Secure Travel

Traveling in today’s age of technology is a lot easier than in the past.   You can start your journey in the morning of one country and be half way across the world by nights end.   When traveling, data security is usually always at the forefront of my mind.  I recently traveled to a conference.   While this isn’t all that usual (I travel about once a month on average) this time it was different.  I was traveling internationally to England to speak at SQL Bits.  It was a glorious conference and I was really excited to go, however while preparing to travel, I made sure to review my security measures so that I could enjoy my trip and not be worried.

Full Disk Encryption

If your laptop (or laptops in my case) don’t already have hard drive encryption enabled, you are doing it wrong. As a user of both Windows and Apple hardware, enabling this security feature is painless and just easy to do.  Hard drive encryption happens behind the scenes and should not cause any type of performance hit when it is enabled.

FileVault for Apple – FileVault is the way to go if you are Mac user.  It’s built into the operating system and does not have any restrictions (that I know of) in terms of versions.  If you have been using your laptop for a bit without this enabled, when you do enable it, it may take some time to get everything encrypted appropriately.  I had been using my laptop for years without encryption enabled so when I made the switch, I did so over a weekend where I could let it sit.   However, you can enable it and continue to work just keep in mind that it might be slower as it’s encrypting all the bits.

Bitlocker for Windows – Bitlocker is the way to go if you are in the Windows eco-system.  It’s easy to enable and does not introduce any type of performance overhead.  My Surface (provided to me by my employer) already came encrypted.   Bitlocker, unfortunately, is not available for the Windows Home version, however you pay $99 to upgrade your operating system to Windows Pro which would then come with Bitlocker.  In my opinion, having that full disk encryption is worth every penny of $99 however if that is above your price point there are other alternatives on the market such as VeraCrypt.  Make sure that you research those alternatives closely and understand the process on how to encrypt/decrypt your hard drive.  If done wrong, the data that you could loose could be yours.

In short, having the peace of mind knowing that if my laptop is stolen, most likely nobody is going to be able to retrieve any sensitive information that I might have on the laptop.  Even when traveling domestically, just enabled it and have that peace of mind.

You’ll thank me later.

Password Managers

Password Managers such as 1Password, LastPass, or KeePass should be a part of your daily routine.  If you are continuing to utilize the same password for all of your accounts (both online & offline) you are begging for a hacker to break in.  Once they have been able to brute force your password, your kingdom is now theirs.  I personally use 1Password (and have for years) simply because they offer up several features that I really like.

One of these features is the Travel Mode.  Travel Mode is pretty simple in that it removes any password vault marked as “not safe for travel” from your devices.  It does not hide them or mask them, it removes them completely.   Once you reach your destination, you can simple turn off Travel Mode and the vaults will then be sync’d once again.  This really helps to ensure that any unwarranted search of your device will not find any passwords which could be then used against you.   You can mark certain vaults as “safe for travel” and those will not be removed from your devices.

If you are traveling to a country where unwarranted searches of your device might happen, this is a great way to elevate those concerns.

Note: Microsoft MVP & Security Expert Troy Hunt uses 1Password so take that into consideration.

Passport Security

I consider my passport as sensitive information thus I want to protect it as best as possible whenever I travel.  In addition to my US Driver’s license, I also travel with my passport so that I have a secondary method to authenticate my identity.   The United States passport (as well as many other countries) has an RFID chip built into the cover.  This means that someone with a RFID scanner and who is near my passport could scan it.  While the amount of information contained on the chip is most likely limited, I don’t like to give anybody any type of personal information unless I absolutely must.  Especially if I don’t even know that it’s happening

One way to protect your passport against RFID scanning is to purchase a sleeve for it.  These are inexpensive sleeve’s which your passport would slid into and be shielded from a RFID scanner.  They are easy to use and gives me peace of mind when I travel.

Another consideration when it comes to your passport, is have a secondary copy available somewhere, preferably off site.  In my case, I use a cloud provider (like Dropbox, OneDrive, Google, etc) with an encrypted copy of my passport in which certain family members have access to.   If my passport is stolen or mis-placed, I can either access it directly from my Cloud provider or I can contact a family member to get me a copy of my passport.  While this copy will not be enough to gain access to air travel or cross borders, it would at least give the local US Embassy information that can be used to authenticate who I am.

VPN

Whenever I am away from my home network, data security concerns are always present.  I work with a number of clients and I always want to ensure that I am protecting their data as well as mine as best as possible.  Therefore, when I am traveling anywhere and I need to access the internet, I use a VPN service.  In my case, I use my own VPN server that I stood up in Azure.  Having a VPN service available makes sure that all of my internet traffic is encrypted and secured away from any prying eyes.   Depending on where you are traveling too, you might look at various 3rd party VPN services to ensure that they have a VPN endpoint as close to your destination as possible.  In my case, my VPN server is located in the East US region in Azure and even across the Atlantic Ocean the speed was sufficient for what I needed.

My VPN solution also allowed me to use a VPN connection on my phone.  I have a newer iPhone but with OpenVPN I was able to get a secure connection when utilizing the hotel Wifi.

Summary

It is really exciting to be able to travel, especially when that travel takes you across borders and around the world.  These simple items I’ve listed above will help to secure your data.  Unauthorized access to your data can really ruin your travel plans, so take a few moments to go over them as well as anything else that might be critical for you.  Remember, the data that you might save could be your own!

If you are a frequent traveler, what do you do to secure your data?  I’d love to know so that I can be more secure!

Happy Traveling!

 

© 2019, John Morehouse. All rights reserved.

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Seattle for Summit 5×5: No. 3

Couple of boats in the Ballard Locks in 2011

In the last post of this series, I talked about things to see/do in Seattle that are close to downtown and/or otherwise fit into the usual conference intraweek schedule. Today, I’ll hit five things that likely will require an extra day (or two) in your trip. It may be too late for extra days this year, seeing as we’re two weeks out, but maybe you can work one of these into your next trip to SEA.

Hiram M. Chittenden (“Ballard”) Locks

http://www.ballardlocks.org/
http://www.nws.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Locks-and-Dams/Chittenden-Locks/
3015 NW 54th Street, Ballard, WA
OK, this one may be a little goofy, I know. North of downtown Nashville, there are a set of locks built between Puget Sound and Salmon Bay, which is connected to Lake Union, and eventually Lake Washington (Lake Washington is the big body of water between Seattle and Redmond/Bellevue). These are part of a full canal connecting the sound with the lake built 100 years ago to aid/assist shipping between the bodies of water. They’re still used today, and even during the time of year when Summit is going on, there can be a fairly steady stream of traffic. For someone from boring landlocked flyover country, this is a fun thing to watch.

There is also a fish ladder, primarily serving migratory salmon heading back upstream into fresh water as part of the complex. There’s a viewing area as part of that, where you can watch the fish swim upstream. The salmon are usually done swimming by the time of year that Summit is going on, though.

Woodinville

http://www.ci.woodinville.wa.us/
https://woodinvillewinecountry.com/
The city of Woodinville is located northeast of Seattle, across Lake Washington and outside of the 405 bypass. The main point of going to Woodinville (at last for us) is for wine and the occasional distillery. There are a lot of tasting rooms and the like in town, and it’s possible to drive (Lyft, whatever) out there and walk to a bunch of places in one morning/afternoon/etc. There are a few “districts” with clumps of tasting rooms/wineries that make this easy. There are also scheduled events that go on, if scheduling works out while you’re in town.

The Museum of Flight

http://www.museumofflight.org/
 9404 E Marginal Way S
Located on-field at Boeing Field/King County International Airport (KBFI) (You know that other airport you drive by between SEATAC and downtown? There.), this is the largest aerospace museum in the world. It is home to a nearly-endless stream of aircraft, related artifacts, and other air-and-space exhibits. There’s something here for anyone with even a passing interest in aviation and possibly even those who don’t–although those folks will probably be more interested in walking around the Aviation Pavilion, the outdoor static display of large aircraft that’s part of the museum, where there are a good chunk of airliners–old, new, fast, and slow.

Boeing Factory Tours

http://www.boeing.com/company/tours/
https://www.futureofflight.org/
8415 Paine Field Blvd, Mukilteo, WA
The Boeing Factory at Snohomish County Airport/Paine Field (KPAE) has the fun distinction of being the largest airport in the world by volume. Boeing lets us go on tours of their production lines here, which includes 777s, 787s, and the Queen of the Skies. There’s also the Future of Aviation center here, which is another museum-type apparatus.

Also on-field at KPAE is Paul Allen’s (yes, that Paul Allen) private collection of 1930s and ’40s aircraft/aviation equipment and WWII hardware. http://www.flyingheritage.com/

Grand Coulee Dam

https://www.usbr.gov/pn/grandcoulee/
http://www.grandcouleedam.com/welcome.html (Brace yourself for 1996)
WA-155, Coulee Dam, WA (this is literally the best I can do for an address)
This is where things get super-nerdy. See, my wife and I have a little bit of a thing about dams, so we make strange trips to, well, see dams. There happens to be a giant one–it’s almost a mile long–about four hours east of Seattle! We’ve still never actually made it out to this, because it’s probably a two-day thing due to the length of the drive. One of these years.

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Seattle for Summit 5×5: No. 2

This was on the waiter’s station at Bush Garden in 2011

For installment #2 of this brief series on visiting Seattle for PASS Summit, we have a semi-touristy-flavored list of things to do/places to go. These are items that can (or should) be worked into your “normal” conference schedule, without needing to have extra time in town, a car, or such. This list doesn’t include the Pike Place Market, because that’s kind of a gimme, and you’re probably going to do that, anyway. These are other items that are either unofficial parts of the Summit experience itself, or other places that we like to visit for various reasons.

Things to Do: Semi-Touristy

Bush Garden

www.bushgarden.net/
614 Maynard Ave S
You’ve heard of “SQL Karaoke”, right? Up to, and including the party that we (DCAC) have thrown on Tuesday evening for a few years now. But before there was that, there was Bush Garden.

Bush Garden, you see, is this little place that’s cheap Asian food place by day, karaoke bar by night. I’m not sure who found it first, but it has been a near-nightly place to go during Summit for good number of years now. There’s been Jägermeister incidents, bad singing, good singing, my wife doing dishes one time, and then there’s the green couch.

This will be the second year that “the building has been closed, so Bush Garden could go away at any moment” rumors have been present, so as long as they’re still open now–which I believe they are–you gotta go at least one night this year, because this may be it.

World Spice Merchants

www.worldspice.com/
1509 Western Ave
Tucked behind the Pike Place Market towards the sound, this is a favorite place of us to visit. World Spice Merchants is exactly what it sounds like–a place to buy spices. Also having teas, the walls of this place are lined with little glass jars with raw/bulk spices in them that you peruse, taking notes on what you want and how much of it on waiter pads. At the end, you hand your list over to the staff, and they pack everything up for you. Take it with you, or they will ship it home for you. They’ve got lots of stuff that may be otherwise hard to find (especially for us), so if you’re into cooking, don’t skip making a trip down here.

Wines of Washington Tasting Room

www.winesofwashington.com
1924 Post Alley
If you’re into wine, you know how good PacNW cabs can be, and this is an excellent place to experience them. Set up almost like your friends’ living/dining/family room, with small tables and board games on shelves on the wall, this can be a fun place for either hardcore wine tasting (we ran them out of glassware one afternoon) or a cool place to just chill with friends in the evening. You can of course buy bottles here to take [home] with you, and they also have a club.

13 Coins (at 3 AM)

www.13coins.com
125 Boren Ave
So, you see… There aren’t many places open really late in Seattle. Except for 13 Coins. They’re open 24 hours, so no matter what you’re doing (or when), you can count on being able to stop by here for some good eats. Up super-early because your body’s still on Eastern time and it’s 7:00 AM where you “are”? You closed down Bush Garden and now you’re hungry? Here ya go. They have big booths, good food, and can be quite accommodating when a dozen people show up together in the middle of the night for, uh “breakfast.”

Clay’s Market (“The bodega at the convention center”)

815 Pike St
Outside the convention center (but in the building), up the street a little bit from the Crepe place and the Subway, kinda hidden underneath is Clay’s Market. This is a handy (although admittedly a little seedy) very handily-located place to buy the kinds of things you would buy at, well, a bodega. Due to its proximity to the convention center, expect prices to be higher than you may otherwise like.

There’s also another, larger place a few blocks further up Pike that has more items and more reasonable prices. If you don’t mind the walk there or need to buy ten little bottles of orange juice, that may be a better stop.

City Target

1401 2nd Ave
Bonus item!
My wife and I are from rural Indiana, and we still live a little bit out in the country, doing our shopping/such in the classic suburban situation, where there’s more parking lot than there is store. Therefore, when we first went walking around downtown Seattle, we were enamored with the “City Target”, a small-in-area-but-three-levels-high Target store right in the middle of the city. Individual bananas for 25 cents, shopping cart escalators, and a smaller selection of everything expect from a Target. Usually full of locals doing their normal shopping, this can also be an excellent place to pick up some food if you’re tired of eating out at restaurants all the time and have a way to cook it, if you don’t mind the walk down towards the waterfront.

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Seattle for Summit 5×5: No. 1

Seattle Coffee Works sign

via max137; Creative Commons

It’s now October (OK, over a week in), and that means for a lot of us SQL Server folks, we have the PASS Summit in Seattle to look forward to at the end of the month. Yes, fine, it tends to fall in November more often.

ANYWAY, a lot of us have gone there for a lot of years, and so we’ve seen a good chunk of downtown and know some good places to eat/such and things to do. So, although Denny’s already done his annual “Summit Firsttimers” webcast, I’m adding some more places/things for newbies and veterans alike. I’ve got five lists of five things coming up over the coming weeks to help you find some good coffee, fun things to do, and where to find all of us crazy people who tend to stay up too late most nights.

Coffee & Quick Bites

There’s a lot of good coffee and good food in Seattle, a lot of which is close to the convention center or otherwise within walking distance. This list of five places–in no particular order–are some of my favorite places to fuel up during the long week of partying learning.

Victrola Coffee Roasters

https://www.victrolacoffee.com/
310 E Pike St
I tend to forget the actual name of this place, so will refer to it as “telegraph” or similar old technology thing when I can’t get it together. This place is up on Capitol Hill up Pike St from the Convention Center and is home to some of the best coffee in town. It’s one of Joey’s favorite places to go, although it is a bit of a hike to get there, plus it can be a total house in the mornings. It’s still worth it, as the coffee truly is great.

Seattle Coffee Works

www.seattlecoffeeworks.com
107 Pike St.
In the opposite direction, down towards the Sound and the market and also on Pike Street is Seattle Coffee Works. As drinking coffee from the same place all week may not be what you’re looking for (also, you’re in Seattle, spread the love), this is another great option.

Cafe Campagne

http://cafecampagne.com/
1600 Post Alley
Do you like Croques Madame? Do you know what a Croque Madame is? If you answered yes to these–or you just looked up what it was and decided you can’t live without one now (good choice)–there’s this awesome little French restaurant/café in Post Alley in the Pike Place Market. Croques, real baguettes, the menu’s mostly/all in French, so yeah. If you’re into this sort of thing, it’s a nice Saturday or Sunday morning before you head out of town stop, but get there early, because this place gets pretty busy pretty fast in the mornings.

La Creperie Voila

http://www.lacreperievoila.com/
It’s in the Convention Center. On the street. Next to the Subway. No, the other Subway.
This is handy for grabbing breakfast on the way in or a mid-afternoon snack. Pretty cheap, pretty good, and location, location, location.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room

http://roastery.starbucks.com/
1124 Pike St
Yes, not everyone likes Starbucks, I know. But, a few years ago, Starbucks built this enormous coffee roastery, tasting room, and general temple to the coffee bean. It’s a neat place to go to due to the elaborate coffee conveyor belts that populate the place to feed the roasters. They’ve got some good single-source coffees here and other stuff that you can’t get in regular Sbux stores, and unique mugs & such.

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