Train Crash at Montparnasse 1895

Train Crash at Montparnasse 1895

Into the summer travel rhythm with a mix of vacation and business travel. Using an Apple iPad 2 and Samsung’s new Galaxy Tab 10.1 Android tablet during this mix gave me enough real world experience to make some recommendations. A couple of recent web links describe this podcast as “not as upbeat as others” which is true, but because it focuses on traveling, not destinations. Perhaps this non-chipper attitude is partially explained by a recent study placing 4 US airline companies in the top 8 most hated companies in America. And a listener suggests ways to reduce roaming voice and data costs. Here’s a direct link to the podcast file or you can listen to it right here by clicking on the arrow below.

Here are the transcript from TravelCommons podcast #92:

  • Intro music — Warmth by Makkina
  • Travel since the last podcast has been pretty evenly split between personal and business travel.  First couple of weeks was summer vacation in the UK — the Lake District, Scotland, and a couple of days in London.  Had phenomenal weather the whole time we were there — one afternoon of rain, and the rest of the time was warm and sunny.  Almost too warm for the clothes we packed. And everyone was amazed.  All the bed & breakfast owners were marveling at the weather. “It’s luvly,” said our landlady in Edinburgh, “Last week it was hailing”. Lucky us because we certainly didn’t pack for that.
  • Just to make sure I didn’t forget we were on vacation, we stayed at bed & breakfasts the whole time — until we hit London, when I made the reservations. Actually, when I think about it, it’s not all that different from the service I get in the concierge lounges at big hotels. Breakfast comes with the room — though the full cooked breakfast, complete with black puddling in England and haggis in Scotland, was a bit heartier than the continental breakfasts I normally get in concierge lounges.  And there’s a bit of nice chit-chat when we walk in, though the B&B owners are typically a bit older/more seasoned that the typical lounge staff.  The main differences — most hotels I stay in don’t have dogs living there, and they prefer credit cards over cash.
  • Of course, back in the US, the weather’s been sweltering.  I was in South Florida a couple weeks ago and it was cooler there than Chicago.  But that wasn’t good enough, so last week, I was down in Phoenix, where it was hitting 105-107 degrees during the day and wasn’t getting below 100 any time while I was awake.
  • Tough weather to take advantage of the convertible red Mustang that Avis was nice enough to upgrade me to.
  • Wednesday night after dinner, though, I decided I just had to drop the top.  The dashboard said the external temperature was 102 — and it felt it when I dropped that top.  Soon, though, I found that the key to driving top-down in 102 degrees is the pretty much the same as driving top-down in 55 degree weather. Set the fan to High and remember to have the knob set to A/C.
  • Bridge music — Crazy Love-The Alex & Lang mix by J.Lang

Following Up

  • Let’s take a run through the comment bag.
  • Sarah, who’s been a listener since 2006, posted a comment on the website on episode #85 (!) — she says “I was playing catch up after all my driving trips this past two months.” In that episode, I talked about how the hotel industry seems to be focused on spiffing up their lobbies and putting whizzy new technology in the rooms, and that they were making a mistake ignoring what I think is critical to the hotel experience — the bathroom.  Sarah says “I say ‘heck yeah’ to the bathroom being one of the most important parts of a stay.  I ended in a bed and breakfast in the middle of nowhere, with no wifi.  And the bathroom made me want to tell everyone about it. It had a hot tub and a beautifully large bathroom. But even though I knew no one who was going to the area, I wanted to tell everyone about it. It’s the Inn in New Berlin, PA (in case you care).”
  • Sarah, thanks for the note — and thanks for the pointer to the Inn in New Berlin.  I do think we look for luxurious touches in hotels. And it doesn’t have to be anything big.  The first thing my wife looks for in a hotel room is to see if there are robes in the bathroom.  It’s a helluva lot cheaper than a tricked-out media panel, and it makes a much bigger impression.
  • Sarah’s comment about wanting to tell everyone about her find reminded me of some stats I saw a few days ago.  It said on average 24% of a hotel guests first heard about it from a friend or family member; 16% from a review site like TripAdvisor. I would guess that if anyone could calculate the cost of creating an enthusiastic recommender like Sarah — it would turn out to be a lot cheaper to do it with a great bathroom than a posh new lobby.
  • Fast forwarding to episode #90, Andrew Gill left a comment on the TravelCommons Facebook wall
    • Thanks for podcast #90, it’s great to hear how 170 degrees isn’t as comfortable as fully flat when my company has a different approach to travel. UK to Australia in Economy has to be tried
    • You talked about using large chunks of roaming data in a recent trip and I’ve a couple of hints to share.
    • Google Maps is great but try City Maps 2Go. I’ve been using it for over a year having tried other off-line mapping products. It uses the built in compass so I don’t have to walk a block either way to figure out if I’m going in the right direction.
    • I’ve also become a real convert to local SIM cards. Now this may not be perfect for a business trip, but I had two weeks in Chile in January and my iPhone bill was $500, compare this to two weeks in Australia using the AU$2 a day plan from Optus and my bill was $22. In Australia I didn’t worry about when I used my phone or finding the next hotspot, because I had unlimited calls, SMS and internet usage all for AU$2 a day.
  • Thanks Andrew.  Sorry about the whinging on 10 degrees of seat recline. I paid for it on my flight over to Manchester last month — 8 hrs of suffering in coach in a packed American Airlines 757. Even United gives you free beer in coach, but not American.
  • Thanks for the tip on City Maps 2 Go.  I looked at it for our UK vacation and since we were spending most of our time in the hinterlands — the Lake District, the Isle of Arran, around Loch Lomond, it wasn’t going to give us enough coverage.  I found, though, a great app from Phil Endecott called “UK Map”.  For $11 you get all the Ordnance Survey maps, 2D and 3D views, combined with info downloaded so you can use it off line.  It’s a universal app so I have it on my iPhone and iPad.  If you’re touring the UK, I highly recommend it.  I may end up back in Madrid in a couple of months.  If I do, I’ll be downloading its map from City Maps 2 Go.
  • I did find an unexpected but valuable benefit from my Starbucks obsession. I have a couple of Starbucks gift cards that I’ve registered.  I kinda did it on a whim.  They send me a card for a free drink after every 15 coffees I buy.  I don’t use them — it would be wasted on a tall coffee or cappuccino.  I give ‘em to my kids who use them for venti frappuccinos.  But anyways, while in London, I found that my US Starbucks Rewards credentials gave me free WiFi in UK Starbucks. Since I was limiting my mobile data usage and there’s a Starbucks about every 200 ft in London, it was very handy.
  • How big, exactly, is Starbucks’ new ‘Trenta’ size?

    How big, exactly, is Starbucks’ new ‘Trenta’ size?

    Speaking of Starbucks, when I was flying out of ORD last week, one of the Starbucks in Terminal 3 advertised “trenta is here” — Starbucks’ new “BigGulp” serving size. I thought about this while waiting in line to order my tall bold coffee.  Should they really be selling the trenta in airports?  I mean, does it make sense to sell someone 31 fluid ounces of a beverage right before they will be strapped into a seat for the next 2-4 hours?  And odds are that the person ordering a trenta will be in the window seat.  Meaning that he/she’s rousting two people at least twice during the flight to drain that trenta.

  • And then, reacting to my comments about Ryanair in the last episode, Leo Vegoda wrote
    • What you say about Ryanair reminds me of how Irish comedian Andrew Maxwell described them: ‘Ryanair is what flying would be like if it was illegal’. I think that says it all.”
  • That is perfect — and I think perfectly describes Ryanair and Spirit and all that ilk.
  • And it shouldn’t be too surprising then that 4 of the top 8 most hated companies in America are airlines.  The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index has American Airlines at #8, United at #7, US Airways at #6, Delta Airlines at #2(!), beat out by just 2 points for #1 by Potomac Electric utility.  Impressive results all around.
  • If you have a question, a story, a comment, a travel tip – the voice of the traveler, send it along.  The e-mail address is — use the Voice Memo app on your iPhone or something like Virtual Recorder on your Android phone to record and send in an audio comment – or iMovie if you want to send in some video; send a Twitter message to mpeacock, or you can post your thoughts on the TravelCommons’ Facebook page — or you can always go old-school and post your thoughts on the web site at
  • Bridge music — August (Reggae Rework) by el-B

The Not-So-Upbeat Traveler

  • This podcast is a hobby, not a business, for me — as if you couldn’t tell that from my haphazard posting schedule. So, I don’t obsess over podcast or website statistics, how many downloads, how many page views, all the stuff that real web business live and breathe and monitor on a real-time basis. I do, though, check in every couple of days to make sure everything’s running, clean the spam bin, and to look at site stats to see if anyone is coming by.
  • I didn’t do any of this while on vacation, but when I got back and checked in, I saw that I’d gotten flooded with visits the first week in July.  Following the source links, I found most of the traffic came in from StumbleUpon, while another bit came from a recent post by Chris Christensen on his Amateur Traveler blog.
  • The StumbleUpon pointer was from “sher1lock,” a “woman from Ontario”.  She recommended episode #88, where I reported from the floor of the Travel Goods show and talked about losing elite status. Her comment — “A neat travel site. Not as upbeat as some.”
  • Which actually lined up very nicely with Chris’ post.  Titled “Where is the Darker Side of Travel?”, Chris was responding to a listener’s letter that suggested his Amateur Traveler Podcast sugar-coats the travel experience a bit; the listener challenged Chris to “bring attention to the darker side of travel”. Chris gave a good, straight up response that boiled down to — “Guilty as charged; I’m an optimistic guy” and “If you want a podcast about travel from the point of view of how bad can be, listen to Mark Peacock’s Travel Commons. Mark is a friend and fellow podcaster but I describe his show as the anti-Amateur Traveler.”
  • OK, so I’m not always the cheeriest guy about travel, but I didn’t think I was a complete “Debbie Downer”.  But, because I talk about more about the journey — the act of transiting, travel as a verb — rather than being a tourist — what you are when you get to your destination, my travel stories are going to naturally follow what we all think is the dramatic decline in the travel experience — airplanes as flying cattle cars, beat-up high-mileage rental cars, ….  Any podcast whose major characters are 4 of the top 8 most hated companies in America just isn’t going to be “as upbeat as some.”
  • I have varying degrees of success in being cheery about my travels.  It’s always easier to be chipper when there’s something new in the mix — new destination, new air carrier, new plane,…  A couple podcasts ago, when I talked about flying to Madrid on USAir — the USAir service was definitely a 9-hour drag, but it couldn’t dull the excitement of a new destination. But this last trip to Phoenix? Going to the same place for the umpteenth time, on American, on old MD-80’s (one of which — with a 1983 birth date — treated me to yet another 2 hour delay), to temperatures in the 100’s every day.  I had to drag myself to the airport. The best thing about the trip — a toss-up between  the convertible Mustang from Avis and the Tempe In-n-Out Burger where I killed some of that 2-hour delay.
  • But then again, who really enjoys their commute to work?  Most of the times, that’s what my travel is — a commute to work.  Some people drive 45 minutes to work; I fly 3 hours.  And just like you should avoid road rage, I try to avoid travel rage. Specifically, when my commute goes wrong, I try to limit the collateral damage.
  • First off, I try not to call anybody. There’s just nothing to be gained from talking to family or colleagues live.
    • “I’m going to be late coming home/getting to the office.  American/United/Southwest/Joe’s Cattle Car decided to skip preventative maintenance this month in order to make payroll and so I’m waiting out a maintenance decision.  The delay’s going to be either 30 minutes or 3 hours — depends on whether duct tape can fix the problem.”
    • “Oh, that’s too bad.  I’m sorry to hear that”
    • “Not half as sorry as I am to be living it”
  • See?  That’s just not a good exchange for anyone. I’m not feeling any better, and worse yet, I’ve passed along my frustration, my lousy day to a completely innocent bystander.  Best to rely on e-mail or text messages. Just make sure you immediately delete the inevitable frowny face emoticon from your significant other. Leaving it fester in your inbox will just lead to bad things.
  • Same goes with airline gate agents and hotel clerks. They didn’t overbook the hotel or break the plane.  On a good day, these folks are just barely breaking minimum wage.  They’re just trying to get on the other side of 8 hours.  Unless they’re pre-emptively snotty to me — they take an attitude before I even open my mouth — I give them a pass.
  • So we’ve identified a lot of people who aren’t responsible for botching up my commute.  Who is, then? Who can I dump this rage on? Well, that’s the challenge.  When you’re driving down the freeway and a guy cuts you off, you see the culprit. You can yell, you glare, you can flip him off.  You vent and, if you’re a normal person, you move on.
  • Airlines, hotels, car rentals — you’ll never see the person that made your morning miserable. You can’t find them to flip them off; they don’t even know you exist. They’re sitting inside some operations center combining the output of some linear revenue optimization programs with the weather forecast and sending out e-mails that will complete jack up my day.  Nothing personal — I’m just collateral damage.
  • Without that outlet, though; that ability to vent directly to the culprit, the frustration festers. The undisciplined take it out on innocent workers. The introverts mutter to themselves under their breaths.  The majority of us, though, inhale, exhale and then make for closest repository of the three cure-alls for travel frustration — fat, salt, and beer.
  • Bridge music — I Will Writhe by SackJo22

Tablet Wars: Apple iPad 2 vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

  • Regular listeners know that, over the past couple of years, I’ve migrated to an all Apple technology kit — the 11-in MacBook Air, an iPhone 4, and an iPad 2. This isn’t a religious sort of fanboy thing — the desktop unit that I create this podcast on is a custom-built dual monitor Windows 7 64-bit rig with 3 hard drives and a Blu-Ray DVD burner.
  • Attending Google I/O earlier this summer, I received a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 with the Honeycomb tablet version of Android — I think Honeycomb translates to version number 3.1 for non-Google-ites — and a Samsung Chromebook. During the summer I’ve been traveling with both the Google and Apple kit — a significant increase in carry-on weight, but the only way I know to truly compare equipment is live in the field.  I’ll compare the tablets this episode and talk about my Chromebook experiences next time.
  • Not only did I carry both tablets for business over the past couple of months, I also took them both with me on vacation to the UK, leaving my laptop at home — a real pressure test.
  • To cut to the chase — which do I like better? — it’s a real toss-up.  Both tablets are nice pieces of hardware — the screen sizes are a bit different (the Galaxy has a bit more of an HD aspect ratio while the iPad’s dimensions are more like a sheet of paper) and the Samsung is a few ounces lighter than the iPad, but in the real world — it’s a push.  They feels the same, both screens are beautiful, and their response times are great.
  • As you would expect, the iPad has a better selection of apps — the Android tablet just launched this summer while the iPad has been out for over a year.  However, for apps that I use, the delta isn’t as huge as the raw number of apps — iPad vs. Honeycomb — would suggest.  Apps that I use regularly — Evernote, Kindle, Pandora, Dropbox, Skype, Concur expense reporting, Angry Birds — are all available for Android.  The Evernote app is the only tablet-specific one — and it’s really nice — but the others work fine.  The only MIA apps that have any real impact on me are WebEx and GoTo Meeting. I think the tablet form is the best way to watch an on-line presentation and so I do miss those apps.
  • The operating system — Apple’s iOS vs. Google’s Android and the accompanying apps — the comparison seems to be less of a “better-worse” and more a difference in philosophies.  The Apple experience is pretty much locked down — there’s only one place to get apps, the screen layout not very customizable, there’s no independent access to the file system. Now that’s not necessarily bad — most people never change the default settings on their technology and there’s a lot to be said for not letting users screw things up beyond recovery. It’s Apple’s point of view. It’s a valid one, but it does have some impact.
  • When we were in the UK with only the two tablets, I wanted to replace my Facebook profile picture with one taken that afternoon in the Glengoyne Distillery near Loch Lomond.  My daughter had taken the picture with my iPhone. Plunking around the Facebook app, I couldn’t find a way to change my profile. So I e-mailed the photo from my iPhone to my Gmail account.  Logging onto the Facebook site on the iPad Safari browser, I couldn’t save the picture from the Mail app to a place where the browser could access it — for security reasons, all the apps seem to exist within their own sandboxes.  Opening up Gmail on the Samsung tablet, I could save the picture to the folder of my choice, and then upload the picture from that folder to the Facebook site through the Android browser.
  • It’s a little thing, but it illustrates why I found working solely with the Android system — being without my PC — easier than the iPad. The Android design philosophy is to give the users much greater control over their experience.  Which means I can spelunk around the file system, tweak the technical operations, create truly horrid screen designs, and view Flash-based web sites to my heart’s content
  • I also found it interesting that my daughter who’s starting high school this year, tends to pick up the Samsung tablet over the iPad. A lot of it probably has to do with the fact that she has an Android phone, but she seemed to prefer the Google experience.
  • So as I said at the top, it’s a toss-up.  I think the iPad is a more polished experience.  It feels 1-2 releases ahead of the Android tablet — which it is.  The Samsung tablet, though, keeps right up with Apple in hardware and fit-and-finish, and Android lets the advanced user customize it better to his/her specific needs.  Final recommendation — at the same price, I’d recommend the casual/non-technical user go with the iPad, but if you like to pop the hood on your technology, you won’t go wrong with the Samsung.


  • Closing music — iTunes link to Pictures of You by Evangeline
  • OK, that’s it, that’s the end of TravelCommons podcast #92
  • I hope you all enjoyed this podcast and I hope you decide to stay subscribed.
  • Bridge music from the ccMixter site
  • If you have a story, thought, comment, gripe – the voice of the traveler — send ‘em along, text or audio file, to or to @mpeacock on Twitter, or post them on our website at Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to send in e-mails, Tweets and post comments on the website
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  • Direct link to the show

2 comments on “Podcast #92 — Not-So-Upbeat Traveler; iPad 2 vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

  1. Lori Humm says:

    Not so upbeat? Shame on him for saying that! I think you provide an honest view, and in addition do your best to provide practical solutions.

    I wanted to remind people that twitter is an excellent way to get customer service. Just be sure you are using the service channel and not the regular product one (@deltaassisst versus @delta). I’ve used it regularly when I see something go awry and I always get an immediate response.

    I had some excitement today. Was trying to fly out of BTR and the plane was nearly two hours delayed. According to the Delta website, the plane had actually landed. This had everyone concerned then the gate agent made the announcement that the plane coming in had a mechanical problem. It sure did! It couldn’t lower the left side landing gear. BTR has a great view of the runway so the entire airport got a ringside seat for an amazing landing by the pilot. The CRJ-200 landed with the right wheel and front wheel, then dipped to the left and dragged the wing until it stopped. The pilot had circled to burn off fuel before landing. Everyone was fine and passengers praised the pilot.

    Now, I have to get psyched to get on one of these tomorrow if I want to get home….

  2. Lori Humm says:

    Oh and about that Starbucks comment. I had a similar thought recently when Delta started offering “Tequila Thursdays” in the sky clubs. What part of free tequila and airplanes makes sense?


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