Digital Lifestyle

technology for your home, personal, and business lifestyle

6 Tech Tools For Your Next Vacation

Mrs. Tech and I have delayed our 10-year anniversary vacation a couple of months in order to set sail to Honduras and Mexico for 5 nights with fellow couples for the Black and Married With Kids Cruise organized by my friends and Power Couple Lamar and Ronnie Tyler.

In case you’re wondering we are NOT taking our kids #Turnt

There are 3 things I do NOT do when I go on a major vacation like a cruise 1) Diet & exercise 2) Work 3) Be online. Even though I will keep my online interaction to a bare minimum, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t use technology to get organized before and enjoy my time during our cruise.

Instead of keeping all my secrets to myself, here are 6 tech tools you can use to help you make the most of your next vacation.

Software

Evernote

If you’re familiar with me my and my go-to service for just about everything, then there is no surprise that I use Evernote for my main place to store/sync trip information.

This is just a short list of trip stuff I use Evernote for: Save important correspondence with travel agents. Collect all my travel documents (airline/cruise boarding passes). Save pictures of luggage tags. Make trip tasks and to-do lists. Clip random information about our destination from the web. I can also share that information with Mrs. Tech, just in case she wants to keep tabs on our plans. When I do need to recall something important, I can pull up all that information via Evernote from my smartphone.

6 Tech Tools For Your Next Vacation - SurfEasy VPN via BrothaTech.com

TripIt

I do save all of my travel confirmation documents in Evernote, but I use TripIt to automatically convert my confirmations into an easy to follow itinerary, complete with confirmation numbers, addresses, phone numbers, maps & directions, and weather forecasts, all on one web and mobile app.

Once I get a confirmation email for my airline, hotel, shuttle, and cruise plans, I simply forward them to TripIt and let it do all the work creating the itinerary right on my phone. I can also manually add events, meetings, etc. to my itinerary so everything is in one place. Mrs. Tech is listed as a “traveler” on TripIt so she can see what’s going on (so she doesn’t have to ask me every 10 minutes…Heyyy Bae).

SurfEasy Mobile VPN

I’m probably lying about never being online during my vacation. I’m sure there is something I will want to look up on my phone while we are out at the hotel or while docked. I won’t be using my own data plan internationally because my name isn’t BrothaRich, so I will use every opportunity to use some free WiFi to learn more about the area or upload photos to show everyone how much fun we’re having.

Smart, but dangerous as now hackers can very easily set up shop and siphon personal information from devices connected to free (and open) WiFi spots provided in places like airports, hotels, and your popular coffee shop (rhymes with Starbucks).

An easy way protect your personal data while traveling is by using a secure VPN (Virtual Private Network) that acts as a middleman between the open WiFi and the data on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Services like SurfEasy can keep your data safe and secure on your device while you browse the web. SurfEasy is free for 500MB up to 5 devices, and paid plans start at $5 bucks/month for unlimited browsing.

Hardware

MOTA Portable Battery Stick

Since I know I’m lying about staying connected when I travel, I atleast want to make sure my smartphone has enough juice to last while I take a ton of pictures to immediately eventually upload to Social Media.

Since I don’t like to carry a bunch of stuff when I travel, the MOTA Portable Battery Stick is small enough to fit in my shorts pocket, but have enough juice to charge my smartphone when I get down to the dreaded 1% indication, and doubles as an LED flashlight because…McGyver. The MOTA Battery Stick also comes with a ton of adapters so you can charge just about any small gadget (smartphone, camera, Bluetooth earbud) or tablet.

6 Tech Tools For Your Next Vacation - GRID-IT sleeve via BrothaTech.com

Grid-It Gadget Organizer

I said I don’t like to get online (but probably will) I never said anything about bringing all my tech. With all my gadgets come all my gadgets cables, connections, and other accessories which makes leaving room in my suitcase for duty-free alcohol cigars souvenirs, shopping swag, and other travel knick-knacks a problem.

The Grid-It Gadget organizer is a pouch that comes in different sizes that include straps that help you organize all of your small to medium-sized gadgets, as well as all their cables and accessories. You just don’t have to use it for tech. Ladies can also use Grid-It to organize all their makeup and beauty supplies.

StickNFind Bluetooth Tracker Stickers

Tourists (no matter how hard you try to NOT look like a tourist) are easy marks for professional pick-pockets. I imagine there’s nothing like filing police reports, cancelling credit cards, and tracking down lost/stolen luggage and valuables…while on vacation.

StickNFind Bluetooth trackers are little devices about the size of a quarter that you can put in your purse/bag/luggage or stick to your gadgets that can alert you if they leave your proximity. With the associated app, you can get notifications on your smartphone just in case your stuff grows legs, as well as activate an audible tone with a radar on your phone’s display to help you find your lost stuff.

Do you have some go-to apps, services, or gadgets you use while on vacation? Let a Brotha know in the comments section

Disclaimer: Post does contain Affiliate links…Help me help you

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Terrance Gaines6 Tech Tools For Your Next Vacation

Rant: African Americans In Technology – Quit Hating On The Corporate Grind

Malik Ducard – Director of content partnerships, YouTube

The folks over at Business Insider have put out a list of the 25 Most Influential African Americans In Technology and as a fellow techie, it’s nice to recognize and personally know some of the people mentioned on their list Like Angela Benton, Wayne Sutton, and Kimberly Bryant.

The people on that list range from start up founders, to evangelists, actual employees at large technology companies. What I appreciate the most about this list is that it highlights those who have decided to climb the corporate ladder to make sure African Americans are visible, apart of the decision-making process, and are creating opportunities for people others inside of corporate America.

Don’t get me wrong, you better believe we need to see more diversity in STEM and technology entrepreneurship. So the brave souls who decide to “go against the grain” and set out on their own, should be singled out for their accomplishments.

Additionally, I know programming, coding, and development are “what’s hot” in entrepreneurship. So the people who decide to go down this lane will get more of the “shine” than the executive sitting in meetings all day.

BUT

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – People who decide to choose the path of ‘Intrepreneur’ (#GTS) and decide to blaze a trail for others to follow in corporate America should be respected just as much as the entrepreneur who has decided to show people you can “be your own boss”, achieve your goals and live comfortably.

In other words, quit hating on folks with a 9-5! If they enjoy what they do and have found a company that will support their passions,  while collecting a steady paycheck AND making a difference, who are we to judge?

Now if you decide that path isn’t for you, that’s cool. But just remember, once your idea blows up, and the money and customers start to roll in, guess who you will have to interview and hire to help you get to the next level…Employees

/Rant

What say you – Can African Americans in technology make the same impact within corporate America as those who have decided to become an entrepreneur?

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Terrance GainesRant: African Americans In Technology – Quit Hating On The Corporate Grind

Do You Have A Family Mobile Device Management Strategy?

If your family has more personal gadgets than actual family members, you’re not alone. As devices get faster, smaller, and cheaper, it’s all but too common that everybody in your family owns at least 2+ mobile devices because…technology.

Multiple family devices means more pictures, videos, accounts, passwords, and other precious data being used, shared, and possibly lost or worse that the family IT person has to manage (I’ll give you one guess who assumes that role in our family).

This issue is all to common in the workplace, where companies have spent millions on trying to figure out the best way to manage the flood of mobile devices being used on the job.

What about family mobile device management? Family gadgets and data needs to be protected as well. So here are some quick and easy tips, tricks, and services that can help you organize, track, and secure your family devices and data.

Device Backup

Probably more important than the devices themselves is the data being captured, collected and shared on them. So it’s paramount that you develop some sort of backup strategy for all your devices. It’s a good idea to create one family cloud backup storage account (there are many, so pick your poison based on family device types, space needs, and budget) and create a folder for each family member to immediately backup and sync photos, videos, and other commonly used files. That way each family member doesn’t have a separate account (with a separate bill) to manage.

In addition, I would suggest a local, non-cloud backup plan as well that will save device settings/configurations, text messages, app downloads, and other data not compatible with cloud storage services. Start with the mobile devices and back those up directly to a computer. If your family is in camp iOS, backup to iTunes. If your family is Android, the free of charge Android File Transfer or Kies software (Samsung devices) works well. Same goes for Windows Phone, the free Windows Phone Desktop software is enough to get all your basic device settings, content, and related information backed up locally.

Next step is to take that computer with all the phone information and regularly (once a week) back it up to an external Hard Drive, just in case that computer is damaged or just flat out dies because…technology. Make sure the external Hard Drive has atleast twice the storage capacity of the computer you’re backing up. The 3rd step is to regularly back up that external drive in the cloud with services like Backblaze, Crashplan, or Carbonite to ensure you have an off-site (out of your house) copy of all your content.

Sounds like a bunch of steps, but it’s a good thing to have redundant copies of your content in multiple locations and formats. Also, most services for the smaller devices offer an immediate “as soon as this device connects to wifi” or “as soon as this device is connected to this computer” backup schedule. For the larger devices, you can create a schedule where the device automatically backs up at a set time, preferably when device usage is at a minimum.

Password Management

There are SO many mobile apps, and web only services that need your username/email and a password in order to use. Multiply that by how many tech-savvy family members you have and how many devices per family member, and that makes for a large amount of passwords with private information floating around.

I shouldn’t have to remind you to use a different, complex password/passphrase for each account. As I type this, there are some passwords that even I need to change so they are more secure…so I’m not excused from this request.

To make password management easier for your family (an excel spreadsheet is NOT a good look), there are services like RoboForm, 1Password, and LastPass (what I use for my family) that can handle all of your password needs.

Password Generation – Not only can a password manager make it easy to access all your passwords, you can also use them to randomly create long, complex, multiple character passwords that you don’t have to remember. Once you’ve assigned a username and generated a password for the service, just logging into your password manager gives you the ability to copy/paste, or automatically fill in your credentials, sans password memorization.

Online Form Fill – Password managers also lets users store commonly used information online (name, address, security questions, etc.) and use that information to automagically fill in those spots when you create new accounts.

Multi-User Support – If you, your spouse/partner, and of-age kids all use similar services (Twitter, Facebook, etc), password managers will let you create individual groups/identities that you can assign to a family member so they only see their account information to keep confusion down.

Security Checks – If you have some weak passwords that need to be updated, most password managers have built-in security checks where it will scan all your entries and identify those accounts where the login credentials could be improved.

Mobile access – Since most of your time is spent on your mobile device, the services I mentioned all have mobile, cross-platform apps that enable your family members to access their account information on all of their devices.

Now I know what Mrs. Tech you’re thinking: “What happens if/when somebody hacks into the password manager service I’m using?”. That is a good question and it’s a possibility it could happen. Without getting too deep in to encryption keys and all that jazz, Let’s just say when you create an account and start creating login credentials, all of that information is encoded (scrambled). When you log in to your account via your computer, tablet, or mobile device, the service creates a special key for that device so it can decode (unscramble) your account credentials.

If somebody hacks the service and gains access to your accounts, that person still needs the special key created for your device to decode the information. Until they have your account information and your device, all they will see is scrambled characters. Now if somebody gets ahold of your device, that’s another story. All the more reason to make sure you have a pin/passcode on your device.

Mobile Device Management Software

If your device is lost/stolen and you feel all the data on your phone is at risk, iOS (iCloud), Android (Android Device Manager), and Windows Phone (via Windows Phone services) have built-in ($free.99) features where you can track the location of your device, and remove all your personal data from the device remotely.

If you want to go a little deeper and monitor the activity of each device in your family, you don’t have to spend a bunch of money for a complex, server based, per-license piece of software where you have to get certified just to use it.

Albeit a small number, there are some low cost, consumer-friendly services like 3CX Mobile Device Manager, that will enable you to setup and deploy mobile devices in your ‘family organization’ where you can view logs, run reports, and monitor the overall status and usage of each device, alloy/deny access to calling phone numbers, downloading apps, or visiting websites, in addition to tacking device locations and remote wiping data.

The more mobile devices families are starting to use to stay connected, the more attention should be paid to managing those devices to make sure they remain safe and secure.

Do you have a family mobile device management strategy?

Plug: Hit me up if you’re interested in developing a mobile device management strategy for your family

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Terrance GainesDo You Have A Family Mobile Device Management Strategy?