Archive for 'Travel'

To Blog or not to Blog…

BloggingDo you Blog? Should you Blog? What is a Blog?

OK, you are reading this blog, so there’s a good chance you know what a Blog is!  But in case you don’t – simply put, it is a web log, or a type of online diary. Many of you probably think that you have nothing to blog about, but there are many useful reasons to Blog.

First, students are encouraged to blog as a way to develop writing skills. Many teachers utilize this tool in a closed network situation, meaning these blogs are not made available to the general public.

Many people have an expertise in some area – horticulture, camping, cooking, decorating, music etc. Why not share your expertise with others? In addition, if you sell a service, this could help to build your customer base!

Recently, our family was able to keep in touch with a cousin undergoing a serious medical treatment. The hospital had a blogging program that my family members used to disseminate information and allow for messages of encouragement to be shared. This eliminated the family being bombarded with many calls and emails during this stressful time!

There are many places that you can start a blog – Google has a free site called “Blogger”. There is also software called WordPress, which you can use on your site, or you can start a blog through Then there is the “Patch” which offers a spot for you to blog and share ideas with your neighbors!

Public WiFi – Great in a pinch – but far from secure!

For the third time in fourteen months my family, as well as many others in the northeast, found themselves without power for a week or more. Unlike last time, we were prepared with an automatic generator that worked beautifully! We made sure that the cable devices coming into the house were also on the generator lines, incase it was only electricity that was out. Unfortunately several large trees came down on our street wiping out power, cable, and unfortunately part of a house. We had no way of leaving since we live on a dead end street.

What does this have to do with technology? Actually a lot! I manage the websites and social media for several businesses, including a school system. I needed to post school closures and other emergency information on the web and Twitter.

Since I had the electricity to power my electronics, I only needed to get connected. Fortunately, I was able to turn my phone into a “hotspot”, that is a WiFi connection using my cellular plan. While not ideal, it served the purpose! You can check these sites out for your Android or iPhone.

One day while checking on a neighbor, she indicated that she was headed over to the library to use their WiFi as she had some bills to pay. My safe surfing tentacles immediately sent out a code red! Public WiFi + Banking = Potential disaster!

By now, most of you know to look for the https when logging onto password-protected sites. The “s” at the end of the http assures you that any information entered will be encrypted. However, you need to input a password to get to the https! It is that password that anyone with access to the public WiFi can steal. In addition, when you log onto the public WiFi, you might actually be logging onto a “hotspot” that someone else has created and made to look like the library, donut shop or other free WiFi. Once they have your password, they can log into your accounts!

There are a few solutions that should protect you.

  1. If you have the ability to use your cell phone data service (not WiFi) use that. It is more difficult for hackers to gather your information from the cell network.
  2. If your bank offers a “Pass Key” use it. A Pass Key is a onetime use code that is transmitted to either a tag or your phone. Unfortunately, many small area banks do not offer this. I do not recommend switching to a mega-bank just for this feature!
  3. Use a VPN. VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network”. From your computer, you are logging onto another computer that you know is secure. Many people already have this through work, but you can set up your own.

One final word – A good rule of thumb when using free WiFi – do not do anything or post anything that you would not put on a postcard for all to see!

By the way, my friend decided to pay her bills the old fashion way – snail mail!

Where did I leave my phone?

302  – the number of events; 2,300 the number of medals that will be awarded; 67,000 – the number of cell phones likely to be lost or stolen during the London Olympics! About 40% of these phones will be “smartphones” Android or iPhones.

This statistic comes from Venafi, a management solutions firm. It calculated this number from the average number of cell phones normally lost or stolen in a two-week period in London and the number of people expected to be in London for the Olympics.

While replacing these phones could cost you anywhere from $200 to $600, yes, even if you have insurance, the bigger issue is the data contained on these phones! This should be a wake-up call for those of us that use these phones. If your phone lands in the wrong hands your personal information could be at risk. We use smart phones for banking, travel reservations, online purchases and even business documents.

Your first layer of protection is to lock your smartphone’s screen. I know it’s a pain to type in a cade every time you want to use it!

The next layer is to make sure you have activated “Find my iPhone” or “Lookout” for Android phones. These apps allow you to locate your phone, remotely lock it and even remotely wipe the information from the phone. I even suggest testing these apps to make sure you know how to use them. Maybe bookmark the websites on your home computer!

Other tips:

  • Do not store sensitive information on your phone, or if you have to, encrypt it.
  • If you lock down your phone, make sure that you remember the password! There is no way to retrieve it if you forget! You can reset your phone – but that will wipe out all data!

Back-up your data. Your wireless service should offer a backup system, but in addition Google offers backup for the Android phones and Apple for the iPhones.

Treat your smartphone with care – in the wrong hands it can make a mess of your life!


Paper Maps on the Decline!

‘Tis the season for travel. Gas prices are dropping, the warm weather is here, people are hitting the road! Today is July 4th – let the travel begin! I was reading an article today on The It was commenting that the sale of road maps have been in decline since 2003. Remember those? You needed a large table to read the opened version, and then cringed at the thoughts of re-folding it!

I started reminiscing about the days I would call AAA to order a TripTik®. For those too young to remember, AAA would create a handy flip chart made up of map segments that had your travel route highlighted. They would even mark out known construction, tolls and restrictions – like no oxygen tanks or heavy vehicles!

I visited the site and lo and behold, they still offer TripTiks ®! This newer version provides an online map with your route highlighted and the directions on the left. You can also change the route by dragging the highlighted line. Sound familiar? You can also do this with Google Maps, Mapquest, Bing Maps, Rand McNally and others!

Of course there is also the handy dandy GPS, which we all have our GPS horror stories – like the young man traveling down my street at a high rate of speed convinced that this south version of the street was connected to the north version – but alas his GPS was wrong – the two were not connected! The laws of physics still work, and it never ends well when an object in motion collides with a stationary object, like a telephone pole. Fortunately no one was hurt.

This holiday week – please drive safely, obey the speed limits, and maybe double check that GPS route with a map!

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