Category Archives: Travel

River Cruising for the tech savvy geezer

Viking River Cruise
Viking River Cruise

We just finished our first river cruise and it was fabulous!  If you watched “Downton Abbey” on PBS you saw commercials for Viking River Cruises. Those beautiful long ships cruising up and down famous rivers in Central Europe with vineyards, castles, palaces and beautiful German maidens passing you down a beer from off a bridge as you sail under it.  Ahhhh…

It was a great voyage – made even more fun with Apple mobile technology. I’d like to share a few techno things to help on your next vacation cruise – regardless if it is an ocean or river cruise. This is an update to my January 2015 ocean cruise review.

The good news is that practically all my gear worked on the plane and on the ship. The bad news is that it is not inexpensive and connections are slow and not very reliable. I brought along my iPhone 6s Plus, iPad Air, Apple Watch, Beats headphones, Sony Alpha 55 DSLR camera, a few cables and one power “brick” that had five USB outlets. I have a great custom backpack that is designed to hold all my gear – it even has a special storage section for the iPad.  

Before leaving I went to AT&T (my cellular provider) and signed up for the $30 per month International travel option.  This gave me $1.00 per minute calls, unlimited texting and a whole 150MB of data (for checking email, etc.)  It wasn’t until the second day of our trip that I checked my account status and I was already way over 250MB of data. What?!? I had forgotten that being a tech guy I had my iPhone set to do automatic uploads from my Photos app, nightly backups to iCloud and other assorted syncs and backups.  Ouch!  I quickly changed my settings.

We flew Delta and in the United States most planes now have WiFi which runs about $8 – $10 for a 24 hour “pass.” Speed is acceptable, and reliability was very good. On the river cruise ship Viking offered free WiFi (we paid Royal Caribbean about $225 for a similar WiFi service on our last ocean cruise.)  Speed was very slow, and reliability was just “OK.” Don’t plan on streaming video or uploading photos. Audio streaming was just “OK” with a few disconnects. Email and dial-up type web browsing were “OK.”

During our vacation I took over 1,000 of photos with the Sony DSLR, the iPhone, and the iPad.  I backed them up to my iPad (just in case…) using an Apple Lightning SD card (from the Sony) connector and used “AirDrop” to transfer wirelessly from the iPhone.  When we arrived at our AirBnB rental apartment in Amsterdam at the end of our trip (where we had decent WiFi) I backed everything up to iCloud.

Our trip took us to Hungary, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands.  When we were on shore it was easy to connect to low-cost or free WiFi services. You may want to use a VPN (virtual private network) service while you travel when use use foreign WiFi services so that you don’t get hacked. 

Before we left home I downloaded some music and a few movies to my iPad and that made travel time on planes, and quiet times on the ship enjoyable. I also downloaded a couple of books both digital and audio through iBooks and Audible.com
I carried my iPhone in my front pocket (to avoid pick-pockets) and left the iPad on the ship in our cabins provided safe.
I must admit that I was amazed at the number of fellow passengers who used digital devices on the plane and on the ship. Mobile technology has really caught on for vacationers.

Here are a few cruising tips:

  • Pack one USB charger that has multiple USB connections.  Mine supports five devices.
  • Make sure that the ship and rental apartments support US 110 volt AC cords.  You may want to invest in a lightweight set of travel plugs. Our ship did.  Our rental apartment did not (we needed a converter plug).
  • Bring a second rechargeable battery and charging block for your DSLR camera.
  • Get a “Y” audio connector – so that you and your spouse can share music, books, or video with two sets of headphones to one device.
  • Bring along a second RAM storage card for your DSLR camera
  • Use an app like “Day One” Journal 2 to record your daily vacation notes so you can remember the name of that church or cathedral – and the name of that fabulous German beer was. Keep up with your journal everyday!
  • Shoot a mix of photos and short videos (30-60 seconds) and build an iMovie show from them.
  • In larger European cities use Uber or Lyft to get around.  More reliable and cheaper than regular taxi’s.
  • Use AirBnB for apartment and home rentals to save significant dollars over standard hotels.  Look at the owner reviews before making commitments. 
  • Carry a money belt or one of the around the neck security bags with RFID protection.  There are many pick pockets in larger European cities and they hang around cathedrals, airports, museums, concert venues, train stations and more.
  • Most of the countries we visited accepted Euros. Most museums, restaurants and shops accepted credit and debit cards as long as the card has a Visa or MasterCard logo on it.  Most ATM machines accepted debit cards for cash advances – spitting out your new funds in Euros.
  • Check with your cellular provider in regards to using your phone overseas.  If you don’t you could come home to hundreds of dollars worth of charges for calls, texts, and email checking.  Have your provider help with turning off settings that have to do with backups and auto uploads and auto synchronization.

Bottom line – traveling with digital devices can be entertaining, informational and useful. Just make sure you take precautionary steps in advance. 

The Dangers of “FREE” and low-cost WiFi connections

Computer Hacker
Computer Hacker

My friends, I don’t mean to be a fear monger.  But recent findings and personal observations have reaveled to me the real dangers of “FREE,” “Open,” and low-cost WiFi connections when we travel or shop outside of our protected WiFi network at home.

Let’s start with our home network – your WiFi router or modem does require you to enter a login password when you connect correct?  You probably only need to do this once whenever you buy a new computer or mobile device.  You may be aware of it when a friend or the grand children come over and want to connect to your WiFi network.  It’s CRITICAL that you have a protected network at home.

Next ,let’s go to our own computer or mobile device and make sure that our antivirus and firewall is “on” and up-to-date.  All desktop and laptop computers have antivirus software available to them for FREE or low-cost and all operating systems (Windows and Mac) come with firewalls.  Some mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) have antivirus software, but probably not firewalls.

Be careful what devices, hard drives, folders, files and apps you “share.”  Make sure that IF you share, you require a username and password to share.  Also it is CRITICAL that your computer and mobile devices have passwords or “PINS” each time you start them or wake them from sleep.  

Let’s envision a little scenario…  I’m in my favorite bookstore and look at my settings to see if they have an “open” or “free” WiFi connection.  I find an open network called “(name of bookstore) FREE WiFi” and connect to that because it has a great signal, is FREE, and doesn’t require a password. It is obviously connected to the bookstore I’m in because it has the name of the store in the name of the network.  

Within seconds the guy a few tables over in the bookstores cafe uses his computer (which is actual providing the bogus FREE WiFi network with the name of the store) to look into any part of my computer which is “shared” without a username or password.  He then can then retrieve names, passwords, files, folders and on-and-on from my computer.

I’m not a hacker or even a real techie, but I can set up a bogus WiFi network (often called a “Hot Spot”) with a small change to the name of the store’s network using my smartphone, tablet or computer in less than one minute.

Please don’t come to me for help if you don’t have antivirus software protection on your device “because it costs money” when you think nothing of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on your new computer or device.  Please don’t ask for help when you didn’t take 30 seconds to password protect your device, shared folders, or hard drive because “I didn’t know how to, or it takes too long to set-up.” Pay for the guys and gals at Best Buy Geek Squad (or similar service) to set it up for you.

Finally be really really REALLY careful when you see a pop up message on your device from what APPEARS to be Microsoft, Apple, or the name of your internet service provider (Comcast, Charter, etc.) or the bank you deal with telling you that your device has been hacked and you need to call the 800# provided and they will fix the problem (for a small fee) when you provide them with a credit card number.  100 times our of 100 this is bogus.  All they want is your credit card number or (God forbid) your Social Security number.   But, you say, “It looks real – it’s got the Microsoft (or other company) logo on it.”    Basically it is the same scam as the book store scenario above, but it’s coming from the teenager a few houses down from you, or that unmarked van down the street.

Technology is fun, informational and practical.  It just requires safe devices and practices.  You would’t go boating without a life preserver would you?

Dispensing Technology Like Candy Bars

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On a recent trip we went through the Ft. Lauderdale Florida International Airport. We saw hundreds of fellow travelers using all kinds of digital devices. High speed WiFi was provided free of charge and recharging stations for your mobile devices were everywhere – free also.

If you needed a new pair of headphones, or a USB cord or connector there were lots of stores waiting to sell you most any accessory you needed.

But what if your iPad just died? Or your Samsung phone took the plunge in the hotels pool? What were you to do to get your digital “fix” and rejoin the digital world?

No problem brother… just step up to the Best Buy digital technology vending machine and bring along your credit or debit card. Within seconds your card is approved and your chosen item is dispensed just like the Hershey bar in the next vending machine over.

Actually the selection was pretty good. Everything from Apple iPad Mini’s to Samsung Galaxy smart phones. Beats headphones, Garmin Vivofit fitness bands, Pebble smart watches and a couple dozen other digital goodies were also available. The prices were the standard store or on-line prices.

Of course no digital advice was “dispensed” along with your purchase, you are on your own. If Best Buy is successful what’s next? Amazon drive thru’s?Apple Store in 7/11’s?

Stay tuned – film at 11. “Dad, what’s film?” Sheesh!

Ocean Cruising For The Tech Savvy Geezer

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Well it is our last day aboard the Royal Caribbean ship “The Legend of the Seas” as we “glide” from the Southern Caribbean back to Florida. It’s been a great voyage – made even more fun with a little Apple Technology.

I thought that I would share a few techno things to help you on your next vacation cruise. The good news is that practically all my gear worked on the plane and on the ship. The bad news is that it is not inexpensive.

I brought along my iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air, Pebble Smart Watch, Beats headphones, Sony Alpha 55 DSLR camera, a few cables and one power “brick” that had five USB outlets.

We flew Delta and in the United States most planes now have WiFi which runs about $8 – $10 for a 24 hour “pass.” Speed is acceptable, and reliability is very good. Royal Caribbean offer a variety of WiFi packages that averaged about $25 per day. Speed is pretty slow, and reliability was just “OK.” Don’t plan on streaming video (too slow.) Audio streaming was just “OK” with a few disconnects. Obviously email and “dial up type” web browsing were “OK.”

I took hundreds of photos with the Sony DSLR and the iPhone. I backed them up to my iPad (just in case…) using an Apple Lightning SD card (from the Sony) connector and used “AirDrop” to transfer wirelessly from the iPhone to the iPad.

Most of the island taxi’s and busses DO NOT have WiFi (where as the ones in Israel and Jordan DO have WiFi). Some of the coffee shops, strip malls, and restaurants have WiFi on the islands.

Before we left home I downloaded some music and a few movies to my iPad and that made travel time on planes, and quiet times on the ship enjoyable. I also downloaded a couple of books both digital and audio through Audible.com

I carried my iPhone in my front pocket (to avoid pick-pockets) and left the iPad on the ship in our cabins provided safe.

I must admit that I was amazed at the number of fellow passengers who used digital devices on the plane and on the ship. Mobile technologies have really caught on for vacationers.