PEDs on Korean Air

Flag of South Korea

Roaddoggin has contacted Korean Air for a statement on personal electronic device (PED) use in all phases of flight. The airline has no plans to allow PEDs during taxi, takeoff and landing.

If the Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport provides new guidance in the future; Korean Air may, at that time, consider changes to its policies on PED use.

FAA Rules Electronics OK

Personal Electronic Devices OK

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta today announced that the FAA has determined that airlines can safely expand passenger use of Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) during all phases of flight, and is immediately providing the airlines with implementation guidance.

The FAA has lifted it’s requirement that airlines ban personal electronic use in certain phases of flight (full press release). Both Delta and JetBlue have committed to implementing a change in policy as soon as possible. This is great news for the traveling public. Until policy changes are implemented and communicated throughout each airline’s inflight workforce, please be kind and obedient to your inflight crews over the next several days or weeks. It is an FAA requirement that passengers comply with all crew instructions.  Note that cellular phones and any device with communication capabilities must still be put into flight/airplane mode for the duration of the flight.

In an official statement, the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority notes that “CASA currently has no specific regulations governing the use of electronic devices in aircraft.” and “Currently in Australia all airlines restrict the use of electronic devices during critical phases of flight – such as take-off and landing”. CASA does acknowledge that they are “examining the US Federal Aviation Administration’s announcement on the use of electronic devices on aircraft.”

At the time of this writing (2:30 a.m. GMT) the UK Civil Aviation Authority had not responded to a request for a statement. This article will be updated when a response is received.

Mobile Broadband Data in Singapore

5 Day MaxMobile SIMIf you’ve read my previous article, you know that I carry a mobile broadband hotspot with me when I travel abroad. I was recently in Singapore, and researched the data SIM options there.

SingTel and M1 sell prepaid data SIM cards, but they are recharged with a dollar amount from which data charges are then deducted. The best value I found was the StarHub MaxMobile Prepaid Internet Plans. A five-day unlimited SIM with an advertised speed of 7.2Mbps is SG$18. There is also a SG$32 MaxMobile Prepaid SIM card, the value on which can be used to activate flexible access periods from 1 hour to 60 days. While most of these offers have a fair usage policy of 2GB per day, the 30 day and 60 day periods have 2GB and 3.5GB data caps, respectively. If you use a lot of data, you’d be better off recharging every few days for unlimited use.

I never ran a speed test, but I also never encountered unacceptable speeds. Technology that is forgettable is good technology. You want to be thinking about your work, not your Internet connection, and that was exactly my experience.

The cards are perforated at both the full-size and microSIM form factors, so you don’t have to hunt for a different product for microSIM devices like iPads.

If you need to modify your device’s APN settings, “shppd” is the correct APN for StarHub MaxMobile Prepaid Internet. Username and password fields should be left blank.

You can purchase the MaxMoble Prepaid Internet SIM cards at StarHub Shops, 7-11, Cheers, and the UOB Foreign Exchange counters at Changi Airport.

You can find full details of the StarHub MaxMobile Prepaid Internet plans here…


Mobile Internet For Travelers

Telstra 4G Hotspot with iPhone 4S for scale

Telstra 4G Hotspot with iPhone 4S for scale

One of the best technology investments a frequent traveler can make is in a mobile broadband hotspot, often referred to as a “mifi.” With one of these devices, you can supply a data connection to your smartphone, tablet, and laptop.

Prepaid data SIM cards are readily available at airports, train stations and in shopping centers worldwide, often for very reasonable rates. In Australia, for example, Telstra currently offers 5GB of prepaid data bundled with a 4G hotspot for AU$149. An AU$50 top-up will get you another 3GB.

You’ll want to have the carrier “unlock” the device which allows it to be used with any carrier’s network and SIM cards instead of being locked to the carrier from which it was purchased. Most US carriers make it difficult, if not impossible to unlock devices.  As long as you purchase the hotspot device outside the USA, or on the Internet from a non-US source, unlocking is a relatively simple affair.  You may need to pay an unlock fee depending on local telecommunications law, carrier policy, and time elapsed since purchase.

Why would I go to the trouble of unlocking & carrying a hotspot and buying & swapping SIM cards, you ask? According to HotelChatter’s 2012 WiFi Report, the average daily charge for hotel Internet service is $13.95. I have been charged as much as $40 for 24 hours at some properties and received abysmally slow speeds at that. Another simple but expensive option is letting your existing mobile broadband device(s) roam internationally. This can result in shocking charges. Let’s say you’re overseas, and you download Angry Birds for iOS, a 35.8 MB download as of this writing. Depending on your home carrier, you could end up paying more than three times the cost of your iPhone in data charges – a Verizon (USA) subscriber would be charged US$733, the download would cost an Aussie Telstra customer AU$550, and a Brit on O2 would pay £215 – just for the data usage to download the app.

I generally stick to the big name carriers in a given market, Telstra in Australia, for example. They may charge a bit more, but generally have the greatest coverage and strongest networks. For foreign travelers in the USA, I would recommend staying away from Verizon and Sprint in favor of AT&T or T-Mobile. While Verizon is the remnant of the old Bell monopoly, and generally has the widest and strongest network throughout the USA, they also use CDMA technology as opposed to the GSM used by virtually every other carrier on Earth, meaning you would have to buy a new device to use their services. Most Verizon devices don’t use SIM cards except to interface with their roaming partners’ networks.

You’ll want to secure your device to prevent others from stealing your data allocation or worse.  Once you’ve purchased your data and hotspot, be sure to read the instructions that came with your device, and follow the processes to do the following…
1. Change the network name (called SSID)
2. Change the network password to something meaningful. The most common default is “password” and the unscrupulous are well aware.
3. Change the administration console password – also typically set to “password” at the factory.

Depending on the carrier and the device you may need to manually set APN or Access Point Name information when you insert a new SIM card into the device. Learn from your device’s manual how to change APN settings. In a proper carrier’s shop, employees should be able to provide you with the APN value and any usernames or passwords that might be needed.  At discount electronics stores, convenience stores and the like, employees tend to be less knowledgeable about the products and services they sell, which is why I steer clear of them if I have any questions about a device or service.

Carrying these devices over the past several years, I have saved thousands of dollars for myself and my employers.  In future articles, I’ll detail the best deals I find on SIM cards.

Taskrabbit: Personal Outsourcing

TaskrabbitIf you’re going to live on the road, at some point or another, you’ll probably find yourself lacking the time to do mundane things like errands and housework.   Fortunately, in today’s well-connected world, finding help is easy.  The first service I’ve tried is Taskrabbit, and so far, I’m thoroughly pleased.

You can post tasks such as “do my laundry”, “wash my dishes”, “assemble my IKEA furniture”, “bring me a gallon of milk”, etc.  When you post your task, you note how much you’re willing to pay.  You can either let Taskrabbit automatically assign someone (referred to as a “Taskrabbit”) who offers the lowest bid within your budget, or you can choose to monitor and answer the bids personally.  Once a Taskrabbit is selected, you make whatever arrangements are necessary.  All payments, including reimbursements for expenses and any tips you might like to leave, are handled through the Taskrabbit service using a credit card.  You don’t need to exchange cash with your Taskrabbit.  The service runs background checks on Taskrabbits so you can be reasonably assured that the stranger mopping your floor isn’t a serial killer.

I used Taskrabbits last week to collect some forms from the DMV and to wash my dishes, freeing me to work on a project I’d been putting off.  I posted these tasks with only a few hours’ notice, and received bids within my budget.  Both Taskrabbits were prompt and professional.  If you have more tasks on your plate than you have time, Taskrabbits may be able to lighten your load.  The service is currently available in New York City, Boston, Chicago, Austin, San Antonio, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland (OR), and Seattle.

If you’re going to try Taskrabbit, you can use this link and we’ll both get $10 credit.