Month: September 2011

Gray Hat Travel Tech 101: Everything You Need To Know About Unlocking Your Mobile Phone

Unlocking your mobile phone has become ubiquitous with a travel-tech thing you should do but is a process not nearly everyone understands completely. There’s actually quite a bit of confusion as to what “unlocking” actually accomplishes, how it’s done, and why you might even want to bother doing it at all. So today, as part of a series on tech hacks that break warranties but not laws (hence, “gray hat”) I’ll give you a crash course on unlocking phones, breaking them out of jail, and enough to win $1,000 on Jeopardy if the category ever comes up. Why You May Need To Unlock Your Phone Although things are changing in the United States, the primary group of people needing to unlock their phones have service in that country. (North America in generally where you’ll find locked devices.) Basically, the cell phone providers like T-Mobile, AT&T, etc. ship phones that can only be used with one provider – themselves. Thus they “lock” in the phones to their service, which means if you’re traveling outside of the US (or simply want to take your phone to another company) you can’t. Your options at that point are either use the expensive international service the companies offer, or simply unlock the phone by restoring the software it was designed to run. Once unlocked, your phone can use SIM cards from any provider around...

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In Pictures: The Costumes Of The 2011 Las Vegas Star Trek Convention

Those of you who’ve been following me anywhere online for any length of time have probably come to know I’m a huge Star Trek nerd fan. I attend conventions on occasion but had never made it to the largest one in the world held every year, over 4 days in Las Vegas, Nevada – until last month. I’ll be writing more about this convention in the coming days (and here’s a beginner’s guide to the whole thing if you’ve got no clue what I’m talking about.) Basically a Star Trek convention is where fans of the shows meetup to hang out, meet the actors, and…yes, dress up in a variety of costumes. The Star Trek convention in Las Vegas this year was held at the Rio All Suites Casino and Hotel, and well, there’s nothing like watching a group of Klingons play craps while three drunken Vulcans gamble at the blackjack table next to them. Enough people dressed up as various aliens at this convention (more than 1,100) to break a Guinness World record for most Star Trek costumes in one place and celebrate the show’s 45th anniversary. (Yesterday in 1966 was the first time Star Trek aired on television.)  Sci-fi fan or not, a convention certainly changes the visual landscape, even in a city where unusual dress is often hard to define. A Ferengi This guy’s species might...

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The Hoover Dam Before And After The Colorado River

The Hoover Dam is simply massive, and I want to say one of the most impressive pieces of architecture…but it’s a phrase I’ve been uttering too frequently these days. Perhaps I’m just seeing humankind outdo itself again and again around the world; yet let’s focus on the history of the Hoover Dam, equally as fascinating and a bit spooky at the same time. The Hoover Dam was almost never built, not only because its feasibility wasn’t certain, but it remained a tough political sell right in the depths of the Great Depression. Eventually however, between the years of 1931 and 1936, the Hoover Dam was built on the Colorado River where it divides the states of Nevada and Arizona. A total of 112 people died during the construction of the Hoover Dam, the first was surveyor J. G. Tierney in 1922 (while looking for the ideal spot to build the dam) – the last was Patrick W. Tierney – his son. He actually died 13 years to the day after his father. The entire history of this dam is thoroughly covered in detail in Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century, a book you should delve into to truly grasp what an undertaking it was and the effects of the Hoover Dam on the environment today. Aside from the Hoover Dam itself, two notable landmarks were born...

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Getting A Feel (Or Not) Of The Middle East’s Fastest Growing Nation, Qatar

Qatar is a country I keep coming back to in my mind as one that I never could quite wrap my senses fully around. What makes Qatar what it is, in many ways, is defined by all of the things it isn’t – combined with the onslaught of what it wants to become. Qatar, aside from being the Middle East’s fastest growing nation, a peninsula sitting on the southeast end of Saudi Arabia, has the world’s highest GDP. More than 75% of the population lives in the capital city Doha, and more than 60% is foreign born in a country that only became sovereign in 1971. Since that time Qatar’s monarchy, fueled by more oil and natural gas per capita than anywhere else, is speeding to establish its place in the changing global economic dynamic. A Focused Vision Forward So much of what you see in Qatar is some part of its future. There isn’t much immediate evidence of anything that came before, or the nomadic tribes roughly brought together with the introduction of Islam around 700 A.D. Once that happened and in between visits from various conquerors like the Ottomans and Persians, Qatar acted as a linchpin to commerce in the Persian Gulf. Much of this history is covered in great detail in Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art, 3 floors and 45,000 square meters encompassing one of the...

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Do I Need A Pacsafe To Protect My Valuables While Traveling?

This is a question that pops up in my inbox frequently and one that backpackers often have during the mid-to-latter part of the travel planning process. A Pacsafe is certainly something to consider while you’re choosing the right backpack but let’s focus on whether you need one to keep your electronics and other valuables safe. What Is A Pacsafe? I should clarify that Pacsafe is a brand name referring to the company that makes several travel security products; but also the common name for that company’s most popular product – a stainless steel wire mesh that covers the exterior of a backpack. That mesh which can be locked to some fixture in a hostel, hotel, or guesthouse. Pacsafe aren’t specific to backpacks technically (though they tend to shaped for them) and can be fit around other handbags as well as some smaller bags and suitcases. There are also some competing products out there, though for the sake of simplicity I’ll stick with calling all backpack-protecting steel meshes Pacsafe for the rest of this post. Pacsafe 55L Backpack and Bag Protector, Silver, One Size How Does A Pacsafe Protect Your Stuff? Exterior-fitting Pacsafe work by making your backpack mostly slash-proof, protecting it against someone who might slice through the fabric to steal your things when you’re out, say, sightseeing. Pacsafe are also designed to be locked on to things like...

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More

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