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A couple of travel thoughts
Hi, everyone. Leo Notenboom here for askleo.com. I was browsing some of my reports, the analytics on askleo.com and I noted that two of the most popular articles are travel related. Well, as it turns out, I’ve been doing a little bit of traveling myself and I’m about to do some more and those articles actually happen to be relevant to where I’m going next.
In a couple of weeks from the time I shoot this video, I’m going to be heading out to the Netherlands; the country of my parents’ birth and where all of my blood relatives happen to be. Now the interesting thing about Holland, or Europe in general, actually, is of course that the electricity there is configured differently than it is here in the United States.
In the United States and in Canada, our voltage is 120; you’ll here it referenced as 117, maybe even 110 in some cases but any of the those numbers are roughly equivalent when you’re talking about the power coming out of your wall. In addition, the socket that is provided, well it’s more along the lines of these where you you’ve got the two flat, metal parallel blades and then an optional third prong at the bottom for ground.
Now, in Holland, of course, and in Europe, the prongs are quite different. The prongs are essentially, two round, parallel prongs. The reasons I’m carrying this, by the way, is it’s a converter. It actually will convert and allow me to plug in my U.S. based power adapters (usually the chargers for my phone or computer) and have them actually plug in to a European wall socket). I actually have a few of these of different configurations but this is probably the most obvious one.
Now, the good news is that I can make the prongs fit. The bad news is that this doesn’t change the electricity. This is just a straight connection from one kind of prong to another. That means that the device you’re plugging in needs to be able to handle the different electricity. In the case of most computers, power supplies, and even USB chargers such as the one I’ll be carrying with me, they actually are designed to be handle not just 120 or 240, the voltage that exists in Europe but they can handle it, actually anything, between about 100 and 250 volts. They automatically switch.
As a matter of fact, that’s one of the reasons that they’re called Switching Power Supplies. They handle whatever voltage you give them and they output the voltage that they’re designed to output. As long as you have one of these kinds of power supplies or power adapters that is designed to handle the entire range, from, like I said, 100 to 250 volts, you just use it. All you really need to do is something like this to convert the prongs and it just plugs in and works. It’s actually kind of handy.
What I found out several years ago, of course, is that not everything works that way. For example, I’m not taking a surge protector with me this time because last time I traveled to a foreign country with a different voltage, the surge protector, which you would think would only be wires related to getting the electricity from the socket, from the wall socket to the array of sockets in the protector, you’d think those would only be wires.
In reality, there was circuitry in there and the circuitry most definitely did not like the different voltage to the extent that simply plugging it into the wall, caused a short that caused my entire hotel room to go dark and I had to, very sheepishly, ask for help to get the power turned back on.
But, like I said, as long as the device you’re plugging in can handle the different voltages, you’re fine. If it can’t, and definitely check because if it can’t, you can do some serious damage. You don’t want to be just using something like this.
They do make larger bulkier, heavier, transformers that actually take the two forty voltage coming and convert it to 110 but as I said, they are bigger, they are heavier, they are more expensive and they’re not really very convenient for travelling at all.
Most of your electronics will have power supplies and adapters that will adapt to the appropriate voltage that’s coming from the wall and all you’ll need this or something very much like it depending on where you’re going. In my case, all I’m taking are the chargers from my phone; the power adapter from my laptop; I should be good to go.
Everything else that I’ll be using will be already there. And the correct voltage as a result. So, that’s power. Like I said, that is one of the two surprisingly common articles, very popular articles on Ask Leo! having to do with voltage and power supplies and what you can and can’t plug into different devices and remember when I’m talking about 110 or 220, what I’m talking about is the input voltage – the voltage that’s coming from your wall.
Your power supplies will probably work just fine with those different voltages and they will output whatever voltage is appropriate in whatever form is appropriate for the device they are designed to work with.
The other issue that comes up and is something that I do plan to play with is this concept of getting locked out of your email account; specifically, Microsoft Hotmail or rather Outlook.com, these days. In order to fight rampant account theft, has introduced some time ago actually, a scenario where if you’re logging in from somewhere that you don’t usually login to, especially if that’s an overseas country, they will then require some kind of additional verification that you are who you say you are.
Normally, this is in the form of a text message sent to the phone number that you’ve registered with your account or an email sent to some other email account that you’ve registered as an alternate address for your Outlook.com account.
The problem, of course, is that text messages, well, they don’t always work when you’re traveling. In my case, my plan should allow me to accept or receive a text message when I’m traveling in Holland but it’s not uncommon for people to travel without their mobile phone at all, if they even have one to start with.
It’s also not uncommon for people to configure a recovery phone number with their account and then change that phone number without updating the account. That of course, means that it doesn’t matter whether or not the phone they have with them can accept a text message. It’s not going to be the right phone number so they won’t be able to get that text message that would allow them to confirm that they are who they say they are.
Similarly, with email addresses, there are two very common scenarios. One is people will set up an alternate email address and then let that account lapse, let that account go away without updating the alternate email address in their Outlook.com account. As a result, when some kind of verification code is emailed to that old email address, they no longer have access to it so they can’t get the recovery code that they need.
Similarly, and I’ve seen this one; it’s a real Catch 22; if the recovery code is sent to another Outlook.com email address, in other words if you’ve got address A at Outlook.com and B at Outlook.com as your recovery address, well, trying to access account be could run you into the same kind of verification issue that you have trying to access account A.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to have A be the recovery address for B in addition to B being the recovery address for A. If they’re both asking for recovery codes at the same time before they’ll let you into your email, you’re stuck. You can’t get at either recovery to access either account.
If you take a look at the article, there are many, many annoyed people because they’re left without access to their email because the recovery process that’s trying to protect them from account theft is actually protecting them, so to speak, from being able to access the accounts themselves.
So, those are a couple of things that I actually plan to try test with a little bit when I travel to Holland in a couple of weeks, a couple of things I’ll be tiring will of course be just a direct access of my Outlook.com account but I’ll also be trying to use a VPN. The VPN should, if it’s working allow me to appear as if I’ve come from the United States.
In fact, I will make sure to access my Outlook.com account through the VPN so that it will appear as if I’m coming someplace that I’ve come from before. That should, in theory, be enough for Outlook.com not to get quite so “hankie” about you know, this account being accessed from a different location. I’ll report back on that when it happens.
So, those are the two issues that people seem to find very interesting based on the traffic to Ask Leo!. Issues that I’m going to be encountering or at least playing with myself here in a couple of weeks. Do you have ideas, thoughts and concerns about what it means to travel overseas and the kinds of issues that you might like me to see me play with a little bit while I do this traveling? Let me know.
As always, here’s a link to this article out on askleo.com. Be sure and leave your comments there. They’re all ready; they are all moderated. We keep the trolls out that way and I would love to hear what kinds of thoughts and experiences you have with respect to international travel and account access, or electricity access. Until next week, I’m Leo Notenboom for askleo.com. As always, remember, stay safe, have fun and don’t forget to back up especially before you go overseas.