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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

December 1st, 2013: 10:29 pm

I have an iPhone 5 on the Telus network. Before taking a vacation to Buenos Aires, I found out that pay as you go plans – including data – were quite cheap. This would be handy for several reasons:

  • Access to Google Maps on the go
  • Access to Google Translate on the go
  • Ability to look up bus routes and other information while out and about each day
  • local calls if necessary
  • Ability to message my in-laws (who were also on the trip) when we weren’t all together
  • The first two were the main motivation, and were the biggest benefit to a successful adventure. For the duration of our trip, I think I spent about $10 Canadian, which got me a sim card, and all the 3G Data and Calling I needed for two weeks (I didn’t make many calls though). What surprised me was that the internet access was one peso (under 25 cents) a day!

    Here is a rundown of my overall experience:

    I phoned Telus to unlock my phone (a $35 service they offer to existing clients). They then told me to connect my phone to iTunes and Restore it. I figured Telus would simply push an update to my phone containing an unlock code, so a Restore seemed unnecessary, but I figured it was better to follow the steps than to find out the hard way that it was necessary. It turns out Telus sends a request to Apple, who in turn unlock your phone via iTunes during the restore process. I made a backup, and once the Restore completed, iTunes showed a message indicating my phone is now unlocked. Nice! If iTunes does not tell you your phone is unlocked, assume it isn’t. After restoring a backup, everything was back to normal on my phone (or so I thought), with the addition of that liberating feeling knowing I can shed my local SIM for another, anywhere! I did have one data casualty during this process: the restore claimed to copy my music onto the phone, but it wasn’t until I was mid-flight (and fully disconnected) that I realized only a tiny portion of my music was actually available on my phone! Once I was back, I had to explicitly remove all music from the phone (even the songs that iTunes claimed were on the phone but weren’t), and re-add all songs in order to fix that. Minor inconvenience really.

    In Buenos Aires, SIM cards are available from the telephone companies themselves, also I’m assuming at most stores that sell cellphones and accessories. These were common enough that a short stroll through a neighbourhood should turn up at least one place to get a card from, saving a trip to one of the main telco stores. At this time, it seemed like only Micro sim cards were available, but my phone requires a nano-sim. Thankfully the place I picked up a card from had a sim card cutter, and they clipped the card to size for free.

    Its funny, a scan on the Edmonton kijiji site shows people offering to cut sim cards for $5-$10, meanwhile you can buy a clipper off eBay for a couple bucks. Its also likely you can just get it done where you are travelling to for free. Its probably a good idea to get one if you’re going to travel anyways and just bring it with you. Its also a good idea to bring (or buy) a little nail file. The clipped card was still a little too big and thick for the phone, but a couple of minutes doing some nano-filing and I was in business.

    I wanted to get a Movistar card since they were the most popular, but wasn’t able to find one in a limited timespan. I got a card for the Personal network. I was able to make calls and texts, but the data access was not functioning. The sim card menu had an option for what I imagine is iPhone service, so I called that. Unfortunately, I don’t speak Spanish, and the representative on the other end did not speak English. At any rate, she said “cinco minutos”, I said “gracias”, and in five minutes, it was working. Information mobility!

    "iPhone Attention".  Sounds promising...

    “iPhone Attention”. Sounds promising…

    The mobile internet worked great. I think their coverage isn’t as solid as it is in Canada and the US, sometimes there would be no service in stores until I was back out on the sidewalks, but it was great to keep maps and a translator on hand. It might not be economical or practical to get sim cards everywhere, but if is certainly convenient to have the option.

    November 24th, 2013: 9:48 pm

    When we go on vacation, we tend to look for an apartment rental instead of booking a hotel. This has several benefits:

  • A greater selection of locations. Usually we are able to find something in a residential area that is close to where we want to be most of the trip. This can be quieter than a place just off a major highway or street.
  • A wider price band (which for us means “more utility-per-dollar than a hotel”).
  • A kitchen!
  • If the host is available (either on check-in, or throughout the stay), you have direct access to local information. Local bus routes, good places to eat and shop, and other things that you’d either spend too much time figuring out, or even missing out on!
  • If applicable to the trip, it can offer more of a “live like a local” feeling than “I’m staying in temporary quarters”. Everyone has their own preference for what they want to get out of a trip of course, I think it is important to set yourself up for an experience that is right for you.
  • We spent some time in Buenos Aires this month. When I was looking at apartment rentals, there were some nice looking places, each with their own charm. It can be a little overwhelming trying to narrow down a search, but one place had caught my attention right from the first impression. It even has a name that draws you in: the Carlos Calvo Experience.

    Named after the street it is located on, this apartment is in the San Telmo neighbourhood, the older and more endearing area of the city. It is on a quiet street, and all of San Telmo’s interesting sights are within a couple blocks. This was a treat — had we stayed in Recoleta, we night have taken a bus or taxi into the area once or twice, and missed out on all of the colourful hand-painted signs, the eye-catching balconies and door-fronts, the markets, and the local eateries that served as our daily backdrop!

    The apartment was amazing. Equally as amazing was our apartment manager, Ruben, who was accessible the duration of our stay for local advice and information, as well as tour recommendations. On our first day, he gave us the low-down on places of interest near the apartment, explained the bus system as well as routes of interest, and gave us a right and proper tour around the Recoleta area, including the Floralis Genérica and the Recoleta Cemetery, providing interesting background details. He provided more information about Buenos Aires and its history than we got on some tours we went on during the trip!

    If you find yourself in Buenos Aires, definitely look into the Carlos Calvo Experience.

    September 4th, 2011: 8:31 pm

    We were in the Calaway Park campground outside Calgary for a part of the long weekend. After a cloudy/rainy Friday, the skies cleared to expose a sharp new of the mountains on the horizon. I had brought my tripod on the trip “just in case” anything interesting came up, and decided to try making a panoramic image.

    I didn’t know how it would turn out, but I figured I’d take some photos along a near 180 degree sweep, and worry about the results when I got home. I tried to level the tripod to a reasonable degree, and took a photo at half increments to the minor tripod markings. I don’t know what degree that is, but it seems an appropriate amount of overlap.

    Once home, I pulled down the Microsoft Image Composite Editor, dropped the images in, and let it do its thing. I think the software is pretty slick – in ’97 I had spent a summer working to create QuickTime VR 360 degree panoramas as part of a virtual tour for the University of Alberta. The software at the time would get your images reasonably close together, but you would have to finesse the overlays. In the present future, it just works.

    I don’t know how practical panoramic images are for display on monitors, but they are pretty cool. Click on the image to see a bigger copy of the file.

    In this exercise, I also learned that my camera or lens has dust in or on it somewhere. Back to the blower. I will have to keep an eye out for more panoramic opportunities – this could make for a cool collection.

    Some credit goes to Brad or Matt one of which was talking to me about Microsoft’s Photosynth site, which I had seen a while back, but forgotten about. Also Darren, who was mentioning that a panoramic image could make for a great multi-part canvas print.

    January 30th, 2009: 11:21 pm

    I couldn’t let Brad’s photo competition of the month end without this seemingly relevant contribution.

    I caught this sunset above the clouds after takeoff from London’s Heathrow Airport (close to 5pm) last week, returning home from a week in Madrid.

    January 27th, 2009: 7:24 am

    The best souvenir from Madrid…

    Being a continent away from Tiffany and Lola for a week can seem like a long time. And certainly, almost any baby that I saw on the Metro or out in the shops was a large reminder of how much I missed Lola. But it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

    Thanks to technology, I was in contact with my family on a (near) daily basis. Between Gmail, Live Messenger, and Skype, we were emailing, voice chatting, e-calling, and webcam calling, making the great divide seem that much smaller.