SkyMall Monday: USB Cup Warmer

Is coffee part of your morning routine? Do you need coffee to wake up in the morning? Do you tell people not to talk to you until you’ve had your third cup of coffee? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you most certainly have a caffeine addiction. Don’t worry, I’m not judging. I don’t drink coffee, but most of my friends do. I’m used to them making me stop at coffee shops with them so that they can get their fix. Heck, my girlfriend starts everyday here at SkyMall Monday headquarters by brewing herself a cup. So, I’m familiar with coffee culture. That means I’m also familiar with the delightful grimace that coffee drinkers make when they take a sip of coffee that has gotten cold. Cold coffee means another trip to the cafe, break room or kitchen. It’s wasted time (that non-coffee drinks spend resenting you). Thankfully, SkyMall has a way to extend the life of your coffee while you’re working. The next time you’re trying to stay productive, keep your coffee warm with the USB Cup Warmer.Now, you can keep your coffee close, warm and delicious. And you can finally force your computer to maximize its power output. It’s about time your computer started supplying power to something useful. The time you used to spend disposing of cold coffee can now be dedicated to churning out TPS reports and attending extra conference calls. Won’t that be awesome?

Think that only approved office electronics should be plugged into your computer? Believe that insulated coffee mugs are all that you need to keep your coffee hot and fresh? Well, while you figure out what’s in non-dairy creamer, we’ll be reading the product description.

This USB Powered Beverage Warmer can keep your beverage, coffee or tea hot all morning long. Since it’s powered from your computer’s USB port it doesn’t require batteries! You’ll be able to keep your drink warm and a safe distance away from your valuable computer with the USB Powered Beverage Warmer’s 56 inch long USB cable.

In addition to keeping your beverage warm, this amazing USB Powered Beverage Warmer also includes four USB ports so you can connect even more USB devices to your computer.

Who doesn’t want an extra almost five-foot-long cord on their desk? At least it keeps your coffee away from any valuable electronics. Unless, of course, you plug some valuable electronics into one of the four additional USB ports. But why would you do that? Because you can? Hogwash!

It seems to me that you have only two choices: Quit drinking coffee (and having stained teeth and horribly offensive breath) or keep your coffee hot with a USB Cup Warmer. I think your decision is pretty obvious. Enjoy this riveting video of your next SkyMall purchase!

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

Griffin USB mini cable kit – solves the dilemma of tangled cables

Griffin Technology (who were featured here yesterday with another of their new products) just managed to solve the problem of the ever-tangled device cable. Their new USB Mini cable kit consists of three very short USB cables – one for the iPod/iPhone, one with MiniUSB and one with MicroUSB.

With a single $24.95 product, they have solved the constant annoyance of tangled cables. Yes – the purchase price does seem on the high end, but convenience like this never comes cheap.

The cable set is available right now – directly from the Griffin web site. If you currently travel with an assortment of cables, this may be one of those “must have” road warrior solutions.

Top travel friendly uses for USB memory drives

Travel sites often list “carry a USB drive” as one of their most important tips. But many of them fail to explain exactly what they mean by this, or how “a USB drive” can actually benefit you. So, as always, Gadling is here to help with real life tips on how a USB memory drive can help you when you are on the road.
Bootable recovery drive

Do you travel with a netbook or other small machine without a CD or DVD drive? Do you know whether your machine comes with a “recovery partition”? Often, these small computer rely on you to make your own recovery DVD, using an external DVD drive they expect you to buy. If something goes wrong, you won’t be able to boot your computer, and may end up having to keep it in its bag till you get back home.

Thankfully, with just a few simple steps, you can use your desktop PC and your original Windows DVD to make a recovery USB drive of your own.

I always carry one of these, simply because I don’t want to rely on a DVD that can be damaged, and because many of my travel laptops lack a DVD drive. Plus, even though my computers usually come with a recovery partition, it is often for a different operating system than I use on a daily basis.

A great guide on how to make a bootable USB drive can be found at

Scanned travel documents

If disaster strikes on the road, do you know your passport number? Do you know your credit card information? If you have a scanner, make scans of all your important documents, save them as an image or PDF, and add a password (some PDF scanning software packages allow you to do this). Alternatively, pop them in a password protected ZIP file or a Tryecrypt file (see below).

If something bad does happen – find yourself a computer with access to a printer, and print out the documents you need. Showing up at the consulate with a copy of your passport will make the replacement process much easier. You can also scan airline tickets, frequent flier cards and anything else that could make life a hassle if you lose it.

Portable browser and email

Don’t like the browser on the hotel computer? Bring your own browser! Most popular browsers are available in a “portable” version. Best of all, you can usually store your bookmarks and extensions alongside that portable browser.

Portable apps collection

Browsers are not the only thing you can make portable – photo editors, word processors and more are all available “portable”. A fantastic place to start is Their installer can make the process of copying portable versions of applications to your USB key a breeze.

Security router

Concerned about your privacy on the road? The TOR router/browser package can conceal all your tracks, routing your data over secure servers. The TOR system can be installed on a USB key, providing you with an easy to use security solution.

TOR is free, and can run on Windows, OS X and Linus.

Computer backup + photo backup

Did you just spend a day making photos of some of the wonders of the world? As a well educated photographer, I’m sure you made a backup of your photos onto your laptop. But what happens if your laptop hard drive breaks?

Consider an app like Microsoft Synctoy to keep your photos (or other media) in sync with your computer. Simply copy stuff to your PC, then use Synctoy to keep your USB memory drive in sync with your data.

This backup strategy works for any folder on your computer, so consider keeping a backup of your documents or other important files. If you are making backups of private files, consider encrypting them (see Truecrypt below)

Media storage

If you are on the road for longer than a couple of days, you may want to refresh the music collection on your iPod or other media player. Instead of wasting precious space on your laptop, consider adding fresh content onto your USB drive. The added bonus of this is that some hotel TV’s (and even airline entertainment systems) now accept USB drives, which means you’ll be able to play your tunes on the hotel TV.

Complete computer system

The process of installing an entire operating system on a USB memory key is not “one click”, but if you can follow some simple instructions, you’ll be able to turn your USB key into a bootable Linux system in under an hour.

Pendrivelinux has a fantastic overview of what is involved in the process – along with links to compatible Linux versions.

Truecrypt folder

Do you travel with stuff you wouldn’t want to share with anyone? Before we go on – if you think about using this for hiding kiddie porn, I hope you burn in hell. Thankfully, there are plenty of other legitimate uses for using strong encryption to hide your files from customs officials.

One of the most popular (free) ways to protect your data is Truecrypt. This open source application uses some of the strongest encryption on the market to encrypt your files. The application is ideal for USB drives because it is small, very fast and easy to use.

Of course, as with any password protected system, the weakest link is always going to be the password – so stay away from stupid passwords like “password” and pick something really, really hard to guess.

Truecrypt is free, and is available for Windows, Mac and Linux users. The application creates an encrypted file or partition on your USB drive, and only mounts when you enter the correct password. Once mounted, your encrypted data can be accessed like anything else on your computer. Various additional protections can lock your data if you are not using it.

Air New Zealand thinks THIS is an economy seat? (with video)

Well, Premium Economy, at least. But we’ve sat in Business Class seats that weren’t this comfortable.

Apparently Air New Zealand has a larger proportion of leisure passengers than other international airlines, so they’ve focused more of their efforts on enhancing the Economy and Premium Economy cabins. We covered the upcoming changes to the Economy section, including the option for passengers to choose the new Skycouch layout when booking their trip, but the Premium Economy redesign may be an even bigger story. It’s surely going to cause other airlines to take a fresh look at their offerings.

Air New Zealand currently offers a Premium Economy cabin that offers a larger selection of meal options at a much higher quality, nearly approaching the level of service seen up front in their Business Premium cabin. It’s likely one reason they were awarded ATW’s Airline of the Year for 2010. But they don’t seem ready to give up the title for 2011.
Space Seats

With their new Premium Economy “Space Seats” which enter service in November of 2010, the airline has managed to match their seats to the enhanced meal service. The combination could even rival the business class sections of other airlines.

Premium Economy passengers can reserve a seat based on their requirements for privacy or if they’re traveling with a partner, they can choose a more social arrangement. They do this by installing two different types of seats in the Premium Economy class.

Inner Space

The center seats face outward at a 23 degree angle and are called “Inner Space.” The two armrests in the middle of these seats can be lowered to create nearly enough room for a third person to sit, which could be helpful for a family flying with an infant.

With the armrests up, two people could share a meal or play a game of cards on the center console, with room for at least one person’s legs to fit underneath, like a small table.

Outer Space

The “Outer Seats” also point at a 23 degree angle and face the windows. With the new, larger 787 windows that are coming-depicted in the mockup pictures-these seats will be perfect for those who enjoy looking out. It felt a little like sitting on the front porch in a chair while taking in the view.

Another improvement over the current Premium Economy is the ability to recline without impeding anyone else’s space. And when the person sitting at the window is ready to get up, there’s enough room for the passenger at the aisle to pivot their legs to allow access. The seat width is now three inches wider at 20 inches, but there’s no obstruction, such as a fixed armrest on either side of the seats, so it feels even wider.


“Otto” Pilot

Since there are now foot rests built into the seats, a stuffed foot rest that Air New Zealand has coined “Otto” which is short for ottoman will be provided. Ed Sims, the project manager on this effort remarked, “We readily anticipate that these will get stolen in huge numbers.”

Just like the rest of the cabin, Premium Economy will feature snacks on demand which allows a passenger to order complimentary drinks or snacks in between meals via the in flight entertainment screen.

The IFE screen is a pull-out, 10.6″ screen that provides more content than the current 8.4″ system, such as an expanded range of kids shows, exclusive offerings and a viewers recommended section. Applications such as hourly updated weather will be featured on the new graphical user interface that was designed by Air New Zealand.

A USB port or iPod connector will allow passengers to view their own content they may have brought with them. This will also be offered in the standard Economy class as well. No word on device compatibility, but the iPod and iPhone are sure to be on the list.

While looking at the innovative seats for each cabin, I couldn’t help but wonder where I’d prefer to sit. I suspect it will come down to who I’m flying with. If I were traveling with just my wife, the center, or “Inner Space” seats in premium economy would be preferable.

If we brought along our two kids, I’d love to try the two standard Economy center seats for us while the kids could take up the outer Skycouch seats for sleeping.

And if someone else is paying for the trip, well, there’s just no other option than to give the Business Premier cabin a try. Because if they consider these seats to be just a step up from their regular Economy seats, then wait until you see what they’ve done with their Business Class seat. We’ll have a review for you next week.

Gadling was briefed on the Space Seat prototype Tuesday at the Hangar 9 facility in Auckland, New Zealand. See it for yourself:

How do adventurers keep in touch?

In the old days, adventurers disappeared into remote corners of the globe and weren’t heard from for months or even years. In our more interconnected world, modern adventurers regale us with their tales of travel in real time via the Internet.

How do they do it? It’s all in the gear they bring along.

As he rides across Africa on a motorcycle, Thomas Tomczyk will keep the world posted on his Facebook page, Youtube channel, blog, and website.

“20,000 kilometers in Africa on a motorcycle, writing stories and taking photos and videos for publications on the Internet and in print requires some seriously interesting gear,” Thomas says. “While I wanted to have the good stuff, I didn’t want to feel anxious about losing a piece of equipment that was too expensive. I compromised between buying the best stuff out there and what was affordable, compact, and lightweight.”

Thomas wants to shoot video too, so he’s packing a PowerShot SX20 IS, because it’s compact, takes sharp images, and captures stereo sound. His telephone, a 16 gig, 2G I-phone, bought jail-broken, can accept a cellular chip from anywhere and he’ll regularly replace the chip as he travels from region to region. He better not expect to have a signal all the time; I couldn’t get a signal half the time I was hiking the English/Scottish border! For news he’s got a Tecsun DR-920, a compact and inexpensive shortwave receiver.

Internet communications shouldn’t prove too much of a problem even in Africa. Every capital and most regional cities have Internet cafes, so it’s a matter of writing as you go and uploading it when you have the chance. A solid state laptop with good battery life is a key bit of gear along with a small external hard drive to back up your data.

Our very own Andrew Evans brings along a lot of gear too. He blogs for us and National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel. Because he’s a contributing editor to National Geographic Travel, he gets a lot of cool toys to “test” (play with) on the road. These include a National Geographic USB power source and a foldable multiport solar charger so his equipment never runs out of juice. He’s just started out on a trip to the outer, uninhabited islands of New Zealand and readers can track his movements on GoogleMaps thanks to his Trackstick mini and Gisteq Photo Trackr Mini DP.

But let’s not forget that communicating with the people we meet is the most important thing. Knowing the local lingo is the best “gear” you can have. Both Thomas and Andrew can get by in a few different languages. You don’t even have to be a brilliant linguist to pull it off. I’ve gotten a long way on a couple of hundred words and goodwill!