Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ford Offers HD Radio With iTunes Tagging

Ford HD Radio iTunes TaggingRecently I posted a story about Ford installing in-car WiFi on their new cars in 2010 and now, it seems, the company has added even more to what they are going to offer customers. Ford is now calling themselves the first car company to have factory-installed HD Radio that comes with the ability of iTunes tagging. In a statement from Ford President Mark Fields, "iTunes tagging and HD Radio technology are strong new additions to the growing collection of Ford convenience features and technology we're offering customers to make driving even more enjoyable."

If you don't know what iTunes tagging is or how it will work, it's simple. iTunes tagging will allow drivers listening to HD Radio to tag songs on the radio they like by pushing a button. After that, the song and all its information will be saved in the radio's memory until an iPod is connected at which point the saved songs will transferred to the iPod. The iPod doesn't get the actual song however. Users are given the song's information and given the option of previewing the song or purchasing it. Drivers can save up to 100 songs at a time and transfer them to there iPod whenever they feel like it.

Fields went on to say that "this is another example of Ford's commitment to bring the widest variety of factory-installed customer-focused technology, features and conveniences to millions of people." People were beginning to think that CES 2010 was going to be dominated by TV and PMP makers but that isn't going to be the case if Ford keeps up productivity like they are now. It seems that Ford is going the way of technology on a level that not many other car manufacturers are with their built-in WiFi and now the HD Radio with iTunes tagging. No word on exact pricing has been released yet as it is being saved for CES 2010 but customers should expect to pay a premium price for the added features.

Looking for a short term mobile technology rental to to make your next trip a success? Call 800-736-8772 today and ask about our Nextel Rentals, Two Way Radio Rentals, or even our Aircard Rentals!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ford SYNC Turns Your Car into Mobile WiFi Hotspot

Ford SYNCAre you serious about your on-the-road wireless broadband? If so then you will be pleased to hear that Ford's next generation of Sync systems will come equipped with built-in WiFi as well as the ability to share a 3G connection with a driver-defined list of approved devices. Ford is working on making your car a mobile WiFi hotspot.

The process is simple. By inserting a USB mobile broadband modem, otherwise known as an air card, into SYNC's USB port you will produce a secure wireless connection that broadcasts throughout the entire vehicle. This will allow passengers in the car with WiFi enabled devices, like laptops, cell phones, iPods or handheld gaming devices to access the internet anywhere the broadband modem receives a connection.

According to Mark Fields, Ford President of the Americas, "While you're driving to grandma's house, your spouse can be finishing the holiday shopping and the kids can be chatting with friends and updating their Facebook profiles. And you're not paying for yet another mobile subscription or piece of hardware because Ford will let you use technology you already have."

According to some recent studies conducted by the Consumer Electronics Association, as many as 77 million adults comprise the "technology enthusiasts drivers" population. It also showed that more than half of these people show the desire for a connected communications and information system in their vehicles.

The handy USB port will allow owners to not only plug in the broadband air card but also a variety of other devices as well. But the question arises to many whether or not new technology will be able to work. Well the answer is yes, thanks to an upgrade system, SYNC has installed. Through simple software updates, SYNC can be formatted to work with even the newest of technologies.

"The speeds with which technology is evolving, particularly on the wireless front, makes obsolescence a real problem." said director of Ford's Connected Services Solutions Organization Doug VanDagens. VanDagens goes on to say "We've solved that problem by making SYNC work with just about any technology you plug into it. By leveraging a user's existing hardware, which can be upgraded independent of SYNC, we've helped ensure 'forward compatibility' with whatever connectivity technology comes next."

The fact that the SYNC hardware is factory installed makes it that much more convenient for the user. There is no bulky device installed by the dealer that takes up valuable cabin space. Another benefit with Ford's system is that other systems bought separately can run as much as $500 for just the equipment and installation and then you have a monthly subscription fee on top of that. 'Using SYNC with existing mobile devices helps Ford provide the most value, the most flexibility and the most convenience for owners," said Fields. "Constant connectivity is becoming a routine par of our customers' lives, and we're making existing technology more accessible without adding costs."

With the SYNC system, a WiFi signal will be broadcast throughout the entire vehicle. The default security will be set to WiFi protected Access 2 (WPA2), which requires users to enter a randomly chosen password to connect to the internet. When SYNC sees a new WiFi device for the first time, the driver has to allow that device to connect. This prevents unauthorized users from stealing the car's signal.

This new generation of SYNC systems is supposed to launch next year and considering Ford's CEO is the keynote speaker of CES 2010, I'm sure we will be seeing a lot more of this new mobile WiFi hotspot then.

Looking for a short term mobile technology rental to to make your next trip a success? Call 800-736-8772 today and ask about our Nextel Rentals, Two Way Radio Rentals, or even our Aircard Rentals!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Using Your iPhone Overseas Can Be Costly

Using Your iPhone Overseas

iPhones and apps are great for travel. People are using them for everything from booking flights to locating wi-fi hotspots in new destinations. But what happens when you go outside of the United States? Will it cost more to use travel apps in say, Paris, than it does in Atlanta? The short answer, according to National Geographic, is yes. If you're planning to travel outside of the United States, Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands, it will cost you more to use your iPhone.

One thing you can to avoid expensive international rates is to turn off your data roaming. You can do this by going to "Settings," then "general," then "network," then "data roaming OFF." By doing this, you disable features like email, apps and internet browsing. But if you simply can't go without Googling that restaurant you wanted to try or taking advantage of your favorite apps, there are a few other ways to avoid paying too much for iPhone usage.

If you have Wi-Fi access, turn off your 3G. Wi-fi is faster and free under AT&T. 3G will rack up enormous fees and make you regret checking your emails 500 times while you were on your Mexican vacation. To turn your 3G off, simply go to "Settings," then "general," then "network," then "enable 3G off."

If you do have to use your 3G, rates can get complicated. AT&T charges by the kilobyte and megabyte of internet usage and there's no way to judge how many of either you've used by timing your 3G usage. According to the article in National Geographic, an AT&T customer service rep said that most websites will charge between 10 and 25 kilobytes. If you're inside one of the 90 countries that are within AT&T's roam zone, you'll pay half a cent per kilobyte and $5.00 per megabyte. Outside of those 90 countries, you'll pay two cents per kilobyte and $20.00 per megabyte. Confused? We were, too.

If you plan to use your iPhone overseas frequently, you may want to purchase an AT&T Global add-on. This will help reduce overage costs by paying a flat fee for using your 3G in the 90 countries within the roam zone. The plans range from a $24.99 a month plan that allows you 20 megabytes of internet to the $199.99 a month plan that allows 200 megabytes of internet. Fortunately, there is no contract with this feature. If you know you'll be traveling during one month and not the next, simply remove it from your monthly bill. Just make sure the country you're visiting is on the list.

Just remember, even if you purchase the add-on, you may still find yourself racking up the overage fees. You can keep track of your data by press *3282# and then "send." This lets you keep track of your usage and may prevent a few surprises when you receive your monthly bill.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Virtual Bulletin Board To Help Plan Your Next Trip.

Duffel is a new website designed to help you plan your trips. If you've ever tried to plan a trip with multiple people you know it takes a lot of emailing, calling, texting and organizing. Duffel takes all the hassle out of it while placing all the information in one place for everyone in your party to see.

To start out, register, you can make your itinerary public or visible only to those you invite to see it. After that, you enter your destination city (ie: New York, NY), travel dates and you can name your trip as well (ie: "Family Reunion", "Andrew's Birthday"). Then you have the option to "plan alone" or "plan with friends". If you choose the "plan with friends option" you can add contacts from Facebook, Email, and other Duffel users.

Once you've completed those tasks you are then presented with what looks like a typical cork bulletin board. Duffel automatically starts you off with a few suggestions for the city you're visiting, but you can alter them as necessary. You have different tabs to enter in different aspects of your trip which include: Food & Drink, Activity, Lodging, Transportation, Notes, Recommendations. For example, if you click on "Lodging" you'll see the image below and you can enter your lodging information for you and the people with whom you're planning your trip.

You can select "map view" to see a google map of your itinerary and see where everything is all at once.

Once you have an idea of what you want to do, where you want to eat, stay, travel, you can drag and drop your itinerary and links to the day planner on the left hand side of the screen. The one thing Duffel lacks is an hour-by-hour planning feature, but not everyone plans every minute of every trip. And perhaps they'll add that feature in the future.

Duffel seems to be a very simple and easy to use trip planning tool. It took me less than 5 minutes to prepare a bulletin board with a few ideas for an upcoming vacation. And when you're collaborating with friends or relatives, it makes it virtually hassle-free as everyone can put in their suggestions in one central location instead of various emails and text messages.

Monday, November 23, 2009

More People Using Mobile Apps for Travel

More People Using Mobile Apps for Travel Solutions

These days, travelers of all ages are using their mobile devices for everything from flight notification to check-in. And many of them are even willing to accept advertising with free apps, or so says a study conducted by the Sabre Travel Network, the world's leading provider of high-performance travel industry solutions. The global mobile survey of 800 corporate and leisure travelers from North America, Europe, Latin America, and Asia-Pacific covered a broad range of topis from fees for apps to preferred features. Here's a look at what they found:

69% of the travelers surveyed owned a smartphone, with North Americans being most likely to own one (78%) and Asian Pacific travelers being least likely (46%). Most of the smartphone owners used their phone for email and about half used it for internet purposes. While younger generations are usually thought of as the ones to keep up with trendy technology, the survey found that nearly half, or about 47% of smartphone-owning travelers are 40-years-old or older, proving that theory wrong.

Both corporate and leisure travelers showed that they were often using their phones for getting relevant travel information in a timely manner. According to Greg Webb, the chief marketing officer of Sabre Holdings, smartphones are actually the preferred way to get information and he sees a huge opportunity for the travel industry, "This trend has seemingly penetrated all ages across all continents, highlighting the tremendous opportunity for travel agencies and suppliers to leverage mobile solutions to demonstrate value to their customers and creatively reach target audiences."

The study found that 63% of travelers are open to automating reaccommodation services and checking in and out of hotels with their mobile phones and 61% are willing to to use their phones to book flights. The travel booking company Travelocity validated this response by saying they've seen a large increase in the number of bookings coming from mobile devices in recent months. Of the various groups surveyed, Europeans seemed more open to using new mobile technology for these activities.

All travelers said they were willing to compromise some advertising for free travel apps. 28% of frequent travelers and 22% of leisure travelers said they actually preferred the free apps. However, in Europe, only 14% of travelers preferred the free apps.

"There's been a lot of experimentation with pay-for-services in the past," Webb said in a statement. "With advertising emerging as a more palatable choice for travelers, application providers and retailers now have a way of monetizing their offering and driving more value out of a potentially lucrative marketing channel." He also asserted that Sabre is committed to helping the travel industry "advance their mobile strategies" and next year, the company plans to increased mobile investments to, "continue growing our award-winning portfolio of mobile solutions for both agency and airline customers."

Sabre's recent launch of the mobile app TripCase for iPhone and Blackberry has been downloaded tens of thousands of times and was nominated for a "Innovator of the Year" nomination by PhoCusWright and was named "Best Travel App" by Business Week. Their Virtually There itinerary service is used by over 30,000 travel agencies around the world.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Travel Search Tool From Amadeus

New Travel Search Tool From Amadeus

Amadeus, a travel technology provider, has launched a tool that claims it will change the way people search for travel. The Amadeus Affinity Shopper allows potential travellers to search an airline's website by desired travel experience verses putting in a specific destination or price bracket.

Amadeus currently offers a tool called Extreme Search which allows travelers to search for packages based on open questions such as "where can I go and what can I do for what I want to spend?" With Affinity Shopper, this is the first time that technology will be available on airline websites. The difference between Extreme Search and other search engines is that it allows the traveller to make a selection without having to choose a destination city or date.

The first airline to test the tool will be Lufthansa, with other airlines trying it out next year. They are also hoping to get a travel agent version of the tool into travel agencies next year. Ian Wheeler, the Vice President of Marketing and Distribution for Amadeus said, "We think it’s quite a revolution in the way people will search for travel compared to the way they do today. We are launching with Lufthansa but the aim is to multi-brand airlines and add future content," when the tool was unveiled on Tuesday.

"Affinity Shopper gives our customers further options to use our website as a traveller playground where users can explore and determine their trip based on what they would like to do during their travel. Our customers are able to conduct a search for a 'beach holiday in Europe based on a budget range,' or even a completely open search for a holiday for less than, for example, $700 per person," said Marcus Casey, the Head of e-Commerce and Mobile at Lufthansa

Amadeus also released a report called "The Amateur-Expert Traveller." The report suggests because of internet, travellers are more knowledgeable, more adventurous and more open to new technology than ever.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In-Dash iPhone Dock Announced

Forget the days of hooking your iPhone or iPod to various wires to get the music to play through your car speakers. Now the folks at Dual Electronics have solved that problem for us with an in-dash iPhone dock with AM/FM capabilities.

Simply looking at the 200-watt XML8110 in its original form, you wouldn't think it's anything but a regular AM/FM car stereo. But it unfolds to show you a spot to dock your iPhone directly to it. It comes with optional steering control input, remote control, Bluetooth for hands-free operation with caller ID. There's also a iPhone app in the works to go along with it.

The price isn't very steep, at $99, its definitely not at the far end of the pricing spectrum. If you use your iPhone a lot while traveling, it may prove to be a worthwhile investment, and it'll save your iphone from bouncing around in the car.
(h/t: Dvice)

Monday, November 16, 2009

CarMD Handheld Diagnostic Tool

Ever had your check engine light come on and you take your car to your mechanic just to find out that your gas cap wasn't on tight enough? No? Maybe that's just me. But if you're like me and millions of others who regularly take their cars to an over-priced mechanic for a simple fix, this handy little tool might be for you. CarMD is a personal handheld diagnostic tool you can use yourself.

CarMD plugs right into your cars computer system and reads your engine codes. Almost exactly like the one your mechanic has. It will tell you what's wrong with your car and CarMD offers access to its database. The database contains thousands of fixes from ASE certified mechanics. Fixing it yourself can sometimes be simple and easy to do do yourself, which saves you a ton of money.

The tool can produce an online diagnostic report with the estimated cost for repairs broken down by parts and labor or region, so you know ahead of time what you'll be paying if you decide to bring your car to your mechanic. You may even be able to use that to haggle the price your mechanic charges you.

In a tough economy, the $98 price tag may seem steep. But it could be worth it in the long run, especially when it comes to minor repairs and making sure your mechanic is being fair.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Top Five Travel Gadgets of 2009

TopTravel Gadgets of 2009

As the end of the year grows near, several "Top" lists of 2009 are popping up. One great list is Time Magazine's recently released "The Best Travel Gadgets of 2009." If you're planning to travel, for business or pleasure, anytime soon, and you want to stay connected with the latest (and best-looking) technology, this is the list for you. Let's take a look at the top five.

Coming in at number one is the Slingbox Pro-HD. This neat little gadget is great for catching up on your favorite television programming on the road. It allows you to watch video from several sources including your home cable box, DVR or DVD player. Using the internet, tune in via your mobile phone, laptop or other mobile device.

The next item on the list is MiFi. Forget trying to find wi-fi wherever you're traveling. MiFi by Novatel is your own personal mobile hotspot that allows you to tap into Sprint and Verizon's 3G networks. Never be without a connection again!

Following Mi-Fi on the list is the Targus 4-Port Smart USB Hub. There are very few items out there today that don't use a USB. The problem is, most laptops only have two ports. With this device, you can turn one port into four! It connects with a durable cord and features a one-touch reset button that allows you to restore connectivity to all of your devices.

At number four on the list is Apple's MacBook. Apple's little laptop (13 inches) was recently updated with a new polycarbonate shell for durability and style and an LED-backlit screen that helps increase battery life to seven hours, as well as providing instant full-screen brightness as soon as it is turned on. It's environment, as well as consumer-friendly.

Rounding out the top five is the Beats Solo. These $200 over-the-ear headphones were created by Dr. Dre and Monster Cable and the according to Time, provide outstanding sound. It also comes with a built-in hi-fi mike and ControlTalk, a controller on the headphone cable that allows you to adjust volume and playback, and is said to be very light and comfortable.

To view the rest of the top 25, visit Time.com.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Feature-filled Budget GPS System: The TomTom One 140-S

tomtom one 140-sThe new TomTom One 140-S has finally brought some competition to the entry-level GPS market. It has a multitude of features that makes it stand far above many people’s reigning budget GPS choice, the $249.99 Garmin nüvi 265T.

The first thing that will draw your attention to the TomTom is its sleek stylish appearance. Its features a glossy black case with chrome-accent trimming around the 3.5-inch touch screen. The whole GPS system measures 3.0 x 3.6 x 0.8 inches (HWD) and weighs a total of 6.8 ounces with the suction-cup mounting bracket. The Easyport mounting bracket is not exactly what you would call easy. To remove the GPS from the bracket, you must either pop the GPS out of the mounting systems or remove the entire apparatus itself from the windshield. The problem with just popping the GPS out is that it is very difficult to put back into the bracket, and the issue with removing the whole bracket is that it can be difficult to stick back on your windshield.

Although the TomTom One 140-S is very similar to its previous model, the 130-S, there have been some very exciting improvements to the system. The 140-S now sports a Quick Menu. This gives you the ability to choose up to six of your most used functions for easy access through onscreen shortcut icons. There are also new and improved maps on the 140-S and an expanded points-of-interest database that features over seven million entries that spread over all 50 states, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. The maps are pre-loaded on your internal memory, and with the TomTom’s Home application you can plot your trips and update your maps through your PC.

A disadvantage with the TomTom One 140-S is that it does not include live traffic capabilities. To solve this problem, you will have to purchase a USB RDS-TMC traffic receiver for $59.97. This does include a free subscription for the first year but will cost you about $60 per year after that.

One of the really cool features included in the 140-S is the IQ Routes. This technology will calculate your optimal routes based on previous knowledge of your average speed. These results will give a more accurate estimated time than speed-limit-only data. It takes a little longer to calculate your route, but it is obviously worth the wait for a more accurate prediction and quicker route.

Another important feature to discuss is the Advanced Lane Guidance of the 140-S. This allows you to clearly see which lane you should be in to accomplish any upcoming maneuvers and informs you of any road signs that you can expect to see. Lane Guidance is an excellent safety feature that is difficult to find in any budget GPS systems. The 140-S also includes itinerary planning, which can come in handy when taking a multi-segmented trip.

The TomTom One 140-S is easy to operate, like its predecessor the 130-S. The volume has definitely been improved on the 140-S though, which is a welcome change. The 140-S can get as loud as you could possibly need, and conveniently increases the volume automatically every time the car goes over 45 mph.
The TomTom One 140-S has so many outstanding features for its small price tag. For $199.95 you can possess a GPS system that features a Quick Menu, IQ Routes, Advanced Lane Guidance, itinerary planning, and so much more. I feel that this budget GPS is definitely the way to go. With all the features that can’t be found in any other budget GPS system’s, how could you possibly pass the it up. The TomTom One 140-S is definitely a breath of fresh air.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

HostelWorld.com Launches "How To" Videos

Last week, HostelWorld.com announced that they were expanding their website's video content to include "how to" videos. Each video gives five tips on how to save money in cities around the world, London, New York, Paris, Amsterdam and Edinburgh, with more cities to come. Hostelworld.com editor Colm Hanratty, who also produces and stars in the videos, says he hopes the video will increase the company's presence on popular "how to" video sites such as HowCast.com and 5min.com.

The website also features new videos called "city postcards" which give viewers a glimpse into the cities they feature, listing top attractions, restaurants and bars. Each video is short - three minutes or less - and the postcard videos are currently available for Cork, Stockholm and Zurich. More videos should be available in 2010.

HostelWorld is no stranger to online videos. Their "10 Things You Need to Know About..." city guide videos won the company a Webby Award. They also feature videos on 200 of the top hostels in the world.

"After the success of our city guide videos, we felt we needed to give our users a new type of video. As 'How to…' video sites are increasingly popular, and everybody likes finding out how to save money due to the current economic climate, videos offering people invaluable tips on how to save money in the world’s top cities seemed like the perfect option,” Hanratty said of the new videos.

He is currently in South America filming more videos and putting together more content for the website. South America is said to be a hot destination for backpackers and gap year students in 2010 and HostelWorld is hoping the new information will help prospective visitors to the continent.

Check out one of HostelWorld's videos on "How to Save Money in New York" below:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Travel Books Meet Mobile Technology with QR Codes

Travel Books Meet Mobile Technology with QR Codes
As the line between actual books printed on paper and electronic books blur, the publishing industry is always looking to come up with new, innovative ways to stay current. The world of travel guides is no different. Travelers increasingly turn to laptops and cell phones to do everything from plan their vacations to find their way around a new place.

But now, Quick Response(QR)Codes offer an easier way to connect your travel guidebooks with your smartphone. The codes are already a big hit in Japan. Essentially, you can aim smartphone cameras and other devices at the QR codes, which are like barcodes found in travel books, and you're linked to online information such as maps or directions based on where you are located. You may also store information in your phone about the location on the page. QR codes aren't just in books, though. You can find them everywhere from on billboards to t-shirts.

A new travel book, Earthbound: A Rough Guide to the World in Pictures is using QR codes to help link readers to different locations around the world. The $30 coffee-table book features over 250 glossy photos from exotic world locations with insight from the photographers. It's just like any other travel or photo book, but it also features little black and white boxes next to each image. These are the QR codes and they offer a link to each location on Google Maps.

The book suggests using either of the free apps, 2D sense and NeoReader, for reading the codes. QuickMark code-scanning app ($0.99 in the app store) is also said to be a good app to use along with the QR codes. A spokesperson for the book's publisher says later generation iPhones and Blackberry's work best for reading the codes. In addition to looking at maps of the various locales, you can look at satellite images and bookmark locations so that you can get directions to that location should you ever be in the area.

This may not seem like much, but technology experts say it's only the beginning of what you could do with QR codes and travel. An Associated Press writer compares it to folding down the pages in a guidebook, while Scott Strickland, the Rough Guides Design Manager says he foresees a future where travelers can scan the codes in the books and leave the books at home or in their hotel rooms, to lighten their loads. He also says the company is simply "testing the waters" and while they do agree there is a widening gap between print books and technology, they have no further concrete plans to put QR codes in more books, at least not until the phenomenon becomes more popular.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fear of Flying? There's an App for That!

Many people are afraid of flying. Whether it be a little anxiety or the inability to board an airplane all together, it's a problem many people suffer from on a day-to-day basis. Virgin Atlantic's "Flying Without Fear" Course has a 98% success and now the airline is packaging the course into an app for iPhone and iPod touch.

"This is Virgin Atlantic innovation at its best. Our first iPhone app will bring the benefits of our successful Flying Without Fear course to millions of people around the world who are now using mobile technology to make their lives better. The app will put many travelers at ease and enable them to prepare for their first Virgin Atlantic flight," said Sir Richard Branson, the president of Virgina Atlantic.

The app was developed in association with Mental Workout, a company who develops mobile apps that help people resolve issues and increase mental performance. It contains a personal introduction from Branson, a video-based explanation of your flight from start to finish, frequently asked questions, relaxation techniques, fear therapy, fear attack button for emergencies, breathing exercises, quick tips and a "My Program" section where users can rate their personal fears and add their future flights for future trips. Users will also receive 2,000 points when joining Virgin's Flying Club.

Actress Whoopi Goldberg is a recent participant in the Flying Without Fear program, and while she claims she was skeptical at first, she is now able to fly after 13 years of not doing so, "The program works, I was a skeptic. I hadn't flown in 13 years but after doing their program, I understood that while my fear was real, there were many things I didn't know or had misinformation about, which they were able to clear up. So what happened? I now fly. It's that simple."

The Flying Without Fear App is $4.99 and can be purchased for any iPhone or iPod touch at the App Store.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Google Maps App for Android 2.0

For years, millions of people have used Google Maps to get directions online. The difficulty with online maps is you still get distracted trying to read a map and look for street names. An accident ready to happen, some say. Google has apparently taken note of this and yesterday announced that it's releasing the Google Maps app for Android 2.0.

For starters, the app is free. While many people pay for GPS service from various companies, some running as high as $100 per year and upwards of $200 per stand-alone device, the free app available for phones that have OS Android 2.0. The app provides 3-D views, turn by turn voice guided directions, and automatic rerouting.

Some more features of the Google Maps App include:

*The most recent map and business data - your phone automatically gets the most up-to-date information on maps and business information. No need to upgrade.

*Search in plain English - Even if you don't know where you're going, you can type virtually anything (ie: business name, landmark, etc) into the search and you'll get a map.

*Search by voice - Typing on your phone while driving is dangerous, and in most states, even illegal, so the Google Maps App allows you to simply say where you want to go.

*Traffic view - colored indicator lights, red, yellow, green, let you know about current traffic conditions.

*Search along route - If you need to find a business, gas station, etc, you can enter that information and the App will search along your route so you won't be taken too far off your path.

*Satellite view - The navigation app uses the same satellite imagery that Google Maps uses on your computer, turn on the satellite layer for a high-resolution, 3D view of your route.

*Street View - When you turn on street view you can easily spot your next turn or see where you are in relation to your destination.

The Google Maps App is a great alternative to a bulky stand-alone GPS device. The first phone to have Android 2.0 will be the Droid, from Verizon. And as of right now, the app is only available in the U.S.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What's Your Favorite Travel App?

What's Your Favorite Travel App?
It seems like there's an iPhone app for everything these days and traveling is no different. And as with anything else, everyone has a favorite to suggest. Josh Clark, the author of "Best iPhone Apps: The Guide for Discriminating Downloaders" recommends TripIt and the Lonely Planet City Guides. Actor and talk show host Jimmy Fallon has spoken favorably of Bionic Eye. The New York Times recently asked its readers what their favorite apps for traveling were and got answers such as World Surfer and Flight Update. But just because those apps work for some people, does that mean they work for others? Does that make them the best? While ultimately, app preference is up to the individual, the kings of travel at National Geographic recently put together a list of the top 20 apps. Here is a look at what they decided were definitely must-have:

At the top of their list was Next Flight. For a mere $2.99, you can track flights from over 4,200 airports and over 1,000 different airlines. Coming in at number two is UrbanSpoon, which they called "the best guide to local restaurants yet," and best of all, it's free. HearPlanet cost a little more at $5.99, but it alerts you to nearby attractions and plays their Wikipedia pages out loud. Need to access your personal HTML webpages, PDFs, text, and other files at any given time? For $4.99, Air Sharing allows you to do just that. Number five is Tweetie, not necessarily a travel app, but it is top-rated for using Twitter on-the-go and costs only $2.99.

For just $0.99, IAmHere lets your friends know exactly where you are on Google Maps. World Customs (also only $0.99) provides you with international dos and don'ts. Wi-Fi Finder does exactly what the name says in over 135 countries and it does it for free. Rounding out the top ten on Nat Geo's list are The Weather Channel, which is free and also pretty self-explanatory, and Google Earth, another free way to figure out where you are and where you want to get to.

As for the rest of the top 20, they are: 11. Packing, 12. Room, 13. FlightTrack Pro, 14. Lonely Planet Phrasebook, 15. Skype, 16. Write Room, 17. Amazon Kindle, 18. Cheap Gas, 19. Babelingo, and 20. Where. For more detailed info on each app, visit NationalGeographic.com.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Airlines and Social Media

Airlines and Social Media
Just about everyone with an internet connection uses some sort of social media to their advantage these days. From businesses looking to boost their image or give customers another way to keep up with what's going on to individuals looking to make new friends with similar interests or keep up with old ones who no longer live close by, social media has become a part of our daily lives. Even my 84-year-old grandfather has a Facebook page. But what about the airline industry? Why haven't they grasped on to social media to use it to their advantage, yet? Some say airlines just don't know how to do it. But a new report by Steven Frischling and Addison Schonland of Innovation Analysis Group attempts to tackle the problem.

The 62-page report titled "The Airline Industry & Social Media - A must-have strategic guide for airline marketing and sales," attempts to tell airline execs what social media like Twitter and Facebook can do for them and shows them how they can go about establishing a presence. While Schonland takes up for the airlines, saying that social media was never designed for business purposes and insists that social media is still relatively new, they do believe the airlines are falling behind when it comes to new trends.

Some airlines have already taken the first steps. Southwest Airlines has a Twitter team that is actively acting on customer complaints each day. It is believed the Twitter account has led directly to a reduction in the number of complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation because of the quick way Southwest is able to intervene.

But the report believes more can be done and it outlines the good, the bad and the ugly, as well as providing tips and a general plan for airlines. For example, the report says an airline must not look at social media as a quick source of revenue, but instead as a way to build relationships with its customers. "Airlines are jumping in and out of Twitter because they can't figure out, 'How do we jump in and make money?' But they can't just "jump in to say, 'We're here!' They need to interact fully," Frischling said in an interview with ATW Online.

Another problem is that the airline executives are not sure whose hands to place the Twitter account in - does it belong in marketing? Customer Service? Communications? Some airlines even leave the work for summer interns. The report says it should span across all of those departments and then some. And on top of that, whomever is in charge of the account should be well-versed in language that is commonly used with that form of social media. With Twitter, for example, knowing how to @, RT and use a hashtag is a must if the airline expects to be fully engaged with its customers.

The report notes that one U.S. Airline joined Twitter in August and sent out one tweet five days later. It ignore 231 complaints made about the airline on Twitter and 186 direct questions. All lost opportunities that could potentially escalate into bigger problems, or even eventually provide the airline with more business from satisfied customers.

Some airlines have caught on to the "interaction" part of using Twitter. JetBlue, Virgin America, and again, Southwest all interact with their followers.

And using Twitter vs. email helps the airlines get right to the point. Customers often delete or ignore graphic/text-heavy emails and miss out on certain opportunities.

The report also notes that social media is ever-changing and what was hot two years ago isn't necessarily hot today. Could Twitter be right behind? Possibly, but it's hot right now and the airlines, just like other businesses, need to take advantage of it and be prepared for the next new thing.

Friday, October 16, 2009

OpenStreetMap: The Wikipedia of Maps

Open Source: The Wikipedia of Maps

When Steve Coast, the founder of OpenStreetMaps, was playing with a GPS unit in 2004, he decided he wanted to modify the map, but knew doing so would be a copyright infringement. That's when it occurred to him; who better to create maps of neighborhoods than the people who lived in them? He thought of Wikipedia, an open-source encyclopedia-like website that allows readers to make changes and additions to entries and decided to take this concept to the world of maps. He began presenting the idea at various tech conferences and just a couple of years after launching his website, OpenStreetMaps.org, he had over 10,000 users. By 2009, they had 160,000 unique users. Coast, who is British, said the concept initially picked up in Europe (Germany is almost 100% mapped) but he has only been pushing the idea in the United States over the last year and a half and has been searching for a city in which to hold his first American OpenStreetMaps mapathon.

What exactly is a mapathon? It's an event, that lasts a few days, in which several people work on mapping one particular area. This weekend (October 16-18), the first mapathon is being held in Atlanta. Several schools, colleges and local businesses will be participating. Coast said he chose Atlanta because of the interest from city government, local businesses and individuals. According to a press release, the Atlanta OpenStreetMap will be used for a wide range of applications that "include local businesses wishing to streamline location-based operations, students wishing to carry out geographical surveys/ projects, and civic groups participating in urban development projects." Attendees of the mapthon will travel the streets with GPS units marking streets, cycleways, footpaths, and points of interests such as landmarks, attractions, hotels, and restaurants. This weekend's event will focus on the area inside I-285 and future events will be held to focus on areas outside of Atlanta's interstate perimeter. The goal is to see to it that Atlanta is the most detailed and accurately represented city on the website. If the event is successful, with any luck, more cities will follow.

OpenStreetMaps is a nonprofit organization and is free to registered users. Any user can add to or edit the electronic maps, which can be downloaded to many GPS units.

Monday, October 12, 2009

TomTom Debuts TomTom Start in Europe

TomTom, the world's leading provider of navigation solutions, has announced the debut of TomTom Start today. TomTom Start is said to be an entry-level car navigation solution that is easy to use and is specifically designed for drivers who are new to car navigation or who don't often travel very far.

The light-weight device has a compact 3.5" screen and a semi-fixed EasyPort mount that allows it to fit into your pocket, a small bag or glove compartment. The menu is easy to understand and uses a two button interface - "plan route" and "browse map." It also gives users access to the safety camera database's several "points of interest." Users can also download the TomTom Home desktop software to gain access to even more content including start-up screens and a range of fun voices.

"With the introduction of TomTom Start, we have taken another step in democratising navigation by making it easy to use, accessible and affordable, but without compromising on providing drivers with the fastest route. Available in six stylish colours, the TomTom Start is equipped with the unique innovative solutions IQ Routes and Map Share technology,” Corrine Vigreux, Managing Director of TomTom said in a press release.

According to the press release, IQ Routes technology provides TomTom users with the fastest route, any time of day, with accurate travel times. It helps users plan their routes with a database of over 800 billion speed profiles worldwide. Map Share technology is unique to the TomTom brand and it allows users to make their own map changes so that other users may benefit from the corrections made each day.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Lexus LF-Ch Concept in Production in 2010

Lexus LF-Ch Concept in Production in 2010

At last month's 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Lexus LF-Ch Concept made it's debut on the world stage. This is the first Lexus full hybrid for the European premium compact segment, which is expected to be the largest share of the European premium car market by 2010. It has advanced interior design with an asymmetric dashboard, Remote Touch controls, Blacked-out B-pillars, and concealed rear door handles. It also features Lexus' unique L-finesse exterior styling with powerful surfacing and hand-sculpted details.

The inside features a set of concave passenger compartments, aluminum and wood trim, ambient lighting in the headliner and iPhone docks for rear seat passengers, but Lexus isn't releasing details on the powertrain. They did, however, say that the system is a full hybrid and can be driven in fully electric EV mode - an option not available to mild hybrid drivers. It should also feature the the same engine that powers the HS 250h along with six-speed automatic transmission and steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.

According to a press release from Lexus, the car "reflects a growing demand for cars that are smaller and more fuel and CO2 efficient, but with no compromise in levels of refinement and driving pleasure."

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Department of Energy Gives Contract to Solar Roadways

Over the years, there has been talk about making solar roads, but never before has the Department of Energy been so confident in the idea as they appear to be now. The DOE has even awarded a $100,000 contract to the Solar Roadway company, which will allow them to build the "first ever Solar Road panel."

The panels, which are 12 x 12 feet could be embedded into roads and serve a number of purposes. When shined upon, they would generate clean electricity. They also contain LED lights which could alert drivers to changes in road conditions, accidents ahead and even work as travel lines. Embedded heated elements could potentially prevent snow and ice build-up on roads. The panels are made from solar cells and glass and are meant to be an alternative to petroleum-based asphalt.

While each panel costs about $7,000 to make, a single four-lane, one mile road of Solar Panels could provide enough power to take up to 500 homes off-grid. The company's founder, Scott Brusaw, says that if the entire United States interstate highway system was covered in these panels, it could fulfill the country's energy needs and create an “intelligent highway that will double as a secure, intelligent, decentralized, self-healing power grid which will enable a gradual weaning from fossil fuels.”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Traveling Across the Border? Don't Take Your Laptop

Traveling Across the Border? Don't Take Your Laptop

Despite a lawsuit from the ACLU, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has put some new rules and regulations in place, regarding crossing the United States border with laptops and other electronic media storage devices. The rules, similar to those placed by the Bush administration, will "enhance transparency, accountability and oversight of electronic media searches at U.S. ports of entry and includes new administrative procedures designed to reflect broad considerations of civil liberties and privacy protections." Or so says the DHS website.

Under the regulations, border officials have the right to seize and search your laptops, flash drives, and MP3 players without warning. They can keep the laptop or other items for up to thirty days and must keep the owner informed of what is happening with the search's progress. It is believed by the Association for Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) that an image of the laptops' hard drive is taken and stored for an undetermined amount of time.

So what should you do if you're planning to cross the border? Whether traveling for business or pleasure, chances are there are important files you will need for your trip. Here are several ways to be prepared, just in case your laptop is subject to the search and seizure:

  • Store your files in other locations. Put them on an external hard drive or disc, or even use an internet-based storage system such as Good Docs. This way you can access your files any time and will always have more than one copy around.

  • If your laptop or the information stored on it is important to your job, let border agents know verbally, if not in writing. According the ACTE, you will retain more of your legal rights this way.

  • Consider a Laptop Rental. A laptop rental can be delivered to your destination. Not only will you avoid the hassle of dealing with border agents, but you avoid having to carry extra equipment when you travel. Renting a laptop also eliminates the potential for loss or damage while traveling.
In the last ten months, only 46 laptops have seized by border patrol agents, but as with anything, it's always better to be safe than sorry!

Monday, September 14, 2009

New TomTom Car Kit for iPhone

According to TomTom's website, they will begin selling a new Car Kit for iPhone at some time in October. The kit will work for both the iPhone and iPod touch, along with other third party GPS applications.

So what does the Car Kit have to offer? A number of things including its own GPS receiver that, according to NaviGadget, works a lot better than the one already on the iPhone. It also includes a microphone and speaker for hands free calling, allows your phone to charge while driving, and streams music to your car stereo.

Unfortunately, the kit won't currently feature TomTom's iPhone app. The app, which sells for $100 in the United States, can currently be purchased through the iTunes App Store. There is no word on whether or not TomTom will add the app to the Car Kit bundle in the future.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

BMW's Vision EfficientDynamics Concept Car

BMW's Vision EfficientDynamics Car

BMW's new Vision EfficientDynamics car is high-performance and environmentally friendly. The concept car, soon to be on display at the 2009 Frankfort Motor show, doesn't just get 63 miles per gallon of diesel and have the ability to go 31 miles in all-electric mode, it can also go from zero to sixty miles per hour in about 4.8 seconds or less. BMW promises a 2+2 sports car with a three-cylinder diesel plug-in hybrid powertrain that tops out at 155 miles per hour.

The drivetrain consists of direct-injection, 1.5-liter, 163-hp, three-cylinder turbodiesel to two electric motors (one per axle), a set of lithium-ion batteries and a software controller for a combined total of 356 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed dual-clutch transmission sends power to the rear wheels using only the diesel engine power. The hybrid powertrain consists of a hybrid system on the rear wheels that operates along with the diesel engine and a hybrid motor on the front wheels that operate on battery power alone.

The cars' sleek curves give it a definite progressive look. It measures 181.1 inches long, 74.8 inches side, and 48.8 inches tall; weighs 3076 pounds; and it has 5.3 cubic feet of luggage space. Its engineers say the body is lightweight in design and execution. The shell and suspension are rendered in aluminum. The roof and doors are made of polycarbonate glass that lightens and darkens according to the climate it's in. The seats are framed in Kevlar. It features LED lighting inside and headlights and taillights are linked to ambient lighting that shift in color and intensity based on the condition outside.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Soap Bubbles to Decrease Drag of Future Cars

Bubbles Decreasing Drag in Future CarsWe've heard a lot of different ideas about different fuel types to use instead of gas and other things we could use to make cars work better and pollute less. But could something as small as the bubbles from your soap actually be enough to decrease the drag in your car? The Engineers at Mira, an automotive research company in Nuneaton, UK seem to think so.

According to the studies by Mira, helium filled soap bubbles are helping to improve fuel efficiency. The 3-millimeter bubbles swirl around cars in a wind tunnel. The bubbles have a natural buoyancy due to the helium in them. If left to themselves, the bubbles will simply float in place, neither rising nor falling. Therefore, any movement in their position can be directly attributed to the air flow around the car.

According to aerodynamics specialist and lead developer of the soap bubble system Angus Lock, "There aren't any tools in use today that can give such insight into what's going on in the fluid around a vehicle."

Two of the biggest factors consumers are considering when buying a new car these days are fuel economy and carbon emissions. This being the case, aerodynamics have become a more important factor to car manufacturers. Instead of reworking a car's drive train or the entire engine, cutting a vehicle's air resistance is usually cheaper.

Although it sounds great, the bubble technique isn't exactly a new idea. People have used the bubble technique to see how air flows around different structures. However, Mira uses a 12 camera system to get intricate details about the bubbles and how they move. The system captures the movements of the bubbles which can be transformed into 3D images for later analysis.

The gold standard for looking at a cars aerodynamics is still full-scale wind tunnel tests. "It is simple to try out new ideas for improving streamlining by simply swapping parts of the car in the tunnel." , Lock says. Sensors in the tunnel measure how the car interacts with the air rushing past it.

One problem, according to Lock, is that they can not visualize the whole field around the vehicle which means you don't know what is behind those forces. Using the bubble tracking method, the speed and direction of the air flow can be captured. This makes it more useful than existing tracking techniques such as injecting smoke trails around the car.

The infrared camera system from Vicon that Mira uses is the same kind typically found in a motion capture studio for video games and movies. Mira pushes the cameras to their limits in order to track the light reflected from the bubbles. "We are are thinking about what we can do to the bubbles to make them easier for the cameras to see," says Lock.

One idea the team is considering is building a machine able to produce larger bubbles. These larger bubbles would have to be filled with a mixture of helium and air in order for them to achieve natural buoyancy. Another machine Lock's team is working on is one that produces more bubbles as well.

Even though computer simulations are as sophisticated as ever, finding different ways to show complex air flows visually is a critical part in understanding aerodynamics. Finding ways to accomplish this in large wind tunnels is also very valuable. According to Alex Liberzon of Tel Aviv University in Israel, "You can not solve everything completely in space and time on a computer. Simulations do not capture the full complexity of wakes and other features, which can exhibit large changes in behaviour caused by very small changes."

Fuel efficiency is one of the biggest concerns for people all over the world. In recent years people have been working extremely hard on finding better ways to power not only our cars but also everything else we use. With techniques like the bubble technique, we are just that much closer to finding a solution.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chevy Volt Gains 230 MPG Rating

Chevrolet VoltFull economy is one of the biggest concerns with people today. Stretching that take of gas as far as you can to get the most out of it before you get ripped off at the pumps has become a day to day occurrence for some people. The good thing is, most car companies are working extremely hard to find cheaper, alternate fuels and are even working on replacing fuel all together with new electric cars. Most electric cars have had a decent boost in mpg over regular gas burning cars, but no car in the history of automobiles has achieved a mpg rating with triple digits until now.

Fresh off their money problems, GM is working hard to climb back up in the ranks of the car world and their newest vehicle, the Chevy Volt, could very well do it. According to GM CEO Fritz Henderson, the new Chevy Volt has achieved an incredible 230 MPG rating in the city. But, even though 230 MPG is amazing, it may not be as "perfect" as GM is making out to be.

While 230 MPG looks like the best thing ever tagged onto a car, it may not be the same based on the same rating that we have grown accustomed to. The EPA has released a new basis for determining a car's draft fuel economy standard for extended-range EV's like the Volt. Under this new system is where the Volt gets it's 230 MPG rating. According to Frank Weber, Chief Vehicle Engineer for the Volt, "the number is based on combined electric only driving and charge sustaining mode with the engine running." But the bad news for GM doesn't stop there. Last Sunday, GM submitted a regulatory filing with the U.S. Treasury. Although it isn't confirmed, this could mean that the November release date promised for the Volt could be delayed to an undisclosed month and year. In order for GM to develop advanced fuel technology vehicles, they have based their entire business plan around getting loans from the U.S. Department of Energy. GM has already put forth three applications for loan of $5.7 billion of a $25 billion fund and has been denied all three times but plans on putting in a fourth application this month.

According to the GM report, "There can be no assurance that we will qualify for any remaining loans or receive any such loans even if we qualify." The report also added that "The U.S. Treasury (who is majority owner of GM) is able to to exercise significant influence and control over our business if it elects to do so, but so far this has not been the case." And as if that wasn't enough of a downer on the already struggling GM, other wealthier competitors could knock off the 230 MPG Volt before it even gets on it's feet. According to GM, "Our competitors and others are pursuing similar technologies and other competing technologies, in some cases with more money available. There can be no assurance that they will not acquire similar or superior technologies sooner than we do."

So even though the news about GM's 230 MPG beauty may not be as good as it is first made out to be, we have seen some good things come from it. We see other companies working hard to get the same technology if not better technology in the very near future and we can now see that a car has the very real possibility of having an incredible MPG rating that could make the cost of everyday life that much better for everybody.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Tom Tom Donates GPS Devices To Pan-Massachusetts Challenge

The Pan-Massachusetts ChallengeThe Pan-Massachusetts Challenge (PMC) is an annual bike-a-thon fundraiser that supports the Jimmy Fund. The Jimmy Fund is an organization based out of Boston, Massachusetts that supports cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The Pan-Mass Challenge is the leading athletic fundraiser in the country and raises more than 50% of the Jimmy Fund's annual revenue.

The Pan-Mass Challenge is a fully supported bike-a-thon that has varying paths available to take depending on your cycling skill and time availability. There is the traditional two day rides that have the original 190-mile trip, 180-mile trip, 163-mile trip and the 153-mile trip. Riders can also choose one day trips which encompass a 110-mile trip, 84-mile trip and 47-mile trip. The Pan-Mass Challenge runs through 46 towns throughout Massachusetts and has an expected 5,500 cyclists this year.

Monitoring the Pan-Mass Challenge is a daunting task. keeping track of the cyclists and efficiently getting to problem areas or downed cyclists could prove very difficult. However, this year at the Pan-Mass Challenge, Concord-based Tom Tom, makers of the popular GPS systems, are donating portable navigation devices to all of the emergency workers and officials helping in the Pan-Mass Challenge. with these devices emergency workers will be able to quickly navigate to the incident scenes and assist the cyclists efficiently.

The donation by Tom Tom is nothing new to the people of the Pan-Mass Challenge. Tom Tom has ongoing commitment to the Pan-Mass Challenge. For the past four years Tom Tom has contributed by two different means. Tom Tom has had both a team of riders and has had employee fund raising for the event. With donations, like the GPS devices from Tom Tom, are some of the key factors that make fundraisers like the Pan-Mass Challenge so productive and that take us one step closer to a better life for people all over the world.

Monday, July 6, 2009

BMW Motorcycle Navigation Unit Announced By Garmin

Garmin BMW Motorrad Navigator IVEver wanted a special GPS system specially designed for your motorcycle? Well now you can have one thanks to Garmin. Garmin has just announced a new product they are creating which is a navigation unit designed specifically for use by motorcyclists. The new product will be called the Garmin BMW Motorrad Navigator IV. The Navigator IV is based off of a previous GPS by Garmin, the Garmin zumo 660 but it adds features that are BMW specific.

Some of these BMW specific features are a BMW dealer database, bluetooth capabilities, a customized mount, and audio. Functionality is simple to use with the device's 4.3 inch, glove friendly touchscreen. The Navigator IV also has a ton of preloaded maps as well as millions of points of interest.

The Navigator also has a few other features. You can pair the Navigator IV with a bluetooth helmet headset which also allows the rider to make and receive mobile calls while riding. For quick functionality, the Navigator IV has a four button mount which also provides extra control capabilities. The Navigator IV is waterproof and protected against UV rays. The device is also vibration-tested to withstand the vibrations of the motorcycle and the road. According to Garmin, the GPS should be available in the third quarter of 2009 in Europe and North America but no price level has been announced yet.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Garmin nüvi 1260T

garmin nuvi 1206TThe Garmin nüvi 1260T is ready to assist you in the car or on the street because not only is it an amazing GPS system but also it features an enhanced pedestrian mode. This top of the line system, when combined with the cityXplorer maps, can aide pedestrians in finding bus and subway routes. This could be a huge blessing to people living in a large city full of complex public transportation systems.

The 1260T features a 3.5-inch, 320 x 240-pixel screen, a Bluetooth phone interface, and is pre-loaded with maps for North America. Also included is text-to-speech conversion and ecoRoute. EcoRoute is a feature that allows you to find the most fuel-efficient ways to get around. In automobile mode, the 1260T functions exactly like the Garmin nüvi 265T, but in pedestrian mode, a whole new realm opens up. It will assist you in finding the nearest bus and subway stations and provide a detailed map of the city streets that you might happen to be wandering.

Another fascinating selling point of the 1260T is that it is the thinnest GPS system currently on the market. This is important due to the fact that you might be carrying this GPS around the streets of New York City and won’t exactly want to be weighted down. With its sleek appearance and lack of bulkiness, this definitely gives some brownie points to the 1260T.

I feel like this GPS system is a pretty good deal. For $299.99 you can have the thinnest GPS on the market that also includes advanced features. I think the enhanced pedestrian mode could be a big help if you travel to big cities often, and the ecoRoute feature could definitely come in handy with the ever-increasing gas prices. In my opinion, the Garmin nüvi 1260T seems like a great GPS system to look in to.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

iriver M7 NV Classic PMP

iriver NV ClassicThe M7 NV Classic is a new PMP from iriver. The NV Classic is basically an update to the original iriver NV with a few differences, namely the removal of the the large jogwheel. This PMP works as not only an media player, but also as a navigator. The NV features SiRF GRF3i+ GPS, two 1.5 watt speakers that allow for voiced turn-by-turn directions, an SDHC slot to upload maps, and a 7 inch TFT LCD 800x480 touchscreen. But the NV Classic also works as a media player.

The NV Classic can run through most any media file you have. It will run your WAV, WMA, MP3, and OGG audio files and will also run WMV9, MPEG1/4 and Xvid videos. The NV Classic also displays you images showing BMP and JPEG images. With the NV Classic, you can also view DMB digital television via a DMB tuner that also has on-screen controls for t.v. channel presets as well as radio channel presets. Storage for these files is via an SDHC card. iriver supplies you with two SDHC cards standard when buying the NV Classic, a 4GB card that you can use for all your media files and a second mapping SDHC card which can be used with The NV Classic's PND functionality.

The iriver M7 NV Classic will be shipping in Korea first at a price of KRW 329,000, or roughly $264 American. No word as of yet on availability outside of Korea, but I'm sure we will see the N7 Classic in other countries in the near future.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Emergency Stop Assistant From BMW

BMW Emergency Stop AssistantDriving a car requires attention, experience, and quick reflexes in case anything bad happens. But all of these factors suddenly become hindered if you have any kind of medical condition like, diabetes or are at a heightened risk of heart attack or stroke. Many people who suffer from ailments like these discontinue driving, knowing full well that they could become a risk not only to themselves, but to others as well. Some people, however, continue to drive despite their medical condition either because they do not perceive it as a risk or they have no choice but to continue driving. This puts many people on the roads at risk, and endangers many lives.

But BMW is working on a system to make this scenario a whole lot safer. BMW's new safety system called Emergency Stop Assistant, will safely bring your car to a stop during a medical calamity. According to BMW, the system will be able to sense a drivers medical emergency. Once the system realizes the threat, an auto-pilot feature takes over control of the car. The system is said to turn on the hazard lights, navigate the vehicle safely through traffic via radar technology, and then slow the vehicle to a stop on the curb or shoulder of the road. After this happens, the Extended Emergency Call System already installed in the car will contact emergency response services giving them the location of the vehicle. This new feature is a part of the project SmartSenior, launched by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research out of Germany. It will be interesting to see how the integrated system will detect said medical emergencies, how it will know the severity of the emergency, and how it will be able to pull the car over without hitting something. It also raises the question if this technology could be integrated to assist drunk drivers as well, something that would save even more lives than the SmartSenior program.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Airplane Tickets For $9?

Airplane Tickets For $9Flying is definitely the fastest way to travel these days. However, the rising price of tickets is causing many people to find an alternate means of transportation leaving many small to mid-sized city airports to lose revenue and flights. But a new, low-cost airliner is going to start serving these small U.S. cities that the bigger carriers have left behind.

JetAmerica, based out of Clearwater Florida, will be offering 34 nonstop passenger flights from Toledo, Ohio; South Bend, Indiana; Melbourne, Florida; Newark, New Jersey; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Lansing, Michigan starting on July 13. 28 flights will either start or end at Newark Liberty International Airport and JetAmerica will add six additional flights from Toledo to Minneapolis starting on August 14. The company is targeting small to mid-size cities like Lansing, who has seen a drop from 35 daily flights to 12 at it's Capital Region International Airport in the past five years.

JetAmerica will offer Lansing business travelers direct access to New York City and direct access to central Florida for leisure travelers according to the head of Capital Region Airport Authority Robert Selig, something they don't have access to aright now. "This will fill a major void in our schedule," says Selig.

But filling this void is not going to be cheap. The Toledo, Lansing, and South Bend airports are subsidizing JetAmerica with $867,000 in waived airport fees, $1.1 million in marketing and advertising assistance, and $1.4 million in grants for their first year. The grants were received from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Small Community Air Service Development Program which has awarded over $104 million to 223 recipients since 2002. All this is a part of an effort to restore services lost and to reduce the cost of air fares.

John Weikle, the Chief Executive of JetAmerica, says that the money given by the different airports will help insulate the new carrier against spiking fuel prices for jets. Four major airliners have failed since 9/11 due to the raising prices of fuel costs, which affects smaller carries just as much if not more.

Weikle also founded Columbus, Ohio-based SkyBus Inc. which was known for its super low ticket prices starting at $10. SkyBus Inc. was bankrupt last year due to high fuel prices costing 450 people their jobs. JetAmerica will offer a similar price with their ticket prices starting at $9 and going as high as $199. The $9 tickets only apply to the first 9 to 19 seats on the plane. Other costs include a $15 bag check and additional charges for in-flight meals, drinks and movies.

JetAmerica will start off their company with one Boeing 737-800 with expectations to add an additional jet in their first month and to have a total of four by July 2010. In addition to the Boeing 737-800's Weikle plans to have a 189-seat jet leased every four months. According to Weikle, each Boeing 737-800 can fly to a total of four cities in a single day.

According to Weikle, JetAmerica's estimated revenue for the first year should be around $50 million dollars increasing to $150 million dollars by year two. JetAmerica has big plans that could very well revitalize the small to mid-sized airports getting left behind by the larger ones. With Weikle's plan, air travel could once again become popular and affordable.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

United States GPS System Dead By 2010?

GPS Satellites FailingThe GPS, or Global Positioning System, used in America has become a vital tool in the lives of people all across the country. Paper maps have become outdated since the emergence of these electronic devices. Instead of unfolding this huge monster map and trying to decipher all the lines and markings on it to find your way you can simply type in the address on your GPS and presto! Everything is there for you in clear instructions and you even have a helpful little voice that tells you when and where to turn revolutionizing the way people travel.

But people today have become dependent on GPS devices, not only people, but the government and our military as well. We have been so comfortable using it that we fail to think about what would happen if we didn't have a GPS and we sometimes even struggle to remember what it was like before there was such a thing as a GPS. So what would happen if our national GPS system failed? What if we one day turned on our GPS and it didn't work?

Thanks to underinvestment and mismanagement by the U.S. Air Force, our National GPS system is at a high risk of failing, and sooner then we might think. Reports are in and it seems this problem could occur as soon as 2010, just under a year away!

"In recent years, the Air Force has struggled to successfully build GPS satellites within the cost and schedule goals." in a statement from the Government Accountability Office(GAO) report. "If the Air Force does not meet its schedule goals for development of GPS IIIA satellites, there will be an increased likelihood that in 2010, as old satellites begin to fail, the overall GPS constellation will fall below the number of satellites required to provide the level of GPS service that the U.S. Government commits to."

The failing of the GPS system impacts not only the millions of businesses and people that rely on the devices built into their boats, cars, and phones, but also impacts our military as well. The GA0 considers the GPS system "essential to national security." Being a nation with as many enemies as we do, a lapse in national security is definitley not something we need, especially with our current situation overseas in Iraq. Although America was the pioneer of the consumer satellite navigation system, we are not the only country with technology like this. India, China, and Russia all have their own systems which they are constantly expanding. A rival of the GPS, the Galileo System from the European Union is already expected to roll out sometime later this year.

The already delayed satellites and the looming threat of a failed GPS system would undoubtedly put the U.S. behind other nations in space advancement which, like most of us know, is something the U.S. Government and NASA won't accept.

The GAO report states that "Such a gap in capability could have wide-ranging impacts on all GPS users, though there are measures the Air Force and others can take to plan for and minimize these impacts." The first replacement satellite is said to launch this November, a mere three years late. If future launches are sped up, our problem of a failing GPS system could be solved, though speeding up the launch process would come at a high price.

How close we actually are to this happening is still not set in stone. The Air Force is likely to fix the problem before we have anything to worry about. Though this is potentially a major problem for the U.S. I don't think its anything to get too worked up about right now.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tesla Roadster Electric Car

Tesla RoadsterMost people these days love to travel. Going out with the family or going on vacation is one of the most enjoyable times you can have. With the recent drop in gas prices, people are starting to travel more and more. But all that may be dwindling as gas prices are unexpectedly going back up, and fast.

But, there is one way to counteract the rising gas prices, an electric car. Until recently, most electric cars were small and were only good for short distances. But now, Tesla Motors has created a new breed of electric cars, and they are something to look out for.

The Tesla roadster is an amazing little car. Its electric, so everything is designed around saving fuel and preventing pollution. It all starts with the design. First off, the Energy Storage System (ESS) is comprised of thousands of consumer-grade lithium-ion batteries. The high-tech ESS is essentially the roadster's heart. The Vehicle Management System continuously monitors battery conditions. This allows the roadster to precisely monitor your available energy, battery performance, and battery history. The motor is small and only weighs about 115 pounds. However, it produces horsepower the same as some heavier internal combustion engines and unlike gas engines, the motor does not sacrifice mileage for performance. The chassis is lightweight, made out of extruded aluminum, but is created into a stiff structure with rear and front crumple zones which are integral design features. The Power Electronics Module (PEM) contains high-voltage electronics which allow for integrated battery charging and which also control the motor. The roadster has a motor output of up to 165 kw thanks to a tightly integrated system design between the PEM and motor.

One of the biggest drawbacks of having an electric car is that the car makes driving feel like a necessity. You don't get the same enthusiasm of driving an electric car as much as driving a normal car. The best thing about a car that runs an electricity and not gas is that electric power can be derived from many different sources. Solar power, nuclear sources, natural gas, coal, and wind power can all be transformed into electric energy. This makes the car obsolete proof if we one day come to a point where we no longer rely on gas. Nowadays, if you wanted to get a car with ridiculously great gas mileage, you would go for the hybrid o something like that. But these cars go from 0 to 60 in around 10 seconds. You save gas but are robbed of the enjoyment of driving. On the other hand, if you wanted to get a car that goes from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds, you would opt for the $300,000 sports cars which only get like 9 miles to the gallon. With the roadster, you can put trade offs like these behind you. This car gives you the energy efficiency you desire right along with the power of a sports car.

The performance of this thing is also great. The car goes from 0 to 60 in under 4 seconds reaching a top speed of 125 mph. The battery is expected to last for 5 years or 100,000 miles. You can travel around 220 miles on a single charge and it only takes around 3.5 hours to get a full charge using the Tesla Motors High Power Connector. But this is considered the slowest time for somebody charging from a completely dead battery. After you take your car out on a 100 mile trip, you can fully charge your battery in less than 2 hours. The roadster is also able to charge at a variety of places. You charge at home with your Tesla High Power Connector or you can charge on the road. The Tesla also has an optional Mobile Connector that allows you to charge from most standard electrical stored away in the trunk. The battery is also deemed by the federal government as non-hazardous waste is safe to dispose of with the normal waste. But most of the components in the battery are valuable, even after the battery is completely dead. many materials can be recovered and sold back to recycling companies for some quick cash.

It almost seems to good to be true. The Tesla Roadster is a pretty amazing little car. Its energy efficiency is expected from most electric cars, but the real selling point is the performance. This car performs just as good as any other expensive sports car but with a lower price and greener specs. If you are in the market for an energy efficient green car, or even a nice sports car, then the Tesla Roadster is definitley the way to go. Tesla has 4 different models of electric car: The Roadster, Roadster Sport, Model S, and Model S Signature. The Model S is the cheapest model selling for $49,000, followed by the Roadster for $101,500, and then the Roadster Sport for $101,500 base price + %19,500. The Model S Signature price is TBD.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Top 10 Family Summer Vacation Destinations

Family VacationsAlthough the evil winter is doing it's best to stay as long as possible, the bequtiful, warm, and joyous time of summer is fast approaching. The kids are off of school for 3 months, the das are long and beautiful, and everybody is happy. But what will you do with all the spare time? Most people tend to go on vacation. Spending a week or two away from home, work, and the day to day hassle of things is perfect for any family, plus it gives you a chance to spend time with your family. Because of my extreme love for vacations and family bonding I have compiled a list of the top family vacation spots. Enjoy.

Cancun, Mexico - When you typically think of Cancun, you probably think of a honeymoon or a crazy spring break party. This may be the case sometimes but in the summer, Cancun is one of the top family destinations for a fun and relaxing vacation. Families can enjoy numerous atractions like a Wet 'n Wild waterpark, swimming with dolphins, pirate cruises, Xcaret Park, and even tours of the ancient Mayan ruins.

Aruba - Aruba is probably one of the best places to go if you have kids for one main reason: Tons of things are free! Arub has Island-wide perks for families like kids under 12 get free daily brekfast, play for free and even get to stay for free. Kids under 12 can also enjoy free snorkeling, dinners, and a free sail/snorkle cruise. With so much free stuff, it almost sounds too good to be true.

Nassau, Bahamas - Nassau has something for each and every member of your family no matter what age. There is gambling and golf for the parents, water sports like jet skis, water skiing, wake boarding, surfing, and others for the older kids, creative and fun programs like Camp Junkanoo at Raddison Cable Beach and the Discovery Chanel Camp at Atlanti Paradise Island for the younger kids. And when you are all done with that, you all as a family can go to one of the many beautiful beaches to relax.

Wyndham Hotels - Although the Wyndham Hotels are not an actual geographic location, they do have 6 hotels throughout the Carribean with fun for the whole family. Some features include the wacky SpongeBob Summer Splash Parties with SpongeBob games like family limbo and jellyfish tossing(note: no real jelly fish are used and none were harmed in the playing of this game; I love animals). Kids under 12 also get free daily breakfast. Any hotel you choose will prove to be fantastic fun for the whole family.

Jamaica - Jamaica isn't just one of the best places for family vacations, but also for anyone looking to take a vacation. There are many different things to do in Jamaica like go to one of the many beaches, climb beautiful watrerfalls, swim with dolphins, and tour the many shops and bazaars.

Turks and Caicos - This tiny island with it's crystal clear waters and white-sand beaches is a perfect getaway for the whole family. The island has venues for teens, a spa for the parents, and nightly entertainment for the whole family. Turks and Caicos also offers events like fishing, whale watching and even sports the third largest coral reef in the world.

Oahu, Hawaii - Hawaii offers some of the best family vacations in the world. Specifically in Oahu there are things like sand castle competitions and lei making crafts for kids as well as various beaches that provide fun for the whole family. Also, with all of the resorts at Oahu, kids under 18 stay for free, which makes these affordable hotels even more affordable.

Williamsburg, Virginia - Although it is not a tropic paradise, Williamsburg offers amazing fun for the whole family. Williamsburg offers the Bush Gardens amusement park as well as the water park Water County USA. There are also a few beaces in Virginia, namely Virginia Beach, and Williamsburg offers a walk through Colonial Williamsburg, a village set up just as it was in Colonial times.

Grand Cayman Islands, Bahamas - The Grand Cayman Islands are some of the most beautiful places to visit, especially for a vacation. There are tons of things to do on the islands like take a catamaran ride in the ocean, jet ski, swim, take a pirate cruise, visit the beautiful beaches or even set on an excursion to a perfectly preserved coral reef where you can swim/snorkle around and view the reef and even swim and feed hundreds of friendly stingrays! The Grand Cayman Islands are a perfect place for the whole family.

Orlando, Florida - Orlando is the Holy Land of family vacations. Orlando has a total of four Walt Disney Themed Parks including Disneyworld and the Animal Kingdom as well as the Disney Resort. In addition to the Disney Parks are two Universal Themed parks, Sea world, and Discover Cove. With so much to do you will never have a dull moment.

So there you are, ten wonderful locations to take the brood this summer. With all the resorts, beaches, theme parks, and attractions, you will definitley have a great time no matter where you go.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Magellan Maestro 3200 Portable GPS

Magellan Maestro 3200 GPSMaps are becoming a thing of the past with the recent upgrade to a GPS, or Global Positioning System. GPS's are the easiest and fastest way to get from point A to point B.When they first came out most GPS devices were slow and unresponsive. Nowadays, everybody is moving so fast that only the quickest GPS will cut it.

Magellan is one of the better known GPS makers on the market today. They offer a quality product that offers good speed and uo-to-date information. The Magellan Maestro 3200 lives up to the Magellan name with ease.

The Maestro sports SiRFstar III technology with an integrated antenna which allows for quick position acquisition. It also has 3.5" QVGA color touch-screen display with an easy-to-use interface and backlighting that makes it easy to see and use. No longer will you be confused with a tricky interface because the Maestro offers an intuitive interface for clear usage. A QuickSpell system intelligently searches and checks spelling when you enter adresses to help you find where you need to go. If you have ever gone somewhere and been stopped by heavy traffic or a construction detour then you know how frustrating it is, especially when you have to back track and start over. Well the Maestro offers SmartDetor which prompts you around heavy or stopped freeway traffic.The interface also allows you to search by address, intersection, or any of up to 1.3 million points of interest. There are also a variety of different ways in which you can view the display. Choose from TrueView, a pop-up view of an upcoming turn, Map view for a 3-D bird's eye view of the map, or just a standard map view. The Maestro also has a night view which automatically adjusts brightness based on time of day. It also has a built-in rechargeable battery which provides up to 3 hours of battery life and also recharges while you drive. And finnally, the Maestro omes with a windshield mount, adhesive disc for dashboard mount, a basic cradel, and a DC power adaptor with software CD-ROM.

Needless to say this GPS looks to be top-of-the-line. It offers clear dorections and an easy-to-use interface which makes traveling easy and fast. The Magellan Maestro 3200 Protable GPS will run you around $95 which is a fair price in the expensive line of GPS devices today.

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Naples, Florida

Just a few weeks ago was my first trip going to Florida where I was going to be doing a lot of the driving. For many people they would rather just sit in the car and relax but for me it is different. I like to be the one in control and to know exactly where I am at and where I am going. Out of the 17 hours that it took to get down to Naples, Florida I drove 14.

We left around 2 p.m. on a Monday afternoon and arrived at my grandparents the following morning around 6:30 a.m. It was long drive going straight through. We were trying to get there as soon as possible. So we made only short stops and to get gas go to the bathroom and back on the road. Out of the whole drive down we made only four stops. It was very worth it once we got there for all the driving we had done.

We would be there about a week. It had been cloudy and rainy in Naples the week before but it was going to be in the 80’s all week which made it very nice and perfect weather. The ocean was still a little chilly at only 60 degrees so it was a little cold to actually get all the way in.

Where my grandparents live you have to be at least 55 to own a house. At times I felt a little out of place being so young. The people there are some of the friendliest people I have ever met though. Between the meeting hall where they hold bingo tournaments and have many dinners set up and the pool outside with the shuffle board tournaments going on it was a very good trip.

It is very different driving down the road seeing palm trees everywhere. I would love to be able to have a palm tree in my front yard. Also the chances of a hurricane hitting and taking everything away there are many people that live down there that have another home in another state and only spend the winter months down in Florida.

The drive home was a little more relaxed. It took a couple more hours than it did for us to get down there to get home. When you leave Naples it takes at least 6 ½ hours to get out of Florida and into Georgia. We ended up stopping and staying the night right before Atlanta, Georgia on the way home which made it a lot easier of a drive.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Traveling By Air... not this time

Driving Map From Middletown, Ohio to Cape Coral FloridaI don't mind driving, I actually enjoy it. Every family vacation I'm the designated driver and we usually take my Expedition so that the whole family (Me, my wife, our daughter, and my mother and father) has room to relax and we have plenty of space for luggage and a cooler. It really makes the trip pleasant.... for awhile.

The problem is when we start talking about 12+ hours in the car. My 2 year old daughter does well as long as she is entertained, but 12 hours is a lot for a little one. So, when we decided we'd be making a trip to Cape Corel, Florida this year I jumped online to find airline tickets. We were flexible on dates so I was able to find round trip air fares anywhere from $380 a person, to as low as $160 a person. This excited me, until I did the math... $160 times 5 people (we need a separate seat for my daughter now...)... is still $800. Which isn't bad except when we land: we need a car. A 10 day rental on a decent sized vehicle (which we need to hold all of our luggage), is another $500 or more. That brings the total for the trip to $1,300. That's also assuming we can get each person to only pack 1 suitcase... which is doubtful. Assuming we need 2 or 3 extra pieces of luggage on the plane, that's an extra $100 or so. We're now at $1,400 at least.

So next, I looked into driving. From Middletown, Ohio to Cape Coral, Florida is around 1,100 miles. Assuming gas is at $2.50 a gallon and my truck drinks it at a rate of a gallon every 14 miles... it will cost $392 in gas, round trip. That's $1,000 less than flying. Even considering any incidentals like more stops for meals, etc, we'd still save a fortune.

So... in this rough economy... how can I really justify spending $1,000 more on a trip than I have to? I can't. And that is why this year we will be driving to Florida and using our savings to enjoy activities that we otherwise might not have done.

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