Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Go gadget, go

Stay wired during summer holidays

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Frightened by the horror stories of $30,000 wireless roaming bills? There's a solution for that.

Kids fighting over the one Internet connection in your hotel room? No problem, we have an easy answer.

As the weather warms up and we start planning holidays, there's that perennial dilemma: What to pack?

When it comes to your tech travel kit, thinking ahead can save you time, money and travel headaches. For answers to your travel challenges, here is our list of five tech gadgets you won't want to leave behind.

SharePort Mobile Companion, DIR 505, D-Link, $40

WHEN Cedric Tetzel travels with his work as merchandise manager for London Drugs, he doesn't have to worry if his hotel puts a limit on the number of wireless devices that can be connected to the Internet. But for family travel, the practice in some hotels of charging for Internet access by the device can make a serious dent in the travel budget.

"I just came back from Edmonton and my hotel there had a limit of four devices, which is OK when I'm by myself," Tetzel said. "I was using two phones, a tablet and a notebook computer so I'm cool with four.

"But what if I were travelling with my family, with his and hers tablets, the kids having one each -- that's four devices and there's no room for a phone."

For hotels that charge $15 a night per device for Internet access, by the time the family signs in, the wireless bill could be through the roof.

The solution to keep the Internet bill down is D-Link's little mobile wireless router. It turns any wired or wireless Internet connection into a Wi-Fi hot spot, leaving you free to connect as many wireless devices as you like.

It also functions as a regular router and it has a repeater mode if you want to use it to boost a weak wireless signal.

D-Link's SharePort mobile apps also let you share files with iPhone, iPad or Android smartphone or tablet and you can use it to charge your iPhone and Android smartphone.

SurfEasy Plug In Privacy, $70

THIS is a slick little device that looks a bit like an oversized credit card and it's as handy at home as it is on the road. The brainchild of a Toronto startup, SurfEasy takes care of that pesky problem of keeping your personal data secure when you sign in online at an Internet caf©, your local coffee shop or other open Wi-Fi networks. We've all been warned of the dangers of banking while on the open Wi-Fi of a coffee shop but when you're travelling, you can't always find a secure connection when you need to pay bills.

The SurfEasy is a USB key that, once you plug it into a computer, launches a password-protected web browser. Any sign-in information, passwords, websites or other information is protected by the same high-level encryption used by banks.

It also hides your IP (Internet Protocol) address from the websites you visit. When you sign into a website -- such as Netflix -- as far as the website can detect, you could be browsing from the United States, the United Kingdom or another country. It's a feature that has been noted by some Netflix viewers who prefer the expanded U.S. Netflix offerings over those available in Canada.

SurfEasy basically offers your own VPN (virtual private network) that you can slip into your wallet and plug in whenever you need secure browsing.

Unlocked cellphones, from $50

WHEN you buy a cellphone with a wireless-carrier contract, you get a discount on the price of the phone but then you're locked to that carrier's service. So if you want to use your phone in Europe or the United States or other parts of the world, you could find yourself paying high roaming fees.

My preferred way of avoiding that cellphone bill shock is to have an unlocked phone. It can be a basic talk and text phone at $50 or more. Or it can be a smartphone, such as the unlocked iPhone 5, with prices starting at $700.

Carriers will unlock your phone for you. Telus will unlock phones three months into your contract for a $35 fee; Rogers charges $50 and will unlock your phone after 90 days. Check with your carrier if your phone is eligible for unlocking or ask before you buy a cellphone with a carrier if it offers unlocking service.

When you travel with an unlocked phone, you simply buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card in the country you're in -- that way you have control of your cellphone and data costs plus you're paying local rates, not roaming fees.

Another way to avoid roaming fees while you're travelling in the United States is to use Roam Mobility's service. The Vancouver startup offers several hardware options, plus phone plans including $20 SIM cards for travel in the U.S. that give you unlimited talk and text for $3 a day and U.S. roaming data plans at $40 for one gigabyte. There's a very useful wireless-data wiki online for travellers; check it out at prepaidwithdata.wikia.com.

International Travel Adapters with USB chargers, from $30

THERE are several options when it comes to replacing your collection of plugs for every country with a single adapter that does all.

The Logiix world travel adapter (LGX10280) has plugs for 150 countries, all in a single device. Kensington's international travel plug adapter with USB charger offers the same plug options plus a USB charger as does DigiPower's $35 USB Travel AC power adapter and built-in USB charger.

Mini tablets, from $210

SINCE Apple released its first iPad, that has been my mini computer of choice for travelling -- whether it's to upload photos to the cloud, plan itineraries or Skype with the folks at home. But that changed with the arrival of the new mini tablets, from Apple's Mini, to the Google Nexus tablet and now with Samsung's latest announcement: its Galaxy Note 8.0 that has a pen for writing on the screen. Some of my globe-trotting friends like to carry e-readers, but if I only have room for one device, I'd opt for a mini tablet, which can also carry my travelling library of holiday reading.

And if you want something that does double-duty, keeping the kids amused and giving mom or dad access to a basic Android tablet, check out Ematic's FunTab Pro, a $150 seven-inch kid-friendly tablet.

-- Postmedia News

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 15, 2013 E9

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