Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Instagram warning

I tend to avoid this kind of post, but felt it was worth putting out there as many people who travel take lots of pictures and some of them post them on Instagram.

Instagram wants right to sell users' photos to advertisers

Facebook's photo-sharing site Instagram has updated its privacy policy giving it the right to sell users' photos to advertisers without notification.

So if you don't delete your photos by 16 Jan. they get to sell your photos for profit without your approval...

Source article at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-20767537

On reading the new policy at

There are 2 main problem points:

Parties with whom we may share your information:
* We may share User Content and your information (including but not limited to, information from cookies, log files, device identifiers, location data, and usage data) with businesses that are legally part of the same group of companies that Instagram is part of, or that become part of that group ("Affiliates"). (like Facebook)

Parties with whom you may choose to share your User Content:
* Any information or content that you voluntarily disclose for posting to the Service, such as User Content, becomes available to the public, as controlled by any applicable privacy settings that you set. To change your privacy settings on the Service, please change your profile setting. Once you have shared User Content or made it public, that User Content may be re-shared by others.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

How far can you go in 2 weeks?

In 1873 Jules Verne proposed that it was possible to go Around the World in 80 Days (original French title: Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours).

While in 1924 by a team of aviators of the United States Army Air Service, the precursor of the United States Air Force flew around the world in 175 days, covering over 44,000 kilometers (27,340 mi). Not quite Verne's 80 days, but respectable not the less. Since then the duration has been reduced

Back in July 1969 the Apollo 11 crew flew from Florida, USA to the Northern Pacific Ocean with a stop over on the moon in 8 days, 3 hours, and 18 min.:

Launch date       July 16, 1969, 13:32:00 UTC 
Lunar landing    July 20, 1969, 20:17:40 UTC at Sea of Tranquility 
First step:          July 21, 02:56 UTC 
Landing             July 24, 1969, 16:50:35 UTC. North Pacific Ocean
Currently the International Space Station has an Orbital period of  92 minutes 50 seconds.

Looking a bit further afield, after 8 months, 10 days, 2 hours, and 15 min. the the Mars Curiosity rover landed on Mars.
Now where could you go in 2 weeks?

Based on a new concept being tested by NASA you might be able get to Alpha Centauri in a mere two weeks — even though the system is 4.3 light-years away. This is explained in an interview posted on IO9 titled How NASA might build its very first warp drive
in which George Dvorsky interviews NASA physicist Dr. Harold White using a loophole in Albert Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity by warping the space (squeezing) in front of and (widening) behind the ship as shown in this image:

Source: http://www.zamandayolculuk.com/cetinbal/HTMLdosya1/AlcubierreWarpDrive2.htm

Dr. White's concept is based on an improvement to the design proposed by Dr. Miguel Alcubierre in 1994 in his paper The warp drive: hyper-fast travel within general relativity. The principle was sound, but it was determined to need too much energy to be practical. By modifying the shape of the field generator Dr. White thinks he has got the design to the point where it could be possible. 

It seems that this design was used for the Vulcan command ship
As posted on IO9: The above image of a Vulcan command ship features a warp engine similar to an Alcubierre Drive. Image courtesy CBS.
 So now to the lab to prove the concept.

I recommend reading the interview as it explains the concept, and the original problems quite well.

Additional reading:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Traveling with electronics-part 2: Security

Several years  ago my wife ran a conference of Immunologists. One of the visitors was on her way from her lab in the UK and she was stopped at UK boarder control. Seems her laptop tested positive for nitrates (they use them in the lab) even though she had been real careful to keep this laptop out of the lab so it would be clean. They wanted to hold her laptop and send it to her, but as it was to be a short trip she told them to hold it for her return. Then came the clincher, she had to tell them that they could not look at the data as it had confidential patient data protected under UK law.
Now the rest of us are not protected under such laws, and need to worry what happens if a boarder agent demands your password to check your device (phone, laptop, etc.)

  for Zero Day has a nice article on ZDnet with the title If security wants your password: Privacy for travelers with digital devices

In it she points out that:

Anyone who travels with laptops, phones and tablets should know what to do if security asks for their password, an agent asks to see what's on their phone, and how to protect sensitive or private information if their gadget gets out of their hands.

 She references material from the EFF that everyone should read about basic precautions, how the government searches devices, how (and when) to protect your data, encryption and good passwords, border agent demands, and more.
On the EFF's Travel Screening page, they cover the basics on border search, and travel 'blacklists' such as the Department of Homeland Security's Automated Targeting System.
  •   Supplemental, regarding American police and digital devices: Know Your Rights (eff.org)
 Post image: "I do not consent to the search of this device" sticker, from the EFF shop. A great stocking stuffer!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Airline experinces

Just read an interesting post from Fred Wilson about favorite airlines.

Although the actual blog post is more of a question and a description, the comments are really useful and I recommend reading them.

The blog is titled Fun Friday: Favorite Airline I strongly recommend you go read the comments for insight from serious road warriors.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Be wary of places about which Trip Advisor no information

When you travel it is always a good idea, use sites like TripAdvisor to reviews of a place and the CIA World Fact Book for other useful details.

Otherwise you can end up with an unhappy trip like the Mar Curiosity Rover:

Source: http://www.tnooz.com/2012/08/31/news/mars-curiosity-rover-leaves-first-tripadvisor-review-not-a-happy-visitor-might-be-fake/

Thursday, November 1, 2012

New (Zealand) take on those boring safety films

Anyone that has flown knows that they always give a safety briefing at the beginning of the flight. Now I have always figured that the timing is a bit off for some of it, like after they come and check that everyone has their seat belt on they demonstrate how the seat belt works.

I have even seen cases where the video presented was not the one for the plane I was on, but a sister model or older interior. In one case I had to point out that the video said that lights and call button were on the ceiling, but they were on the seat back  monitor.

But the people at Air New Zealand - the official airline of Middle Earth, mind you - has released a new Hobbit-themed in-flight safety video.

Thanks to neatorama for pointing it out at http://www.neatorama.com/2012/10/31/The-Hobbit-In-Flight-Safety-Video/

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Preparing to travel – Electronics

As I am mentally getting ready for another trip, I have started to think about the various electricity using items I will be bringing and how to work them out.
Now I don’t know what you carry on your travels but I find that there are a lot of items that need electricity.
  • Laptop and/or tablet
  • Cellphone (sometimes 2 different models/brands)
  • Camera with rechargeable batteries
  • Electric razor
Each of these has a power cord, and thus needs to be plugged in to charge if not to be used. 

Now a little background, I live in a county where the voltage is 220v and this trip is to the USA, where the voltage is 110v. There are many different outlet styles too. So this means adapters or converters if the devices are not able to support both voltages. (Check what each country you will visit uses in terms of voltage and plug here.)
Given that list, I should need 3 – 4 adapters (the camera uses a US plug so I use an adapter at home). So, I cheat. Rather than take enough adapters for every device or power pack, I take a 4 or 5 outlet power strip and 1 adapter for all the devices I use in my hotel room (phone charger, shaver, etc.). 
I also carry a computer electronics kit with:
  • Retractable Ethernet cable
  • USB hub
  • Travel mouse
  • Computer lock
Now you may ask why in this day and age of Wi-Fi I need an Ethernet cable. To be honest I almost never need it, but I have gone to a few hotels (mostly in USA or Japan) where there is no free Wi-Fi in the rooms but they do have free Ethernet. Not sure why, but it is easy enough to carry the retractable cable just in case.

Other things to consider, some devices use batteries. Do you need special ones (like my camera) or can you just buy a standard pack of AA or AAA for your mouse or camera when they die? Some people use rechargeable AA or AAA batteries, and I strongly approve. But I have had some problems when changing voltage with the standard recharger. So either bring enough for your trip or be prepared to buy a set of replacements.
Additional items that some people carry that you may want to consider:
  • Video adapter – usually needed to connect tablet or Mac laptop to projector
  • Wi-Fi / MiFi hub to share connection between devices
  • Laser Pointer for presentations (I carry an old fashion retractable one just in case)
Regardless of what you bring, keep security in mind. There have been recent reports of theft of items from checked luggage. So I try to keep anything valuable, or that I cannot work without, in my carry-on bag. Thus power strip gets checked but chargers get carried.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Family Road Trips to Chicago Area

Another one of our regular family car rides was to visit cousins living near Chicago.  As a drive-through Pennsylvania on Route 80 we would find that once we passed the mountains he was frequently nothing but cornfields for hours on end.  These cornfields would occasionally be broken by small towns and the perpetual construction that seemed to be going on route 80. it only seemed that they would start construction at the east end of Route 80 in Pennsylvania and continued until they hit the border with Ohio and then they would just start again from eastern end all over again. It got so bad that we would joke that it was the “Law of Conservation of Construction.”

On one of the trips my cousin convinced several of us to go to a showing of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” having never seen it my brother and I agreed. Then we found out a number of things we had never expected. First was the trip to the supermarket for toilet paper and rice, but because they were out of small bags of rice my cousin picked up a packet of instant chicken and rice soup. Then we went to the theater, where it appears that my cousin used to be one of the people performing in front of the screen during showings of the movie.
Without telling the rest of us, during the performance, she and my brother proceeded to throw the chicken and rice soup powder into the hair of the guys in front of us. They then proceeded to fill an empty popcorn bucket with water and toss it onto them. Through out the movie they taunted and tricked these guys to the point that when we left the theater the group of us had to run to avoid getting into a fight.

Another thing I noticed in Chicago was the traffic circles. In other places these are large round sections of road usually with a grass section in the middle. In Chicago some of these are paved, and people go across the middle without warning. Needless to say this causes more than a little confusion similar to the woman in Boston who was driving slowly as she approached an intersection and stuck her left arm out the window and rotated her hand for several minutes. It took us a few miles to realize she was not signaling a left turn, but was drying her nails.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Guest Blog: Traveling with a Toddler

Guest Blog by Linor Flatto

So you've decided to travel with a toddler. Yes, you are opening new worlds to your little one, sharing new experiences and expanding their horizons, and all this at the expense of your sanity and back muscles. Parenting a toddler is hard enough without more complications, but here's a few tips to ease some worries:

Plan it like you plan the day: when does your child sleep and can he/she sleep during the flight? Try to find a flight that doesn't disrupt the precious sleep-eat daily routine. If you're planning a day flight, make sure you bring lots of entertainment, but don't assume that they sleep on night flights.

Prepare them for the flight with songs and stories about it. Tell them what's going to happen.

Chill. It might be stressful to think about everything and anything, but try to calm down, and if they sleep on the plane, try to nap as well (although being a parent, when else can you catch up on the latest films than with the in-flight entertainment?)

Paperwork needed before the flight
  •  Children over the age of 2 pay for a separate ticket and get their own chair. Obviously make sure their passport is valid.
  •  If choose to brave travelling alone, make sure you have a letter of consent to allow the child to travel from his other parent, some countries are hysterical about allowing a child without both parents.
  •  Remember that you will need to queue at passport control, even if you have the fast-track finger-printing card. Yes, Children slow you down.
 Special packing requirements – don't forget the kitchen sink!