At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: smartphone

My Favorite Photos from our Maine Vacation

I used a couple of guidelines to help me spot my favorite images during our road trip to Acadia National Park. And here’s the result…

What did my family and I do this year for a pandemic-influenced summer vacation? We drove to Maine, camped in Deer Isle and hiked in Acadia National Park. It was a spectacular experience.

Bringing the right tech to complement our camping gear was an important step to keep us on the grid. Here’s my checklist to make sure you bring enough portable power.

Of course I snapped a number of photos along the way. I was really struck by Maine’s rocky topography. (That created some really cool contrast in my shots.) And depending on the weather, Maine’s shoreline imagery vacillated between bright beauty and eerie fog.

We happened to spend a fair amount of time driving during low tide. And those moments revealed a damp, almost alien-like, brown and green rocky landscape… begging to be photographed.

Keep your Shots Wide

I quickly found that using a camera or a smartphone with a wide-angle lens is critical, especially if you like to take family selfies at the summit of a hike. That’s because you’ll want to capture enough of the environment around you in the shot to show where you are. (I used my GoPro for that.)

Tight shots can be great, but I feel this type of vacation photography is all about the wide. If you hope to capture a fraction of that feeling you get when you look around after you’ve climbed a thousand feet up, you’ll want to focus your camera wide. (And the same goes even if you’re walking on a beach.)

Let the Natural Beauty Tell the Story

So, here are some of my favorite shots from our trip to Acadia National Park and Deer Isle. I hope you like them!

How to Turn Your Smartphone into a Time Machine

If you’re getting bored snapping the same picture over and over again through the years, then you might be in for a pleasant surprise…

I expect you’ll agree that life serves up a fair number of repeatable sequences that are simply driven by the calendar, such as birthdays, holidays and certain vacations. And these moments often orbit family events at the same locations.

If you purposefully remember to snap similarly framed photos at these occasions every year… then, think about the mind-bending results.

Now, you’re capturing the passage of time with your smartphone, and you’ve effortlessly stepped into the role of photo historian. And in fact, you’ve created a time machine of sorts.
(How great is that?!)

Granted, this type of project is not for those with short attention spans. You’ve got to put years into it. Even decades.

It’s not difficult to do. You’ve just got to remember a few shots and keep repeating them.

You’ve Probably Already Started
I’ve found it’s better to go with posed shots that are easier to replicate over the course of time. But certain action shots can also be predictable (like blowing out birthday candles). And then it’s always great to connect them together across the years.

To this last point, you might already be collecting certain repeated photo moments. You’ve just got to find them… and then let the magic unveil itself!
(They don’t always have to be taken in the exact same space.)

For example, here’s a July 4th fireworks sequence covering the past few years that I quickly put together…

Pretty cool, right?

It’s All about the Journey
The truth is… this type of archival photo documentation never really ends. Assuming you’re printing these photos on quality photo paper, or you’ve figured out a way to ensure your JPEG files survive the passage of time, you should eventually hand off your project to ‘the next generation.’

At some point, we all think about our legacy. That you can hand off those series of images that succinctly represent the journey through life.

What a concept.

And it’s never too late to start.

It’s time to start building your ‘Guardian of Forever.’

How Does Waze Work without a Cellular Connection?

We all know that navigation apps on your smartphone need to be online to function in your car. Or do they? Even with no bars, Waze can still get you where you’re going. Here’s how…

Yes, I must report that I’m still using my portable Garmin GPS in my Toyota RAV4. It’s admittedly difficult to defend my ongoing allegiance to this expensive older tech. My Garmin simply can’t compete with the more flexible user experience of navigation apps on smartphones.

But the good news is I’ve recently taken a big step forward… These days, I’ve been using Waze on my iPhone. All of the real-time traffic and hazard updates provide a nifty virtual view a few miles up the road. That’s hard to beat.

My Garmin Vs. My Waze
I shouldn’t admit this, but I often have both my Garmin and Waze operating simultaneously to see if they agree on the fastest way to go. And more often than not… they don’t. But that’s another story…

One advantage that I thought my Garmin Drive 50LMT still had over smartphone apps was its almost bullet-proof ability to maintain its GPS connection vs my iPhone’s uncertain cellular data tether while driving through dead zones. Navigation apps can’t survive that kind of hiccup, right?

But on a recent vacation road trip, I experienced what seemed to be impossible…
Waze was working without a cellular connection!

Offline iPhone GPS
My family and I were driving through some backroads in New Hampshire, and I looked at my iPhone, which was mounted to my dash via my Bunker Ring. I realized that while Waze had indeed lost all cellular connectivity, it still appeared to be functioning normally. As we drove, it continued to correctly display our location and the distance to our next turn. But it had no signal!

How was that possible?!

The Little-Known GPS Chip
After doing a little research after we got home, I realized that my iPhone was able to pull off this trick by using its built-in GPS radio. Yes, my iPhone has its own GPS functionality as do other smartphones! Its GPS chip operates independently of cellular data, and that’s why Waze was still able to see in the digital dark.

Sure, my Waze app was hobbled without its connection through AT&T. It couldn’t provide crowd-sourced traffic and hazard updates or recalculate my route. But Waze wasn’t entirely down for the count either.

I imagine at some point, Waze would have needed to connect back to its servers to download more map data, but for the fifteen minutes or so that I was driving offline, Waze was able to keep up with the twisty road ahead!

Impressive… most impressive.

Your Smartphone is at Home with GPS
There are actually lots of folks out there taking advantage of their smartphone’s GPS chip in places where cell coverage is nonexistent. They’re using apps designed to download maps ahead of time, before the trip begins.
(Waze can’t do this.)

But for me, I’m just exceptionally pleased knowing that Waze can survive for a while in a data-free zone using my iPhone’s GPS radio.

And if that can’t reverse my irrational allegiance to my Garmin Drive, I’m not sure what else will!

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