeam. Here’s a short comparison of both:

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US Partners Delta / Northwest Continental, United, US Airways
Total Airlines

13

25

Number of Lounges

415

954

It is pretty clear that these numbers and all the additional ones you can get from both web sites point to the fact that Star Alliance is a stronger airline alliance. The other thing that I like about it is that now I have access to reward booking on Singapore Airlines for that “All Business Class” flight from New York or Los Angeles on their A345. So I guess I’ll stick with Continental at least for this year, especially since I’ll make Platinum again against all odds after all…

Air New Zealand Has Nothing To Hide

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Last month Air New Zealand released a TV ad with a catchy tune where you can see different employees from flight attendants to cargo crew all stripped down and body painted to let you know that their fares have nothing to hide (no unexpected surprises or additional fees). This month they also decide to redo their safety video with crew (and some actors) all body painted. Maybe this will make passengers listen to the video Thinking? You can watch both clips at the bottom of this post:

Safety Video:

TV Ad:

How to Reach Gold Status After Two Flights!

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I reached Platinum status with Continental in the last 6 years easily with the amount of flights that I used to do. Some years I even reached Platinum before June, however this year with the economical situation and the fact that business is simply down I figured this is the year that I won’t make it to Platinum. Earlier this year Continental announced a “Double EQM” promotions which simply said that you will earn double EQM on any CO flight that is flown before June 15th. I wasn’t sure if it will make much difference but decided to register anyway (it’s free so why not?).

So like I originally thought I didn’t have a chance to fly too much this year (yet) for business. I had a couple of flights to NY and two flights to Israel. To my surprise this was enough to make it to Gold already which means I still have a great chance to complete 25,000 EQM more before the end of the year Party

So how did I cross the magical number of 50,000 EQM using this promotion?

Flight EQM
RDU-LGA (Delta) 250 (50% with partners) Phbbbttt
JFK-RDU (Delta) 250 (50% with partners) Phbbbttt
RDU-TLV 12,384 (double EQM) Party
TLV-RDU 12,384 (double EQM) Party
RDU-EWR 1,000 (double EQM) Party
EWR-RDU 1,000 (double EQM) Party
RDU-TLV 18,576 (150% EQM * 2) Silly
TLV-RDU 6,192 “only” since I returned after 6/15 Sad
Total 52,036 Applause

Who Needs a Bluetooth Headset Anyway?

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I had my share of Bluetooth headsets. I think my first one was a Sony Ericsson that I got to pair with my Sony Ericsson t68i 8-9 years ago (the first cell phone with a color display Nerd). The last one I bought was the Jawbone II which is nice but they all suffer from the same problems:

  1. You need to take them with you in addition to the phone.
  2. You need to charge them as well (at least ones a day).
  3. Voice quality is never good (no matter how much it improved over the years).

I ended up going back to the regular headphone that comes to the BlackBerry when I’m on a conference call (instead of holding the BlackBerry for an hour…) and pretty much gave up on using a headset while driving (it’s still legal in NC).

I know that cars came with Bluetooth connection for a few years now, but I never thought it’s worth investing in it. The Acura TSX I got comes (by default) with the Bluetooth HandsFreeLink which allows you to make and receive calls keeping your hands on the wheel (or even using voice commands).

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Before I left the dealer’s lot, the sales manager paired my BlackBerry as part of the “training session” he gave me and I never really thought about it again. The nice thing about this is that as soon as I get into the car, the BlackBerry connects with the system automatically – You don’t need to take a headset out of your pocket, turn it on, wear it etc. The first time I received a call was a little strange. All of a sudden, the XM radio (comes free for first 90 days) muted and for a second I didn’t understand what’s wrong – and then I heard the ring Call me. You can see right in the display of the car who’s calling you and then either accept or ignore the call without taking the BlackBerry out of the holster. I must say that the voice quality is great. Both sides hear perfectly and it doesn’t sound like you are on a Bluetooth headset at all. Now all that is left for Acura to do is embed the email functionality in the messages system they have. Just like the car reads to me the messages received from the Acura satellite with tips and service reminders it would be great if it would read to me the incoming emails Thinking.

Jimmy Fallon Tests Project Natal

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Last week I blogged about the amazing Project Natal from Microsoft. Jimmy Fallon had a chance to test this great interface last night on his Late Night show. If you haven’t seen this, you can check the clip. Pretty cool stuff Big Grin

Goodbye Z, Hello TSX-Tech

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After almost 6 years of driving and enjoying my Nissan 350Z, I decided that it’s time to replace it and move on to a more “adult” car. I’ve been doing some research and tested different cars. I even considered getting a small SUV, but then decided that you live only once and you might as well enjoy it while you can.

I liked the Acura cars from the beginning. What I like about Japanese luxury cars is that their “standard” trim comes loaded with more toys than any other car including their European competitors (a.ka. “Ze Germans”). Unlike other car companies that have more options than cars on the lot, the only “option” you have here is the “Technology Package”. Simple, clear – You get what you want for the price you see instead of starting with one price and ending with $10,000 more out the door by time you get everything a luxury car should have.

I tested both the TSX and the TL. The technology in both is pretty similar (the TL has a few little things to its advantage). The TL has 2 inches more of leg space in the backseats and a little bigger trunk – the driver space is exactly the same. The TL has also a bigger engine (3.5L V6 vs. 2.4 4 Cyl) which means more fuel consumption and it drives more like a sedan while the TSX reminded me more of the 350Z. After some thinking and consideration I decided to go with the 2009 Acura TSX and also add the technology package (with the current economical situation you can get a great deal).

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The Acura is a technology heaven for gadget freaks. The “standard” model comes with more technology than even the Lexus. When you add the Technology package, you make sure you’ll enjoy the ride even more and have enough toys to play with Nerd.

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These are the main things you get with the Tech package:

  • Acura Navigation System with voice recognition and Zagat Survey ratings and reviews.
  • Rearview camera
  • Acura/ELS Surround 415-watt 10 speaker audio (instead of 6 in the standard) system with 6-disc in-dash CD, DVD-Audio, MP3, WMA and DTS changer, Dolby Prologic II.
  • AcuraLink satellite communication system with real-time traffic and weather.
  • GPS linked, solar sensing, dual zone automatic climate control system.

I must say that the buying experience in Acura is great. The sales consultant spent probably an hour with us in the car going over all the features and how to use them. This included pairing my BlackBerry with the Bluetooth hands free system. It was a “quick” training to get me started. I’ll keep on posting on my experience with the TSX and its different toys.