I just posted some info in another thread about some things that I used on my netbook when travelling, and thought this might be a useful thread in its own right – let’s hear about your favourite and most useful apps when travelling.
NOTE: This isn’t intended to be a discussion about ‘should I bring my netbook’ or ‘where can I buy a cheap iPod’. There’s lots of other discussions for that elsewhere.
So… to get the ball rolling, here are some of my favourite apps that I use on my netbook when travelling:
Skype (FREE) http://www.skype.com
Need I say more? Cheap or free phone calls home, and SMS text messaging. Free video chats with friends who are also on Skype. Another cool thing is that I now also use Skype from my home landline to make national and international phone calls at the normal Skype rates (ie a couple of cents a minute). You get a local phone number that you dial, and then either dial your international number or select from the list of numbers that you have already setup. I have it on speed-dial – so it’s super quick and easy to make calls to people that I call regularly.
Awesome photo-managing software. Easy to load and view photos, and to upload them to your Picasa web album. You get a limited amount of free storage space.
Best of all, it has excellent easy-to-use ‘photoshopping’ capabilities to allow you to crop, remove red-eye, adjust your contrast, etc and lots of other creative ‘tweaks’. You can geo-tag (ie pin-point on a map) exactly where the photo was taken.
It also has very cool face recognition – it scans all your photos, groups them into ‘same face’ groups and allows you to name them. All future photos will be automatically identified as ‘Aunt Mary’ or ‘Uncle Bob’. It even managed to match up photos of my neice as a 6-month old with her photo as a 4-year old.
True Crypt (FREE) http://www.truecrypt.org/
Allows you to create a ‘hidden’ and encrypted drive on your computer, netbook or USB drive. I use this to store all personal files that I wouldn’t want to be discovered if my netbook were stolen.
It's fairly easy to set up. I use it like this: If I want to access my files in my encrypted drive, I have to start up TrueCrypt, then search for my encrypted file. (I give it an uninteresting name (just my initials, no file extension - eg ABC) and it’s buried amongst a bunch of other uninteresting files. Once I locate the file, I login with password. It then appears as just another drive (eg E:\ ).
When I’m finished updating my files, I exit out and the files are hidden again. The only thing an unwanted visitor would see would be a uninteresting file called ‘ABC’. Nothing happens when you click on it. The visitor would have to know that it’s an encrypted file, then use the TrueCrypt program to open it up – and ONLY if they knew the password.
It probably wouldn’t stop the best of the hackers out there, but it should stop your random netbook thief.
Connectify (FREE) http://www.connectify.me/
It allows you to turn your Windows 7 netbook into a WiFi hotspot that can be used by others. This is useful if you are travelling with someone who also has a laptop, iPhone or some other WiFi-enabled device and the only WiFi connection that you have is one that you have to pay for.
How it works: You (the one with Connectify installed) will pay for and connect to the public WiFi connection, and your friend can connect for free by connecting to your Connectify hotspot. Your laptop will just appear to them as an available WiFi connection.
(Must have Windows 7 installed).
Gmail (FREE) http://mail.google.com/mail/help/intl/en/about.html
I didn't bother mentioning Gmail before as everyone generally has their own web-based email accounts anyhow. But Gmail just got a whole lot better - and potentially eliminates the need for Skype! They have provided ability to chat via text, audio and video for free for some time now. But they have just this week introduced free phonecalls to the US and Canada, and appear to have similar, cheap rates that are comparable to Skype for other countries. (Calls to NZ, for example, are 2 cents/min - the same as Skype).
I haven't used it yet, but just thought I'd mention it in case it's of interest to anyone else. There are lots of other reasons why I love Gmail - refer to the link above to see why.