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Five Tips to Not Lose Your Tech While Traveling

You don’t have to stash your personal tech in a barrel at Niagara Falls to risk losing it while traveling. If you’re not careful, there’s plenty of opportunity to part with your gadgets along the way.

You don’t have to stash your personal tech in a barrel at Niagara Falls to risk losing it while traveling. If you’re not careful, there’s plenty of opportunity to part with your gadgets along the way.

I was in Buffalo last week on a work-related video project.
(Yes, it was snowing in Buffalo.)

On the last day, we drove to Niagara Falls to get some beauty shots.
I must say the American Falls looked especially beautiful half frozen.
(The Horseshoe Falls was mostly obscured in fog.)

We also spent some time in town doing some additional videotaping.
The frozen urban environment didn’t feel quite as quaint with steady snowfall and a stiff wind confronting us.

So between shots, we ducked inside a building to warm up while we planned our next move.

And we broke a cardinal video production rule.
We left a piece of our gear outside unattended.

No, it wasn’t anything really expensive, like the camera.

It was a lowly wooden Apple Box.
No, not an apple fruit box… though it does look like one.
(And no, it’s not some Apple computer packaging either!)

It’s simply a sturdy wooden box.
More like a little platform, it’s used to position someone or something up a few inches.
(A couple inches can make all the difference when you’re looking to tweak a shot!)

Our inside huddle lasted only four minutes.
But when we emerged, the Apple Box was gone.

D’OH!!

We looked at each other uneasily, as we were also guilty of breaking a really basic rule our mothers had taught us decades earlier.

Then, an innocent bystander walked up and said he had seen the perp pick up the clipped item.

And he pointed in the direction the thief was walking.
He also mentioned it looked like the guy was part of group of five or so.

By this point, they were a few blocks away, just out of my visual range.

We each considered the situation.
To me, it was clear running after our bandit wasn’t the right move.
It seemed risky. We could run into a confrontation with a superior force.

The look on other faces suggested a similar conclusion.

But our consensus was not unanimous.

One bold soul jumped to action.
Declaring the rest of us wimps, our hero launched a rescue mission.
Our fasted vehicle powered up, and it roared off in hot pursuit.

The rest of us stared for a moment, flecks of snow falling on our gaping jaws.

I eventually jumped in my car and brought up the rear.
By the time I arrived, the incursion was over.

The Apple Box had been rescued.

The opposition had not been five muscular men.
It was just one older gentleman, who had fallen on hard times and innocently picked up an item he thought had been abandoned.

It was just a matter of confronting the truth of the moment.
The retrieval ended up being an easy one.

Boy, did I have egg on my face.
And I didn’t hear the end of it for the rest of the trip!

Odds Are Some of Your Tech Won’t Make It Back
Let’s face it. Losing your gear on the road is surprisingly easy to do.
You may not be dumb enough to leave it on the street while you talk about where to go for lunch.
But there are plenty of ways to inadvertently part with your expensive gadgets and their accessories.

  • Secondary Smartphone
    Many of us are forced to juggle more than one smartphone for work and home.
    If that’s the case, you may not be paying as much attention to the secondary unit while on a trip.
    (Like if you’re on vacation and not looking at your work BlackBerry very often)
    That scenario can easily lead you to miss the unfortunate fact your smartphone has suddenly gone MIA.
  • Chargers and Power Cables
    How many times have you left behind your smartphone charger or laptop power cable plugged into the outlet under the desk in your hotel room?
  • Lens Cap
    And if your DSLR’s lens cap is not tethered to your camera’s lens, it’s constantly pulling a Houdini, right?

You Won’t Lose It If You Don’t Have It
My simple advice is just don’t take any tech you can do without.

Much like over packing clothing for a trip, we also have a tendency to travel with too many gadgets.

Don’t take that laptop if a tablet will do.
Don’t take the tablet if your smartphone can handle the job.

Sure, many hotel rooms are now equipped with mini safes.
And laptops are small enough these days to jam into these tiny vaults.

But then you’ve got to remember to clear out the safe before you leave.
(And no matter what, isn’t it always a rush?)

Maybe you won’t forget the laptop, but what’s hidden behind it might get missed with a hurried exit plan.

Don’t let your view freeze up trying to keep track of your tech while on the road!

Don’t let your view freeze up trying to keep track of your tech while on the road!

Five Ways to Hold onto Your Tech on the Road
But if you absolutely must bring it, here are five tips to help you increase the odds you’ll come home with all your precious tech gear and accessories-

1.  Protect Your Smartphone like ‘Renegade’ or ‘Trailblazer’
The Secret Service has code names for its presidents.
(Renegade for Obama and Trailblazer for George W)

Yes, you can lockdown your smartphone with a code.

Yes, you can track it.
(Up to a point)

Yes, you can remotely wipe the memory.
(The Secret Service can’t do that yet. Right?)

Yes, you can even change all your passwords just to be totally safe.

But you really shouldn’t need to act like a Secret Service agent to protect your smartphone.

I know this is obvious, but I say treat your smartphone like your wallet.
People do lose their wallets, but usually you can devote enough brainpower to maintaining track of it, right?

Bad things happen, but a little vigilance can go a long way to keep your smartphone at your side.

Enough said.

2. Use the Right Carry-On Bag
Keep your tech with you at all times.
Assume an 800-pound gorilla will be jumping on your stowed luggage.

So bring a carry-on bag with distinct compartments and keep each piece of tech in its designated position. Then take a moment to memorize where everything belongs.
That way, you’ll be able to quickly scan if all your digital tools are in their rightful place.

3.  Have Power in a Pinch
It’s always nice to bring a little backup power in your bag, while you’re going about your day. That way, you don’t have to worry about where you’ll be juicing your smartphone next.

More importantly, that also means you’re not putting any of your kit and kaboodle at risk of being left behind, while your charging up behind enemy lines.

These days you can store a power stick that’s not much larger than a pack of gum.

4.  Keep Your Pockets Light at Security
When going through airport security, it’s always such a fire drill to get everything back on your body before rushing to the gate.

Reposition as much digital paraphernalia as you can into your carry-on bag.

5.  Watch Your Laptop Like a Hawk After the X-ray Machine
I’m not talking so much about someone stealing your laptop from its bin while you’re putting your shoes back on. I’m referring to simply protecting it from being harmed.

During my Buffalo trip, I watched in horror as a bin holding a laptop rolled out of the X-ray machine conveyer belt. It got squeezed by a bin jam ahead of it, and then it veered off the rollers, dumping the laptop onto the cold, unforgiving cement surface below.

No, the poor laptop didn’t bust into multiple pieces,
but I’m not so sure how solid its guts were after that kind of spill.

Try to position your laptop bin so it comes out of the X-ray machine soon after you’ve crossed passed through your own X-ray body scan experience.

That way you’ll be close by to rescue your laptop if a bin jam becomes imminent.

Bonus Tip: ID Your Gear
Sometimes, no matter what you do, fate still intervenes.
So when you end up losing a gadget like your tablet or eBook-reader on a plane, in your hotel room, or after a solo lunch at a restaurant… what do you do then?

Well, you’d better leave a trail for someone to find you.
(Like simply taping a business card inside your new iPad case)

If your gear is in lockdown mode, there’s no way for anyone to know it’s yours.
Sure they can do some sleuthing based on your reserved plane seat or hotel room record, but would you want to leave your gadget’s future in the hands of an Inspector Clouseau?

Get That Tech Back Yourself!
And if all else fails, and you’ve accidentally just left some tech behind, make sure you can sprint four hundred yards or have access to some really fast wheels.

It’s been known to work!

Waiting for the iWatch

I’m a Casio Man. And it’s been great. (Thanks for the memories.) iWatch? See you later, Casio! My wrist awaits!!

I’m a Casio Man. And it’s been great. (Thanks for the memories.) iWatch? See you later, Casio! My wrist awaits!!

Poor Apple.
They’ve been having such a rough time of late.

It’s like we’re suddenly living in an alternate universe where Google and Samsung are the kings of tech innovation.

Not that Google hasn’t been a force for innovation for quite some time.
But their wearable Google Glass is really making headlines these days.
Soon, everyone may be walking around wearing eyeglasses that make Star Trek’s Geordi La Forge visor look like a clunky carburetor.

And Samsung’s Galaxy smartphone juggernaut has been stealing the spotlight from the iPhone.
(The Galaxy S4 was just announced to much fanfare.)

When was the last time Apple wowed the world with a new product?
(crickets)

Suddenly Apple is so yesterday.
Their stock price has tanked.
The shine is gone.
So it’s over, right?

Not so fast!
(People are so impatient!)

I Still Like Apple
As a typical consumer, I’m happy using their current tech line up.
I don’t always need the next best thing to integrate into my fragile home tech ecosystem.

So I don’t mind if Apple takes a little time with its next product launch.

It’s not like they’ve ever been like… say… Casio.
That company has thrown lots of spaghetti against the wall over the decades to see what sticks.
Yes, I’ve been watching… their watches.

The Watch that Casio Built
I’ve been a Casio watch man my entire adult life.
I bought my first digital wonder watch back in 1980 when I was in high school.

I remember how cool it was having a built-in stop watch and countdown timer on my wrist for critical moments… like when I needed to take a catnap in the library before pulling an all nighter to finish the big term paper.

Casio watches were never that expensive, and their bands wore out long before the guts of the watch. Replacement wristbands were never as stylish as the original…so I found myself upgrading to the next model watch every two years or so.

So I witnessed how Casio kept trying out new ideas for their watches…
They were clearly having fun with their ideas, but some were better than others…

  • Data bank that housed all your phone numbers-
    Great pre-smartphone concept, but it took forever to type in via micro buttons
  • Tone phone dialing-
    You pressed your watch against the phone receiver, and the Casio emitted a fast sequence of tones to trick your phone into thinking you’d dialed the number! Thank you, Mr. Bond!
  • Multiple alarm settings-
    You would never have an excuse be late ever again!
  • Solar charging sensor –
    Eco friendly… But I got tired holding my wrist up to the sun every chance I got to feed my hungry watch!

All right. Some of their ideas were more cool than practical. Others were just down dorky.

But remember, a lot of this was happening while Apple was in it’s own pre 21st century doghouse.

Today, my iPhone has largely taken over everything my Casio watches had ever hoped to do.

The one really useful feature Casio added several years back was their
Wave Ceptor technology, which they have dubbed “Atomic Timekeeping.”

No, your watch is not atomic, but it does connect to the atomic time calibration signal transmitted in Fort Collins, CO.

So theoretically, your Casio watch is always exactly on time.
You never have reset your watch ever again!

But last week, when we passed into daylight savings time, my trusty Casio failed to get the message. It didn’t spring ahead.

And then I had to figure out how to trick it to move forward manually.
Those four buttons on the side of the watch can activate about 3200 setting adjustments.
Unfortunately, changing the time isn’t among the first 700 or so!

The only task I demand of my Casio watch is to simply tell me exactly what time it is.
And at least twice a year, it can’t do that.

Plus it’s hard to see what time it is in the dark.
The old glow tech from the 20th century just doesn’t cut it anymore.

I think I’m done.

Anyone else want to strap some tech to my wrist?

Hello, Apple?

If all the rumors are true, the geniuses at Apple are saying…
“Aha… here’s an opportunity!”

I Want an iWatch
Wearable technology is today’s new tech frontier.

The rumors are flying that Apple’s working on their iWatch.

Bloomberg’s talking about it.

Apple Insider has uncovered some exciting Apple Flex Tech patent filings.

Not that any of this is proof, but you might be slapping on your flexible touchscreen smartwatch sometime soon!

Whether it’s really a smartwatch or just a tethered ‘slap wrap’ display to your other Apple tech, it’s hard to really know.
(though Apple Insider is leaning towards the latter)
But whatever it is, I want it!

The Shine Will Return!
I’ve grown accustomed to wearing tech on my wrist.
Casio isn’t cutting it anymore. They’ve had three decades to get it right.

Apple is really good at taking existing tech that’s rough around the edges and perfecting the user experience.

And sometimes that takes a little time.
That’s okay.

Just don’t take too long, or I might be wearing my new smartwatch on my head in my glasses!!

Why Isn’t Standard Definition Dead?

Anyone need a flowerpot?  I’m sorry, little Sony Trinitron TV, but it’s over.  Now, why can’t Hollywood just say the same thing about selling expensive standard definition media when high definition is clearly the standard?

Anyone need a flowerpot? I’m sorry, little Sony Trinitron TV, but it’s over. Now, why can’t Hollywood just say the same thing about selling expensive standard definition media when high definition is clearly the standard?

The revolution has come and gone.
The Borg won.
It’s 2013 and everything is HD now.

Every new TV or computer screen is HD capable with a film-like 16×9 screen.

Can you even remember what ancient TV sets look like with their 4×3 aspect ratio screens?
I’m sure your wallet does, after you emptied it when you bought your first HDTV.

But guess what?
You don’t have to penny pinch anymore to assimilate in our all-HD world.

HD Screens at the Bottom of Your Cracker Jack Box
I did some quick research at bestbuy.com.
Their cheapest TV set is a 19” 720p Coby HDTV for $99.99.
Granted, 720p is yesterday’s HD, but it’s still HD.

Yes, it’s a wicked small screen.
(Double your investment and you can get a respectable 32” 720p HDTV for $199.00!)

So if you haven’t gotten the memo yet, HDTV is officially cheap.

The same goes for computer monitors-

I saw a 19” LCD Planar for $107.84.
(Resolution: 1366×768)
Sure, I’ve never heard of Planar.
(Is it an alien planet six light years away?)
…But if you want the cheapest monitor in the store, even that one is HD.

Franken-DVDs
So why then are old-school standard definition DVD players still for sale if every new screen out there is HD capable?

DVD players range from a cookie cutter Coby for $26.98 to HD upconversion tech for a whopping $48.00.
(Upconversion means they’ll play Blu-ray Discs at a weakened resolution.)

Yes, they’re ridiculously inexpensive, but what’s the deal?
Shouldn’t we be living in an all Blu-ray world by now?

Consumer Tech is all HD
If you haven’t gotten the memo yet, let me break it to you gently…
All your home tech can play and record video in HD too!

Smartphones like the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S3?
Check.

All digital cameras and camcorders?
Yup.

Hello!!!?

Buying Digital Downloads in SD is Silly
So if HD is a standard option in all consumer tech today,
why is HD still considered a premium option in all the digital content you buy??

When you click to download a TV episode or movie on Amazon or iTunes, you’re offered the choice to pay the standard price for SD or the higher price for HD.

What’s up with that?!

Why is Standard Definition Still Around?
There’s absolutely no reason to mention the term, ‘standard definition’ ever again when describing current technologies.
But for some reason, the League of Consumer Tech Robber Barons…
(Is there such a group?!)
…just won’t let SD die…

I’ll give you three guesses why…

Support Legacy Tech
Sure, I’ve got my old 13” Sony Trinitron hanging out in our guest room.
(not that a guest will ever want to turn it on!)
But when was the last time the tech industry paid attention to supporting legacy technology for consumer convenience?
Exactly.

I can barely stare at my computer or smartphone for two minutes before they prematurely age to the point they can no longer keep up with the newest OS or IOS.
(only a slight exaggeration)

Sometimes You Just Don’t Need a Huge Digital File
Maybe you want to protect your portable media player from huge HD files filling up its relatively small hard drive. So you ‘compromise’ by loading up inferior SD movie files so you can jam more flicks in.

Or if you want to email out a home movie clip and don’t want to use a file sharing service like Dropbox, your QuickTime or Windows Media file had better be compressed to something much smaller than hulking HD.

But these issues are really more about personal file management…
Let’s move on.

When You Hold the SD Price Point, HD Can Always Cost More!
BINGO!!

If you want to check out “Argo,” the newly anointed Best Picture of 2012, you can go to iTunes.
Once there, you’ll have the choice to buy the HD file for $19.99 or $14.99 for SD.

And what exactly do you get for the $5 difference?
In most ways, they’re exactly the same.

They both display in the 16×9 aspect ratio.
It’s just that the HD version is a larger file with more lines of resolution…
…which yes, looks much better on a big HDTV.

The SD version has simply been compressed down more and doesn’t offer those precious lines of resolution to fit the HD category.
(at least 720 x 1280)

How Much Does a Line of Resolution Actually Cost?
I don’t mean to be thinking ‘different’…
But how much does a few thousand extra bytes really cost?

An HD movie file with more lines of resolution may look sharper to the eye,
but does it really cost any more to create and distribute?

I’m not so sure…

“Argo’s” master digital movie file is sitting somewhere in Hollywood on some well-protected computer or server. I bet the file is pretty massive.
Some tech nerd had the job to create several lower resolution versions for consumer use, including HD and SD.

That process involves compression technologies and time on a powerful computer.  The smaller the file size you’re shooting for, the harder the computer actually has to work to reduce the size and maintain quality.

So if you follow that logic, SD movie files should cost more than their HD cousins.
But of course they don’t…

I think the economics just boils down to this:
If it’s a better product, it’s simply going to cost more… regardless if it’s more costly to create.
(I learned that freshman year in Econ 101.)

So if SD is being kept on life support to help HD make more money,
I say let’s start saving some money with SD, while it’s on sale!

Watch Your Movies on your iPhone or iPad in Standard Definition
If that’s where you’re going to be watching your downloads, save your $$$ and go with the SD file. It’ll look just fine.
These tiny screens are really too small to justify paying 33% more for HD.
And think of all the hard drive space you’ll be saving…

But if you’re going to use those files on your massive HDTV, then you’ll definitely need to pony up the five extra bucks.

End the SD Subsidy!
One day, this standard definition subsidy will become a moot point, the same way I imagine black and white TVs originally propped up their pricier new color TV cousins.

SD still has its uses, but not as a wedge to artificially increase HD content pricing.

And with ultra high definition technologies around the corner, your may soon find your pride and joy HDTV that originally cost you two paychecks on the discount shelf at Best Buy for $19.99.

Progress.

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