Croatia set to offer “world’s biggest welcome”

Croatia will soon issue the world's biggest welcomeCroatia is about to extend the “world’s biggest welcome,” thanks to an industrious outdoor enthusiast and a bit of ingenious use of technology.

Earlier this week, adventurer Daniel Lacko set out on a pre-designed course that will see him traveling by foot, kayak, and bike along the Croatian coastline. The 1550+ mile long route will take him through remote backcountry, across open water, and up towering mountains. All the while he’ll be using a GPS device to track his progress, and record his path, which will spell out the word “Welcome” across the map of Croatia when he finished.

Daniel’s planned route will pass through some of the most stunning landscapes in his home country, including eight national parks, three nature preserves, and several other protected areas. He’ll also climb ten mountains and kayak or swim through 370 miles of water along the sea and six different rivers. In order for this project to succeed, he’ll need to strictly adhere to the prescribed path, no matter where it might take him

If all goes as planned, Lacko hopes to complete the journey and arrive in Dubrovnik by June 5th, which is World Environment Day. If he is successful, he’ll also be issuing one giant “welcome” to the rest of the world. Follow his progress on the World’s Biggest Welcome website and on the project’s Facebook page.

Croatia is quite the destination for adventure travelers. The fantastic landscapes offer plenty of great hiking and climbing opportunities and its numerous rivers, not to mention great coastline, make it popular for paddlers as well. it was because of all those things that we put it on our recent list of five great European adventure destinations.


GPS tracker recovers lost iPhone from home of Delta Airlines employee

lost iphoneWhen Kris Brown lost her iPhone at Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport, she probably assumed it was gone for good. Thankfully, her son remembered its GPS tracking feature and started locating the phone.

The location returned by the tracking service pointed to the home of Haiphong Le – an employee of Delta Airlines at the airport.

Local police got involved, and found his employee badge and determined that he had been working during the same time Ms. Brown lost her iPhone. He has now been cited for misdemeanor theft.

This is the second time Mr. Le has been involved with the police – in 2008, he was a suspect in a luggage theft, but no charges were filed.

To learn more about protecting your mobile phone and its data, check out these ten tips on mobile phone security.

Garminfone by T-Mobile: First look and mini-review

Announced just yesterday, and already in our hands – the new T-Mobile Garminfone. This is the second navigation/phone from Garmin, and their first device powered by Android. In this first look, we’ll show off the basics, but you’ll need to wait till next week for a full review.

The Garminfone features a 3.5″ capacitive multi-touch display (320×480 pixels), support for quad band GSM/GPRS/EDGE and dual band 3G (on WCDMA 2100 and 1700). Inside the Garminfone is 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 and a 3 megapixel auto-focus camera.
The Garminfone really is two devices in one – a full Android smartphone with browser, mail, market and more, as well as a premium navigation device with the “real” Garmin experience. By combining the two, you get interesting features like dynamic real-time traffic, weather, gas prices, local Google searches and more.

In addition to this, the phone also comes with the Garmin Voice Studio, which allows you to record your GPS voice prompts on the device – a first for any GPS unit.

I’ve only been playing with the Garminfone for an hour – but I’m actually quite impressed. I’ll fully admit (and apologize to Garmin about this) that I did not have very high hopes – their previous gps/phone was a bit of a dud, but I really do think they have a winner this time.

The phone feels snappy, the screen is crisp and the hardware feels really good (albeit a little slippery). Obviously, I’m a little biased due to my love of the Android platform, but Android feels quite at home on a navigation system. To help make the unit more vehicle friendly, Garmin completely redesigned the interface, with a variety of larger buttons.

On my first drive with the unit, it was able to navigate perfectly, as the unit clearly uses some of the same excellent routing logic found on the regular Garmin navigation systems. Maps move very smoothly and manage to keep up with the vehicle quite nicely.

The Garminfone package comes nice and complete – inside the box is an active dash/windshield mount, car charger, headset, USB cable and a 2GB MicroSD card.

There are one or two downsides – for some unknown reason, Garmin-Asus failed to put a regular headphone jack on the phone, opting for the same kind of MiniUSB plug used on HTC devices.

Then there is the price – at $199 (with a 2 year activation) this may appear to be a reasonable deal, but it puts it in the same price range as the Google Nexus One. And while the Nexus One may not be as good at navigating, it does provide more phone for the same price.

I’ll refrain from any real conclusions today, and reserve those for the full review. You’ll be able to order your own Garminfone in June. You can register to be notified of its availability at the T-Mobile Garminfone mini-site. In the meantime, enjoy these photos showing the unit and some of the applications.

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Eight rules for renting a car in a foreign country

Renting a car can be a great way to see a foreign country. Having your own wheels allows you the freedom to take your time, to stop for long lunches in the countryside, to turn down that little lane that looks interesting, and to go where public transportation won’t take you. But, renting a car comes with its own set of challenges and dangers. Here are eight road rules to remember when renting a car on your travels.

If you can’t drive a manual, now is not the time to learn.

Outside of the US, many, if not most, cars have manual transmissions. Finding an automatic rental can be difficult, and the cost will be significantly higher. You may be tempted to save money by taking the manual and if you’re fairly comfortable driving one, that’s fine. But if you’ve never driven one before, took a crash course just before your trip, or haven’t had to step on a clutch in over a decade, get the automatic. You’ll be concentrating hard enough on trying to figure out where to go, decipher all the crazy foreign road sides, and possibly drive on the “wrong” side of the road, that you really don’t want to add learning how to shift into the mix. And if you screw up the car’s transmission while you try to learn how to drive a manual, you could be held liable for the damage.



Always spring for the insurance.
$10-$20 a day for insurance can add up, and it’s easy to figure that, hey, nothing will go wrong, so why not skimp a little on the full coverage. Don’t do it (unless your credit card offers some coverage). On the off chance that something does happen, even if it isn’t your fault, you’ll be kicking yourself when you are stuck with a hefty bill. In some countries it is common to be offered an additional coverage on your tires and windshield. If you’ll be driving on gravel roads, definitely take this option. It’s usually just a few bucks more over the course of your rental and well worth the cost.

Let your hosts know when to expect you.
When you head out for the day with your car, always let your hosts know where you expect to go and when you’ll most likely be back. If you are going from place to place, let the proprietors of your next accommodation know when you’ll be arriving and what route you will be taking. If you do get horribly lost or get stranded along the road, at least you’ll know that one person has noticed that you’ve gone missing and they will have somewhat of an idea of where to start looking for you.

Make sure you have a spare.
In the US, it’s easier to get help if you get a flat tire. Chances are you’ve got your cell phone on you and you may even be a AAA member, making it easy to arrange a tow. At the very least, you can call the rental company and ask for assistance. If you are traveling in another country without a cell, getting help is a bit more difficult. Always check to make sure your rental car has a spare tire, and before you set out on your trip, make sure you know how to change it.

Don’t forget a map.
If you’ve got the cash and the option is available, get the GPS, but also bring a hard copy map with you as well. As we’ve seen, sometimes there’s no substitute for an actual old-fashioned paper map. If GPS isn’t an option, don’t rely on vague directions, be sure to pick up a comprehensive map in case you decide to wander a bit or in the event that the directions you were given turn out to be less than accurate.

Know the rules of the road.
Stop at stop signs, don’t speed, watch out for children and livestock. These are rules we know and which tend to be consistent across continents. Other rules of the road are more localized and often unwritten. Not following them may not get you a ticket, but they may not earn you any friends along the way either. Always research the road culture in a place you will be driving and learn customs that are followed there. For instance, when I was driving in South Africa, I was glad my friends had told me that on two-lane roads I should move over to the far left so that faster drivers could pass me. Had I not known, I probably would have made some other drivers very angry as they tried to pass me while I drove in the middle of my lane.

Don’t make yourself a target.
If you are driving from place to place, you’ll be traveling with your luggage and you may have a GPS unit mounted on your window or a map spread across the backseat. All of this screams “I’m a tourist, come pillage the car!” Always put your luggage in the trunk and stow the GPS and maps in the glovebox. Lock your doors when you aren’t in the car and don’t give anyone a reason to break in.

Read the fine print.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with your rental company’s rules. Some don’t allow rentals with debit cards, and a few countries require than the driver have not just a driver’s license from their home country, but an international driving permit as well. If you’re told something different in person than what you’ve read, be sure to ask for clarification. A couple I talked to in South Africa thought they needed to sign a special form to take their rental out of the country, but the rental agent said it wasn’t necessary. When they hit a cow and totaled the car in Botswana, they were told that because they didn’t sign the form before crossing the border, they could be liable for the cost of the car – about $7000US! Always read the fine print and know the rental rules.

Gadling gear review – i-GotU GT-120 GPS logger

You’ll have no doubt noticed a bit of a GPS trend today here on Gadling, and in line with that, I’m going to introduce you to the Mobile Action I-GotU GT-120 mobile GPS logger.

This tiny device looks quite unimpressive, but actually houses several handy GPS functions in one product.

The GT-120 can function as a USB GPS receiver, providing your location to a variety of GPS enabled applications. The device also stores several days of your location tracks, allowing you to read your position and overlay it on a Google map in the included tracking software. When importing your tracks, the application can even match the time and location with your photos, adding geotag information to your shots.
The i-GotU comes with a USB cable and a silicone jacket, and the receiver is waterproof. To operate the unit, you are provided with just one button, and 2 LED lights. There is no user interaction other than turning it on or off. All the settings, including its tracking interval are controlled through the software.

The USB cable connects the device to your PC, and charges it. Battery life during my test was good for several days. Inside the device is 16MB of flash memory, which is enough for 65,000 tracking points. I found the GPS signal sensitivity to be pretty good – but it did take a good clear view of the sky for its initial fix. Once it grabbed the signal, I was able to hang it from a clip onto my camera bag, and the tracks during the day appeared to be constant, with no loss of signal.

The software is easy to use, and simple questions guide you through the process of importing the data and syncing with your photos.

Trips are imported quickly and can be named, describing what you were doing when you were using the device. From within the software, you can also sync your PC clock with the GPS clock, and display the most accurate time, allowing you to set your camera clock to the current time. Using an accurate camera clock will increase the accuracy of the geotag information written to your photos.

The desktop software extends beyond your PC – once imported, you can share your map, tracks and photos with the world using the @trip site, provided by Mobile Action for free. The site is way more than just a place to store your tracks – it actually functions as a full trip blog allowing you to leave a full visual story of your trip. See this example for how great trips look.

Final thoughts

Despite a couple of minor issues with the device (Windows 7 drivers were not available when I stated testing it), I’m very impressed with this little tracker. It also takes a little getting used to the 2 LED lights, and figuring out what they mean.

The ability to function as a regular USB GPS receiver, a tracker/logger and a geotag adapter means your investment gets you three different devices for the same price. The company behind the GT-120 also offers a Bluetooth enabled version, the GT-200. This device adds the ability to connect to the receiver using Bluetooth.

The GT-120 tracker is available though a US retailer for just $69.85, with free shipping. The hardware is similar to some other products on the market, but the combination of the excellent desktop and web based software make it a real winner. I had a lot of fun reviewing my tracks from a couple of days, and matching my photos to my exact location. If you use a geotag enabled photo sharing site (like Smugmug), you’ll be able to instantly link to a map of the photo location.