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Travel Tech News, August 2016: The “Railroad Wi-fi” Edition

By Dave Dean News2 Comments

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Massive new fines in store for VPN users in the United Arab Emirates, and technology to the rescue for sunburned holidaymakers. There’s free Wi-fi all the way from London to Birmingham, and Google Fi goes high-speed around the world.

Guess what? It’s Travel Tech News time once again!

Whatever You Do, Don’t Use a VPN in the UAE

Got a spare $500,000? If so, feel free to use your VPN service next time you’re visiting the United Arab Emirates. If you don’t, though, you might want to think a little harder before hitting the ‘Connect’ button.

The President of the UAE issued a new law making it a federal crime to “use a fraudulent … IP address by using a false address or a third-party address by any other means for the purpose of committing a crime or preventing its discovery.” Crimes, in this case, include accessing blocked sites and unlicensed services. In the UAE, those are both pretty common.

Anything from porn sites to WhatsApp and Facetime aren’t permitted. If you use a VPN to access them, you’re up for temporary imprisonment, a fine ranging from (USD) $136,000 to $545,000, or both.

The reason given for the law is to protect the profits of the official telecommunications companies. The privacy benefits of VPNs surely haven’t escaped the notice of the UAE’s rulers either, mind you.

Regardless of the story behind it, unless this law gets changed or repealed, think carefully about using a VPN if you’re spending any time in the UAE. The costs may end up being a lot higher than your monthly subscription.

Keep Missing Spots When Putting on Sunscreen? There’s a Gadget for That

Sunscreenr in use

This news seemed particularly relevant this month. I’ve missed some pretty large spots when applying sunscreen on these long Portuguese summer days, and been rewarded with excellent sunburn.

Voxelight just finished crowdfunding the Sunscreenr, a slick gadget with a viewfinder and UV camera. Areas covered in sunscreen show up black when viewed through the device making it easy to spot the bits you’ve missed. It records video, too, so you can check your back and other hard-to-reach places.

The company suggests it’s useful both when first applying sunscreen, and to check if it’s been rubbed off by water or towels afterwards. Battery life should be about four hours, when the gadget ships at the end of the year.

Over a million people a year are diagnosed with skin cancer in the US alone. If you tend to spend your vacations stretched out on the beach or sun lounger, this wouldn’t be a bad purchase.

From Station to Train and Back Again: Seamless Railway Wi-fi in the UK

Chiltern Railways

I’ve been surprised on my recent trips to the UK at how connected the country — and London in particular — has become. There seems to be free Wi-fi everywhere, while local cell data is speedy and fairly inexpensive for a Western country.

Rail operator Chiltern Railways made things even easier last month, creating a seamless free Wi-fi network on its service between London and Birmingham. Passengers log onto the station network at any of the 28 stops along the route, and are automatically handed over to an onboard network when they board the train.

Whenever the train pulls into a station, they’re handed back off to the station network for faster speeds, then returned to the onboard service when the train departs. In theory, at least, they shouldn’t need to reconnect or log in again at any point.

It sounds like a simple thing, but with a bunch of different companies involved, getting something like this to work isn’t always easy. Kudos to Chiltern for making it happen.

Google Fi Goes High-Speed Around the World

Google Fi plan

We were super-impressed by Google’s Fi cellular service when we tested it earlier this year, especially its cheap data roaming around the globe. The only problem was slow roaming speeds, which mean sluggish web pages and lengthy waits for maps to update. Well, that’s a problem no more.

Last month, the company announced the brake has been lifted in the 135+ countries that Fi is available, opening up full 3G or LTE speeds at the same $10/GB you’ll pay in the US. If you’re a US-based traveler and own a Google Nexus 5x, 6 or 6P, there’s even more reason than before to consider switching to Fi.

Images via Andrew Moore, Sunscreenr/Indiegogo, (Mick Baker)rooster and Google

About the Author
Dave Dean

Dave Dean

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Founder and editor of Too Many Adapters, Dave has been a traveler for 20 years, and a geek for even longer. When he's not playing with the latest tech toy or working out how to keep his phone charged for just a few more minutes, he can probably be found sitting in a broken-down bus in some obscure corner of the planet.


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    Unfortunately, when looking at the Google Fi’s website, the Nexus 5 doesn’t appear to be an option. 🙁 Looks like I’ll have to get a new phone if I want to use it when I get back in the US.

    1. Dave Dean Author

      Apologies, that was a typo — it was meant to read Nexus 6 rather than Nexus 5. I’ve fixed it now, but sadly yes, you’ll need a different phone. It was one of the reasons I replaced my Nexus 5 with a 5x when I last headed to the States, actually.

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