Virgin America vs. JetBlue

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On Friday, February 1st my wife and I had the experience on traveling via Virgin America from KSFO to KJFK. They just recently started providing domestic service and tout such amenities on the plane as mood lighting, power at every seat and an interactive seat-back entertainment system. AFAIK, this is the highest level of technology implemented in coach class at-seat amenities to date. I have also flown JetBlue (albeit from KSMF to KJFK) which provides a TV at every seat as well, although it acts as a standard television rather than an interactive system.

Red, the name of Virgin America’s seat back system, is novel at first, but my excitement faded as the interface was laggy and the TV quality was quite low. Both my wife and I had issues receiving some live television stations, and other stations were pixelated and annoying to watch. Perhaps the difference in signal quality is that Virgin uses Dish Network and JetBlue is on DirecTV. Red also offers an array of on-demand videos (tv shows, music videos) to be streamed to your seat, as well as a wide array of music stations to listen to. You can order snacks, meals and drinks right from your screen, and, by using the included controller, you can chat with other people on the plane, or play some of the included games.

If we consider that the price to fly these two airlines is generally the same (give or take a bit), the seats in coach are just as cramped, and the flight times are exactly the same, I’d still take Virgin America over JetBlue only for the fact that it has power at every seat. This means that no matter what kind of entertainment they provide on board, as long as I can plug in my laptop I can watch any entertainment that I bring along. This past trip we watched a few episodes of Futurama and Good Night, and Good Luck. Once they were completed, I was still able to use my laptop to do some programming I wanted to get done.

The Virgin America crew was friendly, the plane was clean, and it was about as enjoyable as a coach class flight across the country could be. With any luck the airline will be around for a long time and will expand its array of electronics and connectivity enabling it to be on the bleeding edge of technology at 35000 feet.

Multiple Computer and Screen Utilities

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Both at home and at my job I utilize multiple computer systems, and now that I’m a Mac owner, it usually spans different operating systems. Here are a few utilities that I employ to assist in managing these computers.

  • Synergy – (Cross Platform) This is quite possibly the most useful tool that I have found. It simply shares the keyboard and mouse on a system that you designate a server to any number of client systems. This is not a KVM, as each system requires its own monitor system. However, with Synergy and a fairly simple configuration, your mouse will flow from one system to another as if you’re using a single computer. In addition, the clipboard is shared between systems. Setup can be a bit tricky on non-windows machines, but binaries are available for Windows, OS X and Linux.
  • UltraMon – (Windows) Ok, so you’ve got two monitors, and finally have the screen real estate to have many windows open in an order that you can create a comfortable work flow. Yet, all of your windows are stuffed onto your main screen task bar. Enter UltraMon. With this handy utility you can expand your task bar across multiple screens; tasks that are on screen 1 are on screen 1’s task bar, tasks on screen 2 on screen 2’s task bar. Aside from these great features, it also has other useful multiple monitor utilities. This is quite a great piece of software, and I highly recommend purchase of this product.
  • Foxmarks – (Firefox Plugin, cross platform) Within the course of a day, I can use up to 4 distinct copies of Firefox. Two on my laptop (OS X and Windows XP in a virtual machine), my office desktop (OS X) and my home desktop (Windows XP). FoxMarks helps to bridge that gap by providing a easy and transparent way to sync bookmarks between copies of Firefox.
  • LineIn (OS X) As documented by my post here on the trials and tribulations of moving sound between computers, LineIn is a great (and free) utility to enable line in monitoring on a Mac. Aside from the freebies on the same page as LineIn, Rogue Amoeba also provides other OS X based audio software to check out.

These tools help make my daily interaction with computers a bit easier, and I hope they’ll help other as well! If you know of other tools in the same vein, feel free to leave a comment or contact me.

Making friends, Web 2.0 style

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Though it may be Dan‘s resolution to blog everyday, it’s certainly not mine, so I’ll let his post (mostly) speak for itself. I will add that we do share similar interests: We’re Buzz Out Loud listeners, work in the tech industry, were brought into the Mac world by the companies that we work for. It’s all quite interesting, although if there’s any place it would happen, it would be in San Francisco.

Read on, here!

The State of Bay Area Podcasting

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In a recent blog post that created quite a stir among the San Francisco Bay Area podcasters, Michael Tolosa commented that the scene is “incestuous” in nature, citing that most hosts of one show are guests of another, and vice-versa. While this may be true, I don’t necessarily feel that this community is incestuous. Abstracting the definition of incest, it would imply that the sharing of ideas between shows is not accepted by our society’s customs. This couldn’t be farther from the case; in the specific case, the melting pot of guests from various viewpoints within the tech industry that Leo Laporte has on the TWiT podcast allows for an engaging and eye opening discussion about technology and forecasting for the future.

When we consider the evolution of podcasting from someone recording a few moments of audio for download to the full blown audio netcasts and video podcasts, it doesn’t surprise me at all that podcasting, especially in the tech-heavy Bay Area, has taken this route. It is as if podcasting has evolved in the same way the internet is used: Podcast 1.0 was a single-user system, while the current Podcast 2.0 is a more social, interactive environment that provides more information, reaches a larger audience, and, most importantly, is an open forum for discussion.

I am reminded of a time when the now-defunct Play, Inc. set up a network of online interactive shows using their Trinity broadcasting system in a box. The premise was to have live streaming shows that included audience participation (through some sort of instant messaging utility). Alex Bennett, a prominent Bay Area radio personality, signed on to this format and had a good run with it until, unfortunately, Play, Inc. closed its doors. The format of the Play TV network perhaps was a bit ahead of its time, but it demonstrated the social nature of broadcasting over the internet and how Netcasting should move into the global conversation.

I think we should be thankful that the podcasters in the Bay Area have created such an open community that shares ideas, stimulates discussion and genuinely provides entertaining content that I can shove onto my iPod.

Monitoring Line In on a Mac

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At work I use a combination of Mac OS X (Tiger) and a Windows XP laptop (mainly for developing web applications running in a Linux environment — go figure). I currently use Synergy to share the keyboard and mouse on my Mac with my XP machine. This really is an awesome program. It can be a pain to setup on non-windows machines, but it’s well worth the time and effort. I plug my headphones into my PC for mail and instant message notifications and to listen to music. My problem arises when I’m doing something on my Mac and I come across something that I want to listen to. I could blast it over the built in speakers, but I’d prefer to not have other office inhabitants loathing me.

I finally took the time to get a 1/8″ male to male stereo cable to connect the two audio systems together. At first I connected the headphone out of the Mac to my line in of my laptop. This worked fine, but the SNR on the laptop of the line in port wasn’t all that great. I wasn’t about to pollute my ears with the subtle sounds of a hissing cat. I decided to reverse the process: the output of the laptop goes to the line in of the Mac. Perfect — I play the sound on my PC, and I see the meter pumping in the sound settings. But I can’t hear a darn thing! Apparently, an out of the box Mac cannot route the line in port to the ouput.

After a few minutes of “Googling”, I found LineIn. This allows you to take any input and assign it to any output. Go figure. At least it’s freeware.

Tweaking the Theme

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I’ve been spending some time tweaking the wordpress theme today.  Shoot me over an email (or comment on this post) if you notice anything that’s wonky.

Another reason my wife is awesome

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Two words: Family Guy.  I always saw the previews for Family Guy — stared at it and said “What the hell — how come the baby can talk?  It doesn’t make any sense.”  Enter my wife — she showed me the light.  It is probably one of the funniest shows on television — the parodies are outstanding, the voicing is great.  Everybody should be watching this show!

Good morning, bright sunshine.

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There is the adage: If everybody jumped off the Empire State Building, would you? Consider this my arms-a-flailing, head-first jump into the blogosphere. It’s only fair that I empower myself to pollute your bandwidth with my inane drivel as have so many other internet inhabitants. As Apu Nahasapeemapetilon would say, “Thank you, come again!”


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