Hi-Tech Ways To Stay Close To Home On Road

Early Show - Staying in touch/natalie del conte - Oct. 16, 2008 CBS

If you're a traveling man -- or woman -- there are some great, hi-tech ways to stay in touch with your family when you're playing the role of road warrior.

On The Early Show Thursday, Natali Del Conte of the CBS News partner, CNET, showcased many of them.

Life on the road is tough enough, and the items can make you feel closer to home.

Del Conte showed how to video-chat via a laptop Webcam. She'll also demonstrate the latest programs out there for the "smart phone" -- programs that enable you to transmit your location in real time and/or a live video feed from your device, no computer needed.

She also cautioned about bumps in the digital road: unexpected roaming charges and how to avoid them -- both in the U.S. and abroad.


Hardware: Webcam

Most laptops these days are sold with Webcams. But if you don't have a built-in one, you can find some relatively inexpensive Webcams for under $100. Del Conte showed the built-in cameras on Apple's MacBook laptops, and external Microsoft LifeCameras.

Software Enabling You To Chat

To access your camera, you'll need software. Del Conte suggests using programs such as Skype, iChat, or SightSpeed. All are free ways to video chat with friends or family. iChat has some fun features such as custom background and video and music sharing. Sightspeed is better for video conferencing with more than two people.


Add A Mic: The built-in microphones on both internal and external cameras are usually poor quality. Consider adding an external microphone.

Use Headphones: Use your headphones and plug them into the MICROPHONE jack. The hardware inside of them is the same as the wiring for a microphone, so you can literally speak into your earbuds and use them as a microphone!


Location-Based Buddy Programs

Loopt (http://www.loopt.com/>) and Whrrl (http://www.whrrl.com/>) both enable you to find your family and friends on a mapping system in your phone. So, if your loved one is away and you want to make sure they made it safely or see where they are in their travels, you can activate one of those programs and see a physical representation of them on a map.

Live Stream Your TripM/b>

Qik () enables you to send a live video stream of your travels over your mobile phone. You or your spouse can watch each other's trips live on the Internet if one of you is streaming to Qik.

CNET's review: http://reviews.cnet.com/cell-phones/virgin-mobile-shuttle-red/4505-6454_7-33249954.html?tag=mncol;txt


Roaming Charges

Research your mobile carrier's overseas plan. Each carrier has different rates for traveling abroad. They can be pricy, but will definitely be better than roaming overseas. It's best to call your carrier to ask hich plan is best for you, based on your itinerary.

Prepaid SIM Cards

Alternatively, if your phone has what's called a SIM card, wait until you're overseas. Once you arrive, you can buy a SIM card in a gas station or convenience store. You can slide that card into your existing phone and have a NEW, overseas number that lets you pay as you go, and at a lower cost than paying roaming charges on your regular phone number.
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