August 24, 2004

disruptive technology: executive air transport

Sometimes a new product comes along that is sufficiently technologically advanced that it is the equivalent of a quantum leap: a distinct step above the previous state. Even more rarely a group of talented people come along and capitalize on this new advancement and change the market place. I think I had the opportunity to witness this yesterday when I flew in a new Piaggio Avanti. Piaggio is owned by Ferrari and the Avanti is their new executive airplane that completely changes the light jet market. It's as fast as any of the small jets, can take off and land on a smaller runway, goes as high, is quieter, is roomier than all small jets and even many large jets on the inside (bigger than a Citation X) ... and costs a lot less to purchase and operate.

Mo' better, less dough.

We flew from Reno to Vegas in one of Avantair's fractional planes along with some of the owners/operators of the company. We cruised at over 400knots groundspeed, at 27,000', in a larger and quieter cabin than anything for twice the price. Avantair can't get enough of these planes for their fractional sales. The factory is back ordered. When one of their customers/owners books a flight for which there is no Avanti available Avantair will send a charter jet. A much more expensive charter jet ... which generates customer complaints as the jet is noisier/smaller/uglier and no faster. Most of their customers are part owners in larger jets (G4's 5's etc.) and use Avantair for coastal / Colorado flights, saving the bigger jet for cross country and international travel.

Plus the plane is pretty to look at. My dad's master's thesis was on the canard airfoil and there are a lot of advantages to this design. It's nice to see form follow function and result in something that looks nicer than everything that came before it. I guess that's not too surprising since the manufacturer is owned by Ferrari. Check out the pics, it's really a sweet ride.

So, uh, I'm still more than a little short of the fractional buy in price, but if any of you sign up be sure to invite me along for a ride.

Posted by rick at 12:20 PM

August 17, 2004

wireless number portability

I had a Sony/Ericsson T610 with T-mobile and liked the phone very much. It's small, light, has a build in camera, nice color display, and most importantly bluetooth. If you're not already using a bluetooth headset you will be soon, and once you start using one you'll never go back. Anyway, T-mobile is GSM based (as is AT&T and Cingular), so my phone works all around the world, which is handy, but it doesn't work in lake Tahoe as the GSM footprint in the US is small compared to the CDMA footprint (used by Verizon and Sprint).

So, since the FCC mandated that you must be allowed to transfer your phone number from one carrier to another, I decided to test it out and move my cell number from T-mobile to Sprint. The only problem was that Sprint didn't have a bluetooth phone. With a little research I found that Sony/Ericsson does make a CDMA bluetooth phone, but Sprint doesn't actively support or advertise it. So I custom ordered the Sony/Ericsson T608 and ported my number to sprint.

The porting process is initiated with your new carrier, they cancel with your old carrier and handle everything from there. If you have a contract with your old carrier you'll still be on the hook for it, so you've got to watch this carefully.

The T608 arrived in the mail and there was nothing else I needed to do until the switchover, which was seamless: they give you a time at which the switchover will occur, this one was Sat at 5:42am, and at that time it just happens automatically. Calls show up at your new phone, the new phone is live and the old phone stops working.

However, it quickly became clear to me that:
1) Sprint didn't have that great of coverage at my house in Tahoe, and
2) The Sony/Ericsson T608 is a POS. The display is smaller than on the 610, there's no camera, it's bigger ... and the bluetooth doesn't really work. The sound over the bluetooth connection was always crackly and Sprint didn't make available a synchronization client for the phone -- so I would either have to buy a data cable or enter all my contacts by hand.

Well, Sprint does have a 14 day cancellation policy so ... I found that Radio Shack was carrying the new Motorola v710 phone in limited quantities at special stores. This phone has bluetooth and works on the Verizon network. So I called around ‘till I found one, paid for it over the phone before someone else got it, and ported my number from Sprint to Verizon.

Again, the porting process was seamless. The only hiccup was that they told me it would happen at 5-something p.m. but it actually happened at 11 something a.m. But, again, there was a teething problem apparent with the bluetooth. Motorola makes you spend an extra $30 to sync their phones via bluetooth, so I pay the fee (T-mobile + Sony/Ericsson just worked w/o no extra SW to buy), and spend all weekend banging on it to no avail and support isn't open ‘till Monday. I find out on Monday that there is an upcoming over-the-air firmware update for the phone ... and until then sync won't work. So I managed to at least get my $30 back (and keep the SW), the update is scheduled for "end of this month of first week of next month". We'll see.

So I can't sync my contacts but the bluetooth sound quality on the v710 is better than either of the Sony/Ericssons. Plus it has a megapixle camera with light/flash that also takes video, 10MB of built in memory, a memory expansion card slot, two color displays ... It's a sweet phone. I'll really like it when it sync's.

In the end, wireless number portability is super easy to do and works great. I've done two ports in less than two weeks and have had no problems. When your contract is up, you owe it to yourself to at least get a free/discounted new phone. Go ahead and port your number, it's almost fun.

Posted by rick at 01:08 PM

August 10, 2004

mountain living

Well, as I work on startup #2, which has a virtual office (we all work from home), it occurred to me that I can work as well from anywhere with high bandwidth internet access and cell phone coverage -- so I've been working out of my Tahoe house lately. A couple interesting things of note:

1) The concept works. I get as much or more done up here than in the BA, and I can pop outside for a heartbreakingly beautiful workout in the middle of my day and get back to work again in much less time than I can in SF. Careful scheduling of meetings is the key.

2) "It was a hairy bear, it was a scary bear...". Driving home from the gym the other night, turning onto my street, I saw a big dark figure moving through the trees. I followed it with my lights and out popped a BIG bear. This thing was in no way mistakable for a dog, it was huuuge -- and cute. As I'm sitting in my convertible with the top down, I realized that my passenger and I probably looked like two pop-tarts just out of the toaster. Anyway, he sniffed the air between us a few times with his big black nose and then ambled off behind the neighbor's house. I guess that the late night hot tubbing out back is a little bit like putting fresh hot stew out, but I'll take nature over humans any day.

3) Chopping wood is better than working on the computer. I wouldn't want to do it 40hrs a week, if nothing else because the pay is dismal, but chopping wood is my new favorite hobby. I'm also such a geek that I had to research axes first, turns out that there's like 20 different types of axes (news to me) and I ended up with an Axe made by a company called Gransfors Bruks ( I always liked Scandinavians, if nothing else because they invented Norse mythology and raping and pillaging the French (though you wouldn't know the later as they've become so shy), and they make some cool stuff (Volvo's not withstanding).

4) Altitude acclimatization. Living at 6000'+ and working out at 8000'+ was kinda hard at first, but now I'm used to it. I'm sure that made the recent Rainier climb go better as well. But now I realized that I've only moved the problem around. Before it was that my legs could outrun my lungs, now, when I go back down to sea-level, I find my muscles give out well before my lungs do. I'm not *that* tired but my legs just won't do another sprint at the track workout. I guess there is no magic trick to training after all and it's back to hard work.

BTW: I usually get altitude headaches when I ascend rapidly, whether working out, driving or flying, but used Diamox for the first time on the Rainier trip, as prescribed by my doctor/sister that was along with us, and felt no ill effects from our 14,000' ascent. It's made to treat AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness, which usually occurs between 9000' and 13,000') I recommend researching it, and talking to your doctor first, but if you're doing a high climb it worked great for us.

Yeah, I know, a boring entry. I'll do something stupid again soon enough and post it here, stay tuned.

Posted by rick at 02:38 PM