The Real Deal 169: Travel tech tips

Rafe and Tom share some essential things to know before you take your tech traveling abroad.

Tom Merritt Former CNET executive editor
9 min read

Rafe and Tom share some essential things to know before you take your tech traveling abroad.

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We got an e-mail that gave us the idea for this show:

Love the show, along with the entire family of CNET podcast. I should have written you earlier as I’m heading to Europe for the first time for a two week honeymoon in two weeks. I’d be interested in any suggestions about tech while traveling to and around Europe.

I know I could just leave the tech at home, but even my fiance isn’t thrilled about 4 hours a day on a bus with little to do.

I’ve already invested in a 10″ Acer Aspire, packed with all my music and ripped all my DVD via handbrake. I also picked up a decent point and shoot camera and some extra memory cards. Any other helpful items? Get a headphone splitter

Here are a couple things I’ve looked into, but most of the writeups are not from a tech POV. If you have first hand experiences, they would be helpful.

- electrical converters – NO NO NO. plug adaptors.

- finding free or cheap wifi
- cell phones and skype (or calling cards?)
- recommendations for backup power for gadgets – extra laptop battery, USB chargers.

- online personal travel guides http://www.offbeatguides.com/

Hopefully you could use this for a show idea.

Congrats on your 1k episode of BOL!

Pittsburgh, PA


Prepare your cell phone for roaming data where you’re going
-call the carrier, eyeball the plans, settle for a prepaid cell phone temporarily while you’re there. Maybe use Google Voice. Order sim cards in advance?

Prepare your laptop data for roaming too

Join a roaming WiFi club if you’re going for a long time
-iPass, Boingo etc sometimes share wifi memberships.

Consolidate your tech
-Do you really need your laptop if your smartphone will do? Can you charge your phone satisfactorily off your computer? No bluetooth headset – use your wired. Save 1 oz!

Check your power
-Make SURE you have the right power converter. You don’t want to be stuck on battery for your trip! Carry your AC adapter in your carry-on. power – USB charging. Get a power strip for travelers

Map it!
-Print or save Google maps and itineraries. Also, http://www.Tripit.com/ take a GPS, get the world maps.

Program in phone numbers
-Put embassy numbers, emergency contacts, etc. in your phone ICE – emergency contact
ICE – In Case of Emergency. Program that in your phone.

-You’ll be glad you did!

Rafe’s Useful iphone apps
Google maps (duh)
TAxi Magic
Public Radio
Dial Zero


Hay real deal I am europe right now traveling with tech. I find my
iPod touch brilliant for doing everything I need. It is light and easy
to carry and hide

From cian


Hey guys. Love the show. Two real quick tips… well one and a youtube
video tip.

1) Super awesome photographer/blogger Chase Jarvis has a video on
packing photography gear, and has some good tips on dealing with air
travel, esp the TSA. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6R73OJzKxUs

accessories, it’s way too much money and they bundle every single plug
for the whole world together and a three dollar plug adaptor that fits
over the US plugs works just fine. BAH!

Love the show,
Gabe (RhesEbag in the chat)


Stuart in San Diego – Why don’t I have to press one on my new cable company phone to make a long distance call?

A: The one used to indicate the number you were calling was outside of the exchange. These days the system is computerized, and although the one isn’t mechanically necessary, it’s programmed into the long distance system for the bell telephone heirs. It’s not necessary for the wholly new cell phone and voip providers.



Hey Rafe and Tom,

My wife and I just bought a new home, and I have been looking at my home networking options. Running CAT-5 cable would be a nightmare and I haven’t had very good experiences with wireless G networking. At least when it comes to getting maximum speeds for my bitTorrent downloading of Linux distributions, :) . So my options are wireless N or trying out a Powerline AV starter kit.

The main purpose of my home network is currently for watching HD video from my desktop computer (upstairs) to my xbox360 (downstairs). Have you guys every played around with this powerline network technology?

Or would setting up a wireless N network be better? Then I would need to get a wireless N router and adapter for the xbox360 right? Thanks for any help your combined genius can offer!

Doug, The Buckeye Gone Wolverine

A: Rafe says powerline networking works fine but it’s not fast. update: Belkin has new GB adapter
I also have N network. it is fast.


Is there an easy way to read an XFS-formatted hard drive with Windows XP Pro?

I have a NAS (Buffalo Linkstation 320Gb) which automatically backups to a USB external HD.
This system has worked great for a few years with one minor complaint.
Both the NAS and external HD are XFS formatted, and I use XP Pro on my various home/work PC’s.

I’ve had recommendations to get a bootable Linux CD with the required USB drivers.
Then (in theory) I should be able to boot off this CD and access the data on the external HD if the NAS ever fails.
This is assuming of course that the NAS doesn’t take the external HD along for the ride off the edge of the cliff with it’s automated backup process….
I could also build a cheap Linux box and just hook up the drive directly (IDE cable).
Unfortunately, I’m pretty clueless about Linux, so I haven’t tried any of this.

Any suggestions???

- Mark the Connector Engineer

A: My best bet would be to install Virtual Box http://www.virtualbox.net then run Linux, probably Ubuntu would be my choice, in Virtual Box and share the hard drive through the virtual machine. Here’s a tutorial http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=542095


I know one of the favorite subjects of the Cnet’s hosts is the
individual right to online media. Things like fair use and DRM. I have
been wondering about these rights when it comes to public libraries.

More and more of a library’s content is now available online: ebooks,
audiobooks and someday maybe music, movies, games.

From my understanding libraries buy a set number of licenses for each
online media offering, but need DRM to get those licenses back for
others to use. Without some form of DRM used would not everyone just
check out their free copy and the library would need to pay for every
copy checked out?

Is this not a case for DRM? I am sure we would lose the free access to
online media from the public library without DRM?

Any thoughts on this? My hope is someday my library offers everything
from the itunes store for free with DRM (checkout period timeout)


A: Sure as long as the industry forces us to need DRM, then we’ll need DRM. It’s a chicken-egg situation. The fact of the matter is not whether we need DRM or not, but recognizing that DRM doesn’t stop any of the bad behavior it’s trying to stop. Free access to media is already a reality on the Internet. The question is not how to stop people who don’t realize it yet, but how to modify our industry to deal with it.


Tom and Rafe,
I have 1 quick question in reply to your smartphone episode. I have an EnV that is a great phone, but I like getting free new phones every 2 years, and would like to have a WiFi capable phone. I see that Verizon now has the HTC Ozone. I have some time and I'll wait to see what Cnet says about it, but here is my question. This phone has Windows 6.1, but when 6.5 is on the market, can I upgrade the OS on this, or if I wait, will this phone have the new version soon after?
Jeff the Analyst

A: The likely answer is no from your carrier. Most phones that are sold 6.0 will stay 6.0 unless they gave you a free upgrade coupon at purchase. However if you want to do it anyway, you can always look into the mod community. XDA-devs http://www.xda-developers.com/ is a likely source of ROMs for upgrading your device, although it may not be legal and could brick your phone if you don’t do it right.


Hi Tom and Rafe,

I want to start by pointing out that episode 167 proved beyond reasonable doubt that Tom is definitely not a robot with no sense of homour (take note 404 guys!) because there were more than enough mistakes in the show :P

Anyway, a question: What anti-virus software (free or otherwise) would you recommend to a user that has never really explored the possibilities? My Norton subscrition is due up later this month, and I’d really like to get some AV that isn’t Satan’s spawn :P (only used it because it came packaged with the laptop)

Mike from Somerset, UK

A: AVG Antivirus http://download.cnet.com/AVG-Anti-Virus-Free-Edition/3000-2239_4-10320142.html



by siavashghahremany June 27, 2009 1:47 PM PDT Thanks guys for answering my questions.
Tom, I have 2 other PCs and another laptop, so the DVD drive is no problem.
Rafe, it’s a very good receiver and I think you can fix the problem, open the receiver casing and you will see that the Optical input module can be removed, it has an standard slot that most of Marantz AV Receivers use, then look for the same Optical module online, i’m sure you can find a new or at least second hand one.
but just before you do all that, check the power supply board,and your other Audio inputs, when you were 100% sure that the problem is not with the power supply then change the Optical input module.


My personal favorite is:

It converts images, audio and video, easy to use and supports most if
not all formats.

Rafael Viaud

Hi, you guys are awesome

This is regarding Episode 168 about the free phone call. I recently got a boost mobile phone that had been deactivated. I tried to call someone and it told me to call 411 which is directory assistance it played a 30 second add and it told me to type 411 again and it went through a list of things like sport news and gossip and the last one was free call. I said free call and it played a another 30 second ad and my call went through and i had free five 5 minutes of call time. I have done it several times now and it only takes 2 minutes to get my free call.

David from Kansas

P.S. i would have called you with it but i tried logging into the account and didn’t get the pin right and it told me when i tried to make a call that my account could not be validated


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