Category Archives: Travel

How the iBOT Wheelchair Mobility Device Improves Lives

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to Michael Kaplan, a fellow geek and owner of the iBOT by Independence Technology (a division of Johnson & Johnson).

The iBOT is an extremely versatile and stable wheelchair that can actually stand on two wheels. In 2006, the iBOT retailed for $26,100 with a required prescription. New models are no longer being manufactured and support is expected to end in 2014.

While its name might give you the impression that it’s the next big Apple product, the iBOT was actually developed by Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway. While they both share a common trait allowing humans to travel on two wheels, this is where their similarities end.

Unlike the Segway, the iBOT doesn’t entirely trust in its operator. Its prime directive is to stay under the center of gravity of the person using it. The result is a stable, safer product that focuses on keeping the user upright, no matter what. This upright position allows the operator to stand over 6 feet tall in some cases, and by doing so allows them to function without many of the burdens typically associated with being in a wheelchair.

The iBOT also features a stair-climbing mode that allows it the user to “walk” up and down standard stairs, breaking down barriers previously associated with being in a wheelchair. It does this by rotating the wheels in a manor much like a rack and pinion.

Another advantage to this design is its ability to operate in various terrains including gravel, sand, and water up to 3″ deep.

Unfortunately, the $26,100 price tag kept this incredible invention from really taking off. Despite having the backing of much larger companies (including Johnson & Johnson), the iBOT was discontinued in 2009 after just a few years. This isn’t to say that this innovation won’t find itself in widespread use in the future. Every day, technologies that were once considered too expensive are emerging as viable consumer products as the costs involved with manufacturing these products continue to decline.

Do You Need a Laptop With You While on Vacation?

Weinstein888, a member of the LockerGnome community, asked, “How do I convince my parents to let me take my laptop to Europe?” This is a good question, and one that begs an even larger discussion of whether or not you really need a laptop with you while on vacation.

First, I would have to side with the parents on this one. While you’re in Europe, enjoy the sights and sounds of a new continent. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for most people, and a chance to really enjoy something away from the keyboard. Trust me, the regret of spending your time in Europe glued to a keyboard and monitor instead of taking in what that amazing part of the world has to offer will stick with you for a very long time.

Plus, do you really want to lug this thing around Europe? A laptop, even if it is small and lightweight, can become a giant hinderance when traveling. Lugging this thing around will quickly become a bigger problem than it’s worth. A mobile device such as a smartphone or iPod Touch, will be much more manageable and cause you less heartache during your journey.

Another thing to keep in mind when bringing plug-in electronics overseas is the difference in how things are powered. Wall plugs in the United States are different than the ones you might find overseas. Unless you have the right adapters and/or power converters, these plugs will either not connect or could actually damage your laptop. This means you’ll be lugging around an additional piece of equipment just to be able to plug it in.

With mobile devices being as powerful as they are today, the need for bringing a full-fledged laptop with you when traveling is dwindling. Battery life, portability, and extras like convenient on-board cameras are all big advantages that you won’t find with a laptop.

All-in-all, nothing digital can ever truly replace the experience you can have by letting yourself enjoy the environment around you. Europe is an amazing place, and can be an experience that you will probably cherish for the rest of your life.

Tom Bihn Carry-On Luggage for Travel

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Traveling is fun – and also a pain in the ass. You know I’m right. Packing is the worst. If you only want to take a carry-on bag (to save on those baggage fees!), you’re stuck figuring out how to possibly fit everything you’ll need into one small bag. You need to have your personal hygiene items, your clothing and all of your various geeky items in one tiny little duffel. Jake is a minimalist when it comes to traveling, but he’s found what he feels is the perfect bag.

The Tom Bihn product line is not only well constructed, it’s also made right here in Seattle. They make it easy to cram as much as possible into the smallest space available. In this video, Jake is using the Tri-Star, which looks like the perfect solution for my traveling needs.

On the front-right of this pack is a curved zipper pocket. If you unzip it partially, it can easily hold your boarding passes. Unzip it all the way and you can stick your water bottle or soda pop into it.

On the left side of the bag, you’ll find three more zippered pockets. These are awesomely designed, folks. The top one is the same length as the bag itself and can easily hold a book or even a Kindle. The middle one is about half that length, and works well to store your laptop charger or phone accessories. The smallest of the three is still large enough to keep your wallet and sunglasses safe.

You can add Packing Cubes to any of the bags offered in this line. These will help keep different items separate from each other, and make all of your stuff easier to find when you’re on the road. The Freudian Slip features eleven compartments to keep files and small items organized within your main luggage.

The Tri-Star is not only durable, it also comes with several different carry methods. You can use it as a backpack, a cross-shoulder strap or even a normal over-the-shoulder strap concoction. Jake has been using these particular bags since 2006, and reports that he has never had any issues with wear and tear. They stand the test of time while saving you space. That, my friends, is what the perfect carry-on should be doing.

Top Ten Free Travel Apps for Smartphones

This is a guest post written by Christian Arno.

Whether you have a smartphone or not, the chances are you’ve at least heard of them. With Web connectivity and a myriad of software created especially, smartphones are the perfect portable PC for business people across the world. And their built-in support for a multitude of media formats makes them perfect for consumers too.

There’s more to smartphones besides their built-in systems. Applications are what makes them special. Easy to download and install, there’s a smartphone app for just about everything you could ever dream of.

If you’re a bit of a nomad at heart and have a penchant for foreign travel, you’re probably sick of carrying extra luggage such as maps, dictionaries and travel guides. And that’s where smartphone travel apps can come to the rescue.

It doesn’t matter if you have a Blackberry, HTC, iPhone, Samsung or other smartphone on the market, chances are you’ll find what you need on the Web.

Some apps are free, while others can cost up to $15. If you’re not a big spender, don’t worry – many free smartphone apps are just as good.

Here are the top ten free smartphone travel apps you can’t do without.


  • WorldMate – This application identifies your flight, hotel, and car rental confirmation emails on your BlackBerry and creates a single itinerary with all the details synched to your BlackBerry. Once you begin your journey, WorldMate guides you through all the stages of the trip.
  • XE Currency – A must have BlackBerry application if you’re not good with numbers. XE Currency can convert more than 180 currencies with up-to-minute rates, provided you’re in an open Wi-Fi zone. Or, you can take the hit on your roaming charges. If you update it just before you leave on your trip, XE Currency has the latest rates gathered to help you even if there’s no internet connection, and the chances are the rates won’t change to much throughout the course of your trip.
  • TripCase – Winner of the ‘Best Travel Application’ in June 2009, TripCase offers flight updates, displays car rental services and restaurants around you (with pictures and prices). If you’re in an Internet zone, TripCase can connect with hundreds of travel websites to create the best itinerary.


  • Next2Me – This HTC app saves you looking like a tourist cliché and you don’t have to ask ‘where the post office is’. Using GPS, Next2Me offers everything you need to know about your surroundings. It provides a list with restaurants, movie theaters, ATM’s, gas stations and more. Besides pictures, reviews and other info, Next2Me offers phone numbers of restaurants and hotels so you can call ahead and make a reservation.
  • Trip Journal – Winner of Google’s Mobile Travel Application Award, Trip Journal allows you to make your own travel guide. Documenting every part of your trip, pictures, videos and notes of what you visit, routes you take as waypoints, Trip Journal can be shared with others, for a similar exciting vacation.


  • Yelp! – Yelp! has an impressive collection of reviews and information on restaurants, bars, and clubs from all over the world. Besides pictures, contact info and working hours, Yelp! also provides the best way of reaching your place of choice.
  • World Customs & Cultures – This iPhone app can save you a lot of trouble when visiting a foreign country for the first time. It has a comprehensive list of ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ on most countries in the world. Don’t know if it’s impolite eating in the park? Check WCC’s database for all the local knowledge you’ll ever need.
  • Skype – A must have app if you don’t like spending all your hard earned cash on international calls. If you’re in a Wi-Fi zone you can chat or ‘instant message’ with friends back home without spending a penny.

Samsung Apps

  • Anti Mosquito Plus Sonic Insect Repeller – This application from Vanilla Breeze does pretty much what it says in the description. It’s an anti mosquito app that emits an insect-repelling sonic frequency that will keep you free of mosquito bites and any nasty diseases.
  • Talking Phrasebook – Packed with more than 500 professionally translated words and phrases, Talking Phrasebook might just be your best friend when you’re abroad. Each phrasebook provides both text and audio translations recorded by a native voice-over artist to help you get to grips with the local lingo and sounding like a local in no time!

Even though trips around the world are meant to be relaxing and fun, sometimes things don’t go your way. With a smartphone and some travel apps you can save time, money and keep yourself from having to carry a suitcase full of books and other paraphernalia.

Christian Arno is founder of Lingo24, a global language services provider that specializes in technical and creative translations across all industries, as well as translating websites of all sizes and scope. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 today has 150 full-time employees and a turnover of $8m.

Google Chrome Brings You Free Gogo Wi-Fi During Holiday Flights

Happy holidays from Google Chrome! The team behind the browser says that they love “innovations that make our lives on the web and in the browser better” so much that they are going to give all of us free Internet access at 30,000 feet this holiday season! These people truly feel that the innovations they work so hard to bring to the table would be nothing unless people are able to connect to the web – and they’re right, of course. Why would you need a browser if you cannot connect to the intertubes of information?

From November 20th, 2010 until January 2, 2011, Google Chrome is teaming up with several airlines to give you free Internet access on enabled flights. These carriers include AirTran, Delta and Virgin America. This may seem like a small gesture to many – but it’s a large one if you ask me. Keeping you connected to your family, friends and even co-workers (or boss!) when you’re traveling home for the long holiday weekends can be crucial for most of us. Heck, it can even mean the difference between being stuck in the office and being allowed to go home for turkey or presents.

To get more information, be sure to visit, and give a little thanks to Chrome by checking out their latest browser version if you haven’t already.

How to Pay Less for Travel With Yapta

This is a guest post written by Matt Gamboa.

It always happens… you wait for the best price on a plane ticket to maximize your savings, only to find that a few days later, the price drops even more. What can you do? Don’t most tickets say “non-refundable” when you’re reading the terms of sale at the final confirmation screen? What you might not have known is that quite a few airlines offer some form of credit if the price of your travel drops after purchase. The fine print varies per airline, but a Seattle startup is looking to exploit that policy and empower the user with the information. The company is called Yapta.

Yapta is an airline travel site whose main feature is to track airline ticket prices and provide alerts. You look for a specific itinerary by searching on the site (powered by Kayak), and set up alerts to let you know via email when that ticket falls within your budget. It’s very useful if you don’t want to spend more than a specific amount on a ticket, or if you’re just waiting for the best time to travel.

The other, quite unique service Yapta provides is the ability to tell you if your ticket is eligible for a refund because the price dropped after you bought it. A lot of airlines have a policy on refunding travel credit in the event that the ticket you purchased drops. It varies, but generally if the ticket drops below $150, you’re eligible. Yapta will monitor the ticket while you just watch your email account for notifications!

The site was launched in 2007, and they say there have been more than $300 million in savings. Travel is already expensive, you should be obligated to save as much as possible. Yapta helps us take a huge step in getting that lowest price.

Your MacBook Air Can Stay in the Bag in Airport Security Lines

Reports earlier today claimed that the TSA was making a big exception for the new 11″ MacBook Air machines. The rumor was that the devices did not need to be removed from their bags when going through security checkpoints in airports. Several people were angry over this news, wondering why their machine of choice wasn’t given the same treatment.

Is this really a case of being prejudiced or selective in what the TSA wants to require? It certainly seemed that way when the original article was published. However, they apparently didn’t do their homework before blasting the Security Administration. Right on the TSA blog, it was revealed earlier this year that the guidelines had changed.

Electronic items smaller than the standard sized laptop should not need to be removed from your bag or their cases.

There were no special exceptions for the new MacBook Air – nor the iPad. Every device the size of a netbook is treated equally, and left in their protective bag.

Prepare Your Eyedrops for a Travel Bidding War

This is a guest post written by Matt Gamboa.

A Seattle Startup located in historic Pioneer Square is looking to change the way you compete for the best price in vacationing. Off & Away is a hotel auctioning site that puts a little twist on things and truly promotes staring at the screen and watching the timer count down to zero.

At this auction site, hotel packages are offered and the bidding begins. Every bid made costs $1 to the bidder, and adds 10 cents and 20 seconds to the current bid price and time. If you’re the lucky one to bid last and have the timer run down to zero, you win! Since most people will bid towards the end of the time limit, the price will usually go up during that time. But, the savings are huge if you work for it! And you must work, since every bid adds 20 seconds and only adds $0.10, it really comes down to who can outlast the other at the computer. Their very first auction was 2 nights in the Tata Suite Pierre in New York… listed for $40,000 and finally sold for $938! Can you say, DEAL? That’s typically what you can expect from the website. Classy hotel stays usually worth a few thousand dollars are able to be sold in for only hundreds.

So what if you lose? What happens to all your one-dollar bills? Don’t worry if you lose an auction and just blew $300 trying to lock in your dream vacation, Off & Away makes sure you get your monies worth. Any money you “lose” from bidding is reusable via the site’s Book Now section. Just like other hotel booking sites, you can book at over 100,000 hotels worldwide using your credit. But pay attention to the rules, the credit is only valid 30 days after the auction.

Off & Away has a good strategy and lots of potential. Madrona Venture Group, who also backed Amazon and Farecast, and have an advisory board that includes top executives from and Alaska Airlines, backs them.

If you’re a developer, you should check out Deploy 2010 on Monday, November 08, 2010 from 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM (PT). Deploy 2010 is an all-inclusive conference for technology builders to give you new tools to create the applications of tomorrow. The conference will be held at the Bell Harbor Conference Center in Seattle.

Zagat Puts Reviews in Your Hands

At first glance, Nina Zagat looks like any other woman you might happen to meet in New York City. She is pleasant and personable, with a huge smile that lights up her entire face. Spend even just two minutes speaking to her, though, and you’ll understand why she and her husband Tim have made Zagat Rating and Review guides into a household name. She embodies everything that one would hope to find in an entrepreneur. Nina is smart, creative and passionate about what they’re doing in the NYC offices. She also has a damn good eye on the future and what they need to do to keep up with the times.

Zagat Survey began as a hobby for Tim and Nina back in 1979. They saw a need for good restaurant guides, and wanted to fill that gap. I believe it is this enthusiasm and love for what they are doing that has carried them to the top over the years. They became a leader in the social space before the social space was even defined. In the years since their launch, they have expanded to become the world’s most trusted source to help consumers make informed decisions about restaurants, nightspots, hotels, attractions and other leisure activities.

Zagat is working hard to lead the mobile push, as well. Nina chuckles when she speaks of the ways they are pushing forward to embrace the mobile market. She admits that the majority of their users come from iPhone owners… but they are working hard to improve their Android app and their upcoming Windows Phone 7 app. Look for information about that here on launch day – November 8th!

Today, Zagat Survey® has expanded to cover more than 100 countries worldwide and a range of leisure activities including dining, travel, nightlife, shopping, golf, theater, movies and music. Zagat content – available today on most media platforms – lets people search for and find the perfect places for their needs based a wide range of useful criteria. That breadth and depth of information has made Zagat a name that consumers can trust – even if they aren’t sure how to pronounce it.

The single best component of Zagat is the fact that their information actually comes from YOU. The surveys are filled out by consumers just like yourself… people who eat, shop, watch movies and visit local attractions. The information is compiled into a guide by Zagat’s content department. The star ratings are given based on the feedback provided by all of you.

Zagat is not just an ordinary guide book – it’s a way of life. Check them out today.

Would You Let Google Drive You?

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Google is currently testing cars that drive themselves in California. These cars are serious about safety and could actually speed up your commute.However, would you trust Google to get you and your family to your destination safely?

Lamarr said that even though Google is in his television and phone, he is simply not ready to allow it to drive him around. The Google car has only been in one accident – when it was rear-ended by another vehicle. It has been tested on busy California streets for months now, being piloted by a man ready to take the controls at any second. The other seat is occupied by an engineer at all times, who does… uh… engineering stuff.

You may think that it won’t be safe. However, safety is the thing Google is concerned with most. Cars won’t tailgate, since they can automatically monitor distances. We could fit more cars on the road, and you may just get somewhere faster.

While sitting there, you’ll probably be inundated with videos and ads. Heck, what if you get a force-close and the car needs to restart? Yet Lamarr admits in the end that if he were to trust anyone to do this, it would be Google.

Think about it… if this were Microsoft, you’d have to worry about blue screens and literal crashes.

Would you trust Google to get you safely to your destination?

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LeWeb 2009: Building Communities

When Loic Le Meur asked me last year to come to Paris and speak at his LeWeb Conference, I admit to being honored beyond belief. LeWeb is one of the premiere conferences anywhere in the world, and it’s held in beautiful Paris. When I found out that Queen Rania Al Abdullah was also speaking, I broke out into a cold sweat. This was serious business, folks. The people who attend this event are hard-core. They are THE movers and shakers in our world. They are smart – passionate – dedicated. Loic is their leader, and I hoped only to make an impact on the crowd in some small way.

Loic asked me to speak about building communities, something which I have been doing online since 1992. This is where my passion lies. This is what I am dedicated to. I walked onto the stage with the hope that the things I have learned along the way would help someone in their journey. I became so filled with the enthusiasm around me that I walked off that stage with my head held high. I feel as though I gave one of the best presentations of my life… not because someone told me so, but because I know that I believed in everything I said.

When you are going to speak to an audience – no matter how large or small – don’t talk at them. Talk WITH them. Yes, you need to tell them whatever it is you know. Of course you’re going to try to win them over to your side. But you still have to actually have a conversation with them… much as you do when you are trying to build a community.

Community comes from inside of you. The tools and platforms available are simply that: tools and platforms. They are not the community. Bring people together and give them the tools to connect to each other and then watch as leaders emerge from within. Talk to them. Work with them. Learn about them and grow with them.

Remember that building a community is not about connecting people to you. It’s about connecting them to each other.