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Over the past several weeks work has been taking me to New York City, specifically, an office in downtown Brooklyn. There are a couple of decent hotels eight blocks away and they are quite nice. My issue is more with the surrounding area and finding somewhere to eat at 7pm. The options are not plentiful and I really do not want to take the subway into Manhattan every night to eat.

My co-workers all stay in lower Manhattan near the Bowling Green subway station. It is a quick train ride from the office (10 minutes) but has the same issue as the hotels in Brooklyn, there really are not a whole lot of dining options in lower Manhattan (unless you enjoy pub food every night).

Why is food so important you ask? For one, I’ve gotta eat, but more importantly, going out to dinner is a way for me to not think about the day’s work but instead focus on other conversation. Even better is if I am able to meet up with some of my friends and talk travel or planes or some other non-work topic.

The last hotel stay I had was at the Four Points in Chelsea. The location is perfect, tons of restaurants around and easy access to the subway. It does take an across the platform transfer to get to the office, but that is really no problem. The downside of this hotel and what keeps me searching for other options is that it is somewhat dingy and not well kept. I do not worry about bed bugs but the hotel has seen better days. The other options I am exploring are the Four Points in SoHo, the Sheraton in Tribeca, the W on Lexington, and the Four Points in Midtown. The last option I have already kind of written off though, I have no interest being near Times Square or dealing with the trains, crowds, etc. there.

But, I am open to suggestions. Any thoughts or experiences with hotels in Manhattan? My main requirements are close to a subway stop (preferably the 4/5 or the 2/3), in an area with a decent number of restaurants, and a hotel staff that likes to keep the property clean.

Arq, the great backup utility for OS X that utilizes Amazon S3 for storage, received an update that supports Amazon’s new Glacier service.

From the Haystack Software Blog:

Arq now backs up to Amazon’s new Glacier service, and I’m really excited about it! Glacier storage is super-cheap — just $.01/GB per month!

With Glacier you can store 100GB for just $1/month! Or store a terabyte for just $10/month!

I got hundreds of emails and tweets asking for Glacier support. Turns out it’s a good option for some scenarios (even with the slow restore time and possible extra Amazon charges). People want to use it for big stuff like iPhoto libraries, videos, etc that get too expensive in S3. They use it as a secondary backup, so they don’t expect to actually restore unless their whole house burns down, taking their primary backup with it.

The price of Glacier is so low that I am looking at using it for an archival service. Originally I was thinking that it would be good to keep backups on it, but the retrieval rates for your data are fairly steep making it a pain/expensive to restore files. But, for storing old data that you do not need access to all of the time makes Glacier very attractive.

On Sunday I had the privilege of being a part of United’s first revenue service of their newly delivered Boeing 787. The flight was scheduled between the Houston and Chicago hubs. Work conflicts prevented me from buying a ticket in advance for the flight but I was granted access to the plane before the first flight and to the tarmac for the plane’s first revenue taxi and take-off.

The time that the media had on the plane was fairly short. We were granted 10-15 minutes to walk the aircraft, get pictures, and talk to the crew. With people with video cameras, still cameras, etc. walking around aircraft becomes a challenge, but everyone tried to make it work as best as they could.

United 787 Forward BusinessFirst Cabin

United has opted to go with a galley at the main entrance to the aircraft. Some flyers have complained that the airline did not choose something like a bar or open space in this area but I do not see the point of that when the added benefit of a mid-cabin galley is faster service for passengers while in-flight. After making a right turn when boarding you enter the 2nd of the two BusinessFirst cabins. The aisles feel a bit taller due to the way the overhead bins are laid out and it creates the illusion that the cabin is bigger than it is. The BusinessFirst seats are the same ones that Continental installed on the Boeing 757-200s and the Boeing 777-200s before the merger and in the 787 they are laid out in a 2-2-2 configuration.

Walking into the Economy Plus and Economy cabin the seating configuration changes to 3-3-3 with Economy Plus having extra seat pitch (legroom). The bulkhead seats (row 16) seem to be the best if you’re wanting a little extra legroom with the added benefit of no one reclining into you. One thing I noticed is that all seats in coach have a power port, which matches United’s description of the cabin, but not its seat map.

The in-flight entertainment is of the new Panasonic variety and features a slightly updated interface and a new in-flight map. There is also a USB port available for you to use to charge your USB devices.

United 787 Economy Seat

You will also notice something missing in the above photo… A window shade. The 787 is outfitted with electrochromic windows or “smart glass”. As you use the button below the window, an electric charge is applied to the glass, changing its opacity, eventually becoming a still see-through, but darkened window shade. Since the flight I have read a few posts that say the windows do not get dark enough and sun still significantly comes through the shading. You can see what the smart glass looks like on Dan Frommer’s report from the JAL 787.

United 787 Economy Cabin

Some people are probably interested in the exit row on the 787 and whether or not it is worth sitting in. I took a photo of the exit row and as expected, it has a ton of legroom. The window seat does have the emergency slide slightly in front of it but it does not protrude too far into the space of that passenger. The one downside is the proximity to the lavatory. I assume this area will be used as a congregation space for people waiting to use the restroom. Not great when wanting to get some sleep.

United 787 Emergency Exit

Before leaving the aircraft I paid a visit to the rear galley, the cockpit, and the pilot rest area (I hope to post all of these images soon). The cockpit is impressive, especially when you notice that it lacks a lot of the analog displays (altimeter, attitude, airspeed, etc.) that we have grown accustomed to seeing. The heads-up displays were not pulled down but the idea of a commercial pilot being able to keep his focus forward while monitoring instruments, much like a fighter pilot, is comforting. With the 787 the pilot environment has become more about situation awareness and less about removing focus to check instruments.

United 787 Cockpit

After touring the aircraft, Jeff Smisek gave a brief speech about not only being the world’s largest airline but striving to be the world’s best and how he sees the 787 helping to bring that to fruition. He and the flight crew that would be operating the first revenue flight then cut a ceremonial ribbon and the flight began boarding.

United's Jeff Smisek Talking about the 787

At this point, a few of us were given tarmac access to photograph the 787 as it pushed back from the gate, taxied, and took-off. My heart always beats a little faster when I am on the tarmac. There is a lot going on around you and a whole lot of big jets being prepared for their journey. All of that plus the smell of aviation fuel equals an excited me.

The 787 was loaded up, the doors were closed, and the plane was pushed back from the gate right on schedule. I noticed something intriguing and delightful as the engines were started; The sound. Instead of the slightly higher pitch whine that is common with jet engines, the 787 had more of a low pitched hum, making it much quieter than I expected. I knew that Boeing had made strides in making the engine exhaust quieter, but I didn’t expect it to be that significant. I am guessing this is noticeable inside the aircraft as well. The 787 then performed a short taxi to runway 9 at IAH, took off, and made a graceful left turn to head to north to Chicago. Again, the sound during the engine run-up and take-off was much quieter than what I was expecting.

The United 787 Ready to Taxi

All in all it was a very fun experience and I look forward to having my first ride aboard the 787 sometime in the near future. United is currently running the aircraft between Houston, Chicago, and Los Angeles. As the other 787s are delivered, I would expect to see service to Newark as well. If you have flown the 787 I would love to hear what you thought of the flight, if you noticed any impact from the humidified and 6k foot pressurized cabin, or any other thoughts about your trip.

Some fascinating news out of the One Laptop Per Child project. Just given a box of these laptops, with no instructions, Ethiopian children discovered the device had a camera and figured out how to enable it.

MIT has installed memory cards that record how the devices are used and one of their founders reports:

We left the boxes in the village. Closed. Taped shut. No instruction, no human being. I thought, the kids will play with the boxes! Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, but found the on/off switch. He’d never seen an on/off switch. He powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs [in English] in the village. And within five months, they had hacked Android. Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera! And they figured out it had a camera, and they hacked Android.

Fascinating.