Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lobster for Dinner

It was a perfect day on Thursday and then just slightly less so today. We went diving both days. Jim convinced me to go again today because I probably won't go again for the rest of the winter. The water is 73 degrees right now - that's a bit chilly for me. I like it at 80 or more!

Surprisingly, I didn't get very cold. I just love this diving so much!

Bill, the manager of the park here, has been bitten by the kayak diving bug too! It's fun to introduce someone new to our favorite pasttime.

Here we are getting the boats ready.

Here's Bill and Ray getting ready; And, here's dinner!

Three divers ... aren't they cute with their silly hats?

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Buy your Cellular Data Card or Router Today!

Internet access on the road is getting better and better. Wi-Fi, Satellite, and especially cellular have improved immensely. We use all three at different times and places. Cellular seems to be taking over. People *love* their data cards. We don't have one - we use our cell phone tethered - so we don't know enough about them. When someone wants to know details, we send them to EVDOInfo.com for information and we often hear back that they purchased product from the sister site, 3GStore.com. We've talked to so many happy customers of 3GStore, that we signed up as an affiliate. 3GStore is having a sale right now for 'Black Friday.' If you're in the market for any cellular data cards, booster antennas, or routers, check out their special prices in this online sale this weekend. And, if you buy after using the link below - Geeks on Tour will receive a small commission.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Life is SO good! Paradise Island, the park we're at right now, is almost living up to it's 'RV Resort' title today. Check out the ice cream social at the pool:

From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008
The little girl is Marie, the manager's daughter, and she is just a doll. They charged $1 for each bowl of ice cream, and Marie is going to donate the profits to a charity which feeds the hungry. She's an inspiration. And here's the view around the pool.
From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008
A great quote came to my inbox from Heartmath.com this morning:
"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." - John F. Kennedy"
In agreement with that quote ... We're going Kayak Diving today! I might even turn off the computer for the rest of the day! See my post today at RV.net's blog for more.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

More Website Tools

I'm always researching and reading about new ways of doing things on the web. Lord knows there's enough of them, I like to keep up with at least a few! Today, while trying to give someone an intelligent response about why Blogger always imports photos to the top of your post, I ran across this blog post by someone else about the same problem. They recommended using Windows Live Writer. hmmm ... what's that? I figured I should go check it out, so I'm writing this post using Windows Live Writer.

I downloaded it for free from Microsoft. Now I could be writing this blog post while disconnected from the Internet.

I use the 'Insert Picture' command, and the picture appears right where my cursor is instead of the top of the post! Nice. It shows the size as 640X427 ... this looks smaller.

20081117-29

So, now I'll click the 'Publish' button and see what happens.

Wow! That was pretty slick. And the photo gets uploaded to blogger's servers. The size when you click on it is 640X427. The image in the blog itself is smaller ... I'll have to see if I can figure that one out. Windows Live Writer also lets me insert a link that automatically opens in a new window. That's a nice feature that has been on my wish list for blogger. Oh dear ... another new tool. And, of course, if this is good - I should probably look into the rest of the Windows Live tools.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi

Every time we visit Fort Lauderdale we say, "we gotta take a water taxi ride!" It's one of our favorite things to do but we never seem to get around to it. Well, having visitors is a great excuse. I love showing people Fort Lauderdale the way it should be seen ... from the water. So, I was so glad that Don & Joy, Michael & Georgia made the time to go for a ride with us. Mom came too.

It was beautiful afternoon!

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Datastorm rally south

We have visitors here at Paradise Island in Fort Lauderdale. Member #1, and member #16 of the DatastormUsers group.

Here is the map that the DatastormUsers group is so famous for. Who is member #1? That's Don Bradner, the creator of the DatastormUsers.com website.

From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008

This map is the greatest thing. Every time we move (or any Datastorm User) we enter our position on the map. Then, the website automatically sends an email to whoever we specify with a link to the map. This way, our friends and family are automatically alerted to our whereabouts whenever we move. The map includes a link to our website so, if they want to read further and see pictures, it's easy to do so.

You can also see the map in google earth:

From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008
Thanks Don for creating such a cool tool! Number 16 on the map is Michael and Georgia Day. Michael is the one who organized most of the last rally. We're thrilled that they're both spending some time seeing Florida, and now, visiting us here in Fort Lauderdale. Here's Georgia and their 44 ft Newell!
From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008
And, here's #1 - with the BIG dish!
From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Refrigerator Fire

If you get a notice from Dometic that your refrigerator is subject to their recall ... take it seriously ... here is what can happen if you don't:

From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008
This happened here last week while we were gone. Actually, I hear that this refrigerator was a Norcold (ouch! that's what we have) that was having some kind of problem. But the recall on the Dometic is specifically for a fire hazard issue. The good news is that their insurance (Progressive) is treating them right. They acknowledge the fire as a total loss of the motorhome. Insurance is currently paying to put the owners up in a motel.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

RVing in Asia!

On our way back to Fort Lauderdale from Tampa we decided to make a stop at Sun 'n Shade in Punta Gorda. Sun 'n Shade is owned by the same company that owns Paradise Island, where we stay in Fort Lauderdale. Jim is often telling people about it when he works in the office, and it seemed like a good idea for us to see it.

Ahhhh ... the west side of Florida is so calm and laid back compared to the east. So much space, and peace and quiet! Here's our site:

From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008

And some very friendly local residents!

From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008

As we pulled in to our site, we noticed this 5th wheel and they seemed to be fidding with their Datastorm satellite dish. Sure enough, they saw our sign and came to greet us asking if Jim could help get their dish to connect to the satellite.

From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008

While Jim worked with their computer and dish, I chatted with Helga and learned that they are from Germany. They've spent several winters here in Sun 'n Shade. But what was really fascinating was that they took a 6 month RV trip a few years ago with a tour group from Germany called Perestroika Tours. They started in Austria with 10 RVs in their caravan. They drove through Greece, over to Turkey, then thru Iran and Kazakhstan. She said Kazakhstan was gorgeous! From there they continued east into China, up into Mongolia - she also loved Mongolia - and then Russia. And back - 26,000 miles I think she said. She remembers spending 4 days in Moscow. Can you imagine!? Boy, did this get my adventure juices flowing! I didn't even know there were roads thru the places they went. Let alone that it would be possible to drive your RV. She does remember one of the mountain passes being pretty scary. And the roads were horrible. I believe it was all rental RVs from the tour company. They didn't take their 5th wheel - it was a 24 foot class C. There weren't any RV parks ... they parked in fields and parking lots. They even took their dog with them! The dog was a problem at the China border crossing, but after much perserverence, a little cash, waiting till the guards changed, and even hiding the dog at one point - they kept going. Here's Helga and her dog, Sockie:

From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008

I sure wish they had a Blog! If we were staying by them for any length of time, you can bet they would :-)

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

What a week!

At the Datastorm rally, we saw lots of folks we knew from past rallies and we met new people. We presented several seminars ... Picasa, building Websites, Vista: What's New, Networking, and Google Earth. Jim did some computer service ... one computer that didn't have sound, or connectivity with it's Verizon aircard. It had been this way for a while, and several other computer service experts had tried to fix it ... Jim succeeded!

During the week we took our motorhome over to Lazydays service to fix what we hoped was just a small leak in the brake line. Turned out to need a complete brake job - 3 days and $1,300 later, we were back to normal. One night we slept in the coach in the service bay.

Saturday and Sunday we held our hands-on 'Boot Camp.' People used their own laptops and we taught them things like how to control what happens when you close the lid of your computer, how to backup files to CD, and how to put your digital photos on the web using Picasa. One couple in the class had just won a digital camera during one of the raffles ... good timing!

Here's a slideshow from the week:

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sky Deck

People are often amazed that Jim and I live full time in a 30 foot Class C motorhome. It is small, but the layout is so perfect - we just love it. We often go looking at other RVs just for fun. Even when we see half-a-million dollar coaches we still look at each other and say, "I like ours better." And, it's a good thing!

This week, for the first time, I saw something I actually liked better. A sky deck!

From Lazy Days DataStorm Rally

From Lazy Days DataStorm Rally
We've actually seen this before and thought it was interesting but couldn't see really using it. This week we got to know Beverly and Alan and their SkyDeck coach. they love it. It's where they socialize, watch the sunset, and often sleep under the stars. Bugs don't seem to congregate up that high, and there's always a good view. It was SO pleasant. Uh Oh. Here's how the stairs look from the inside:
From Lazy Days DataStorm Rally
And the outside:
From Lazy Days DataStorm Rally
They told us that only 20 of these were made. It's an Airstream product.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Datastorm Rally - Tampa Lazydays

Sure feels weird being at a Datastorm Users rally ... our 5th one ... and not having a working Datastorm :-( Our 5 yr old modems finally died a couple months ago. We have a spare, new, modem but we need a new controller in order to use it. It just doesn't make sense to put out money now, when we know we have good Wi-Fi for the winter - and we can use our cell phone when we're away from the park. We'll probably get it fixed when we head out on the road again in the spring ... maybe.

It's still a great rally. Anyone who has a Datastorm should be required to come to this rally at least once. The education is so good. Representatives from Motosat (the company who makes the Datastom) are always participating. And not just any representatives! The Vice President, Royal Lamb, is here as well as Maurice Rojas, a senior technician who can fix anything!

Maurice is presenting sessions on understanding the technology and troubleshooting. Royal is giving sessions about the company. For the troubleshooting session, they set up a live system - with the satellite dish out on the sidewalk outside the seminar room and the controller, modem, and router in the room for demonstration.

From Lazy Days DataStorm Rally
From Lazy Days DataStorm Rally
From Lazy Days DataStorm Rally
Meanwhile, we're giving at least one of our seminars every day. Monday was our Picasa seminar, Tuesday I gave a different one, "Building a Basic Website." I play the part of Goldilocks, saying that Blogger is TOO SIMPLE, Dreamweaver is TOO HARD, but WordPress is JUST RIGHT. It's way too big a topic for an hour and a half seminar, I doubt that it will become one of our regular seminars, but it was fun for this group. At least I had fun!
From Lazy Days DataStorm Rally
btw- if you're interested in how I got that ©www.geeksontour.com on every picture, see our Picasa Tip-o-the-Week this week!

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

All about people

Shortly after parking here at Lazy Days Rally Park, a friendly face came into view. Bob and his wife, Honey, came to our classes in St. Paul this summer. Honey learned how to make a blog and she joined our Geeks on Tour online classroom ... check out her blog, she's doing great! Beautiful pictures Honey! And what a great story. They've had a tax preparation business for many years. So, they've now organized their life to travel 7 months out of the year. They stay home and work hard for the 5 months of Tax Season. Here they are ... I really enjoyed spending some time getting to know them (and their 3 cats!) today.
From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008
And they weren't even here for the Datastorm rally! Just pure coincidence that they were parked here today and saw our motorhome come in. This afternoon the rally began and we met a couple who remembers us from Hutchinson Kansas in summer of 2004. He says that we shared our Datastorm Internet connection with them at the time and they loved it. They now have their own and they put it to good use home-schooling their teenage kids while living on the road. We had a great pot-luck dinner and then came my 'Icebreaker Treasure Hunt.' Each person had filled out an Icebreaker card with a couple of personal facts, but no name. I handed out those cards and told people to ask questions of each other until they found the person who matched their card. With just a little bit of confusion, the icebreaker served it's purpose quite well. It got everyone up and mingling. I was happy. The winner found 8 matches in about 40 minutes. An example of one of the facts written by someone attending the rally ... "My signature is on Mars." Wow - he used to work for Lockheed Martin on the Mars lander. All members of the team put their signatures on some part of the lander! You just never know who you're going to meet at RV rallies!
From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008
From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008
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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Exercise on the Road

We've been walking every morning while we're parked in Fort Lauderdale. It feels so good! But, that is usually the first habit to go by the wayside once we're traveling.

We stayed last night at a park in Fort Pierce, FL and we've never been here before. We have no idea what is around and how far we could comfortably walk. But, we've actually gotten to the point where we *want* to walk in the morning - so we got out Google Earth and took a look around. We ended up walking for 2 miles according to Google Earth. I'm so proud of us!!

To see exactly what I'm talking about with Google Earth, you can watch this video I made a while ago:

We're staying at this park because it's owned by the same management company that owns the park in Fort Lauderdale. This one is actually a trailer park, but there are a few RV sites, and they're considering putting in Wi-Fi to attract more RVers. Jim said he'd check it out - looks easy enough if they want to do it. I'll put Jim to work! Meanwhile, it's on to Tampa today and the Datastorm Users Rally.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Rally Icebreaker

We're on the road today! On our way to the Datastorm Users Rally in Tampa. Our very first rally - actually, our very first road trip in this RV, was to the Datastorm Users Rally in Tampa in November of 2003. And, we've been to this rally every year since except one. This is our rally!

At the last rally, I told the organizers that I loved the rally but I wish there was some more activities aimed at helping us get to know one another. At every rally we go to, we are surrounded by fascinating people, but we don't know them! And, I feel pretty funny just going up to someone and saying, "Hi, tell me what's interesting about you!" Actually, I have done just that - and I'm usually glad I did.

If you've ever participated in volunteer-organized events like rallies, you know what happens when you ask for something to be done, right? You're told, "Sure! Go ahead." :-) So, I am the committee chair - and the committee - for icebreaker activities. I want to tell you what I've come up with and see if you've ever done anything like this. Did it work? Got any further suggestions?

So - when people first check in to the rally, I'm going to ask them to fill out an index card with the answer to 2 questions:

  1. When was your very first RV trip and where did you go?
  2. What is a little known fact about your life? or What is your favorite sport?

The index cards will all be numbered, and I will keep a master sheet with just the numbers and the name of the person who filled it out. When they fill out a card, I'll put a colored dot on their name badge. All the cards will go into a bucket. At the 'Meet and Greet' opening event, everyone picks a card from the bucket and sets about to find that person. When they find a person, they put the card back and pick up another, marking on another sheet that they found that person. Whoever finds the most people wins! What do they win? I'm not sure about that. I know there are lots of door prizes, maybe I can get one earmarked for the icebreaker rather than raffle tickets.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Ballots: Paper, Electronic, or Florida?

It was the infamous 'hanging chads' of the punch card ballots in 2000 that prompted a switch to fancy electronic 'touch screen' voting systems in Florida for the 2004 election. They spent millions of dollars for these fancy new machines and then simply junked them because they didn't have a paper audit trail. Why they didn't have a paper trail, I don't know. It doesn't seem to me that it would be so difficult to have the computer spit out a printed 'receipt' after you vote? But, they didn't ask me.

We didn't get to experience these machines because we were in Roswell, New Mexico during election 2004. The aliens abducted our absentee ballots there - but that's another story!

So how are we voting in Florida today? Back to paper! Yes, we have a regular paper ballot where you fill in the bubble next to name of the person you're voting for. You might think that would be cheap and low tech.

Au contraire! We took advantage of being in Florida this time and voted at a booth rather than absentee. Let me describe our experience. We voted last week during Early Voting. There were 11 voting locations set up throughout the county This means that multiple precincts were handled by each location. Each precinct has a different ballot, so, they had to individually print them out! First you handed your ID to one pollworker who swiped it and verified your eligibility and your precinct. She gave us a receipt to take to the worker at the printing machines. The receipt was entered into the printer and it spit out a perfect 4-page ballot. We took the ballot to the booth and filled in our desired bubbles with a black ink pen - not a #2 pencil.

Last, we took the ballots to an optical scanner, where we fed them into the machine and saw a message that they were successfully scanned.

So ... is this scanned paper ballot a good compromise? Or the worst of both worlds?

I'm hoping for the best. It's about time Florida got it right. It sure seems to me that the day is near when we'll be able to swipe our fingerprint on any Web-connected computer and be able to register our vote. Or use the cell phone, like on American Idol! Not only does that not cost the public anything, they actually *make* money when people vote for Americal Idol. Voters dial a 900 number which costs a dollar or so. I don't believe there are any controls over how many times a given person can vote however ... that could be a problem :-)

If you want to read more about the paper/touch screen/scanner controversy, here is a good article.
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