Aigues-Mortes- Walled City in the South of France

The closest big city to me was Montpellier where I planned to attend a round of 16 match (I missed it since I had work to do and the match was at 6PM!). However the closest town to me as a place called Aigues-Mortes that was walkable from my hotel. Unlike most cities that I’ve visited in my life, this one happens to be a medival walled city that was generally still functioning. The city was built in the 13th century (at least thats according to the Church that I saw near the middle of the central square). When you first go to the city, it doesn’t look all that big until you actually get into it and start walking around.

The city has a town square where most of the restaurants are. From the main entrance its a straight shot to the town square that has a bank, a small museum, small shops, and restaurants. There is also a statue but I don’t know who its of. There was also a Church that looked really old but I couldn’t go inside of it. I didn’t get the sheer size of the town until I started walking around it and took pictures from various spots in the town. The streets were all cobblestone and some of the exits looked like the original wood was on the doors. There was an exit that I used that led to the water (its on the coast) and then I was able to capture the full extent of the outer wall (naturally I took a picture). It would have been awesome to take my drone on this trip but I don’t know if they would have let me fly it over the city to take some video or photos.

The city itself is relatively quiet and there were a lot of residences within it. Parking was really tight in there and the streets were definitely not made for cars, it was made for pedestrian traffic but they still allowed cars in to drive and park. During my first visit I drove into the city (dumb idea) and got lost since I couldn’t figure out what roads went which way (the signage was poor of course). It was during my second visit that I took most of the pictures. There was also a tour that you could take of the ramparts but it closes really early and work was about 30 minutes away and I always got out late so I wasn’t able to see them. Hence my wish to take my drone for a little flight if I brought it with me.

The best shots of the city that I took was from the outside just as it was going to dusk. I did a combination of shots with my iPhone 7 and my GoPro Hero 7 Black. I didn’t have the right mount with me to do a video tour of the city but thats ok, the photos were still pretty impressive in my opinion. It definitely was a great experience going to the walled city, it was something that I have never seen in person before. It was interesting to walk around and take in all the old architecture and how the residents tried to sprinkle in a little bit more modern stuff (I thought they should get rid of all the cars and street signs and just make it a pedestrian town). Definitely cool as an experience, it makes me want to go to some other walled cities of greater fame in places like Eastern Europe or Italy just to see how they compare.

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Using an Ubuntu 18.04 LTS VM for uploading pictures and video to Google Photos

Ubuntu Bionic Beaver

I’ve been taking a lot more video on the GoPro of late and there is even video that I haven’t even moved over to Google Photos yet and I’ve been struggling to find a good solution on how to upload all those videos without keeping my MacBook Pro on all night. Recently I upgraded my NAS (I blogged about it before) and now I have a ton of extra space on there. With that extra space and the RAM upgrade I was able to install a virtual machine. I chose Ubuntu Linux primarily because it was free and I had dabbled with it in the past. I had all these videos from Breckenridge on an external drive and the old way that I uploaded video was to mount the drive on the MacBook, go to Google Photos on the web, and then do a drag and drop. Since a lot of those videos are pretty big, it would take a long time for it to upload, sometimes days I’d leave that thing on.

Given that I have all this extra storage space, I thought, why not load the videos on the NAS and then fire up the VM and see if I can do it that way? The loading of the videos was only slightly problematic since my external drive is formatted for Mac and it can’t be read by my NAS when I plug it in directly. That forced me to transfer the video using the Mac to the NAS, that was fairly easy and quick. Only took 10 minutes for about 300GB which is fairly fast. The next part was a tad more difficult. I was familiar with mapping drives and everything with Windows but not Linux. Thankfully the GUI interface for Ubuntu is pretty easy and it saw my NAS as a network drive.

Let me just start out saying that the performance on the VM is pretty shitty when you’re using a browser to navigate. I think it would be way more responsive if I used it directly on a monitor but I don’t have the right plugs currently since its an older monitor that uses DVI and not HDMI. I got Google Photos up on Firefox in Ubuntu and started loading the photos and videos. Unfortunately I kept on getting script errors on the page (no clue why that was) but after rebooting the VM and starting over it seemed to be working for uploading the files. Given that the interface was really really slow I wasn’t able to put them in an album after the upload was complete. I was however able to leave the VM running while I went out to the movies and was able to close out of the browser tab with the VM and come back to it hours later.

After this experiment I think I have found at least my best way of getting all the videos from my trips up to Google Photos. instead of loading all the photos and video on my iPad for my next trip, I think I’m just going to leave it on my GoPro and wait until I get home to start reviewing and making combined videos. I don’t want to take a computer with me, just my iPad but transferring all that stuff is also a pain in the ass and I’d like to relax a bit more this trip.

NAVIGON is no more!

Curious thing when I was checking my NAVIGON app last week, there was a message that I sort of just clicked through but it bothered me so I checked the website, to my surprise Garmin decided to kill all their iOS navigation apps. I have had NAVIGON on my phone since the days of the 3GS and it used to be my go to app for navigation in my car. Apparently I’m allowed to use it for another 2 years until there will be no more map updates. That’s kind of sad but it’s expected since in the age of unlimited data, you only need Apple Maps, Google Maps, or Waze.

I remember the software being a crazy price. I think I paid $79.00 for all of North America. Truthfully it was one of my better purchases due to all the travel I do for work. At the time maps kinda sucked on the iPhone and NAVIGON was more accurate. Over the years I got frustrated with the software due to its interface and lack of search capability. In recent years I’ve relied on 3 apps for navigation and with the final death of NAVIGON I’ll be able to reclaim about 100mb of space on my phone and a tile space.

I’ll admit that having an offline map is useful but Google has this and I have another app called Ulmon that does offline maps. It doesn’t really do turn by turn but I won’t get lost either which is the main point. For it’s time, NAVIGON was freaking awesome and prevented me from getting lost most of the time. Before I had unlimited data it was useful to have he map preloaded on the phone so I wouldn’t use up my data plan. I just might keep the software on my phone for the next two years mainly because I paid for it so I might as well use it if the need arises. By then I should be ready to upgrade my iPhone 7 to something else.

Netflix on Chromecast is a terrible experience

netflix_web_logo

I have 2 Chromecasts, one for my home and one for work.  The second one I won while at a conference so I decided to make it the travel one.  I’ve never had good luck streaming Netflix to Chromecast while traveling for work and I thought for the longest time it was the Chromecasts fault or the fault of the network at the hotel.  I’ve mostly dispelled that by trying to use Netflix with my Chromecast at home where I know the network connection is reliable and the TV is supported and doesn’t have any funky software on it because it is MY TV after all.

I was trying to stream Jessica Jones from my iPad Mini 2 and for some reason it would just choke and not stream or load for the longest time.  I tried using my Apple TV 3 and it streamed the content like a champ with no problems at all.  This leads me to believe either that the Netflix app is poorly written for casting to a Chromecast or the Chromecast itself isn’t capable of handling Netflix streams.

I’ve started to take my older Apple TV 2 with me on my trips since some of the places I stay have HDMI ports that let me hook it up so I can watch Netflix and also stream local content from my iPhone or my iPad. I still take the Chromecast with me but its only used if I don’t feel like packing my Apple TV (it takes up way more room and is kind of heavy).

YouTube seems to be streaming just fine on my Chromecast but maybe its because the hardware and software are both made by Google so they ensured that it would work correctly and more than 50% of the time.  I know I’ve unplugged the Chromecast out of frustration more than once during a hotel stay and just resorted to using my iPad to watch my videos.  That habit might actually push me to getting a newer iPad (hopefully they’ll come out with an iPad Air 3 that can use the Pencil) and that might be my next tablet upgrade although I am still quite happy with my Mini 2.

I’m not going to worry too much about not being able to watch content on the big screen in my hotel if Chromecast doesn’t work, I’ll always have my iPhone or my iPad to fall back on and frankly the app on the iPad for Netflix is pretty good so I actually watch Netflix on my iPad more than I do on my TV even at home and especially not on a computer since the interface isn’t the best.  I guess Netflix really is more for mobile than for home viewing.

Bose vs. Beats: FIGHT!


Let me preface this by saying I’m in now way an audiophile of any kind, I’m just a road weary traveler looking for headphones that fit my current lifestyle.  With that said, I am now the owner of the Bose QC25 and the Beats Wireless Studio headphones.  In reality these were replacements of my Audio Technica headphones that I had before.  I also just happened to get the Beats since I needed to burn off some useless miles.

I bought the Bose QC25’s last year and so far they’ve served me quite well.  I like how it takes a single AAA battery to activate the noise canceling and that I can use it without the noise canceling if I don’t want to.  It also folds up pretty nice in the case.  The Bose uses a cord thats inserted into my iPhone or iPad depending on the device that I’m using and I can actually take calls on it.  Compared to the Audio Technica’s, the Bose was way better in terms of sound and for noise canceling.  I mean come on its a Bose!  I did run into trouble a couple of months ago when one of the ear cups wouldn’t transmit any sound and I had to warranty replace them.  While overall pretty painless, that meant the headphones lasted less than a year before they broke. The replacements work just fine and I get another year of support so if they break again I can just replace them.

I haven’t done a lot with the Beats headphones yet.  I have been able to pair them with my iPhone 6 just fine and when you turn them on it pairs fast and the noise canceling is on by default.  I don’t know if you can turn off the noise canceling part but the sound quality out of these suckers is pretty awesome.  Granted I haven’t used them on a plane which is the real test of these bad boys but I’ll get a chance to do that this next week.  The Beats came with more cords, one for charging and one for using it with my iPhone so I can talk on the phone with it, I think there is a third one that I haven’t figured out what that one does yet.  I have yet to read the instructions for it.  I do know that I can control the volume and at least advance tracks forward by just pressing the button on the side.  Thats pretty bad ass in my book.  It doesn’t fold as flat as the Bose but thats a small thing since they’re practically the same when I shove them in my backpack.

I’ll see which one I keep in my work bag long term after the test this week going up to NY for work.  I keep my headphones on almost the entire trip so it sucks a lot of juice.  I think the only downside is that I would need to charge the headphones every so often instead of just replacing the battery but thats a small thing really and it saves the environment since I’m not burning through batteries.

All in all, these are two pretty different products but they’ll serve the same purpose for my travels.  I can’t wait to test the Beats this week so I can finally pick a winner.  Technically the loser won’t be traveling with me but it will probably be used at home instead so I don’t have to unpack my primary headphones or I’ll give them to my wife so she can use them for when we travel as a family.

Apple TV wins over Chromecast for hotel rooms

I’ve been traveling with both a Chromecast and an Apple TV for a while now and I have to say that in my opinion the Apple TV is winning over the Chromecast.  I don’t have a fancy setup like having a Plex Server at home to stream stuff but I do have Netflix and I can airplay from different websites which is a big plus in my opinion.  Hotel networks are notoriously slow so while most of the time the Chromecast works ok, it sometimes stutters or doesn’t engage at all when trying to use Netflix.

I actually ha that problem 3 weeks ago when I was trying to use my Chromecast at the HIlton Garden Inn.  I finally was able to find a way to get my travel router working and I was trying to get Netflix to work.  It would just constantly say “Casting” on my Netflix app but nothing woould ever happen on the TV.  I tried using YouTube which was just fine but it doesn’t have the stuff I want to play which is on Netlfix.  The following week I brought my Apple TV and I’ve been bringing it ever since.

I think it all comes down to personal preference and even though there is more stuff to bring for the Apple TV it just works better.  I use my iPad or my iPhone as the remote but I have a regular remote as a backup whih helps things along if I can’t get the other devices to work.  The fact that I can Airplay my local content is a huge plus, I have lots of movies that I’ve bought or otherwise gotten that I want to play while I’m away from home.  In that way the Chromecast is limited that I have to stream everything from another service and it has to be a supported service by Chromecast.  It might be different if I had a Plex Server where I could stream from my house or something but I have a 128GB iPad so I can carry locally a lot of content.

This will be one of my new requirements when I travel, I need to have a hotel room that has a TV that can support my Apple TV and my travel router.  This way when there is nothing to wath on TV (which happens a lot), at least I can be entertained by things that I want to watch.

Two Weeks of Travel Left for 2014

It’s almost the end of 2014 and I am only two weeks away from being able to stay home for the rest of 2014. I’m looking forward to spending more time at home with the family and to open some of the Christmas presents waiting under the tree.

I’ve gotten my Platinum status with American, my Platinum status with SPG, my Diamond status with Hilton, and Presidents Circle with Hertz. That should take care of my status for 2015 while I travel. I’ll have to do a lot of travel once again for 2015 to keep my status but with my current client load that shouldn’t be a huge problem. I’m still considering if I should hold on to my Hilton status or if I should just completely switch over to SPG in the future.

The holidays should be fun filled and maybe I’ll actually get to drive my car around. I already have some time at Disney planned which should be fun, the difference being is that I’ll be at an actual Disney hotel rather than my customary Hilton. The wife and I did this primarily so that our daughter could enjoy seeing the animals from our room. Also it was a way for us to stay on the property and be closer to the attractions and also be able to enjoy just the stuff the hotel has to offer. Unfortunately Disney does not have a rewards program for hotel stays or partners with any of the major ones (they kind of do, the Swan and Dolphin are considered Sheratons) but those hotels are really blah when you consider how cool the real Disney hotels are.

I guess traveling to Orlando is a little different than my normal stuff. It will be with my family for one and on the other hand I’ll be driving instead of flying. I guess when I first started this post I really meant two weeks of work travel left for 2014, road trips weren’t included. Either way, I’m going to be glad to get off of planes for a while with all its cramped seats and recycled air. Only 3 more flights and then sweet freedom!