Global TV Tech Buzz: Carpool Tech

As we start to settle in to the fall routine, the biggest thing you’ve probably noticed the past week is the increase in traffic. Everyone is back to work, back to school, and on the roads. Here’s a rundown of some great gear that can help you get the most of your time in traffic:

Motorola HX550
If you don’t have a bluetooth enabled car, then you NEED to get a bluetooth headset. It’s a simple earbud that communicates with your phone and lets you get your calls done in traffic (even texting with the Android MotoSpeak app). I’ve seen some people try to get away with holding a phone on speaker in front of their face – according to the cops that’s still distracted driving. So get a little piece like this and you’ll be good to go. Pro tip: take it out when you’re not driving, they look silly.

Drone Mobile
As we get into winter, you’ll soon appreciate the pleasure of a remote starter. This little toy takes the remote starter and makes it an app on your phone. You can also use Drone Mobile to GPS track your vehicle (in case you give it to the kids) and see if the vehicle is running, if the doors are open, and more.

boyo visions backup rear view mirrorBoyo Visions
Your dash and windshield can get cluttered with many different screens, this advanced rearview mirror can show you your backup camera right in the mirror. A bonus feature is it has bluetooth built in to the mirror. If you don’t like the ear buds (above), then this is another solution to help you get hands free when you drive.

Pioneer Bluetooth Video Deck
Here’s a chance to really pimp your ride. If you have an older vehicle and want to modernize it, this double deck unit will bring a lot of features to the fore. You can have a digital GPS, bluetooth hands free pairing for your phone AND a DVD player. Okay, a DVD player in the car isn’t the best thing, but if you have younger kids and you run the car pool, popping a video in while you wait for the kids in the parking lot can be a great time killer. (There is a feature so the DVD player won’t work when the car is in motion).

canadian tire eliminator inverterEliminator Inverter
This toy turns your car into a power station, as everyone scrambles to get last minute projects done on the way. You can plug the inverter in to the car adapter and it will turn the DC to AC so you can power phones, laptops, tablets, and more. Toss in a USB hub and everyone can make sure their phones and tablets are fully charged for the day ahead.

Bike Charge
I realize a lot of people also ride their bikes to work, and this new Bike Charge helps you get your phones fully ready for the day ahead. As long as you maintain a pace near 20km/h, you can pump out some juice to your devices. A 3 hr ride will be needed to fully power a phone, but you can still top up the juice on your morning commutes.

global tv traffic appAPP OF THE WEEK: Global Traffic
Let’s keep this one in the family with a new app from the Global Traffic Department. Leslie Horton does a great job talking up traffic on tv, and tweeting out updates, but now there’s an app that can help you plan out your routes in the morning. You pop in the route you usually drive, and with just one click it can give you a time estimate for travel. You can also scan a map of the city and see where trouble is, or check out the traffic cameras, and it will also send text alerts when there’s a problem on your route.

Just remember, it’s not an app you can use on the road, get someone else in the carpool to fire it up and help navigate.

Global TV Tech Buzz: Back To School/Work Apps

It’s not just back-to-school season, it’s back-to-work season. A long summer of vacations and stuttering and stopping with overlapping schedules is coming to an end, and it’s safe to say it’s almost like the “office new year” starting this week.

So whether it’s a new grade, new class, or new fiscal starting up, here are a series of apps to help you get on board with GTD – that’s not Gym. Tan. Drinking. I’m talking about Getting. Things. Done.

CourseNotesMac App Store / iOS App Store ($3.99):
The days of carrying around different notebooks for each class are long gone. With CourseNotes, you can take notes on your MacBook Air and access them on the go from your iPad. You can even track assignments and sync due dates with your calendar, and quickly search through all of your notes. You can also dump them to Dropbox of Facebook to share with friends.

A few weeks ago we talked about whether or not you can use a tablet to take notes in class, this app is great because it can sync across iOS and your MacBook, and is available in both the iOS and Mac App stores.

pomodorablePomodorableMac App Store ($4.99):
This is a Mac App that is going to use a ninja approach to help you GTD – get things done. The Pomodoro Technique is a task management approach that breaks things up into 25 minute sections and forces you to take breaks. It was named after a little tomato timer, a pomodoro. The Pomodorable app helps you with the Pomodoro Technique in a digital way. It takes some commitment, but those who use it swear by it.

iTunes UiOS App Store (free):
You don’t have to be going back to school to go back to school. iTunes U is a HUGE library of course materials from Universities around the world that you can take – for free. If you’re stuck in a long commute on the C-Train everyday, or if you have an hour to kill while the kids are at hockey or swimming or gymnastics every night, why not go to school. You can audit classes from Stanford, or Yale, or MIT – all on your iPad or iPhone. It’s genius.

Graphing CalculatoriOS App Store ($1.99):
Now I don’t know how many profs will let you bring an iPhone in to a test situation, but I do remember how much a scientific calculator cost when I was heading to university. It was always one of the bigger line items in my student budget, now you can get it done for $2. It does all the fancy calculus stuff that nobody expects you to work out in your head, just don’t expect to necessarily be able to use it for your test.

iBooksiOS App Store (free):
If you are taking classic literature courses, remember a lot of those books are public domain. You don’t need to go and buy the Penguin Classic paperbacks, many times you can get them from free in the iBooks Store – so double check. This advice also holds true if you prefer a Kobo, Kindle, or other eReader.

MintMac App Store / iOS App Store (Free):
Here’s an app that Alberta’s Finance Minister, Doug Horner, might find useful. Mint is an award winning budgeting app that tracks all your money coming in, going out, and gives you updates on your budgetary situation. For students on tight budgets, this is a great tool to help you manage your money. It’s also very useful for families, or perhaps even government officials. Warning – you do need to give it a lot of your banking information to make it work and some may not be comfortable with that. More than 8 million people use it, you can take that for a lot of suckers, or it’s very trustworthy.

TIP OF THE WEEK:
Since we talked about all apps this week, here’s an iOS tip for an app you already have. Reminders has a great little function in it that will give you a nudge when you go or leave a place. Need to remember to pick up milk on the way home from work? Set a note that when your phone leaves the office (presumably with you) a ping will come up reminding you to get the milk. Similarly, if there’s something you need to ask a client at a future meeting, just set the reminder for their address and the notification will pop up. Here’s a good how-to for geofenced reminders.

Global TV Tech Buzz: Bring Your Own Tech

Get ready for a new acronym: BYOT. Bring Your Own Tech. It’s a growing trend in the workplace, and even in some schools.

AT SCHOOL
One school in Georgia realizes the kids have the tech in their pockets and encourage them to bring it to class. The kids are taught how to research and appreciate that technology isn’t something that should be sneaked under their desk, but rather used openly and appreciated. Co-operation and interaction is encouraged and the technology opens up the conversation in class in a free-flowing way.

The teachers are also using the tech in the class as a way to teach them about the power in their pockets. They’re encouraged to use them responsibly, keep them safe, and handle them without dropping. It’s a case where giving kids the tools to interact in the modern world is greater than being afraid and just existing in the past.

Celly is a text program used in some districts to harness the power of the cellphones and the dextrous texting skills of kids as a way to foster group communication in the classroom.

Much like business struggling with budgets, schools are realizing they can rely on the students to supply the tech for education instead of having it all be state funded. If there are instances of poverty, those kids can be provided, but why buy a kid a laptop for school when he already has one at home?

AT WORK
Employees who bring their own devices to work (smartphones, laptops) will find themselves working up to an extra 20 hours a week. It’s a price many are willing to pay for increased flexibility in their workday. The 10 minutes they spend playing Angry Birds, or checking Facebook at 11a, is made up by the responding to emails, and going over reports before bed.

Bringing your own tech to work does, however, pose challenges for the workplace. Many work computers have virus protection, and are placed behind secure firewalls to keep things stable.

At our radio station, we’re allowed to bring our own computers and plug into the WiFi and intranet, so I asked our tech if it’s something he likes. He’s not necessarily a fan. He said it’s like bringing a friend to work who you say is a good guy, but he ends up being a drunk who punches holes in the walls. Bringing outside computers on to the work network always poses a security risk because those computers aren’t put through the same security.

Still, if employers want employees doing more away from the office, it’s a risk they’ll have to put up with.

My wife has an iPhone for pleasure, a BlackBerry for work. She’d love to have just one device, and some employers are finding that listening to their workers makes for a happier work environment. The main reasons companies implement BYOT policies is to improve work efficiencies and make employees happier.

BYOT RULES

1. Don’t run extra programs in the background on the work network.

Sharing big files over torrent sites, downloading music, or update operating systems are things that can drag down the whole work network. The more data chugging through a pipe will create a traffic jam, so stick to work stuff.

2. Keep your system updated.
Corporate IT runs updated software and virus checks on the work computer, do that to your own system. It’s common sense for your own safety, and for the security of your workplace.

3. Keep your private stuff private.
When you access an open network, not only can you access shared folders on the network, but any folders you have shared on your system can be accessed. I was at a hotel in Iceland last week and spent an afternoon listening to someone else’s cool iTunes library that they had left open and accessible to the network.

4. Remember it’s a privilege.
Offices are letting people bring their own computers because they want to keep employees happy. Remember how much it sucked waiting for your Windows 95 system to boot up? It’s a privilege to use your Mac to get the work done, so don’t mess it up for everyone.

made with overAPP OF THE WEEK Over $1.99
Images and text are quite the trend. You see them covering your Facebook stream on a daily basis – inspirational quotes, snarky commentary, or labels on photos. You can make them with all sorts of web editing tools, but they’re also easy to make on your mobile with an app called Over.

It’s simple, take your favorite photo, add some text and publish. Done. I use it to label places where I take some of my favorite photos. You can get an in-app purchase for an extended library of fonts and colors. I use it every day.

So cool 20120816 Iceland - 44 20120816 Iceland - 21 Do not stand down wind. #soaked

Global TV Tech Buzz: Taking Notes On A Notebook Or Tablet?

ipads at university

Back-to-school season is upon us and many students have a decision to make: laptop or tablet?

When it comes to textbooks, Apple’s reinvented iBook store certainly makes the iPad a winner. Tablets are the future of textbooks. They’re light, easy to update, less expensive (when you compare per eBook cost vs paper), and the multimedia abilities of eBooks is a reinvention of the textbook.

When it comes to note taking, however, there is a bit of a debate. Notebooks have been popular in lecture halls for more than a decade. The click of the keys along with people scrambling to find the seats nearest the electrical outlet is nothing new. But now, you’re starting to see the tablets show up.

First advice: get things that work together. If you love Windows, wait until the new Windows 8 comes out this year, get it with your phone and computer, and tablet and make them all work. Same if you love Android, get the phone and tablet that match. If Apple’s your love, then going vertical is easy.

I’m an Apple guy, so here’s how things can work if you want to have just an iPad for back-to-school.

ACCESSORIES FOR TABLET NOTE TAKING

macallyMacally Pen Pal ($29.99)
This is for those who like to mash up the old school and the new school. It’s a touch stylus for your iPad. Depending on the note taking app, you could have handwriting recognition, be able to export as pdfs, share notes with classmates and more. The only thing about the stylus that I find difficult is the end. It’s like writing with the eraser end of a pencil. Practice lots before class starts.

ZAGG Logitech Keyboard ($79.99)
You can get many different keyboard attachments for iPad, this is a popular model. You can have your screen landscape or portrait, you can bluetooth or plug it in the connector, you can even pull it off the keyboard and scribble on it if you like. It’s flexible, and can replace your laptop in a pinch.

Targus Plug N Power ($29.99)
Power. Power. Power. This is a great adapter for a dorm room outlet that will let you charge items the old way, and the new way.

Rocketfish Microfibre Cleaning Cloths ($14.99)
Fingerprints will be your worst nightmare this semester.

APPS FOR TABLET NOTE TAKING

The thing about the iPad is that it will let you focus. You are in one app at a time, and that’s a double edged sword. It’s tough to flip back and forth between an eBook and your notes, but if you’re writing, or in a lecture, it will keep you dialed in to the task at hand.

Noteshelf

There are many note taking apps in the App Store, each with different specialties. You should really dig through and have a look at as many as you can, but here’s a list to get you started.

Bamboo Paper (free)

Noteshelf ($5.99)

Penultimate ($0.99)

Notability ($0.99)

Laptop or tablet? Which would I choose? I’d probably bring a MacBook Pro, my iPad, AND an iPhone. iPad for textbooks, MBP for note taking, iPhone to take photos of lecture slides, and record audio/video of the presentations.

Oh, and I’d also carry a sleek moleskine and a pen. You just never know when the batteries are going to run out.

Not very efficient, I know.

Global TV Tech Buzz: Headphones Are The New Perfume

Yes, headphones are the new perfume, everyone seems to have their own line to market. 50 Cent, Ludacris, and X-Zibit were just a few of the names flashing across the marquee at CES earlier this year showing off their line of ear wear.

Headphones were also hugely popular at the recent London Olympics with athletes spotted wearing big musical earmuffs while they waited their turn to perform. Beats was not an official IOC sponsor, yet there they were on the ears of Michael Phelps and other athletes, especially on the pool deck.

Headphones are big business, here are some of the hot ones for fall:

Beats Wireless by Dr Dre – $299
Yes. Wireless. They sync via Bluetooth to your phone or mobile music player. They offer the big Beats sound and there’s also a mic in the earcup so you can take calls on the go if you’re hooked to your phone.

House of Marley Destiny Collection
Reggae legend Bob Marley was a master of his craft, and the brand of headphones, earbuds, and speaker docks that bears his name carries on that tradition of excellence. The House of Marley headphones are designed to reflect the philosophies of equality, unity, charity, and sustainability, with a focus on creating high-quality products in the most ethical and environmentally friendly way.

diesel vektrDiesel Noise Division Vektr $299
It’s not just music stars that are in on the action, high fashion denim label Diesel has partnered with Monster for this line of headphones that look as good around your neck as they do on your ears.

Monster iSport Livestrong $179
For working out these buds are on point. They lock in to your ear, there’s a hook to keep them in through sweat and bouncing around. Splash and waterproof so you can rinse them off, or run in the rain. They’re can’t miss Livestrong Yellow.

Puma Social Buds $39
Puma is on the game too with a variety of stylish earbuds brandishing the trademark leaping cat.

Ricky Gervais’ Rules For Happy Twittering

ricky gervais

There is a very valuable lesson for all those who use social media: Don’t Feed The Trolls.

The concept is easy to understand. There are many anonymous keyboard courage fueled people who will say terrible, awful, nasty things online that no person would ever say to another’s face. It’s tough to ignore them, but you must.

I was frustrated in a poker game once against wild, inexperienced players. Poker Pro, Brad Booth, told me “If you can’t put someone on a thought, you can’t put them on a hand.” This is that. Don’t engage people who have no predictable path of reaction other than being unpredictable.

This morning, Ricky Gervais delivered a series of Tweets that gives a deeper explanation of the idea and an understanding of why Twitter doesn’t really matter.

Four successive tweets that basically say “Don’t Feed The Trolls.”

I’ve been in many heated Twitter debates and, at the end of the day, I let it roll off. I let the anonymous face I was debating disappear. That person’s opinion doesn’t matter in my world. They’re not a friend, they’re pixels on my screen.

If someone just continues to jab, jab, jab at me in a debate, I have no problem blocking them.

My family matters. My real life friends and colleagues matter. People on Twitter who I’ve never seen, met, talked to before? Not so much.

Earlier this week I got into a heated twitter exchange with a fellow Dad blogger during the US / Canada soccer match. I was intense in the midst of the game, said some hard trash talking things, but when it was over, I had already moved on.

It was harder for my colleague to let it go, when he continued passive aggressive jabs long after it was gone.

I often block people who continuously disagree with me, or who try to get into heated Twitter debates with me. I do that so I don’t see their tweets in my stream. It’s not that I’m trying to stifle them from seeing me, I just don’t want to see their garbage.

Don’t feed/see the trolls is my motto. Ricky Gervais’ explanation of it in 4 tweets is simple genius.

Global TV Tech Buzz: The Social Olympics

twitterlympics

It started on the streets of Beijing 2008.

Then an alternative media centre was created for Vancouver 2010.

Now, at London 2012, social media is a legitimate part of the Olympic Games.

“To be frank, it would be a little bit like King Canute if we said, ‘No, these aren’t the social media games’, because everyone has decided they are anyway,” says Mark Adams, the IOC’s communications director. “We will help people have a good time and social media is a new way of doing that, so fine.”

Yes, many are calling these “The Social Olympics“, and you just have to flip through the Twitter accounts of the athletes to find out how these Games are different.

Olympic medallists letting you in on the secrets that seconds after winning Gold and completing their Olympic careers for the year, they hit McDonald’s.

That’s a little better than some of the other missives that have been flying back and forth on Twitter from the likes of Swiss soccer players, and Greek triple jumpers.

It’s true, twitter is public, and you’d best be careful what you say on the platform.

Guy Adams is a journalist who has been using Twitter to criticize NBC’s practice of tape delaying events to show later in prime time. He was so vocal in his protestation that he went so far as to encourage his followers to email NBC brass. He posted an email address in a tweet, and Twitter deemed that to be a violation of publishing personal information. For 3 days he was banned from Twitter until a groundswell asked for him to be reinstated.

Twitter is surging during these games. The volume of tweets is some 8x that of the Vancouver 2010 Games, just 30 months ago. The flood of information is so huge that some are blaming it for technical issues with the Games themselves.

Athletes are being open and honest, but there are still things they’re not allowed to tweet during the Games. Rule 40 bars them from making mention of anyone who is not an official IOC sponsor. For many athletes, that means no mentions of Nike. Sure, they can wear the shoes, or the shirts, but they can pay them no lip service on social media. Adidas is part of “the Olympic Family,” not Nike.

As with all social media, some argue that it’s a little addictive and are accusing the athletes of being on it too much. Simon Whitfield shot that idea down quite quickly.

Twitter isnt just inspiration for Whitfield, it also propelled British weightlifter Zoe Smith. In the leadup to the games, there was a documentary on her team. While many were inspired, some fought back on Twitter with digs at women who choose to weightlift. Smith had the last laugh in competition this week when she broke a national record.

“I gave it to them on the platform,” she told the Daily Mail “It’s two fingers up to them, basically. What are you doing with your life? I’ve just competed at the Olympics! Have some of that, trolls!”

The bottom line is the access Twitter gives us in to the Athlete’s Village is better than any Bob Costas or Brian Williams narrated vignette. Just check out these:

spy vs spy appAPP OF THE WEEK: Spy vs Spy 99c
This is a great local app, that also just happens to be No. 1 on Apple’s App Store. Robots and Pencils‘ Spy vs Spy has been out for only a week but it is already the top selling iPhone/iPad app in multiple countries.

Spy vs Spy is based on the original, multi-million unit selling, break out hit on the Commodore 64; Apple II series; and Atari 400/800 computers by First Star Software, Inc. It features online and local multiplayer matches, 16 new embassies (plus the original 8), and a pixel perfect retro mode as well as a modern mode, both with the famous black and white spies from MAD Magazine.

Your mission: escape the embassy, top secret briefcase in hand. Remember, all else is but a mere distraction! You must locate and finally collect the missing passport, traveling money, key and secret plans before making your way to the airport door to board your plane – all before time runs out -all while placing booby-traps for your opponent, avoiding or defusing those set by him and engaging in club-to-club combat.

Old school, meet new school.

Global TV Tech Buzz: What Is Augmented Reality?

Let’s start off with the definition, then I’ll show you how it’s used.

Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality. By contrast, virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one.
[Wikipedia]

Yelp was one of the first to use Augmented Reality in their iPhone apps. Back with the iPhone 3GS, they added a Monocle feature which would let people see reviews and recommendations through their iPhone screen.

So it’s a virtual layer added to a real world view.

Aurasma made headlines at CES when they showed the detailed messages that augmented reality can share. Their app lets you virtually tag items anywhere in the world with extra content. A soccer jersey could show highlights, a dollar bill could dance, a magazine cover could give you ticket information, a tourist destination can be tagged with tips. It’s sort of like geocaching, but all of the treasures are added online content.

The big newsmaker to use augmented reality, is the release of Google’s Project Glass. No longer will you need a omputer, or a phone to access the web, a simple set of glasses could have a virtual world augmenting your real one.

While some of the ways to use augmented reality above are practical, the one I use the most is SkyView. This app layars a map of the stars on top of your view of the sky so you can track planets, satellites, stars, constellations and more. I used it just this weekend camping with my son at Bow Valley – you should grab it too.

Others are using augmented reality to make tshirts come alive. Take a picture of this tshirt and a pet dragon will appear, and even breathe fire. Johnson & Johnson uses AR to make The Muppets on their bandages come to life and play a song.

IBM is working with retailers to use AR as a way to give more information about products on the shelves, in hopes this will gain traction where QR codes slipped.

The Philadelphia Eagles added AR to their season tickets to make them come alive with player announcements, highlights, and more content.

Vancouver has taken augmented reality to the streets to reveal the city’s past. At specific intersections, you can swipe between past and present while looking at landmarks. The Royal Ontario Museum is using augmented reality to let patrons put skin on their dinosaur skeletons.

You get the idea. Augmented reality is popping up everywhere, as a thick layer of information floating on top of the real world. Get ready for it to start appearing in more and more places.

APP OF THE WEEK
Canada Cheers is a free app from the Canadian Olympic Team that lets you follow the athletes on social media, and send them cheers. The hashtag #giveyoureverything is the one they want you to use to move the athletes up the podium.

Global TV Tech Buzz: Home Decorating Apps

Houzz is a free, targetted version of Pinterest. Flipping through the app you will see nothing but beautiful interior design images. You can find specific pricing and purchase info on some items or save the pictures you like for further reference. More than 65 000 design professionals have uploaded about half a million images to the site and app that is described simply, as house porn.

A spin-off to Houzz exists for just kids. Houzz Kid Rooms will have you planning nurseries and beyond for hours.

Finding the perfect colour palette for your room can be a challenge. If you’ve got a place you’d like to start, Color Smart by Behr and Benjamin Moore Color Capture each have colour capture apps to get you started. Both apps simply let you take a picture of the object, and then it will match the colour exactly with one from their library.

Be sure to have the best light possible when you take the picture, remember you’re just using a camera phone. While both apps are very similar, I like the layout and use of the Behr app better.

If a more detailed renovation is underway this summer, taking accurate measurements Magic Plan is a great free app that will let you grab complete floor plans of your rooms so you can plan out furniture purchases, or designs. You could also use this app to compare homes you’re touring and looking at buying.

magic plan screen shot

If you’re doing a full scale reno and need some specific measurements to take to a store for advice, Photo Measures [$4.99] lets you take a picture of, say, your kitchen cabinets, and drop in the specific measurements right on the photo. It’s an easy way to keep what you need sorted so you can easily reference it at the design centre, at the store, or with your contractor.

If you’re out house hunting this weekend, just start by driving around a neighborhood you like. The free Realtor.ca app will geolocate you, show you the listings nearby, the open houses nearby, and then kick open the MLS page with the details. I love snooping on the neighbours and what they have their houses listed for, this app lets me do that from the kitchen table :)

amazing alexAPP OF THE WEEK:
The sequel to Angry Birds has arrived from the gang at Rovio. Amazing Alex (99c) is a fun physics based game that borrows from a few other popular apps. It’s a little bit of Bubble Ball, Civiballs, and Cut The Rope all rolled in to one. You help Alex set up fantastic apparatus in his room to get balls and balloons from A to B. It’s not quite Angry Birds addicting, but it is a fun game to kill a few minutes, and my 5 yr old loves it.

Global TV Tech Buzz: How To Travel Smartly With Your Smartphone

The news cycle is littered with stories of people who take their smartphones on vacations only to come back to bills worth thousands of dollars for the data they consumed abroad.

Alanna Fero, for example, took her iPhone to Egypt and downloaded about 1.6 gigs of data while pyramiding. She came home to a $37 000 bill.

Yes, that’s ridiculous. The best part of the story is Telus turned her data off because of the high usage while roaming, and she asked them to turn it back on. She cried poor to the news media when she returned and got little sympathy from savvy internet users.

There are ways, however, to travel smartly with your smartphone: make sure data roaming is turned off, prebuy a travel data plan for your trip, unlock your phone and buy a local plan, or simply leave the phone at home.

TURN OFF DATA ROAMING
First and foremost is to turn off data roaming. It should be off by default, but check your settings to make sure that roaming is turned off. If you live near a border town, you might have your phone skip to foreign towers. When you’re flying, the phone will be trying to connect to the ground, and the moment you land all those emails will come flooding in. Having data roaming turned off will keep the dam the flow data until you are ready to let it loose.

PREBUY DATA
If you’re just taking a quick trip to Las Vegas, or Phoenix for the weekend and want to have enough power to phone your friends on the trip, send texts, and grab a few tweets, look into a prepaid plan. I spent $100 on one when I went to Vegas in January for CES. It was enough for me to last the week and get my emailing, tweeting, and texting done from the show floor.

Prepaid data, text, and voice plans aren’t cheap, but they’re cheaper than coming home to a huge phone bill. The rates for each carrier vary, call your customer service rep to ask them what they can offer you based on what you plan to use while away.

iphone sim cardUNLOCK YOUR PHONE
Unlocking your phone changes the baseband of your device to work with any mobile carrier. When you first buy your phone, it is locked to the provider.

Canadian providers will now unlock your mobile phone with a simple phone call to customer service. Each provider has different rules. Some will only unlock phones on contract. Some will only unlock phones out of contract. Some will require you to pay the remaining subsidy. On average, a base rate for unlocking your phone is $50.

Call your provider’s customer service representative to find out the requirements for your specific phone.

Once your phone is unlocked, you can now replace the SIM with a pre-paid one at your destination. Many travel forums are filled with advice on how to find a local provider with a good plan, sometimes you’ll even be able to find them in the airport of your destination. Buy the SIM, load up with pre-paid minutes or data, and you’ll even get a local phone number to blend right in.

For example, my travel data package to Iceland would be $225 for 75 megabytes of data. By paying the $50 fee to unlock my iPhone 3G, I’m now able to buy a prepaid SIM card data plan from Siminn, for $15 including 3 gigs of data.

GO OFF THE GRID
Of course the simplest solution is to leave the phone at home. Enjoy your vacation, the email can wait.

parks canada learn to camp appAPP OF THE WEEK: Parks Canada’s Learn To Camp
If you really want to unplug, it’s time to go camping. If you’re new to the ‘sport’, check out Parks Canada’s Learn to Camp app.

It’s the ideal app for first-time campers who want to plan a trip to Canada’s national parks. It is packed with the information you need to make your first camping trip a success: camping basics and insider’s tips, packing checklists, national park information and recipes and cooking advice. This app is the perfect companion to the annual Learn to Camp events that take place at national parks and national historic sites across Canada.

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