Monty Python's Flying Thecus
By truck from Utah to SFO, then by air to YVR, YUL and finally YYZ
By Ian Darwin
OK, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago now for JavaOne,
and I bought a Thecus. If you don't know what these are, find out before you read on
. I wrote this blog entry at the time, but am just now catching up; I'm backdating the post appropriately.
So. I bought the Thecus on eBay for US$200, which is about half of the MSRP. With the cooperation of my eBay seller, I had the unit shipped to my hotel during the week of JavaOne. It arrived on Thursday - I had unchangable airline tickets for Friday afternoon, so this was a bit closer than I might have wanted. But OK. I opened the huge cardboard box and found lots of bubble wrap and this dinky little Thecus cardboard box with an even littler Thecus inside it. No drives, but it powered up, responded to pings, and even made some response to the web browser.
Friday comes. Put my mostly-empty JavaOne backpack into the cardboard box so I don't have to carry that home, tape it up, and head to the airport. The cab driver lies to me about what terminal to get off at, so I'm honking this great hulking cardboard structure from terminal to terminal. There's a shuttle train but you still have to wind up walking through a parking lot, which is pretty weird.
Get to the Air Canada counter to check in. Since I went on the web and printed up my boarding pass earlier in the day, I go to the "web bag drop" counter. Just as I get there, the employee serving the person in front of me wanders off. I wait for 10 minutes and nobody even pretends to ignore me, so I go back to the main line. Finally get a live person. Neither she nor the supervisor can tell me what the limitation on liability is in case they lose the sucker, and they don't offer insurance anyway. The super gives me a number to call that they've contracted out their insurance; when I call on my cell, it turns out to be RBC Insurance, and they don't do anything out of the ordinary, and they won't insure you after you've left on your trip anyway. Then the counter people eventually figure out that the liability limit is about $9 per pound, and the box weighs about 9 pounds (including the backpack and a bunch of printed matter). C$81 is not enough coverage on a US$200 machine.
So I get disgusted, rip open the cardboard box, put the Thecus with some of the bubble wrap into the backpack, and abandon the cardboard box (I folded up the little cardboard box and put it in there too).
Now it turns out my return routing is a little convoluted, to say the least. When you book late, you often get the butt end of routings. Think San Francisco-Vancouver-Montreal-Toronto when all I wanted was San Francisco-Toronto. So I check to see if there is any room on the direct flight, but am told it's full. I check my suitcase and wander off with the two backpacks, imagining that the U.S. security people are going to have a total hairy bumble about this little computer that has no monitor or keyboard so they can't see what it is.
I needn't have feared. I take it out of the backpack and put it in the gray tray, but SFO security doesn't blink (though they do examine the X-ray scan). I guess they get a lot of computer gear heading out from Silicon Valley via that airport.
So I get to clear Canada Customs at Vancouver. I write on the form that I have $250 worth of stuff, when I'm allowed $200, but the agent is in a good mood and we wind up talking about conventions instead of Thecuses. Then I find I've lost my pre-printed boarding pass, so I stand in line for half an hour to get another.
Then I see another direct flight to Toronto, and ask if I can get on it. Well, no, you see, "because you have checked luggage". Sigh. I wouldn't have checked it if they'd told me there was a direct flight to Toronto leaving just before my stupid jaunt to Montreal. If I go to Montreal I want to have time to explore the town, not rot in the airport for an hour or two.
Anyway, eventually we leave Vancouver. The plane is an Air Canada A320 with the new all-electronic entertainment system. Perhaps the electronics are jealous of the Thecus' ability to serve up iTunes content, because it just keeps saying "Not available" after making people navigate through 4 or 5 choices. Two of the stations near me just hang completely. Finally enough people complain that the purser reboots the whole system. When it finally starts working (about ten minutes after the first complaints), I flip to the movie "Bridge to Terabithia" - which my kids have seen but I haven't - and hear the character "Leslie" say that TV "rots your brain". Well, that's what you need on a long flight.
Eventually get to Montreal, after midnight. I don't even have to go through security here, because arrival and departure are in the same area. My ears are going crazy from all the upping and downing, but I'm almost home with my Flying Thecus.
Almost in a daze from this long day's journey into night, I find my car and drive home. Then I have to sleep for a few hours, and see if I have the right bits to make up a serial cable for the Thecus so I can convert it from Linux to OpenBSD. This machine will store "all" my files, so it needs to be "stable and secure". But that's a tale for a later blog...
P.S. This post has nothing to do with Monty Python. Name used under "fair use" as a title parody only.
P.P.S. Monty Python is a trademark of, well, Monty Python