The backpack you need for work – Targus accessories

Mobile vip backpack commute best targusWhether it’s the bus, train or even Uber, sometimes commuting can be a pain. You need to be well armed when you head out for the day; all your papers and gear, your technology and devices, and maybe even lunch thrown in for good measure. Having the right accessories —and the best way to carry them — can make your daily commute easier.

I recently had a chance to partner with well known accessory company Targus to share some new gear picks with readers. They’ve sponsored this post, but let me pick out some of my favourites. Continue reading “The backpack you need for work – Targus accessories”

Use technology to make travel easier

passport travel document tips help adviceTravelling is either a treat or a chore, depending on your perspective. Whichever way you look at it, you can make it easier on yourself by taking a few seconds, and using technology, to keep yourself organized. Our travel hacks will also help you if your documents or other important info is lost or stolen.

Travel Tips- Snap and save documents to the cloud

It’s just a fact of life that when we travel things get forgotten or misplaced. Make replacing things like a lost passport or ID easier by taking a photo of it with your smartphone and uploading it to the cloud. Even if your phone goes missing you’ll still be able to download what you need. Same goes for plane tickets, boarding passes, reservation codes and hotel info.

Travel Tips – Make a digital itinerary

Keep names, addresses and attraction info (even directions or map snaps) at your fingertips by putting it all in one place on your phone (then back it too up to the cloud). This is particularly helpful in places where you don’t want to worry about roaming charges but there’s no Wi-Fi.

Travel Tips –Download directions

maps download google maps offline use how toGoogle maps has a great feature that will allow you to search, download and save directions to your phone or device, even if you’re not connected. This can be a lifesaver and a time saver. Here’s how to do it.

Travel Tips – No need to pack a flashlight

Most phones today have flashlight functions, but if yours doesn’t, download one of many free flashlight apps. Having some light can help you find a dropped pen on a dark plane, or help you navigate the sticky lock on your Airbnb rental.

Travel Tips –Verify your rental car

Before you get in and drive away, snap photos of all sides of your rental car, as well as the rental agreement (including the emergency roadside help number) as well as the license plate number. That way no one can claim you did damage when you didn’t. Having the license number on hand can make parking or hotel valet easier too. You can also snap a photo of you parking spot if you’re prone to forgetting, or you’re in an unfamiliar area.

Travel Tips –Use your phone as a diary or log book

Yes, it takes photographs and video but today’s smartphones are also perfect places to create and save a digital scrapbook. Snap pictures of new favourite beer, wine or local liquour labels, record menus, and take notes or even use voice dictation to save your thoughts.

If you’re taking a tour with multiple stops or a ‘city-a-day’ itinerary, it’s also handy to take snaps of your hotel and room number, or the hotel’s business card, in case you forget.

There are any number of ways you can use technology to make travel easier and safer.  Post yours in comments below, or read some top Packing Tips from our friends at ContinentalDrifters.ca 

How to save Google maps directions for offline use & travel

Google-Maps 2 how to use offline no wifiGoogle Maps can get you out of a jam if you’re lost or trying to find a place, but it doesn’t help you if you’re travelling out of country and trying to a avoid roaming charges from your cellular provider. The fix is to save Google Maps directions offline so you can access the info without using data. Here’s how to do it. (Hint: do this before you go offline)

How to save Google Maps directions offline

For Apple Users:

1    On your phone or tablet, open the Google Maps app.
2    Make sure you’re connected to the Internet and signed in to Google Maps.
3    Search for a place, like Palm Springs, Madrid, you get the idea.
4    At the bottom of the page, tap the name or address of the place (in the white bar). If you search for a “place” like a restaurant, tap More.
5    Select Download.

maps download google maps offline use how to

How to store maps with no data – Use offline areas

You can save maps or areas for use later.  This is called “Offline Areas”.
After you download an area, use the Google Maps app just like you normally would. If your Internet connection is slow or absent, you’ll see a lightning bolt and Google Maps will use your offline areas to give you directions instead.
•    Get directions and see routes
•    Use navigation
•    Search for locations

It’s worth noting you can get driving directions offline, but not transit, bicycling, or walking directions. In your driving directions, you won’t have traffic info, alternate routes, or lane guidance. You also can’t modify routes like avoiding tolls or ferries.

For Android users:

Download an area to use offline
Note: You can store your offline areas on your device or an SD card. If you change the way you store your offline areas, you’ll have to download your offline areas again.

  1.   On your phone or tablet, open the Google Maps app .
  2.  Make sure you’re connected to the Internet and signed in to Google Maps.
  3.  Search for a place, like San Francisco.
  4.  At the bottom, tap the name or address of the place. If you search for a place like a restaurant, tap More .
  5.  Select Download .

How to store offline areas to an SD card
By default, offline areas are downloaded on your phone or tablet’s internal storage, but you can download them on an SD card if you prefer.

(If your device is on Android 6.0 or higher, you can only save an offline area to an SD card that’s configured for portable storage.)

  1.   On your phone or tablet, insert an SD card.
  2.  Open the Google Maps app .
  3.  In the top left, tap the Menu Offline areas.
  4. In the top right, tap Settings.
  5. Under “Storage preferences,” tap Device  SD card.

Android: Use offline areas
After you download an area, use the Google Maps app just like you normally would.
•    Get directions and see routes
•    Use navigation
•    Search for locations
If your Internet connection is slow or absent, you’ll see a lightning bolt and Google Maps will use your offline areas to give you directions.
Notes:
•    You can get driving directions offline, but not transit, cycling, or walking directions. In your driving directions, you won’t have traffic info, alternate routes, or lane guidance. You also can’t modify routes like avoiding tolls or ferries.
•    To save cell data and battery life, use “Wi-Fi only” mode. In this mode, when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi, Google Maps will only use data from the offline areas that you’ve downloaded. Before you use this mode, make sure you download offline areas. To turn on this mode, open the Google Maps app Menu Settings next to “Wi-Fi only,” turn the switch on.

Save money on roaming fees, save data usage and keep connected while travelling. Do you have map, gadget, or travel tips to share? Post them in comments below.

 

24 hours at the edge of the world with Samsung Galaxy S8

How do you know if a smartphone can be right for you? Many people get their first hands-on experience with a new phone while standing in a retail store or browsing online. It’s not a very elegant way to decide whether or not you’re going to make a commitment to something that will be in your hands and part of your most intimate moments likely for the next 2 to 3 years. Ideally, instead, you’d get to hold it and get a real feel for it, try out the camera, interact with the device and its apps, and use it as if it were your own before you decide. I had a rare chance to do exactly that with the Samsung Galaxy S8 before its public launch. But this was no ordinary review opportunity. Continue reading “24 hours at the edge of the world with Samsung Galaxy S8”

Smart keyless travel lock – Locksmart by Dog & Bone

Travel locks get a bad rap; either they’re too puny to be protective, or they’re easy to pick. Or perhaps you’re the type that is always misplacing the key or forgetting the combination, while you’re a million miles from home.

Smart travel lock uses no keys, no combinations

A solution is digital locks. I’ve written previously about smart, cell phone-controlled padlocks by Dog and Bone. They’re easy to use and work well. Continue reading “Smart keyless travel lock – Locksmart by Dog & Bone”

Smart mirror is robot concierge for hotels

Smart mirror digital concierge panasonic
Panasonic + IBM’s smart mirror – your digital concierge.

At the world technology show CES 2017 today, Panasonic and IBM have introduced a product that will help travelers make the most of an unfamiliar city.

Smart mirror is digital concierge

Built into hotel room mirrors (which are essentially transformed into large touch screen computer terminals), this smart mirror concept is basically a robot concierge which provides words and pictures on the mirror to help you navigate news, weather, messages and more. The Panasonic Digital Concierge, as it’s been called, applies IBM’s ‘Watson’ computing power to a digital mirror designed specifically for hotels and other hospitality industry customers.

Mirror, mirror on the wall….

Need restaurant recommendations? The mirror can help you. Want to know what time you’ll need to leave for a meeting? Ask the mirror. You talk, it helps.

Smart mirror digital concierge panasonicSmart mirror specially made for hotel industry

“Panasonic has identified a need for this and several other kinds of connected solutions in the hospitality industry,” said Yasuji Enokido, president of Panasonic Corporation’s AVC Networks Company.  “Working with IBM, we plan to further implement our connected solutions vision while making use of Watson intelligence to provide end-users with more natural cognitive functionality as well as richer feature sets.”

While some guests may prefer the personal touch of a face-to-face interaction, others like the privacy of accessing information from the comfort of the hotel room. While there’s no mention of cameras inside the device, I can see some folks being weirded out by such a technologically connected device presiding over the room when they’re walking around naked.

Smart mirror digital concierge panasonic

“IBM Watson gets to truly know the individual and provides highly personalized experiences and recommendations,” said Bruce Anderson, Global Managing Director, IBM Electronics Industry.  “Together with Panasonic we are bringing the power of cognitive to the hospitality industry to introduce a new level of customer service and Coming soofurther brand loyalty.”

The Panasonic Concierge is on display at CES 2017. There’s no indication of where or when you might find it in a hotel any time soon.

Christmas traffic; technology of when to avoid the road

It’s not your imagination; Christmas traffic gets crazy.  And there’s data to prove it. Waze, the guys who make the super cool traffic and navigation app, have released some info about when are the best and worst times to drive around some of the places that see a flood of vehicles around the holidays.

Is Christmas Traffic the worst?

How’d they do it? Waze analyzed Canadian user data from December 24, 2015 and flagged the busiest times for drivers and the worst periods for traffic. All of this lays out what times you should avoid certain destinations.   Continue reading “Christmas traffic; technology of when to avoid the road”

Goutte D’O rain drop cabins from Parks Canada entice campers

gouttedo590_I LOVE this idea.  A six meter mini-cabin in the shape of a drop of water is now open to campers in Canada.  The Goutte D’O (water or rain droplet) is a small portable accommodation option designed to entice campers who might find tenting too rustic.

Gouttes D’O make debut in Canada parks

gouttedo275The Goutte is a hard-sided wooden structure with screened windows and a suspended net loft to add space. Parks Canada says, “there is a sofa bed on the main level and a hammock loft above. TheGoutte d’Ô can accommodate a couple or a family. Ideally, this accommodation is suspended or on stilts. For the piloting phase, the Goutte d’Ô will be installed on a wooden platform at Point Wolfe Campground in Fundy National Park.”

It goes without saying that there are no bathrooms inside these tiny huts, and campers need to bring their own bedding and supplies, but that’s not unlike regular tenting. Pets are also verbotten in the Gouttes. Four people can fit inside and sleep inside the gouttes; two in the sofabed and two in the loft, thhough I’m guessing it might be a bit more comfortable with two adults and two kids.

A handful of these would look so cool hanging in a campground, don’t you think?

The Gouttes are $70 a night to rent during a trial phase. This structure is just one of a handful of new structures appearing in Canadian National Parks in hopes of enticing more people to commune with nature. Micro Cubes, Tree Cocoons and Tiny Homes are some other examples. (Read this cool blog from This Big Adventure about the cocoons)

Check out the new cabins here. I’d love to know who is making these chic spaces, because honestly, I’d love one for my backyard! I’ll see what I can find out from the fine folks at Parks Canada.

Tiny home_website

 

cocoon_tree_tent_1

 

Photos courtesy Parks Canada and Big Adventure.

Reviewing ASUS Pocket Projector

ASUS Zenbeam E1 2As technology continues shrinking, new categories of home entertainment are also finding ways to make smaller and smaller components. Take home theatre projectors, for instance. They used to require a suitcase and a weight belt to cart them around, but that’s changing with the introduction of pico or pocket projectors from several manufacturers.

ASUS is one of the first to make a consumer-ready mini projector for home theatre or business/portable use.

I had a chance to test and review the ASUS ZenBeam E1 Pocket Projector (coming soon to Best Buy) over several weeks in my home.

What’s a Pico/pocket projector?

Pico projectors are tiny battery powered projectors that are portable. They are often connected to streaming devices, mobile devices, laptops, or other home entertainment components.

They’ve actually been around for several years, but thanks to their costs coming down, they are gaining popularity and familiarity among home theatre enthusiasts.

Getting Started with the ZenBeam E1

It was not easy to learn how to use this device. The small Quick Start Guide provides no help in how to use the device itself, aside from getting it plugged in. The buttons on the back of the projector are not labelled very intuitively, so it’s hard to know what does what.

The Quick Start guide lists Asus.com/support as the place to download e-manuals, but after spending 15 minutes searching the site and Google, I still didn’t have a manual in hand. Frustrating. Similarly, a social media inquiry went unanswered.

The full review of the ASUS ZenBeam E1 was done for Best Buy Canada. Please click here to read the full review. Or watch the video version below. Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel if you like video and technology/gadgets!

Mpowerd inflatable lamp is fun & versatile

img_2756When we’re spending more time outdoors, decorating our outside space can be fun.

img_2755Whether you’re chilling in your backyard, or camping in the wilderness, you can spice up your space with a solar powered space saving lantern, like this one from Mpowerd.
The Luci light comes flat-packed; you blow it up with lung power, then let it get juiced in the sun.  Once it’s ready, you can select any number of colours, and the sparkly skin of the lamp makes for a subtle and interesting glow. I’ve been using it outside on the deck, but it also looks chic inside on a side table or as part of a centrepiece for your next dinner party.  When you need to store it, deflate the lamp and pack it away.

I found the lamp took quite some time to charge up in the sun (Mpowerd’s website says 7-8 hours, or 2 full days if it’s cloudy, which for me is way too long), and it was necessary to keep it anchored to something so it wouldn’t blow away or turn over.  The light is said to last for 12 hours, but I found it was more like 8.luci-color.gif

I wanted to leave this outside, turned on, so that it would come on at night, then recharge in the day, but it doesn’t really work like that.  It really needs to fully charged while turned off, so it’s not so much a dusk-to-dawn option as I might have liked. Nonetheless it’s a fun party light, and it’s waterproof and it floats so it’s also a fun option for the pool, hot tub or koi pond. They retail for $24 USD.

I’ve tried out some more fun garden gadgets too this season. Read about them here.