Sunday, December 24, 2006

Hopping off my Internet Island at the Holiday Inn Express

I've gotten spoiled these past three days with the reasonable and free Wi-Fi Internet access at the Holiday Inn Express Chelsea hotel on West 29th Street here in New York City. Every hotel has its own quirks in service or expense. I'll call them Internet islands. I'll be spending Thursday and Friday evening at The Roosevelt near Grand Central, but they charge $14.95 a day for wired high-speed Internet access. And that's a fancier hotel to boot. I would call that a relatively unfriendly Internet island. That seems to be the "model": low-end hotels attract people (especially road warrior business types) with free Internet access, while higher-end hotels charge excessive rates for inferior service.

In a few minutes I'll be hopping off of the Holiday Inn Express Internet island and hopping into unknown Internet territory at the Murray Hill East Suite Hotel on East 39th Street. I'll just be dropping off my "luggage" (backpack) and immediately head out for my typical walk up through Central Park and down through the Upper West Side. I don't have any idea what level of Internet service is available on the Murray Hill East Suite Internet island. If free, I'll go for it, otherwise I may take a mini Internet vacation over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. No great loss on such quiet days.

I may see The Good Shepard near Lincoln Square, but I cringe at the thought of blowing three hours of quality vacation time in the middle of a sunny 50-degree day in late December in New York City. Kind of a waste. I'll decide at the last minute whether to duck into the movie theatre or continue my wandering.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Email blogging from the Holiday Inn Express in New York City

I was bummed out that I could not trivially post to this blog via email from my room at the Holiday Inn Express on West 29th Street in New York City on their free Wi-Fi service. The issue was that due to the implementation of "Port 25 blocking" by many ISPs, my outbound email has had to go through my ISP's SMTP email server, but that doesn't work from the HIE Wi-Fi network. It simply times out. I tried to revert to "normal" email sending through my web domain host email servers, but that appeared to be blocked as well (as could be expected). I poked around on my web domain hosting service web site (Fatcow) and after about 45 minutes of trying this and that I finally found an alternate port to use for email that might not be blocked. Bingo. Port 587 for outbound email SMTP traffic is not blocked by the local network and does get through to Fatcow's SMTP email server.

So, this post was sent to this blog directly from Outlook Express running on my notebook computer in my hotel room at the Holiday Inn Express.

Note: Other domain host email servers may use different alternate ports for SMTP.

Incidentally, Fatcow has a very short-term introductory special of 25% off for the first year of full web site hosting. The normal price, that I pay, is $99 per year, so the introductory special that expires tomorrow, Friday, December 22, 2006 is $74 for the first year. I have four domains hosted with Fatcow and am quite satisfied with the service, reliability, and price. I've been using them for about six years now. Please be sure to give them my domain as your "referral":,,, or

Note: If you read this after 12/22, call them to try to get the deal anyway. I suspect that they will give you the deal anyway, as long as you are nice about it. Even if you don't get the deal, the service and reliability is worth $99 per year. You may save a few bucks elsewhere, but is the potential hassle really worth it?

-- Jack Krupansky

Blogging from New York City

I'm spending two weeks on "vacation" in New York City. I just arrived late last night. Actually it was early this morning (1:53 a.m.) before I actually got to my room. My flight from Seattle would have been on time and landed at 12:02 a.m., but ATC put us in a holding pattern for 20 minutes, causing me to just miss the 12:30 a.m. bus, so I had to catch the 1:00 a.m. CoachUSA bus to Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan. I'm staying at the Holiday Inn Express Chelsea that is on 29th Street between 7th and 8th Avenue. I got a really quite room in the back even though work crews were jackhammering a hole in the middle of the street in front of the hotel. The good news is that the hotel has free wireless Internet access, which is what I am using at this moment in my room.

It's already after 10:00 a.m., so time to go off in search of adventure in "The City". I'm thinking of doing my normal Saturday routine (since it may rain on Saturday) of wandering around all of lower Manhattan. The only thing I will miss is that there is no farmer's market at Union Square on Thursdays (I vaguely recall).

Hmmm... I tried to send this via my normal email process, but there is oviously some ISP settings issue. Instead, I am sending via webmail from Fatcow, where my web site and email is hosted. I'll try to figure it out later, maybe, but it does make sending email significantly more inconvenient. Sigh.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Blogger is being cranky about email posts

Speaking of being cranky, I need to complain about Blogger. It mostly works, kind of. I post via email, but it seems as if at least one or two out of four posts sent via email get bounced back from Blogger's email gateway with an incredibly cryptic message. I'm guessing that the gateway is simply overloaded. I simply re-email the post and half of the time that is sufficient. A fair number of times required two or three re-emails to get the post through. Once, I even had to email the post six times before it got through.

I am still using the "old" release of the Blogger service. There is a newer, beta version, but I'll wait at least another month or two before switching. For one thing, the login process is different and I simply do not have the time right now to re-train myself and deal with the idiosyncrasies of a new beta release.

-- Jack Krupansky

Cranky voices

There was an article in The New York Times by Keith Schneider entitled "Brands for the Chattering Masses" which discusses the impact of the blogosphere on branding. As the article put it:

As consumers eagerly post word-of-mouth commentary in online communities, message boards and Web logs, a straightforward question confronts brandmeisters: Who wins and who loses as time-tested practices of mass production and mass marketing are undermined by the informed and often cranky voices of the knowledge age?

Are you one of those "cranky voices"?

How does it feel to labeled as possibly being one of those "cranky voices"?

-- Jack Krupansky

Friday, December 15, 2006

Hello darkness my old friend

... I've come to talk with you again.

(Apologies to Simon & Garfunkel)

I usually don't get a chance to do much blogging on a weekday such as today, but... that's the story here.

We had quite a storm last night here in the Seattle area and the net result is a lack of power for many homes and businesses, including headquarters for The Evil Empire in Redmond where I work.

The power was flickering so much last night that it confused the digital thermostat in my apartment so that my heat would not come on. I was finally able to successfully reset it when I got up at 5:10 a.m. The power was fine. I looked outside and the wind had died down and the streets seemed dry. Building lights were on. Business as usual as far as I was concerned. Or so I thought.

I walked to the bus station here in downtown Bellevue shortly before 6:00 a.m. and only noticed a couple of buildings that weren't brightly lit as usual. Oddly, the bus transit center had no lights on even though the buildings on either side, including Starbucks and a construction site, were "lighting as usual". I even saw some holiday decorative lighting on, including a couple of the tower cranes at construction sites.

My bus was on time and off we went. Not as many riders as on a typical Friday.

As we get to the first stop in front of a gas station at 8th and 116th, I see long lines at the pumps. I haven't seen that since the oil embargo back in 1973.

We skipped the next bus stop to take a detour. So far, all the lights were on. Then, we get to the top of a hill at 124th Street and... total darkness. Wow. No street lights. No traffic lights. No nothing, other than light traffic at 6:10 a.m. I don't know exactly why we detoured, but even on the detour we had to swerve around fallen trees. In fact, at one point the driver turned off the interior lights so he could see better to go around a large fallen tree in the road with no lights but vehicle headlights.

We picked up very few people at the normal stops.

It was so weird. Total darkness. The driver would call out the stops, but you couldn't see any landmarks to recognize anything.

As the bus (MT 253) crossed over SR 520 on 148th Street everything was still darkness other than headlights and taillights, and several miles off in the distance the bright lights of the high-rise buildings of downtown Bellevue (including my apartment building), shimmering like the emerald city.

The bus driver said that anybody who didn't want to get off could just stay on and get off on his return trip to downtown Bellevue.

I joked that if I could see my stop I would get off, otherwise I would stay on. A few seconds later I see a brightly lit building, the one next to the one I work in. Actually, there were no lights other than emergency lights in that building and it was brightly lit only due to construction lights in the lot next door where they are building the new home for Microsoft Research. It was interesting that the construction people were at work after all of this, but maybe they were simply securing the site after the storm.

At the very last moment I decided to get off the bus since I did see a fair amount of emergency lighting in the building next to mine. Besides, the driver said I could just get back on the same bus 40 minutes later on his return trip to downtown Bellevue.

I had my work Smartphone and checked my work email while on the bus. There was an email from the facilities people at about 5:15 a.m. which basically said that buildings on the Microsoft campus would have limited access, emergency lighting, but no normal power and no services.

I tried to get in at my normal side entrance with my cardkey, and it beeped but didn't open. Ditto with the front entrance. I started walking towards the underground parking garage when somebody came out the entrance I couldn't get in and told me which entrance I could get in.

I could hear the emergency generator rumbling away in the parking garage.

There was more than enough emergency lighting, including all the hallways. I walked up to my office area. It was so quiet. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Just me. No computer fans. No HVAC. No nothing. It was still relatively warm, so the power must have been on a good part of the night.

I checked some more overnight work email on my Smartphone (the really cool T-Mobile Dash). I hung around waiting for the pre-dawn light to arrive so I could see where I'm walking outside. I got off the bus around 6:30 a.m. Sunrise isn't until about 7:50 a.m., but there is a fair amount of light by 7:10 a.m.

So, off I went shortly after 7:00 a.m. A lot more traffic now, but still no street lights or traffic lights. It's amazing how much more civil a lot of people drive when they are forced to be courteous to simply negotiate to get through a busy intersection that has no working traffic signal. And they are nicer to pedestrians, too!

I always walk home from work every evening anyway and it is usually dark by then, so I decided to walk home rather than catch the return bus. The bus is free since The Evil Empire gives us free bus passes, but I enjoy walking when I have the time.

My trip home is south on 148th Street, then southwest on Bel-Red Road all the way to 8th Avenue and downtown Bellevue. More traffic as the minutes ticked by. But where are they all headed? I'm sure plenty of them were Microsoft employees... rushing off to their darkened offices. Ah, the force of habit. I approached one intersection, saw the traffic and instinctively pushed the pedestrian signal button... a moment later realizing how stupid that was since the traffic signals were completely dead due to lack of power.

One stretch of Bel-Red Road was carpeted with small pieces of broken branches. If you love the smell of evergreen trees, you would have been in heaven. Luckily, the sidewalks were reasonably passable. I did periodically stop to pull some larger branches out of the roadway.

As I started down the hill past 124th Street I started to see lights again. At the bottom of the hill I could see the glare of hundreds of ceiling fixtures in the Lamps Plus store, signaling that I had arrived back at civilization.

I walked into Whole Foods, misguidedly thinking I could simply pick up a pastry for breakfast. Nothing but long lines, like that gas station. Forget that idea. I had some cookies and Snapple back at my apartment anyway.

The construction crews in the lot next to my apartment building are spending the day pumping rainwater out of the bottom of the 30-foot deep construction pit. They are putting up a 19-story "sister" to my building. I was glad to see that the new tower crane that they just erected last Sunday held up fine in the truly fierce winds last night.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for my building. Some of the balcony wind screens on some upper floors were ripped off last night and came tumbling down to the street. Twisted aluminum and shattered glass lying on the plaza area. I could hear the metal thudding against the building on the way down last night.

In addition to my work Smartphone, I also have access to OWA - Outlook Web Access - so I can keep up on work email today and at least pretend that I am doing some useful work. I keep calling in to the security recorded message to check Building power status back at The Empire. I'll probably go in if it does come back on by 3:00 p.m., simply as a matter of priciple.

Now, time to get back to some serious blogging. And I need to use Priceline to nail down at least a few more of my hotel nights for my two-week trip to New York City that starts on Wednesday.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Reading and writing on my trip to New York City

I'll have more than enough potential activities to keep me 220% occupied during my two-week trip to New York City which starts a week from Wednesday, I still feel like I should try o do something useful as well. On the other hand, relaxing and resting get top priority. The default would be to do some reading, but I don't want to "waste" hours a day when I only have two weeks. I'd also like to do some writing as well.

My current thought is to pick up a different magazine or journal each day and familiarize myself with a totally new topic every day, focusing on stuff that I have little knowledge of and even no current interest in. Maybe I'll spend an hour or two a day with that type of "reading", at lunch time or resting before going to dinner and to put me to sleep before I go to bed.

My morning reading might be focused on reading The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or even the Daily News or The New York Post on occasion for variety.

At a minimum, my reading may include some travel, food, politics, sports, photography, or even (cringe) fashion.

I would like to do some writing, but we'll see. I don't want to be overly ambitious for such a short period of time where relaxation is the priority. Blogging may be enough writing for me. But whether I simply blog or write more extensively, I would need to have access to a PC.

Of course, I would actually do some old-fashioned longhand writing, but then it wouldn't be accessible online, although I could scan it and OCR it. Or maybe the novelty of writing without the constraints of a keyboard and text editor would be liberating. Whether I put such writing online may be beside the point. I already take lots of notes every day, with index cards and notebooks, but I usually take only very abbreviated notes and leave any full-blown writing for the PC. Still, it might be interesting to experiment with a change.

I definitely am not into writing fiction or "stories", but there might be some potential for writing narratives for experiences I may have had which may or may not be interesting to others. Or maybe even write narratives which forecast the future use of technologies that I anticipate in the coming decades.

I have also considered taking and organizing photos, but somehow that doesn't feel like the right thing for me to day. Flickr is full of photo sets from travelers. A few more photos from me would be lost in all of the noise and probably be more effort than the satisfaction I might get.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, December 03, 2006

An Internet vacation? Part 2

Now that I've made my New Year's Eve hotel reservation for my two-week trip to New York City at the end of the year, I am back to thinking about how to turn this into an Internet Vacation. I'm fairly confident I can manage to dramatically reduce my overall Web usage. I intend to read The New York Times  every day and even watch a little television to get my daily news fix. As far as email, I think that everybody is amenable to the fact that failure to reply to email "during the holidays" is acceptable and expected social behavior.

One potential need for accessing the net during my stay is that I am considering not booking most of my hotel days in advance and then book them via Priceline literally a day or two in advance to get even better deals. Usually I am fairly picky about where I stay, but I'll have so many days in New York and most of them will be fairly decent, so I can afford to take a chance that a few of the hotel nights might be less desirable than my normal standards. OTOH, this strategy requires that I access the net a bunch of times during my stay, detracting from my enjoyment of the stay. On the other other hand, pre-planning all nights eliminates flexibility. For example, I would like to take a side trip to Atlantic City, but either I have to decide soon which days to go, or have to play with the net to make last minute arrangements.

Ah, for the good old days, when I could simply walk into any hotel and simply ask if they had a room and charge it to my credit card. Alas, such carefree spending is no longer within my relatively frugal budget.

The big question remains whether I can eliminate 100% of the need for lugging my notebook computer around with me.

The other big question is whether I can really go a full two weeks without doing any blogging. That would be really roughing it.

-- Jack Krupansky