When traveling, I highly recommend bringing along a power strip or a power cube. Yes, we all travel with lots of electronics so this device comes in handy but there are other reasons as well. I use a Monster Outlets To Go Power Strip and its companion option with a USB port in it. The reason I like this device is that it is small, but it also has a power indicator in it. The rear of the male plug glows blue when there is power. In hotel rooms you would be surprised how much this simple feature helps.

The reason I like the power cube or Triple Outlet Adapter is that it helps to offset transformers that cover more than one outlet.

Another thing to consider is that the airplane in seat power outlets often times have a spring switch that needs to be despressed to provide power. I have been very unsuccessful with the typical USB power adapters as they are very light and get pushed out easily. Using the power strip or cube to provide additional mass has helped to keep the switch engaged.

This post originally appeared on AVNation.tv on Friday, October 13, 2015 as part of the AVNation’s 31 for 31 during October.

A jarring question but an important one. This question can be scary to think about at times but it needs to be addressed and thought about. For many in the AV industry the laptop is the tool of the trade. It is used to configure DSP engines, program control systems, and often calibrate the system. That is in addition to the key tasks it plays in business as being the e-mail, billing, and documentation tool.

Most people I have asked this question indicate that they have everything backed up to a USB thumbdrive. So then I ask the next important question, where is your USB thumbdrive? About half the time it is in their pocket the other time, it is in the laptop bag. So while that USB thumbdrive may help mitigate computer failures it does not address the loss of the laptop bag itself.

The part that most people miss is that-*when a laptop disappears a data breach just occurred. Let me repeat that, the data on the now missing laptop has most likely been breached. Typically people have lots of information on their laptop that they have not considered. The main ones to consider are passwords, account information and e-mails. Many people use the convenience feature of having a website “remember” their credentials. My first concern for the types of websites being accessed is of course the banking, travel, and shopping websites. That completely overlooks things such as possible network credentials for VPN that would let miscreants easily access to your company network.

United Login Screen with a highlight around the words Remember Me
Website option to remember the user.

There are some relatively easy things that can be done to prevent this situation. The obvious one is to not lose your laptop bag. The next-*is to encrypt your hard drive. Encrypting your hard drive limits the ability to access-*your hard drive by a nefarious person. The second one is to not have your browser store your login passwords. Something I have found out is that after an upgrade of a browser, your preferences may get changed. This one is especially important if one follows the other alarming trend of using the same passwords in multiple places. Most of us have already thought about that step but then become complacent and frustrated by remembering all the passwords. Using a spreadsheet that contains all the passwords and account numbers is not-*the answer. A password manager will greatly help with this task and insure that you are using strong passwords. For various reasons I recommend against ones that store your passwords online. There are many available but comparing and contrasting them is for another blog post.

Screenshot showing the option of Firefox browser option to save passwords
Firefox Settings
Screenshot of Google Chrome browser with a highlight on unchecking save password option
Chrome Settings

Another thing to be aware of is that Chrome saves your AutoFill information, which quite often includes your mailing address. Please consider whether or not you want to store and possibly share that information. Also, if you store a password in Google Chrome it is also stored on Google’s computers as well as available on the Internet at-*https://passwords.google.com.

Highlighted informramation of Google showing Autofill options
Chrome Autofill options
Chrome Saved Passwords screen with a highlight around the save password option
Chrome Website Passwords Options

The option to me that is most effective is Two-Factor Authentication, often abbreviated as 2FA or TFA. Not every application supports this feature, and many of the ones that do are web based. This process requires two pieces of data in order to be able to complete a login, or authenticate into the system. The two most common ways to do this task are-*either using a token or having the service send you a message to confirm that you are making the request. Examples of these processes are PayPal sending a text message to a user that needs to be entered. The other typical case is using a token generator; an example of this approach is Dropbox if 2FA is enabled. The token generator can be installed on a device such as a smart phone, the generator then needs to be configured to work with the website.

Dropbox Option to trust the computer
Dropbox Tow Factor Token
Screen shot of Google Authenticator app with multiple token values shown
Google Authenticator on an iPhone
Screen Shot of PayPal two factor authentication window
Paypal Two Factor Text Message

Two factor is a great tool to make impersonating you harder. This idea is also predicated on the idea that your token generator is not in your laptop case at the time of loss. Typically there is a weakness of allowing a computer to be remembered and validated as shown above. That setting basically turns off two-factor authorization on that computer.
An important thing to have is a way to deauthorize your computers. The same way one would call the credit card company to turn off a credit card that has been lost, one needs to do that for the missing laptop as well. To complete this task one typically needs another computer and the credentials to be able to login and deauthrorize the accounts in question. Most applications will also allow you to see the last time that device was connected to the service.

Tool to deauthorize Dropbox on other devices
Dropbox Tools including de-authorization options

I hope this helps you. Make sure to check with your company’s IT department to see if they have plans in place for a lost device. Remember, security is a process not a destination. It takes constant attention to remain safer.

When traveling with toiletries including medications, be aware of the temperatures you are putting them through. Some medications, including contact solutions, have storage temperature ranges for the ingredients to remain potent. It is very easy to go outside of these ranges when leaving luggage in your car or checking it with an airline. I realize that there are times the extremes cannot be avoided but they should be considered and avoided. Simply bringing your toiletries with you when you are going to be at a location for an all day meeting can be helpful.

I have gotten some strange looks when I have brought my luggage into my office in the morning. However I have also had the fun of melted deodorant from leaving luggage in the truck in 100 degree sunshine. Of the two, I will take the odd looks I just simply explain about melted ineffective products.

This one might seem odd to some, but I have found it very helpful. I travel with my own bar of bath soap. I have found that the bath soaps can be very hit or miss when traveling. Some of them can be very powerfully scented, and often times with an unpleasant fragrance. Other soaps are so small that they are difficult to hold on to. The worst is when one is allergic to the soap that is provided. Some times there is no soap at all in the hotel bathroom. Don’t ask me about the last two, I just know about them.

Traveling with my own full size bar of soap, it is even allowed in a carryon, has solved much of these issues. It has been more pleasant than I expected. I am sure that other travelers will also travel with their own hair care and other products, but I don’t have enough hair for that to be an issue.

Many travelers prefer a single king size bed in their hotel room when traveling. However I believe that getting two beds has cut my chance of having a bad mattress in half. While that phrase is a little misleading I have learned a few things that cut down my chances of getting a bad mattress.

The first one that is quite apparent is that if bed #1 does not meet your standards, you can change to bed #2. This could be something as simple as the airflow in the room. Typically it is something more serious, a mattress that is not consistent as it has a phone butt spot.

A phone butt spot is the location where the typical guest will sit while using the phone. If there is a night table between the two beds, the phone is typically closer to one bed. That bed is often sit on while the person is on the phone. Yes, I realize that many people will avoid using the phone all together, but arranging a wake-up call still occurs quite a bit. That is typically where the guest will sit while making that call or arranging for pizza delivery.

In addition having two beds gives you the benefit of having extra pillows for building a fort. One also can have dinner watching TV on one bed and have the other one be clean for sleeping. The list can continue but I think you get the idea.

My faithful reader, yes I am talking to you, knows I travel quite a bit for work. I want to pass along some of my travel tips for your benefit. This one does not make sense at first but some day you will thank me.

When I travel with a laptop that I want to use in a public space. I always try to find a corner location to sit in with no one behind your back. This is helpful for the unexpected moment when you open an e-mail and it is nice and spam filled with pictures of people in various states of undress and comfort. It is also helpful when you open a Tumblr link and all the sudden the web page explodes with phalluses.

Not that either of those of happened to me, since I am sitting the corner of the airline lounge with a plant behind me and a window to my right.

More travel tips to come in the future…
( I am actually home [okay my local Starbucks] now, another travel tip is to make sure you press publish before boarding the plane… it also still applies at Starbucks)

As some of you who follow my Twitter feed, I went to a fan convention with the wife last week. I am still gathering my thoughts and writing a blog post about the experience. However I wanted to gather all of the Tweets together in one location for those that might has missed some of the experience. So presented in chronological order and unedited are my Tweets about the event. Dates and times are Pacific Standard.


21 November 2013 20:12

For those of you who think my twitter stream is eclectic, brace yourself.

@GentlyMad is taking me to a fan convention for Supernatural…


21 November 2013 20:15

For those of you following along the link is http://t.co/r9p51GywY3 i am looking forward to meeting @feliciaday the rest is unknown.


21 November 2013 20:24

1st tweet of #BURCON, waited in line to register and @GentlyMad’s not available yet. Could have still been drinking, watching hockey.


22 November 2013 12:27

Instead of listening to @AVNationTV live podcast @GentlyMad has taken me to #BURCON and the video is out of focus


22 November 2013 14:39

Must resist urge to go tweak audio  at this #BURCON event. I think @GentlyMad would kick me if i did. Must restrain myself….


22 November 2013 14:59

#AVtweeps how often do you change batteries at panel event? Wireless drop outs, understandable but thinking wired for question mics


22 November 2013 16:20

So at #BURCON with @GentlyMad watching video mistakes and listening to drop outs. Feel bad to be making light of other people’s problems…


22 November 2013 16:30

So this session is being brought to you  without a compressor or de-esser. Must resist the urge to go fix the mix… Hope not someone i know


22 November 2013 16:48

More guest audio in the stage monitor and perhaps less level in the house to make people talk louder #BURCON


22 November 2013 16:54

Current play back method is presenter holding speaker to microphone from  MP3 player. presenter had it, was planning to use. Line in please.


22 November 2013 19:29

#BurCon Day 1 is almost done, a karaoke dance party to go. I really hope they bring in an audio music system and not use the voice system.


22 November 2013 21:53

@cabbey yes #BURCON is using speech system for music/karaoke system. No subwoofer and no punch.


22 November 2013 22:01

Earplugs firmly in place. Much needed. Audio system: All CLIP all the time at #BURCON


22 November 2013 22:25

I really enjoy the 60Hz waterfall on the video as well. Man av at its finest


22 November 2013 23:09

If you can’t ride a fader to prevent feedback in the house system at #BURCON i can recommend some feedback suppressors.


22 November 2013 23:10

Hey #BURCON why have the stage lights so low? Photography is allowed why not allow the patrons to get good shots?


22 November 2013 23:11

Yes Snarky Mode is activated. @GentlyMad said it was allowed as long as i take pictures.


22 November 2013 23:20

Well clipping for hours has got to be good for drivers


22 November 2013 23:43

I know the purpose of reverb and autotune, it should be used on karaoke, unfortunately it is not being used at #BURCON. Ah ear plugs.


23 November 2013 10:27

Realy #BurCon the wireless mic died 10 minutes into the first session. Then feedback. Now people making fun of audio.


23 November 2013 10:39

You know the audio is a problem when @GentlyMad is looking at me knowing i want to fix it…..


23 November 2013 12:36

#AVtweeps just a friendly reminder, don’t skimp on audio monitors. Difficult to watch #BURCON talent comment on audio on stage.


23 November 2013 13:14

#BurCon audio hits continue. 60Hz hum is louder than talent. It just started…. Hmmmmmmmmmm @GentlyMad is amazed i haven’t clawed ears off.


23 November 2013 13:21

Now #BurCon talent needs to walk off stage to hand mic to audience questions. SPL keeps going up to point of ringing and slapback is louder.


23 November 2013 14:05

@brockmcginnis nope it is a live fan convention so it is the production staff. When talent makes fun of audio & video…. Well ……..


23 November 2013 14:27

@brockmcginnis yes i agree i should not slag people but the system they are using is showing its wrinkles and uncut rough edges.


23 November 2013 15:52

Best line at #burcon so far, something i swear @GentlyMad would say. “I just threw my microphone cozy at him.” By @dicksp8jr  (windscreen)


23 November 2013 16:42

there are these things called mute buttons on audio consoles. the team at #BURCON should use them as @GentlyMad is asking me questions…


23 November 2013 17:07

Literally the house left of the PA @ #burcon was no content just ground hum. Now feedback and ringing….  Sigh


23 November 2013 17:51

More audience in the monitors please #BurCon the talent can’t hear the questions. Sigh


23 November 2013 22:29

Tonight’s #BurCon question. Will @loudonswain have a PA or just the voice system. Any guesses


23 November 2013 22:49

For those of you scoring at home, and those that are alone, there is no Music PA. Just feedback, stage volume and voice PA for vocals.


23 November 2013 22:49

But i have @GentlyMad and a camera plus some cool @BorrowLenses glass so it is still all good.


23 November 2013 22:53

@mattcohen4real is doing a good job tweaking the speakers at #BurCon @GentlyMad says i can’t help. Really on both counts


24 November 2013 00:25

PA at #BurCon after party is much better than the main system. Amazing what happens when system matches  use. There is low end and headroom!


24 November 2013 14:37

No @feliciaday you are not deaf, the audio system @ #BurCon is not keeping up. I know it can be better….. Sigh


24 November 2013 19:53

#burcon really could use a high pass filter on the microphone. It is so boomy i am putting in ear plugs…. Things i do for @GentlyMad


24 November 2013 20:28

Appropriatte way to end #BurCon, dead microphone…. 2 minutes into panel


25 November 2013 18:57

@brockmcginnis @rAVeBlogSquad @stillbeingmolly i will be writing up a blog post about production at #BurCon & how it impacted event for all


I recently was asked by one of my Twitter followers why I tweet once a day the date and to be nice to one another and to be polite. There are three reasons that I will share and the rest are conversations for later.

The first reason started during the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 events. I remembered how the world changed that day, but not just in the innocence and lives lost but for a brief period of time when everyone was nice to each other. I was not just the local community, it was wide spread to the country, and most of the world. I experienced it myself at Los Angeles Airport, LAX, the morning of Sept 14. I was on one of the first flights out of LAX. I arrived at the airport four hours before my flight. The place was packed. Security was tight, there were lines everywhere. However everyone was polite and nice. People in the line were sharing their food with strangers. There was no pushing and shoving or frustration at the security check point. Other than the huge time amount and long lines it was actually pleasant. People were nice to each other and for a few days, weeks, or months, the world was a better place in my not so humble opinion.

The second reason is that the Interwebs can easily become a repository of just negative things. I am guilty of it as well. Often people broadcast when bad things are happening and their dislike of a situation, person, or company. I am guilty of it with my rants about the NHL. However I tried to be polite about and nice to the person who was helping me, when I got help which was only once. See, I did it again. I try to be aware of it, it is part of the reason when I encounter problems I try to communicate directly with the parties involved. It is too easy for the dogpile effect to happen online, one person says something bad and then lots of other people chime in. It is nicer to allow the people a chance to fix the problem before broadcasting the issue. At times broadcasting the issue is a tool to try to get the issue fixed, but one should still be polite.

The third reason is that with how much I travel I see people behaving badly quite often. As an example I will use my most recent case of delayed baggage. When I arrived at my home airport, my luggage did not. This situation also happened to other people. What was interesting was watching a passenger yell at the gate agent about their luggage being delayed. The gate agent had nothing to do with the luggage being delayed. The luggage was delayed at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. The passenger was berating the person who could help them. Not the wisest thing ever. I got my bag a few hours later, I wonder if the “gentlemen” ever did…

Being nice to each other is just a way to make the world a better place for everyone.

I was originally going to write a blog post about the conversation topic I alluded to in a few Tweets on the evening of June 29, 2011; however United Airlines changed the topic. This blog post is about the frustration when technology does not actually make things easier. It also gets more frustrating after asking for help when the technology fails.

I wanted to book an award fare to fly myself and the L&T Wife to California on United. So I went to the United website, logged in with my frequent flier number – you know the one that literally has almost half a million miles in the past 11 years. I went through and looked at all the options for flights before finally picking one. I signed myself and the Wife up for it, picked our seats, continued to the payment page and entered my credit card number. Clicked the Submit button, and nothing happened. Clicked button again, nothing happened.

I changed browser from Firefox to Safari and tried again all the way from the beginning I could not save or hold my work. Nothing happened under Safari as well. I then decided to call United Rewards Reservations, which is when the frustration started. This is a basic synopsis of the conversation

“Hello, I am having trouble booking reward travel on the website.”
“When and where are you trying to travel to?”
I respond with the information
“No, there are no seats available for the dates you want.”
“But the website shows many open seats.”
“I am sorry sir the website is wrong.”
“Okay, so what are my options?”
“There is a flight three days earlier for outbound and two days later for the return.”

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot I thought – I did not say it. I was polite to the agent as they are just reporting what the screen is showing.

We go round and round and finally get the exact same itinerary, as I had created online. I did not care if it was a mileage saver fare or not, her system was defaulting to fares that take less miles. If I was asked I would have said, I had picked specific flights online.

Then came the time to make payment. Online it was 75,000 miles per person; via the phone it was 100,000 miles per person. I ask why the difference.

The agent had no good explanation, so I asked for a supervisor. During this time I was placed on hold, without music or other audio so I had no indication I was still connected. The supervisor could not assist me.

As we passed the thirty-minute mark the supervisor indicated I should be transferred to Web Support to assist. After a few minutes with the Web Support person I was able to book my flight.

It was extremely frustrating. I tried to do it via self-service on the web. It did not work. I tried to call for help and that did not work for the first 40 minutes. It took approximately 45 minutes on the phone and three agents to finish the transaction I already had details for. If the first person I communicated with listened to my original issue they might have thought to transfer me to the web team earlier. Instead I believe that they were just going off the script, not really helping the customer.

I tweeted out my frustration and decided to wait 24 hours to see if there was a response before posting. So far I have heard nothing.

Now some people may be thinking that it is only 50K miles, ~10% of your tally. To put the value of that in context, 50K miles is a round trip somewhere in the US with the right planning. Now that this trip is booked, I will get to call again to add my dietary needs as I can’t do that from the website. I think I will wait a day or two.

For those of you that have an impact on customer interaction, think about what happens when your website doesn’t work. How will you help that person? Have you provided them with enough information to know where to go for help? Is the first point of contact going to listen and respond or just follow a script? That one decision can change a customer interaction from a phone call to a frustration and wasting time for everyone involved.

Another airplane flight, another blog post. This one is about the “new modes” of audio delivery. As many of my readers know I work in the audio industry, I do not often blog about it as I am concerned about the impact my comments could have. Not that I would get in trouble with my employer, heck I was looking for a job when I got this one; but more that people would take my comments and opinions as if I was speaking for my employer. So let my blog, my domain, my opinions, written in my nonworking hours and me unequivocally state that these are my personal thoughts and opinions.

The new mode of delivery I am thinking of is digital distribution of audio products. I purchase music as a digital format less often than most people think. The reason is that most delivery methods are compressed. I believe that compression should be applied judiciously. Not all compression is bad, as I sit listening to music on my iPod on a plane. I decided the quality of music is the item I want for this application.

That is the key; the application is that I want to travel with a large selection of music. It does not have to be pristine as the listening environment is less than pristine. I do however want for airplane flights and time in hotels to be able to have music. I do not always know what kind of music I am going to want to listen to three days from now. I would rather have the selection at a compression ratio that I find appropriate.

I am purposefully omitting numbers, as too often when numbers are listed it becomes a contest by numbers, such as one saying that they will only listen to music at 96kHz sample rate. When I ask why, the answer is often well it is a higher number it must be better. I wonder if that person would be able to tell the difference between 48kHz and 96kHz recordings in the listening conditions I am currently in; a tin can traveling through the air at 300mph with an internal ambient noise of 70dB SPL A weighted through noise canceling ear buds. Probably not so easily, I am not going to say it is impossible; I am going to say it is improbable. I believe and can hear that there is a difference between sample rates in other environments.

At the same time, other listening environments that are acceptable applications for compressed audio for some people are not for me. In my car I have CDs loaded in the changer and a smaller election of non-compressed audio files on the attached iPod. In that environment I can hear a difference between the full quality and the compressed audio. I do not listen to satellite radio music channels in the car often as that compression annoys me and I can hear it. For other people they do not find it objectionable.

The key is that I am deciding. I can control how much compression and the amount of data that is important and acceptable to me. Often buying audio products as digital downloads that decision is someone else’s and I might not agree with it. Paying 99 cents for a compressed piece of music that is just for “fun” can make sense. Paying $15 for a digital download of a CD that is compressed as 11 separate songs versus buying the CD for $15 is something I will not do.
Why you may ask? I have done it, and I have regretted spending the money. The digital download has some audio artifacts that the CD does not. I then can also decide if I want to compress the audio to put it in another format. Not only that, I get to decide the compression protocol as MPEG3 is not always the best. If more people had uncompressed delivery methods I would buy more audio via digital distribution.

The key is to use the best test equipment that we have, our ears, to make the decision for yourself. The way I approach it, is your source should be as ideal as possible and then you have the control to decide what is acceptable compression tradeoffs.

Also please remember that one answer is not the right answer for everyone. The amount of compression that I find objectionable might be perfectly acceptable to someone else. So don’t turn your nose up and ruin other people’s enjoyment just because it doesn’t meet your standards. If people are having fun or the message is getting across isn’t the most important parts of audio being accomplished.

And yes my photographer friends the same thing can be said about JPEG compression. I start with RAW and then I decide how to impact the image as I process it to JPEG or other formats.