Showing posts from 2009

Why We Test Our Products before Selling Them

This fire resistant bag from US Patrol looked like an ideal product for full time RV'ers like myself. It's small enough to put in your safe or hide in an appropriate place, yet it's fiber glass construction is claimed to withstand temperatures of up to 1000 degF. An ideal safety precaution for your important documents.

At TechnoRV, we always test products all our products before we sell them, or make them available to the Product Testing Team for more in depth testing and feedback. Below is a video of how we got on testing the US Patrol fire resistant bag. I think you'll like it.

TechnoRV US Patrol Product Test

Needless to say, we won't be selling this product!

Belkin PocketTop Product Review

It looks like the majority of you loved the PocketTop! In fact, the scores are some of the highest for any product we've yet tested.

81% of you rated it useful or very useful with an average score of 4.2 out of 5. 68% would considering giving one as a gift43% likely or very likely to purchaseThere were many great comments about it's usefulness and innovative nature, some of which I've listed below. Regarding it's features, there were three main topics that were discussed - color, size and price.

Some of you were okay about the colors, some of you not (especially the 'bile green'!). I probably didn't do a great job of explaining, but there are actually three colors to choose from. The pea green (tarragon as it is called), Khaki, or Steel. You can look at these different colors on our website. Okay, so they're not exactly going to set the world alight, but at least there is a choice. If you're looking for something a little more lively and 'out…

How to Rebuild a Windows XP Machine

During my Computer Safety and Security Seminar, I often mention the fact that Windows machines tend to slow down over time, and the best way to cure this is to rebuild the machine. It's not a small job, nor one to be considered by anyone who isn't somewhat computer literate. It'll also take at least 2-3 hours, sometimes a lot more depending upon your internet connection speed or if you encounter any problems. You should only really attempt this if you have another computer, or as a last resort on an old computer, as if anything goes wrong, you'll be left with an inoperative machine. Finding a friend who has done it before to help you is definitely a good idea.

The first and most important step is to back up all your data onto an external back up drive such as the TechnoRV Executive Style Backup Drive. 160Gb should be ample for most older laptops although 320Gb is worth the extra. After that, you'll need the Windows XP installation disks unless your computer has a se…

Can I use Ecco out of the Country?

Sure! Ecco uses the GPS network of satellites to calculate its position. These satellites circle the globe meaning that Ecco can be used literally in any location. However, if you more Ecco to more than 100 miles from its previous location, it will need re-calibration. Click here to view the calibration video.

Speeding up your Computer

I recently had this question from one of our TechnoRV fans, Bill:
"Do you have any knowledge of these software programs that are suppose to clean up and speed up your computer, such as Pitstop, Double My Speed, and so on? Do you sell any of these types of programs? If not can you recommend one?"
It's a good question and a hard one to get answered because there are so many programs out there claiming to speed up your computer, fix your registry issues etc (and charge you in the process).

In the research I did, there didn't seem to be any definitive answer. Some work sometimes, and some don't. I've tried a couple myself and got almost no benefit. A better solution in my opinion is to re-install Windows on your machine (or have someone do it for you). It's drastic, but it works, as it puts your computer back into the condition in which you bought it. I do this about once a year on my Sony Vaio. You'll need the windows installation disk (unless your compute…

TechnoRV to Offer Free Gift Wrapping

You may not be aware, but TechnoRV does offer FREE gift wrapping!

Simply add your gift to the shopping cart and then during checkout, select the 'Show gift options during checkout'.

Check this box and once you proceed, you will be given the option to enter the comments for your hand written gift message.

Feel free to email us ( if you have any special gift wrapping requests.

You may notice that on your order there is a 1 cent charge for gift wrapping. This is because our website will only allow us to offer gift wrapping for an item if we charge something for it (strange, I know). But don't worry, we'll refund you the 1 cent when we process your order.

Rave Reviews for Swift Hitch

If you're interested in buying a Swift Hitch, make sure you have a look at the great reviews it's received on the TechnoRV website. Simply click on the photo to take you to the product page on TechnoRV, then scroll to the bottom to see the reviews.

To make it easier, I've also copes them here:

Very useful (and a lot of Fun)July 7, 2009Reviewer: William Bevington from Mission , TX United States
I bought this product specifically to hitch up my 40 ft fiver to my Volvo tractor pull vehicle. I had to hitch up completely blind since there is no line of sight to the hitch from the cab of a over the road tractor. I had to get out of the cab about 5 times before I was finally lined up and hitched. Now I do it all from the cab with a little help from my wife raising and lowering the fiver as needed. It is also a limitless source of fun for myself and grandchildren as we find all …

Liquid Image Camera Masks - Which is the right one for me?

As both a photographer and a diver, I was blown away when I first saw the Liquid Image Dive Masks about a year ago at the CES Show in Vegas. What a great idea! My daughter Ally and I had scuba certified about three years ago in Monterey California (boy, the water is cold there!), and since then dived in Islamarada (Florida), Bonne Terre Mines in Missouri (read my account on my RV Trip Blog), Mexico and Hondorus.

I'd tried taking photographs underwater with both a disposable camera as well as a rented digital camera in a special housing. The disposable camera was a waste of time, especially as I had to then scan what ever pictures did emerge. The digital caemra was better, but it was still hard as it would bob around on its little strap underwater making it hard to grab hold of and use, especialy as when you're diving there's so much else going on that you have to worry about. I can't wait to get out and use one of these masks as I'm sure that they'll make the wh…

Grandma Maddock's Curried Parsnip Soup

While giving the Locket presentation at the various shows and rallies, many of you have asked for Tracey's Mum's traditional English parsnip soup recipe. It's a wonderful recipe, ideal for these cold winter nights.

For the sugar, I've also included Xylatol and Stivia which are excellent healthy alternatives, and you can't taste the difference, especially in this soup.

Ingredients (serves 6)
2 parsnips, peeled & chopped
2 eating apples, cored & chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 floury potatoes (large), peeled & chopped
4oz sultanas
2 UK pints chicken stock (20 fl oz)
2 tbsp curry powder
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp caster sugar or Xylitol or 1 drop stevia
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper 1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped

Cook parsnips, apples, onions, potatoes and sultanas in the chicken stock for half and hour. Liquidise and return to the pan with the curry powder, ginger, sugar and seasonings. Cook for another ten minutes and serve sprinkled with fresh thyme. Let me kn…

Newsletter Archives

Click on the photo to view the TechnoRV newsletter archives covering TechnoRV News, RV tips, Product Updates and the results of our very popular Product Reviews.

Swine Flu Advice

Well, it looks like we've finally succumbed and contracted swine flu.

How do I know?
Well, here's the list from the CDC of swine flu (2009 H1N1) and seasonal flue symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. Scoring an 8 out of 9, it's official, I have it. Having said that, I don't know if I'm just lucky, but it doesn't actually feel much worse than some colds that I've had (but then I do get some bad colds).

Is there anything you can do to avoid catching it?
Yes, stay inside and never see anyone. Failing that, there are some things that you can do. There is an email going around purporting to be from Dr. Vinay Goyal that whilst not valid (see Urban Legends), does offer some good advice:
Frequent hand-washing (recommended by the CDC)"Hands-off-the-face" approach (recommended by the CDC)Boost your immunity with vitamin C, exercise, sunlight and a healthy diet (source)

Windows Keyboard Shortcuts

During my Computer Safety and Security seminar I talk about the use of key board short cuts in Windows. These shortcuts serve two functions. First they save time and mouse work by quickly giving you access to a command or function such as copy or paste without having to navigate the Windows menu system. Secondly, since if you type anything like me, then most of the shortcuts require two fingers / hands which makes you let go of the mouse, thereby providing some relief from the dreaded 'mouse grip' (not letting go of the mouse for long periods of time which can cause ergonomic issues).

So what are these mysterious shortcuts and how do you use them? Well, you can use them almost anywhere on a Windows machine (and some actually work on Mac's!). Here's a list of the most common shortcuts and a link to a complete list:

CTRL+C: CopyCTRL+X: CutCTRL+V: PasteCTRL+Z: UndoCTRL+B: BoldCTRL+U: UnderlineCTRL+I: ItalicALT+TAB: Switch between open programsALT+F4: Quit programSHIFT+DELET…

How to install Locket

Locket runs on all the latest versions of Windows XP and Vista. Most important of all, you need to make sure that your computer is running the latest version of the operating system by turning on automatic updates and letting the computer update itself. After that, installing Locket is fairly straight forward, but to make it easier, we've created a 'How to' guide. Simply click on the photo or click here to download the .pdf file.

Ecco Key Chain GPS Product Review - Results

First of all, thanks for an outstanding response to the Ecco Product Review Survey. A total of 43 people responded to the survey which is our largest number yet.

We were also extremely pleased that so many of you seemed to love Ecco and gave us so many positive comments.
81% thought Ecco would be useful or very useful69% would consider giving one as a giftComments

"I think this would be superb for any full-time RVer, who has to navigate in terra incognita all the time! They are constantly traveling to unknown places and having to find their way around. This could be a real asset!"

"I always lose my car in parking lots. There isn't anything distinguishing about it and I usually leave a store by a different door and spend hours trying to figure out which one was correct."

"This is not like any GPS I've seen. I love the size and the many features. I see my wife using it in the mall parking lot (or after a ball game for me). Having the compass heading and dista…

Using the correct Netac plug

The Netac external USB disk drive comes with a rather unusual cable to connect it to your computer. The end with the smaller plug fairly obviously connects to the Netac drive as it is the only one that will fit. But the other end of the wire has two USB plugs on it, only one of which will work by itself. The reason for this is that it allows for the drive to be used with older model PC's whose USB ports (v1.0) do not supply enough current to run the Netac drive. If you have one of those machines then plug both of the USB plugs into your machine. If you have a newer machine (less than three years old) with a newer USB port (v2), then you should only plug in the plug with the two wires coming out of it as shown in the photo. If the light on the disk is illuminated but the drive doesn't appear in the 'My Computer' icon, then you're probably using the wrong plug.

What's All This I Hear About Apple Mac's?

Having spend almost 15 years at Hewlett-Packard, you'd think that I'd be an avid PC user. Well, I certainly have used a PC for a long time, but avid I am not. In fact, they drive me absolutely nuts. Having said that, it's not the PC makers fault, it's Windows, and specifically Microsoft that I have the issue with. So much so that the first thing that I did when I left HP was to buy a Mac. I love my Mac! During the creation and delivery of my other seminars, I often referenced a Mac, to the point that people started asking, 'well, what's the difference?". This is how I came to write this seminar. It's focus is on the main differences, some of the advantages and disadvantages and features a live demonstration of downloading photos from a camera, editing them and then uploading them to FaceBook etc, as well as editing and creating a movie and DVD.

Summary and Additional Information
Everyone's talking about Apple Mac's these days, but what's all…

Computer Safety and Security for the RV

Whether you're a full time RV'er or just like to get away from time to time, having a computer is essential nowadays for email and internet access. However, an RV is a challenging environment for a laptop in terms of safety and security. This seminar was developed to help keep and your data safe while on the road and is based on my twenty years industry computer experience and three years full-time RV'ing experiences.

Topics covered include:
Why worry?Protecting your computerMobile connectivity (WiFi security)Virus Protection and FirewallsProtecting your dataComputer BackupEncryptionProtecting You (healthy computing)Avoiding ScamsData RecoveryEmergency PreparednessYou can find out more information about this seminar as follows:
Copy of the Presentation (.pdf)
Attendee Survey Results

Managing Your Mail Over the Web

Receiving your mail while on the road is one of the most challenging aspects of the RV lifestyle, and one that we've struggled with in the three years that we've been on the road. Once we left our house in California, we re-directed our mail to a friends house, but quickly found that that wasn't going to work for us. After that we tried the Escapees Mail Forwarding service which was better, but it was still too limiting. The process of manually having to call up someone and go through a description of our mail was just too hard, especially with the challenge of different time zones. Add to that the fact that we were not able to specify exactly what mail to junk, or to have UPS or FedEx deliveries. We needed a better solution.

About 18 months ago we found out about Earth Class Mail, and I tell you, I love it. LOVE IT, LOVE IT! To start with, you get to choose your physical address from their list of addresses. This means that you have the flexibility of deciding which state …

Repairing the Locket Database

Occasionally Locket will come up with spurious errors for no apparent reason. This can be caused by a corrupt database (Locket uses the Microsoft Access database) which itself can be caused by the unsafe removal of Locket (see 'How to Correctly Exit Locket').

To repair the database, follow the simple steps.

Run up Locket at before logging in, locate the Microsoft Office icon in the top right corner of the screen.Click on the icon and select 'Compact and Repair Database'.Once the computer has finished, login to Locket as normal and see if that resolves the issues. If not, contact me for assistance.

Field test of the Ecco Keychain GPS in Chicago

A little while ago I did a field test of our Ecco keychain GPS (available for $99.99 from TechnoRV) in Chicago. We were in town for a wonderful food tour of the Bucktown district, provided by Chicago Food Planet (a 'must do' if you get chance). Parking was tight, so we had to park the car in a parking meter giving us an ideal chance to see just how good Ecco is at navigating you back to your vehicle. Enjoy ...

Getting the Most Out of Your Digital Camera

I recently gave a new seminar at the FMCA International Rally in Bowling Green, Ohio, entitled 'Getting the Most Out of your Digital Camera'. It was a completely new seminar for me, but one that I had a lot of fun writing and even more fun presenting. I had almost one hundred attendees and despite some challenges with the audio visual (on account of my use of a Mac), I think that everyone got a lot of value from it. We covered Camera Basics (History, Terms, Parts of a Camera, Understanding Features and Settings), Taking Better Digital Pictures, and Managing Your Digital Photos).

As always, I'm happy to hear any comments or suggestions for anyone who attended or not.

Summary and Additional Information
Join Phil May of TechnoRV, for this easy-to-understand explanation of features you may have noticed on your digital camera but were always afraid to use. Phil’s topics will include aperture, shutter speed, flash settings and ISO. Understanding how these items are inter-related …

Emergency Light Product Testing Results

Thank you so much to those of you who completed the survey for the Emergency LED Light. Apologies that it took so long getting the results published, but we've been a little snowed under from our visits to rallies at Monaco International, Good Sam in Zanesville and FMCA in Bowling Green.

As for the product survey results, it looks like it was a big hit! It gained a 4.1 out of 5 for usefulness with over 62% of you rating it useful or very useful. The price you'd expect to pay seemed to be around the $15 - $20 price point with around 55% of you likely to purchase and 75% considering it as a gift (to view a full graphical summary of the results, click on the photograph).

Based on your feedback, we're pleased to announce that we will begin selling the Emergency Light for the introductory price of $14.99. Once we have them in stock, I'll send out a notification email with a link in case you'd like to order (shipping will be only $4.80), or stop by our booth at one of our …

Free Telephone Calls

Yes, that's right, free! I often tell my kids that there's no such thing as a free lunch, but I have to admit that Skype is about as close to a free lunch as you can get. Imagine this, free calls to anywhere in the world with free instant messaging, plus no annoying ads or spam. It's free to download, and once you are up and running with your own user name, you can call anyone with a computer who is also connected to Skype. If they don't have a computer you can still call them with the Skype-Out service that is much cheaper for overseas calls than a regular call. For example, to call Canada it's 2.4c / minute compared to 59c with AT&T from your cell phone. Even text messaging is cheaper, for example 11c / message to the UK compared with AT&T's 25c.

So what do I need?
First of all, a computer. Skype is not a particularly demanding application and will run on most PC's and Mac's. You will need a microphone and speakers. Some modern laptops have thes…

Great Campsite Reviews

I don't know about you, but there have been many instances during our eighteen month trip around the US, and after, where we have been sadly disappointed with a campsite. Maybe it's that the facilities don't match what is promised, but often it can be more subtle things like there are only two washers and dryers and one of them is broken, or that they charge $2:00 per load, or perhaps it's that they do have a hot tub but it's never heated (one of my pet peeves).

About half way through our trip we stumbled across RV Park Reviews ( which we found to be very useful indeed. What I like is that not only does it give you all the usual information like number of sites, price, facilities etc, but also honest and frank reviews by fellow RV'ers, for example:

"If you are desperate and want a bargain, I guess this place is OK." or

"I was wondering why this was the only RV campground available in May for reservations over 4th of July. This …

How can I make my medical information available to the emergency services if Locket is password protected?

One of the beauties of Locket is being able to carry all your medical information with you. However, like all the other information in Locket, it requires a password to access. This is great for most information as you don't want people to be able to read your personal information if you lose or misplace Locket, but there are times when you would like someone, for example, the emergency medical services, to be able to access your information.

Luckily there is a solution. You can think of Locket in two parts, one is a secure vault for your personal data (the Locket software), the other is a regular flash drive on which you can store any form of computer readable data. Whilst you don't want to put too much on the drive as space is limited to 2Gb, there is ample room for medical data.

What I suggest is creating a folder on the Locket drive called ICE and saving your important medical information to that drive. Here's how to do it:

Video Tutorial - Making an ICE folder


How to correctly exit Locket

Making sure to correctly exit Locket is a very important part of keeping your information safe. If you pull out the Locket drive with the Locket still running, or even if you fail to safely eject the drive, you can risk corrupting your data and possibly losing your data altogether (necessitating a restore from backup).

Video Tutorial - Exiting Locket

Step-by-step Guide - Exiting Locket

As for backing up Locket, look for the orange Locket icon in the computer's system tray (bottom right of the screen).

Select 'Exit' from the Locket panel.

Hover the mouse over the icon of a disk drive with a little green arrow (called the 'Safely Eject Hardware' icon). A pop-up should appear listing the drives that can be ejected. Move the curson over the drive corresponding to the Locket drive (if you are unsure you can open the 'My Computer' screen to see which is the Locket drive letter).

Backing Up Your Locket

After having spent valuable entering your data into the Locket, you must make sure that you back it up. Although flash drives are a very reliable means of storage, they can be corrupted if you inadvertently remove them from the computer before it is safe to do so (see another blog entry), or by simply losing them. To avoid this, here's how to back up your Locket:

Video Tutorial - Locket Backup

Step-by-step Guide - Locket Backup

Locate the orange Locket icon in the system tray of your computer (you may need to use the left facing arrow to expand the icons to see the Locket icon).

Click the orange Locket icon to show the Locket panel

If your machine if configured correctly, this should bring up the Microsoft backup wizard (if not, you may need to just manually copy over the files from your Locket drive - email me if you are unsure).

Click on the 'Backup Wizard' and then 'Next', specifying that you want to 'Back Up Selected Files'.

Select the files to backup by click…

Receive Calls to your Home Phone on your Cell Phone

Have you ever wondered if there's a better way to keep your home telephone number, but be able to receive those calls while on the road, and not have to keep checking that pesky answer phone? Well, there is. Not only can you divert calls to your home phone to your cell phone (or any other phone come to that), but you can save yourself money in the process.

I'm talking about VoIP (pronounced 'voy-p') which stands for Voice Over IP. Basically, it uses the internet instead of the telephone system to make and receive telephone calls. Because of that, it can do some very cool things, like have the answer phone email you with the messages as attachments, simultaneously ring multiple phone lines at once, and divert to any phone. If you visit someone's house, connect your box to their internet and you get to make and receive your own calls without costing your hosts anything! Best of all, when you sign up, you get to keep your old telephone number, so someone calls your hom…

Cheap International Cell Phone Calls

Even if you don't use it very often, having the ability to make international calls from your cell phone while on the road can be very useful. Perhaps you have a relative overseas, or need to make travel arrangements, either way, you probably think twice before making that call with your cell phone. It's not surprising. AT&T charge 79c per minute for calls placed to Canada (or 59c if you are on their World Traveler Rates). How about if I told you that you could make the same calls, with the same quality of service for 2.4c per minute?

It's not a joke or a con. There's a company that I've been using since 2006 called Tel3 which offers cheap international calls. The beauty is that you can make these calls from your cell phone. Simply dial a toll-free access number, then type in the number you're calling and you get connected, it's that simple! There's no PIN's to enter and you can even set up your own speed-dials for frequently used numbers. When y…

Locket Survey Q&A

In this blog entry I'll do my best to answer the questions that were raised in the recent Locket Product Review Survey.

1. "I like the product looks, but i am wondering about the cost.. is it so different than anyone you'd buy in a store like in staples, for example?"
The difference between this product and a generic flash drive that you could buy in Staples is the fact that this drive has the Locket software preloaded onto it. This software guides you through entering information that you might need in an emergency, as well as presenting this information to you in an easy to use format (for example, being able to print out a report of all the contents of your RV including pictures for an insurance claim). You could store information on a cheaper generic drive but it would be in the form of individual files or a spreadsheet, all of which are harder to use and not as secure.

2. "More info on what is pre-programed into it would help."
You can visit the Locket pag…

Rain, rain and more rain

It's been almost two years since we were this far East and by way of welcome, it hasn't stopped raining for four days now. We arrived in Branson, Missouri on our way to the Escapees Rally in Sedalia. We'd been here before on our trip and loved Branson landing with its wonderful fire and lights show. This time we stayed at the Lakeside City Park which is only ten minutes walk from Branson Landing as is great value $25 a night. It's a bit gravely and wet in this weather, but very pretty by the lake and super convenient for Branson Landing.

After a couple of days we decided that we needed a bit of luxury and to get away from all the dampness so we drove over to the Outdoor Resorts (Ozarks RV Resort). They have a hot tub and pool, and despite being 28 miles out of town in the middle of nowhere, is supposed to be very nice. Wrong. First off, it's $55 a night, more the twice Lakeside. It's a nice location by the side of a lake and it is all nicely landscaped with pave…

What is the best way to organize my photos?

Do you find that you're photos are scattered about your hard disk? Having trouble finding your favorite photos? Even if you use a software program to organize them, what happens if the maker of that program goes out of business?

For me, photos are the stuff of memories. Anyone who leads a mobile lifestyle like most of us wants to document those travels with photos. But keeping those photos securely, in an organized fashion, so that they are still accessible and useable in ten, fifteen or even twenty years is a challenge.

I first started photography with my own darkroom under the stairs when I was ten years old, and with digital photography back in 1998. In fact, the photo on the right of our old house in England was taken in 1998 with one of the world's first commercial digital cameras, the HP Photosmart, launched in 1997. It saved its pictures in TIFF format which was not ideal as they were large and didn't have any compression. Over the years I've developed a system of…

TechnoRV Launches at the Good Sam Rally

Both Tracey and I wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who stopped by our booth and helped make the company launch so successful.

It was a real pleasure to meet so many of you and get such great feedback about our products and what we're doing. We look forward to meeting you again at our upcoming shows and hearing from you and your suggestions by email.

Neither of us can believe that it's over - TechnoRV is officially launched. I can’t think how much preparation went into it, it seems like all we’ve done for the last month!

The good news is that everything came together as we’d hoped. Despite a non-ideal location (we registered late), our stand looked one of the most professional at the show, and was the envy of many other exhibitors, especially our scrolling banner (one chap said that he was going to order six of them from us!) and the flooring. In fact, a number of people came on our booth just to stand on the floor - it was so comfortable! Tracey had found it on the inter…