June 20, 2013

Tech Thursdays: Break Out Your Inner Video Artist On Vacation

Welcome to Tech Thursdays, penned by Miguel, tech expert and our Airport Operations Supervisor in San Jose, California. This month’s topic touches on some great tips to help you maximize video to capture those special vacation moments.

It’s amazing that innovations in digital cameras and mobile devices are allowing a majority of travelers capture a moment or an event in high quality video.  Yet most videos become barely watchable for one reason or another.  I have friends that think the price of their equipment will magically give them the best results.  Of course, they get disappointed as they haphazardly point and press the record button.  As a former broadcast TV producer, I tend to use a critical eye and ear when I watch videos shot and produced by others.  In short, I tend to nitpick.

For the traveling videographers, (that’s you), know the equipment you’re using to shoot the video.  Whether it’s a phone, tablet, iPad, digital camera or an actual video camera, learn its features and limitations.  Please don’t do it five minutes before you need it.  I usually prepare several days ahead.

Check out these easy tips to point you to the right direction:

  1. Why am I shooting this video? The final destination of your video should dictate your approach.  You should know if you’re shooting it for a quick post on a social site like Facebook or Vine or if you plan to use the video to edit as part of a bigger piece later.
  2. Am I shooting mostly day or night shots; indoors or outdoors? This alone can be a heartbreaker if you’re not prepared.
  3. How loud or quiet will it be? One of the keys to good video is good audio.  I can stand a so-so video with good audio more than a great video with bad or no audio.

After answering the questions, check the manual, practice and shoot test videos.  The great thing about today’s storage media is that you can easily delete them without worrying about quality degradation unlike the videotapes of old.  So, shoot practice videos at different times, locations and situations.  Think about where you are traveling and what video situations you might encounter.  Don’t forget that video is a data monster when it comes to storage. Buy two or three of the largest storage cards you can afford.

Older could be better

Have a two or four-year old camera?  Don’t discard it just yet.  I discovered that some of the older digital cameras make for better video cameras.  My old Nikon Coolpix L110, for example, shoots higher quality videos than my newer, more expensive Canon G11.  This is because the G11 was mainly designed to shoot great images whereas the L110 was designed to be more of an all-in-one picture and video camera.  Again, review your camera’s settings.  You might be pleasantly surprised as I was to know that you won’t need to buy a new video gear for your next trip.  The little review time you invest can save you money.

Go for big

Most digital cameras will give you video settings from VGA to 720p or 1080p at times.  Go for the best quality you can get with what you have.  I know that it will eat up your memory faster but you will also get the best resolution.  Without getting too geeky, various editing software, devices and video sites will apply some form of compression to run and play your video.  Think of it as taking two steps down.  So, if your video is shot at a yucky quality level (technical term), the compression will make it yuckier.  Nobody wants to see that.

Steady as she goes…

The best and worst aspect of today’s video devices is that they’re small and very light.  The size and weight usually results in shaky video because the slightest movement of the video shooter is magnified in the video.  The quick answer is “don’t move” but, as we all know, that’s easier said than done.  A tripod is always a good tool but it might be cumbersome to carry plus it’s not always practical.  Here’s what you can do to minimize the shake:

  1. Keep your arms close to your body like you’re reading a book.  Don’t extend as if you’re giving the camera away.  Less distance yields better stability.
  2. Use walls, trees or railings to brace yourself.  Put your back against them so that you don’t sway.
  3. Don’t breathe.  This is an old videographer’s trick to get a good steady shot.  This no-breathing technique is usually used when videographers are trying to capture a long zoom in/out or a long pan left/right of a scene without a tripod.  But as Mr. Miyagi said, “Don’t forget to breathe” after the shot.

It’s all about the sound.

As I’ve mentioned, good video relies on good audio.  Unfortunately, consumer-level cameras won’t give you too many options to remedy this.  The good news is mobile devices like the iPad, iPhone and Android devices have microphones accessories available that you can try.  The best suggestion I can make is to test the audio quality that your video device is capturing.  I pretended that I was going to a hill-side retreat somewhere and ran a mic test.  The video below will show you how I tested three microphone options for my iPad.

As always, my goal is to help travelers take advantage of their tech gadgets while they’re enjoying the Jetblue experience.  If you have any questions or suggestions, don’t hesitate to leave your questions in the comments section here. I can’t promise I have all the answers but I will sure try.

Be sure to check out more travel tips and share your own with SoFly!

Read Miguel’s previous columnslearn more about Miguel and stay tuned for the next edition of Tech Thursdays!

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May 16, 2013

Tech Thursdays: Smooth Summer Travels

Welcome to Tech Thursdays, penned by Miguel, tech expert and our Airport Operations Supervisor in San Jose, California. This month’s topic touches on some worthy tools to help smooth out your summer travel experience.

Planes are full and there are plenty of kids and families traveling, which can only mean one thing: Summer traveling season is upon us! If you’re like me, you’re making sure that all your flight, hotel and theme park tickets are all ready to go. With the mass of humanity traveling to the same places as you are, it’s nice to have some edge to help ease the anxiety and headache of travel. I found several free apps for the iPhone and iPad that might help.

At the Airport

Let’s start at the airport. I’m guessing that you won’t be as familiar as a Jetblue crewmember who knows every nook and cranny of the airports we work in. Me? I can tell you which door in what gate in SJC makes what sound when opened. But I digress.

If you’re going to an unfamiliar airport, TravelNerd should be in your collection. This app shows all the airlines in a given airport and what terminal they are located. To avoid the head-scratching-tourist-look, you can also pretend to be in-the-know by consulting the TravelNerd maps of each terminal. It will show restaurants, amenities, restrooms and ground transportation but don’t be surprised if a section is empty. I don’t think TravelNerd’s database is fully updated but it does serve as a good guide. I found that TravelNerd is easy to use and navigate.

The TSA and the lines at the checkpoint are probably not in most travelers’ must-experience list but the security checkpoint process has improved immensely since it has been modified in 2001. The TSA has also created an app with an endearing name called, MyTSA. And you know what? It’s pretty useful.

Travelers can check and post security wait times at different airport terminals. It does rely on user participation so the numbers might be more accurate in bigger airports. I love the “Can I bring my…” feature because this is one of the most asked questions by customers. You can simply type in the item in question and MyTSA will give you the TSA regulation. I’d recommend using this tool prior to packing if you can. I’ve seen customers throw away expensive bottles of perfume because they were carrying too much in their carryon bag. It also has a Traveler’s Guide section that gives tips and guidance from packing to necessary travel documents to have.

Inflight

Since you’re travelling on Jetblue (big thanks!), don’t forget to use our Jetblue app. Besides giving you the ability to check-in on the go, you can check your flight status and plan on which movie, DIRECTV channel to watch or the SiriusXM channel you want to listen to. You and the kids can also create attractive postcards in the Cool Stuff section using your smartphone or tablet cameras.

At Your Destination

So, you have your rental car and a car full of wide-eyed, giddy little munchkins to visit that famous downtown attraction or new theme park. Next question: Where do you park? Don’t fret. I’ve got you covered. ParkMe is an app that shows you where to park without paying an arm and a leg. All you have to do is type in the place you want to go and voila, it shows you where to go. ParkMe is more than just a glorified sidewalk pointer though. This little gem shows drivers not only where the garage or street parking spots are, but also how much it will cost to park. Markers also indicate if the parking spot is open, semi-full or closed.

Of course, nothing beats preparation when it comes to summer travel but I hope some of my recommendations help alleviate some stress and help you enjoy your time with family and friends.

Be sure to check out more travel tips and share your own with SoFly!

Read Miguel’s previous columnslearn more about Miguel and stay tuned for the next edition of Tech Thursdays!

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April 18, 2013

Tech Thursdays: Make Time Fly with These Games

Welcome to Tech Thursdays, penned by Miguel, tech expert and our Airport Operations Supervisor in San Jose, California. This month’s topic is all play and no work – Miguel’s tips on some cool games on the go that will help make your travel time fly.

85% of smartphone and tablet owners download games on their devices, according to a recent Nielsen study.  Wow. As a long-time electronic entertainment fan, I’m glad more people are discovering them.  As a travel enthusiast, mobile games add a new dimension and fun to your time spent in a plane or at the airport.  Games make time fly.

It makes sense that mobile devices made electronic games very popular.  In the past, electronic entertainment has been relegated to home consoles and desktop computers.  They’re great but you can’t really enjoy them anywhere else but at home.  The advent of iOS, Android and other operating systems for mobile devices are allowing an influx of developers to create and post new and classic titles to new portable devices.  Galaga or Pitfall, anyone?  You can find these classic games in the Apps Store or Google Play.

Old favorites are great but what excites me these days are the variety and high quality of games being developed for smartphones and tablets.  They range from the brain-engaging word and puzzle games to the high-twitch action titles.  The following are some of the games for the iPad 2 or newer that take up my free time:

Word with Friends

I know I’m not the only one who calls this their favorite word game.  Words with Friends is a Scrabble-esque game that allows you and your friends and family to compete even when you’re miles apart.  Word with Friends is a great game for all ages.  You can play with several players simultaneously but not on the same board.  Words with Friends lets players have several games running simultaneously so you won’t be waiting for the other players’ turn, which can stretch a game from minutes to days. It also has a basic chat feature that comes in very handy when you want to tease and complain to your opponent that you’re always getting five T’s and Q’s.  I haven’t won a game yet against my brother.  I think he’s cheating.

Are you smarter than a 5th Grader?

If you think you are (smarter than a 5th grader), this game will bring you down to earth.  The game pits contestants against five others online.  You do need a Wi-Fi connection to play this game.  Fortunately, most airports these days have Wi-Fi connections for free.  The questions are challenging as they are in the TV show.  Each question is timed so you’ll feel the pressure to answer quickly.  I found this leads to the wrong answers frequently.  Are you smarter than a 5th Grader can be downloaded for free if you don’t mind the pop-up ads.  The ad-free version cost $2.99.

Real Racing 3

If that extra-shot-upside-down grande caramel macchiato is not doing it for you, I’d like to suggest adding a shot of Real Racing 3 (RR3) during your flight.  The graphics and sound quality of RR3 are impressing and it’s “free-to-play.”  (notice the quotations)  Similar to many racing games on the consoles, RR3 attracts players with a bevy of exotic cars and tracks located in beautiful locations around the world.  I find myself doing a lot of screen capturing to show off the new cars and tracks I’ve unlocked.  The events range from two player drag races to an all-out 18-car event against real players online.  RR3 uses an intriguing Time Shifted Multiplayer technology to keep the speed running smooth.  And don’t worry.  You won’t look foolish twisting and turning your device to drive.  RR3 offers control options that are more socially acceptable.  The thumb-control is my choice.

Infinity Blade I and II

I remember laughing when smartphones and tablets were being touted as gaming devices.  That is until I played Infinity Blade I on the iPad.  The gorgeous graphics and amazing sound in Infinity Blade I convinced me that high-end gaming is possible on tablets.  Infinity Blade II pushed the game to the next level.  This is the game I play often during my travels.  It’s an action/adventure game that involves swipes and quick taps on the iPad’s touchscreen. It’s great as a travel game because you can easily pick up where you left off in your journey.  Player’s assume the role of a mysterious hero as he wanders a medieval palace and battles against weapon-wielding enemies.  Infinity Blade I is now free on the App store and I highly recommend this download. You might get lucky like I did and get Infinity Blade II during a promo weekend for $2.99.

Injustice: Gods Among Us

I can’t end this list without including the game that has Batman, Wonder Woman and other DC comic book characters battling it out.   As you might have guessed, Injustice has a somewhat twisted back story.  But for comic fans of all ages, it doesn’t really matter.  The main appeal of Injustice is the ability to assume a DC comic hero or villain, create your team, and engage in a tag team battle. Did I mention, this is also a free-to-play game?  The fighting game scheme fits a traveler’s routine.  Similar to Infinity Blade, Injustice: Gods Among Us gives players the option to play quick bouts or dive deeper into the role-playing aspect of the game.  You can’t beat free!

Before downloading any games onto your mobile device, make sure to check the system and version requirements for each game to get the best playing experience.  Until next time, Happy Tech Travels!

Read Miguel’s previous columnslearn more about Miguel and stay tuned for the next edition of Tech Thursdays!

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March 21, 2013

Tech Thursdays: Google Glass

Welcome to Tech Thursdays, penned by Miguel, tech expert and our Airport Operations Supervisor in San Jose, California. This month’s topic is Google Glass – that cool, new innovation from Google that will allow you to see the world through the eyes of other’s – and what it means for travel.

Technology plays a big part in travel, whether it’s snapping that stunning vacation photo or looking up the best place to eat. Even with today’s smartest smartphones and tablets, you have to pull the device out of your pocket, look down, swipe or punch buttons to access that powerful computing power when you need it. Google plans to make it less visible by putting it’s latest tech, well, right in front of your face.

They’re hoping to achieve this magic trick with Google Glass, high tech glasses that can display and capture information, photos and videos in front one of your eyes. Rather than swiping and touching buttons, Google Glass operates via voice commands, head gestures and simple tap controls. After watching several videos on YouTube, it’s tough to ignore the potential that Google Glass has to change the way we use it while traveling.

At JetBlue, we created some visual examples of how this technology might look like being used by customers flying with us. We like innovative ideas that inspire innovative thinking. Our ideas are just concepts, but conceptual thinking is a great way approach old problems in new ways, and maybe settle on something that really works and is achievable!

Say you’re flying from San Francisco to New York, for instance. You can see flight information as soon as you enter the San Francisco terminal. Upon arrival in JFK, you can tap your Glass and say, “Flight 644 baggage claim.” Viola! The information is revealed without missing a step. Want to know the taxi fare to your Boston destination? Just tap and talk to the Glass.

Since we’re in the “What I would do with Google Glass” daydreaming stage, allow me to take the concept of Augmented Reality a little further with some dreamed up voice commands that could potentially one day make your travel experience even easier:

“Check-in, select seat”

Easy enough for a voice command, right? Glass could return a response showing me a seat map and tell me which ones are available, or even give me the option of upgrading to an Even More Space seat.

“Play”

Once at cruising altitude, this voice command could give me a list of entertainment options in both in-flight or within my own library. I can choose to watch DIRECTV channels or play a game with another customer on board. All within the privacy of my Glass.

“Scan”

The usual view at 38,000 feet is lots and lots of beautiful fluffy clouds. I’m one of those flyers who look out the window and try to make out the landscape and geography. With the “scan” command, I’d get a display telling me information about the land, mountains and waterways while I’m flying over it. Add this to the complimentary DIRECTV and SiriusXM radio and that five hour flight just got extremely short.

“Translate”

With the built-in microphone, the Google Glass can also “hear” audio. Could can employ Glass to translate the language of the person talking while in, let’s say, Puerto Rico? With a little homework, you should be able to respond in proper Spanish with guidance from Glass.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement with all the Google Glass news, YouTube videos and blogs. The concept of augmented reality intrigues and amazes, but how augmented do you want your reality to be? After watching my 50-pound computer shrink to fit my pocket, play video games simultaneously with 500,000 players worldwide and witnessing my cousin’s wedding live from 9,000 miles way, I say, “Why not?” I really doubt that this Glass is half-empty.

Read Miguel’s previous column Sharing the Gift and Don’t Leave Your Gadgets Behind.

Learn more about Miguel and stay tuned for the next edition of Tech Thursdays!

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February 21, 2013

Tech Thursdays: New Travel Gear to Kick Off Your Travel Year

Welcome to Tech Thursdays, penned by Miguel, tech expert and our Airport Operations Supervisor in San Jose, California. This month’s topic is new travel gadgets that Miguel suggests hot from the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (C.E.S.).

Mobile technology has picked up steam in 2012 and if this past January’s C.E.S. was any indication, innovations in mobile technology will rule most of 2013.  The Consumer Electronics Show or C.E.S. held in Las Vegas has been showcasing innovations for decades.  Some noteworthy electronics that debuted include the VCR, camcorder and DVD’s to name a few.  During my coverage of the event in 1998, I thought GPS or Global Positioning System was the best thing since sliced bread.  I could never figure out that multi-paged map book so GPS was a real big deal to me.  And as expected, mobile technology has grown leaps and bounds since 1998.  I found some intriguing gadgets and technology that will definitely have an impact on travelers who uses tech on the go.

1. Smart wrist watch

Rather than pulling out your smartphone or device, how cool and convenient would it be to look down on your wrist, make calls, send emails and access your apps? The concept is not new but technology has finally caught up to make this a reality.  Welcome to the world of smartwatches: an arena that’s primed to have mass-appeal and technical advancement.

One of the products that caught my attention in this category is the i’m Watch.  Using Bluetooth technology, i’m Watch allows users to sync-up with current smartphones to answer calls, read SMS messages and emails and listen to music.  The i’m Watch also comes in several attractive styles but because it’s still in the novelty-stage, the i’m Watch can set you back anywhere from $400 to $2000 depending on the style you choose.

Pebble is another entrant in this arena.  It’s slightly more affordable for $150 a pop.  It seems that it’s designed not only to look good but also withstand the rigors of daily life.  Pebble’s developer deemed it scratch proof and waterproof in both fresh and saltwater up to 132 feet deep.  I don’t know why you’d be checking email 100 feet under the sea, but everyone has a reason.  As with the i’m Watch, Pebble works by connecting to your existing iPhone or Android device via Bluetooth to access applications.  Make sure to check their website for compatibility if you’re interested.

2. Fitness Trackers

I’m a big believer in getting the right balance of sleep and activity.  The Basis health and heart rate monitor quickly caught my attention.  While most wearable gadgets use magnetometers and accelerometers to give activity stats and mileage count, the Basis heart and health monitor takes wearable tech to another level.  In addition to a 3-axis accelerometer, Basis has blood flow, perspiration and a skin temperature sensors built at the back of every unit.  It monitors not only your activity but also sleep patterns.  Their goal is to give users a way to better track health habits, see the patterns as well as modify them if necessary.  The Basis beats the mammoth sleep monitor I had to use when I took a sleep-pattern test back in the day.

To see and experience how far technology has come, fitness fanatics can take advantage of Amiigo.  On top of tracking, blood-oxygen level, heart rate and skin temperature, Amiigo also has the ability to recognize a hundred types of activities.  According to the Amiigo site, this fitness tracker can tell if you are swimming, jogging, doing bicep curls or elliptical.  In turn, users can record and track the results in their iPhone or Android device.

Amiigo cleverly uses social media and gaming apps to track, share and compete with other users.  I think this is a nice touch as an added motivational tool.  Everybody can use that extra push, right?  On paper, the concept and technology behind Amiigo is quite impressive.  I don’t have experience with Amiigo first hand but I can see how the bracelet-shoe clip combo can be integrated in games for existing video game consoles using Bluetooth technology.

3. The eyes have it!

I’ve always been interested in the advancements in computer interface; eye tracking technology in particular.  Tobii Technology grabbed a lot of attention at CES because of their Tobii REX peripheral for Windows 8 laptops and desktop PCs.  The Gaze technology will allow laptop and Windows 8 PC users to navigate the screen by using their eyes.  Rather than swiping or touching the screen, REX users do the swiping and squeezing on the laptop’s touch-pad.  According to Tobii, this allows for a faster, cleaner and more precise interface.  The Tobii REX will fit under the monitor and connect via a USB cord.

As a gamer, I already have several ideas how I could utilize Tobii’s Gaze Technology in future video games.  As an airport crewmember who often interacts with customers with disabilities, I can also imagine how this technology can greatly help and enhance the lives of people without the ability to control their muscles.  There is one such example on video on Tobii.com.

The 2013 Consumer Electronic Show did not disappoint.  Even as a jaded technology enthusiast, I felt that the spirit to innovate is alive and well.  I can’t wait for next year.

Read Miguel’s previous column Sharing the Gift and Don’t Leave Your Gadgets Behind.

Learn more about Miguel and stay tuned for the next edition of Tech Thursdays!

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January 17, 2013

Tech Thursdays: Don’t Leave Your Gadgets Behind

Welcome to Tech Thursdays, penned by Miguel, tech expert and our Airport Operations Supervisor in San Jose, California.

Don’t Leave Your Gadgets Behind

It never fails.  I get a radio call from the gate every day that a customer left their valuable tech gadget on board.  I joke around that I can open a lucrative eBay store if integrity, karma and jail time were not an issue.  Believe or not; airline crewmembers cringe at the notion of finding things that we consider high-value items.  We want to return the items as fast as we can to the owners rather than store it in our facilities.  At Jetblue, we have a limit of five days to store high-value items locally.  After the five-day limit, we have to send the items to our Central Baggage in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Rather than write about the latest and greatest travel gadgets or apps this month, I’ve decided to give some tips on how to hold on these entertaining and valuable items.

1. Initial descent is a cue – Once you hear the flight attendant or the pilot make an announcement that the plane is descending to your destination, you should start packing up.  Don’t wait until the plane is parked at the gate because it becomes a mad rush to get out.  I will put money that rushing is the main reason customers leave things behind.  And during the rush is when small items like iPods, cameras and smartphones are dropped or left behind the plane.

2.  Avoid the seat-back pocket – I know it’s a convenient place to store your iPad and phones while in flight but that seat-back pocket is the black hole when it comes to gadgets.  Most of the items we’ve found have been left in the seat-back pockets.  If not found during the cleaning phase of the flight turn, the plane travels to other Jetblue cities challenging the recovery of that item.

3.  Label your gadgets – As I mentioned, airline crewmembers want to return high-value items as fast as we can.  The first thing we look for is a physical label with a name or phone number.  If we don’t find that, we check the “about” section within the gadget itself.  The “about” section is usually in the settings and is a place where you can input your name and other contact information.  If you’re like me, you’ll have a security pass-code to access your device.  An easy way to label is to use a piece of masking tape and write your name and phone number.  Tape this to your gadget and you’re good to go.  It’s low-tech but it works.

4.  Gaming light – If you’re a videogamer or traveling with kids who have portable game devices like the Sony PSP or Nintendo 3DS, limit the games you bring to two to three.  They are tiny and expensive.  As a videogamer, it’s heartbreaking to see game cartridges left behind on the plane since I know some of the games cost $30 to $40 each.  Three is a manageable number to remember while traveling.  I actually just carry one in my travels because I can’t stomach losing any.

5. Know your gadget – If you do leave your gadget behind, be ready to give details.  There’s a good chance that you were not the only one to leave a “black camera” in a plane that week.  We’ll have to be confident that you own the item you are claiming and not just someone trying to hit the jackpot.  Know the color, the brand, the model or any unique marks that your gadget might have.  We had a customer call in and gave us a list of artists she had in her iPod.  Bingo!  Now, that’s someone who knows their gadget!

Time is of the essence when you leave an item in the plane.  There’s a chance of finding your item after a day or two, but the longer you wait to contact your airline the smaller your chances get of finding your precious item.

Read Miguel’s first column Sharing the Gift, with tips for sharpening the amateur photographer in you!

Learn more about Miguel and stay tuned for the next edition of Tech Thursdays!

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December 20, 2012

Welcome to the First Edition of Tech Thursdays!

Welcome to Tech Thursdays, a new monthly column on BlueTales penned by Miguel, tech expert and our Airport Operations Supervisor in San Jose, California.

Sharing the gift

I love being at the airport during the holidays.  The hustle and bustle, the smiles, happy tears and laughter echoes throughout the day.  As a tech enthusiast and a JetBlue crewmember, I also have the privilege of seeing technology in action.

Besides eating, what do we do the most during the holidays?  Take pictures, of course!  In the past five years, I’ve seen an increased use of smartphones such as the iPhone as an all-purpose camera.  I used to smirk at these camera phones as a passing fad, but to my surprise, I’ve noticed the quality of the pictures taken from the new line of camera phones rival that of many consumer-level point-and-shoot cameras.  It seems that smartphone companies noticed this as well and are loading up their smartphones with smart camera features.  The panorama feature on the iPhone 4S and 5, for example, is impressive and easy to use.

But technology is just a tool.  The best way to take good pictures is to know how to take good pictures.

Here are some pointers:

1. Get a smartphone tripod -  They range from $10 to $30 and will eliminate that blurry effect cause by movement.  It’s great for self-shooters.  If you’re a couple traveling, you won’t have to find a stranger to take a picture of the both of you.  The Griptight GorillaPod from Joby even has bendable legs so you can mount and wrap your smartphone almost anywhere.

2. Disable the auto-focus before taking the shot - If you are shooting in an airport setting or other crowded areas, an enabled-auto-focus will keep the camera lens scanning and focusing until you press the picture button. Typical scenario: You have a couple of friends posing in Terminal 5’s elevated stage in JFK and then you snap a picture.  Guess what?  You got a blurry picture because of the crowd walking just under them.  You can avoid this by:
a) disabling auto-focus
b) manually setting a good distance and focus and then snapping the picture
c)  If you want to keep the auto-focus on, make sure you have a “quiet” foreground.

3. Take advantage of HDR - In one of my “Are you kidding me?” moments, I found that my wife’s iPhone 4s has HDR or High Dynamic Range mode.  Simply put, this is a goof-proof way of taking great pictures.  When enabled, your camera phone will take a low, medium and high exposure picture in one snap and combine them.  The result is usually a photo with very good lighting, depth and color.  It’s great for stationary portrait and landscape shots.  If your smartphone doesn’t have it built-in, chances are there’s an app available for you to download.

On top of laughter and cheers, music is one of the ingredients that gets people in the holiday mood.  If you’re lucky enough to be in San Jose, CA, you’d probably hear me singing Christmas songs all day long. Ask any of the crewmembers who have their ears covered and they’ll tell you.

Smartphones and tablets have opened up new ways to share music you enjoy while you travel to visit friends and family.  There are several well-developed apps for Apple and Android phones and tablets.  Simply search the app store for “DJ.”  These DJ apps range from free to about $50. Yes.  I agree. You don’t need to fork out $50 unless you are actually going to use it for perform professionally.

The beauty of these DJ apps is their ability to play and mix your music automatically in the Automix or AutoDJ modes.  This means songs are played in a continuous random order as if you have a working DJ in the room.  You can even customize the transition from one song to the next if you desire.  I recently used this approach in our holiday dinner party and it worked perfectly.

As an iPad user, my best recommendation is the Djay app from Algoriddim.  They designed the app to have a sleek look and a very low learning curve.  All you have to do is tap on the Automix button and choose a playlist.  That’s it. You are now the life of the party! Now, to add that cool element of presentation.  Here are some tips:

1. Get an iPad/tablet stand - Seeing the nice graphics and spinning turntables adds that wow-factor.  The one I used is called the iKlip Studio from IK Multimedia for $30.

2. Use a quarter-inch Y-splitter to plug from the iPad earphone plug to the speakers – The Y-splitter end is an RCA plug that easily goes into home or desktop speaker system.

3. Make sure to hide the wires behind the i-device stand to have a clean look.

Whether it’s taking pictures or collecting music, the advent of smartphone and tablet technology have given us amazing new ways to do what we have enjoyed doing forever – sharing.  I hope this advice helps you enjoy your technology this holiday season.

Learn more about Miguel and stay tuned in January for the next edition of Tech Thursdays!

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December 20, 2012

Meet Miguel, The Man Behind Tech Thursdays

Miguel will be the first one to tell you that he is a tech-geek.  His fascination with technology started when his uncle plugged in the Pong game on the TV in 1975.  Since then, he’s been plugged-in and played with every gadget he can get.  As a boy, he took his sister’s dolls apart to find out what made them tick and used the parts to create new toys; a feat that he has never lived down.

It might sound corny but the stars lined up for Miguel in the late 1990’s.  Miguel’s interest in video games and technology coincided with the technology boom in Silicon Valley, California while finishing his internship at the local TV station, KICU TV.  In the years that followed, he has produced and directed nationally syndicated shows for Jones Computer Network, NBC-affiliate KRON TV and Ziff Davis Television.  At ZDTV, he was tasked to create and produce weekly half-hour shows including Fresh Gear and Gamespot TV, the TV version of the popular videogames site, Gamespot.com.

In November of 2000, Miguel decided to switch gears and dive into the airline business starting with Aloha Airlines in Oakland, CA.  He joined JetBlue in 2003 because he was intrigued by the new tech-savvy, forward-thinking airline.  Since then, Miguel has been immersed in the travel industry but hasn’t missed a beat in the technology, gaming and social media world.  His idea behind Tech Thursdays is to share tips and information to help JetBlue customers get the most out of their tech gadgets while traveling.

For more in-depth reviews and more information, visit Miguel’s blog at daddygamer365.com.

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