Blogging from the train

My parents moved up to Cameron Park which is near Sacramento, a 2-3 hour drive from where I live in San Francisco. I also sold my car back in April, which makes getting up there to visit them an interesting event. Over Thanksgiving I rented a car to get there which ends up being a little pricey (but still costs me a lot less than if I owned a car).

Anyway, I wanted to make another trip up there to help them move into their new house, and so I thought I’d try the train. I assumed I’d get some work done on the ride up, something I definitely couldn’t do if I was driving, but I was having too much fun watching the view out the window.

The Delta, from the Train

Here are a few things you can expect to see if you take the train from Emeryville to Sacramento:

  • Sweeping views of the north bay. The train snaked along the edge of the bay for 45 minutes.
  • Lots of piers, many in various states of decay
  • A unique view of the Oil Terminals in Richmond
  • Fisherman fishing on the bay
  • Views from below the new Carquinez Bridge
  • Sweeping views of the Delta & Central Valley

The Bay, from the Train

The funny thing about living in the Bay Area is that you don’t see the bay very often because it’s obscured by buildings or hills. Even on the bridges, you don’t really get to see the bay because the railings are quite high. If you take a ride on this train, you’ll get some of the best views the bay has to offer.

There is a down-side of course. The train isn’t the most convenient way to travel. Just getting to the Emeryville train station probably took me an hour, and then the train was late. The train ride itself will probably be another 2 hours, and then I still have to get picked up in Sacramento, so now add another 1/2 hour to get to my parents house. All told, the journey will probably be about 4 hours, when driving takes between 2-4 hours depending on traffic. $18 one way isn’t bad though…. I’d probably have to pay $130 to rent a car for two days. Considering I got to enjoy the view and relax instead of stressing out in traffic, I think it was well worth it.

ThinkHost: Green web hosting & other ways to become carbon neutral

I was recently introduced to ThinkHost. I use DreamhHost now for this blog and my personal email, but I like the fact that ThinkHost is powered by 100% renewable energy.

Maybe my New Years resolution for 2007 will be to become as carbon neutral as possible. A few things I’m already doing to try and be carbon neutral:
* When I fly, I offset my carbon output with one of the many offerings out there
* When I still owned a car, I bought a TerraPass.

Some things I’m not doing but probably should:
* TerraPass has a home offering as well now, to offset the energy consumed in your home.
* GreenDimes aims to help you reduce the junk mail you get from the USPS.

I’m sure there are other ways to lower my carbon footprint. Any ideas?

Man invades night club with snakes

Jason’s birthday was almost 2 months ago, but I still thought this was worth posting. Classic Jason style, his birthday party consisted of having burritos at Cancun and then off to “the club formerly known as The Top” to listed to Drum and Bass.

Jason & Chris at the Top

I think we were there for no more than 20 minutes when this guy with a bag of snakes sits down next to us and starts putting slithery critters on us.

Snakes eat Chris

Not only did I survive, but I think I’m no longer afraid of snakes. I guess facing your fears after you’ve had a good burrito, several drinks, and Drum and Bass pounding in the background really works.

Thanks for the photos Junie!

Purcahse from The Madson Line at your own risk

I’ve been having some really terrible problems with my powerbook lately. I’m fairly certain this is the result of a faulty power supply from The Madson Line. I’m no electrical engineer, but I am very experienced with computers, and I’ve been a programmer for a while so I know a thing or two about logically deducing the sources of problems. In this case, I’m fairly certain a power supply from The Madson Line caused physical damage to my Powerbook that I’m still dealing with. If you read the letter below I sent to them, you’ll see that it’s pretty much impossible to find contact information for this company on their own web site. I’ve included the contact info I’ve dug up so that anyone else looking for it might be able to find it from the search engines. Also, I’ll update this entry with the outcome of my customer service request.

The Madson Line contact information:
Phone: 800-851-1551 (verified)

Address I was told to send defective product to:
1110 West 9th St
Upland CA, 91786

Another Address I found (unverified):
Madsonline 100 Ebbtide Building 2
Sausalito, CA 94965

Letter to customer service:

Dear Sir or Madam,

In mid August, the power adapter for my G4 17” Powerbook began to show signs of imminent failure due to cord fatigue. Given the poor reputation of this Apple product, I decided to look for alternatives. I found a favorable review of The Madson Line 65W adapter, and decided to give it a shot.
When I received the new power adapter from The Madson Line, I immediately began to have problems. The first problem was that while the plug was charging my Powerbook, and the plug was rotated to certain angles under normal usage, an audible arching sound could be heard. While this condition was alarming, it was also intermittent, and so I didn’t think much of it. I was hopeful that this $100.60 product (after shipping) would perform better than the Apple power supply.

About two weeks after I began using the new power supply, two new issues appeared. First, while the Madson Line power supply plug was rotated to certain angles while plugged into the Powerbook, charging actually stopped. It was at this point that I realized this power supply was likely faulty, and I went ahead and ordered a genuine Apple power supply. The second issue turned out to be much more serious. Shortly after the latest charging issue, my hard drive began to have read errors, and the operating system crashed several times. This quickly led to a situation where I was unable to boot my operating system. Running apple hardware tests indicated a hard drive failure, so I quickly spent $200 on an external hard disk and managed to recover most of my data. Eventually, I purchased a new hard disk to replaced what I believed was a faulty drive. Unfortunately, even after the drive replacement and switching over to utilizing the Apple power supply, I am still having hardware issues and operating system crashes which I currently believe may be mainboard related. It is now over 2.5 weeks since the initial hard drive failure, and I am still living with the consequences. I am a small business owner, and even though I can’t afford it right now, I am forced to purchase a new laptop so that I can continue building my fledgling business without constant risk of data loss.

While I cannot prove it, it seems likely that The Madson Line power supply has caused my issues. As such, I decided to contact your company to request at a minimum that I receive a full refund for the faulty product. It was with great surprise that I was unable to locate any contact information on your web site, In fact, if you click on ‘RMA Information’, ‘Tech Support’, or ‘Sales Inquiries’, you are redirected to a completely unrelated page.

It’s almost as if you don’t want anyone to be able to contact you if they have problems with your products. After much difficulty, I was able to find a phone number to contact your organization (800-851-1551). I suppose it shouldn’t have been a surprise when the man on the other end was caught off guard when I asked to return the faulty power supply. The man said he had to make up an RMA number because he didn’t have a log book in front of him. After explaining my situation , not including the hardware problems I experienced, the man said I would only qualify for a product replacement because it had been more than 30 days since purchase. I informed the man that I only wanted a refund because I believed the product had caused hardware failures for me, and I had purchased a replacement power supply already. After all, how long can you use a laptop without a power supply? Again, it shouldn’t have been a surprise when the man said he was tired from long day, and didn’t want to discuss this over the phone, and I should just send in the product with a letter stating the situation. I understand that people are tired from working long hours, but I’ve been going through hell dealing with hardware problems for 2.5 weeks.

I request the following from your organization (all numbers include tax):
1) A full refund for the faulty power supply – $100.60
2) Reimbursement for the external hard drive I purchased to recover my data – $216.99
3) Reimbursement for the internal hard drive I was forced to purchased in an attempt to fix my laptop – $128.32
4) Reimbursement for whatever it costs to repair my laptop – Unknown cost at this time

I eagerly await your reply, and will follow up on my blog with the results of my customer service inquiry:

Sincerely yours,

Chris Kohlhardt

update: I received a letter postmarked October 10th from MadsonLine. The tone of the letter was mostly apologetic, but not exactly taking responsibility for my claim that their product ruined my computer. I’m probably giving them way too much of benefit of the doubt, but it’s certainly possible the problem I experienced wasn’t from their product. They did include a check for a full refund at least, so that’s something. I’m still not terribly happy with the way I was treated on the phone. Very surprising was that the person who I thought was rude to me on the phone turned out to actually be the owner of the company. How can you run a successful business when you treat your customers like that?
Anyway, I think this is still one company whose products I’d steer clear of in the future.

San Franciscans dig the World Cup

Can you pick out the big screen among the sea of people?

It seems to be common knowledge throughout the world that Americans could care less about the World Cup. After watching the final match between Italy and France at Delores Park here in San Francisco, I’m not so sure that sentiment is true. I took a few pictures with my camera phone, and as you can see, LOTS of people turned out to see the game which was displayed on a fancy LED screen. I’ve never seen this many people in the park before. Afterwards, the Space Cowboys provided beats to finnish off an amazing summer day. More Flickr photos here.

Help us find Jerry Tang

Jerry Tang Missing Pic

Jerry Tang, a good friend and co-worker, has been missing since Tuesday. Jerry last spoke to his wife Tuesday morning as he left his Cole Valley home to go for a walk. He may have been seen near Fell/Stanyan at the entrance to Golden Gate Park on Wednesday morning. Jerry is 6’1″, about 160 pounds, and is believed to be wearing a dark blue jacket and blue jeans, and may possibly have a light blue umbrella.

For more information, please visit this link

email hosting suggestions?

Dear LaszyWeb,

Do you have any recommendations for email only hosting providers for my small business? My requirements include:
– Ability to create discussion lists
– Ability to create email newsletters, including the option to sign up people from a form on our web site. We need to be able to sign people up without having them confirm so that we can move several hundred emails off of our old email newsletter system.
– IMAP, webmail, etc
– Auto responder email addresses