Techie Abroad: Amsterdam and Social Cost of Free WiFi

When you travel to a non-English-Speaking country, only then do you realise just how much we depend on technology to help us every day beyond just checking emails and keeping up with our Socially networked  life.  During my recent family trip to Amsterdam, here is what we did with our devices :

Guide Me

When I look around me at the hoards of tourists from all over the world, the one thing I don’t see is guidebooks. In my youth whenever you wanted to go anywhere the first stop was at the bookshop to purchase a “Lets Go Europe” or a “Lonely Planet guidebook to London”. However these days, there is no reason to schlep (carry) a heavy book just to tell you want to do and where to go. Most tourist carry their phone and on the phone there are many Travel apps that no only have access to a vast knowledge base of information that you can access with a a tap of the Search Button, but also use the phone’s GPS to locate your position and suggest activities around your location.

Techie Abroad: AppsTechie Abroad: BlackBerry Family

Wish You Were Here Camera

The only people I saw with serious Camera equipment were the Japanese. Most other tourists simply opted for their mobile phones to snap those pictures-your-are-not-suppose-to-take-in-the-red-light-zone. The mobile phone’s camera does a superb job at making everyone a photographer. I took full advantage of  my BlackBerry Z10 camera especially using the Time Wrap  – getting the kids to smile and look at the camera became easier. The built in filters and effects allowed me to augment my images too.

The kids managed to find a crafty usage of the camera too. When we were at the Van Gogh museum, the kids were given a “treasure hunt” worksheet to complete which not only kept them busy, but also made the museum an educational fun trip as the kids unravelled some of Van Gogh’s artwork. The questioners required them to find specific artwork and describe various details such as: What did Vincent paint here ? What were the brush strokes there ? Who is depicted in the window? Unfortunately, the tourists groups were hogging the popular painting so the kids could not get to be in front of the painting for long enough.  Technology to the rescue: They took their BlackBerry Q5 and my wife’s Q10 and snapped pictures of the artwork – zooming into the painting to get the finer details and even brush strokes. They were then able to complete their questioners and had their own Van Gogh Gallery on their devices and minutes later, their BBM status was updated to “check out Van Gogh without his ear !”

Techie Abroad: kids on a missionTechie Abroad: kids on a missionTechie Abroad: Van Gogh on cameraTechie Abroad: Van Gogh on cameraTechie Abroad: Van Gogh on camera

Getting connected at a Social Cost

The last time I was in Amsterdam was for BlackBerry Jam right after the BlackBerry 10 operating system was launched and at the time when we explored the city, there were free WiFi spots everywhere. I was surprised to see that these WiFi Spots were  locked now. The trend is now for places to offer  WiFi for a Social Cost. They will supply you with Internet access but you have to first Like their Facebook page or Tweet about them. Once you do that, you can surf away. A great way for cafes and restaurants to get exposure and in return you get some data. No privacy is compromised and of course you can unlike their page later on to avoid seeing “today’s special” when you are back home.

Popular Tourist attraction also offer you WiFi but these take you to their Intranet so you can get more info about the attraction itself.

Techie Abroad: Social connectionTechie Abroad: Social connectionTechie Abroad: Social connectionTechie Abroad: Social connection

Power Struggle

Hotels have converted their rooms into energy saving systems where you need to have your room-key inserted into a slot for the room’s power to be switched on. This caused a bit of an issue as the multitude of devices could only be charged at night. So the lamps and TV were unplugged and were replaced with 2-pin-wall chargers at every available wall socket. I highly recommend the Skross multi plug wall adapter  that I got from Wintech solution. This transformer like device adapts itself to the wall socket

Techie Abroad: Power charger

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