Opinion

Why Fly Delta?

For a couple of reasons. First, because of a recommendation by a colleague of Julie. Best way to go apparently. Second, because they were not too far off about €90 cheaper than the Aer Lingus fare. KLM, who I’d always flown trans-Atlantic with in the past didn’t even get a look in. Their fare was crazy out of this world high. We booked online, confirmed flights, selected seats and paid on the spot. All good so far.

About five or so days before our outbound journey from Dublin to New York, I logged onto the Delta website to make sure everything was in order. Little did I know the fun was about to start from right here. Everything was great outbound, but our seats had changed for the return journey. Not something so simple as sitting in a different pair of seats than the one’s we’d selected during booking, our new seats were now not even on the same row. A bit strange I thought, seeing as our seats were both on the same booking. Maybe they were accounting for those couples that go to New York, have a massive argument before returning and then want to sit as far away from each other as possible. Yes, that had to be it. A quick Google showed that this is apparently a fairly common occurrence and also that a quick word with someone in the Delta call center could sort it out straight away.

The next morning (about two days before departure), I phoned the Irish number for the Delta call center. After a few minutes on hold I was put through to a friendly representative who was of absolutely no use whatsoever. “The flight has been re-scheduled, I can’t change anything from here” was the response I got. “Speak to the check-in staff on your arrival at the airport, they’ll be able to fix it.” I thought nothing more of it as in the past, it’s been a simple ‘here’s what happened, can you fix it?’ conversation at check-in and seats get changed. No big deal.

So the big day came and we were off to Dublin airport at an hour of the morning that Julie rarely sees. I rarely see it either for that matter, only when I’m flying out to work in some far flung corner of wherever. Got to the airport, joined the check-in queue and filled out those wonderfully repetitive US immigration visa waiver forms. While our boarding passes and baggage tags were printing, I mentioned to the check-in woman about the mix up with the seats. “Oh” she started. “Oh that sometimes happens, but as the flight has been rescheduled, I can’t change anything from here. You’ll need to talk to a member of Delta staff when you land in JFK”. Right, this is all going around the houses a bit but for now I’m willing to play along. Queue lots of waiting around, filling in more forms, being looked up and down by customs and immigration people and finally more waiting around until we boarded the flight.

Having been informed about the marvelous seat back screens and entertainment systems before booking with Delta, I was interested to see what exactly all the fuss was about. Two Delta flights later and I’m still interested to see. Nothing says trans-Atlantic flying comfort like staring at the back of a fellow passengers bald spot for six hours. The only thing in the seat back in front of me was foam and even that was coming out at the raggedy edges. So instead of being able to choose my own TV, movies and whatever else is presumably on show somewhere in airline Nirvana, I got the usual ‘squint at a twelve inch screen fifteen feet away from me’. Niceties, bells and whistles aside, the plane did eventually touch down in New York’s JFK.

On stepping out of the plane into the terminal building the gravity of the situation that we found ourselves in became shockingly apparent. Not only had we flown back in time by five hours, we’d also gone back thirty five years! Dear God, a time-plane-thingy! Delta’s presence at JFK airport is, in a word, dated. I had to check the date on a newspaper to make sure we weren’t actually in the 1970′s and that my uber stylish t-shirt and boot-cut jeans combo wouldn’t be ridiculed by the flowery shirt and flare wearing population of New York City. No, it was still 2009. At least it was 2009 everywhere except Delta arrivals.

We were met by the driver of our overpriced car service at the arrivals hall and before leaving, I informed him that we needed to speak to a member of Delta staff to sort out our tickets for the way back in a weeks time. A hike from the arrivals to some kind of mini departures hall ensued and when we arrived there after getting lost twice in the maze of gray concrete and garish blue and red logos, we once again joined a queue. After the Delta staff member had finished filing her nails and talking on the phone, we were called forward. A puzzled look crossed her face and for a fleeting moment, I thought she was going to respond “Delta? Who are Delta?”. Instead, she said “Oh I can’t do anything now as the flight has been rescheduled, you’ll need to talk to the staff when you’re checking in next week”. I’d almost have preferred if she had reached over and slapped me across the face.

Out into the wilds of New York and the week long holiday began in earnest. Forgotten was the queuing, the blank-faced check-in women, the seat numbers and the depressing as a month long funeral airport terminal.

Alas, as it often does when you’re on holidays, a week passed all too quickly…

Back to the Delta departures hall in JFK. Several deep breaths walking from the taxi to the front door and we were ready to face whatever could be thrown at us. Hang on, there aren’t any check-in desks. There aren’t any check-in staff. There isn’t anyone to change our seat numbers. There were however two overworked looking people floating around the maze of automated check-in kiosks helping bewildered technophobe would-be passengers. Catching the attention of one of them, I inquired about the seat change. “Oh, you can change your seat when you check in using the kiosk”. I can? Wait… I can? Could this be true? There’s a light at the end of the tunnel? I turned and ran back to where Julie was standing with the cases, maintaining the aura of impeccable patience that surrounds her whenever we’ve spent ‘that much’ time together. Tap, tap, tap tap tap. Scan passport. Tap. Scan other passport. Then, in the corner of the screen a button appeared. “Change Seats”. We both almost couldn’t believe it. Pressed the button and a message popped up; “I’m sorry, you cannot change your seats because the flight has been re-scheduled.”

No, I jest. Had that popped up I surely would have eaten my passport to contain the venomous bile. Instead, the helpful screen showed that no seats were available. Nothing whatsoever. Not a sausage. Instead, seats were being assigned at the gate. So, we printed the boarding cards and went to drop our bags in. My bag, admittedly stuffed to the gills with all the t-shirts, jeans and other stuff I’d bought was a bit overweight. I didn’t check what the excess baggage rates were (first time in my long history of flying that I’ve ever gone over the limit) so I wasn’t sure what to expect. $20? $50? Surely something like that. The extra seven pounds of tourist trinkets, I [heart] NY mugs, clothes and whatever else I bought cost me an extra $150 at the gate. I can only assume my jaw hit the floor as I got an unpleasant taste of my own feet on my bottom lip. Instead of going to the hassle of re-distributing weight to Julie’s bag (which was just within the weight) and run the risk of undoing the delicate act of stuffing the bag I’d performed earlier on, I bit the bullet and coughed up the credit card. I will most definitely be comparing other airlines excess rates when I get home. Still possibly a good deal for the amount of stuff I bought though. Incidentally, I have found since writing this that the Aer Lingus excess baggage fee is €40 or $50. Aer Lingus apply the same weight limits as Delta.

Arrived at the gate, which was as fun and feature packed as the arrivals hall. Seriously Delta, invest some money in re-decorating the place. We were both first time visitors to the terminal at JFK airport and were completely in awe of what a poor welcome it is to one of the most amazing cities in the world. Maybe JFK is a pretty old airport and all, but that’s no excuse for how the place looks. If the Delta terminal was a cardboard box, I wouldn’t use it to bury a dead, rabid dog. If only out of the fear the ghost of the dog would come back and haunt me.

Nobody at the gate to even ask about the seats so instead, we went for a wander to the shop. A while later on returning to the gate, there was a member of Delta staff sitting at a small desk in front of the gate. I politely asked her about the seat mix up and she barked back “wait until your name is called, then come get your ticket”. I don’t think I even got the full sentence out. Ah air travel, the delight of the masses. Sat down for a while and only by chance Julie spotted the screen directly above our heads showing seats available and assigned. As soon as our names appeared on the screen I sprinted back to the desk where I was handed two boarding passes from a pre-printed stack. A pre-printed stack that had been sitting there when I first inquired about the seat change. Not to worry, I had boarding passes in hand that put us sitting next to each other for the almost six hour flight. At this stage I wasn’t even bothered that they’d stuck us right at the back of the plane, I just didn’t want either of us to have to spent the entirety of the flight gazing at some octogenarians family photos while being talked to death or being granted half a seat while the morbidly obese traveler next to us takes up a seat and a half. Both are woeful cliches but both happen with amazing frequency. Thankfully I’m normally only on 45 minute flights when either happen. This is why I always, without fail, bring headphones onto a flight. Even if I got nothing to plug them into. Simply tuck the end of the plug into your trouser pocket, take on a look that you’re listening to music or an audio book and repeat for however long the flight takes.

Right, in seat, strapped in and shoes off. Looking forward to some food, a bit of relaxation and being in a familiar bed in seven or eight hours time. Food service started. It slowed. Slowed again. By the time it got to row forty, it had almost slowed to a crawl. Chicken. I unclipped my tray and it landed in my lap. Literally. It didn’t bounce and stop an inch or two above my legs, the plastic tray met me in an uncomfortable manner. Obviously broken, I pointed it out to the flight attendant. “I can’t do anything about that right now” was the gruff and to the point response. Translation – I have no intention whatsoever of doing anything at all to remedy the problem. Here’s your God awful chicken, eat it on a slope and like it. In reality, I was just looking for an upgrade to business class. If I thought breaking a tray would get me that, I’d have ripped it from it’s hinges and flung it out into the aisle. Sadly, someone got there before me and this one was pre-broken. I ate my questionable chicken while balancing the tray with my knees. In fact, I ate and drank everything they handed out while balancing the broken tray with my knees. I’m now the world champion in broken airline tray balancing as confirmed by the association of broken airline tray balancers. I managed to steady the tray sufficiently to compose this rant of epic proportions anyway.

Toward the end of the flight (well, I say end but there was still at least 90 minutes to go until we landed) Julie went in search of the facilities. As anyone who has traveled in a plane knows, you get probably four toilets for however many hundred people are on board. Over the space of six hours, those four toilets see quite a bit of use. However, I have on several occasions seen staff checking on the whole cleanliness situation mid way through the flight and taking the necessary steps to rectify any problems. On finding a free toilet, Julie was advised to go back and put her shoes on as ‘guys have been using the toilet and it’s quite messy in there’. Right, so clean it then. I’m hardly suggesting that the staff are in any way responsible for how people use the toilet, but surely they should be on hand to ensure that the toilets remain clean and somewhat acceptable to use? During the flight, a child was quite ill in one of the toilets and the only evidence of Delta interaction with the scene was one of the male flight attendants looking on with a rather disgusted face while ushering the child’s father to one side so he could pass him in the aisle.

Great holiday, adequate flight, woefully bad service and ridiculously overpriced excess baggage charges. If flying with Delta has taught me one thing, it’s don’t fly with Delta. I hope when I write to them to point all this out that they don’t offer me a voucher off my next flight. Unless of course that voucher also works with Aer Lingus, KLM, Virgin or any one of the host of other airlines I’d rather give more money to for the same flight. The only good reason I can think of flying Delta is if you’re traveling for business and you want to arrive at your destination completely pissed off and ready to kick some ass in whatever business meeting you’re heading into.

Left mouse button fix for Acer Aspire One AOD250

Having googled extensively over the last couple of days and found nothing useful (but I did find several people with the same problem) I thought I’d come back and explain exactly how I sorted the problem, now that I’ve actually sorted it.

First things first. I bought an Acer Aspire One (D250-1924) from B&H Photo while holidaying in New York last week. Note with all the below I am referring to the integrated trackpad and mouse buttons. I do not use an external mouse or keyboard. The click in the left mouse button lasted precisely 4 days before the button would no longer click and to register a left mouse press in windows, you had to press unreasonably hard on the left mouse button. The click in the right button remained and it continued to function as expected.

Knowing well that Acer would most likely no honour a warranty claim on a US bought device in Ireland, I went about fixing it myself. Before anyone points it out, yes, this will void your warranty and I only carried out the fix because I knew what I was doing, my warranty wasn’t worth toilet paper anyway and I didn’t want to pay nearly half the price of the netbook again in repairs charges for something I could do myself. The photos aren’t great by any means (can I have a macro mode in the iphone please?) but same goes for all of them, you can click for a bigger version.

First, take out the battery, then remove the three screws underneath it. Remove a further 7 screws from the bottom of the netbook as shown in the photo below (3 top, 4 bottom).
Screw locations underneath netbook

If you open the memory door, you’ll see another screw to the top right side of the compartment. I don’t know for sure if you have to remove this or not, but I did just in case.
Memory Compartment

Flip the netbook over and remove the keyboard by placing a thin flat screwdriver between it and the keyboard surround. They keyboard is secured at 5 points by clips. The approximate location of these clips are; next to the left ctrl key, just below the escape key, between the F7 and F8 keys, to the right of the delete key between delete and backspace and to the right of the page down key, as shown in photo.
keyboard clips

I recommend unclipping them in the order of top of the keyboard to bottom as the end of the keyboard is also secured by metal pins in slots so if you unclip the keyboard from the top and sides first, it’ll lift out with some ease.

Be careful when lifting out the keyboard as it’s connected to the motherboard by a ribbon cable. Gently lift the locked ends of the connector and the cable will slide out, allowing you to completely remove the keyboard. Ribbon cable and connector to motherboard shown below.
keyboard ribbon cable

There are several screws, similar to those already removed, underneath the keyboard. Remove these also. There are also several smaller ribbon cables and connectors connected to the motherboard, plainly visible once the keyboard is removed. You need to unlock the connectors and remove the cables before removing the top of the netbook. The locations of the screws are shown in red and the connectors in blue.
screws and motherboard connectors

Once all the cables are disconnected from the motherboard, you can start to remove the top of the netbook by gently lifting it from the back (where the Aspire One logo is). There are clips holding the top down, two on each side, one on end either side of trackpad. I needed the flat screwdriver again and put it between the bottom and top parts of the case to pop open the clips. A little force is required to get the clips to pop, but as always, be careful.

The top of the netbook will lift off with some gentle wiggling and pulling. There are several sticky foam pads (such as those around the inside of the trackpad hardware holding the device in place and cushioning it) and these will become unstuck as you pull.

Once the top is off, you’ll be able to see the mouse buttons clearly. The left mouse button is highlighted in the photo below. If you press each with your fingernail and they both make a clicking noise (as mine did) the problem is possibly that the small sticky shim that Acer have installed on the left button has moved.
motherboard with left mouse button

My previous fix, which was to replace the shim and put two tiny squares of sticky tape on top of it to increase it’s height only worked for a few hours until the action of pressing the left mouse button caused the tape/shim stack to move off the center of the mouse button.

My current fix (still in testing but somewhat more solid) was to remove the green sticky pad from the underside of the left mouse button as shown below. I cut two thick pieces of paper (from an envelope) to the exact size of the green pad and put a tiny spot of superglue into the hole I removed the green pad from. I then stuck the two circles of paper into the hole and used a tiny amount of glue to stick the green pad back into hole, on top of the paper. It provided the extra millimeter (possibly not even) for the mouse button to make contact with the switch on the motherboard without having to use the plastic shim.
underside of mouse buttons

Note that the top of the switch on the motherboard for the left mouse button will likely be sticky from the shim. This will cause the green pad to stick to it, leaving you with a very slightly sticky mouse button. Take a small amount of paper and wipe the remaining adhesive off the button so the green pad doesn’t get stuck to it every time you press the left mouse button.

Assuming the glue stays stuck (it was cheap.. very very cheap), I shouldn’t have a problem. I’ll be sure to report back and update this post if I find I need to take any further action to sort the problem once and for all.

I put the whole thing back together, connected the battery and booted up to ensure all devices were working as they should. Hey presto, no more poorly performing left mouse button and no costly repairs for such a stupid problem. As a side note, I can’t understand why Acer use the sticky shim for only the left mouse button. Seems like a design flaw that these things are moving and the mouse button becomes practically unusable.

Note that if you choose to carry out the above fix on your own netbook, you do so at your own risk. If your warranty is still valid, check with Acer if you can have the repair done under the warranty. I take no responsibility for anyone killing their netbooks by copying what I have done above. As I stated above, I only carried out this fix because my netbook has a US warranty and I am living in Ireland. Acer warranty service was not available to me.

Poor Sportmanship all round!

Back when I was liberated, I felt as if a great weight had been lifted. Then, some currently website-less supposedly multi-national crowd come in and swipe my domain name! Shocking stuff indeed. Whipped it right out from underneath the very hairs on my very nose. Shocking lack of sportsmanship there Brian old bean. Theft? From a supposedly reputable web development company too.

GoDaddy weren’t much help either. Passed from one department to another and never emailing the same customer service rep twice. Again, shocking stuff. So unlike my new friend Brian in Screendragon (whom I will no doubt visit in the near future to discuss some business with), I choose to be graceful and dignified in defeat. No resorting to mud-slinging or other displays of similarly ungentlemanly shenanigans. Away to you vile domain name, and never darken my door again!

But alas, all is not well. No longer than 48 hours after it was pinched from my own GoDaddy account, some vile internet prankster has well and truly hacked the ex-website. This must be a shockingly poor tasted display of those “internet hackers” Liam had always referred to. I never once believed until now. I imagined that hackers, as depicted in many Hollywood films, were consigned to folklore in the 1990′s. Not so it would seem.

The vile sleeze-merchants have only gone and re-directed the once reputable domain name lynchauctioneers.com to some aged lady brandishing her breasts for the viewing delights of all and sundry. Truly dispicable! Yet another show of bawdy sportsmanship and true lack of proper upbringing if ever I saw it. I can only imagine that the parents of the scoundrel are crying into their cornflakes.

Before I resort to some truly poor language and a show of utter tomfoolishness, I can only register my utter disappointment at the treatment that www.lynchauctioneers.com has suffered. Truly, Lynch & Co did not deserve such ill-mannered treatment. I feel I have to retire to my bed as I have taken ill and a queer shade of green with the sight of that site.

Once again, curse you, internet hacker…. Wherever you are…

Why I Buy Online

Is it to save money? Because practically everything camera related one could ever wish to buy in Ireland costs double what it would elsewhere? Is it out of convenience? Easier to shop from your armchair, instead of visiting shops and hashing out prices. Well, yes and yes. There is a far more potent reason however. With a reputable seller on ebay, you’ll know exactly how much you’re paying and exactly when it’ll be in your hands. I’ve gotten lenses from Hong Kong in 3 days and saved hundreds of euros!

On Monday morning I ordered a Canon 50mm f1.8 MKII from a Cork photo shop. “No problem, it’ll be in this evening or tomorrow morning.” Rang that evening, no sign of it. “Might have missed that shipment, try again tomorrow around noon”. Rang at 1pm, no sign. “Few more deliveries scheduled for this evening, it’s in one of those”. Rang at 5pm and y’know what? Yep, no sign of it. So the lens I wanted to take with me to Amsterdam tomorrow morning will sit in the back of some delivery van until I get back. It boggles the mind.

Had I bought the lens online from a UK or Irish ebay seller, I’d have it mounted on my camera right now. Hell, had I bought the damn thing late last week from Kea-Photo in Hong Kong I’d have it mounted on my camera by now! I blame my optimism in local suppliers. My fault. €150 locally with a 2/3 day wait or around €100 from the other side of the world with a guaranteed 3 day delivery. This place is way too laid back. Why did I buy the bloody lens from that shop in the first place? I won vouchers for the damn place!

As always, I shall remain a great believer in “why give vouchers that can be used in one shop when you can give cash that can be used anywhere?!?”

150 million reasons to do a quick pick on the way home…

Ahh one hundred and fifty million euro’s. Enough to completely ruin one persons life, enough to change 150 peoples lives forever, still enough to set 300 people up comfortably for a long time. Enough even to allow 600 people to get onto the property ladder almost debt free. Enough to allow 1200 people to be debt free and put Eddie Hobbs (almost) out of work.

Alot of money, too much for one person… With that in mind, I’ll have to remember to pick my lucky numbers on the way home!

Get your own Muff

Recently came the news that a list of the most naughty place names in Britian had been compiled; among them a town named Muff. The huge problem I have with that is as follows…

Anyone that knows their geography will know that the town of Muff is in Co. Donegal, part of the Irish Republic. That is to say, not under the rule of the crown. The Republic of Ireland, not in the list of countries collectively referred to as Britian.

I could go on about 800 years and mention some less than subtle rebel songs but I won’t. Instead I’ll simply advise the creator of these utterly pointless, waste of space compilations that he or she invest in a book of maps. Political maps at that. We do not use sterling. We do not have proper fish & chips. We do however have Muff, Co. Donegal. I’m sure the residents of the town would agree with me in my sentiment and I’m very sure that anyone listening to the radio yesterday when this was announced feels the same.

Back in the land o’ forty shades

8:10am, touched down in Cork airport and waited to clear off the cramped easyjet airbus A319 in a hurried yet orderly fashion. Stood around a stationary baggage carousel(sp?) for 15 minutes or so until it sprang into life and my bag appeared. Home & sleep for a few hours before travelling to Gort to pick up & bring home Trilo, the faithful mutt (that only snaps/growls at me a few times a week nowadays).

Ahh England. Or at least the England I know. The land of freshly baked pies in the morning, a pint of cool vimto over lunch and perhaps, if you’re feeling saucy, fish & chips for dinner. Real fish with real batter. Not that cardboard, stamped out crap we get over here. Also, it would seem, the land of hideously ugly inbreeds (or maybe that’s just down south). Obviously that hateful remark doesn’t stand for everyone, but it would seem that the chronically ratfaced among the community seem to like their multiplication. Despite this alarming statistic, I continued to walk my feet off during the course of the stay.

I visited a ‘historic dockyard’ and although it may sound frighteningly boring, spent the best part of 6 hours there, walking around it’s 80 acres, climbing aboard different ships, a submarine and even getting to grips with a wartime experience in a bona-fide bomb shelter. Down to Brighton and a stroll along the peer, dodging suspicious looking cross-dressers that seemed as if they were straight out of a “Little Britain” sketch. A bit of a seedy location to be sure.

Next to a Zoo of sorts. It was more like a maximum security version of Fota Wildlife Park, a big field with a few more fences than Fota itself. Suitably impressed with the Meerkats, Ring tailed lemurs and other such hairy beasts. Note; that doesn’t include the punters who were equally as hairy.

Now I find myself having to sort through some 1600 photos, hopefully from which I’ll derive at least 300 which are anyway decent to look at. I’ll probably end up posting most of them anyway, simply because they’re cool. Like the submarine ones, that was bitchin’. Anywho, I’m back and indeed, back at work. Time to put on the coffee and load up picassa.

Born Gay?

Tonight’s “Last Word with Matt Cooper” on TodayFM featured the author of a book named “Born Gay“. Qazi Rahman explores the somewhat controversial idea that everyone is born gay and one does not ‘choose’ to be gay by ones life experiences or the way you are brought up. The interview raised some interesting points, I’d imagine the book would be a good read.

To keep a healthy level of insanity to evening radio, a born again Christian was invited onto the show to spout quotes from the bible in a moronic fashion. The jist of it is “Sodomites be damned!” as stated in Leviticus blah blah. I was very surprised at the attitude of the David Cahoon, the Christian in question. Being a man of both science and religion, I guess he chose which path to follow. Apparently people are born in sin, not gay. I think the argument for science weighs heavier than that of religion in this and most cases.

I have mirrored the portion of the show in question and you can listen to it here. So, born gay? Even if it’s not entirely true it’s an interesting slant on the heterosexual/homosexual divide.

Home of the brave?

In today’s Irish Examiner letters, Denis Hurley writes;

AMERICA the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Im sure the inmates at Abu Ghraib prison would agree.

Denis Hurley,
Kilbrittain,
Co Cork.

Well put Denis.