When traveling to the US for WWDC I learned that I need a few days to adjust my sleeping cycle so I added the week before the – then rumored – date to my itinerary. This provides me with some opportunities to scout ahead, meet local developers and catch up on the Movies.
My first order of business of course was to enter the USA. I had preregistered on the ESTA system a couple of weeks earlier (3 days minimum) and so all I needed for entering the country was the blue customs form. The white annoying form has been superseded by the online registration.
In the past I was afraid of admitting that there is a distinct business aspect to my travel to San Francisco. Hey, I’m not on vacation here… well not only. I consider it business to network, get trained by Apple and all the other things happening at WWDC. I’ve come to understand that the customs officers are only concerned that you do two things: 1) leave soon and 2) don’t steal employment from upstanding citizens.
So I explained that the business purpose of my visit was to attend the annual Apple World Wide Developer Conference. First time to USA? No. When last? Last year. (Doh, that’s the “annual” part)
Getting into San Francisco
Via loudspeaker I heard an announcement that I should come to the information desk next to one of the baggage carousels. I still foolishly tried to spot my suitcase, but of course that was in vain. Lufthansa seems to often have problems properly transferring luggage into the bit new A380 for the trip to the States. But looking on the bright side… I’m getting it delivered and was able to travel to the hotel without having to lift it over all the stairs at the BART stations.
BART is the way to get to downtown San Francisco. I looked up the appropriate BART station via a Google Maps route from the airport to the hotel via public transport. Then you configure a ticket with the appropriate amount for the trip and if you like also the return trip.
It is wise to begin checking the stations for the times when Google Maps predicts your arrival. Or else it will happen to you what happened to me that you suddenly find yourself on the other side of the bay having missing your stop. Fortunately you can backtrack on the other direction without extra payment.
You need to make sure that there are sufficient funds on it or else the turnstiles won’t let you exit and will direct you to a machine to top off the ticket/card. It so happened that I had 10 cents too few on it, but looking like a trapped confused tourist (I didn’t have any cash yet) inspired sufficient helpfulness on behalf of the BART staff to still let me exit the station.
Speaking of Cash. It is advisable to get some native currency even though you can pay by credit card in most places. Bankomaten are called ATMs in the US, that’s short for Automated Teller Machines. I have not been able to discern what they are trying to tell you automatically.
You can use credit cards and since a few years even the ordinary checking cards (“Bankomat-Karten”) that we Europeans use. You get a much better exchange rate at these ATMs than elsewhere, though you have to be aware that there will be an extra commission charged by the bank or business that feeds the machine. For my $100 I paid an extra $5 for a fee.
3G Data … pardon, “AT&T 4G”
I still have a cut-to-micro AT&T prepaid Sim from last year. The $100 that had put on it had kept it alive until today so I was able to reactivate voice and data via the AT&T website. Unfortunately AT&T no longer let’s you have prepaid data with daily plans. You have to pay $25 for a package for the whole month and then they let you add a data package. Another $25 buys you 1 GB of data.
The small shop that previously helped me with my 3G needs seem to have gone out of business, so if you find another comfortable way away from the misinforming AT&T employees then let us know in the comments.
If you’d like to tweet around while waiting for immigration then you should set up the AT&T APN already while in your home network or mail yourself the profile so that you can activate it without needing network connectivity. Because even though you will see the fabulous “AT&T 4G” you will get a message informing you that you are not a member of a data plan if you try to access the Internet.
This requires the APN settings for AT&T which can be gotten from the site mentioned on the above link. Worked like a charm once I have connected to the free airport WiFi (which was painfully slow for authorizing my connection via Mobile Safari).
All the while I was recommending to people to bring the USB-Ethernet Adapter for their MacBook Air. This is necessary because Apple sets up wired ethernet with proxies for large new BETA downloads at the ground floor of WWDC.
But – of course – I forget mine. Oh well, I was planning to stop by the Apple Store at Market Street (a few blocks from Moscone Center) anyway, several times.
I also plan to take a trip to the Apple Company store at 1 Infinite Loop which is open to the public and is also the only location where you can get Apple-logoed merchandise. The current selection of T-shirt quips is rumored to be:
- It’s our best T-Shirt yet.
- Siri, is it warm enough to wear a T-Shirt today?
Definitely one of each for me. I take medium.
Though I’m not yet sure how I can get there. According to Google Maps the shortest traveling time from downtown SF to 1 Infinite Loop is just under 2 hours one way. Maybe I can find somebody who will drive there? Anyone? Pleeeez? I’ll buy you lunch! I’ll pay for the car! I’ll get you a discount on merchandise! (I know people…)
If you’re paying attention then you will know that there are 3 busses that are arranged for the annual “Pilgrimage” to the Apple shrine. BUT, I am already busy on the Sunday before the conference. We are driving up to Pataluma to visit Leo Laporte and his “TWIT Brickhouse” during this time and will attend a taping of This Week In Tech.
So you’ll see me mostly adjusting over the next few days. I’d love to meet you if you are also here early, meet, have lunch and maybe do some fun things together ahead of Dub Dub.