Department of Defence Security Threatened by Adobe Hackers

department of defense hackers adobe

Adobe is the latest in a long line of prominent tech companies to suffer a major security breach. Adobe stated that hackers had stolen source code to some of its most popular software applications and data about millions of its customers (source: Reuters).

Adobe is currently re-setting passwords and is advising customers to re-set passwords which are also used on other sites. But if the loss 2.9 million of its customers IDs and encrypted passwords wasn’t enough, the theft of the source codes means that hackers could potentially use that knowledge to exploit flaws in the software, launching attacks which are very difficult to detect.

The Wall Street Journal suggests that “attackers could exploit the code for ColdFusion, a Web application development platform, to find ways to directly access databases linked to public-facing websites”.

These fears have been debunked by Adobe’s security chief, Brad Arkin, as he suggests that after investigating the breach since its initial discovery, he has not seen any evidence that Adobe customers are suffering attacks based on the theft.

He goes on to state that “from my experience as someone who’s been in possession of the source code for five years, I don’t know that it helps the bad guys very much … in my experience, the most efficient way of finding vulnerabilities is not spending time with the source code but directly testing the product while it is running”.

However, if Adobe’s Chief Security Officer is incorrect, this could spell trouble for many major US based organisations. For example, the US Department of Defence, the National Security Agency and the Department of Energy all use Adobe ColdFusion, one of the systems which could potentially be affected.

A spokesperson for the Department of Defence was quick to respond by stating that “as with any widely distributed software, when we identify an issue that may pose a threat or vulnerability to our networks, we remedy it as quickly as possible”. He went on to ensure the public that “we remain vigilant of any potential vulnerability to our systems or networks and take issues such as these seriously.”

With so many major organisations falling foul to data theft from hackers, perhaps it’s time you started to think about taking your cyber safety a little more seriously with varied and secure passwords.

Author: Russell Scott has been the MD of Sycura since its initial inception. Russell offers IT Support services through Sycura and enjoys writing about IT infrastructure and security issues within IT.

Technology, Gadgets and Cool Features of the Best Luxury Cars

There’s something very disappointing about concept cars.

Sure, they look great. They promise advances in car driving technology that baffle the mind and dazzle the eye. Sure, they would be dreams to drive.

Unfortunately, in the end, that’s all the features and technology of a concept car is—a dream.

What about real innovations in technology and gadgets? What about the real luxury cars that drive like something out of a science fiction movie while offering all the comforts and conveniences of a command bridge from Star Trek?

Those are very real. Let’s take a look at some of the best luxury cars features that are more than just high-minded concepts. They’re actually available.

Night Vision and Infrared
Not long ago, the idea of a self-parking car or a camera to display your blind spot seemed impossible. In 2013, they’re very real concepts. In addition, luxury cars are leading the way on a new technology that may be more widely available soon: night vision.

Night vision displays in the dashboard of the car allow you to see the heat signatures of animals and people far beyond the reach of your headlights at night. You can drive more safely and feel a bit more like the creature from Predator at the same time. This feature, initially introduced by Cadillac, is becoming more common in offerings by manufacturers such as BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz.

Manettino
Translated to mean jackknife, this feature introduced by Ferrari is something that appeals to those who really, really like driving sports cars. In short, this toggle allows you to adjust the steering settings for your car based on the type of driving you want to do. We don’t recommend that you switch to “race” mode unless you’re an experienced driver and are in a safe and legal driving area. Of course, if you’re the kind of person who’s driving a Ferrari for racing purposes, you don’t need us to tell you that.

Car MD
If you don’t know a lot about cars, you’re not very likely to diagnose your vehicle’s latest problem. Most likely, you have to take it to a mechanic, get an estimate, and even then, you’re not sure that you’re getting the service you deserve. Luckily, cars are getting better at self-diagnosis with Car MD, which is becoming more and more common in luxury cars.

Technology Leading the Way
Sure, concept cars are the most interesting, but they’re also the most disappointing because they rarely ever see the light of day.

If you want to look for the real future concepts in technology, look no further than the luxury cars of today. They are the ones spearheading the innovation, experimentation and implementation that will eventually leak into the broader automobile market and result in a better driving experience for us all.

There was a day when Bluetooth, push-button ignitions and voice-activation technology were features found only in luxury cars with the latest technology. Now, they’re in new cars across the market spectrum. It’s easy to predict the future of cars. All you have to do is discover the present.

This blog post is written by Chris Turberville-Tully from HROwen.co.uk, a luxury car dealership in England specializing in Rolls-Royce, Ferrari, Audi, Maserati and Lamborghini cars. When not working with HR Owen, Chris enjoys a holiday at the beach, traveling abroad or spending time with his family. Follow Chris’ travels and interests on Google Plus.

Image courtesy of Axion23, Flickr creative commons license

How the Digital Divide is Being Bridged in Rural Areas inf the UK

Access to fast broadband and all the information that comes with it is pretty lopsided in the UK. In the biggest cities and large towns which are part of major conurbations, internet speeds and access in general tends to be far greater than that in rural areas, something which many people off the beaten track are up in arms about.

In the slow lane
Slow broadband can be extremely problematic, especially for children who need a fast, reliable connection to help them with learning outside of school hours. The two main causes of slow broadband are lack of availability and expensive rates for superfast connections. Whatever the cause, it’s something that parents, teachers and even politicians are worried by.

David Nuttall, MP for Bury North, is calling funding given to the Greater Manchester area to tackle the problem of access to broadband in rural areas. Talking to the Bury Times, he said:

“Those who live in areas which have very slow broadband access speeds are seriously disadvantaged in this digital age. Although in recent months we have seen some progress — for example in Nangreaves thanks to the hard work of local residents — there is still much to be done.”

Solution from up on high?
While a long-term solution to the problem of slow rural broadband speeds isn’t in the pipeline just yet, something which could prove to be a cheaper and more realistic alternative to installing fibre optic into a home could come to the rescue of many country dwellers. Satellite broadband, although not that well-known, may be useful for individual homes where fast internet speeds are essential.

Andrew Walwyn, CEO of EuropaSat, explained how it could work for individual homes that would otherwise find access to fast broadband restricted:

“Whilst traditional wired broadband providers champion their investment in fibre networks, in reality out of town dwellers are still stuck staring across the digital divide because of their distance from the exchange.

“There’s no Government money available, and it’s not financially viable for the networks, to invest in laying fibre-to-the-home in out of city locations. BT states that it can cost up to £10,000 to install fibre to a single rural home”, he said.

“Many people don’t realise the role satellite broadband has in filling in rural ‘not-spots’ and connecting the last 5% of homes and businesses that will never get fast broadband over wires.

“The latest generation Ka band satellite broadband services offer defined, predictable service levels at reasonable cost, with no geographical discrimination. Using a small set-top box and an outside mini dish it’s now possible to deliver up to 20 Mb fast broadband to any property in the UK or indeed Europe”, he concluded.

10 Amazing Apps You’ve Never Heard Of

There are a million and a half apps out there (actually, there are probably more than that by now), and by the time you’re done reading this sentence, at least one or two more will have been launched.

Still – not every app’s a winner. Even if it’s free, we’re probably not going to download an app that blows out our birthday candles for us or regenerates your hair by pumping special frequencies into your follicles (seriously?). C’mon, people.

While there are many well-known apps that are truly great, there are a number of genuinely-cool apps that somehow manage to slip under the radar, apps that you’d probably download right this second if you only knew about them. But never fear! Here’s a list of 10 amazing apps you’ve never heard about.

1. Meal Snap

Picture this: you’ve been working hard as nails to stick to your diet and keep those calories low. Suddenly, one of your friends orders the most delicious-smelling entrees you’ve ever had the pleasure to smell on this side of heaven. “No, I can’t have a little bite!” You tell yourself furiously.

Good Housekeeping released this nifty app not too long ago to solve this dilemma: for $2.99, Meal Snap lets you take a picture of a plate of food, and you get an actually-pretty-accurate calorie count of the food. Never again will you have to think twice about that sweet aroma coming from behind the kitchen.

2. Postagram

Forget Instagram – Postagram’s got your back. With this groundbreaking picture app, you can use the pictures you’ve taken from your phone (from Instagram, Facebook, your personal camera shots, etc), and turn them into actual postcards that you can send just about anywhere with a mailbox.

The whole process takes only seconds – take a picture, upload it to Postagram, write one of those hilarious, heartfelt messages you’re known for, and mail it to the address of your choice. Brilliant.

3. 8 MM Vintage Camera

8mm Don’t have a genuine 1940′s vintage camera as a family heirloom? That’s crazy! Everyone has one of those.
Just kidding. Unless you’ve got several hundred dollars laying around, you really can’t afford a camera that gives you a genuine old-timey photo anymore. Don’t worry though, because for $1.99, you can download the 8 MM Vintage Camera app that turns your phone into a legitimate old school camera from way back in the day!

You can change the lens, the sound effects, and you can definitely match your grandmother’s photo when she was 20 and see just how similar you two look.

4. Fitocracy

fitnesssuperheroThis app won “App of the Year” by Men’s Journal, but it’s for the ladies as well. This free app is about the coolest approach to fitness I’ve ever seen – Fitocracy allows you to input that monster workout you just hammered out at the gym into the app, and you reach new levels/accomplish new challenges/show the world your muscles accordingly.

Love video games and RPG’s? Fitocracy havs challenges, levels, and rewards for every time you enter your workout. Compare with friends with who’s the buffest-I mean, who has the highest level!

5. Urban Spoon

urbanspoonSadly, this little-known app could have been the savior to countless nights arguing with friends about where to eat. Instead of talking in circles about where to eat that night (let’s face it, you guys probably just cycle through 3-4 locations every time), let Urban Spoon choose for you!

This free app lets you input what type of cuisine you’re in the mood for, how much you want to spend, and what areas you’re thinking about, and tells you exactly what options you guys can finally try out. Ditch the fast food burgers and try some delectable french pastries or some exotic Mediterranean plates.

6. ToiletFinder

Possibly one of the most ingenious apps ever invented, ToiletFinder informs you where the nearest public bathrooms are to your location. Need I say more?

7. Barcode Scanner

Have you ever been in the middle of your shopping groove, only to find that the item you really need doesn’t have a trace of a price on it? One of the most annoying scenarios that happens in stores, especially when there’s no one nearby to ask (and there’s never anyone nearby to ask).

Fortunately, Barcode Scanner gives the power of the price checker into your own hands. This free app lets you scan the barcode of any item, informing you of the price as well as tells you reviews for that product. Neat!

8. Find my iPhone

It’s surprising how many iPhones don’t have an app that tells them where their phone is. Whether you accidentally leave in the seat cushions at dinner or someone maliciously steals it from right under your nose, Find My iPhone is a must-have app for any iPhone user (you’ll obviously need to use this app from something else other than your phone!)

9. Skyscanner

If you’ve ever typed in “cheapest flights” in Google, you know about the flood of airline companies all vying to get you to click them instead of the other guys. By the time you find the cheapest flight, your trip already passed and it’s time for work again!

Skyscanner cuts through all the online bartering and lets you know the lowest advertised prices for an airplane ticket. Just punch in the names of two airports, and Skyscanner scans the sky (maybe not literally) and lets you know how to have the most inexpensive trip ever.

10. Find My Friends

findfriendsMore like “Real Time Stalking,” Find My Friends lets you locate other buddies with iPhones and see where they are and what they’re up to. Don’t know when your spouse is coming home for dinner? Want to see how far away your friends are to dinner? Find My Friends is a nifty (albeit potentially eyebrow-raising) app for 2013.

About the Author
James is the Development Community Manager at Injekt, an open platform for third party app developers. An avid designer and coder since he was 12, James writes and curates topics on both basic web development and advanced languages with a particular focus on mobile. Connect with James on Twitter and Google+.

Forget Video Conferencing, Holographic Communication Is Here!

People working away from the office have never had more technology at their disposal to make their jobs easier. Social media, instant messaging, smartphones, cloud storage, collaborative software and video conferencing have made communication to and from the office far less difficult than it would have been several years ago, but despite all the advances made, there’s still room for improvement.

Following on from our twitter post about a new ‘robot’ which allows remote workers to ‘roam’ around an office via video, you might wonder what other cool new innovations are in the pipeline. As it happens, there are quite a few which might make office life a little less stressful and more exciting at the same time, but what are they and when, if at all, can we expect to see them?

Straight out of sci-fi?

The robot itself is very cool and useful, but it can be a bit bulky, plus most offices couldn’t afford to have one. A less difficult and more impressive alternative may come in the form of holographic video conferencing, which has already been trialled in high-profile circumstances. For remote workers, it could give them even more reason to enjoy staying at home without fearing being out of the loop.

How this particular form of video conferencing works is that a holographic image of the person using it is beamed to another location remotely using a special kind of projector. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? As far back as 2008, Prince Charles used it to deliver a speech, and since then, this technology is being harnessed before it’s made for a mass market.

The next step in holographic video conferencing technology came in the form of Musion, which saw the deceased rapper Tupac Shakur brought back to life for a concert! Creepy as that might seem, Musion could become a feature of many offices if many businesses like what they see, especially if it makes this tech more ‘human’.

A personal touch

As great as the robot might seem, Musion has a big advantage over it. As well as being more visually impressive, it’s also more immersive and has that personal touch which you might not get from the robot or an ordinary conference call.

“If Musion begins to take off, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that businesses could use this technology for conferences, meetings and so much more”, commented Jacqui Keep, Marketing Executive from Powwownow.

“In time, holographic video conferencing could become the norm, but it depends largely on cost, need and space, although the latter issue might be resolved if the technology behind it becomes smaller.”

It’s likely that the technology behind Musion could become smaller. If so, then expect businesses and homes to take it up and use it to their hearts’ content, leaving the video conferencing robot trailing in its wake.

4K TV – What is it and Why Should You Care?

It’s hard to imagine there’s a TV with picture quality better than the HD we currently have available. And, as a relatively recent advancement to become widely adopted by the general public, it doesn’t seem like it’s time for a new technology to emerge yet. Cue 4K TV – the technology getting all the attention in the industry. What is it and does it mean an end to the standard plasma, LCD and LED TVs most of us have in our living rooms right now? Not quite. Read on to find out.

What is it?
4K refers to the level of high-definition resolution on a TV. 4K video has a resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels, which is four times greater than 1080p, or 1920 x 1080 pixels, currently the best consumer high-definition resolution standard. 4k is also referred to as Ultra-High Definition, Quad High-Definition and 2160p.

While 4K isn’t yet common for the average consumer, a growing number of manufacturers including Sharp, Sony and LG have started, or are planning to start releasing 4K HDTVs in the near. Some are also currently producing 4K projectors and Blu-ray players that will convert to 4K. You might even already have one in your living room.

Why is it important?
Simply put, 4K provides the most stunning picture quality possible today. This is especially true for larger televisions since the larger the screen is, the more pixelated and less detailed the picture becomes. With 4K, however, the picture remains exceptionally more sharp and clear than 1080p on larger screens, even those bigger than 80 inches.

Until now, 3D TV was the up-and-coming technology that everyone in the industry talked about. This is particularly true as many TV companies began showing sets that ditched the pricey glasses in favor of cheaper versions. But, consumers have nonetheless been slow to jump on the 3D bandwagon, and TV makers have turned to 4K as the latest “next big thing.” And, with four times the resolution as the TVs most of us own now, it’s clear why – seeing is believing.

When can I get my hands on it?
So, now that you’re convinced about the wonder that is 4K TV, how can you get one in your own home? Well, that’s the rub. 4K content isn’t readily available to the general public yet, nor is there indication it will be any time soon. It’s unlikely the broadcasting industry will get behind a push toward 4k until it’s popular enough to make it worth their while. The extra bandwidth needed to provide 4K over cable, satellite or the Internet would likely require major infrastructure changes and costs similar those sustained when broadcasters were required to transition to DTV, and that alone is a deterrent. Also, Blu-ray discs don’t currently have the capability to house 4K resolution content, and extra disc layers would have to be added to allow enough space to accommodate a full-length film. So, the bottom line is, until a large number of people start buying 4K TVs and there is a great demand for content to become available, this technology is still several years away from being commonplace.

Cost is another major factor preventing this technology from becoming the rule rather than the exception. With price tags upward of $20,000, not too many average citizens are clamoring to replace their current flat-screen TV that works perfectly well at 1080p with the higher performing 4K.

What’s next?
Some industry leaders (Sony in particular) are “upscaling” content to 4K, and Hollywood studios are increasingly producing films using the technology. This means it is indeed out there and possibly on its way to becoming mainstream. However, with the cost and implementation issues a long way from being resolved, consumers shouldn’t hold their breath or get rid of their current TV any time soon. For now, continue taking the “wait-and-see” approach to 4K TV.

Post is sponsored by h.h. gregg.

Top Five Project Management Apps for Mobile

Identifying, planning, collaborating and executing projects are vital to the success of any business, and the success of projects can be greatly influenced by the use of a project management application. So to help you on your way, we have scoured the app stores, read a plethora of project management blogs consulted our panel of tame project managers to come up with the ultimate “Top Five Project Management apps for the Mobile”.

So, whether you are at your desk, on the train or sat at home in your PJ’s, you can access the following project management tools no matter what device you’re on. In no particular order;

1. Mavenlink – http://www.mavenlink.com/

This HTML5 application is available in the Google App store only as a desktop application. However is compatible with iPhones iPads and Android devices and any browser that’s HTML5 ready. The app contains powerful collaboration features including the usual task, time and expenses tracking as well as an activity feed, keeping you up to date with all the latest actions and comments from team members, and the ability to share and collaborate on documents.

Cost – the standard access is free, with 500MB of storage. Professional access starts at $19/user/month with 20GB of data and additional features such as invoicing, time tracking and expense tracking.

HTML5 App (works on Android & iPhone) – m.mavenlink.com

2. BaseCamp – http://basecamp.com/mobile

Basecamp is considered a veteran of Project Management tools, and since 2004 has seen more than 8 million projects managed using the software. Basecamp allows you to create projects, add team members, start discussions, create and assign to do lists, upload documents and set due dates all with calendar integration.

The Basecamp App is only available for iPhone at present, but offers mobile browser integration so Android users aren’t left wanting.

Cost: Pricing is based on the number of projects and storage rather than users. $20 a month gives an unlimited number of users – the apps are free – and access to 10 projects and 3GB of data storage, or opt into the all singing all dancing Unlimited projects and 500GB of data for $3000 a year..

iPhone App – https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id599139477

3. Clarizen – http://www.clarizen.com/

Clarizen contains a packed toolbox of project management features combining resource management, task management, issue management, budget management, team collaboration and time tracking all under one roof. With the option to report and export to a selection of other systems including MS Project, Salesforce and Google Docs.

The mobile application is available on Android and iPhone, offering all features included in its’ desktop counterpart.

Cost: There are no freebies here, with 3 tariffs beginning at $24.95/user/month, the only difference between the packages is access to the API and the volume of custom fields and mailboxes available.

iPhone App – http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/clarizen/id407229256
Android App – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=clarizen.com

4. Evernote – http://evernote.com/evernote/

The elephant in the room (in a good way), Evernote was originally designed as a note taking app to boost productivity, which subsequently evolved to support a whole host of project management features including; store files, collaborate on notes taken, store webpages and keep Itineraries whilst syncing simultaneously across multiple devices.

Cost: Free to download and access. Premium functionality at $5 per month/user includes added collaboration functionality, greater upload volume and powerful in document search capabilities.

iPhone App – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/evernote/id281796108?mt=8
Android App – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.evernote

5. Google Drive – https://drive.google.com/

Need to build a presentation, share and work on a flow chart or just brainstorm in a word document? Google drive has you covered and all you need is a Gmail login.

Although Google drive is primarily for document storage, it boasts a host of features ideal for project management. The storage solution allows you to store, share and collaborate on documents in real-time with any web users or create specific teams, use Google’s search functionality to find and sort documents whilst getting updates of user activity on shared documents.

Cost: Free and well worth utilising. As it’s from Google there will no doubt be more innovative features added over time.

Phone App – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/google-drive/id507874739?mt=8
Android App – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.apps.docs

Think we’ve missed a Project Management tool that should definitely make the top 5? Why not drop us a line and share your thoughts…

Author Bio: Edward Jones works for provider of official PMP certifications Firebrand Training. Edward writes on a series of Project Management related topics including How to Guides, product reviews and Industry news.

Battery MythBusters: 6 Facts & Fictions About Batteries

We’ve all read or heard advice regarding batteries and how to keep them going as long as possible. But can you tell which advice is true? Here is a breakdown of a few of the most popular battery myths and what you should do to get the most from your batteries.

Myth #1: You should fully discharge a battery before charging.
battery levelWe’ve heard that fully discharging a battery can help to extend its life. This myth is false and stems from the days of NiCd batteries. A full discharge can actually harm the current lithium batteries. Recharging in smaller bouts is less taxing on a battery. However, a full discharge does aid the calibration system of the battery, which will better predict the remaining battery life. It doesn’t necessarily help the battery; it just gives you a better idea of when you’ll need to recharge the battery. It’s best to only recalibrate the system by completing a full discharge occasionally. Generally, partial charges are all that is necessary to be done.

Myth #2: Rechargeable batteries have a lower capacity than disposable alkaline batteries.

In photo: Sanyo Eneloop Rechargeable Batteries

In photo: Sanyo Eneloop Rechargeable Batteries. Rechargeable batteries are not weaker than disposable batteries.

The capacity of a battery depends on a lot of factors. In a high-drain electronic like a camera or laptop, rechargeable batteries will actually power the device a lot longer than alkaline batteries. While alkaline batteries may be listed as having a higher rating, they are designed for slow power use and drain a lot faster when subjected to high power needs.

Myth #3: Batteries experience a memory effect, which causes them to gradually hold less charge.
This myth comes from the old NiCd batteries, which were known for their memory retention. This no longer applies to newer batteries as they will not “forget” a full charge.

Myth #4: Batteries are worthless past their expiration dates.
You’ve probably seen a date on your batteries or their package. That little expiration date tells you the shelf life of the battery. The battery may start losing some of its efficiency by the time that date arrives, but it still has quite a bit of use left in it.

Myth #5. Putting a battery in a freezer can extend its life.
FreezerHeat can certainly impact the life of a battery. But what about cold? Can cooler temperatures make a battery last longer? This depends on the type of battery. The old NiMH and NiCd batteries would discharge quickly, and freezing them would drastically slow down the discharge rate. The new Li-Ion batteries have since replaced them, however, and do better when kept at room temperature. Alkaline batteries discharge at a rate the equivalent of a few cents per year when stored at room temperature. Storing them in a freezer isn’t going to make much difference unless you live in a very warm climate zone.

Myth #6: Your battery won’t lose its charge if it isn’t being used.
Even if you aren’t using the battery, it is still going to leak a little bit of charge between the terminals. If you leave your device plugged in for a long period of time without use, it could cause the battery to lose its ability to retain a charge. If you aren’t going to be using a battery for a while, the best thing to do is to leave it at a little less than half charge (40 %) and store it in a cool place. (The refrigerator is ok as long as the battery is free from humidity.)

Batteries won’t last forever. Eventually, they will run down for good. However, by keeping some of these points in mind, you can get the most out of your batteries.

About the author:
Steven Kellett is the owner of Electronics Warehouse, an ecommerce store that specializes in batteries and battery chargers.

13 Great Smartphone Apps for Traveling Overseas

Heading overseas for a trip? Download some of these apps first to make your trip easier. (Note: Check with your service provider first to see how much overseas roaming will cost!)

chinese new year smartphone

Phoning Home

Skype Mobile
http://www.skype.com/en/download-skype/skype-for-mobile/

  • Platform: iOS, Android, Windows Mobile
  • Cost: free

With a user-friendly interface and excellent Wi-Fi call quality, Skype Mobile’s video calling service can keep you connected with all of your friends and family. Skype to Skype calls are always free, but audio calls to landlines and cell phones are pay per call. Crystal clear audio and easy connections make this app a must have.

Locating Wifi on the Go

Wi-Fi Finder
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.jiwire.android.finder&hl=en
https://itunes.apple.com/en/app/wi-fi-finder/id300708497?mt=8

  • Platform: iOS, Android
  • Cost: free

This directory of a half-million Wi-Fi hotspots in 144 countries depends on user-submitted information, so you can bet it’s authentic since the people supplying the information are the same people using the app. Wi-Fi Finder maps out locations, signal strengths and signal availability. This apps works both online and offline, so you can find hotspots on the go! If you are using the app offline, the app can use your phone to make a call and then send you information on hotspots at your location.

Translating on the Go

Google Translate Mobile
http://www.google.com/mobile/translate/

  • Platform: iOS, Android, Windows Mobile
  • Cost: free

We are all familiar with Google Translate, but the mobile version can really be a lifesaver. It can be used in multiple ways: the screen can be shown to someone else to read/translate, attempts can be made to sound out specific words, and the app (in certain languages) can speak the translation for you.

No Roaming Charges

Fring
http://www.fring.com/

  • Platform: iOS, Android
  • Cost: free

Make voice over internet (VoIP) calls via Wi-Fi. Fring lets you use other VoIP providers on your smartphone or iPod Touch. Fring is known for its group chats/conference calling and is less prone to the crashing that sometimes occurs on Skype. Up to four people can sit in on a call at one time.

Dude, Where’s My Phone?

FindMyiPhone
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/find-my-iphone/id376101648?mt=8

  • Platform: iOS
  • Cost: free

Apple has skipped the chip-in-your-keychain idea and gone straight to the smartphone. With this app, you can go to the nearest internet café and locate your phone by accessing your iTunes account. Then, from that remote location, you can either play a beacon sound, lock the phone or clear your data depending on the situation.

Where’s My Droid
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.alienmanfc6.wheresmyandroid&hl=en

  • Platform: Android
  • Cost: free

This 4.6 star app for finding your lost Android phone is the original “Find Your Phone” app for Androids. You can track your lost phone from anywhere by texting a magic word to it. Turn up your phone’s volume to hear the phone ringing, or if you’re too far away to hear it, you can locate your phone with GPS coordinates on Google Maps. To avoid unauthorized use of the app, you can create a white/blacklist of who can text the magic word, activate stealth mode so your incoming ‘magic word’ text isn’t visible and password protect your app.

The Change-Up

Hotelsbyme
http://www.hotelsbyme.com/

  • Platform: iOS, Android
  • Cost: free

Just in case your reservation falls through and you find out that the other rooms in your hotel are available on an hourly basis, this app allows you to book a room at the last minute based on location. It’s easy to use and provides great filters to sift through options by price, location, rating, etc.

The Add-On

Kayak’s app
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/kayak-flight-hotel-search/id305204535?mt=8

  • Platform: iOS, Android, Windows Mobile
  • Cost: free

What if you need more than just a change in accommodations? What if you want to add another leg to your trip or quit your job and just wander around Europe for a month? Kayak can help you book flights, ferries, rental cars and any other means of transportation. It also stores the invoices to avoid the hassle of a printout.

Grease the Locals

Tipping Tips
http://www.snappapp.com/TippingTips/overview_en.html

  • Platform: iOS
  • Cost: $.99

What do you tip a concierge in Bermuda? A waitress in Japan? (Hint: you don’t tip in Japan!) This app can suggest, in detail, tips for over 100 localities around the world. It also features a built-in calculator that divides tabs into separate checks and a service rating system upon which to base your generosity.

Know Your Money Roll

Currency Banknotes
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/currency-banknotes/id460777167?mt=8
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.currencyBanknote&hl=en

  • Platform: iOS, Android
  • Cost: $.99

This user-friendly currency converter can calculate more than 150 world currencies and provide images of the bills for easy spending – and to avoiding using a £50 bill to pay for a £20 item. There is a free version available for iOS and Android without the bill images.

XE Currency App
http://www.xe.com/apps/

  • Platform: iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows 7, Windows 8
  • Cost: free

This app provides an instant currency calculator and currency chart. The app tracks all world currencies and precious metals, providing you with live conversion rates. The app stores the last updated rates, so you can use the app when you’re offline. The currency calculator doesn’t require Wifi connectivity.

The Lifesaver

Find-ER
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/find-er-by-air-ambulance-card/id379300376?mt=8

  • Platform: iOS
  • Cost: free

Wherever you are in the world, Find-ER maps the route to the nearest hospital – via vehicle, foot or bicycle. The app can store emergency contacts, medical information and your doctor’s contact information that may be necessary to the hospital staff. Your insurance company back home and/or your doctor will want you to approve any medical care received overseas for your insurance to pay for it.

Hospital Finder
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.uknowapps.android.hospitalfinder&hl=en

  • Platform: Android
  • Cost: free

Use this app to search for hospitals in your local area all around the world. You can also store hospital information in the app before traveling. Should your phone be offline, you can find a hospital quickly regardless.

About The Author:
Chris Turberville-Tully works with ESA-ServicedApartments.co.uk. ESA provides vacationing families, businessmen and other travelers budget-friendly accommodations that include more spacious rooms than hotels, wifi, kitchentte and private laundry.

Image source: Mr. T in D.C. via Flickr Creative Commons

LCD vs. LED vs. Plasma: Which One Should I Choose?

If you’re in the market for a new TV, chances are you’ve pondered which type of display to choose. There are currently three different display technologies on the market – LCD, LED and plasma. Opinions vary regarding which is best, so how do you know what to go with? Check out our run down of the three varieties to learn more about them so you can make an informed decision before you buy.

What’s the difference?
The similarities are clear – they’re all flat-screen HDTVs available in a variety of sizes from a host of different brands. They are also all available at screen resolutions up to the industry standard of 1080p. But what is the difference between LCD, LED and plasma? The main element that makes these technologies vastly different from each other is the way each screen is lit, which affects picture quality.

  • Plasma: With plasma display technology, the phosphors that create the image on the screen are self-lighting, meaning they don’t require backlighting. This allows for deeper black levels and crisper picture quality.
  • LCD: Liquid crystal display, or LCD, is technology that uses the light-modulating properties of liquid crystals to display video. The liquid crystal does not illuminate, so a separate light source, cathode florescent lights (CCFLs), are required. What we know as “regular” LCD TVs are also referred to as CCFL-backlit LCD TVs. LCDs tend to be cheaper than other screen types, but sacrifice some picture quality.
  • LED: LED TVs are essentially an LCD TV that uses light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to illuminate the display instead of CCFLs.

How do I choose?
Simply knowing the difference between the technologies might not be enough to help you make your decision. That will largely come from whatever is driving your purchase. Are you a “bigger is better” kind of person? Is energy efficiency a priority? Figuring out which elements you can’t live without will help you decide which kind of TV to purchase. Below are some of the most popular factors that influence consumers’ TV purchases.

Picture quality
Above all else, a high-quality image is what people look for in a TV. Brightness and contrast are specifically what contribute to a crisp, clear image. While plasma technology once reigned supreme in this category, LED TVs are beginning to gain a foothold due to the clearer image, brighter whites and darker blacks produced by the LED lights. Recent advancements in technology have some varieties of LCD TVs edging out LED TVs for brightness and contrast quality, but LED is a safe bet when you’re looking for an HDTV with the best quality picture.

Size and thickness
While most focus will be on picture quality, many people also base their decision on screen size and thickness. This is particularly true if an ultra-thin, modern-looking TV is important to the design element of your home. Plus, the thinner varieties are typically easier to hang up on the wall, relocate, or arrange inside an entertainment center. If you’re looking for thin, LED TVs are the way to go. With no CCFLs attached for backlighting, LEDs are much thinner than LCD TVs. Plasmas are a close second weighing a bit more than LEDs, but still offering the thinness that many people look for.

Energy efficiency
Something else that sets LED, LCD and plasma TVs apart is their energy efficiency. Because of the way LED TVs are lit, they require the least amount of energy to run in comparison to the other two technologies. CCFL-backlit LCD TVs come in second in power consumption, while plasma TVs are hands down the most power hungry variety. So, if going green is a priority, a plasma TV probably isn’t for you.

Price
Of course, cost is also a major consideration when buying a TV. If money is no object, the higher priced LED-backlight TVs will give you the best in thinness, energy efficiency and picture quality. For the budget-minded buyer, a plasma screen TV will give you great image quality for a much lower price. High-quality CCFL-backlit LCD TVs can also be found in a moderate price range.

The final decision
Ultimately, choosing an HDTV will depend on which of the above factors are most important in your personal buying situation. With today’s ever evolving modern technology and wide range of options to choose from, you likely won’t have a hard time selecting a quality TV that meets your needs.

Post is sponsored by h.h. gregg.

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