Thursday 30 June 2011

Triping Out

I am a fan of Tripit I use it on a personal level to track and manage my travel itineraries. I simply email my travel information i.e. flights, accommodation and other bookings to tripit and it will build my itinerary. Via a web browser I can review and keep my travel information organised. On a smartphone I can view my itinerary. Via email I can get a download of my travel plans.
I have just downloaded Tripit to my new Android Tablet. I can see my whole itinerary with full details. I love it. In my less than humble opinion this has to be one of the best online services available for free for travellers.
The Bludger loves travelling.

Sunday 26 June 2011

Acer Iconia A500 Tab - first impressions

For the uninitiated this is a tablet style PC with a touch screen running Android Honeycomb operating system. The same form factor as an iPod.
I only picked this up a day ago so this is not a review just my thoughts. I wanted the tab for blogging while traveling so what is important to me is how easy it is to add pictures and text to my blog. Access to email also important well Facebook also.
When I opened the box I was a bit disappointed to find only the US power adapters. The power supply is one of those with provision for multiple snap on pins to cater for different countries. However Acer sells an international pack as an accessory. Upon reflection that is probably fair.
Initial setup very straight forward. I initially had concerns about WiFi connectivity but that turned out to be my tight security not any problems with the Tab. With only a little personal configuration I was up and running.
I connected to my laptop via the supplied USB cable and my personal contacts were automatically downloaded from Outlook. Well some did, I am still a bit confused. Typing an email address  and autofill will suggest names from my address book, but I can't find where it has saved them. Not in Contacts. More learning to do.

The Tab stored my gmail account details and I quickly had access to all that I do via Google. Picasa, blogger, gmail, google docs etcetera. A quick trip to Market and I had downloaded and installed K9 Mail, my preferred email client and Jota Text editor which I am using to type this out. So far it is all so easy.
The onsceen keyboard works well. I am almost typing at normal speed. Mistakes are made but some of them are my poor spelling or missing the correct key. Major complaint at the moment. I am making lots of typing errors and want to go back to correct them. I have not worked out how to precisely place the cursor, I need arrow keys. (and then he works out that you just need to tap near the edit point and you can get a slider control that puts the cursor exactly where you want it. sigh).
I am sitting on my balcony, the Tab display is like a mirror, you could shave in the reflection, the keyboard and text contents can be hard to see.
Things that I have discovered that were hard to work out online.
The Acer slip cover is flimsy and props the Tab too upright to type on. I have rested it on something else.The cover does not provide much protection to the LCD display. Scratches yes, impact no.

The USB port works well and I can access images on it from a thumb drive (I don't care about video and music).
You need to take the Tab out of the slip cover to insert a microUSB card. Also I could not see the contents until I had turned the Tab off and back on. This is important to me as I wish to move photos from my camera onto the Tab. Can I move photos across? Let me check. So far not looking good. Uploads to Picasa seem to be not working. Plan B. email. I will check later.
Later: Uploads to Picasa are so easy from the Gallery when you work out how. Part of the Learning curve.
First impressions. I like it

The Bludger

Sunday 19 June 2011

Cambodian Travel Planning - Flights

For several months now The Bludger has been planning a trip to Cambodia. I booked flights several months ago and I and a group of friends have worked the holiday around those dates.
I booked through Webjet and managed a good deal from Brisbane to Phnom Penh via Singapore and return. My flight plans have been thrown out recently due to a planned relocation to Darwin prior to the holiday. Rearranging flights has not been so much a difficulty as an exercise in frustration.
As I believed that my flights were non refundable (the documentation was very clear on that point) I didn't pursue this aspect. My initial investigations showed that I could either fly from Darwin to Brisbane to pick up my original flights or fly to Singapore and pick up just the Singapore - Phnom Penh sectors. I would simply forgo the Brisbane - Singapore sectors. As the cost difference was negligible I would book new flights from Darwin to Singapore to coincide with the flights to Phnom Penh. So well and good, it cost a bit more but I took that risk on when I booked non refundable flights.
As a courtesy I informed Webjet that I was cancelling the Brisbane - Singapore sectors and wanted to retain the rest. This is where the frustration started. Webjet takes simply takes ages to respond to cancellations. It was 10 days before they responded. In the meantime I had given up on hearing from them and booked the flights from Darwin to Singapore and back as a nice deal was available.
Eventually Webjet sent a nice email saying that I could get a refund (which I hadn't expected) and I could cancel the flights and there would be a processing fee. This would take 6-8 weeks to process and they needed a confirmation. I responded yes please cancel and process the refund. As a double check I stressed that it was only some of the flights that I wanted to cancel.
After several days I got another response. No I had to cancel the lot and I would get a full refund minus a processing fee. Apparently I had misinterpreted the earlier email saying that I had to cancel the entire booking. I have looked at that e-mail a dozen times and I still cannot see how I misinterpreted it. No matter, I confirmed that I wanted to cancel the lot. I figured that I could pick up the same flights out of Singapore and with the refund I would end up paying about the same in total as the original booking.
Question. How is it I can book, pay and confirm flights on Webjet in a few minutes, but it takes weeks to cancel?
After several more days I had a response saying that all flights would be cancelled and money refunded to my Credit Card. I am fine with that except for one thing. That credit card has been stolen and cancelled. My new credit card has totally different numbers. I wonder where the money will go and if I will ever see it and if Webjet will acknowledge the change in Credit Card details?
Back to flying it is not so easy picking up new flights out of Singers. Well I can pick up the same flights but not at a cost that I want to pay. I can get alternate non direct flights, via Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Ho Chi Minh City, at reasonable cost, but not direct flights. So I have a choice, pay a lot extra for direct flights or put up with a longer indirect flight at a reasonable cost. About this stage I also worked out that if I was going via any of those cities I could probably leave Cambodia a week early and do a stopover and add another travel experience onto the holiday.
The Bludger has not booked yet and is wondering where to go, Thailand beaches? Malaysian beaches? Vietnam beaches or an extension of time in Singapore? Decisions decisions decisions.
I should also add that despite the lengthy communication delays with Webjet I continue to be a fan and will continue to use their online booking service.

Monday 13 June 2011

The Queensland Experience is (almost) Over

The Bludger must have been born under a wandering star. Born in Britain and dragged crying to Australia at an early age. Adelaide became home after a stint in mid north South Australia.
Since gaining independence the Bludger has lived in London, Adelaide, Melbourne (briefly), Zanzibar (also briefly, until the authorities stamped his passport "no more entries"), Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane. Which only leaves the cities of Perth, Hobart and Darwin to be considered home for a complete set of Australian capitals.
The Bludger for a long time has considered that Perth may be his next home. Perth has many characteristics about it that remind him of Adelaide and make it a favored destination. It has a Mediterranean style climate, the ocean is to the west which makes for awesome sunsets over the ocean, it is also west of the Great Dividing Range so it is almost totally ignored by the rest of Australia, it has a laid back culture, a beach orientated culture. WA also has great wine regions and a culture of fresh food  in lovely Cafe's and restaurants. In short a home from home.
So it has come as a great surprise to the Bludger to find that he is about to leave Brisbane and head to Darwin to make that his new home.

What's happening?
Technically I shouldn't be surprised. I have been in discussion with my new business partner (David) for many months. Darwin has been on the agenda. It's just been such hard work and a long time to get there.
To that end I decided to sell my house in Brisbane and rent for a while. This would give me some flexibility if the Darwin venture came up. To that end the house has been on the market for months with no real interest shown by anyone.
Eventually a contract was signed, with so many escape clauses for the Buyer that I didn't expect it to reach settlement. In fact they used the clauses to beat me down in price and then stuffed around for weeks unable to get finance approved. I had reached the stage where I had given up and was about to tell the buyer, quite impolitely, where to put the contract.
It so happened that David then called me and said that he had a 12 month contract for some work in Darwin and that I should get packing. At this stage I was expecting another delay on the sale contract but in a rare case of coincidence the buyer's solicitor called me the next day and told me that the Buyer had Financial approval and that the contract was now unconditional. My house was sold, although settlement is not until mid July.
So I resigned from work at the first opportunity.

What is my new job?
Initially the work in hand is to provide proactive support to a GP Super Clinic for it's IT hardware and software. It's only a few hours per week.
That will provide a small income to keep me going. Meanwhile I need to build an IT Consultancy practice. A lot of cold calling a lot of building contacts a lot of marketing and no doubt a lot of disappointment. But hopefully one day I will be able to look back at a thriving business and say I did that.
Worst case scenario! I go back to being a PAYG earner, having had an opportunity to explore parts of the Northern Territory and nearby Asia.
It's exciting times, I am going out on a limb financially, career wise and no doubt emotionally also.

Next Steps
I am currently packing my goods and chattels disposing of those that I don't want, selling that which I can and generally trying to reduce the amount of "stuff" to relocate. I still have 4 weeks of work ahead of me and that is going to be manic. I still have to get to Darwin and then find some accommodation. Oh and as soon as I am there I basically head off to Cambodia for 4 weeks.

The Bludger is definitely not bludging at the moment.