Last Tuesday, which now seems an age ago, we came back from our family holiday to Israel. Since then I’ve been to Germany and New York and back, and am looking forward to staying in the UK for a while.
I have a belief of not doing work while on holiday. Otherwise it’s not a holiday. I find it takes about 4-5 days to completely forget about work, so for a fortnight’s holiday, I can come back after ten days of a real break from work, and think much more creatively than when I went away. I find the break from work really helps the mind ‘cool down’. When I have worked during a holiday, the return to work has never been quite the same.
I still take a family laptop away, mainly as a backup for the day’s photos. I take a lot of photos on holiday – usually between 2 and 3,000, and once we’re back I usually whittle this down to around ten percent.
I find that backing up photos to the laptop doesn’t quite give me the peace of mind, that the photos are really safe, so I’ve been using a folder on Dropbox to back them up. I’m using Dropbox more and more, mainly because it integrates so well with Windows – so I can work on the photos in Picasa directly from Dropbox.
Israel is a very technologically advanced country. There is a true start-up culture there, and almost all the large, familiar, IT brands have offices in the country. I’ve discussed Waze on this blog before, and it’s still by far the most popular mapping technology in Israel.
Waze provides turn by turn directions on a journey and reports traffic conditions as soon as other Waze users report them. Waze can then reroute based on what the rest of the community is doing. So if a Waze user reports a car is blocking a lane on a motorway, Waze will start routing other users around the area. Also, if most users prefer a different route to what other mapping tools provide, Waze will use this community data for its users.
With Apple no longer shipping iPhones with Google Maps, there are several other Israeli start-ups creating map apps with new features. I got to see one of them, which made Google Maps and TomTom look ancient. The app isn’t due for release until October, and I was asked not to include it in this blog, so I’ll report on it when it is released.
Another good app that I saw was services.me. It’s a personal CRM tool that records your conversations with call centres, and collects the data to remind you to follow up the conversation. When you first download the app it’s pretty blank. The first time you need to call a utility company, you type in the name of the company and the app downloads the relevant plugin. You then dial the company via the app (at normal call rates), and the app records your conversation. Once you’re finished, the app uploads your voice recording to its service, and asks you if you need to follow up again, or was the matter resolved. Over time, you’ll download more and more plugins for your energy company, phone company, garage, etc. Users who have installed services.me say that they don’t know how they lived without it, the sign of a really useful app!
The London Metro, the free newspaper, ran a story a few months ago about how Londoners look like zombies when they walk along the pavements looking at their mobile phone. Since that article I’ve stopped using my phone on the pavement, and watched people bumping into lampposts, each other, and shop doors. And as a cyclist, I’ve seen too many people walk across the road without looking up. They are all zombies.
In Israel it’s exactly the same. Only I noticed it wherever we went. Even in remote areas people were walking along, typing, playing or whatever else they were doing on their phone. And I noticed more children in a zombie state than I’ve noticed in the UK.
In the UK we have pretty good free Wifi coverage. I know, because my kids are always hunting for free Wifi on their iPod touches. In Israel, free Wifi is in available pretty much everywhere. I don’t use data when roaming abroad because it’s so expensive, but I was able to use data on my iPhone pretty much everywhere. I usually had a harder time charging my iPhone than getting free Wifi! Free Wifi is even available on the beach – yes, I “checked in” on FourSquare!
Although Israel is a very technology literate country, and for people in hi-tech (as it’s called) the cost of living (salaries and rent/mortgage) is roughly the same as London, iPads are seen as a top end luxury. I still think the iPad is overpriced (the UK and globally) and I’m amazed at its sales success. Many of my friends in the UK have an iPad, and I’ve been to conferences recently where I was the only person not with an iPad. Talking to friends in Israel in hi-tech, they all say they’ll buy one tablet device or another in the future, but only a couple of people I knew there actually owned on.