Friday, December 31, 2004

We got back from Florida last night and were greeted with about 6 inches of snow in the driveway, leftovers from a storm that occurred while we were away. So the first thing I had to do upon returning home was shovel out my driveway, all the while thinking, “Why is it I live here again?” After all, we had just left a sunny, low 70’s day down south.


The weather wasn’t all great, unfortunately. We arrived Christmas afternoon about a half-hour late due to a rainstorm pelting the Orlando area (this storm would provide the moisture for the snow mentioned above). We got off the plane, recovered our luggage and picked up our rental car from Dollar for the drive to my parent’s house.

After we arrived at the house and brought the bags in, we relaxed and waited from by brother and his family to arrive. Mom was cooking up a big Christmas Day feast (despite the fact that we don’t celebrate Christmas) for us all to enjoy, including her famous latkes (those are potato pancakes for those of you not in the know).

My brother arrived with his wife and two kids around 5:00. The kids played together. R. and my niece are only four months apart in age, so they get along great. It’s really cute to see them together. My nephew is 3, and he followed his older cousin around. They all get along very well, especially considering that they only see each other a couple of times a year.

Dinner was ready and we all put the feed bag on. It was great having all of my immediate family there in one place. The food was great, and the company was very enjoyable. After dinner my brother’s family headed home and we got the kids off to bed with little complaint, since everyone was tired after a long day.

The iMac upgrade project

My project for this trip was to upgrade my parent’s iMac to Mac OSX. They had purchased the computer when they moved to Florida so that I could send them pictures and such and they could keep in touch with friends via email. The computer came with Mac OS9 installed, and they had AOL for an Internet service.

After a while, the situation went downhill. As Apple moved away from the “Classic” operating system, no one was upgrading OS9 applications any more. My parents were having trouble accessing some Web sites that demanded more modern browsers. So I decided to upgrade them to OSX version 10.3.7 and switch them to NetZero. They weren’t using any of the exclusive AOL content, so why pay $24/month for Internet service when they could pay $10?

So I loaded up a CD with everything I thought I would need and picked up a copy of Panther. I quickly found out that this was going to be more difficult than I anticipated. When I tried to run the OSX installer, it informed me that I would need to upgrade the iMac’s firmware. No problem; I went to the Apple Web site and downloaded the necessary file. I ran the firmware installer, and discover that you need at least OS version 9.1 to run it.

I find the file for the OS9.1 upgrade on and discover that it’s 71MB. My parents have a dial up connection, which meant it would take about four hours to download. It was also available in 15 pieces of about 4.6 MB each, but obviously bringing down the entire file in one shot was preferable.

I started the download before bed and went to sleep. I got up a few hours later an checked on the download progress, only to discover that there had been a connection error and I had only gotten 12.5MB of the file. I decided that this wasn’t going to do and formulated another plan.

I knew there was an Apple Store in the Orlando area and I had the bright idea of stopping in the mall that housed it and seeing if either they had a MacOS9 upgrade disk I could use, or if I could get them to download it to a CD for me. So, Sunday afternoon on our way home, we tried to stop at the mall.

Sunday was the day after Christmas, and apparently EVERYONE in the Orlando area was either shopping the after Christmas sales, cashing in gift certificates or returning stuff. The mall parking lot was a nightmare and we quickly made the decision to get out of there. Trying to get out of the parking lot the way we came also looked like a bad idea, so we tried going out the opposite way. This didn’t work so well, either. We eventually ran into International Drive, in the middle of the shopping traffic there. Finally, after 20 minutes or so of inching through traffic, we got back to Interstate 4 and made our escape.

With that idea down the tubes, I embarked on the task of downloading the 15 parts of the OS9.1 upgrade. They took 15 minutes each at dialup speeds, but finally I got all of the parts. I then performed the 9.1 upgrade, then the firmware update. After all that, I was finally ready to do the OSX upgrade.

The actual upgrade to OSX went fine. The iMac chugged through the necessary upgrade files and started up fine. I then upgraded from 10.3 to 10.3.7 with a file I had downloaded from home. Finally, I added MacOSX native versions of AOL, NetZero, Appleworks and Snood. We hooked up the NetZero service and my father endured the sales pitch trying to get him to reconsider dropping AOL (somebody really needs to explain why you can’t cancel online). Everything worked and the iMac actually seems to run a bit faster under OSX than it did under OS9.


Sunday was really cold (at least for Florida), with temperatures only reaching the low 50’s. Our original plan was to go to Sea World, but we postponed that to Tuesday and met up with my brother and niece at the Orlando Science Center instead. Our Boston Museum of Science memberships got us free admission and we started to explore. The OSC is a nice museum; no match for Boston or the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, but we had a good time exploring. The kids had a enjoyed running around the place and checking out the various exhibits. After about three hours of this, the kids and the adults seemed like we had all had enough so we got in the car and went back to my parents house. A pizza dinner followed and we called it an early night, since we knew the next few days would be busy.


Monday started early, as we had to get the kids to a 9:30 Pirate Adventure at the Grand Floridian Resort at Disney World. I had read about the Pirate Adventure online and it sounded like a lot of fun. The kids would be dropped off at the Grand Floridian marina and cruise around Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon to the various resorts, where they would find clues that led to a buried treasure. The event included a snack and I had reserved a space for both kids three months before, the first day they became available.

We left the house about 8:15 and took the “back way” from my parent’s house to Disney. This completely bypasses Route 192, which is one of the main roads into Disney. During the busy tourist season, it can be choked with traffic, especially earlier in the day when the parks are opening. We made it to Disney property in plenty of time and went past the security gate at the Grand Floridian. The guard told me to go to the front entrance, but I decided I wanted to self park the car instead. This turned out to be a mistake, as the self parking lot was full. Also, self parking was across the street from the resort, so I had to go through security AGAIN and explain to the guard that I had screwed up. He was very nice about it though, and this time I had the car valet parked.

Once inside the resort, our navigation troubles continued. It took us a while to find the marina, since the signs weren’t particularly helpful. We still had about 15 minutes to spare when we finally found the place and got the kids signed up. Unfortunately, because of the cold weather (it was probably in the mid-40s at this point), they had canceled the cruise portion and had moved the whole shebang to the Mouseketeer Club. Instead of cruising around the lake on a boat, the kids would be on a hunt around the resort. They were still up for it, so we attempted to take them over to the Mouseketeer Club.

Unfortunately, we once again got a bit lost. The directions we got to the Club weren’t the best, so we ended up wandering around for about 10 minutes until someone finally gave us the right directions and we found the place. We signed in the kids, got a beeper and said we would return to them in two hours.

A. had long before planned for her two hours by booking a pedicure at the Grand Floridan Spa. I walked her over there and I planned to just walk around and hang out at the resort. I did a lot of exploring. The Grand Floridan is a really beautiful place. Everything is spotless and the place just gleams white. My original plan was to rent a boat for a while, but the cool weather kept me ashore, too. After wandering around the shops for a bit, I opted for a ride on the monorail.

The monorail took me most of the way around, past the Magic Kingdom, the Contemporary Hotel, the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) and then to the Polynesian Resort, where I got off the train to take a look around. The Polynesian is another one of Disney’s deluxe resorts, and the South Seas island motif is just outstanding. The plantings throughout the lobby and the rest of the resort are really lush and you can easily imagine yourself off in Hawaii or some other exotic destination. After wandering around the Polynesian for a bit, I walked back to the Grand Floridian, grabbed a snack and then went to pick up the kids.

The kids had a great time on the Pirate Adventure. They got really cute pirate hats with Mickey Mouse ears attached, along with their share of the “booty” from the treasure chest.

We then hooked up with A., who had finished her pedicure and went to get some lunch. We ended up at Chili’s on 192 - nothing fancy, but it hit the spot and we were anticipating a big meal at Chef Mickey’s that evening.

To be continued...


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