Toolie Travel Blog

A million-mile flyer talks about the life of a business traveler.

Newsletter: Boeing's New 787 Dreamliner

As a resident of the Seattle area, there are two big business influences on us: Microsoft -- where I used to work, and Boeing -- on whose planes I've flown the most.

This past Wednesday, the first 787 Dreamliner rolled out of the hangar in Everett, Washington (about 30 miles north of my home) in a special celebration with the CEOs of All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Boeing, along with the workers who produced the airplane. I watched a summary video of the celebration on the Boeing website, and I have to admit I felt a certain pride in being a resident here. When there's a downturn in the airline business, we all feel it. Now that Boeing was able to finally deliver this plane, everyone who lives here is breathing a sigh of relief! I'm especially proud because they pulled it off despite the current economy.

I am looking forward to the days when the first 787s are delivered domestically, because I want to ride in one! When I travel internationally I look for flights with the Boeing 777 because I love how that plane is put together. I can only imagine how wonderful the 787s are going to be when we here in Seattle get to ride in one.

Improvements in the Airplane

The first thing I noticed on the Boeing videos is the in-seat entertainment. For Economy class, there are individual video screens in the headrest of the seat in front of you. I also noted ample storage bins, roomy lavatories, and tinted windows! No more having to sit in the dark just to be able to see the video screens. The windows are 30% larger, for those who want to look outside, and there are improvements to the Rolls Royce airplane engines that offer a smoother ride.

The new plane uses LED lighting instead of fluorescent lighting, which gives it a softer glow and lower electrical consumption. Personally, I'm looking forward to that -- fluorescent lighting makes you look even worse than you already do after flying all night on an airplane.

Here is the micro-site for the airplane on ANA's website. It will detect your language and display English, if that's your default.


We Get Around

Among the destinations listed for this plane are cities within Japan, as well as Hong Kong and Frankfurt. According to the CEO of ANA, "The B787 is considered a medium-size aircraft but it can travel more than 52 per cent further than a similarly sized B767, while using 20 per cent less fuel. This brand new aircraft presents a new business opportunity for us to open new routes that would not have been viable before and gives us the chance to expand our network.”

That's a really critical issue these days. The cost of fuel is already high, so a plane that can travel further and save 20% on fuel costs is a welcome addition to the skies. One can only hope that it might ultimately mean cost savings passed on to the passengers. (Hey, I'm an optimist!)

I am pleased to report that one of the 787s currently in production is scheduled for United, so I look forward to getting on that plane in due course.
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Newsletter: Mobile Answers in Disaster Scenarios

This has been a tough year for natural disasters, from earthquakes to tsunamis to hurricanes. With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 just a few weeks away, we are reminded that their are unnatural disasters also that also threaten human lives.

I remember taking a first-aid class when I was a teen, then a cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) class as a young adult. Most of those techniques have been updated, especially CPR guidelines that were just changed.

As business travelers, it occurs to me that our smart phones could go a long way towards providing information to help us in emergencies. Yes, we check them for delayed flights and weather information -- you probably already have a good weather app on your phone. But what about first aid? If you were caught in a life-threatening situation, could you be helpful? If someone was bleeding, would you know what to do?

Weather Apps for iPhone, Blackberry, and Android

Let's cover the weather apps first. With Hurricane Irene's devastation fresh in our minds, I was not surprised to see that the hurricane- tracking apps on iTunes were VERY popular.

I also realized that I should include apps for other platforms in my newsletter, so here's a selection.

iPhone apps



Medical/First Aid Apps for iPhone, Blackberry, and Android

There were several categories of applications that could be helpful for disaster situation: disaster planning, first aid, and triage. Because I'm focused on in-the-moment concerns, I focused on the last 2 categories.




Pre-Disaster Planning

It wouldn't feel right if I did leave out disaster planning -- or rather pre-disaster planning. The US Government has an entire website devoted to disaster preparedness. As business travelers, we may not be home when disaster strikes, so making sure that your family is OK without is really important.

I highly recommend following their recommendations to ensure your family's safety. I did find a mobile version of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's website that corresponds to this website.

Let me say that I hope you never need these resources, but I also encourage you to be prepared.
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Newsletter: iPhone Business Travel Apps

It's been an odd day today. I heard a sound in my office that has NEVER been heard before: the startup sound of a Mac Mini! I inherited my Dad's Mac Mini after he passed away in January, and this is the first time I've had both the room and the time to set it up (I'm using it for testing websites on Mac browsers). Exposure to The Fruit Side has been an interesting and engaging experiment.

I am pleased to say that I have resisted buying a bunch of apps for the iPhone, but I have been looking through the iTunes App Store and collecting items that may be helpful for business travelers BESIDES the obvious travel guides and airline sites. Skip the iTunes desktop application and go straight to the Apple website:

These are the apps on my iPhone now:

This application goes with the eSpeakers service of which I am a subscriber. The National Speakers Association utilizes eSpeakers to manage their member profiles, but the eSpeakers app has so much more: schedules, booking dates, and so on. It was a natural fit for my business.

Good grief, I might actually be able to keep up with social networking on Facebook! Having the free Facebook app makes it easy to fill up the loose time slots while waiting for ground transportation with messages to friends, reading the streamed comments, and so on.

I plan to do more on LinkedIn than I have in the past, so having this free app on the phone is also quite helpful.

Mobile Notifier
This little app tells me when a purchase has been made through my shopping cart. One has to have an account with 1ShoppingCart or one of the private label companies, which I have had for 7 years. It's great to hear the sound of money depositing into my account.

I have a number of people I keep up with on Skype, and the fact that you can conduct free video calls from your phone over an Internet connection WITHOUT the computer is just aces!

QR Reader for iPhone
I haven't had occasion to see many of these QR codes, but starting the app and pointing your iPhone at the code will immediately open the corresponding website. I plan to add the QR code for my website to my business card.

Camera Zoom 3
I've missed a number of photos that I could have captured if I had just taken time to download a better camera application. This one has been around a long time, and the zoom works really well.

Here are some that look intriguing that I have not yet downloaded.

FedEx Mobile for iPhone
When I've shipped boxes to or from my destination and I need to know how they're doing, this application ought to do the trick!

USPS Mobile
Same here: if I need to find a post office to mail something home, this little app would be very helpful!

As gas prices rise, I'm experimenting with using public transit more around the Seattle area, and I found this real-time application for transit that covers Puget Sound. There are more apps like this for other areas.

What is YOUR favorite business travel-related application? Comment below so that we can all benefit!


Recent comment in this post
Guest — Shon Boulette
Thank you for a very informative website. What else may I get that type of info written in such an ideal means? I've a project tha... Read More
Tuesday, 10 January 2012 3:03 PM
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Newsletter: The iPhone Productivity Project

Well, I've made it through the first month with the iPhone, and so far we're getting along. I've not been this deep into Fruit Territory in a long, long time. I'm a Windows geek, not an Apple devotee, but I'm willing to adapt. <grin>

Part of the reason for switching to the iPhone at this point was because I needed to use text messaging a lot for my consulting, and the old Windows Mobile phone was dying on me. The iPhone has a nice interface for text messaging, but I keep sending all kinds of odd messages because I "fat-finger" that tiny keyboard.

Computing Before There Were Mice

Yes, Virginia, there was a time when computers did NOT have a mouse driving the interface. In fact was a little over 20 years ago that Windows 3.1 came out, and I knew that computing would change forever. Yes, I know that both Microsoft and Apple had a mouse well before that, but because of the pervasiveness/market share of Windows, the arrival of a decent Windows mouse-driven interface, the culture shifted radically.

To this day, I'm a two-fisted computer user: I regularly use keyboard shortcuts with the mouse to write and move around the interface quickly. In fact I urge my clients to use these shortcuts because they're concentrated where you type with your left hand. I'm taking about the usual Ctrl+S for Save, Ctrl+C for Copy, Ctrl+V for paste, and so on. You'd be surprised how many people do NOT use them!

With all of this background information I am leading up to the punch line: I bought a mini-keyboard for my iPhone. Now before you fall off your chair with laughter, hear me out.

I'm sitting at a desk a lot these days, so text messaging with colleagues and clients means picking up the phone and trying to aim at that tiny keyboard with hands that can easily play octaves on the piano. I was not blessed with dainty fingers, I was blessed with pianist's fingers. So that frustration lead me to conclude that finding some kind of thumb keyboard would be a good idea for me.

I haven't yet bought a hard, protective case for the phone, so the first keyboard I looked at was attached to a hard case. That would make the phone and keyboard function as one item instead of two. I ordered the TK-421 Bluetooth Keyboard/Case from for iPhone 3GS.


This particular keyboard appealed to me because it had a thumb-style size and functionality. The problem was that the keyboard swiveled out from underneath instead of opening like a clamshell. The keyboard itself was lighter than the phone, so it kept falling forward out of my hands. I had a hard time turning the keyboard's Bluetooth on, though pairing happened quite easily. After working with the keyboard for 24 hours or so, I went shopping again.

I found that the keyboard portion was available separately from several vendors, but I just didn't like that keyboard at all, separate or attached. After exhausting all the possibilities in the $35 price range, I decide to move up in size and cost, and I ordered the Verbatim Bluetooth keyboard from

This keyboard is bigger than the phone; in fact the keys are almost full-size with a few exceptions. It comes with its own case, but it's small enough to fit in my purse on the go. What's REALLY fun is that hidden in the keyboard's case is a fold-out stand for the iPhone that holds it in a suitable position for viewing while typing.

Turning the keyboard on is quite easy, pairing with the iPhone is a no-brainer, and with a little concentration, I can type quite quickly for emails, text messages, and writing my book.

Writing My Book on the iPhone

Yes, I am writing a book. Will I write it entirely on the iPhone? Probably not. But, having the keyboard with the iPhone turns it from a text-messaging machine to a mini-computer capable of capturing my chapters without breaking a sweat. I visited the iTunes App Store and found a simple word processing application that cost me US$3.99.

Because I write for the Internet, I'm used to using a text-only word processor. I write more quickly that way anyway since I'm not fiddling with formatting, so having an iPhone word processor that lets me put in bulleted lists and bold text is just fine! It interoperates with Word 2003-2010, so I can sync with my desktop and use the files there.

Typing with the iPhone on an Airplane

If you think that first-class passengers have more room on their tray tables for their laptops, let me correct this notion immediately! Maybe it's just me, but I always seem to end up behind the traveler who has decided to kick back. They recline all the way in celebration of their spacious seat, and whatever hope I had for opening my laptop quickly goes away. But there WOULD be room for my iPhone and this mini-keyboard, even in Coach. Just imagining this wonderful scenario gave me hope of recovering all those lost minutes we spend in transit, without having to boot up the laptop!

For Me It's iPhone Productivity Anywhere

I have a consulting contract now that sometimes has me hanging around waiting for meetings. I didn't dare bring my Toolie business laptop to the consulting location, but I could pull out my iPhone and keyboard and none would be the wiser! I also think about returning to my satellite office (the local Red Robin) to do my planning sessions because I can access my client management website with my iPhone and keyboard. This particular Red Robin doesn't have wireless Internet (yet), but I do get a cell signal, so I can fire up the iPhone and get answers when I need them.

OK, Maybe One More Accessory

I admit that the iPhone screen is pretty small -- not the best for writing, but if I could get the phone up to eye level, that would be really helpful. Apparently a few other people had the same idea, because I found this accessory online.


This iLevel clamp-on stand wouldn't fit in my purse, but it would fit in carry-on luggage quite nicely. And on the treadmill. And on my desk. I haven't bought it yet -- I still feel silly trying to use the iPhone as a mini-computer. But those feelings will probably change as I embrace my iPhone Productivity Project and the possibility of actually getting my book written!

Do you use a keyboard with your iPhone? Tell us about it in your comments below.
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Newsletter: Journey to the Fruit Side - My iPhone

I'm not used to being late to the technology party: I just got my first iPhone this month. McAlister has giggled over his iPhone for the last 3 years ( and-the-iphone/ ) and that was OK with me. He's a Mac guy, and while I might have been somewhat jealous, I had other priorities for my phone.

For someone who has relinquished the techie life for his art studio, and claims that he doesn't want to be thought of as a tech guy, McAlister sure loves his iPhone. He keeps it with him ALL the time. Even when he's in Sculpture Class or at the pub afterwards with his friends, if some subject comes up in conversation that requires fact- checking, all heads turn towards McAlister, who by then has his iPhone in hand and is looking up the facts on the Internet.

Good Old Windows Mobile -- a Mainstay

My old Windows Mobile phone served me well for years. A couple of months ago, I thoughtlessly left it on the top of my car as I pulled out of the driveway. The phone hung on for dear life as I drove downhill, but when I hit the curve at the bottom, it went flying off the roof and skidded on the pavement. It horrible to see (out of the corner of your eye) your phone flying towards the asphalt when you're powerless to stop it!

When I realized what happened, I stopped, turned around, and went back to find the phone. Miraculously, I found all of the pieces of the phone: the battery, the back cover, even the stylus, and put it all back together. The phone was working!! It was a little scuffed, but it survived.

A few months later I lost the stylus for the fourth time, and this time I decided not to try to replace it. The designers of the phone had, for some inexplicable reason, decided that it should fit in the lower right corner of the phone, upside down, and once the plastic holding it in place gave up, bye-bye stylus!

The next sign of imminent cell phone death was the difficulty in using the slide out keyboard. The left corner of the keyboard was the point of impact from its flight off the car. The little Function key that provided the numbers and alternate characters I needed for text input of any kind was in that very corner of the phone. The damage really became an issue when I took on a short-term, full-time consulting contract and text-messaging became our virtual team's primary method of contact. Mobile communications were becoming the norm again in my life, and I had to act.

Cell Phone Waiting Game

I've been involved with Windows Mobile since the very beginning. Back when I was working at Microsoft on the Visual C++ team, I worked with the marketing guy who was preparing presentations on the Mobile portion of this development tool. We were teaching developers how to write applications for the first versions of Windows phones back in

1995. I got to play with some of those early devices, and I was hooked. For years afterwards, I tried to find a job on the Windows Mobile team, but never found one for which I was qualified.

When the iPhone first came out, I was interested, of course, but I wasn't crazy about the usability (this is one of my specialties). Give me a keyboard, people! I need a stylus! As the iPhones improved, they got my further attention because it appeared that one really could manipulate the on-screen keyboard with sufficient dexterity.

My next objection was the fact that one HAD to sign with AT&T to get service. I specifically left AT&T for Sprint 12 years ago because AT&T insisted that I get a new phone! At that time, AT&T was tying specific service plans to specific phones, and apparently my phone at the time didn't qualify. I got a phone call from AT&T when I was visiting my alma mater, Wheaton College. The operator asked for my EIN number, then informed me that I would have to change service plans or change phones. I told them that if I had to change phones, I would also change carriers. I did.

So now it's May 2011, and I have a dying phone. The last straw was seeing the offer for $49 for an iPhone 3GS. No, it's not the latest iPhone, but it's a decent phone, and I had to make a choice. So, I went over to the Fruit Side.

The Fruit Side?

If you're a staunch Windows person, then using an Apple/Mac product MAY be referred to by your equally staunch Windows friends as "going to the dark side," an oblique "Star Wars" reference. Mac people will say the same about using Windows products: no surprise there. Since I already own 2 iPods and live with 3 Macs on the network in my house AND live with a Mac Guy, I decided not to refer to my iPhone purchase as "going to the dark side." Instead, I've simply gone to the Fruit Side. Hey, I'm even planning to install in my office the Mac Mini I got back from my Dad after he passed away in January. As a responsible web designer, I have to test my designs on as many platforms and browsers as I can. Now I won't have to run upstairs to McAlister's computer to check my sites on his Mac.

Mobile communications on cool devices like the iPhone, Blackberry, Android, and others have shifted the way business travelers operate. You can see now on your phone travel information similar to what I was preparing in my travel guides, only instantly and wirelessly from a vast repository of travel data. I've just begun to explore the available travel apps in the iTunes App Store, though I've spotted the TripIt app that goes with my subscription. Facebook and LinkedIn are already on my iPhone (I might get some social media marketing done after all), but since I have ONLY 8 gigabytes of space (hee hee), I'm being careful. More importantly, I'm being careful of my TIME and trying to not waste it on apps that won't get me to my destination efficiently.

The App Store: it truly is a techie playground. I have a feeling I'll be writing more about my iPhone adventures in the months to come.
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