If you only could travel with one electronic device, what would it be?

Written by admin on February 5, 2009 – 9:08 pm -

I’d be lost without my computer, camera and cell phone. But having recently splurged for a Blackberry Bold 9000, I can see that life is changing.

I’ve finally found a quad-band world phone that works in more than 200 countries for phone calls and more than 150 countries for data. I’m no longer unreachable in South Korea and Japan.

The camera actually functions and I can zap photos to my Facebook page. The phone also supports instant messaging services such as AIM and functions wherever there’s Wi-Fi. If only I’d had it during my last trip to Laos, I would have been a happy camper.

I’m able to surf the Internet, conduct online transactions, download documents and listen to music.

Being a technical neophyte, I must admit I spent many many hours on a support line with an employee of Blackberry’s manufacturer, Research in Motion. He was based in Singapore, was from Manila and had a Spanish last name and the patience of Job. It’s a whole new world of communications.

I’ve found my electronic soul mate even though I was lobbying Santa for an iPhone. The iPhone has so many applications and reading the New York Times online was a pleasure. But when push came to shove, I had trouble with the keyboard when it came to typing. Perhaps its because I’m a member of the older generation.

So many people I know are converts and wouldn’t live without theirs. They love the functionality and being able to download iTunes and the stability of the Unix-based operating system no matter where they are.

The iPhone’s travel kit allows people to charge their phones anywhere in the world and you can share your phone photos on Flickr and, naturally, Facebook. This is the world of social networking and all of this new and improved technology enables people to have instant gratification.

Again, I am so far from being an electronics expert that I suspect there are still people performing inside my television screen. Please enlighten me and tell me which mobile technology you’re opting for and why?

Who knows – I may spring for another cell phone in the  next decade?

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.

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Posted in Consumer Traveler |

Cell phones — yes or no? That is the question

Written by admin on October 30, 2008 – 1:13 pm -

When the pilot announces all electronics must be turned off before the plane departs, it’s amazing how many people continue phone conversations, sending text messages or emails as if the world were coming to an end. They must be very important.

Federal Aviation Administration regulations prohibit any use of mobile phones except when the aircraft is on the ground. It is believed that cell phone use may interfere with aircraft electronics. Airlines can be fined up to $25,000 if they permit mobile phone usage during a flight. Individuals are also liable.

Some travelers think they know better and contend that cell phones or PDA’s don’t interfere with take offs or landings or feel they’re simply beyond the law. What happened to the old days when we waved goodbye and left our troubles behind while we soared through the sky?

If Representative Peter DeFazio has his way, cell phone use on airplanes may not be allowed. Defazio has introduced legislation that would prohibit passengers from using their cell phones during flights. He calls it the Halting Airplane Noise to Give Us Peace (HANG UP) Act.

Travelers who consider flying a way to get away from some of the realities of life and would like to sleep, work or simply read a book are hoping the bill passes. There is obviously a battle going on. Even some scientific groups are getting in on the dispute claiming using cell phones on planes will hurt astronomy research efforts.

On the other side of the Atlantic, airlines and regulators are moving toward allowing cell phone use on airplanes. Are we Luddites on this side of the ocean?

I’ll confess, I’m totally technologically challenged and am firmly in the camp of maintaining cell phone free cabins. I also follow all directions, when I can. As soon as the no electronics announcement is made, I turn off my Blackberry and touch nothing until I see its  dark screen. But, on a recent flight, I looked in my purse and was horrified that the cell phone evidently had a mind of its own — the screen was shining like a beacon. If the plane had crashed, it definitely would have been my fault.

I often wonder, can cell phone use be an addition? During one trip to Beijing, I witnessed a man, tapping non-stop. When he deplaned and had a signal, I’m certain his email recipients probably wanted to commit suicide. There was no question he was productive during the 12+ hours duration of the flight.

During 2007, The Federal Aviation Administration recorded 133 cases in which passengers were charged for unruly behavior, such as interfering with the duties of crew members when requested not to use cell phones.

How would you vote on allowing or banning cell phone use on airplanes?

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis

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Posted in Consumer Traveler |

Cell phones on planes, the approaching reality

Written by admin on October 1, 2008 – 2:44 pm -

Today’s technology is enabling people to use cell phones from planes. Is everyone thrilled over the thought? I’m certain some travelers will be delighted in the event of an emergency. But, they may not be as happy when they receive their bills that may resemble the national debt. One of the last refuges from ring tones is undoubtedly coming to an end.

Ryanair is the first no frills airline to enable in-flight calling. Ten planes are already equipped. When the service launches, fourteen planes will allow passengers to make calls and send text messages from cruising altitudes. But there will be limitations on the number of people who will be able to “communicate” simultaneously.

The watchdog group Ofcom states it is talking to all concerned parties to clarify what steps can be taken to ensure consumers understand the costs of making calls from on board an aircraft.

Unfortunately, Ofcom can only regulate planes registered in the EU. The group is fast to say the use of mobile phones on passenger aircraft has “raised concerns about passenger welfare and the potential for discomfort, antisocial behavior and ‘air rage’ on board.”

As a frequent flyer, I welcome having access to WiFi on long haul trips. But the last thing I want to hear is someone else’s conversation. Invariably, people who use their cell phones as extensions of their personal and professional lives tend to speak more loudly than others.

I know what my response would be if I were seated next to a non-stop talker. At the very least, I’d ask him or her to find another place from which to make calls. Some passengers would. Then there are others who’d shoot a dirty stare and continue talking. Should earphones and microphones be mandatory?

What would you do?

There are so many options to contemplate and some of them aren’t in the least bit polite. And it’s against FAA regulations to either make a quick exit when you’re at cruising altitude much less push another passenger.

Karen Fawcett is president of Bonjour Paris.

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Posted in Consumer Traveler |