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February 2010

FlightTrack - Phone App Review

Flighttrack_droid_app FlightTrack delivers real-time airline flight status directly to your iPhone or Android phones.  This is one of the most popular smart phone applications on the market.  It displays flight time and gate info along with a map display of the flights current location of both domestic and international flights.  The app can also tell your the planes current altitude and speed.

It comes in two versions, a basic version and a Pro.  The Pro version is designed for the more frequent flier.  It integrates with users account, easily populating your travel data into FlightTrack Pro.  The enhanced version also offers airport details, such as current temperature, local time, 10-day weather forcasts and FAA airport delays.  These are just a few of the added Pro features.

iPhone users have the option of Basic for 4.99, Pro for 9.99, upgrade from Basic to Pro for 4.99.  Android users: Basic 4.99, upgrade to Pro 4.99.  A Blackberry version is in beta now and will be available soon.  You can purchase this app via your phones market place option.  Here is a link to the products site.  The software developers Facebook page appears abandond, their Twitter feed is active.

You can get some of the same data for free via a simple mobile focused webpage provided by the source of FlightTracks data, FightView Mobile.  But the phone apps provide a much better smartphone interface and more info.

I'll do a video on this app during my next trip.  For now here is one from YouTube.


British travellers 'to pay' for entry to the US

I wonder how long it will take other countries to respond by finding ways to get inbound US passengers to pay up! - The Travel Blogger

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) scheme replaces the old arrangement whereby passengers needed to fill out a green card to enter the US. The new scheme was introduced in January last year, but becomes mandatory from next Wednesday. It applies to all 35 countries that enjoy visa waiver status. An approved ESTA is valid for two years and can be used for multiple entries into the US. More UK Telegraph

Gadget Review: Travel Speaker from Brookstone

The actual name of the speaker reviewed here is the "Ultra-Thin Travel Speaker"... I don't think I would call it "ultra-thin", but at just 3/4 of an inch at it's wides point this is a pretty thin speaker.  Actual size is 5x6x.75 inches, not much bigger than a paperback book and perfect for the traveler.

I tried several travel several speakers and finally settled on this one.  They are powered.  This can be a pain because they require 3 AAA batteries.  But this is really the only way to go, powered speakers.  Others that plug into your devices output jack try and use the power intended for small ear-buds or headphones to fill a room with sound.

You also need to be realistic.  If you want great sound you are not going to find it in a package this small, or if you want loud you won't find it here.  But what you will find is a small compact unit that you can easily take with you when you travel. 

Brookstone_ultra_thin_travel_speaker_2I've been reviewing it mostly with MP3 files and Pandora on my Motorola Droid phone and my Thinkpad x40 laptop.  So far I've tried it here in my office, a cruise ship cabin, and a large hotel room in SFO.  In all the spaces it performed very well.  It sounds pretty good for their size.  It has better bass response than the other units I tried but it is still week.  With my Droid phone at about 90% the audio can be painful at 2ft and easily fills the 14x14ft room with music loud enough to rise well above spoken conversation.  At %100 I get distortion depending on the recorded material.  Most times I need to run the phone at %40 or my Wife complains about the volume from down the hall.

Issues: No speaker separation due to compact one piece design.  You need to turn it off when you are done listening or you will run down the batteries.  Auto shutoff would be nice.  Brookstone items are usually designed pretty well, on this unit the base/stand covers the delicate speaker surface when closed, but they didn't' provide for the short audio cable that is required for this unit.  The travel speaker folds up into a great package but you end up with a loose cable.  Bluetooth would be a great feature, but that would push up the $40 price and use power.

Tip: placing the speaker on a wooden / resonate surface improves bass response.  The speaker also sends a large amount of sound energy out the back.  Placing it in front of a reflective surface increase audio levels if needed.

This compact speaker is based on NXT Sound flat panel speaker technology.  Top Photo is Copyright  Lower photo is Copyright  This unit was purchased by me...The Travel Blogger.  This is not an paid advertisement.

This speaker can be purchased directly from Brookstone, online or at their stores, or you can purchase it using the ad below and help support site. Thanks!

Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas Opens HRH Tower

Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas HRH Tower 
Hard Rock Hotel opens the HRH Tower.  In an effort to offer upscale accommodations to those who regularly visit Las Vegas and the hotels popular club Vanity the Hard Rock has opened a 359-room tower with its own private entrance and other amenities higher-end clients will appreciate.  The photo above, supplied by Hard Rock Hotel, shows a standard suite.  A new Sky Bar and several pools are scheduled to open over the next few months. This post is not a paid advertisement.  Read the press release. Official Website

Tourism - January Beige Book Report

Federal_the_beige_book_travel Eight times per year the Federal Reserve Bank gathers anecdotal info on economic conditions in the US.  They then publish this data in what they call The Beige Book

As for tourism they announced today that travel and tourism was mostly flat or weak. But did feature a few specific situations.

  • Ski Resorts bookings are up due to early season snowstorms.
  • Consumers are shopping for deeply discounted travel packages.
  • New York City Broadway theaters report weaker attendance.
  • Cruise lines report strong 2010 bookings due to deep discounts.
  • The number of tourists visiting Hawaii and Las Vegas are increasing.
  • Seattle and Southern California occupancy rates are down.

You can read the full summary and the regional reports, click here.

Gadget: Kena Dai DriĀ® Duffle Bag

Kena Kai Dri dry bags are made of same tough material that waterproof tarps are made from with water resistant zippers, heavy-duty nylon webbing and welded seams.  A welded seam is the joining of two pieces of fabric without stitching which would result in a hole.  These flexible seams are usually created by using glue, tape or heat.  If you see a bag that looks like it is made of waterproof material but only has stitched seams, expect those seems to leak.

I like duffels like these, they are especially great if your headed to a cramped destination like a sailboat.  After unpacking you can easily store the empty bag in any space, unlike a hardsided piece of luggage.

These duffels come in two sizes: small 25 liter 17x10.75x10.75 inches, and a large 35 liter 19x12.75x12.75 inches.  The exterior zipper is water-resistant with a storm flap for added protection.   Larger interior zippered pocket.  Adjustable and padded shoulder strap.  Lifetime Warranty

For more information visit Kena Kai site (click here).  If you purchase this item by using the ad below you are helping support the website.