It's A Brand New World

Written by admin on June 13, 2007 – 3:54 pm -

In mid-June, the city of Paris introduced free WiFi connections. There are 260  Municipal WiFi Connections where you can take your laptop and work away. Imagine being able to surf the Internet while sitting in the Luxembourg Garden, other parks, museums, libraries and so many more locations.  Surfers are no longer delegated to sitting in McDonald’s, the first place in Paris that offered free on-line access.  But, if you’re in a park, be certain your laptop’s battery is fully charged.

There are numerous cities in the US and in Europe that are WiFi-enabled and more than friendly. There are an increasing number of free Hot Spots in the US and many paid and free WiFi Connections throughout the US and the world, including Japan, Asia and the majority of cities in the EU. It’s amazing when you consider that not so many years ago, people depended on faxes and overnight mail delivery, if they were really pressed.

This relatively instant interconnectivity has dramatically changed the way business can be done. People can and do cyber-commute. “File-sharing” is the norm in companies so that numerous people can work on the same project around the clock. One Washington, DC lawyer I know doesn’t even tell his clients when he’s gone to Paris. His cell phone has a DC area code and he answers it night and day. The Philadelphia set a goal to be the first US city with free WiFi.  The city’s mayor felt it would be important for both the private and public sectors, attract tourists, and enable students to compete in a more level playing field when it comes to academic studies. With the development of computers that cost less than $100 each, perhaps it’s feasible. ”Wireless Philadelphia” has completed testing its wireless service in a 15-square-mile test zone and plans to expand access to the city’s 135- square- mile radius by the end of 2007.

But, that’s the US where many people had computers (or were been exposed to them). It’s amazing Paris has taken this extremely aggressive Internet connectivity initiative considering personal computers were a rarity among the French who, not so many years ago, were addicted to the Minitel.

FranceTelecom distributed millions of free “dumb” terminals in lieu of phone books. Anyone with a phone line could access a phone number and other services such as train schedules. As a result, the Minitel was often considered an impediment for a fast deployment of the Internet in France as it already provided safe and easy online access for many useful services without requiring personal computers.

There are (marginal) advantages of the Minitel over the Internet: it doesn’t require subscribing to a service or buying and maintaining a costly personal computer, plus there are fewer security issues with respect to credit card payments and other personal information.

Also, because the Minitel follows well-defined standards, there are hardly any compatibility problems that often crop up with Internet services.

Some contend that thanks to the Minitel, the French are used to doing transactions online and have embraced the Internet since it offers more value and convenience than its predecessor. Plus, the cost of computers and other hardware have dropped and consumers can buy them on-line, at electronics stores, and in nearly every hyper-marche.  FranceTelecom has essentially phased out the Minitel after France’s Internet czar degreed that it was time for the country to start tapping and typing into the 21 st century.

When Bonjour Paris launched thirteen years ago, the main response when discussing the Internet among the French was, “C’est quoi ca?”   Educated people, including graduates of the Grand Ecoles, with whom I discussed the Internet refused to believe it would make any inroads among the French.

Neighbors in Provence couldn’t understand why I spent so many hours sitting in front of a computer screen.  Work was done over a very slow phone line. To add insult to injury, phone bills were akin to the National debt and weren’t anything to be taken lightly.

France has come a long way since then.  High-speed Internet connections are available practically country- wide. The speed of connection in Paris is faster even than what’s normal in the US – to the point that the speed of some IP providers is essentially equal to a T-1 line.

So why should it be shocking that Paris has hopped on the cyber bandwagon?  If Paris’s Mayor Bertrand Delanoe can introduce the Paris Plage (beach), why wouldn’t he go full-steam ahead and make the city WiFi?  The city government will undoubtedly do the same when new technology is introduced.

Tourists can carry a tiny computer or PDA with them and access web sites about France on the go.  Can’t wait to see what will be next!

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Hit the Skies, Jack & Trying for Comfort

Written by admin on June 13, 2007 – 3:48 pm -

As an increasing number of people are hitting the road, they’re devising tricks and tips so traveling feels less akin to drudgery. Unless you have a private jet, there’s little to no way to lessen the pain of getting in and out of airports in these days of heightened security.

Unless you’re sitting in the front of the plane, (and even then), you’re going to notice lots of cutbacks and occasional grumpy members of the crew. Who can blame them? They resent senior management is banking bigger bucks at the end of the year, while their salaries and pensions decrease.

I’m not referring to occasional tourists who are winging their way to a week’s vacation at someplace wonderful and exotic or a spa stay. Even though they may be impacted by bad weather, canceled flights and other aggravations, it’s not a way of life that has a domino effect in impacting personal finances at the end of the month. People who count on commissions have been known to want to set their hair on fire and vow never to book a flight with a layover in Chicago in the midst of winter.

A vast number of  visitors to France travel in order to conduct business, and if they’re lucky and choose to do so, tack on a day or two of vacation at each end of the trip.  Food is food but there’s something special about a dinner in a stellar Paris restaurant.

Many business people want to parachute in and out of business destinations and get home as rapidly as possible. But, what a shame not to see Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower or the Taj Mahal if you’re in that part of the world.

Travel warriors, whose careers depend on being on the go, invariably have developed routines of their own. Many people wear essentially the same clothes whenever they travel, add or subtract items depending on the weather, social functions and what they have on their agendas. Frequently people keep a bag packed in the event that they’re called upon to be on the next plane.

Once, I spent 14 nights in different beds during a 21-day period. The rooms were less than glamorous and I found myself awakening in the middle of the night befuddled. Where was I and what was I doing there? I started freaking out when I realized I didn’t know in which time zone my body was existing.

Finally, I compiled a list of must-take items that helped me feel a bit less disoriented as I jetted around the world.

It requires a bit of space in your suitcase but take your own pillow. I even use it on longer flights when I’m trying to catch a few winks. This pillow has become more essential to my travel comfort than an extra outfit or a fourth pair of shoes. Besides, a woman can never go wrong if she wears black accompanied by scarves and other accessories with a bit of color. Men always look right at a business dinner if the wear a dark grey suit, a white starched shirt and an appropriate ties. You can never go wrong in Paris if you opt for Hermes.  There’s nothing wrong with wearing a tie from this designer even if you’re in London or in Rome.

A picture of your children, family or even your dog or cat to give your room more of a feeling of home. Cell phones are a boon.  Just make certain you’re not calling your children, (much less your spouse) at 2:00 a.m.

A facemask. Different rooms have different levels of brightness and one will aid in giving you a uniform sleep. There are ones scented with different smells to which many people become habituated. There’s lavender scented one that reminds me of Provence and has a cooling and soothing effect.

Pack an alarm clock to which you’re accustomed and can actually see. There’s nothing more disconcerting than awakening in the middle of the night and having to look for a clock or, more often than you’d think, not find one. Scrambling to locate your watch so you’re able to ascertain the time of day or night can throw off your biorhythms.

There is no one answer as to how to beat travel fatigue and or displacement. A key secret I learned was to visibly prop a sheet of paper that included the following information. The name of the hotel, the CITY in which it’s located and the room’s telephone number.   There are a lot of cookie-cutter looking hotels, most especially ones that are targeted for the business traveler.

The Bonjour Paris mantra however, is to try to leave a few extra hours for a mini-vacation.  Go to an art exhibition, a concert or a walk in the park.  They are there for enjoying in every European city in the world.

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