Alive in California

Allright I’m not dead yet. I’m actually back in San Francisco after a 5 week trip through Chicago IL, Kansas City MO, Flagstaff AZ, the Grand Canyon AZ, Monument Valley UT, Las Vegas NV and San José CA…

I just did the SF Friday Night Skate again ;) Gotta put up some videos for that!

In the meantime, if you’re interested, I’ve got a small boatload of pictures from the trip online.

So far:

  • Most amazing natural site: Grand Canyon
  • Most amazing artificial site: Las Vegas – The Strip
  • Most beautiful site: Monument Valley
  • Worst food: Amtrak
  • Best food: Chicago (still deciding between Gibson’s and The Chop House)

USA mobile travel survival guide

1 line summary: when you travel from Europe to the US for several weeks, sign up foT AT&T’s prepaid phone plans and T-Mobile’s monthly WiFi plan. Then, pray for coverage!

Ok, I’m sitting in the train right now. Going from Chicago to Kansas City where I’m gonna meet Danny from the evoTeam. I’m actually writing this offline since there is no WiFi on the train. I’d almost say “of course”, but hey, this is the US! You would expect WiFi just about everywhere, wouldn’t you?

I’ve been disappointed by the internet connectivity last year in California. I am again this year in Chicago :P I mean, I stayed at the Sheraton twice, which was the official hotel for internet related conventions, and both times the connection was about the speed of ISDN. As if they had the whole hotel (‘bout 1600 rooms!!) hooked up on a single DSL connection. And you wanna know how much they charge for that? $11.95 per day!

Actually the best connection I got in Chicago was at the Red Roof Inn, which errs on the shady side of how Chicago hotels go, but it has just enough class to provide a T-Mobile hotspot. That costs $39.95 / mo and the catch is you have to call in when you want to cancel. Other than that, the speed was great and you can also use it at any other T-Mobile hotspot, including Starbucks.

Mind you, you can’t use it at Mc Donald’s which has AT&T hotspots and apparently AT&T and T-Mobile weren’t smart enough to come up with a roaming agreement. (Ok, let’s consider it to be just another good reason to stay away from Mc Donald’s :P)

Ironically, I am now a customer of AT&T too... for my mobile phone. I figured their pre-paid offer was a better deal for my 6 weeks in the US than T-Mobile’s... but wouldn’t it make a lot more sense if either of these companies offered a complete all-in-1 package to the international traveler? Pre-paid cell-phone + WiFi... how hard can that be?

Anyway, the cool thing about AT&T’s « Go Phone » offer is that if you recharge it with $100, you get to keep your number for 1 year even if you don’t use it. Very convenient when you come to the US once or twice a year and don’t want to get a new SIM card & number everytime you arrive.

Other than that, I pay $1 per day I use the phone and then 10 cents a minute. If I was roaming from my French provider I would be paying 2.50 € aminute... that’s... errr... at least 3.something dollars a minute.

Text messages (SMS) are 5 cents a piece. Even to international numbers.

The shady side of the story, of course, is coverage. I don’t know if any mobile phone carrier actually covers or roams all of the US, but I do know that this girl from Kansas, sitting next to me on the train, has had far less dropped calls than me since we left Chicago. She’s on Verizon.

The problem with Verizon though, is that it’s not GSM. So you don’t use SIM cards. You can’t use your European phone and worse... once you’re back home, you can’t check your voice mail anymore...

So there you have it: AT&T for cell, T-Mobile for Wi-Fi... Let’s see if they keep it happy all the way over to San Francisco.

Can I really end this post without a note on the iPhone? Yeah well... if I buy one here I have to sign a 24 month contract and won’t be able to use it back in France. Figured I’d just wait for the Euro version. But of course, I do hope that it will accept my AT&T SIM card when I come back! ;)

Mac OS vs Windows font rendering

I want to recommend this post by Joel Spolski about differences in font rendering philosophy between Mac OS & Windows.

I never really understood why Apple failed to render sharp fonts on screen. Now I understand the purpose. I'm still not sure which is best though... ;)

The truth about Safari for Windows

The truth about Safari for Windows

Everybody's talking about Apple's release of their Safari web browser for Windows.

And everybody's speculating about how Apple needs to convince Windows developers to make their sites iPhone compatible (the iPhone includes Safari) or how Apple wants to extend towards the PC users...

Oh please!

Come on! There is one single reason above any other for Apple to release Safari on Windows: Google gives them a commission each time they send someone to Google through the embedded search box!

Firefox is making millions by sending eyeballs to Google (and their ads). Why wouldn't Apple? Especially since it can't hurt them...

Or... can it hurt them? Hackers suddenly finding vulnerabilities in Safari...

About the PHP 5 migration chicken & egg issue

It's been 3 years since PHP 5 has been released. Yet PHP 4 still rules on the vast majority of web hosting platforms.

This is annoying for PHP open source developers who cannot leverage the potential of PHP 5 as long as they need to support PHP 4. This is also annoying for the PHP development group since they still need to support PHP 4 instead of focusing on PHP 6.

In a way it is also annoying for the web hosts themselves, since they too need to deal with clients who want PHP4 compatibility and others who want PHP5 features.

What strikes me is that the solution seems obvious, and yet the PHP team fails to recognize it.

The only reason webhosting providers haven't massively upgraded to PHP 5 yet is because it would break applications running on their current client's site. It may also prevent new clients from installing well known applications (phpBB...) which may fail on PHP5.

Of course, that would not have been such an issue if PHP5 was indeed upward compatible with PHP4. But it isn't! (object references, clone keyword, etc.) So what do we do now?

Web hosts install PHP5 next to PHP4, but you need to rename your scripts to script.php5 instead of script.php ... which breaks existing URLs... so no-one uses that either.

The real simple solution would be for the PHP team to release some PHP 5.x version which would actually behave like PHP 4 (completely!) with a simple config switch. It could then be installed in place of PHP 4 without breaking anything.

Once that is done, any PHP application that is PHP5 aware would just include something like this:

PHP

ini_set'compatibility''5' );

and everything would be fine.

Maybe PHP5 should have 2 separate php.ini files. Maybe that ini_set() call should be required to come at the very top of the script. Maybe it should be a different function. But all in all, the solution seems so simple you have to wonder why anyone would want to support the older version for 3 years instead...