Category: Lodging

How Good Is This Portable USB Humidifier?

People who travel frequently often look for the portable versions of most things. (Myself included.) So, although you might not need a portable humidifier, you might want one for your home, and look for a travel-sized version. The USB-powered MZTDYTL is just such a device and I picked one up to review. You can see my full review terribly named MZTDYTL, which is designed for home, hotel, or car, in the video above.

Save Money On Utah’s Mountains By Visiting In Summer

alta mountains

Right now it’s a frosty few degrees below freezing, with light snow in Alta, Utah, an idyllic place to ski, but such popularity on this very expensive real estate comes at a price. Starting at over $500 a night during the cold months on average, come summer, hotel prices drop to well under a hundred dollars in what’s some of the best hiking territory in the Rocky Mountains.

Road Trip It

The first time I visited Alta was by happenstance during a road trip I took when Ford gave me a car. Wandering up into the mountains after visiting the “Up” house (long story) before the next day’s drive, I came across Alta Lodge. Inside was mostly empty in the cozy ski lodge posing as a summer hotel. The regular rate for a four-person suite was $99 a night which they gladly reduced even further with a bit of gentle negotiation.

alta lodge utah

The hiking is incredible and these views you’ll have pretty much all to yourself, are genuinely special.

alta utah lodge

Salt Lake From Above

Those of you visiting nearby Salt Lake City on a road trip adventure of your own should considering adding Alta as one of your stops.

alta utah skiing

Off-season prices are less than a quarter of ski season with some of the most accessible hikes of all levels in this part of the United States.

alta utah

Aside from an excuse to post these pictures, I write this because Alta is so simple that without the skiing, it’s not a destination you’ll find much about during the greener months.

best photos alta utah

For many people who love the outdoors though, Alta is a unique spot neglected by large groups of people – much like Iceland in winter.

What To Expect At Your First Creation Las Vegas Star Trek Convention

creation las vegas star trek convention

You might be a Star Trek fan who’s finally decided to attend a convention (or be the friend roped into it all) that’s got no idea what goes on at the annual 5-day Creation Entertainment event in Las Vegas. To help prepare you, here’s everything you need to know about the Creation Star Trek convention held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino every summer.

Why Las Vegas?

There are plenty of Star Trek conventions around the world but the Las Vegas event held at the Rio All-Suite hotel is North America’s largest. (Creation’s convention competes with several in Germany every year for the world’s largest attendance.) Over 15,000 people are expected at the 2018 convention.

What Do You Do All Day?

There are events all day and night planned for the August 1-5th convention but most first-timers have no idea what that means. The easiest way to put it into perspective is to think of the Las Vegas Star Trek convention like Comic-Con, but focused on Star Trek. There are 30-60 minute panels throughout the day which consist of talks plus Q&A sessions with Star Trek actors, directors, writers, and artists like Oscar winner Michael Westmore. (I highly recommend his book Makeup Man for the Michael Jackson stories alone.)

makeup man bookMakeup Man: From Rocky to Star Trek

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Additionally, Creation invites scientists and other engineers to hold discussions on space exploration. Several engineers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will be giving talks on current and fictional Star Trek technologies that may become reality in the near future. (Sorry, transporter technology seems the longest shot.)

klingon armor discovery

People tend to float in and out of the talks, making their way through the vendor room where there’s all kinds of nerdom represented. Need a Starfleet uniform or a Darth Vader mug? The vendors will have it. There are also a lot of independent artists and creators selling handmade crafts as well, in my opinion the most interesting items sold at the convention.

In the evenings you can opt for additional events like a 45-piece orchestral performing Star Trek: Live, or swing by the Masquerade Bar where by Thursday night the entire hotel has been taken over by Star Trek fans.

Do You Need To Dress Up?

No – but a lot of people do. Uniform t-shirts are common but then there are real cosplayers, peaking on Saturday when an annual costume contest is held. Here are pictures of the best cosplay from 2017 and 2014 to give you an idea but what you wear is up to you.

star trek cosplay

Why Do People Go To Star Trek Conventions?

For a variety of reasons but basically to have fun with other people who are really passionate about Star Trek and science fiction in general. In 2017 I asked a bunch of people why they go to Star Trek conventions, here’s what they said:

People who make it to their first Las Vegas Star Trek convention often return year after year. You see the same people and it has almost become an annual pilgrimage for many, much like Comic-Con is for other fans. If you’re in the Las Vegas area August 1-5, 2018 and interested in attending, you can purchase individual day tickets here (I would recommend Saturday if you’re choosing just one) or get all 5 days at a discounted rate.

Once you’ve got your tickets, you can check out this insider’s guide on saving money, meeting celebrities, and making the most of the Creation Las Vegas Star Trek convention. Qa’plah!

What To See And Do In Asuncion, Paraguay

asuncion paraguay

Asuncion is the capital city of a country I’ve described as affectionately weird – one of the reasons you should travel to Paraguay. Oddities aside, there are plenty of tangible experiences in Asuncion that make it an interesting trip, even if it’s a short one from the few nearby cities with direct flights.

Here’s how to explore Asuncion and embrace its culture, history, and yes, weirdness.

On The Edge

Asuncion is a city with pockets of activity and areas of isolation with such large contrast, you can feel like you’re in a big, bustling city or ghost town, all within a few blocks. To begin, for accommodation, I recommend avoiding the hotels but rather checking out the many Airbnbs just around the city center. They’re nearly all gated, with pools, and large living space for well under $50 a night.

Buses and transportation are crowded but easy enough to manage with some guidance from your Airbnb owner. The first place you’ll want to go is Lido Bar for lunch. Lido Bar serves a variety of Paraguayan staples to Asuncion’s middle class before or between the workday. To best avoid the crowds, arrive at 1pm and then order caldo de pescado (fish soup) and an empanada to go with it. Don’t expect much English to be spoken by staff but if you use Pimsleur 2-4 weeks before your trip, you’ll have no problem asking for the daily specials in Spanish.

lido bar

Right around the corner is Cafe Consulado; a calm, borderline-hipster cafe where you can hang out, recharge, then plan your next move.

The Other Side Of Quiet

For some reason that wasn’t apparent to me, the government in Asuncion has created the Bohemian neighborhood of Loma San Jeronimo. It’s lined with colorful buildings with small shops, eateries, bars, and snack stalls. Unfortunately, nearly all of them are closed and as nice as the area is, it’s bizarrely quiet. Fun for photos, Loma San Jeronimo is worth a visit – just don’t trust Google Maps (offline or not) to get you there. Google will send you somewhere nearby but a part of town don’t you definitely don’t want to be in.

loma san jeronimo

Museo del Barro

Museums can be boring, especially after you’ve been to more than a few during your travels. Museo del Barro (also practically empty) though is a detailed look at Paraguay’s indigenous heritage, bloody history, and the contemporary society born of it. You can check the hours as well as updated entry fees on their website.

Runners, walkers, and nature lovers from here it’s a long walk or quick bus ride to Parque de la Salud. The park is an oasis of Asuncion: clean, green, and quiet. There are joggers, walking families, and the enclosed park is well secured so you can explore without worry. Personally, Parque de la Salud was one of my favorite places in Asuncion.

mercado 4 asuncion

On the way back to the bustle of Asuncion’s hidden city life, Mercado 4 is the world famous for its knockoff electronics. I saw fake iPhones so close to the original, unless you’re a tech enthusiast, they’re very difficult to distinguish. Mercado 4 is a fun stroll though Paraguay’s booming counterfeiting economy; highlighting just how off the international grid Asuncion is.

Outside there’s plenty of barbecue with friendly locals who don’t mind a side of conversation with their pork. Now all of a sudden you’re feeling small town again in Asuncion, an a la carte travel experience.

How To Turn An Extra Phone Into A Complete Hotel Room Security System

Your valuables are often vulnerable in hotel rooms and while some Airbnbs may be watching you, keeping an eye on your stuff while you’re out for the day hasn’t been easy. The Haven app however, is designed to be a complete surveillance system you can install on a spare Android phone to be your eyes and ears when you’re not around.

What’s Haven?

Haven was designed by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and the Guardian Project (Edward Snowden is president of the former) to combat an “evil maid” attack. Basically, an evil maid attack is sort of what it sounds like, securing your stuff from someone with physical access to it is really hard. A hotel room is a perfect example, you can’t always take everything with you during the day when staff come in to clean the room.

mobile security system

What Haven does is turn an Android phone into a listening and video recording device that’s automatically activated by sound and motion, alerting you by text if something fishy happens.

How To Setup Haven

As you can see in the video above, Haven is a relatively quick and easy setup. (Currently it’s Android only.) There are two ways to setup Haven: using wifi only or by getting a separate SIM card with data. The wifi-only configuration is cumbersome and much less effective if you’re using it for hotel room security so I’m not covering it here.

The first step is to grab Haven, a free download, from the Play Store and install it on an extra Android phone. Stick in an SIM card with data and launch Haven.

nexus 5xLG Nexus 5x

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Once it’s installed, it will take you through some introduction screens.

  • Configure: The first configure button lets you set how sensitive the camera, microphone, and motion detection are. I would recommend going with the defaults, then run a few tests. If you end up with too many false positives, turn down the sensitivities accordingly and test until you get them as needed.

Next, you set a phone number (most likely to your primary phone) where you can receive texts alerts if Haven detects something after it’s activated. Haven also works with Signal the private messaging app.

Other Configuration Options

When you’re about to leave your hotel room (office, home, wherever you want monitored), open Haven, hit Start Now, and a 30 second countdown timer begins. That timer can be configured to be shorter or longer; notification intervals can also be set in Haven’s configuration options.

haven app

Haven Advantages And Drawbacks

Many people have voiced concerns about personal privacy using Haven. It’s true, if Haven’s creators wanted to spy on you using the app, they certainly could. However, the fact that Haven is open source (it’s code open for anyone to review) as well as the reputation of its creators being on the line, it seems unlikely Haven is some mass surveillance scheme. Yes, Haven needs access to your phone’s camera, microphone, and motion sensors to work properly but most people give those permissions to all sorts of apps that hardly require it.

Ideally, you install Haven on a spare, brand new, Android phone with a new SIM to ensure they’ve not been compromised or there’s no malicious code running on the device. Otherwise, if you’re still a bit paranoid, just use Haven when you’re away from your hotel room and turn off the phone otherwise. Even for hotel rooms with a safe (they’re not too hard to open) placing a Haven-enabled phone inside can catch a glimpse of a thief, potentially leading to the recovery of stolen items. Haven can also be used as a security system while you’re sleeping to keep an eye on the door and give you piece of mind.

Although Haven is fairly power efficient, but if you’re going to be gone for extended periods of time, you might want to plug in the phone to an external charger like the Anker Slim 5000, PowerStick+, or just a wall outlet. Despite its potential drawbacks, Haven is the most comprehensive, inexpensive, and simple solution to monitoring your belongings when you’re not near them. Combined with these other tools, Haven can help you protect and possibly recover your stuff if it gets stolen while traveling.

How To Detect And Find Hidden Cameras In Your Airbnb Rental

airbnb room

There are so many stories being about people finding hidden cameras in their Airbnbs that it can make any traveler wonder whether or not you’ve been watched – or will – the next time you rent from Airbnb. The number of cameras that haven’t been found is a disturbing thought and more renters on Airbnb are installing surveillance to their properties.

Given the number of incidents combined with shrinking cameras, you’re not a crazy conspiracy theorist to want to take matters into your own hands. Here’s how to search for and detect hidden cameras in your Airbnb rental.

Visual Inspection

First, start with the obvious and be sure to read the entire Airbnb description of any place you’re considering renting. Airbnb requires that all hosts disclose any surveillance devices in a property, even if they’re not active or plugged in. It’s an honor system and cameras are never allowed in any private area (i.e. bedrooms and bathrooms) but it is worth checking to see if there may be security devices monitoring the Airbnb entrances or common areas like the living room.

After you have booked a place, upon arrival you can begin a survey to look for any cameras or listening devices. Don’t connect to the apartment’s wifi just yet. Also, assume you are under video and audio surveillance until you’ve finished a thorough check.

butterfly hidden eye

The first step to bug sweep a room is to look for obvious and common hiding places:

Look for any signs such as a small recording light (it sounds dumb but more common than most assume), wires that don’t connect anywhere obvious, and especially the small round glass which is a telltale sign of a miniature camera lens. Turning the flashlight on your phone to maximum can help you detect glass glare, in the dark works best.

These two apps can help you detect camera glass glint.

Assuming you haven’t found anything, the next step is to connect to the wifi in the Airbnb.

Check The Network

Many hidden cameras connect to the home network so they can stream or send what they record somewhere over wireless. Now, connect one of your devices, laptop or mobile phone to the Airbnb’s wireless network. Using the app Net Analyzer (free for Android / iOS or AngryIP for desktop) you can see all of the other devices connected to the wifi network. (In Net Analyzer at the bottom left LAN > then upper-right Scan.)

net analyzer app

Ideally, you’ll see only two devices, the wifi router and the phone you just connected. Any other devices that show up mean something in the Airbnb is wifi enabled and connected to the network. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything suspicious, it could be the smart TV. Now, unplug everything in the apartment you can: alarm clocks, fans, smart TVs, chargers or converters.

Run Net Analyzer again. In case you still see something you don’t recognize connected to the network, that’s odd, but it could be you missed something to unplug or your boyfriend couldn’t wait and entered the wifi password on his phone while you were bug sweeping. Once you’ve accounted for any obvious devices on the network, if you still see something, I would take a close look at the smoke and motion detectors as well as any other electronic you couldn’t unplug.

Use Technology Against Technology

There are two types of devices you can use to properly bug sweep a room, apartment, or home. On the lower cost of the spectrum, the MaQue Anti-Spy Bug Detector shows you where radio signals are emanating from as well as has a small viewfinder that can reveal hidden camera lenses.

MaQue Anti-Spy Hidden Camera  MaQue Anti-Spy Hidden Camera

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More expensive detectors like the Spy Hawk Pro Sweep have a wider range of detection capabilities, which is clearly reflected in the price. Both products can give you some piece of mind when you’re staying in an Airbnb (or hotel room) but aren’t foolproof and professional bug sweeping costs tens of thousands of dollars.

In Case Of Camera

Finding a hidden camera in your Airbnb is a disturbing discovery you hopefully won’t have to deal with but if you do, immediately document as much as you can. Photograph and video any evidence of hidden surveillance as best you can, then find alternative accommodation. (I’m guessing you’ll opt for a hotel rather than another Airbnb.)

Although they don’t have the best record responding to such incidents, report it to Airbnb first. Depending on the local laws, you will want to report it to the police as well. A well-placed tweet to a local journalist might also help your case with Airbnb to get scummy people appropriate punishments.

Despite the negative press, hotels aren’t immune to hidden cameras and using this trick or a reverse image search can get you discounts on an Airbnb, which is often a nice way to enhance a local experience. You’ll just have to keep in mind you might be being watched or listened to anytime you’re staying away from home – making a bug sweep part of your accommodation.

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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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