Essential Travel Tools for iPhone and iPad

A close friend recently asked me if I liked TripIt after he noticed the automated posts of my travel plans. This came on the heals of almost a year of constant business travel, so I figured I would give back my tips for the Road Warriors out there trying to remember what city and time zone they are in… trying to get back home to their loved ones without getting all wrapped around the travel arrangement axel.

Kayak for iPhone and iPad

Kayak for iPad
Kayak for iPad

First stop is my chief means of flights of fancy and those homes away from home. The Kayak iPhone and iPad apps are extensions to the powerful online site that harvests deals from Priceline, Expedia, Hotwire, Travelocity, and CheapOair for airline tickets. They also have hooks into hotel sites, car rentals and cruises. The only thing they don’t have is the ability to book tickets on Amtrak.

The thing I like about Kayak is that you can set alerts on fare changes and cheap hotel deals. Kayak combined with the next app has saved me hundreds of dollars over the last year in refunds, vouchers and opportunities to save money.

TripIt Pro for iDevices

TripIt Pro for iPad
TripIt Pro for iPad

Next stop on this journey of travel apps is TripIt Pro. Like Kayak, TripIt Pro is first a Web-based app and the mobile apps for iDevices works in tandem with the mothership.

I use TripIt Pro for itinerary management, awards points tracking and price alerts (I’ve found out about price drops on flights I’ve already booked and received vouchers for the difference.) It also gives me flight info and has quickly told me about alternate flights when I had a flight delayed or cancelled. It also integrates with my calendar and email. It picks up email reservations, logs it in my itinerary, and then puts the event on my calendar. And all of my colleagues use it to know who is in what town on what dates: it also broadcasts this info on our corporate IM feed ( It posts general travel plans to LinkedIn and Facebook in the form of “Devin is preparing to leave for… ” and “Devin is returning to DC from …”. As an added bonus, I can designate people like close friends and my lovely wife as members of my Inner Circle. These members get look at the intimate details of any itinerary. Finally, I can always see my itinerary on my iDevice either through the app or through integration with my calendar.

TripIt also has a version for businesses. I and my colleagues have floated the idea of subscribing to this so that it is easy to coordinate pair-coaching opportunities as we float about the World.

FlightTrack Pro

FlightTrack Pro for iPhone
FlightTrack Pro for iPhone

I use FlightTrack Pro for gate information, flight delays, alternate flights, navigation around airports, weather delays, etc. It pulls my flight information directly from TripIt Pro (tight integration). I get notified of delays and gate changes typically before the majority of the crowd (including the gate employees), and can switch flights before the crowd has even figured out what is going on. Another nice thing about combining FlightTrack Pro with TripIt Pro is that I can invite my inner circle from TripIt Pro to view my trips. Then they can know when to meet me at the airport using FlightTrack Pro on thier iDevice. I also love that I can view the map of an airport that I’m not familiar with before I get there and know how to get through the maze of terminals and concourses without looking like a mouse that has lost its cheese.


TripAdvisor for iPhone and iPad
TripAdvisor for iPhone and iPad

Another one of my essential iDevice travel apps is TripAdvisor. The TripAdvisor is just a better interface for my mobile device with their Webapp as the back-end. It allows me to find and read reviews of hotels, restaurants, and venues using either an address or geolocation. The app is also integrated with TripIt Pro so I can go from the address in my itinerary to TripAdvisor to find out other places around that address. When combined with the online Webapp, I can monitor airfares between locations that I frequent. I can also check for alternate hotels if I find the one I booked has suddenly had an outbreak of Bed Bugs.

Honorable Mentions:

Bed Bug Tracker

Bed Bug Tracker for iPhone
Bed Bug Tracker for iPhone

I’ve now tacked this one onto my essential travel apps as I have started visiting cities where there are Bed Bug problems in the hotels. So far this app hasn’t failed me. Eventually I need to write a blog about my one and only bed bug experience. I never want to experience that again. That was before a colleague referred me to this app. Now I check this app every time I go to make a reservation.

Egencia/Expedia TripAssist

Expedia TripAssist for iPhone
Expedia TripAssist for iPhone

I’ve been using Egencia for work related travel for a couple months now. It really isn’t that great, but it is worth a mention because when flights are cancelled, changed or when a hotel messes up my reservation or overbooks, I can simply use the app itself to autodial customer service to fix everything for me.


Enhanced by Zemanta

IRC Client for OS X

ircI’m looking for an IRC client for OS X. I’ve run acros several but I’m not sure which will fit my needs.

Here are the current candidates:

I’m leaning toward X-Chat Aqua, but would like to hear other suggestions.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Why I don’t typically use any browser other than Firefox

Mozilla-FirefoxI’ve talked about Internet Browser security briefly before, but I thought it might be best to follow up with a commonsense commentary on why I favor Firefox over other browsers.
On March 18, 2009, TippingPoint‘s Charlie Miller, for the second year in a row, hacked an Apple OS-X based laptop in mere seconds. The source was an unpatched vulnerability in Apple’s browser, Safari. Safari ships pre-installed on every Apple computer just like Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is pre-installed on every Windows based computer.
Since then, Apple has released exactly ZERO patches to their browser to address the vulnerability. A similar vulnerability in the Firefox browser was exploited at the same time at the Pwn2Own competition and, in contrast to Safari, Firefox was patched nine days later. Firefox has subsequently had a second security patch release less than a month later for other discovered vulnerabilities.

So why hasn’t Apple responded as quickly? It boils down to numbers: development resources and probably that the attack vector of the exploit can actually be used.
For the Safari exploit two things had to happen: the exploit had to be embedded on a Website that people would go to, and then the hackers had to actually get you to go to the site. The later is pretty easy to do because of all the Pavlovian-like responses hackers get through specially crafted emails. Actually installing the crack on a website without being caught is pretty hard to do. Servers have logs. Logs create a fingerprint of who did what to a server. Even if the hacker attempts to erase the logs, there are other ways to “sniff” who came from where to attack the server in the first place. In most cases, in order to get to a server the hacker has to jump through more hoops to remain masked than it is worth it: the risk isn’t worth attacking the server.

So back to Apple’s “arrogance” (as it has been called by others). Apple doesn’t see the risk as being high and they have limited resources. Patches generally take a while to fix when using limited corporate resources. If you dedicate resources to defects and vulnerabilities, then you taking them away from new innovations and making new products.

This is always a problem in closed-source software. In one past project I took over, the software had so many bugs in it, that we had problems turning out a new release with the much-needed critical mission-oriented functionality. All of my resources were too busy addressing software defects. The source of the software defects was poor configuration management and software quality testing practices by the incumbent development firm coupled with a corporate culture by the client that refused to allow the incumbent to swap-out resources that knew how to use automated testing tools… even though the tools were free.

Contrast the limited resources problem with Open Source Software (OSS) with thousands of developers/testers coupled with well managed testing and configuration management practices. The simple statistics are that OSS is only limited by the number of people contributing and the maturity of software development management practices being used.

Number of Apple OSX developers vs. number of Firefox developers. Firefox wins.
What Firefox can’t prevent is the risky end-user behavior… but that is another conversation for another time.