February 21, 2011

Return from Veradero, Cuba endurance test

Just got back from Cuba at 3 am this morning and still trying to catch up on sleep, email, messages and such. Exit from Cuba was an endurance test - worst in 7 trips to Verradero. The bus was 40 minutes late picking us up. Then a long line just to enter the airport terminal - a first. Inside was sheer madness with long winding lines with no one to help direct anyone - and the airport couldn't begin to accommodate the criwds. They just keep building new hotels with the same old airport. It's just one huge hall with agents at the front of lines that cannot possibly hold the number that are bussed in. (Reminded me of Ottawa airport after an ice storm when all flights had been cancelled the day before and thousands of people were lined up for regular and extra flights.) Most people trying to get on the Ottawa flight were sure we'd never make the plane -- the usual line jumpers put everyone on edge. Extra agents from Sunwing flights already checked started checking our flight, which finally got things moving ever so slowly. Then to another line to buy the "exit tax", another line for customs, then a line for security (I had to take off my belt, still set off the alarm, but still had my water bottle in my bag). Then we had to get in another line to get on the plane - which involved walking downstairs, across the tarmack (with large holes to fall into). Wait again to get on the plane. I counted 7 lines before we got in the air. A few tired people said they would never do it again. Two weeks of relaxation completely undone in 9 hours (hotel to home). Last year we had to be at airport at 6 am and then 5 am to start back but the airport was quiet at daybreak - apparently all the European planes fly overnight which makes for the huge crowds in the evening. All those new hotels but same old airport facilities just makes no sense. Fleeing the revolution couldn't have been worse! The only good part is we were fairly sure we would not be shot or thrown into prison!

February 05, 2011

What do you do when your Internet or Power Disappears?

I was thinking what I could do if my internet service died - then it did! Everyone thinks that when the power goes out, Internet service is not usable because the high-speed modems require power. But if you still have phone service and a battery-powered laptop with a modem, you can connect to a "dialup" internet service. We just forget! I have kept a dialup account just for emergencies, but forgot to test it when I bought a laptop. You need to know how to dialup and get connected (and pay) if you need service in an emergency.

And maybe you have a mobile phone with text messaging - it seems I can tweet via text message. Logon to twitter.com and select the account "drop-down" arrow (top/right) and select Preferences. But only one account can use a mobile phone number, so I have to choose (I manage 3 twitter accounts). You probably don't.

I can also post to my blog by email but I can't afford a "data package" on my cell phone so I just have a pay-as-you-go account. With that, if I want to use Internet on my phone, I can choose to pay about $2/day (as long as it's 'low' usage). Then I can email, tweet, surf for the entire day. Haven't tried it yet though so no idea if it works.

To help people in Egypt, Google and Twitter cludged together a system to allow people to phone a number and leave a voicemail which was transmitted into twitter somehow. I don't know of anything similar I can use here in Canada.

If you know any other methods to keep connected when everything fails, let me know.