Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How to back up your mobile phone contacts

With so much data residing on the phone, it has become important to back them up. Contacts, easily the most valuable information, can be backed up on an external device or in the cloud.

One simple way is to connect the phone to the computer, and copy the contacts to the PC. They get saved as .vcf file. These vCard files can be imported to email clients like Gmail.

Most phones come with a computer software CD or you can download it. For example, Nokia Suite, Samsung Kies and BlackBerry desktop software. Connect the phone to the PC and sync data.
Another easy way is to back up on the memory card.

Storing in the cloud is convenient. Android users can automatically back up their phone numbers, addresses, notes to Gmail, by enabling ‘account sync’. It works the other way as well: changes done on Gmail contact on the web will automatically reflect in the phone. For Windows Phone users, a similar backing up can be done in their Outlook account by signing in.

Some phone security software like Norton and McAfee too provide options to back up contacts.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

US tour III -- Detroit

I was quite surprised on seeing a deserted and virtually dark arrival lounge in Detroit airport as I arrived around midnight on Feb 28. I asked my cousin why it was so. He told me most of the traffic winds up around 10 pm. After that there are very few flights arriving or taking off. The airport is quite far away from downtown Detroit. It'sn't a very safe city either. So airport authorities don't want people to commute so late in the night.

Detroit goes through the 10-year crest and trough when the city looks up and goes down. The recession and hard times the automobile industry faced during the latter half of the last decade hit the city badly. A huge number of people quit their jobs in major automobile industries and left the city, taking in the compensations package they were offered. The good news from Detroit is that the automobile industry is recovering. The Big 3 of the city -- Ford, GM and Chrysler -- are doing well and standing up to the competition posed by Toyota and Volkswagen.

Detroit was very cold. It was almost always below zero degree centigrade: going down to minus 15 during night and barely going over zero during day. So, there wasn't many opportunities to go around, other than to shopping arcades and eateries.
Detroit was very cold.
I went to the Henry Ford Museum. Obviously automobiles comprise a major section. There are mind-boggling range of cars right from the very first automobile. There is a separate section of presidential limousines. There you have the one in which President Kennedy was shot, and so too Ronald Reagan. Anyone who is interested in cars will thoroughly enjoy this. Besides this, there are other sections dealing with mechanical engineering. There is one of the oldest printing presses.

Fosters Printing Press of 1853 at the Ford Museum.
Another attraction is the Allegheny Locomotive, the largest steam locomotive ever built. That was in 1941. This was used to pull coal wagons over the Allegheny mountains of West Virginia. We can enter the engine, right at the place where the driver steered behemoth weighing 600 tonnes.
The Allegheny Locomotive at the Ford Museum
There is also the yellow bus, in which -- on Dec 1, 1955 -- the famous civil rights activist Rosa Parks, travelled and refused to vacate her seat for a white man, as ordered by the driver in accordance with then existing law. She was arrested, she challenged the segregation law, called Jim Crow law. Nearly one year later, US Supreme Court ruled that the segregation law was unconstitutional. There is also the bus stand in which the blacks and the whites had to stand separately.
The bus in which Rosa Parks refused to vacate her seat for a white passenger.

The museum has the chair in which Abraham Lincoln sat when he was shot while he was watching a play on April 14, 1865. You need a full day to see the museum, like all museums in the US. They have a priceless slice of history.

Returning to Bangalore tomorrow, via Frankfurt.

Friday, March 1, 2013

US tour II -- Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam

If you come up to Las Vegas, then you must take a day out to go to Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. Most tour operators ply trips to the two destinations on two days. And I just couldn't decide which of the two I should go for, which I should forgo. While discussing the tour plans with the concierge of Caesars Palace, I chanced upon the Classic Combo package of Pink Jeep Tours, that combines both destinations in one single day. I wanted to see the famous Skywalk; and luckily this package includes the West Rim where it is built. It cost me $304. But it was totally worth it.

There were three couples along with me on the tour in the jeep. Surprisingly one of them was expatriate Indians from Kerala. They migrated to Canada in 1970 and were on a tour of Las Vegas. One couple was from Manchester, UK, and the other from the US. We had an excellent tour guide Mike, very well informed and articulate. Started from Vegas at 7 pm. Mike gave us a running commentary, enlightening us about various interesting facets of those historic places on the way, always peppering with anecdotes and humor.
The Boulder Theater on way to The Grand Canyon
It takes about 3 hours drive from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon. Soon after leaving The Strip, all that we kept seeing was the arid land that forms part of the Mojave desert: quite a contrast from the glitter and buzz of  Vegas. We passed through Boulder City. The city was constructed for the thousands of workers of Boulder Dam (that was later named as Hoover Dam). The dam was constructed on Colorado River for flood control and electricity generation.

We also got a glimpse of Lake Mead, formed by the dam. This is the largest reservoir in the US. As much as 90 percent of water in Vegas comes from this lake. All traffic to Arizona used to go over the Hoover Dam. But after 9/11, the dam was declared a sensitive location and traffic banned. A 90-mile long highway was specially constructed as a detour. On the way, we saw a number of Joshua trees, which are typical of the Mojave desert. There is a Joshua Tree National Park in southeast California.

I couldn't find any street lights on the highway that looked very deserted. Night traffic does happen on the stretch, though. Mike told us that many people do come on the highway from Vegas to see the clear night sky bereft of light pollution. One can even see the spectacular meteor showers.

Around 10 am we reached the border of Hualapai Nation. The people of the Hualapai or Walapai tribe, one of the 14 tribes in the region, were the original inhabitants of northwest Arizona. They live in the mountains. The entire Grand Canyon West area is owned by them. The area is virtually an autonomous region. Private vehicles are not allowed. The tribals are exempted from a number of Arizona state taxes. They have a separate constitution, administration and courts.

From the border, we boarded a bus to the Eagle Point. That's where the Skywalk is. The entire area is an amazing visual delight. The huge precipice and the deep gorges through which the Colorado river runs is as much frightening as enchanting. You need to be extremely careful, because there are no railings. No signboards warning tourists to be careful either. Being curious and going to the edge to get a beautiful photo could end in a fall to nowhere. It's very dangerous. You need to particularly cautious if you have children who tend to run around.
The Grand Canyon
Just be wise, stand at a safe distance and soak in the beauty of nature. Definitely this is among the most beautiful creations of nature. We need to pay separately to get to the Skywalk. It came to $32 including taxes. Skywalk is an engineering marvel. It's a semi-circular projection 70 feet from cliff at a height of around 250 metres. A part of the floor of the skywalk is made of glass.

A look down from the Skywalk can just be mind-boggling
The view from Skywalk through the glass right down is an unparalleled experience. Cameras are prohibited, and you need to engage the services of a professional photographer to click your pictures; and buy them. You can pose at will and get many photos clicked. They will put it all in a pen-drive and hand it over to you for $70. If you want three of them printed out, you need to pay $110. Very few will get on to the Skywalk and come away without a few photos being clicked.  It is one way of gaining revenue from tourism.
The view of Grand Canyon from Skywalk is breathtaking
From Eagle Point we went to Guano Point. There is a small peak from where we can get a 360 degree view of the Grand Canyon. That's a breathtaking view. Guano in Spanish means droppings of cave-dwelling animals like bats. It has high contents of nitrogen and phospherous. It has applications not only as fertilizer but also in the making of gunpowder. There was an entire industry involved in the mining and harvest of guano.

Around 1 pm we headed to the Hoover Dam, built in early 1930s. We reached there around 3 pm. Never before has such a huge concrete structure been built that too in such a remote area. A whole new city was built for the workers, who laboured 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while America reeled under severe recession. The workers had just two holidays, on Independence Day and Christmas Day. Many worked on those two days as well. The project was finished two years ahead of schedule.

View from the Hoover Dam
Two tunnels were built to divert the Colorado River, and powerful grenades were used to blast the rocks. The story of dam construction is worth reading. At the site there is a memorial for lives lost. There was a dog that stayed along with the engineers and workers. Most tragically, he was run over when one of the engineers backed up his truck. The US government gave special permission for the place where the dog was buried to be turned into a memorial. We went down and saw the turbines and generators.
The turbines and generators of Hoover Dam
We were back at Vegas Strip around 6 pm. On Feb 28th I was off to Detroit.