Well for various reasons I now have Windows Vista. I installed it myself and to be honest everything went smoothly. That’s not to say everything went perfectly, but nothing unsurmountable happened. The first problem was the fact that I bought the upgrade version. I’d previously bought Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 but I was doing a clean install. Previous version of Windows just asked for you to pop the disk of the previous version in this situation - Vista didn’t. It would only let me install from Windows. So I had to install Media Centre first. Then once I had installed Vista it didn’t have drivers for my network card or my sound card (and no network card meant no internet and therefore no video drivers and therefore horrible resolution (at the wrong aspect ratio no less). Well luckily I have another computer with internect access so I got the network drivers (and then the video and sound drivers). Beyond that, I haven’t done much with it yet. The Aero glass lucks cool and stuff and the new games it comes with are at least as entertaining as the old ones were when I first saw them. PS. User Account Control really is as annoying as they say it is for at least two reasons: Firstly it seems to ask you everything twice. Second since I have administrator access anyway it doesn’t really provide any security (it happens so often that you just click accept straight away without reading it).
I’ve now been in America a week. That’s why I haven’t posted. I can’t really think of anything especially interesting to say except about the fun I’ve had with luggage.
The flight to here (Missoula) went via Minneapolis. I made the connection fine (a 5 hour wait in the airport made bearable by the fact that with my Nokia 770 I could talk to Julia using Google Talk - internet access was $7.95 for 24 hours with Boingo) but my luggage stayed in Minneapolis.
I have to say that lost luggage may not be so bad if you plan a little and look on the bright side. For example I missed a suitcase for a day. There was nothing immediately important in it and for me it just meant I got it delivered to where I was staying instead of having to take it myself. The only possible problem in this case was that we were flying out to Chicago the day after and not having my luggage for that would have been a pain. But in the end it was fine.
Coming back from Chicago was much more complicated however. Our original route was Chicago to Denver, Denver to Salt Lake City and then Salt Lake City to Missoula. The first flight was with United, the other two with Delta. The first flight had its take off delayed by an hour (they tried fixing the problem by rebooting the plane - a worrying sign) so we missed the connection in Denver. Everything seemed okay since we were booked on the next Delta flight to Salt Lake City. Except we were told that flight was also delayed and we’d miss the connection to Missoula if we took it and would have to spend the night. Sorting this out was confusing since we missed a Delta flight because of United and neither were sure what to do with us.
In the end we were put on standby for a flight straight to Missoula (on United). A minute or so before the gate closed they concluded that two passengers hadn’t turned up and let us on. Obviously our luggage was not going to be with us. It wasn’t so bad though since we only arrived half an hour later than we should have done (not bad for an hour delay :P). The story with the luggage is funnier than we’d imagined though. Apparently it was never flying with us in the first place. It took a Delta flight to Denver and made it on time. But to save confusion they let it wait at the airport for us. So it took the second flight (which was delayed), spent the night in Salt Lake City and arrived a day later (this morning). Three suitcases, delivered to Julia’s room (mainly dirty clothes, some books and a very heavy Christmas present).
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Julia is currently on an exchange program in America and I plan to visit in November. Which unfortunately means I need to get a visa.
America (like a lot of the world) runs a visa waiver programme whereby people in certain situations don’t need a visa to enter the country. At the moment holders of a UK passport listed as British Nationals going for business or pleasure trips of less than 90 days that haven’t been arrested don’t need a visa. On October 24th that will change. As well as the above requirements you will need a biometric passport.
Biometric passports are being brought in over here slowly.Any passport applications may, or may not receive a biometric passport as the increase the volume of BPs they can produce. Which means I can’t just apply for one.
Sometime in “early October” however the change over to biometrics will be complete and all new UK passports will be biometric. But that is cutting it very close. They do have systems in place whereby the application can be sped up (down to as little as one day) but that involves extra hassle and extra cost. Possibly less than that needed to get a US visa though…
My first blatantly personal post for a while - I now have a new Cahoot credit card. My main reason for getting one is to get an extra month’s interest on most of my income. And that idea is even easier to implement than I thought since you can set up a direct debit to pay off your balance automatically. And a day after activating the card I got an email saying their default charges (for exceeding spending limit or late payment) have been reduced from £25 to £12. So all is well in the world. credit cards, Cahoot, interest, borrowing, finance
Google Checkouts has a launched as a rival to PayPal. Competing with PayPal will be difficult, especially with the eBay integration. That could end when GBuy is released though (a competitor to eBay that will obviously integrate with Google Checkout). On the surface Google Checkout is more expensive - 2.0% + $0.20 per transaction (PayPal is 1.9% + $0.30). However Google will let sellers have $10 of free transactions for every $1 spent on AdWords. The big disadvantage is that it’s only available in the United States. But that won’t last forever. online auctions
Google Mail (no longer Gmail) has a confusing feature.
I recently got a Google Mail account to test out Google Talk. Since I was already logged into my Google account it asked if I wanted my new email account to be part of it. I said yes. Then I couldn’t log into my Google Account for anything else. The problem is they’ve decided my new Google Mail email address is my primary address and that’s what I need to use to log in.
Julia is going to America next year on an exchange and she needs a student visa obviously (a J-1 if you’re interested). So we had a nice trip to London to the US Embassy this week.
The first problem we faced was finding it. Using Google Maps gives different results depending on whether you use the address or the postcode. I figured the address was right since it at least showed a road with the right name.
Speaking of the road, it’s blocked off. The whole road in front of the embassy is completely blocked to traffic and has armed police patrolling it. For various reasons we needed to find a bank so Julia asked one of the police officers. Somehow feels like misusing resource - asking someone with a gun that big for directions.
Then once Julia was in (I couldn’t get in without an appointment) there was a three hour wait. But they said yes. Even the page full of Arabic in her passport (following a recent trip to the United Arab Emirates) didn’t worry them.