Au Revoir, Internet Café

On previous trips, publishing a blog post or keeping in touch with home meant allocating some time to locate a reasonably priced Internet café and writing while watching a ticking timer. For this trip however I have been able to write at leisure in spare moments on my phone thanks to the availability of pre-pay GSM sim cards with data allowances.

In Australia, amaysim have been particularly good value although I only discovered their existence after considerable Internet research. A $10 purchase in-store sim card purchase gave us 1GB of data valid for 30 days plus $10 of pre-pay phone credit (90 day expiry). The network is provided by Optus, in common with most of the cheap prepaid sim offerings. There were a couple of issues though which I document here for future travellers.

  • We bought the sim card in a Seven-Eleven. The website claims you can buy them in post offices but the one we tried did not stock it so the availability might not be great. The same pack contains a sim that may be used with either the normal or micro sim formats.
  • Online activation claimed to work but actually failed because of my non-Australian address and credit card. You must call them to get your $10 purchase converted to a data plan. I have not tried to top up the credit yet but it makes me think that credit card top ups might be difficult. Buying vouchers works around this, but see the note above on availability.
  • The sim we bought has been used in multiple devices. I can report that despite rumours to the contrary, a sync with iTunes is not required to change the provider on an iPhone (at least on iOS5). However some devices could not access the Internet until the APN had been set manually to “Internet”, others just worked, for reasons I have yet to figure out.

Khao Lak, Thailand

We chose Khao Lak in Thailand as a good place to break the long trip to Australia because of the opportunity to visit the Simulan Islands, one of the world’s top dive sites. With no accommodation permitted on the islands access to the snorkelling involved a bumpy 60 minute speed boat ride, and even the slightly slower dive boat felt like a two hour fairground ride! The snorkelling was good for fish but sadly the coral bleaching that occurred two years ago had yet to show much progress in its recovery.

Having come to snorkel we also thoroughly enjoyed the inland expedition to Cheow Lan Lake. The highlight of this was a trip on the lake in a long-tail boat which gave us a close up view of the imposing limestone islands that rose vertically up out of the water and towered over our little boat. The limestone had beautiful red colouring too, complimented by the green of the trees clinging to a precarious life on a sheer vertical wall of cliff and overhanging the water. Some of the islands have developed cave systems and we visited one which had spectacular stalactite and stalagmite formations, the iron giving them a rich red colour that invited comparison to the marble cathedrals of Italy.

Although we were only in a small part of Thailand for a few days, we really enjoyed our stay. Thai people were universally friendly and genuinely welcoming of tourists. The absence of pushy street salesmen that are commonly found in tourist areas the world over was also very pleasant—I look forward to returning.

Using the Terminal to restore from a Time Machine backup

I recently had to restore some Application Data from a Time Machine backup and since Finder in OS X 10.7 (Lion) now hides the Library folder in your home directory I thought it easiest to just cp the files from the mounted volume to the right place. It turned out that this it was not as straightforward as that because the restored files retained the read only permissions that prevent you from modifying a backup.

The ACL does not appear in the Finder, but can be seen using ls -le:

0: group:everyone deny write,delete,append,writeattr,writeextattr,chown

and also metadata:

com.apple.metadata:_kTimeMachineNewestSnapshot 50

The ACL can be removed using chmod -a #n filename where n is replaced by the number at the front of the ACL description (0 in this case). Applying it recursively is possible but potentially dangerous1 unless you know this is the only ACL applied to the files in the directory. The metadata can be removed using xattr, like this:
xattr -d com.apple.metadata filename

  1. and consequently left as an exercise to the reader [back]