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Tim Stringer

I'm a freelance technology consultant based in Vancouver, Canada and have been an evangelist for all things Apple since the early 1990s. I'm especially fond of innovative productivity solutions, though I have been seen flinging "Angry Birds" in my leisure time. Feel free to visit my Blog and follow me on Twitter.

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When I travel in my home country of Canada I enjoy the convenience of being able to access local maps and point-of-interest information using a 3G connection combined with the stock Maps app and a range of more specialized offerings such as Urbanspoon and Yelp. When travelling outside of my home and native land, 3G service is often available, but is exhorbantly expensive, leaving me to seek out WiFi connections in order to find my bearings and locate local hotspots.

Before my wife and I left on our latest international adventure, which took us to the Netherlands, Kenya and Tanzania, I scoured the App Store for apps that allow access to map and point-of-interest data in the absence of an Internet connection. I stumbled across OffMaps 2 which, at first glance, seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Read on to learn more about this app’s features and for a report on how well it performed on the road.

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My wife and I recently had the opportunity to spend some time in Kenya and Tanzania, with a stop in Amsterdam along the way. We had an amazing experience, which included going on safari in Tanzania and attending a beautiful wedding at Lake Navasha in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley.

I knew before leaving Canada that we would have very limited access to the Internet during our travels. I discovered that, with some careful planning up front and a suite of thoughtfully selected apps, the iPhone can be a very useful travel companion, even when no Internet connection is available. Here are some of the apps that I used regularly during our travels. I’ve also included some essential tips for those of you who travel the world with your iPhone (or iPod Touch).

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Earlier this fall Google upgraded their Google Mobile App for the iPhone to include Google Goggles (try saying that ten times fast), a feature that was previously only available to Android users. In a nutshell, Google Goggles allows you to perform Google searches using images taken with your iPhone’s camera. Once you’ve installed the free Google Mobile App, Goggling (I’m not sure if that’s the official term) is as simple as tapping the camera icon to the right of the search bar and snapping a photo of the item in question.

Before you go too camera happy, it’s important to note that only certain types of items are likely to work with Google Goggles. The software is designed to recognize covers of books, DVDs and CDs as well as barcodes and logos. Goggles will also recognize some buildings and landmarks and will do it’s best to pull text from photos and to identify objects.

There’s no denying that Google Goggles looks impressive in a demo, but how well does it work in the real world? I put Google Goggles to the test, with some help from friends in Ottawa, London and Melbourne. The question du jour: is Goggles truly useful or a novelty that soon grows old?

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I’ve signed up for many loyalty and membership programs over the years and have accumulated a sizable stack of plastic cards. I tend to keep the number of cards in my wallet to a minimum, which inevitably means that I often find myself at the checkout counter without the requisite card and miss out on the benefits. I almost always have my iPhone with me, whether I’m roaming around town or traveling the world. Wouldn’t it be great if I could somehow drop all of those cards onto my phone?

Earlier this year I discovered CardStar. At first glance it seemed to fit the bill almost perfectly. It allows me to store all my cards electronically and is even capable of displaying their barcodes on my iPhone’s screen. How well does it actually perform in practice? Read on to find out.
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