Michael Marcotte's Home Pageblank tileblank tileblank tileblank tile






  

Legal Disclaimer: On this page, my intent is to share personal experiences about sites, products and services, that I have personally used, and to share those experiences with you. Most of these will be very favorable experiences, but there have been times in the past when I really wished I had a forum where I could vent some frustration, and this site may therefore occasionally serve that purpose, as well. None of these opinions should be construed as anything more than just that and any use of these pages/comments does not warrant or assume any legal liability or responsibility by Michael Marcotte for the completeness, or usefulness of any information.






Thumbs UP CruiseCritic.com is a cruise industry, internet Web site, where after registering - free of charge - you gain access to a variety of new items and reviews related to various cruise lines and specific vessels. However, the overwhelming advantage to using this site is the forums. Within these forums, you will be able to locate the cruise lines (Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian, etc.) and not only the ship that will be sailing on (or are potentially interested in sailing on), and even a “Roll Call” message stream by departure date, where you can (semi-anonymously, at first) introduce yourselves as sailing on that particular cruise an chat with other travelers who will be on that same departure. One advantage to this is meeting other voyagers who have visited the same ports of call, or who have sailed on the same ship before, who can provide invaluable tips and recommendations about type of cabins, hotel, restaurants, etc. in the departure port. Often, a small group arranges pre-boarding meet-and-greet and a local restaurant or bar the night before the departure, or (when the CruiseCritic-familiarized group size is 25 or more) private use of one of the ship’s salons or bars, soon after boarding. One of the best things about these forums is that you will often discover smaller groups seeking an extra couple, family or small group to share the cost of a pre-arranged private tour operator in one or more of the ports of call. Our experience was excellent in this respect. We avoided the somewhat overwhelming crowds on the larger tour buses, were able to park, much closer to the attractions, and navigate traffic more easily, saved money, made slight itinerary modifications, and made several friends with whom we shared lunches, and on-board activities during the cruise. If you are going cruising and have not used this site, you owe it to yourself to “get onboard.” Bon Voyage!


Thumbs UPTripAdvisor.com is a widely-known travel review site where individual travelers leave personal reviews of hotels, attractions, restaurants, etc. I have posted several reviews on this site, myself, and have found, in particular, that the photos posted by we travelers are far more true-to-life that the professional photos found on the businesses’ web sites. There are almost always a few negative reviews for just about any establishment, but the overall ranking (example: #14 of 374) is a pretty good indicator of the level experienced by both the majority of past visitors, and how the majority of near-future will evaluate the establishment or attraction. The job of a business' marketing department is to make a product or service look as good as it can possibly be – sometimes to the point of gross exaggeration. The job of TripAdvisor is simply to post the candid reviews and photos of fellow travelers. Who do YOU trust?



Thumbs downBeen verified is available as both an App for the iPhone, iPad, or Android smartphone as well as a Web site. It is advertised as a do-it-yourself background checker. There is a free versions and a paid version. I would advise you to look at the user reviews at iTunes before buying. I agree with those reviews which refer to this product as "c**p." My personal opinion of the product\service is that even the free version is a waste of time.


Thumbs UPTV Food Maps is a free service that lets you check a location for restaurants that have been featured on television shows like Diners & Dives, The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Man vs. Food, No Reservations, etc. Using the iPhone or iPad App You can use your current location and let GPS locate featured spots in your proximity, or enter a location and find restaurants featured on one or more of these shows in that city, as you plan a trip. There are filters, so that you can just check one show, vs. all, or a couple of your favorite shows. For those without an iPhone or IPad, there is also a Web site at www.TVFoodMaps.com that provides the same functionality. I used the iPad app during a recent road trip, and it was fun and worked great.



Thumbs Down I have used a variety of SD cards in photo frames and different cameras, and the only problem I have ever encountered is with PNY cards. There are different sizes (4 GB, 16GBY, etc.). and different class models intended for different uses, even within the PNY family af cards, and you will easily be able to find favorable reviews by other purchasers, touting the price\quality of PNY cards. All I can say is that I personally have had a bad experience with them where the card somehow loses the equivalent of its operating system, and suddenly your irreplaceable vacation photos appear to be completely gone. Fortunately there is a shareware tool reviewed immediately below that helps recover those photos from the corrupted card, but my feeling now is why risk it, in the future. I have had zero problems with Toshiba, Kingston, Sony and other slightly more expensive brand SD cards, so I have decided you get what you pay for. Because the cards are so small and I can retain them as a second source of backup storage for photos, once I have uploaded them to my photo-sharing site, I buy a new card for virtually every vacation, and extra for various sporting events, but from now on I won't be buying any more PNY SD cards, even if I was just unlucky enough to have gotten a couple from a bad batch. People who don't learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them.



Thumbs UpTestDisk & PhotoRec is a shareware photo recovery utility available as a free download from cgesecurity.org. This utility works much like Norton Utilities and other hard drive recovery software tools, or like recovering file from the Recycle bin on your PC or laptop, but instead helps you recovery photos from an SD card where the photos seem to have been accidentally deleted. The recovery process place renames the photos and stores them on your computer in a subdirectory that you specify. The tool is downloaded as a zip file, which you of course unzip, and install. Then, drill down into the installation directory to run the program and specify the location where the lost photos were located.




Thumbs Down I've always enjoyed the print copy of National Geographic magazine, but I have to say that their new digital version app for the iPhone and iPad absolutely sucks. I paid for the digital subscription, downloaded the app (which is loaded to the newstsand bookshelves), set up my account, and received the "You have succesfully created your account" messages and email. However, during the one week of having the app, before I cancelled my subscription, I was able to successfully open the digital magazien only ONE time. The rest of the time, I got a message expressing sorrow that I was having difficulty. I was successfully able to logon to my account, several times, on a PC to check the status, and to "attempt" to contact customer service, so I know that the account was indeed created, and that my username and password were indeed what I thought, but the app just plain sputtered and and refused to cooperate, except that one time. I contact NG's customer service, and it took them a week and two subscription cancellation requests before I even received a generic "Turn off your device... repeat these steps, etc., etc." message, which produced no better results than before. Sill no access. I do not know what their problem was, whether the app was just extremely buggy, or if not too many people can accessat the same time, but as someone who designs software systems, including mobile apps, and who manages ab IT departement and a customer service staff, I recommend you skip this app altogether. Additionally, that single time that I WAS able to log in, the content was a mere shadow of the print version. Bedfore I posted this I Googled "National Geographic App sucks" to see if I was the only one who was having problems. I wasn't. Very disappointing.




Thumbs Up The Khan Academy is a novel, internet-based approach to learning begun by Salmon Khan. Khan is a much more eloquent eveangelist for the Khan Academy than anthing I could write here, and Khan's Ted Talk in 2011, is a vey worthwhile look at how we should be teaching our children, instead of trudging along in-place via the educational systems of the past 300 years.Watch this short video, and see if you don't strongly agree.





Back to Michael Marcotte's HomePage












at Amazon.com