Meeting Notes - 4 November 2014

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Meeting Notes - 4 November 2014

Post by bdahm on Sat Nov 22, 2014 5:14 pm

No free lunch - We’ve heard this expression time and time again. It’s true. It’s equally true here. We don’t charge anything for our meetings, perhaps on the philosophy that you get what you pay for. Be that as it may, the River Market is providing us with a place to meet every week. They are providing us with parking, a projector and a screen and even a sound system for our videos (if I can figure out how it works). All they ask in return and all we ask in return is that you purchase something from the menu, even a cup of coffee or a soft drink. For those who may have eaten or are not hungry, a tip for the wait staff would be appreciated.

We’ve had good attendance over the past few weeks. Howard tells me there were 27 people there last week, including a couple of newbies. One guy even came back a second time! Stefan will be with us a couple more weeks with his “Big O’ Bag of Tech. I suspect that with this and with the high season upon us we will continue to have a good turnout for a while.

Travel Tips
Having just returned from 45 days in the US and spending a good deal of that on the road, there are a couple things I learned/relearned. 

These days people often have more that one mobile device, often a smart phone and a tablet. If there is more than one person in the family, you can double that.  Carrying multiple charges and finding places to plug all these things in can be a bit of a hassle. 

Several months ago at our Show and Tell I showed a device by Anker, which offered 5 ports to plug your devices into. That in itself is not necessarily a big deal, but what is a big deal is that this device has smarts that determines the wattage needs of your device. 
Smartphones typically require 5 watts, while tablets 10 watts. This charger gives your device what it needs and reduces charging time.

Turns out they also make a compact travel wall charger as well. This is something one can easily just keep in the backpack. At $20, this is a good value. Both of these charges are dual voltage so you can use them anywhere in the world and both are available here in Thailand, too.

There are, of course, other ways to charge your phone. Most cars, particularly rentals, have dedicated USB plugs. All cars have cigarette ports that with a simple adapter can provide the USB plug to carry the juice to your device. 

But what about when you are out and about and don’t have access to any kind of power outlet. Some smartphones allow for replacement batteries. For others like the iPhone, there is a backup battery.  I purchased one of these several years ago for around $50. Sure one can get cases from companies such as Mophie that encase your iPhone, but when you get a new iPhone, you will need to buy another case. The Just Mobile battery can be plugged into the iPhone, the iPad or just about any other smartphone using a mini-USB port with an adapter. It delivers a whopping 5200 mAh, enough to completely recharge an iPhone three times over.

Besides power another vital thing the travel needs is an interest connection. I have learned from previous trips that though Wi-Fi is pretty much ubiquitous in the US, the Wi-Fi you find at hotels and motels is almost always suboptimal. Not only that you need an internet connection to be able to access maps while you are on the road. 

The Mi-Fi type portable hotspots are one answer, but you have to buy the hardware and you have to purchase an internet service to boot. Your also made to do with a 4 hour battery life on the device. That can be costly. Better just purchase a SIM card and put it in your unlocked smartphone. In the US this can still be expensive from the big carriers. A service I have used successfully over the last couple of years has been from a company called StraightTalk. With them you get unlimited calls, unlimited text, unlimited data for $45/month. StraightTalk is a reseller of internet service and you can choose from AT&T or T-Mobile. And did I mention, there is no contract. It’s month to month. This is great for short trips such as mine. The kits are available from Walmart stores or on-line. There are probably similar services available from European carriers.

Stefan’s “Big O’ Bag of Tech” 
Stefan once again regaled us with some of the tech he travels with. He is packing a Lenovo laptop with something like a 7 TB  hard drive attached underneath. With that arrangement and using “virtual box” software, he can do anything on the road that he can do back in the UK. 

He also showed us that fancy Wi-Fi antenna that he can affix to the window in his room and pick up Wi-Fi signals blocks away. He showed us a small, compact ZTE Wi-Fi router that can be plugged into an Ethernet connection and broadcast Wi-Fi to his other devices. He even showed us the $35 ChromeCast media device by Google, which plugs into the HDMI port of a TV that can be used to play content from YouTube and other internet sites from your smartphone to that TV. Stefan reported back, however, that he has not been able to get that to work here in Thailand. 

Finally Stefan flashed his newest baby, the Firefox phone. Mozilla has just released the Firefox OS and it remains to be seen if it will gain any traction against iOS, Android, or Window Phone OS. One thing for sure, it’s very inexpensive, selling for about 2,000 baht, if you can find it in Thailand. It’s certainly aimed at emerging markets. I believe Stefan bought his in Hong Kong. He said one should check eBay. The screen is about the size of the iPhone 4.

Well, I think I’ll call it wrap for this week.



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