Thursday, February 28, 2013

App of the Week - Google Maps

If you own an iPhone, you're probably very familiar with Google Maps. It's a great way to find out what's near you, and how to get there. You may also have used it on your computer to find the location of somewhere or directions between places.

You may not however realize that you can also create your own maps to which you can save your own, customizable locations. This is an ideal application for planning and documenting an RV trip (I know that there are other apps which let you do this, but I like Google Maps because it is so "open"). You can even get it to draw the route between your locations and calculate the directions and distances.

To get a better idea of what you can do, try visiting TechnoRV's 2013 Rally schedule. It's our own public map (they can be private or shared with just a group of friends) and click on the Airstream Rally. It should then pop up a screen where we've entered information about that "stop". Try clicking on our photos link which links to my Airstream Rally Facebook Album (you'll need to make your album public if you want anyone to be able to access it).

Perhaps my favorite feature is that you can then embed your map in another website or blog so that your friends can easily see where you've been, what you did, and check out your photos, all from using the map (check out our embedded map on

If you have a favorite travel app, let us know. 

iPhone vs Droid - Managing your Contacts (Part 2)

Have you ever thought how much we rely on our list of contact numbers? I have trouble remembering even my direct family member's phone numbers as they are always on speed-dial. Saving your contacts to your phone enables you to always have the information you need, as well as being able to set custom ring tones for different people, which can be useful.

But what happens if you lose your phone, move to a different phone, or are stranded somewhere without your phone (yikes) and need to be able to look up your phone numbers. That's when you realize just how important it is to have them not only backed up, but easily accessible.

So how do you do that?

iPhone Contacts

Your iPhone contacts are located in the Phone section of your iPhone (if you haven't found this yet, then you're in trouble). If you haven't done so already, the first thing you should do is backup your phone, including the contacts. There are two ways of doing this. First, connect your phone to your computer. It should then bring up iTunes which is the Apple program to manage your phone and purchase/play music, videos, podcasts etc. After the Welcome to Your New iPhone screen, iTunes should automatically start backing up to your computer.

Click on the Info tab at the top and there is an option to Sync Contacts. If you are on a Mac, this will import all of your contacts into Address Book which is Apple's program on your Mac for managing contacts (if you're not on a Mac, I have no idea where they go, perhaps someone can tell me!). Now your phone contacts are visible on your computer and any changes you make will be sync'd back to your phone.

The other method of backing up is to use iCloud. I would actually recommend using both since you might lose your phone and computer or you might need access to your contacts remotely. To do this, simply click the Summary tab and then iCloud under Backups. To access your contacts remotely, visit and login with your Apple ID. iCloud is very useful and should be enabled on your iPhone (Settings / iCloud). Not only can you use it to back up your phone without connecting it to your computer, but you can use it to access your information (e.g. contacts) remotely as well as Find your iPhone in the event of an emergency.

Android Contacts (People)

The first thing that you will need to do is to ensure that your Google account settings are configured so that they are backing up or syncing your phone. To check, go into Settings / Accounts / Google and then click Accounts. This will allow you to specify what to sync. Make sure that Contacts is checked. This will then sync your contacts with Google Contacts allowing you to view and edit them online.

Here's where it gets interesting. If you select the Accounts from within  People there's an option to Auto-sync app data. This is useful because if you have other apps that have contact information such as Facebook or Skype, People will integrate that information. What this means in reality is that your friends on Facebook will appear in your People display. What really confused me is that you can then get multiple copies of the same person, one from Facebook and another from Google Contacts. If you try to edit the Facebook contact to add the telephone number, it won't let you. That was REALLY frustrating until I figured it out. My solution (and this is just me) is to ONLY display my Google contacts since these are what get sync'd online. To do this, select Google from within Contacts to Display in People. Now the duplicates disappear. If you add a contact that you have as a friend in Facebook, then Android warns you and asks if you want to combine them. This is the work-around for not being able to edit the Facebook contacts.

In summary, it's very important to backup your contacts and have them available online in case of an emergency. Even though it took me a while to figure out the Android People apps, I prefer it over the iPhone contacts because of its tight integration with Google Contacts which I find very easy to use and very convenient. But as I've said before, that's just me.

Note: All references are for Andoid 4.1.1 (Jelly Bean) and iOS v6.0