The Digital RVer
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Thursday, January 15, 2009

California Drivin'? Don't Text, Tommy!

In what should be a real, "Duh!" situation, California has joined five other US states that prohibit drivers from driving and texting at the same time. Electronic billboards on the Interstate 5 corridor remind drivers to keep their texting for break times.

In a story appearing in the San Franciso Chronicle, "Texting while driving is so obviously unsafe that it's hard to imagine that anyone would attempt it," said Sen. Joe Simitian, the Palo Alto Democrat who was the author of the cell phone and text-messaging bills. "But everyday observation as well as statistical information from around the state and nation suggest otherwise."

Statistical information? Two different surveys revealed some scary ones. An insurance company poll revealed that some 19% respondents confessed to texting while driving; another poll showed over three-fourths of their respondents had sometime texted while driving. How can you text and drive? Use your knees to maintain the steering wheel, and hope nothing happens while your face is pointed at the display.

The results are carnage on a grand scale. Five teenage girls were killed in 2007 when the driver of their car smashed into a truck while texting. And need we mention the California metro train accident that took 25 lives whilst the train's engineer was keying text messages?

The California law's teeth aren't large: Senator Simitian figures first-time offenders will be out around $100. Other states where you can get a ticket for texting include Washington, Alaska, Louisiana, Minnesota and New Jersey.

photo: tommy and georgie on

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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Phone numbers for where you are

There are times when we are traveling and would like to have the folks we are visiting be able to reach us via a local phone call. There are also those times we want to give out our phone number, but really don't want to receive calls from the folks (most usually a sales operation) after a certain period of time.

For those situations and more, I've been using a service called Vumber. When you sign up for a Vumber phone number, you can select pretty much any area code in the US, and a number is assigned to you. That number is then redirected to your existing cell phone or land line number.

So far, that's not all that unusual since there are lots of services that can do that.

What sets Vumber apart is its range of features.

  • For one thing, you can request your number be changed at any time, making it convenient to use for those "temporary contacts."
  • You can also set up your preference for how caller ID is shown, both on inbound and outbound calls, so that your calls appear to be originating from your Vumber.
  • There is, of course, a voicemail account for each Vumber, and messages can be sent to your email account.
  • But one of my favorite features is the ability to have multiple Vumbers. This means that I can have a Vumber in multiple area codes, and call from and receive calls to all of them at any time.
Of course, there are costs to using Vumber. The basic charge is $9.99 per month for one Vumber. You can change your Vumber twice at no charge, but there is a charge thereafter, as well as for additional Vumbers.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Turn Your Cell Phone Into a GPS

For those of us gageteers who'd love to add a GPS unit to our holdings, but find we already have too much stuff, can't afford it now, et al, will be pleased to hear the news: You can turn many cellphones into a GPS unit with Fugawi Touratel. Sounds a lot like some kind of sushi, but its actually internet-based software that can play on a lot of different cell phones.

For a $3 a month fee, Northport Software will let you "tune" your internet accessing cell phone to its site. Your phone doesn't need Bluetooth to work. When you bring up the Fugawi Touratel site, you can "tap into" maps that will show your location on high resolution US Geological Survey maps, street maps, air photos, and more. You can use the software to find nearby locations and maybe get yourself out of trouble without pulling into a gas station.

Right now the software is compatible with cell phone models by LG Electronics, Motorola, Samsung, and Sanyo, from carriers that include Alltel, Boost Mobile, and Sprint . Northport plans to add support for additional carriers and cell phones in the near future. That'd be a blessing for us Verizon users! You will need to have internet access via your cell phone, so beware, if you get into a spotty coverage area you'd best keep those old style paper maps handy. For more information, check out this website.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

And where have you been?

Some of us are obsessed with where we are about to go. Others may be equally enthusiastic about just where they've been. Then there are those that want to know how much the trip cost, plotted on a map, what their fuel mileage was, and so on.

For those of you with that kind of desire (and the right kind of cell phone) try Driving Log from Concrete Software. It runs on your cell phone, links to your GPS, and collects data for display and analysis. And you can even let all of us more casual travelers in on your adventures by displaying your results online.

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