Category Archives: technology

Using the Kindle in a foreign land

I’m trying to figure out if I can use my Kindle when I’m in Panama – both to get the NYTimes and to read the Kindle edition of the Lonely Planet Panama guide. From what I can glean from the Kindle information it looks like the Kindle will work for reading the Times although it might not be high speed but lower speed whispernet or 3G but I also read somewhere that it might cost more to get the Times when I’m there. (not that I even really need to read it when I’m there. I was primarily going to read it en route.) Anyone out there have the scoop?


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Filed under Panama, technology

Solving your “chip and PIN” debit/credit card problems abroad

A new product could make life – and a plastic charge card rather than cash – much easier for Americans traveling abroad. A currency exchange company called Travelex has begun selling a preloaded debit card that uses the “chip and PIN” technology (the card has an embedded microchip and a PIN number you have to use, like with a debit card) widely used in Europe – rather than the card common in the U.S. that has a magnetic stripe.

I ran into problems with my magnetic stripe credit card when I was in London a few years ago – a few places, especially those off the tourist beaten path, would not accept my card  because it didn’t have the chip and PIN and they didn’t have the machine needed to process my magnetic strip card. (Before this, I didn’t know I HAD a magnetic strip card.)  We also had some troubles in France with this – at gas stations and paying highway tolls at machines that only accept chip-and-PIN cards.

If I’m reading the NYTimes travel story from Dec. 5 about this correctly, the new Cash Passport smart cards will include both the magnetic stripe and the chip and PIN.  They’ll be sold initially at Travelex airport and retail locations and then early next year online. And they’ll be available in euros or pounds and can be used wherever MasterCard is used.  Word has it there’s no fee to buy or use the card from Travelex but some ATM operators abroad may charge fees.  All good but one question: Why don’t U.S. credit card companies adopt the chip-and-PIN technology which I gather better safeguards us if the card is stolen since people can’t use it without knowing the PIN?

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Filed under London, money, technology

Unplugged on the Oregon Coast

Oops.  For anyone who was enticed by the title of this post and found it empty, I apologize.  A friend called just as I was starting to blog and I inadvertently pressed the “Publish” key rather than the “Save draft” key.  As it turns out, my friend was calling for some advice on starting a blog. (Not sure I’m the best source on that…)

Anyway…we are heading to a quaint inn in Newport, Oregon next month that is unapologetically unplugged – no radios, tvs, or phones. (There is apparently one public phone in case of emergency). Instead there are books, conversation, and really good food. All of which sounds very appealing to me – except that I do need to blog (God forbid you all go without my daily post) and I also need to be on call should my two teenagers – who won’t be with us (one will be in Spain, the other in Arizona) – need to reach us. So we’ll see how this works. Or doesn’t work.

I have never been one of those people who had to be plugged-in during a trip. Sure I need to be accessible to editors I’m working with on various projects and I am by cell phone.  But part of vacationing for me has been about NOT having to check my email constantly and NOT having to drag all my word files. Alas, this seems to be changing – in part because of this blog and also because new technology (like my new Netbook, I hope) makes being plugged in while on the road easier and even cheaper. Again, we shall see.

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Filed under On the road, oregon, technology, Uncategorized

Help Haiti: donate via text msg

As usual with most things high-tech, I am late on this – and I’m not sure I really understand it since, as my teen-age kids can tell you, text-messaging is not my forte.  But texting has emerged during the Haiti crisis as an attractive – if not completely foolproof – way for people, especially young tech savvy  people, to donate money quickly. (Although the downside is the donation may take longer to reach the charity than if a donation is made  the now suddenly old-fashioned way via website….which is of course what I did.)

The NYTimes ran a good story yesterday on this which highlights the promise and possible problems with “mobile donations”/”text-message donations.” see:

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Filed under haiti, technology

Sit or Squat – and Where to wee

My dad, who never met a gadget he didn’t love, showed off his favorite iPhone apps while we waited for lunch at a Chicago restaurant recently and I’m sold on SitOrSquat which, within seconds, told us where we could find a nearby toilet  that is open to the public. One place SitOrSquat recommended is a Barnes and Noble bookstore.  To be honest,  I’ve never known the rules about using bathrooms at bookstores or coffee houses and feel somewhat obligated to buy something if I do SitorSquat there. (Usually I buy a drink that makes me need to search for yet another bathroom.)  SitOrSquat came up after I discovered that in order to use the bathroom at the restaurant where we were eating, I had to get a little coin from the hostess and put it into a lock box of sorts on the bathroom door.  I’d never seen that before – apparently this bathroom wouldn’t make it onto SitOrSquat since it’s for paying customers only. Seemed mean-spirited but  I guess there could be an issue with mentally-challenged homeless people – two of whom were hanging out near the restaurant – camping out in the restaurant’s bathrooms.

For more on SitorSquat and other cool apps (for those, unlike me, who have an iphone) check out the recent NYTime’s travel story:  Apparently there’s a SitorSquat competitor with an even better name – Where to Wee.


Filed under chicago, technology, Travel