Which is more useful...a travel guidebook or an app for your smart phone? | baltimoresun.com

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LONDON (AP) — A comprehensive travel guidebook can feel like a brick in your luggage. Yet smart phone travel guides are not always a good alternative. They can overwhelm users with potentially unreliable user-generated content or underwhelm them with a flashy interface and little true substance.

But two wildly different brands — Lonely Planet and Wallpaper — offer useful additions to the traveler's library — both in printed and virtual forms. On a recent work trip to London, I compared the printed guidebooks with their respective iPhone versions.

via www.baltimoresun.com


Flying with GoGo Inflight Internet on Delta

Gogo inflight internet logo

 
Just over Bradshaw City Arizona, 334 east of LAX, just north of Pheonix at and altitude of 35004 feet.  Flying at 581mph with an outside temperature of -70 degrees.

My Delta flight from LAX to Atlanta is fitted out with WiFi from GoGo Inflight Internet.  Figured I try it out and tell you what it is like.  Connection and sign-up was fast and easy.  I opened up my WiFi connections box and selected the GoGo option and clicked connect.  Opened by browser and it loaded a welcome page from the GoGo service instead of my home page.

Noticed that a discount option was available.  Kind of a random game, if you win you get free internet, if you play you will at least get %25 off the service.  You must enter an  email address to play.  The game started and played out on it's own without any interaction from me.  I came in third out of three, getting a discount code.

The single flight cost was $12.95, a full day was also $12.95 so I went with the full day.  With the discount code I won the final cost was $9.71.

My connection seems pretty good.  The online interface for my blog software is responding well.  But I'm using an eeePC netbook from ASUS, a low powered version of a laptop, so I'm not sure if some of the lag I'm seeing isn't due to my netbooks slow low power Intel Atom processor.  Watched my favorite inflight music video "United Breaks Guitars", it is up to 7.7 million views.  The video streamed pretty well, it skipped a few frames now and then but I think that was due to the netbooks lack of power.

Tested the speed of the connection using www.SpeedTest.net and it showed .67mb/s upload and .31mb/s download speeds, pretty slow.  But I was able to do a two way video call via Skype and it worked pretty well.  Both audio and video skipped some, but after turning off the video the audio improved in both directions. 

Most web page loaded well, those with heavy graphics took some time.  I suspect the connection speed would vary based on the number of users in the plane right now. 

Big queston is...  Now that I can do even more work while I'm flying... Do I want to??? 

For more information: GoGo Inflight Internet / WiFi With Wings.


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 TripIt.com 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.


 


Gadget Review: Travel Speaker from Brookstone

Brookstone_ultra_thin_travel_speaker
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 Brookstone.com.  Lower photo is Copyright TravelBlogger.com.  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 TravelBlogger.com site. Thanks!


Gadget: Kena Dai Dri® Duffle Bag

Kena_kai_dri_luggage_duffle 
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 Amazon.com ad below you are helping support the TravelBlogger.com website.