Sunday, November 16, 2008

No More Stopping to Ask for Directions - GPS Devices

j0432597 Don't have a GPS (global positioning system / auto navigation system) if you travel often or live in large metro areas? Then consider getting one.

In the old days, we would often ask for directions from a friend and/or gas station attendant, and often later finding out they were either given wrong or incorrectly written down, GPS devices can dynamically help with directions.  Its true that web based map programs allow you to print your directions work, but if you run into a detour, bad traffic or a emergency road closure, the printed maps are no good.

If you travel often or live in large metro areas such as NYC, D.C., Chicago, Houston, SF, and LA, then buying a GPS device is money well spent.

There are basically three ways you can use GPS devices. One, plan a route to go from point "A" to point "B". Secondly, they can be used as a follow along map to show you where you are. This is good way to learn about the area you are in when traveling or moving.  Lastly, they can help you find the near points of interest (poi) from where you are. Points of interest can be gas stations, restaurants, hotels, and museums. Some devices have emergency location services for pointing you to the nearest hospital, police or fire station.

Going from point "A" to point "B" doesn't have to be going across the country, but rather to specific points. Like from your home to a particular museum downtown or a specific address. When using a GPS device, if you plan a route in advance and encounter obstacles such as road closures, construction or other issues, you can specify there is a detour and get automatically re-routed with a new route. GPS devices are also helpful if you miss an exit for any reason - to help you get back on track to your destination.

Many of your are wondering about using GPS or navigation services from their handheld devices - which usually requires a monthly fee.

While I haven't subscribed to such services, in a review of my travel demands, I determined that its cheaper in the long run to buy one, which will pay for itself in about 2 or 3 years depending on the model selected.  For instance, if the monthly fee is $9.99 a month - in 2 years, you would spend $239.00.  Just enough to buy and own a good GPS device.

If you are deaf/hh then skip devices that have Bluetooth / cell phone capabilities / spoken commands. These not needed features cost extra and can set you back hundreds of dollars.  Also by having a dedicated GPS device, you don't tie up your handheld/phone from email when traveling.

GPS devices have larger screens and can be mounted on the dash or windshield. They can be moved between vehicles like to a rental car. For those that have deep pockets, get a built in dash system (In a few years they may become more common and standard in cars like air bags).

Some of my findings in using a Garmin GPS for a year now.

  • They are useful for short and long trips.
  • At times they can produce an error or contain outdated exits or roads. This is often in the case within growing suburban areas - like in Dallas.
  • Learn to use it before embarking on a long trip.
  • Learn to set it up and glance at the screen instead of fiddling with it while driving.
  • Input favorite locations (frequent travel destinations) in advance.
  • Directions sometimes stop working or get confused when going through parking lots or quickly turning around.  Once you exit a parking lot and drive a couple hundred feet, the maps start working again.
  • If available, utilize passwords to lock the device to protect your information.
  • Put away / take the device with you when leaving the vehicle to reduce the likelihood of theft. Even on your own driveway.  Like laptops, they are high on the theft list.
  • I don't utilize the screen saver mode for pictures, since it creates a driving distraction. Its a feature that's not needed and its mostly a marketing gimmick to get you to buy the device.
  • Lastly, don't be overly reliant on the device.  Sometimes you have to make judgement calls / ignore the provided directions.

You can read more about GPS devices on the web. Garmin and Tomtom are two well known brands. Visit their web sites and your local electronics store to research and determine which device is best for your needs.

Happy travels.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Wireless Device: Phone Research and Shopping


While conducting some research on the latest wireless phones, I came across a web site that you might find quite useful:

This web site has reviews for many wireless / cell phones, laptops, and digital cameras.  The site has product reviews, comparison charts, and gives you the ability to compare phones side by side in terms of their features and ratings.  For example, you can compare the Apple iPhone against a Blackberry Curve 8330 in terms of their sizes and reviewers ratings.

Besides doing your own comparisons, I recommend reading web reviews for checkpoints that may or may not be of concern to you.  You don't necessarily have to agree to the ratings or the positive / negative comments provided by the reviewers - they can serve as a starting point for things you might want to consider or be on the look out for.

If you "power users" are researching for your next wireless phone, I recommend the following methods of researching for your next wireless device:

  • Utilize reviews and comparison charts at and
  • Download and review owners manuals for each device - usually found either at the wireless carrier's and/or manufacturers web site.
  • Consider visiting stores that have live working examples of the phones to get a feel of the devices in your hands.
  • Talk to friends and co-workers who may have the wireless device you are interested in.

For some, researching wireless phones in depth may seem an overkill.  But remember, once you purchase a device, sign up for services, and go beyond the 30 day "trial period", you are usually bound to a 2 year contract which can be equally expensive to break if you terminate it within two years.

Some say its usually good practice to upgrade or replace wireless devices after a minimum of two years to stay on top of technological advances and software upgrades.  In other cases, if your device is more than two years old and it still meets your needs - then keep using it until it gets to the point its no longer reliable or supported by your carrier.  There may be a dozen of other reasons why you may/may not want to change devices or carriers, but that's  often left up to the owners.

Lastly, when new devices first come out on the market, they usually have a few "bugs" and kinks to work out.  If there is a newer device or model you are interested in, if possible, wait a couple of months to let the "early adopters" identify and work out early issues.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Web and Wireless Device Security

j0439607Today the web, laptop/desktop PCs, and wireless devices are often fused with our everyday lives: They often containing personal calendars, emails, contact info, and personal info, which has becoming increasingly important to take security precautions for handling your personal information.

Some security tips to consider:

  • Do not use the same password for multiple web accounts.
  • Do not use personal info (such as names, date of birth, or commonly used / dictionary words for passwords.  Set up complex passwords that you can remember.  For example: wilex9z$
  • Utilize password managers to help keep track of passwords.  SplashID from is one product I recommend.  The application works well on PCs, many wireless and handheld devices.  You should password protect this application as well - to protect all of your passwords!
  • For those with a few passwords and don't need SplashID, utilize a password protected MS-Word or Excel document.
  • When using public or work computers, to log into web accounts, DO NOT allow the browser to memorize your profile or password.
  • When you think a password has been compromised, change it immediately.
  • Consider changing passwords every 30 days for highly sensitive accounts such as those for banking and financial sites.
  • Do not share, write down, or give out your passwords to anyone.
  • Set your devices to auto lock after a period of inactivity to prevent snooping from by-passers.
  • Implement password security on all computing devices such as PCs, laptops, handheld and wireless devices. 
  • Yes, even use passwords on your wireless handheld devices.  If not sure on how to set up one, consult with your device owners manual - which can often be found on the web.

By utilizing passwords, you can protect your confidential and sensitive information in the event something is misplaced, lost, or stolen.  Identity theft is a major problem, and by utilizing passwords, you can reduce the chance of being an identity theft victim.