Links of Interest – July 26

Twitter Is Working on a Way to Retrieve Your Old Tweets

Old TweetsTwitter gives users access only to the last few thousand posts made to the site.

But Dick Costolo, Twitter’s chief executive, promises that this will eventually change, according to a post by The New York Times.

“We’re working on a tool to let users export all of their tweets,” Mr. Costolo said in a meeting with reporters and editors at The New York Times. “You’ll be able to download a file of them.”

Other social media services, most notably Facebook, already allow users to download a file with all their data. Twitter has been slower to roll out a similar service, although a number of third-party services and developers have cobbled together ways to let people sift through portions of Twitter’s vast collection of messages. One recently released site, called oldtweets, lets people root through some of the first messages ever sent through Twitter’s servers. (Curious about what people were tweeting about in 2006? Comically dated topics like “Returning movies to Blockbuster” and “Chatting with friends on MySpace.”)

10 Favorite Rumors About Apple`s Next Smartphone

The Apple iPhone 5 may or may not arrive in September. Or be super thin but extra big. Or feature a new dock, according to eWEEK.com.

There is no shortage of rumors, speculations or forecasts about a device—even the name iPhone 5 is a guess—that Apple has yet to officially breathe a word about. What is known is Apple finally has a real competitor in Samsung.

Past comparisons of iPhones to Android sales figures have been silly, as they weighed Apple against a handful of manufacturers. Samsung, however, has pulled ahead of the rest of the Android pack, and smartphone for smartphone, the South Korean giant has out-sold Apple during the first quarter of this year and likely also the second. When Samsung introduced the Galaxy S III in May, it showed its hand (and the public liked what it saw; Samsung has very publicly struggled to make supply meet demand).

Now following Samsung, the pressure is on. Apple has so succeeded at wowing the public during its staged events, the bar couldn’t be set higher.

Today’s Women of Space Remember Sally Ride

Sally Ride, the first U.S. female astronaut to fly in space, died July 23 at the age of 61 from pancreatic cancer. First launching on the Challenger space shuttle in 1983, Ride has become an enduring inspiration to people everywhere, particularly women working in science and engineering.

Ride’s place as the first American female astronaut was a long time coming, according to Wired. As far back as the Mercury program, NASA considered female astronaut candidates but the agency did not take the idea very seriously. Ride joined NASA in 1978, in the first astronaut class to include women, and trained for five years. Prior to her deployment on the Challenger mission, she endured sexist questions from reporters, shrugging them off by saying, “It’s too bad this is such a big deal. It is too bad our society isn’t further along.”

 

MozyHome with Stash

 

Don’t mess with your DNS

Don't Mess with Your DNSWe tend to take it for granted, but you need to treat the Internet Domain Name System (DNS) with the respect that it deserves. And if you have some time to investigate alternatives, you could really enhance your network’s performance and security.

Before I tell you how to do this, let’s have a brief explanation of what DNS is. Think of what a phone book does – it allows you if you to look up someone’s  phone number by referencing their name. The DNS does something similar, except for computers: if you type in “google.com” it translates that name into a sequence of four numbers, called an IP address. In this case, the IP address of google.com is 74.125.95.104.

The overall Internet infrastructure has a series of master phone books, or DNS root servers, located at strategic places around the world and maintained by a collection of public, semi-public, and private providers. They talk to each other on a regular basis; it’s important to make sure that they stay in synch as new domains are added. As you can imagine, if someone wants to “poison” one of the entries, or misdirect Internet traffic to a phony domain, it can be done with the right amount of subterfuge. A famous example of this occurred in2008. In an attempt to prevent YouTube viewers in Pakistan from watching a single offensive video, a Pakistani Internet provider managed to block access to all of YouTube all around the world. A more comprehensive list of the various DNS attacks can be found here on Google’s site.

When you set up your network, typically you don’t give your DNS settings any further thought. If you have a cable or DSL modem, you hook it up and it automatically gets its DNS settings from the cable or phone company’s DNS servers. If you are running a large enterprise network, typically you have your own internal DNS server to provide this service.

There are several alternative providers, including OpenDNS and Google’s Public DNS, among many others that you can see listed here. Why bother? Two good reasons: 1.) they offer better browsing performance, and 2.) they provide better security to stay away from known phishing and malware-infected domains.

Before you pick an alternative DNS provider, you can use this Java program to test the speed of your own DNS vs Google and OpenDNS. Or you can read up on a couple of performance comparisons from Manu-j and Habitually Good here.

You can change your DNS settings for your individual computer or for your overall network. This is typically done at your DHCP server or cable modem or router. Any of the alternative providers offer their services free, and some, such as OpenDNS, offer a lot more than just the mapping of IP addresses too.

Here are the instructions for changing the DNS settings. The whole process shouldn’t take you more than a couple of minutes to read through them and implement the changes:

- OpenDNS

- Google Public DNS

These free services are just the beginning of a new series of other improvements called secure DNS protocol extensions and products, and you can check out these products and read more on this site to understand what is involved to deploy them.

 

MozyHome with Stash

 

Time to stop reusing your passwords

Time to stop reusing your passwordThe recent exploits ofvarious hackers in publishing passwords and user lists from Yahoo, Formspring, LinkedIn and others show that the biggest weakness isn’t having the right security technology, but you as a user! While certainly these sites could have done a better job with securing user data, at the heart of these exploits is a glaring lesson that we all can learn: It is time to develop a better password policy and stop reusing them amongst your various online logins.

It isn’t any mystery to why password reuse runs rampant these days. We all have far too many login IDs to keep track of, and the easiest solution is to just reuse the same one (or a limited collection) over and over again. But this makes hacking into your online information child’s play: if someone can uncover the password from one place, they can run it through an automated routine and try dozens of others to see if you reused it. This is indeed what many hackers have begun doing, once they have confirmed one site’s credentials for your login.

And while IT managers can lock down their own email and database and Web servers with various internal policies, that doesn’t help matters if you reuse the same passwords (or even email addresses, as was discovered with the Yahoo hack) on online sites for your personal e-shopping and electronic banking. All it takes to gain access to your own network is to find an online site with weak password security and then trust that someone has reused the same password elsewhere.

A recent Washington Post poll found that 16% of all Internet users regularly reuse their passwords. It is time to stop this practice, and understand the dangers of password reuse. As Google says, “When you use the same password across the Web, a cyber criminal can learn the password from a less secure site and then use that password to compromise your important accounts.” The search giant has lots of great recommendations on personal password use on its UK blog.

Recently, one blog jokingly posted that children are being warned that the name of their first pet should contain at least eight characters and a digit. There is some truth to that, as many of us use our pet names in our passwords. 

While it is easier said than done, you need to limit the reuse of passwords and avoid using common words. Make sure that your passwords contain a mixture of upper- and lower-case letters, and include at least one number. (Or at least add these things to your pet’s name.) And if you are responsible for your IT operations, please enforce minimum complexity standards and educate your end users about the dangers of password reuse.

 

MozyHome

 

Cloud roundup and links of interest – July 19

Next Kindle Fire Expected to Be Thinner, With Better Display

As sales of the first-generation Kindle Fire cool off, Amazon is gearing up to launch its successor, a tablet that seeks to improve on the original while retaining a similar form.

Sources familiar with Amazon’s plans tell AllThingsD that the company hopes to debut the next iteration of the Kindle Fire in the second half of this year. To do so, Amazon has been approaching developers to bring them up to speed on the new hardware.

According to the report, key changes to the next generation Fire are expected to include:

- A thinner and lighter design than the original

- A built-in camera

- Much-improved display quality with an entirely new width-to-height ratio

Two Apps Keep Your iPhone and iPad Data Private

2 Apps Keep Your Information PrivateWhile the free Find My iPhone app can remotely wipe the data on a lost or stolen iPhone or iPad, a pair of $2 apps prevent prying eyes from viewing contact info and other sensitive information on an iPad or iPhone without having to erase everything, according to CNET.com.If you share your iPhone or iPad, there’s probably information on the device you would prefer other users not see. Even if you don’t, you may still want to keep yourprivate information, well, private. Luckily, there are a few applications that can help you retain your info.

The Secure Folder app creates protected areas that other iPhone and iPad apps can’t access. Secure Folder installs a nondescript My Folders icon that you press to launch the app. After you enter your code, you see encrypted folders for photos and videos, addresses, notes, bookmarks, credit cards, and passwords. The files and information entered in the app’s folders are hidden from other programs on the device, according to CNET’s review.

Additionally, the ContactsPro app creates a private address book on an iPhone or iPad that the device’s standard address book doesn’t read. Creating a protected area and moving existing contact info to the ContactsPro address book, however, takes some work, CNET says. All the contacts on the iPhone or iPad are displayed in ContactsPro by default. When you create a group of contacts you can hide all other addresses or those in the groups you choose. You can either import addresses to the ContactsPro list or “connect” to existing addresses, which lets you store additional information about the contact that appears only in the ContactsPro entry.

Lenovo Ultrabook Targets Back-to-School Shoppers With $799 Price

If you’re searching for a reasonably thin Windows laptop with good battery life at a reasonable cost, you couldn’t have picked a better time, according to a review on CNET.com.

The Lenovo IdeaPad U310 is a perfect example: it’s an update to the IdeaPad U300s, a Windows Ultrabook that came with a MacBook Air-like $1,195 price tag. This time, however, the cost is a mere $799.

Students should consider the IdeaPad U310, especially if it’s on sale. You might want to comparison-shop the growing landscape of affordable ultrabooks at the time of purchase and see if you can do better, but the bottom line is this: It’s a good time to purchase a lightweight laptop with impressive firepower. Ultrabooks have larger hard drives (without SSD), and are cheaper than ever, according to CNET. (If you’re considering laptops with or without a solid state drive, check out this article from the Mozy blog.)

 

MozyPro

 

Q&A: Should I wait for the next iPhone to come out, or should I get the Samsung Galaxy S III?

The simple and easy answer would be yes, wait for the next version of the iPhone. But choices are rarely this simple. Although mobile technology makes our lives simpler and easier, it often comes with some big decisions (price, contract details, camera type, etc.).

Why shouldn’t you wait for Apple’s next latest and greatest device? Because with this rationale, you will be perpetually waiting for its next big thing. There will always be something sleeker, smarter and quicker around the corner. And speaking of something sleeker, smarter and quicker, let’s take a closer look at Samsung’s Galaxy S III.

The Galaxy S III could be considered the most impressive Android-based phone to date. It runs the most up-to-date Android operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich, and boasts a screen size of 4.8 inches. Throw in 4G connectivity and Near Field Communication (NFC) technology (which allows you to “bump” your phone with another NFC-enabled phone to exchange photos or certain data), and you’ve got yourself a pretty stellar mobile device.

Initial reviews of the Galaxy S III have been impressive. Although there has been a delay in the handsets reaching some markets, the rising demand may have actually added to the allure of getting one. After all, it’s nice to get something that isn’t at first available to everyone.

The Galaxy S III will provide you with access to more than 500,000 apps in the Google Play market, which should give you more than enough choices to be either super productive or blissfully slacker-ish, depending on the circumstances.

Apple’s App Store still leads the way in terms of total number of apps (650,000), and the iPhone is generally considered more secure if you plan to incorporate your iPhone into your work life.

Apple iPhone 4S vs. Samsung Galaxy S IIIThere’s little doubt the Galaxy S III will provide a pleasant and speedy mobile experience, but let’s face it – it’s going up against the iPhone. This is no small task. After all, Apple brought both RIM’s BlackBerry and Nokia to their knees in just a few short years.

Apple’s iPhone can be likened to a hard-throwing major league pitcher. Apple just rears back and consistently throws 98 mph strikes. Hit it if you can, Apple seems to challenge.

So far, no one can touch the iPhone. As with any Apple release, the sixth-generation iPhone is surrounded by heavy rumor-mongering. The most recent as of this writing is that its release is being moved to August to compete with the larger-than-expected sales figures for the Galaxy S III.

I’d suggest waiting for the next iPhone, but here’s comparison of the two as they stand now:

Apple iPhone 4S

Dimensions: 4.5 by 2.31 by 0.37 inches

Weight: 4.9 ounces

Display: 3.5-inch (on the diagonal) widescreen multi-touch display with a 960 by 640 pixel resolution.

Camera: 8 megapixels, HD video recording, LED flash, autofocus, VGA-quality front-facing camera, photo and video geotagging.

Operating System: iOS 5

Pricing and Capacity: 16GB for $199, 32GB for $299, 64GB for $399 (with two-year contract)

4G: No

NFC: No

Samsung Galaxy S III

Dimensions: 5.38 by 2.78 by 0.34 inches

Weight: 4.69 ounces

Display: 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED with a resolution of 1280 by 720

Camera: 8 megapixels, HD video recording, auto focus with flash and zero shutter lag, 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera with HD recording, zero shutter lag

Operating System: Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)

Pricing and Capacity: 16GB and 32GB versions are available; pricing varies by carrier, but most are selling the 16GB version for $199 with a two-year contract. Pricing varies more for the 32GB model. Sprint sells it for $249.99, T-Mobile for $329.99.

4G: Yes

NFC: Yes

 

Mozy Mobile App

 

Selecting USB drives for your keychain: What to look for, avoid

Selecting USB Drives for Your KeychainMobile devices and online storage have made it easier than ever to carry or access information away from our home or office system — but it can also make sense to carry key documents and/or apps around on a USB drive.

You might not have your mobile device with you — maybe you left it behind or it ran out of power. Even if it’s working, you may need to use the data on the device on a different system — and moving data between a mobile device and another computer, particularly one that isn’t yours, isn’t always quick or easy.

Similarly, it’s easy to park copies of your data online (such as in an IMAP email account or elsewhere on the cloud), , but you can’t always get Internet access when you want it (or may not want to risk having your password keystrokes captured).

USB drives are a great way to carry information around for when you need it. They continue to get higher in capacity and lower in price– capacities range from two to 64 GB and cost less than a buck a gigabyte. The stored data is, unlike that on hard drives, not damaged by being dropped; nor, unlike those nearly-extinct floppy disks, scrambled by a magnet.

Reminder: Like any data you take out of your office or home, you should be sure to encrypt anything that’s “sensitive” — personal, financial or other information. If you also include apps on the drive, encrypt access to the drive as a whole, in case your passwords have been auto-saved by the apps.

Some flash drives include built-in encryption. If yours doesn’t, and you want to carry any sensitive information, be sure you install and use an encryption app, such as TrueCrypt, or Windows 7′s Bitlocker To-Go.)

Many USB drives include a lanyard, making it suitable for carrying around on your neck. (Downsides: The lanyard may be visible and a temptation to thieves — and you need to remember to take it off at airport security.)

The obvious place for data you want always with you is on your keyring.

But, astonishingly — or perhaps not surprisingly — most of the USB flash drives I’ve accumulated (some as review samples, most from trade shows, holding press kits or sales info) aren’t designed to reliably survive this treatment. Over the past few years, I’ve encountered several types of failures (many which also apply to non-keychain uses):

  • Tops that don’t stay on. A lot of USB drives have plug covers that don’t stay on reliably, falling off in your pouch or pocket.
  • Tops that can’t be “parked” on the other end when you’re using the drive. Like the gas tank cover in an automobile, a USB flash drive should be have some place to go when it’s not in use — like the other side of the USB drive. Otherwise, the odds are you’ll lose it.
  • Drives that come loose from swivel holders. Many flash drives swivel within a “U”-shaped piece of metal, and the drive can easily fall out of its casing.
  • Keyring-clip that easily breaks. Many flash drives have little metal circles made of very thin wire. These (as well as the thinner plastic half-loops) don’t stand up to the wear and tear of life in your pocket.
  • Flash component that comes loose from the holder. My favorite USB drives are shaped like real keys… but I’ve discovered that the flash portion can all-too-easily come lose.

In general: you want something that won’t break, or lose a piece, or fall off.

I’m not sure I’ve found the perfect USB drive for a key ring yet.

Meanwhile, “good-enough” ones seem to be the smallest ones with a hole for the keyring — although they look like they could break, or the contacts could get too dirty.

And remember to either not put sensitive data on these — or encrypt them.

Image Credit: Gold Brick Custom USB Drives / molotalk / CC BY 2.0

Mozy Data Shuttle 

The Traveler’s Notebook Accessories List

The pile of accessories I pack for my notebook isn’t as big as it used to be. Unfortunately, it’s still easy for it to be as heavy and bulky as the notebook itself.

Specifically, my current travel notebook is a newish (purchased December 2011) Lenovo ThinkPad X120e, with an 11-inch display.

At three and a third pounds (with the 6-cell higher-capacity battery) and 0.6 to 1.14 inches thick (it’s wedge shaped), my X120e is admittedly not as svelte as an Apple Mac Air or sundry Windows-oriented “ultrabooks.” But it’s portable enough — and the sale price was “svelte,” letting me get a current machine when I needed a new one, while saving some cash for the ultrabook I really want.

To take advantage of this portability, you want to streamline the amount of additional gear you bring along with you. In theory, you can get by with just the AC power supply; in reality, you’re still going to want enough to be prepared for various situations.

Deciding What to Pack

What I take depends. If I’m just going to be out at around, say, planning to work at a library or a meeting, I only take the bare minimum. If I’m going on a several-day non-business trip, or a non-trade-show business trip, I’ll typically add a few more things. If I’m going to a trade show, there’s yet a few more items I’ll toss in.

Similarly, if I’m also packing a digital camera, there may be one or two more things I’ll take, over and above accessories for the camera.

There’s also sundry accessories for my iPhone and iPad, some of which are also useful with my notebook and/or camera, or vice versa.

Stuff I’m Happily No Longer Packing

I’ve been a tech-toting traveler for enough decades that a fair amount of accessories are no longer relevant. Things I no longer take (but still have) include:

  • External floppy drive
  • PCMCIA cards and adapters
  • External phone modem, phone line tester/protector, and 10+ foot phone wire.

And if I really go back in time, things like “acoustic coupler” for modem (which I still have, although haven’t used in eons).

Accessories for Day Trips

For a short, during-the-day outing, the most important thing is to make sure that you can keep your devices powered.

According to the folks at Lenovo, the high-capacity battery should be good for up to 7.5 hours, but I’ve found that 3 to 5 hours is more realistic. If I’m not sure how much work I’ll be doing, I may grab the power supply. Lenovo’s power brick is modest in size, but the brick-to-wall-outlet wire is, of course, thick and bulky, about the same as the power brick.

When I’m organized enough, I instead pack my Targus Premium Charger, which has the AC prongs right in the power brick. The Targus also has a mini USB charging cable, which I find useful. Just make sure you bring along the correct power tip.

Targus Notebook Accessories

Depending on how much other stuff I’m packing, I’ll also throw in a power strip.

Since I’ve got an iPhone and iPad, I like keeping one of my spare iOS dock/USB data/charging cables in my notebook sleeve case — they don’t take up any extra space or weight, and I don’t usually carry one around with my phone. (Apple’s are $19.95 each, but you can easily find third-party ones for less than half that price.)

I also have an ergonomic wrist pad packed — one with each computer sleeve or carry bag. Using it keeps my hand from hurting when I type (which is most of what I do on the computer). If you need something like this, I recommend you have several — one at your desk, one with each tech travel kit.

Gear for Longer Trips

For longer trips, my list also includes:

  • Power strip
  • Standard USB cables (preferably 1 to 3 feet long).
  • USB multi-jack or hydra connector with A and B standard, mini and micro connectors, plus any less-standard ones used by my digital cameras, Bluetooth headsets, etc.
  • USB hub: Look for a small four-port hub with a 2-6″ cable.
  • Flash drives and media: a few flash drives, ~2-4GB, and an SD card or two, like 4 or 8 GB or even 16. With 16+ GB cards going for under a buck a gigabyte, it can’t hurt to have an empty one with you.
  • USB card reader: My notebook has an SD card reader, but not everybody’s do; somebody may want to borrow one, or I may need it to move stuff, or use it with somebody else’s readerless system.
  • Small rechargeable power pack: This is useful if I need to charge up a headset, camera, or my iPhone without having access to AC power. The small ones won’t power an notebook, but are great for when I need to walk-and-charge.
  • Stuff I might bring, or am considering adding:
  • USB mini-mouse.
  • Automobile “cigarette lighter” USB charger
  • Wifi Hotspot, for broadband sharing. I’m still looking into these (I recently did a big non-review article). I don’t travel enough to justify a regular contract, but it’s worth considering. There are also WiFi hotspot rental companies, around $15/day — a bargain for international trips!
  • Video adapters (HDMI adapters from USB, VGA, mini-HDMI, etc.), if you’re planning to do a presentation, or even thinking of watching video from your computer on your hotel room’s TV.
  • Ethernet cable, for when there’s no (or not good) WiFi available, but there are Ethernet ports. I’ll probably never need it — except the one time I don’t bring one.
  • Power outlet tester.


Additional Accessories for Multi-Day Trade Shows

My ThinkPad doesn’t include a CD/DVD drive — but a lot of companies still put their press release and other show news on disks. Bringing one lets me read them if I’ve got an article to write, or lets me start consolidating the content before I get home. USB-powered external optical drives are small and highly affordable — and they’re handy for some software installs or burning backup disks on machines that don’t have an optical drive.

I also might consider bringing my CardScan business card scanner, although at about the bulk of a paperback book, it’s a hard call. (I need to look at card-scanning apps for my iPhone.)

Summary: The computer needs fewer accessories than ever. But it’s still not hard to have a pile of cables and accessories as big or bigger than the notebook. Good luck!

 

 

Travel accessories for your smartphone, tablet

Travel Accessories for Smart Phones and TabletsJust because travel tech accessories are getting smaller, it doesn’t mean that you want to take all of them with you.

There are hundreds — maybe even thousands — of potentially useful smartphone and tablet accessories on the market, ranging from camera lens adapters to beach speakers. However, there are a few that I believe are necessary for a short trip.

My recommendations are based on the iPhone and iPad. Depending on what you have, you may be looking at different vendors or models, but I believe the underlying suggestions remain valid.

Travel demands accessories above-and-beyond those you may be using at your office or home, such as:

  • Bluetooth keyboard
  • Screen protector, like a ZAGG invisibleSHIELD
  • Cover or case, like an Apple SmartCover (for the iPad), or an OtterBox or LifeProof case for your iPhone.
  • Headset, wired or Bluetooth (or both).

Minimum Kit, For All Occasions

Here’s what’s in my standard iPad kit. Total cost: less than $100.

  • iPad-class AC adapter

Remember, the iPad needs 10 watts — twice what the iPhone’s tiny AC adapter or a powered USB port provides. So you need to bring this, whether it’s Apple’s or a third-party one. There are even some two-port 15 watt ones, like the Innergie mMini Combo 15W AC (Wall) Duo USB Charging Kit. (I also suggest carrying an iPhone AC charger as well.)

The adaptor you bring on your trip preferably should be a spare, to keep in your travel kit, so you can leave your regular one(s) at the office/home.

  • Docking/USB power/data cable(s)

While you can buy these iOS cables in most computer/tech/office supply stores, and even many convenience stores, you should bring one. Or even two or three. (Third-party cables are available for less than half of Apple’s own $19.95 ones.)

  • Media/USB transfer/connection adapters

If your devices don’t have SD slots or USB ports — Apple i-devices have neither, of course — bring adapters. At minimum, get Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit. Apple’s own iPad Camera Connection Kit consists of two adapters, or dongles: the SD Card Reader and the Camera Connector. The iPad still doesn’t have an SD slot; this lets you move photos from a camera’s SD card. The kit also includes a USB adapter — however, since the iOS dock port doesn’t provide as much power as a standard USB 2.0 “powered port,” there’s no guarantee that other USB peripherals — or, for that matter, other card readers — will work.

  • Credit Card payment-taker

The Square Credit Card Reader (plus its free app) is small — about one square inch by 1/3 inch — and provides an easy way to take credit card payments via your iPhone. It’s not only good for selling home-business crafts or yard sale items, but also makes it easier to split the check in a group. You don’t even need the Reader, but using just the app costs a tad more.

  • Accessory pouch

These things are small, and easily lost. Whether it’s a ziplock bag or something else, make it easier to keep track of them.

For Longer/More Involved Trips

Other things to consider bringing include:

  • Rechargeable power pack

There no shortage of ones that will recharge a smartphone one to three times, but only some can deliver the power to recharge an iPad or other 10-watt device. Innergie, Radio Shack and Targus all offer ones that can, albeit not necessarily a full charge.

  • Automobile USB charging adapter

If you’ve got an iPad or other tablet, make sure you get one that provides the right amount of power.

  • Mobile broadband hotspot (and service contract)

If your tablet doesn’t have its own broadband and contract (e.g., with AT&T, Sprint, Verizon…), and you don’t want to simply up your smartphone data plan to allow tethering, a mobile hotspot will let your tablet be online when there’s no WiFi nearby.

  • Video connectors

Connectors like an Apple Digital AV Adapter and an Apple VGA adapter are helpful for watching iPad content on a larger TV, doing presentations, etc.

You’ll probably find some more stuff that you want, of course. (Feel free to let me know what I’m missing!)

 

 

Why you should always pack a power strip with your notebook/tablet

There are many accessories that are useful for traveling with your notebook or tablet. Here’s a must have: a power strip.

Here’s some reasons why:

1.) Sharing versus hogging

With more and more people carrying notebooks, tablets, and other device, power outlets at airport gate waiting areas, and other places like meeting rooms, are increasingly already “full up” from people already camped out using or recharging.

Yes, many airport gates now offer “charging areas” with AC outlets and USB charging ports — but these, too, may be in use.

Having a power strip means you can ask someone if you can share the outlet — and even offer to let somebody else also plug in.

And if you have managed to get the last free outlet, this lets you share with newcomers, rather than have to determine whether you’ve got enough juice to let somebody else have a turn.

2.) Multiplying/centralizing available outlet(s)

Hotel rooms often don’t have enough outlets for your notebook plus your phone charger and maybe one or two additional devices. Or not enough by the desk area where you want to work. Having a power strip avoids scattering your recharging devices around the room, including risking them being in the bathroom (near water, never a good idea).

3.) Going the distance

Notebook AC cables may be five to ten feet long — but sometimes the outlet you want is just a little too far away. Even a short cable on a power strip can make the difference.

4.) Accessing hard-to-get-to outlets

In hotel rooms — but also some offices, libraries and other spaces — the only available outlet is often in a hard-to-reach place. Some are positioned in a way that’s difficult to plug chargers where the AC prongs are right on the power brick. Or the other things already plugged in may not leave the right shape of room for your device’s power adapter. The power strip’s cord, even if short, should make it easier to plug things in.

5.) Charging USB devices

Not all power strips include USB charging ports, but some do. This can often be helpful. If they do, it will be a standard-power one — 5 watts, enough for a smartphone, Bluetooth headset, etc — but won’t be enough for an iPad (which needs 10 watts) or presumably most other larger tablets.

Recommended Power Strips

If you’re seriously strapped for space, you can just get a three-in-one outlet adapter, but I recommend a power strip instead.

My favorite power strips are from Monster’s Outlets To Go line – they’re compact, with the power cord wrapping around the strip and plugging into one of the outlets.

If you want a USB port, check out the Outlets to Go 3 USB , which has three outlets plus a 5-watt USB charging port.

Otherwise, consider the four-outlet Outlets to Go , or the more compact three-outlet one.

The cord length on the 4-outlet Outlets to Go is eleven inches.

Important note, Monster’s Outlets to Go are just power strips. They don’t include any surge protection. If that’s a concern, look for something else, of course.

 

 

Stocking a few spare tech parts, what and why

Stocking a few spare tech parts, what and why If you use a computer as part of your daily work or personal life — and you probably do — then you know that they often run into minor problems.

Some can be fixed quickly and easily by simply re-booting the machine, or by doing software stuff. (I covered these in the post “Basic Quick Fixes for Troubled Gear.”)

Some of these fixes are best left to an IT professional or somebody else with experience in fixing computers — in particular, anything that involves opening up the case. Not only can this be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing, but you can also create additional problems if you aren’t careful.

But there’s a lot that you, a coworker, family member or friend can do if you have the right part on hand.

And since many of these problems occur when it’s not convenient to go out and buy the part — you may be on deadline and can’t take the two hours. Or the weather may be abysmal. Or it may be midnight or a holiday when the stores you want are closed. As for going online, you may not be able to wait for delivery — and the problem you’re facing might mean you can’t get online, anyways.

I’ve found it’s best to have a few spares and other things on hand.

The best — and certainly most extreme — “spare part” is another complete computer, of course. Of course, that’s not always an option. Luckily, a remarkably small set of things will solve many common problems.

The Basics: Peripherals and Cables

Here’s my recommended starter list:

  • Keyboard

All it takes to ruin a keyboard is a little dirt or spilled coffee — even one bad key can keep you from working comfortably.

Because keyboards aren’t all exactly alike, get one that’s the same as the one you use. For example, I use a Microsoft “ergonomic” keyboard, which has the keys angled — I can use a “regular” keyboard, but it’s much less comfortable. (Make sure that it has the right type of plug as your current keyboard, e.g., USB, PS/2, Bluetooth wireless.)

  • Monitor

When you buy your next monitor, save your old one if it still works.

  • Mouse (or other pointing device)

Like keyboards, make sure you have a spare like what you use. For example, I use a trackball. I could use a mouse if I had to, but I’m comfortable with my trackball. And, if you use one, a mousepad.

  • Headset (if you normally use one)
  • Main cables

Your computer’s power cable or video cable aren’t likely to fail, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

  • Other cables

I keep several spare cables around, including a printer cable, an Ethernet cable, and a few USB cables (there’s several types of USB jacks, make sure you’ve got the right bunch).

  • Any other ergonomic accessories you use, like wrist pads.

Extra-Credit Suggestions

Even if your computer has a built-in optical CD/DVD drive, having an external USB-powered one can’t hurt — there’s other good reasons to have one anyway.

A handful of cable adapters, including “gender-menders” and type-to-type adapters, e.g., 9-to-15 pin VGA, and a VGA/HDMI adapter.

If you’re comfortable and confident, a spare hard drive may be useful — along with an external USB hard drive adapter/chassis.

Depending on how old the computer is (some of your friends and family still have a few that are five, ten, or more years old, I guarantee), you may also want a USB floppy drive.

My list isn’t that long, you’ll notice.

I’m not saying you should rush out and buy all this stuff — other than the keyboard, if you don’t have a spare already. But keep your eyes open at yard sales (see my post, “Yard Sales: A Good Place for Tech Bargains“) and other places. Used/yard-sale prices for keyboards and mice are usually one to five bucks — if friends don’t have some to give away. Smaller (19″ and under) , classic-format flatscreens should be ten bucks or less — or free. (You should be able to get a good CRT for free, but flatscreens are less bulky to store, of course.)

And put as much of these in a box, label it carefully — and remember where you put it all.

Sooner or later, you’ll thank me for this advice.