First Timer Travel Tips When Visiting Italy

Recently my parents got back from their first trip to Europe. Growing up in a small town in the midwest the trip was a long awaited dream come true. Their destination of choice was a vacation in Italy for two weeks.
My parents felt that Italy was a perfect travel destination for a first time abroad experience. Having already been to Italy I gave each of my parents some travel tips I picked up along the way.The number one tip for my mom was to not over pack clothing or shoes. This is because of the amazing shopping in Italy! I found amazing items at the street markets in Rome and Florence. It is easy to become inspired by Italian fashion and there are plenty of opportunities to find gorgeous clothing, shoes and handbags.For my father I told him to not to get caught up with making and keeping a strict itinerary. Instead, to embrace the Italian culture and leave a few days open to discover what is around the next corner.After returning home they both agreed that my Italy travel advice was worth taking. Traveling and vacationing in Italy is much different from most American vacation experiences. If you like history and art Italy has more than enough to go around. Even total art buffs can become a little burnt out if touring museums and monuments is the main focus.I recommend mixing it up a bit from day to day. Enjoying the Italian countryside is a great way to take a break from high tourist volume in Rome, Venice, and Florence. My parents had an amazing time for a part of their trip relaxing at a beautiful Villa in Tuscany.Which leads to my last bit of advice. If your traveling to Italy for the first time it’s essential to stay longer than one week. It’s important to be able to travel throughout Italy to major destinations feeling fulfilled with the experience. Rushing through Italy’s major cities and the countryside would most likely leave you frustrated and tired.As a first time traveler to Italy you deserve to savor everything from the food the to the unexpected. Enjoy!

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Essential Home Buying Guide – How to Avoid Bad Credit Complications

The last thing that you want to experience is getting stalled in your home buying activity because of low credit score. However, this could have been avoided if you were able to observe the necessary preventive measures before submitting yourself for prequalification. Which is the best way for you to prevent this incident from happening again? Simple, increase or improve your Beacon score. Sadly, this task is easier said than done.You have to remember that the change in your credit score does not happen overnight. The effort is a continuing and long term undertaking. Thus, it’s extremely important that you focus on the following concerns:o Determine your score
o Work for a better credit score when necessarySpecifically, you need to do the following:Ask for copies of the credit reportThe first thing that you must do is to get copies of the credit report. This means that you will get copies of the credit report from 2 credit bureaus -Equifax Canada and Trans Union of Canada. These are the entities that provide credit reports. You can make the request for copies of your credit report for all 2 credit bureaus by visiting if there are errors in the credit reportMake sure that there are no discrepancies in the credit reports provided by the 2 credit bureaus. That last thing that you want to happen is to have is a lower credit score based on erroneous information. Thus, it is important that you carefully check every detail of the credit reports. Check the general information such as your name, Social Insurance number, complete address, your birth date as well as other admin related data. Make sure that there are no reported loans that you are not aware of as this can be a suspect credit fraud. If you find any discrepancy or error, waste no time and submit a formal request to rectify the subject discrepancy or error in the report to the concerned credit bureau.Ask for your Beacon scoreThe credit score is requested separately from the credit report. You can request for your Beacon score by visiting This site also provides useful information and references about your credit report, credit score as well other related concerns.Assess your financial positionOnce you are in possession of your credit report and your credit score, you can now assess your position in the credit scale. Your credit rating may range from great to bad depending on which particular bracket your Beacon score will fall under. The highest possible Beacon is 850 and the lowest is 300. You may consider yourself tops in as far as credit rating is concerned if the Beacon score is within the 900 to 850 bracket. The average beacon score is 650 and, as a general norm, you will need to get at least a beacon score of 520 to get an approval for your mortgage loan.Devise your action plan to improveA better credit rating or higher score translates to mortgage loans with better terms. For instance, you will be able to get approval to low interest bearing mortgage loans once you improve your Beacon score. Conversely, you will have to pay more interest if you have a lower Beacon score. Thus, it is crucial that you continuously exert effort to further improve your Beacon score.What must you do to further improve your Beacon score? Here are some of the most important items that you must work on:1. Pay your bills to improve your income to debt ratio.
2. Don’t fail to pay your obligations as they fall due
3. Don’t default on your monthly bills

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Penguins & Netbooks – Budget Solutions For Education Birthed by Innovation!

One of my podcasting co-hosts, Mark Gura, and I have been intermittently discussing the $100+ laptop project for the last two years on our popular bi-weekly series. If you happen not to be familiar with the $100 laptop project; it has been spearheaded by Nicholas Negroponte formerly of MIT. The importance of it is the way it has leveraged opened the tidal wave of adoption of open source software and forced computer manufacturers to develop low cost netbooks. This education-related project has truly transformed the computer industry and tech user expectations!


Negraponte’s project is now called the One Laptop per Child project (OLPC) because the basic purpose is to provide low cost, durable laptop computers to the children of developing countries. The prototype of these laptops have gone through wide variations, and brought much criticism over the past few years and they are never meant to be the “does everything” computer.

These are basic models and yet quite revolutionary in several ways. For one, they are very small, have alternate power sources, such as hand powered, can be linked together to form an intranet (wireless broadband that can mesh network) and most of all do not suffer from what the founder dubs “Microsoft bloat.” In the dedicated efforts to keep the cost so very low, the software that is used is open source, which requires a much smaller installation footprint and hardware operation requirements.

The Original Prototype 2007 Details in Brief: Linux-based operating system, a dual-mode display, a 500MHz processor, 128MB of DRAM and 500MB of Flash memory. No hard drive, four USB ports and the wireless broadband that creates a mesh network.

Enter: Wider Public Adoption of Open Source Software!

In several episodes of the Teachers Podcast we discuss the merging of another one of my favorite technology trends with the OLPC phenomenon- open source development and software. Open source development occurs when groups of people openly share source code in the development of the programming languages, operating systems, or another application. The purpose is that the community will be able to test and work collaboratively world-wide on the project with many minds and perspectives available that might not otherwise be able to meet and work together. It truly is a community and thereby the content and the product remains “open” that is free for use. Very often a Creative Commons code license is used is to describe use and attribution of the software.

Probably the most famous current example is the operating system Linux (identified with by its mascot of the penguin aka Tux). Related to Linux which has scores of programmers working on it around the world, there are also other Linux-like operating systems available also including Apache, Ubantu, Linspire and more. For the education sector open source software has been way behind in adoption as schools have stayed mainstreamed primarily on pcs and small number on macs in the younger grades. However, having visited a few educational technology conferences the past two years I have seen a different trend finally being paid interest and the OLPC project could push it even much further again! Let me explain.

At ed tech conferences we have experienced hands-on demonstrations of Linux or Ubantu network labs which are “dumb terminals” hooked up to a server and all gaining internet access and applications from the server. This first-hand experience provides a point of entry for many teachers, ed tech specialists and school administrators who might have never otherwise considered these options. In these cases, participants see that there is no great loss in function with this configuration whereas the cost for this equipment is a small fraction of a conventional school lab. This is because of two obvious major factors 1), the hardware are not stand alone computers, and 2) the operating system is open source. Hardware costs and upgrade costs are also greatly reduced, as well as the fact that software licensing and upgrades are eliminated.

Open source software is no longer just for the tech heads. These platforms are point and click similar to most other programs. And there are thousands of open source programs freely available for us to meet business, education, graphic, music composition, media design, application needs to name just a few As some K-12 superintendents are bringing in open source networks (they call them Open Technologies) into their schools we are seeing the march of the penguins, pencils and laptops strut their stuff for education! At a time of increased scrutiny of school budgets and greater accountability, I expect that 2009-2010 will be a time when open source software, dumb terminals, as well as virtual terminals (to be discussed in an upcoming e-zine article) will be charging ahead at a double- or triple-time pace.

Update May 2009

The massive wave of netbooks (Asus, Acer, HP, Dell, and more) which have flooded the computer market in the last 16 months has been a welcome relief for consumer and school budgets alike! We have Dr Negroponte to thank for transforming the computing industry nearly single handedly by pushing his OLPC project to the forefront of the corporate table of competition. The details unfolded close on the heals of the progress of Negroponte was the Asus group and the release of the ee pc with Linux on board (originally).

Not just for tech people these were released in the standard grey and black colors, but also shocking pink and green, and white– we can see the market was broader than the standard computer industry had been addressing). Their product was enthusiastically received and so impacted the public marketplace that the major computer manufacturers had to respond – quickly. Now in June 2009 we have netbooks available from every major manufacturer available for under $500. The resulting smaller, much less expensive (roughly 77% reduction in price) and robust hardware selections we now see all around us in computer and office stores, is originally due to OLPC shake up of a sanguine, over priced system.

A related wave of adoption is also continuing in spring 2009, and that is Open source, from Open to Linux, has seen very good year so far. Not only are we seeing more ads for these products in mainstream publications, but lay people (non-techies) are asking, requesting, and using them. What does this mean for Microsoft? Will there actually be a backlash against steep upgrade prices? We have talked about frustration for years, but is the time here for it to have a significant impact? These are exciting times for the voice of the people!

The Connection

As more and more people catch the vision of netbook and realize they don’t need high-end computers for all student classrooms and instead they could even provide computers to go home with children; it will be open source software penguins leading that march as well. It’s been a long day coming for our educational system to see that this is a much more economically way to serve the teachers and students and thereby be able to serve ALL of them.

An important aside- very much worth the read and exploration- Negroponte is so open source he is now publishing a wiki where he is openly displaying the technical production notes, tech requirements, software, participating countries, photos of the prototypes and much more (see: ). Bringing such tools into the hands of multitudes of schools and students around the world, near and far, can really change who the voices will be, and who will be in the global conversations in just a few months and in our global political future.

Providing such a tool and entry to the outside world for not just students, but also for their families, for that is part of the purpose, can build a growing wave of social change through many forms of literacy and understanding. When the walls of Equity and Access are broken down in even in these small ways, the opportunities are many for people to rise in to new possibilities. Penguins, open source, education and $100 laptop have much empowering potential for the children of the world, adults and nations.

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