Sunday, June 28, 2009

Denver International Airport

Today was one of comings and goings to Denver International Airport for the family. The lovely spouse and I took my mother-in-law to the airport for her flight back home after a two-week visit in Colorado. In addition, my middle son and daughter-in-law returned from a honeymoon trip to San Francisco.

Of all the major airports around the country, Denver's is one of my favorites. It is new, modern, and easy to get around in. Locals refer to it by it's initials...D-I-A...even though its airport code is DEN, same as the old Stapleton International used to be. Situated out on the high plains northeast of the main part of the city, Denver International is easily seen for miles. The unique suspended peaks of the tent-like roof over the main terminal echo the majestic Rocky Mountains west of the airport.

D-I-A has not been without controversy. A project championed by former mayor (and later Secretary of Transportation) Federico Peña, the airport was known for its automated, state-of-the-art baggage handling system that cost gazillions of dollars and never worked right. That system was finally scrapped in the last year or so and replaced by the "tug and cart" system used at every other airport. The automated system was famous for losing and/or mutilating luggage in its care. Today D-I-A operates with great efficiency.

While it is much better equipped to handle adverse weather conditions that can occur on Colorado's prairie, no airport is "weatherproof". That lesson was learned a few years ago when a major blizzard blocked Peña Boulevard, the main freeway for access and egress to and from the airport. While people were trapped in their cars and snow plows were unable to keep the airport open, we saw what the priorities were. Somehow a cadre of snowplows were able to get the Denver Broncos busses to D-I-A so that Denver's NFL players could make it to their game.

In any case, once most of the bugs were worked out, Denver International has turned out to be a great airport. A guard at the airport told me today there are plans for future expansion to add a second main terminal just like the existing one, along with three more concourses. Even during a recession, D-I-A managed to add 2.8 percent to its traffic and have a 2 percent revenue gain in 2008. It is a major hub for both Frontier and United Airlines, as well as a major presence for Southwest since its return to the city a couple of years ago.

The only bad incident in the airport's history so far was last December, when a Continental jet bound for Houston ran off of a runway while trying to take off. Luckily it missed a fire station beside the runway and all passengers and crew escaped from the broken and charred wreckage alive.

And Billy Makes Four

Holey Moley, it has been a bad few days for celebrities. First Ed McMahon dies, then Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson, and now TV Pitchman Billy Mays goes to bed feeling ill and doesn't wake up. Even though Billy's TV pitches are very annoying, I have been enjoying his new show Pitchmen on the Discovery Channel. The program showed a side of Billy you don't get on the ads. He seemed to be a genuinely nice guy and family man, who helped inventors get exposure for their products.

Mays was scheduled for a 3rd hip replacement on Monday, and had been on the road quite a bit. His last Twitter post was about the hard landing when a tire blew out on his plane yesterday. He had been to Los Angeles to appear on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien last Tuesday, followed by some work with his clients on the east coast.

Billy Mays was 50 years old.

Limited-Time Offer on Windows 7

On October 22, 2009, Microsoft will make the new version of their Windows operating system available. Named simply Windows 7, the new OS is the successor to the much maligned Windows Vista. Supposedly, this new Windows, while based on Vista, fixes many of the complaints people have about the current version.

I hope so. My current laptop machine came preloaded with Vista, which took forever to boot to a useable system. I ended up replacing it with Linux (first PCLinuxOS, then Fedora 10), which gets me to a useable desktop in well under a minute. It is doubtful that I will migrate back to Windows with the release of version 7, as I find Linux more flexible, secure, and complete. Plus, I can get an application to do anything I need from the Fedora repositories. As I am not flush with cash, free software is a big help. Besides, I find most free and open source programs are as good as their commercially-available counterparts, so why waste money?

Still, that doesn't make Windows a bad OS. I know lots of Linux fans tend to disparage the dominant OS, but I do not. I simply like Linux better. Still, if you plan to upgrade your Windows system, now is the time to do so. Microsoft announced on Friday that they are offering a deep discount for pre-orders placed within a 15-day window (no pun intended). Until July 11, Microsoft is offering Windows 7 Home Premium for $49.99, and Windows 7 Professional for $99.99. These will ultimately sell for $119.99 and $199.99 respectively.

Of course, Microsoft is also repeating its past policy of offering purchasers of new computers a free upgrade to the next version if they buy between now and the release of the new version.

So here's the recommendations for those of you running Windows. If you are using Vista, this is a worthy upgrade. Take advantage of this offer if you can. If you are running XP and have the hardware to run the new Windows 7, then it is also worthwhile. But if you have an older computer, be sure to run the Windows Upgrade Advisor, as both Vista and Win 7 run best on newer, high-end hardware. If you decide the time is right for a new PC, then you should get the free upgrade offer with your purchase.

If I wasn't dealing with a deductible for the thousands of dollars in hail damage we got at my house, I would be tempted to buy the special price upgrade just for future use.