What I did over summer vacation

What I did over summer vacation.

While I didn't spend a whole lot of time in front of the computer over vacation (not a single RSS feed consumed!), I did have a few things to relate that might be of general interest.  On my first week of vacation, my wife and I drove from the Bay Area up to Vancouver, BC, and in the second week, I spent time relaxing and doing small projects at home.  Some notes:

1) The Grand Hyatt in Seattle is a truly excellent hotel for a vacationing technologist: free ethernet in the rooms and remote control drapes.  Flat screen TV's with a full cable package mounted on the treadmills in the fitness center.  A 151-seat theater with ethernet and power at every seat (didn't make it in there, but that's what they said).  I also have to give them kudos for their reservation system.  Just to see what would happen, I booked the room on the Hyatt.com web site from the wireless network in the Starbucks adjacent to the Hyatt, then closed my laptop and walked straight to the front desk to check in.  They had the reservation I had made just a minute earlier.  In the past, I've done this at other hotels and the record isn't in the front desk computer when I get there.  I have to hand it to Hyatt for having their data properly synchronized (hey, a CTO on vacation still thinks about such things).

2) If you're driving into the United States over the Canadian border, it makes things a lot easier if you have your passport or birth certificate.  Otherwise, you have to stand in line and wait your turn to be grilled by a U.S. Department of Homeland Security officer. I thought a drivers license was sufficient since I've breezed through the Mexican border that way fairly recently.  (From the State Department : “To re-enter the United States, returning U.S. citizens need to show the Department of Homeland Security officer proof of identity, such as a driver’s license, and proof of citizenship, such as a passport, birth certificate, or Certificate of Naturalization. A U.S. passport is proof of both citizenship and identity.”)

3) One small project at home during vacation: finally setting up a universal remote.  It's a little lame for a CTO to have 5 remotes sitting on the coffee table in a world where universal remotes exist.  I bought the Kameleon One for All and it is  incredible.  I had tried cheap $30 universal remotes and was disappointed, and I wasn't ready to pay $200 for anything too fancy.  I also needed something that would control my ReplayTV.  The Kameleon fell in the middle price-wise, and it was easy to setup for my TV, ReplayTV, DVD, VCR, and satellite box. The coolest feature is the context-sensitive function of the buttons.  The remote is actually a flat touch pad with dynamic LED buttons, so the One for All only lights up the buttons  that are needed for the component you are controlling at any given time.

4) I went pretty much Mac-only over this vacation — my latest column running this week gives you a glimpse into how I got hooked.  I've gotten so much reader e-mail on this column I can't even recount it here as I'm trying to get back up-to-speed from vacation, but thanks to everyone who has written.  [Chad Dickerson]

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