The next step: aircraft ownership

As soon as you start your first lesson towards a private pilot license, it is a safe bet to say that you are thinking about owning your own plane (it might have been long before then). As they say, you’re never really “not owning” an airplane, you’re simply in-between airplanes. At the same time, ownership (just like everything else in aviation) can be very expensive.

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One thing many pilots do in order to reduce the cost of flying is to join forces with other fellow pilots. This is known as a partnership or a flying club, and it’s the road I decided to go about a year ago. This post is about the process I went through while joining my (first) partnership, as well as some of the financial rationalizations (or the impression thereof).

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What if all goes wrong? Egress training

For those of you who are frequent flyers, have you ever wondered how it would feel if you had to use one of those life-vests stored under your seat around your neck, what happens when you pull that red tag? How do you get onto that life-boat anyway? For those who are private pilots (especially on floats), ever wondered how to get out of that thin layer of aluminum / plastic in case of a water landing gone bad? And is that window on the side big enough anyway to get through?

Shortly after getting my float plane endorsement,  I had the opportunity to attend a one-day Egress training session hosted by Bryan Webster near Ottawa to answer these questions and more.

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I had a vague idea of what to expect before attending this training. But after going through the day, I can only recommend this to any private pilot (even if you don’t fly on a float plane) as well as for those who fly a lot in GA airplanes and are sometimes over water.

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Switching to Windows Phone 7.5

1200-nokia-lumia-800_group_uprightI’ve been a happy iOS user since the original iPhone, and have used an iPhone 4 for the last year as my mobile device. While Apple’s mobile platform is arguable a very powerful one, especially due to the number of third-party apps, I remain interested in the other mobile Operating Systems. I haven’t been “attracted” by Android devices (I haven’t tried Ice-Cream Sandwich yet) due to the fragmentation, no appealing hardware, the major lack of guarantees that you will get OS updates on your device and the “geeky” nature of the look & feel (yes, I know, strange coming from me 😉

And outside of WebOS (lucky that I didn’t go down that path), I’ve been intrigued by the Windows Phone 7 OS since its launch just over a year ago. But the first iteration of the OS was too rough around the edges, and the lack of great hardware got me to stick with iOS until now at least. During a recent trip to the UK, I decided to get myself a Nokia Lumia 800 running Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) and I have to say that outside of a few little details (see below), I am really impressed by this device!

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Getting my wings wet

It will soon be two years since I passed my private pilot license (PPL) and I’ve enjoyed it ever since. I’ve since then discovered a few people around me who share the same childhood dream, and all I can say is that while it requires some time and money, it is absolutely worth it.

Since earning my wings, I’ve continued with additional ratings such as the Night rating and VFR OTT one. But the one I recently finished certainly was the one that opened my aeronautical knowledge to a whole new topic: floatplane endorsement!

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The iPad after two weeks

From what I can tell, there are two types of people when it comes to the iPad: those who see it as the next best thing since sliced bread, and those who think it is nothing more than an oversized previous generation iPod touch. After playing with one briefly after the launch, I was of the latter opinion. To give it another try, I was able to borrow another one for two weeks which included a business trip to Europe. While not 100% converted to the other camp, I can see how the v2 of the iPad will certainly be on my shopping list if some of my feature requests make it in (not that I expect Steve to listen 😉 )

For those who read my (very) infrequent posts, you know that I have been looking for solutions to reduce the numbers of trees needing to be cut every year in order to print all the documents I read (mainly in PDF and MS Office / WordPerfect formats). I also travel a lot, and have tried different solutions to reduce the weight of the books in my carry-on luggage (the Sony eBook reader does a good job for eBooks, but isn’t that great for PDFs). Doing email and browsing the web on the go are secondary (or so I thought) as I have an iPhone and a Sony Vaio laptop with me (and tethering works just fine in Canada with my data plan, sorry US friends).

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Trying out the new Sony Vaio Z

Sony Vaio Z VPCZ1I have to say, with all these comments about online purchasing being the future, having local retail stores that has physical goods in stock is certainly very nice… and considering that they do have a refund policy, it is the perfect opportunity to try out in depth the default version of a new device before ordering the customized one online / in store. I’ve had my eye on the Vaio Z model (VPCZ1) that Sony pre-announced at CES 2010 in January for a while, but had quite a few open questions – battery life, noise of the fan, is it getting burning hot on your lap, …

Well, the laptop is now available in its standard form (the custom built ones will be available in about a week) and I decided to go on a field trip to the nearest Sony store to have a look at it. And after playing with the device in the store, I “borrowed” one for a few days before ordering the custom one (I was upfront about that with the sales guy at the store)… and I have to say, this is one impressive little high-end laptop.

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Learning to fly…

Yes, a long time since the previous post, but the last 10 months have kept me fairly busy. In addition to welcoming to the world a daughter and maintaining a good workload from a professional side (we just announced the latest version of CorelDRAW), I had the opportunity to realize a childhood dream: becoming a pilot!

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And what a great time it has been to go through the process. I earned my Private Pilot License (PPL) on January 15, 2010 in about 10 months and wanted to share the journey for those who might be interested in doing the same. While this post is based on the Canadian regulations, PPL licenses seem to be fairly unified around the world and the comments here might still be of interest for you.

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Where is the iPhone version of Skype in Canada?

Just wanted to share a question I asked to Skype support:

I was really excited with the announcement of the iPhone version for Skype earlier this week. But when I tried to get it from the Canadian iTunes Store, it was nowhere to be found! Doing some search over the Internet, it appears Canada is the only country where the iPhone version of Skype is not available.

This is very surprising and I would like to get a better explanation as it is possible to download the Windows Mobile version from your site when in Canada, it is possible to purchase Skype WiFi phones in Canada and Skype works fine on notebooks / netbooks in Canada.

I can only suppose that there is a small delay for this and that Skype will be available shortly to people in Canada. Can you please let me know the reason why it is not yet available as well as when you expect Skype for iPhone to be available to Canadians?

Thank you for your quick answer.

And here is the answer I got back:

Thank you for contacting Skype Support.

We apologize for the inconvenience you’ve experienced while trying to download Skype for iPhone. Unfortunately, the Skype for iPhone application is not available for use in Canada at this time. There is an ambiguous restriction in one of the standards-based technology licenses, and we are looking into it. The issue is not related to Apple, nor is it specific to Skype.

Once again, we apologize for this inconvenience and would like to assure you that we are working on resolving this issue as soon as possible.

Thank you for your understanding and we hope you enjoy using Skype on your iPhone in the nearest future.

OK, there is hope, but let’s not be in a hurry.

Update (September 9, 2009): Skype for iPhone is now available in Canada! Next step, being able to do calls over 3G 😉

How to improve eBook readers?

Having used a Sony eBook Reader for quite a while, I wanted to share some ideas on how to improve this device and potentially other eBook Readers. All the comments in this post are related to the PRS-505 (the device I have) with the firmware 1.1, but from what I can tell, other eBook readers don’t have these available (nor do eBook apps on the iPhone for example). And for those who will comment asking why I am not using a Kindle from Amazon, I live in Canada and it isn’t available outside of the island called USA (yet).

In a nutshell, I still prefer to read books / documents on paper, but the geek toy solution works quite nicely. The main reasons are, in no particular order: DRM, geo-specific content, no way to flip through pages and no way to annotate / highlight the text you are reading.

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“Buyology” by Martin Lindstrom

It’s always interesting to better understand why people buy things, what makes them decide that this product is better than this one. One of the recommendations I heard a while back was for a book with the tagline “Truth and Lies About Why We Buy”. The book, called “Buyology” and written by Martin Lindstrom, is well worth the read.

In summary, I really enjoyed the fact that the author looked at existing pre-conceptions (the warning label on cigarettes to prevent people from smoking) and, through scientific research, looked at what really happened in the brain vs. what people tell. Quite a few widely accepted ideas have to be re-considered based on the results presented in Buyology… and it should every everyone in Marketing to think twice about a new campaign.

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Keeping files synchronized across multiple computers

Using multiple computers on a regular basis (and on different platforms), I started looking for a way to keep the files I need most synchronized across all of them, e.g. to give me access to the documents I regularly access on whatever computer I am. Until now, I’ve been using MobileMe’s iDisk from Apple and a USB stick, and after some intensive use, really need to find something better. I had a look at multiple solutions, including DropBox, Windows Live Sync, Live Mesh, BeInSync, Syncplicity and SugarSync. Yes, there is a lot of choice out there, and it took me a while to sort out through all of it.

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Packaging size matters…

In the past year, companies have started to communicate about how “green” they are. Apple for example (to pick one) has started publicly announcing how their packaging is shrinking to reduce the size needed for shipping, which I fully support. But when doing so, companies should not only consider the size of the box in which the product comes in, but also the size of the box used for shipping. Here is an example I recently encountered…

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