Providence’s Benefit Street, a stretch of gorgeous Colonial-era homes on the city’s East Side, is known as the “mile of history” for its 18th- and 19th-century architecture and facts such as the area was where Edgar Allen Poe wooed poetess Sarah Helen Whitman. On Dec. 3, “A Benefit Street Holiday” will be held, sponsored by the Providence Preservation Society, a day-long festival that includes storyteller Len Cabral reading to kids, a holiday pet parade, and gingerbread-house decorating. Self-guided house tours and educational programs will also be held. Tour tickets are $30 each the day of the event ($25 ahead of time), and for more information, visit www.ppsri.org or call 401-831-7440.
update As chief technology officer of Microsoft Australia, Greg Stone is often on the road. He spoke to us about what he can’t leave home without.
Microsoft Australia’s chief technology officer, Greg Stone (Credit: Microsoft)
Can you tell us a bit about what you do at Microsoft?
I look after technology policy and strategy issues that impact Microsoft’s activities in the Australian economy.
What tech is in your briefcase?
You really don’t want to know. Despite 90 per cent of my work being around strategy and policy I still do need to stay reasonably informed technically so I maintain a broad array of hardware and software with me wherever I travel.
What tech do you travel with and why?
I travel with my Intel Core i7 Vaio Laptop. I love this machine, I’m going to geek out on this one. It has an [Intel] i7 processor, a fantastic resolution screen, four 64GB separate solid-state storage boards in a RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) zero configuration for redundancy. It has a separate Nvidia GeForce graphics card so it’s like a mini-gaming machine almost. It’s more like a small weapon! The reason I do this is because I have to do Microsoft research software on it and it’ll die [on a less powerful machine], it won’t run. Running Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 9 now which is so much faster and better.
I also have my Windows Phone 7, the HTC Mozart 7 and then the other thing, which is an absolute oddball, is my Nikon camera. I take my D300 with me usually because it’s not as big but with the large full format lenses. It’s really heavy, but I take [it] everywhere because I love my photography. I love to shoot portraits, landscape, street photography, a whole range of stuff. I am on Flickr but I use it only for friends and family.
Sony noise-cancelling ear buds, mobile Wi-Fi router — and, of course, the latest suite of Microsoft communication and collaboration capabilities!
What tech do you miss from home?
Really high fidelity sound from my home system.
What’s your favourite phone application?
It’s Outlook. One of the things with this phone, the Outlook is so intuitive and fast. [It's] everything for me when I’m on the move and I’ve often got only one hand, and it becomes this incredibly important extension of me. I still live in Outlook, I live in appointments and the ability to get my contacts and things read out to me. I can use voice commands on this and it will read things out to me. That, as humble as it is, is my favourite application.
Local Scout, is another, on Windows Phone 7.5. It provides suggestions and prioritised local search results on restaurants, shopping and things to do so I can be a “local” no matter where I am.
What has been your biggest travel disaster?
My biggest travel disaster was arriving in Istanbul. I arrived and got rustled in with a whole group of people and the security people all started to give us a hard time and started pulling us off and all that carry on and I thought they were going to do something dreadful to me. You know how you just get with the wrong throng at the wrong time? Well I was pretty scruffy with my camera and I looked like a hobo really, and the only thing that saved me was that I put up my New Zealand passport that I was travelling on at the time and they saw that I was fine. I suspect the people were illegitimate in some way because they all got hauled off and the security folks were going off at them. There was clearly some problem. I’m sure if I had been on some other passport, I wouldn’t have been let off.
[Another disaster was] leaving a high-end digital SLR with hi-spec lenses on a flight from Frankfurt to Istanbul. Unbelievably, I eventually did get it all back.
Most memorable travel story/experience
Taking my wife on a second honeymoon to Istanbul and Paris. We are both still living off that buzz and planning our next visit.
Personal travel advice/tip?
Travel light and if at all possible only take carry-on. When your connecting flight strikes trouble before you board — then you can walk off to an alternative option without you or your luggage being held hostage.
How do you deal with jet lag?
For some reason — I can only imagine genetic — I don’t suffer from it as long, as I simply go to sleep at a reasonable local time when I arrive.
What tech do you love abroad, where and why?
Without a doubt, Microsoft Lync. It enables me to monitor, share, proof, communicate and collaborate as I move around from place to place throughout the day.
Best place for duty free and gadgets?
For gadget shopping, the best place has to be China in Beijing markets. More specifically, just outside the Beijing markets. It’s interesting because you have to get beyond just the basic stalls, you have to go beyond that and because at that time I was learning a bit of Mandarin, that helped a lot because I was able to falteringly get behind the stalls for the really quite good deals. There were computer products and things for my wife and lots of stuff. I even found it better than Singapore once you did the conversion, if you bargain really hard.
I remember I went to Singapore that year and it was OK and looked at the same sort of things in Beijing, did the maths and thought “this is a lot better!”
What tech can’t you live without on the road?
Wireless internet and my Windows Phone 7. I can use my Windows Phone 7, hook it up and start talking with wireless and use it for all sorts of things. That’s really the power of the web!
Favourite site to use while travelling?
Mine is generally corporate so the online American Express travel site gets most of my travel traffic. [In addition] to Bing Search. I’m not just saying that, but it really is Bing. It’s built into Windows Phone 7 and you’ve got maps and everything. It’s great.
Best airport you’ve visited?
I reckon the best airport, still, is going to be Singapore. It’s so darned efficient. You can get off and your bags get there before you even get through and you get through really quickly. It’s not the prettiest, it doesn’t have the best shopping, but man it’s efficient! It has the technology I go for, too. I can go to south east Asia, plane lands, I walk through, grab my bag and bang! I can be home in some small time. Even for the new ones like Charles de Galle and the one in Frankfurt, you can’t say that!
Which airport would you prefer to be stranded at and why?
Charles de Gaulle. Because it is in Paris and I would always be happy to be stranded in Paris!
What tech do you expect in hotels when you are travelling?
Wireless broadband running above 1MB per second and somewhere to print hard copy if required.
What is your dream travel tech to have on planes/in airports/at hotels? (Stuff they don’t have yet but boy it would make life so much easier on the road)
Fully natural user interface with seamless multi-modal input options and the ability to simply spray up my information onto public and private screens which were ubiquitous.
Name one thing you wish your iPod/phone/laptop could do that it doesn’t do now?
Think ahead for me and organise my life. Seriously, I think we will move in this direction as mobile meets cloud.
Favourite destination city to work/visit why? (in relation to technology)
San Francisco. Microsoft has a high-tech research campus there, and there are tonnes of communities at Berkeley, Davis and in the valley for me to connect with.