Bangkok Diary

    14 January 2008: A Long Monday - Bangkok to San Francisco (or "We're off to see the Wizard. . .)

Graham K. Rogers

The day started with one of those fast taxi rides that Bangkok specialises in that saw me at Suvnabhummi Airport a couple of hours early. I always over-compensate and, being Monday morning, decided that 6am was a good start time, but the journey took 50 minutes instead of the two and a half hours I was expecting.

Cathay Pacific put me on an earlier flight, which I had hoped would happen anyway as I spend some time in Hong Kong's airport instead of Bangkok. An important point here is that the Internet is free in Hong Kong. In Bangkok, my MacBookPro recognised only CAT (Communiucations Authority of Thailand) and aot (Airport Organisation of Thailand) and not the True service I had already bought a pre-paid card for. Neither of the networks even allocated an IP number while I saw in Departures.

Another unwelcome delay was lining up for exit procedures at Immigration took far too long, although the office did throw me a smile as he stamped the passport. We expect delays entering a country (more of this later), but these long lines were not a good sign.

The change of flights in Hong Kong allowed me enough time for a shower and a change of clothing. When it came to the internet, however, I was out of luck. Last time I had passed through, I was connected to the free public service in a flash. First I tried the Airline lounge but neither I nor a lady using a MacBook that she had had three weeks were successful. I noticed in my KisMac wifi search software that the two networks shown there were both dropping to a zero signal every few seconds. Despite the help of one of the staff, nothing worked.

I tried outside and the MBP did see the networks, which appeared to be using IPv6 (instead of the usual IPv4) and there was a conflict with double allocation of IP numbers. I gave up and trekked past 40 or so gates to where the 747 for San Francisco was already boarding. This was considerably easier in terms of bag checks and politeness than last year.

The gremlins followed me across the Pacific as the guy seated next to me had his TV screen pack up after a few minutes. I know he read the Chinese subtitles while I was watching The Bourne Ultimatum, but later he went to another seat, returning for the landing.

I continued with a forgettable Nicole Kidman movie, The Invasion, which reminded me of a 1950s BBC series, Quatermass and the Pit in the same way that A for Andromeda seemed a forerunner of Species. Breakfast at sunrise was enlivened by The Darjeeling Express, a delightful movie with Adrian Brody, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman. I always use these long flights to catch up with my movie-watching.

At San Francisco I had the dreaded Immigration process to go through. As luck would have it I was soon standing in front of a waspish female who ordered me to fill in another form (I saw others on the same plane at the table). I lined up again and finally was called over to a Mac-using officer. As soon as he asked me what I was doing in the US, we were onto predictions for MacWorld, and then he switched to offering me suggestions about cloning software for backups. You see the difference owning a Mac makes?

Outside in the sun I waited for a bus to take me into the city and the Clift Hotel which seems permanently in trendy half-darkness. Even the lifts are lit with dim coloured lamps which gives an effect like some bars I have seen in Bangkok. On the other hand, the rooms are light and airy. And clean. So is the bathroom which I tried out, but like last year am having trouble balancing the controls on hot and cold water flows. I swear the hot tap rotates each time I turn it down. My Thai friends would insist it was a ghost and try to change the room.

Unlike the airports, the internet here was on in an instant, although I had to register for charging purposes. I am glad I am not picking up the tab for this: the rates are about the same as Bangkok's top hotels, which tells me how expensive they are.

In the Air

I did wander down to the Moscone Center and back, calling in at the Apple shop on the way. I wanted to see those, "Something in the Air" panels on show. I am afraid that by the time I arrived, the light was not brilliant. Speculation is rife as to what this means, with some thinking they have the answer. Wired insists that this is a new notebook computer, the MacBookAir -- becaause of its lightness -- and they share images, which are probably about as reliable as the pictures we saw of the iPhone last year before the Keynote.

iPod ad On the other hand, a MacDaily News reader has done some detective work and claims to have traced back to Cupertino. I tried with the "Whois" and "Lookup" utilities, but had a handful of negatives."

While some are moving toward this Air = light notebook theme (which sounds feasible), the other possibilities for the title are still floating about: wireless, perhaps with a Google tie-in; WiMax, 3G. None, though, has the weight that such a slogan demands.

I also looked at the iPod advertisements in what look like the old Paris pissoirs that abound in the city center streets here as circular advertising hoardings. Watch them change tomorrow morning: they are probably all set up right now: if only one knew the secret combination.

The Apple store was busy. And hot. I had a leather jacket like last year and had to remove it in the store I was so uncomfortable. I did track down some software I am interested in -- for creating text from sound input -- but decided to leave that for the show as the company will be there.

One thing I did note while taking photographs outside the store was that the back end is being extended and that there is a steel framework already in place for the purpose.

And tomorrow? Tomorrow we will see the Wizard.

Apple Shop

Made on Mac

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