Category Archives: Blog

Computer Tips for Travelers and anything else that these Geeks feel like writing about will show up here! For additional articles on Picasa, see our separate site PicasaGeeks.com
. For additional articles on Internet Connections on the Road, see our separate site WiFiSavvy.com

Travel Planning: Calculating Dates

We need to be in Gillette, WY no later than July 5 in order to present our seminars for the FMCA 103d Int’l Convention and RV Expo. We want to visit a couple of friends along the way, and perhaps even see some new sights. I use Roadtrippers to plot our route because it has the best features for adding or changing stops, but it doesn’t tell me what dates we’ll be where.

3 route planners that include dates:

Of these 3, RVParky is the simplest. Since I only want it for the one thing – calculating dates – I choose to use the simplest one.

I use RVParky for the big picture, including dates
I can even use RVParky for International travel planning

Calculating Trip Dates

To plan a trip on RVParky (or any of the 3 actually) you enter a start location and a start date. Then you enter a location for each night’s stop along the way and enter how many nights you will stay. It will calculate the dates along the way by taking the Start date, adding nights stays along the way to come up with an Arrival date at the next stop. If it doesn’t work out right, you can change the start date and it will recalculate. Although that makes perfect sense, there’s a big problem with how we plan our travels.

We don’t want to plan every night

We only plan known destinations, not every night along the way. For example, between Fort Lauderdale, FL and Gillette, WY we’ve planned one stop in Florida, one in Texas, and one in Colorado. All three of those are places where we will be visiting with friends. For the nights in between, we don’t want to plan. We just drive until we’re tired, then we look for a campground, or a Walmart, or a Cracker Barrel.

We don’t want to plan a location for those stops but we still need to account for the number of nights, so I add the travel nights to the previous stops and the calculation works out.

How about air travel?

We use this for International travel as well. After entering the start date of a Liveaboard (like a cruise), 10 days on the boat, then 4 days at a hotel, RVParky calculates the date we need to get a flight out. We use this for planning the trip before any reservations are actually made. This is how we sketch out our plans. Once reservations are made, we use Google Drive and Tripit to store and organize them. Tripit can also store any itineraries that a travel agent works out for us.

What about you?

Do you have and tips and tricks for how you do your travel planning? Leave a comment.

RV Travel Planning: Staying at Harvest Hosts

When you travel by RV, you don’t really need a place to stay, you just need a place to park. RV parks with full hookups are nice but not always necessary. If you’re willing to park somewhere without hookups, you have many more options. One of our favorites is called Harvest Hosts. Rather than pulling into a Walmart parking lot, or a Cracker Barrel, when we want something a bit more fun, we’ll check the map for host locations up ahead on our route. It might be a winery, a farm, or even a museum. Membership in the Harvest Hosts system gives you access to the contact information for the hosts, so we can email or call them and see if they have availability. We usually do that the day before we plan to get there. So far, everyone has said yes and we’ve had some memorable nights parked in picturesque vineyards, exciting air and space museums, delicious breweries, and tasty farms.

The Harvest Hosts website makes it easy to see the hosts along your route

Once you’ve joined Harvest Hosts, you can use the tools on the website, or the app, to plot your route and see all the hosts along the way. Click on a host to see the contact information.

As I write this article, I take a look at the map in the Houston area and see a host that is an air museum. I’m going to mark that as a favorite so that, when we get close to the Houston area, I will be able to find this place again.

Harvest Hosts have been some of our most memorable RV stops.

We’ve stayed at Air and Space museum hosts a few times and especially enjoy being amongst the rockets and planes in the evening when everyone else has gone home. The wineries are always good. One time we were treated to live music, and another winery stop was during the Solar Eclipse in 2017.

Just a few of the Harvest Host locations where we’ve spent the night. See our travel blog for details about these stays.

Google Lens will tell you about the things around you

I bought this plant to put in my back yard garden, but I don’t know if it needs sun or shade. If I knew the name of the plant, I would just google how to care for it, but I have no idea what it is called. This is where Google Lens comes in. You just focus on things in the real world and it will “google it for you.” Imagine being able to “Google it” for anything in the real world as well as online. Are you wondering where your friend bought that cool kitchen appliance? Just get out your phone with Google Lens, point it at the appliance and you’ll find out. You’ll even get a link for where to buy it. What is this menu item that’s written in Italian? Google Lens can tell you.

Using the Google Lens app, just focus on the object you want to research and tap the search button.

Google Lens will present you with its search results. If you see the correct object, tap it for further information.

How to access Google Lens

First of all, you need a mobile device, either Android or iOS. On iOS (iPhone/iPad) Google Lens is part of the Google app. You need to install the Google app, then you’ll see the lens button to the right of the search box. On Android, you need to install the separate Google Lens app, its icon looks similar to a camera but not exactly as in the iOS version.

Once you have it, just tap to open lens and focus on the thing you want to investigate. To search for the identification of that thing, just tap the Search/shutter button. Notice, however that there are other options: Translate and Text are amazing. Translate can interpret 100 different languages, Text can copy text from what it sees, even handwritten text!

Birds, Flowers, QR codes and more – take a photo

What if you don’t have the patience to point your phone at something and tap the right buttons? You can take a photo and let Lens investigate the photo at any time. For this, you need the Google Photos app. Just open any photo in Google Photos on iPhone or Android (not yet available on web) and then tap the Lens button. We demonstrate several examples in Episode 211 of “What Does This Button Do?”

Click here to watch the Google Photos and Lens portion of Episode 211. We demonstrate many capabilities, including:

  • A photo of a popular landmark – use Google Lens to learn the name of the landmark
  • Photos of birds – identify the type of bird
  • Photos of shells
  • Underwater photo to identify the type of turtle
  • Photos of trees – identify them
  • Pictures of QR codes will scan the QR code
  • A photo of printed text – you can copy that text and paste it elsewhere. It will be fully editable.

Try it by taking a photo of a business card. Open the photo in Google Photos and tap the lens button and you can save the information as a new contact, or just ask it to make a phone call or send an email, you’ll be amazed.

QR Codes are everywhere, do you know what to do with them?

Just point your camera at the code, then tap the notification that comes up. Watch a video here.

The watchword during a pandemic is “Contactless” – don’t touch anything. That’s why we’re seeing QR codes in restaurants these days. Instead of a menu that gets passed from hand to hand, the restaurant just prints a QR code on the table on on a stand up sign. Use your phone to scan the code, and you can read the menu on your phone.

That’s just one example of how QR codes are proliferating today. They’ve also gotten a lot easier to read. You don’t need any special app, just use your phone’s camera and focus on the code. So, for example, if you point your camera at the code on the left, you should see a notice pop up on your phone’s screen. Tap on that notice and it will open a document – the 2021 Preface to our Learn Google Photos book. If you focus on the code at the right and tap the message that pops up, it will take you to a YouTube video about editing photos. Other QR codes may give you discount coupons, maps, or contact information.

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Two QR codes. One opens a form, the other opens a YouTube video.

Did it work?

What if nothing happens when you focus your camera on a code? There are a few things it could be. Maybe there isn’t enough light, or you’re at a bad angle? You might want to just try it again. If it still doesn’t work (and you’ve never seen it work on your phone) it may be that you need to change a setting. All iPhones should be able to scan QR codes as long as the setting for Camera to scan QR codes is on. Most new Androids can also scan QR codes with the camera as long as the camera setting for scan QR codes is ON. Older or less popular models of Android may not have this capability and you’ll need to download a separate app, like QR Droid or Google Lens. On Pixel phones, QR scanning is a mode on the camera.

How do you make your own QR code?

Let’s say you’d like to put a QR code that links to your blog on your business card. A new browser feature has made it incredibly simple to make a QR code that links to a web page. Just click in the address bar of the web page and you’ll see a little square icon. Click on that and a QR code is now created that links to that web page! For a lot more information about making your own QR codes, see Episode 146 of “What Does This Button Do?”

A QR code can even be interactive. When you scan this last code, it will take you to a form where you can enter your name and email to subscribe to our Newsletter.

Presenting 4 tech seminars at an RV Rally

FMCA is an association of Family RVers. It is because of FMCA that Geeks on Tour exists. You can read some of the history in this personal blog post: Geeks on Tour–Ten Years Teaching Technology to Travelers. So, it felt like old home week when we were able to attend the March rally in Perry, GA. When we get to Perry we go straight to our spot. Most people attending a large RV rally like this are a little lost, but we’ve done this rally, in this location, at least 4 times: 2018201620142011. It’s beautiful weather and we are quite happy to be here.

In case you’ve never been to an RV rally, let me explain. It’s like any industry convention, but there’s no need for hotel rooms, everyone brings their own! Hundreds, or even thousands of RVs find parking places at a state fairgrounds or similar venue. There are social events, food, entertainment, and seminars. We’re there to present seminars.

At this rally in Perry, we were scheduled to present 4 seminars:

  1. Smartphone Photography: take a good shot and make it better
  2. How to remember and share your travels with photos, maps, and a Blog
  3. How to Organize your Photos using Google Photos
  4. How do I make my own custom Google Map

In the past, we’ve always had a printed handout for each seminar. This year we decided to make the handout available on a web page instead. And, because we can, we include the slides and the videos on that same web page. So, if you attended the seminar and wanted to review the material later, that’s available. And, if you didn’t attend, you could still learn a lot by reviewing the materials.

Check it out

The page where you’ll find all the seminar materials for the seminars we presented for FMCA is: GeeksOnTour.com/FMCA.

What do you think?

Let us know in the comments below if you learned anything by visiting the page with the seminar materials.

How to watch just the parts you want with YouTube chapters.

by Chris Guld, GeeksOnTour.com

Have you noticed the chapters in YouTube videos? They allow the viewer to know what topics are included in a given video and to jump straight to the parts they’re interested in.

As a creator of YouTube videos, it’s simple to create these chapters. All you have to do is edit the description of the video and include a list of time stamps along with words that describe what is found at that time stamp. There are only 2 rules:

  1. The first timestamp must be 0:00, marking the beginning
  2. The stamps must be the format hh:mm:ss

An example: if you go to the YouTube video for Episode 206 of What Does This Button Do, you’ll see a description under the video. When you click on “Show More” you will see the timestamps.

You’ll then see the list of chapters. Just click the link to go to the desired chapter.

  • 0:00​ Getting set
  • 2:40​ Apple watch as remote to iPhone camera
  • 8:49​ Send Bitcoin from one phone’s wallet to another
  • 13:53​ Make your own QR code
  • 19:56​ Putting text on a photo with Google Photos
  • 21:28​ Google Maps walking directions with augmented reality
  • 25:28​ 3D printing
  • 34:53​ Bitcoin, crypto-currency and Blockchain
  • 55:00​ Review

Creating the chapters is very easy, but it’s still time consuming. For example, our February “Ask Chris anything about Google Photos” was an hour long and included lots of questions and answers. I ended up creating 23 chapters to represent each question.

The ability to create chapter links in YouTube video was rolled out in May of 2020, so not all YouTube videos will have them. Even newer videos may not have chapters because it is up to the owner of the video to create them.

Timeline links (aka chapters) are something that we’ve always provided for our members in the show notes of our “Button Show” videos. Now that it is so easy to do it right in YouTube, everyone benefits.

Who owns your personal data? Hint: it’s not you!

by Chris Guld, GeeksOnTour.com

On 2/21 we did our YouTube show #207 on Data Privacy with a guest, Phil May who is a data privacy professional. I’ve thought of little else ever since!

If you use a smartphone, or any online services, you are probably aware that some of your personal data is being collected. In the drawing above, our little orange man, let’s call him Joe, has connected with friends on Facebook. Facebook now owns the data: “who are the friends of Joe?.” Next, Joe watches a movie using his Amazon Prime Video account: Amazon now owns the data: “what movies does Joe watch?” When Joe buys something at Target using his credit card, Target now owns the data: “What is Joe’s credit card number?” When Joe uses Google Maps to navigate, Google now owns the data: “Where is Joe?” Joe’s doctor gives him a blood test and it shows lead poisoning, his Doctor now owns the data: “Is Joe healthy?” Joe visits a real estate site like Zillow and looks up the value of his home, Zillow is now the owner of the data: “Joe wants to sell his home.”

Some of this is good

None of this is bad on its face. We couldn’t live in today’s world without the convenience of credit cards, navigation software, and movies on demand. We wouldn’t know about traffic jams ahead if Google Maps didn’t aggregate our location data. But when all the data about you is out there and gets aggregated, it amounts to a loss of privacy. The bad part is that you have no control. If you want to use the apps, you must agree to their data policies – take it or leave it. And, like the frog in hot water, we get used to the idea of companies owning our data and sign up for more and more services. Some of these services are gathering data way beyond what is necessary and even selling it to advertisers for big profits.

Watch Silicon Valley

Avaliable on HBO

If you want to watch a funny show, and get a bit of an inside look at why companies sell personal data – check out the HBO series Silicon Valley, Season 6, Episode 1. In this episode, the CEO testifies before congress about his fervent desire to keep customers’ data private, then returns to his company to learn that his largest department has been selling user data all along. Our data is so valuable to advertisers that companies simply can’t resist. If you don’t have access to HBO, check out this clip on YouTube which shows Richard’s testimony before congress: “The way we win is by creating a new, democratic, decentralized Internet. One where the behavior of companies in gathering and selling our data will be impossible. One where it is the users, not the kings, who have sovereign control over their data.”

How can we own our personal data?

The first step to a solution is to recognize that we have a problem. As long as we ignore the fact that companies are taking our data and profiting, the water will just keep heating up. Once we become aware, we will be open to alternative products and platforms. In Episode 207 of our YouTube show about data privacy, our guest, Phil May, told us about the Brave browser that doesn’t track users, and the Signal messaging app that is secure.

Anything that we, the users, can do is just Band-Aids however. What we need is a new “democratic, decentralized Internet.” One that is not powered by advertising. It sounds like blockchain to me (see this article). A system where each user has their own block-ledger that stores our personal data. Then we own it and can authorize only particular companies to access it and only for particular purposes. As we go thru our digital days, imagine if all that data we generate is being scooped up by our own data vault instead of the companies. This vault would be our virtual identities. That vault would manage our identities and only give access as needed. All access is recorded in the blockchain.

Something like this is already in place in the government of Estonia. Check out this Ted talk What a digital government looks like. Estonia uses their own form of blockchain to allow your personal data to be recorded only once and the individual has complete control over that data. It is possible.

Geeks on Tour Accepts Bitcoin

What actually IS Bitcoin, you ask? Well, that’s what we want to know as well. We’ve been studying, learning, and experimenting. We think that Bitcoin, or some cryptocurrency, is here to stay. We think that the technology behind cryptocurrency – the Blockchain – will change our world every bit as much as the Internet and smartphones have done.

So, yes, we have set up the accounts and the wallets that enable us to accept Bitcoin. It does not integrate into our shopping cart system, so if you would like to pay for a membership or other service in Bitcoin, you need to first contact us. If you just want to send us an anonymous donation, here’s the address of our Bitcoin wallet.

The Internet revolutionized communication and transmission of data. Can you even remember a time before email? But when you send email, you’re actually sending a copy – so that doesn’t work for money. To send money over the Internet today, you need an intermediary to vouch for the fact that the money is not being copied!

In 2009, an anonymous person we call Satoshi Nakamoto came up with a distributed computer ledger process called Blockchain. This ledger can only be added to, it cannot be changed, giving it trustworthiness. It is also distributed among several computer systems that cross-check each others code and calculations, giving it accuracy. A “Bitcoin” is not a tangible thing, it is code in the blockchain. Since every transaction is tracked in the ledger, the Bitcoin can only exist once, thus solving the “Double Spend” problem. This is all done without the need for any government or financial institution, just like email eliminated the need for the postal service for sending letters.

This Blockchain technology opens up the Internet to all sorts of new transactions of value. No matter how much the world has changed due to technology in the last 20 years, there is even more to come. To learn more, see Episode 206 of our “What Does This Button Do?” show. Also read The Future is Faster than you think. Also read Blockchain Revolution, and watch the author’s TED talk, “How the blockchain is changing money and business.”

Playlist: Learning Snapseed

Getting started with LastPass Password manager on computers and mobile devices

In last week’s episode of our “What Does This Button Do?” show, we covered LastPass. See Episode 205: Password Managers – how to use LastPass. Please watch that show to learn more details about LastPass. This article will tell you how to get started on computers and mobile devices.

In today’s world where we all have dozens, if not hundreds, of passwords to remember, we think it is crucial to use a password manager. If you’re counting on yourself to create and remember your passwords, you’re probably using passwords that are too simple, and you’re likely using the same password for multiple sites. Using a password manager, like LastPass, means that you can have long, complex passwords that are different for every site because LastPass is remembering them for you. All you need to remember is the one master password.

There are many good password managers out there, LastPass is the one that we use, so that’s what we teach.

How to get started on a computer

First, you need a LastPass account. Just go to LastPass.com and click the big red button to “Get LastPass Free.” You can start with the free account and later graduate to one of their paid plans. We use Family plan account type for $4/mo. This includes 6 individual licenses, plus the ability to share folders of passwords. My husband and I have separate accounts, but put many passwords in shared folders. If either of us should change the password, it gets changed in that folder for both of us.

Once you have an account, you need it to remember all your current passwords. All you do is visit accounts like you normally do. LastPass will notice when you are typing in a password and offer to save it for you. The next time it will fill the password in for you. You can also manually type them in.

Getting started on mobile devices

A major benefit of using LastPass is that it works on your phones and tablets as well as your computer. You just install the LastPass app on your Android or Apple phone, make sure you’re signed in with the same Master Password that you created. Now when you visit a website that needs a username and password, you should see a way to ask LastPass to fill them in for you.

LastPass can even fill in usernames and passwords for Apps on your device. Here’s a video where you can see it in action.

It’s important to spend time learning

One word of caution. Password management is serious stuff. You need to take learning LastPass seriously. If you’re not paying attention, it is easy to overwrite or delete passwords. For example, I have a couple of sites where, after filling in the username and password, they give me another challenge like “What was the make of your first car?” or “What is your favorite food?” Once I answer “ice cream” LastPass pops up and asks if I want to update that website’s entry. If I mindlessly click on OK, I have just overwritten my password with “ice cream.” I need to pay attention and know NOT to update in that situation.

There’s lots of articles, guides, and tutorial videos available on the LastPass Support page.

Getting rid of passwords altogether

If you think that having hundreds of different passwords is an unsustainable proposition, you’re not alone. There is lots of work being done to have other ways to prove our identity. One that is gaining traction is called “Federated Identity Providers.” For example, most people have a Google account, and Google takes great care to make sure we keep our accounts secure. This means that other websites trust that you are who you say you are in your Google account. “Sign in with Google” is now allowed on many sites in lieu of creating your own username and password on that account. Here’s a video that shows you how it’s done.