Saturday, December 26, 2015

Really Annoying Security Password Questions -- Are We Children or Adults?

Look, banks and hotels, and other companies.  I understand that your software guys need to prevent hacking, and part of that is to force me to use "good" passwords and provide answers to security questions that are not already out there.

But how about making it easier for us customers?  For instance, if you are going to require a complicated password that requires at least one special character, one uppercase letter, and numbers, then how about telling us the requirements up front, rather than having us type in a password and just telling us that the password is "not sufficient."  Arrgh.

Even more annoying are the lame security questions that ask us our "favorites".  Listen, I may have had a favorite color or favorite teacher when I was a kid.  However, I am now an adult.  I have many cities that I like, but no favorite city.  I have many vacation destinations, countries to visit, airlines to use, foods that I like, but no "favorites".   So your asking me these childish questions is useless and frustrating, because if I am forced to supply answers to such questions, I will forget what I put down later.  I am an adult, and I don't have "favorites" any longer.

Here's a really annoying, lame example from a hotel chain:

Please.  Enough is enough.

Friday, December 18, 2015

United Airlines -- How About Taking Care of Your United Clubs?

I've been a longtime, loyal flyer with United Airlines.  The past two years I've even had a membership to their United Clubs, something I never would have considered in the past.  The Club membership comes with a United credit card that I use a lot. 

Flying United in the past two years has been a test.  Their flights are rarely on time.  However, I remain loyal to United and have even been happy learning and using their award travel system in the past year. 
The United Clubs are not very good.  They are generally very crowded.  Still, I enjoy using my Club membership because staying for a six hour layover in an airport in a United Club is better than wandering the airport and trying to find a quiet place. 

The one thing about United Clubs that I wish that United management would fix is the sorry, permanently "not in service" automatic coffee machines that they have in all the clubs.  I actually liked the coffee that came out of these machines.  In the past six months of travel, I've encountered more of more of these machines that are out of order or being serviced.  The staff at the United Clubs are universally dispirited and spectacularly unhelpful.  They seem to enjoy getting in customers' way while the customer is trying to get a drink, coffee, or snack. 

Here's a photo of a coffee machine at the Houston United Club.  I've seen the same sign on my recent visits to United Clubs in San Francisco, LAX (so crowded that there was literally nowhere to sit!),  and Atlanta (a pitiful Club).   The United Club in Terminal 4 at Heathrow London was, on the other hand, really nice. 

I've only seen the Virgin Australia lounges in Brisbane and Sydney, but they put all US-based United Clubs to shame. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

DJI Phantom 3 Flight Videos and the Lowepro DroneGuard CS 400

I'd like to thank all the readers to my blog.  As of today, this blog has reached over 148,600 pageviews.  I appreciate the interest in my writing about the best ways to travel, to pack for travel, and for photography. 

The most popular article on this blog, with over 7600 pageviews, is my post on "Choosing the Best Bags for Air Travel," posted on 9-26-2012.

In this post, I'll show some stills and videos taken with a DJI Phantom 3 Advanced quadcopter.  I'll also describe my experience using the really nice Lowepro DroneGuard CS 400 carrying case and backpack that is designed to hold drones like the DJI Phantom series, 3DR Solo and similar sized quadcopters. The folks at Lowepro heard about my new interest in drone photography and kindly sent me their DroneGuard CS 400 carrying case to use.

Thanks Lowepro!  I have been a big fan of Lowepro gear since I started my career as a nature and wildlife photographer in 1986.  I've used and carried their great camera backpacks, rolling cases, waistpacks, and other camera carrying tools for years and years.  They have something to fit any kind of photography -- I am not kidding.  Their gear has never failed me, through months in the tropics to months in Antarctica. 

Sand Dunes near Barstow, California.  Notice the dune buggy in the upper right corner. 

Here's a photo of my DroneGuard CS 400, packed with a Phantom 3 Advanced quadcopter.   The case accommodates a drone with the propellers on, along with all the accessories needed.  This allows you to hike to a destination and unpack the drone, ready to go.

The case is made of a lightweight but rigid material -- meaning it is surprisingly light to carry around and rigid enough to protect the inside contents. The case weighs only 4.84 pounds.  A lot of thought went into this case, and it's was perfect for carrying the Phantom 3 around.  I could carry it using the top handle or on my back with the backpack straps.

Lowepro also sent me a DashPoint case to hold my GoPro cameras.  I'll review that in a coming blog (I plan to get some surf shots with my GoPros this winter).  Both cases are fantastic -- very useful, light, almost tailor-made to my DJI Phantom 3 drone and GoPro cameras.  I have to say "Wow" -- a lot of thought went into these cases to make them so useful for quadcopter and GoPro users. 

The case had flexible dividers and compartments for storing all the accessories I needed.  I put my Nexus 7 tablet on the side, my spare battery and cables in one area, and my remote controller unit in another area.  It could not have been a better fit or easier to use. 

Lowepro's  DroneGuard CS 400 makes traveling and using DJI's Phantom 3 and other quadcopter models easy.  If you are spending the money on an expensive quadcopter, it makes sense to get a case like this, which has been specifically designed to protect and fit such quadcopters.

Here's one of my favorite video clips from my recent trip to California's sand dunes.  The dune buggies look like alien robots from a Star Wars movie.  Apologies for the moire patterns; I have to figure out how to get video clips on this blog without such technical imperfections. 

I hope to post some more aerial stills and video clips from my recent month-long trip to Papua New Guinea.  I had so much material from there that it's going to take a while.