Archive for June, 2007

Oga’s Japanese Cuisine

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

An authentic Japanese bento is the last thing I expected to find in Natick.

Oga’s Japanese Cuisine

Following a seminar about the crazy healthcare reform laws that have befallen Massaschusetts, we decided to stop by Oga’s in Natick to see what the rest of the Boston Japanese community was raving about. Wow, we weren’t disappointed.

Oga’s Sushi BentoThough Oga’s looks pricey for dinner, a formal (read: “fancy-ish”) bento box lunch was only about $12. I had a fairly good tonkatsu pork bento (complete with cabbage and sauce), and Miho a really spectacular sushi box lunch.

Oga’s can be a bit far out of Boston on the highway, but worth the trip. Best bento I’ve ever had in the US.

FFFTP

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Speech impediment as the perfect FTP client.

I’ve been on the lookout for a good Windows FTP app ever since LeechFTP made its last public appearance in 1999. Rejoicing time is upon us for today one of the designers at GMAP put me on to FFFTP.

FFFTP

FTP-wise I’ve tried a handful of apps over the last three or four years. I’d settled on SmartFTP for most of the heavy lifting, though it does have a lot of cruft I don’t need and I really loathe its weirdo “address – username” pulldown with accompanying incomprehensible dialog boxes.

FileZilla is promising, but kept startling me with random stability quirks. Likewise checked out CoreFTP “Lite”, which has a really great view-toggle feature going on, as well as an incessant per-directory-click-activated beep which, I suppose, is designed to encourage full version purchasing or else irritating beep-induced madness.

WebDrive was a favorite for quite awhile, though has also proven to be unstable when asked to cooperate with Vista. Plus, WebDrive can be overkill when you just want to quickly pop a file through the ether and be done with it.

FFFTP is cruftless and light and includes the better features of more “advanced” FTP clients; specifically firewall jockeying and even auto Japanese encoding conversion. Nice.

Practicing Safe Emacs

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

This has been bugging me for years and I finally got around to looking up a solution.

Everyone knows that Emacs is the greatest editor on the planet, superior in all ways to vi. Unfortunately, Emacs has this nasty habit of tossing tilde-terminated backup files around whatever directory in which you happen to be editing. Not only does this clutter up the file system, it can also be something of a security risk; especially if you’re working on web servers. And really, snapshots of your most recent save is not so useful if, like me, you pathologically ctrl-x ctrl-s your code every few characters or so.

After a bit of hunting I discovered that Emacs’ built-in versioning could solve both of these problems. Cons the following two commands into your local .emacs:

;; Enable versioning with default values.
(setq version-control t)

;; Save all backup file into the designated directory.
(setq backup-directory-alist (quote ((".*" . "~/.emacs.d/backups/"))))

and not only will Emacs remember all saves:

$ ls .emacs.d/backups/
!home!gates!GPLv3.txt.~1~ !home!gates!GPLv3.txt.~2~

but, as you see, it also tucks your backups safely out of harm’s way.

Multi-Carrier e-Ticketing Hell

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

or Screwed by Flying Virgin

Okay, this is the second time this has happened to me, so I think it needs a blog entry.

Lately it’s possible to book cheap, complex routes on multiple airline carriers thanks to the magic of the internet and fear — good old fashioned fear — of insolvency.

This may at first seem like a godsend to the would-be international vagabond; that is until you actually try to take one of these flights. While Orbitz may know each carrier’s routes and be able to plan out the perfect budget ticket for you, it doesn’t take into account exceptions. If something goes wrong, such as, say, a twenty minute flight delay, be prepared to scramble.

For example, last week I booked a cheap round-trip ticket from Boston to Chennai, India via London and Mumbai. Had it worked, this would have been a team effort between American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and (greatest airline in the world) Indian carrier Jet Airways. Twenty-three hours of flight time is a little longer than I had hoped for, but a deal for the $1,500 price tag.

Five hours into the tip I knew I was in trouble. We were going to be twenty minutes late into Heathrow. If you’ve ever been to Heathrow, you know that every second counts: Navigating inscrutable tunnels filled with random checkpoints and the occasional train takes time.

I emerged blinking from the gangway, eyes darting about and ready to sprint off into the labyrinth. When suddenly, not twenty feet down the terminal corridor, I spotted my connecting flight, Virgin Atlantic Airways 350, accepting the last of its passengers. I had thirty minutes to spare.

Smugly I sauntered over to the gate and presented my official Orbitz itinerary with a slight flourish. Ah, the magic of the internet. Who needs a ticket when you have an e-ticket, right? Yeah. Well, actually since this is the second time this has happened to me, I wasn’t all that surprised for what came next.

Frowning intently at my official draft-quality Orbitz printout, the gate security guard disappeared behind a barrier to return with kindly Virgin staff who explained, sympathetically, that I was pretty much screwed. Though I had a an e-ticket, and though — just down the gangway — my paid-for seat was available, Virgin policy required that I first pass through the transfer desk, requiring at least a twenty minute trek deep into the Heathrow labyrinth via checkpoints, scanners, trains, minotaur, and who knows what else. I was, it seems, to spend a night in London.

So, off I went to the transfer desk. Of course, by the time I arrived (10 pm), the American Airlines desk was deserted. Emergency hyperactive backup staff at the late night Virgin desk explained that I would have to book my own accommodations and request reimbursement from American. They also recommended that I transfer my luggage to the next Virgin flight rather than picking it up at Heathrow at such a late hour. Reasonable enough I suppose.

To make a long story short, I am now here in Chennai, following a $500 stay in the luxurious Heathrow Hilton and a completely different flight on British Airways, sans luggage. And, yes, I have learned my lesson.