Is the iPad an RVers Accessory?

a Guest Post by Ken Wiseman, www.rvnavigator.com

Gizmos, gadgets and “must have” accessories fill the vendor halls of any RV show. Having been burned many times by the latest solution to my perceived problems, I am skeptical of the latest and greatest whatever. But, of course, the RV Navigator (rvnavigator.com) could not pass up the iPad, the latest device from the technology world that is ready to slice and dice all of your technology needs. Before proceeding, let me tell you that I bought my 3 day old iPad after standing in line at the store on April 3rd for the retail price. As the author, I am totally independent and have received nothing in exchange for this article or my opinion. However, in addition to being a tech junkie, I feel an obligation to test this stuff for suitability for the RVing public (or at least that’s what I tell the co-pilot). It is in that spirit that I offer my opinion. I welcome your input via the email below.

Ken, the RV Navigator, picking up his preordered iPad at the Store.

Ken, the RV Navigator, picking up his preordered iPad at the Store.

What, you don’t have any technology needs? You’re content with the simple old laptop and/or cell phone? Believe me, I understand. We don’t need a new device that will only complicate our lives. But some technology developments are transformational and not just an imperceptible step forward, best left for the geeks. TV and the internet are such transformational technologies as well as credit/debit cards and smart phones. Having had my iPad for only a couple of days, I am not ready to make the same claims for it. However it does have the potential.

What do I look for in a transformational device? After using it for a while, I would be uncomfortable being without it. Cell phones for RVers are transformational, and a smart cell phone takes the phone to the next level of value for our lifestyle. Our smart phones outfitted with little programs called Apps give the phone new capabilities – many not even dreamed of by the average RVer. How about a level (when using the jacks) or satellite finder, or cheap gas finder? These plus about a hundred more are part of my smart cell phone’s arsenal of apps. I have access to over 100,000 specialized tools (apps) for most any purpose from counting calories to calculating postage to checking airline flights.

With that as an introduction, where does the iPad fit into the technology landscape for Rvers? Is it a big cell phone, small laptop, or a useless gadget that RVers can pass over? Of course it depends on your needs and expectations. For me, as owner of a smart phone, laptop, and multiple other devices, the iPad is going to have to prove itself as a something truly innovative and new. For the more typical RVer (probably you) however, it might quickly find its way into your heart.

The iPad will appeal to you if you:

  1.  like a very clear bright screen even in daylight
  2.  like large, easy to read, clearly marked in English on screen buttons
  3.  like an easy to use system that does not crash
  4.  want one device that does it all
  5. want simple controls – it has only two buttons and a volume rocker switch
  6.  like visually operating your computer
  7. don’t want or understand the usual computer connection hassles (tethering, what’s that?)
  8.  don’t want to worry about power issues and wires
  9.  want a device that makes things simpler not more complex
  10.  want to easily check out the technology trends.
Front, back & side view of the iPad.  The screen is 9.7 LED display.  The only button is at the bottom.  Screen displays typical apps.

Front, back & side view of the iPad. The screen is 9.7 LED display. The only button is at the bottom. Screen displays typical apps.

The last point is a good example of the power of the iPad so I will spend a minute to explain. First, few non-techies want to try new technology for its own sake. However the buzz around some web or internet technologies sound interesting, but is too much hassle for the average user. Yes, YouTube is cool but how do I set my computer (if I have one) to use it? With the iPad (which does not have a mouse or other pointing device), you press the clearly marked “YouTube” app button with your finger to start watching YouTube videos. Could it be easier? Many RVers like Geocaching, a fun activity when visiting a new area, just get the app and press the on screen button. How about having thousands of book available to read or listen to?

Some folks would rather listen to a book than read it, but others like the reading experience. iPad does both very well. You’d expect the listening experience (yes, it has a built in speaker) to be good, but reading on screen? The iPad has the most “book” like reading experience that I’ve seen on a computer. You turn pages with your finger, hold it in your lap, see the illustrations, and it remembers your place (without a paper bookmark). It has access to free books, current best sellers and everything in between all available via a quick button press download (after you have set up an account). If you already have a Kindle account from Amazon, there is a Kindle app that gives the iPad access to the Kindle library.

Unlike the Kindle, which is a good example of a single purpose device, the iPad has an unlimited set of tools available and the tool set is constantly expanding. This means that the iPad is versatile and will not go out of date. I like devices that replace many stand alone devices. The iPad does that in spades. It can be your email center, web browser, movie/TV player (why rent or own movies when you have the iPad and a Netflix account?), large GPS, mp3 player, game player, photo editor and storage, and news gathering. Although the depth of unique Apps available at introduction was limited, the potential, based on iPhone app development, is unlimited. All of the iPhone apps work on the iPad, but they only display on a iPhone (or double size) portion of the screen. This of course, points up one of the biggest advantages of the iPad, the beautiful screen. Looking at the small size (when displayed on the iPad) of the iPhone screen, makes using it a pleasure. Whether watching videos, photos or typing a word processing document, the display is a sight for old eyes.

RVers are always interested in storing, fixing, and sending their photos. The iPad stands ready to help you with this activity. First, though, it does not have Picasa or iPhoto apps, although the photos can be imported into these on your computer. With that said, the apps that are available will allow you to organize and edit your photo collection in very sophisticated ways (and more all the time) such as creating photo greeting cards, montages, fixing exposure and the like. When not being used, the iPad is a very sharp looking photo frame with your pictures on display. Photo apps will never rival Photoshop, but they will be much easier to use than Photoshop and probably more useful for the average user.

iPad displaying a newspaper.  All articles are clickable to read in full.

iPad displaying a newspaper. All articles are clickable to read in full.

Remember, once you learn a few hand gestures (using your finger on the touch screen is called gesturing), all of the features of the iPad become available. All apps work the same way, so once learned, they are applicable to all. If only this were true of laptops. So, swiping your finger across the screen changes the page, pinching the thumb and forefinger changes the size of an image and taping opens an app or web link. With only a single physical button (beside the on-off switch), the few gestures are not only intuitive, but visual and easy to remember. They correspond to what you see on the screen and make sense.

Of course, I should mention that the obvious apps, contact manager, calendar, web browsing, email, YouTube and several more are included out of the box. Adding apps is easy via the apps store because they are all in one place for easy retrieval. Word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation apps are available if needed. Additional apps can be downloaded for free or for a small fee (most are under $5) any time you have an internet connection. You never go to the store to buy a boxed app, they are available only online. There is no gray or black market in apps; they are all approved and delivered by Apple via the app store. We could debate the merits of this approach to distribution of software, but it does insure that the apps will not cause problems and makes finding them very easy. There are no viruses so security software is not necessary. The iPhone OS (used by the iPad) has been around for three years, so it has a track record of safe computing.

I hate to bring up gaming – it always seems so frivolous, but RVers and many others like to play a game now and then. The iPads gaming experience is a little different than what you find on the usual gaming machine. The best games use the built in accelerometer to make things happen. Thus you tilt or move the whole iPad to play. None of those game controllers or small buttons are required – the whole iPad becomes part of the game. Of course there are the usual Solitaire, Scrabble, Mahjong, poker, Monopoly, and hundreds more games. All played on the beautiful 9.7 inch screen for up to ten hours per battery charge.

iPad as word processor.  Note the on screen keyboard.  A physical keyboard is an option.

iPad as word processor. Note the on screen keyboard. A physical keyboard is an option.

In case you have not noticed yet, easy is what the iPad is all about. As RVers traveling around the country, we need easy and flexible. The connection to the internet is a crucial element of the easy equation. There will be two models of iPad. The currently available model is wifi only. In my tests so far, it connects easily with little configuration other than picking the network and entering the security password if required. The second model due out at the end of April, will be G3 cell enabled. This does add to the price, however it makes the internet connect that much easier. AT&T has created new pay as you go data plans (turned on and off at will with no contract commitment) ranging from $15-$30 per month. Using 3G for internet means virtually no configuration and full time connectivity for your iPad – in the car while moving, a home, in the rig, on top of a mountain or you name it. Now that’s what we have been waiting for, a mobile device with a big screen so we can do email on top of a mountain.

You might wonder if the iPad is standalone or if it needs a regular computer for updating. As far as I see it now, it can be used standalone. You can download everything needed via the internet. It will store your pictures, upload them to Flickr (or similar website), do your email, including attachments and view all types of data without an additional computer connected. I would say that having a computer to back up and assist the iPad is useful and more efficient, but not required. Most mp3 players as well at the standard iPod need a computer to get data, but the iPad because connectivity is part of its DNA can used standalone.

Back home at the RV, the iPad is tested by the author.

Back home at the RV, the iPad is tested by the author.

Should you buy an iPad? They do start at $499 so are a bit expensive, but if you are in the market for a smart phone (one that does more than conversation), are looking for ease of use with flexibility, and you have no or an old laptop, then the iPod may be for you. A new smart phone like the iPhone if purchased without a service plan will cost over $500, so the iPad becomes more appealing. If your eyes are weak and/or you just don’t want the hassle of learning Windows 7, the iPad is for you. If the weight of lugging your computer around is getting you down, then iPad at 1.5 pounds, easy to transport – in a purse or small bag, is for you. If you are a reader or listener to content be it music, movies, podcasts, books, magazines, newspapers – the iPad is for you. If you want to impress your grandkids, the iPad is for you.

My hope in writing this article is to get you to thinking about new and more efficient ways of doing many of the common activities that we all engage in. I don’t work for Apple or get any discount on it products, I am just a contented user (at the moment). I look forward to hearing your questions and comments at ken@rvnavigator.com.

Posted in General Computer | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

GPS Navigation with Netbooks and Droid

by Chris Guld, www.geeksontour.com

We love GPS systems.  Maybe too much!  All of a sudden we have more GPS navigation devices than coffee cups!  And we can’t decide which one we like best.  So, we’re using them all.

We’ve been using Microsoft Streets and Trips on a laptop since the beginning of our travels in 2003.  Actually, the first 2 years it was Mappoint -  S&T’s big brother – but basically the same thing.  See this previous article about that.  A couple years ago, we got a Garmin Nuvi 255 – a dashboard navigation device.  And just a few months ago we bought our Motorola Droid cell phones which includes GPS and a Navigation application for free.

Garmin, Droid, and Streets and Trips all navigatingThe photo above is what the cab of our Class-C motorhome looks with all three navigation devices.  It’s tough to get a good photograph of this, but hopefully you got the idea.  What you can’t see is that I am usually sitting in the passenger seat with a large print Road Atlas on my lap to keep me grounded in the midst of all these screens.

Laptop GPS

Jim always plans our travels using Streets and Trips.  Every route we’ve ever plotted is stored on a S&T file somewhere.  It’s so easy to see the entire route (8,174 miles planned for this summer) or zoom in on one spot.  And, with the Points of Interest megafile, we are assured of finding anything we want like a Thousand Trails park, a Walmart, a Flying J, or a hot springs!

One problem with using a GPS system on your laptop is how hard it is on the laptop.  They are made to be portable, but I don’t think the constant vibration or the teeth shattering drive on I-10 thru Louisianna was part of the designers’ plan.  We recently purchased an ASUS NetBook – it’s our spare computer since both Jim and I have our own laptops.  We’re wondering if it can do the job of being the Streets and Trips computer.

Testing the Netbook for Streets and Trips Navigation

It’s so small it sits nicely on the center console.We don’t even need to bungie it in,  And it’s so light, I don’t think it feels the bumps and jolts as much as the bigger laptops.  We also don’t need to plug it in because it has 7 hours of battery life.  This is much more convenient than the larger laptop.  Streets and Trips installed just fine on the Windows 7 operating system, and I was delighted when I plugged the GPS receiver into the USB port and our position was displayed almost immediately. We have had trouble in the past with the GPS receiver being recognized.  This was a good sign.

BUT – after using it for a couple 300 mile days – I don’t think the little netbook is going to hack it for our Streets and Trips computer. The screen is just too small, and there’s not enough horsepower to run Streets and Trips well.

  • Screen is too small.  Although everything fits, I just can’t see the route like I was accustomed to with the larger laptop.  Here’s a photo of the screen below.  With all the toolbars at the top, the GPS pane at the left, and the next turn info at the bottom – the map portion is pretty tiny.  
    Netbook running Streets and Trips 
  • Not enough horsepower.  I could actually live with the smaller screen if I could click and drag things around quickly.  I can even use F11 to temporarily get rid of the toolbars and sidebars, leaving more room for the map, but the response is just too slow.  Although everything works just fine, the screen refresh takes a long time. At one point during our drive, we decided it was time to look for a Walmart.  I selected the option to show all the Walmart pushpins … and waited …. then I stopped GPS tracking so I could reposition the screen to the route ahead … and waited … I found a Walmart and right clicked to add it as a stop to our route … and waited.  If I hadn’t started the process early enough, we would have been past the Walmart before I finished! 
    Most netbooks come with 1 Gb of memory and the Windows 7 starter edition.  Jim upgraded ours to 2Gb of memory and the Home Premium edition of Windows 7.  We still have a few other things to try, but I’m discouraged with this initial test.

Testing the Droid for Navigation

Truly amazing!  We’ve started using the Droid for our navigation around town instead of the Garmin Nuvi.  After all, your cellphone is always with you right?  So, if you need a GPS, how cool is it to just get out your phone and turn it into a GPS navigation device?  It uses satellite GPS to get your position.  It uses Google Maps via it’s Internet connection for the maps.

It works pretty good.  Jim purchased the optional car docking station – he tells me that he didn’t spend more than $30 for it.  Here’s what it looks like, mounted right next to the Garmin Nuvi.  It can also be mounted horizontally and the map display changes accordingly.

Using Droid for GPS navigationIt didn’t have any disagreements in directions that we noticed.  It’s speaker is almost as good as the Nuvi.  One advantage is the voice recognition.  Jim said in a loud voice, “Navigate to Patriots Point” when we were driving through Charleston.  And, it did!  Later I spoke at the Droid saying, “Navigate to Myrtle Beach State Park” and it responded by displaying, “Navigate to Royal Beach Skatepark?”  The road noise is a problem.

I’m tempted to say that the Droid can replace the Garmin Nuvi, but I’m sure I will change my tune when we’re in West Texas or Eastern Oregon this summer.  That’s because the maps are displayed on the Droid via the Internet.  It gets the Internet from the nearest Verizon tower.  No tower, no Internet, no roads!  Your position comes from the satellite GPS, so you’ll still see the marker for your position moving around the screen.  But you won’t see the map – so it doesn’t do you much good.

So for now, we need them all.  I’ll update this topic when we’ve learned more.  Meanwhile, anyone else out there using a netbook for navigation?  Or the Droid?

Posted in Droid, Microsoft Streets and Trips, Navigation | 1 Comment

Internet by Droid

by Jim Guld, www.geeksontour.com.

I have had my new Verizon phone for a few weeks now, and I like it.  You don’t need to be a Geek to want one.  If you are one of the many folks who want a phone just to make calls, the Droid is way overkill.  For a phone, it is expensive at $200 with a 2 year contract.  It’s cheap for a computer, though.

connected-droid

Droid showing Sliding keyboard. Optional desk dock.

The Droid is essentially a computer that can also make phone calls.  It is connected to the Internet through the Verizon cellular data network or a local WiFi network.  You can browse the Internet, send and receive emails, stream or download videos/music and so much more.  Texting or entering data is easy using one of the three keyboards.  Some people I know could use the Droid and never need a conventional laptop or desktop computer.

The Verizon data plan for the Droid is unlimited.  There is no 5GB limit as with cellular data cards or tethering my old phone using VZaccess Manager.  How about using the Droid’s Internet connection to connect my computer like I used to do?  Well, I can.  I just need PdaNet software for the Droid from June Fabrics.

Tethering is the term we use to describe the hardware and software needed to connect a computer  to the Internet using the cellular data connection from a smart phone.  It is usually a USB connection, but could be wireless using Bluetooth DUN (dial-up network) or WiFi.  A wired connection to the computer is simplest and most reliable.

There are two parts of the system.  A program that runs on your computer and stays in the system tray and an app on the Droid.  Installation is easy.  Follow the easy instructions.  Download the installation program from the website and run it on your computer.    Plug the Droid into an available USB port.  Let the program talk to the phone for a moment to establish communication, and you are ready.

First, start the PdaNet app on the Droid phone and Enable USB Tether.  Then, on your computer, click the PdaNet icon in the system tray and connect.

image

This is a broadband connection and speed is determined by the cellular network.  In a good Verizon area, the speeds are excellent.  You can easily stream video and not worry about going over your monthly data limit.

The Droid is not the only smart phone that allows tethering.  PdaNet has been available for PalmOS phones, BlackBerrys and Windows Mobile phones for a while.

If you want to use PdaNet for the iPhone, you need to “jailbreak” it, voiding the warranty.

The price of a single license is $23.95. It is a one time purchase for the Android version. One license covers one phone (you can reuse the license if you switch to a new Android phone). There is no limit on the computer side and your license gives you unlimited free upgrades.

So far, there is no support for connecting to our Cradlepoint router, but I expect that fairly soon.

We’ll show you how to network the connection in a future post.

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Windows 7 = Wi-Fi Hotspot

by Jim Guld, www.GeeksOnTour.com:

“…any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Arthur C. Clarke

Connecting a Single Computer

For the RV traveler, Internet connectivity is a lifeline.  Connecting even a single computer to the Internet can be a daunting experience.  Everything needs to be configured properly for it to work.

There are three ways for RV travelers to connect to Broadband Internet.  Satellite, Wi-Fi and Cellular (see Internet on the Road video for an overview.)  Each has its own good and bad points.  Nothing is perfect. 

Connecting your computer is getting easier with cellular data cards and tethering cell phones.  Plug it in and be browsing and emailing in no time.  Last week we wrote about using a Motorola Droid Cellphone from Verizon to tether your computer to the Internet.

Connecting Multiple Computers with a Hardware Router

How about if you want to connect two or more computers to the Internet?   You could buy a router and configure it to make your own hotspot.  This is the way many cellular and satellite users do it.  A router will not work to share public Wi-Fi hotspots.  The Droid is not yet supported on the popular cellular router – Cradlepoint.  But, there is a way if you have Windows 7.

Connecting Multiple Computers with a Software Router

Since the Droid could not connect to a router, I started researching other options and found Connectify.  Now you can turn a Windows 7 laptop into a Wi-Fi hotspot for other laptops and mobile devices to share. 

Connectify is a free and easy to use software router for Windows 7 computers. With Connectify, you can wirelessly share any Internet connection: a satellite modem, a cellular card or tethered cell phone, even another Wi-Fi network. Other Wi-Fi enabled devices including laptops, smart phones, music players, and gaming systems can see and join your Connectify hotspot just like any other Wi-Fi access point and are kept safe and secure by password-protected WPA2 Encryption. 

Because Connectify is free to download and use, you can save money on multiple Wi-Fi connections while on the road and still get all your devices online.  You can join a Wi-Fi network and run the Connectify hotspot on the same Wi-Fi card.  Now you can easily get that wireless printer working!  You don’t need Windows 7 on your other laptops, just the one running Connectify.

Installation is quick and easy, and once complete, you can access Connectify from the icon in the Taskbar.

 

Connectify works with all Wi-Fi cards under Windows 7. Any card can do “Ad Hoc” mode, and Windows 7 certified cards can also do “Access Point” mode.

The main difference between the two modes is that Access Point mode allows you to share a Wi-Fi connection from the same Wi-Fi card that you are using to access the Wi-Fi network. Ad Hoc mode needs the Internet connection to come from another card (Ethernet, cellular or a second Wi-Fi card in your computer).

Connectify only works with Windows 7 Home and above, Starter Edition is not supported.

Some cellular wireless broadband providers’ hardware disallows the use of their device.

You can download the installation package here.  It is less than 1 Meg.

Find all the supported devices here.

www.GeeksOnTour.com

Computer Education for Travelers

Posted in Cellular, Internet, WiFi | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Windows 7 after 4 months

I bought a new computer last November. It has Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit operating system. I was worried that my old but important programs from Adobe (Dreamweaver and Fireworks) were not going to work, but, as it turns out that hasn’t been a problem. My screen goes black for a second every time I open or close them, but they work OK – so I can hold off on purchasing the upgrades :-) Other than that, it took me a while to find anything to say about Windows 7. That’s because it’s not remarkable for what it does, but rather for what it doesn’t do.

It doesn’t crash.

With Windows Vista, XP, Windows 98, and even earlier, I would need to restart my computer at least every couple of days. You see, I use my computers hard. I never have less than 3 applications going, and often 7 or 8 applications in addition to 10 or 12 Websites. That has always resulted in a computer that gets bogged down and needs to be given a clean start before I can work again. It was not unusual to have to restart my computer more than once in a day. Now, with Windows 7, I’ll go a week or even 10 days before noticing, ‘OMG, I haven’t restarted the computer in so long!’ Even then, it rarely crashes, but it may alert me that I have so much going on that I’m running low on memory (and that’s usually when I have both Dreamweaver and Fireworks running.) I’ll restart to clear it out. This is a very good thing.

Learning to use Windows 7 is almost the same as learning Vista. For our Members, you can see all our Vista ‘Show-Me’ videos on the Members’ Home Page. If you’re not a member, you can view the free videos on our Vista page. We will have some Windows 7-specific videos sometime this summer, meanwhile, Microsoft provides lots of good help and training on Windows 7.

It’s not that much different from Vista – but it is quite a bit different from XP. If you’re still using XP – we do not recommend upgrading your computer to Windows 7. New operating systems are primarily structured to work on new hardware. There is no reason to upgrade your XP machine to Windows 7 – we adhere to the saying ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it!’

But …

If you’re buying a new computer, don’t ask to go back to XP! Following the same logic as above – new hardware works best with new operating systems. You wouldn’t buy a new car and ask to put an old engine in it would you?

See our past article on ‘7 Tips for Buying a New Computer‘ for more thoughts on your purchase decision.

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Blogger Pages

Blogger is, by far, the easiest system out there for creating a blog. And, it keeps getting better. Make sure to read our recent article: Re-Energize your Travel Blog. It includes a video to show you how to find and use lots of 3d party templates.

Whenever I need to make a complete website, including a blog and other ‘static’ pages – I usually turn to WordPress – it is a blogging system with the ability to also make pages. We will be teaching a WordPress seminar at the upcoming FMCA Convention in Albuquerque, and you can download a copy of the class handout if you’re interested in learning about blogging with WordPress.

Now using the super-simple Blogger system, they have added the ability to make Pages. Cool. Simple *and* complete! You have to look close. Go to your Blogger Dashboard and click on ‘New Post.’ Now, look at your menu options. You should see ‘Edit Pages.’ Then you can click on ‘New Page.’

Blogger pages

So, why do you want to do this? What is a page? When you create a page, the process is exactly like creating a normal blog post. You type text, add pictures, and add links just like you’re accustomed to. But a page will exist outside the normal flow of dated post entries. It’s separate. So, if you use Blogger to create a Travel Journal, most of your content will be dated entries that will be sorted so that you see the most recent one first and they go back in time as you scroll down the page. What if you want to create a separate page for ‘About Us?’ That’s not something that should be listed in date order along with the other entries, it’s separate. Or you want one page with an overall map of your travels? Once again, not something that can be included in the list of dated entries.

You create a page by clicking on that ‘New Page’ button pictured above. When you click ‘Publish’, you’ll see one more option before you’re done:

Blogger page

When you have pages, you need some way for your readers to navigate to those pages. Blogger gives you the choice of creating a menu across the top, or over in the sidebar. Try them both and see what you like. They’re not very fancy. If you ever want to change how your menu of pages appears – you’ll find that in the Layout section under Add and Arrange Page Elements. Any new pages you create will automatically be added to the menu.

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Import AOL Contacts to Gmail

A little while ago I wrote an article called Using Gmail for All your Mail. In it I wrote, “You can import all email and contacts from your other email.” It sounds so simple and straightforward you may have missed it. Actually, it’s quite a big deal, especially when you think of AOL. We have worked with many people who wanted to switch from AOL to something else but couldn’t, because AOL did not give you a way to export your contact list. I think they figure you won’t ever leave AOL if they hold on to your contact list. (This has recently changed – but Gmail is still easier.)

With this Gmail feature, it’s easy to get your contacts. First you need a Gmail account. It’s free, just go to www.gmail.com and sign up. Once you have an account, you can click on Settings, and then Accounts and Import.

Import to Gmail

If you are leaving AOL, you probably want to import everything. But, you don’t have to. This is a great tool just for getting a backup copy of your contact list. After you click on ‘Import mail and Contacts’ – you will fill in the email address and password for your other account (AOL) – then you have some choices. You could just check ‘Import Contacts.’

Import options

If you have a lot of contacts, or you choose to import everything, this can take a while. The Gmail Help on Import indicates it may take up to 48 hours! When it is complete, you will see a status message in Settings, Accounts and Import.

Posted in Email, Gmail | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Re-Energize your Travel Blog

by Chris Guld, www.GeeksOnTour.com
If you have a Blog using the Blogger.com platform, you may be disappointed at the lack of choices for the ‘Templates’ you can use.  Templates are what give your blog its look and feel.  Colors are part of the template.  Column-sizes are part of the template.  You can have the same content (your blog posts) but change templates to give it a fresh look.  It’s like buying a new outfit for yourself.  You’re still the same person but you look completely different in evening dress as opposed to shorts and t-shirt!

Below are 4 of the 16 choices you are given when you create a blog.  You can just pick any one with the knowledge that you can change to another at any time you want.  And, when you change later there are more choices because each of the 16 have multiple variations when you revisit them.  These templates are old and tired.

imageimage 

 

More Templates from Outside Sources

The good news is that you’re not limited to the templates that come with Blogger.  There are hundreds of templates available from outside – third party – sources.  Here is a listing from Blogger of third party template sources.

The bad news is that they’re not as easy to install as the built in templates.  And, they’re not supported by Blogger, so if you have a problem, you’re out of luck unless you can get support from the source.  Many of them are free – which is a great price but don’t expect any support for that.  Here are some samples:

image image

Step by Step Installation

  1. When you find a template you like, you should see a button to ‘Download’ it to your computer.
  2. What gets downloaded is a compressed or ‘zipped’ file.  You need to unzip it.  Right click on it and ‘Expand All.’  (Macintosh – Double-click the zip file)
  3. Now log in to your blog, choose the Layout link, then the Edit HTML tab and you should see the screen below.  Click ‘Download Full Template.’  This makes a backup on your computer of the template that you are currently using.  This is important in case everything gets messed up – you can alwyas return to the way it was.
    image
  4. Upload the template you just downloaded (and unzipped):  Click Browse and find the downloaded template  (it will end with .xml)  on your computer, then click upload.
    If you have installed widgets into your sidebar, you may see an error message like that below.  It’s best to delete the widgets so you can start clean, but if the widgets are important to you, you can click ‘Keep Widgets’ here.  Then, you may need to deal with repositioning them in the new template.
    image
  5. Click the ‘Save Template’ button at the bottom, and you’re done.  Take a look at your new blog!

There may be things in the new template that don’t work right with your old content.  You’ll need to deal with each of those things individually.  For example, if you had an image in your blog’s header that no longer fits in the new template, you need to go to the Page Elements and Edit the Header to remove the image.  If there is some canned text in the new Template, you need to edit HTML to find that text and change it so it speaks for you.

What if you just can’t get the new template to look the way you wanted?  Well, that’s why you downloaded your old template!  Start with step #4 and re-upload your old template.

What if you ignored my advice and didn’t back up your old template?  You can always just choose another standard Blogger template by clicking on ‘Pick a New Template.’

Have fun!  Try a few templates … you wouldn’t go to a clothes store and only try on one outfit now would you?  If you’ve been delinquent in posting to your blog – you may find that a new look will re-energize you.

Would you like me to show you how to do this?  My pleasure!  Here’s a Free Video on Changing your Blogger Template

And, if you want to go even further with ‘Tweaking’ the template, here’s a Video on Editing the HTML of the Template This one does require a Geeks On Tour Membership.

Happy Blogging!
Chris Guld, www.GeeksOnTour.com

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Cell Tower Overload

RV Rallies present major issues for Internet Access.  Rarely is Wi-Fi provided throughout the rally grounds, and, when you try to use your Cellular provider for data, you may find it doesn’t work so well. That was our experience at the FMCA SE Area rally last week in Brooksville, FL.  At times like these I wish we had our Satellite Dish back.

If you doubt that cell tower overload is a factor, check out this article on AT&Ts troubles due to all the iPhone users out there. Actually, this article has me a little worried about Verizon as well, once the Droid (Verizon’s answer to the iPhone) catches on.  You see, once you have Internet browsing capabilities on your cell phone, you use it a lot more.  When I use my phone to make a voice call, I’m on for 5 – 20 minutes.  When Jim uses his new Droid to browse the web, he’s on for hours.  Both usages connect to the Cellular Tower, but the data usage represents a quantum leap in loading the Tower’s connections.

Posted in Cellular, Get Away, Stay Connected, Internet | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Wi-Fi – A Better Antenna will Get You a Better Connection

by Chris Guld, www.GeeksOnTour.com
We’ve said this time and time again, but it’s been a while and we have a lot of new readers. If you’re using a Wi-Fi hotspot and it’s not working so great, get an external Wi-Fi adapter. We have quite a collection of them over the years, but we recently bought a new one to go with our Windows 7 64 bit computer.  Here’s the one we purchased, a Hawking HWDN2:

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There are lots of choices, just look for ‘Wireless Network Adapter.’  It will also say 802.11 somewhere in the description.  802.11b is the oldest technology, then comes g, and the latest and greatest is n.

Turn off your Internal Wi-Fi

It’s important to understand that these do not ‘boost’ the Wi-Fi adapter built in to your computer. They ‘replace’ it. You should turn off the internal adapter in your computer in order to properly use an external adapter.  See the Geeks on Tour ‘Show-Me-How’ video ‘Turn Off your Internal Wi-Fi.’


Improving our Wi-Fi Experience

When we parked at our current RV park, and tried to connect to the Wi-Fi, it took a while to make the connection and browsing was very slow. So we took our new Hawking Wi-Fi adapter out of the box, used the included CD to install the drivers, plugged the adapter into a USB port and turned off the wireless switch on the computer.

This time the connection happened a little faster, but, more importantly, the browsing was faster. Still not as good as our DSL at our home park, but better nonetheless. Wi-Fi is 2-way radio. Low-powered, 2-way radio.  The radio and antenna built in to your laptop computer is often not good enough for the distances and obstructions in an RV park. Plugging in an external adapter (radio and antenna are both inside) with a wire to your USB port allows you to move the adapter over to a window, or even outside a window so as to get an unobstructed line-of-sight to the source of the Wi-Fi – the Access Point. Unobstructed line-of-sight is the most important factor in a good Wi-Fi connection.  Notice, in the photo of our adapter above, that I have it pointed out a window.  Notice also that I have the metal mini-blinds raised above the adapter.  Those metal mini-blinds can make a big difference in your connection!

For other, past articles/videos on this topic:

The #1 Best way to Improve your Wi-Fi Connection
WiFire Long Range Adapter
Get the right Wi-Fi Adapter
54Mbps is Not better than 11Mbps
Wi-Fi for Beginners

Other Geeks on Tour Show-Me-How videos on this topic.

Posted in Get Away, Stay Connected, Internet, WiFi | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments