COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | PHIL BAKER

Odds and ends

I've written before about how much I like TripIt, an app that keeps track of all your travel plans. Simply forward it all of your emailed reservations and confirmations for hotels, air, rental and restaurants, and it returns an organized itinerary with all of the details neatly organized and adds it to your calendar.

TripIt is free, but its Pro version is well worth the $50 annual subscription. It sends you messages with gate information, delays and alternative flights.

TripIt Pro now also checks the cost of your flights and can save you lots of money. Over the last several months it's sent me emails alerting me to a drop in the airfare of flights I’m schedule to take. The alerts tell you how much you’ll save, factoring in change fees. I’ve then gone back to the reservations site, usually Southwest, Alaska and United, and have rebooked the same flights.

I've saved about $800 since January, much more than the cost of the service. (tripit.com)
Hang your iPhone from your dash

While on the road driving rental cars, I use my iPhone as a personal navigator. But I'm always fiddling with propping the phone up on the center console or in the ashtray.

I've tried carrying phone mounts, those cumbersome plastic holders with a folding arm and a large suction cup, but they take up lots of room in a briefcase and don’t work well.

I recently tested two new products, the Norm from Insanely Great Products and MT5000 from Mountek. The Norm is a flat metal tray, with a binder clip at one end. A bare iPhone fits on the tray and stays firmly in place, gripped gently between two foam-wrapped arms. The clip at the top secures phone and holder to one of the air conditioning vents on your car's dashboard, “hanging” the phone in plain view and within easy reach. It takes up little space in your briefcase or purse.

The Norm has models available for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5. ($35, igproducts.us)

The Mountek product also hangs lets you hang your phone from your dash and is adjustable so that it works with a wide variety of phones, including normal-size models from Samsung, Apple and Motorola.

The product attaches to the CD-player slot found on the dashboard of many cars. It's designed to fit in far enough for support, but not too far so as to activate the player.

The product is constructed of heavy-duty, matte-finished plastic and is very well engineered. ($20, mountek.com)

Of the two, I found the Mountek worked best in my BMW X3 and the Norm worked on my wife's Toyota Highlander because its CD slot was hidden behind the display.
LinkedIn

I've used LinkedIn’s free version for years, but haven’t paid much attention to all of its features.

It's been a handy way to search and network with business friends and their friends, specifically for business needs. LinkedIn is also widely used by companies and search firms for finding job candidates. It’s easy to find employees of any given company by searching by company name.

Recently, I wanted to identify and contact an executive at a specific company. I upgraded my account to the BusinessPro level for one month for $40 and was able to search for employees at that company and contact them by LinkedIn's internal email called InMail.

LinkedIn allows 10 InMails a month at this subscription level. While they guarantee you'll get a response, what that means is if you don’t get an answer they won’t count that as one of the 10. Another feature this level provides is to see the name of those that check your profile.

LinkedIn is a good way for professionals to present their profile to the outside business community (and recruiters) and to expand your network with others with similar business interests. (linkedin.com)

The new BlackBerry Z10. Photo courtesy of BlackBerry


New BlackBerry 10

I've just begun testing the new BlackBerry 10, the company's best hope for a comeback.

My first day was spent trying to figure out its unusual interface. Devoid of buttons, almost everything is accessed by swipes on the touch screen from different directions. So far it's not intuitive and reminded me of the Chinese box puzzle with the numerous sliding panels that you need to open to get inside.

But I want to give this phone a chance before I draw any conclusions. Often, once you get past the interface, things can improve. Expect a complete review in the next week or two.
Tamrac's Zuma 2 case for iPad and camera

This slim, vertical bag is designed to carry an iPad along with a medium-size digital camera. It's also full of other pockets for carrying business cards, pens, batteries and memory cards.

It has a shoulder pad that stays in place and a slash pocket on the back for a magazine or boarding pass. What makes it so effective is its thin profile that automatically expands as you add a large item such as the camera. So it's the best of both, a slim carrying bag and a camera/iPad bag in one.

This well-constructed fully padded nylon bag is a bargain at $50. (tamrac.com)



Baker is the author of "From Concept to Consumer" published by Financial Times Press and available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and other booksellers. He has developed and marketed consumer and computer products for Polaroid, Apple, Seiko and others, holds 30 patents and is an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Phil can be heard on KOGO AM the first Sunday of each month. Send comments to phil.baker@sddt.com. Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor. Phil's blog is http://blog.philipgbaker.com and his website is philipgbaker.com.

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