Online Travel Sites

Reagan National Airport

Online travel booking is easier than ever. And for us lucky folk in Washington DC with three airports (Dulles, Reagan, and BWI) there are flights everywhere and lots of deals. Below are some useful travel sites.

Travel Reservations

Travelocity – early leader in online reservations with roots back to CompuServe and AOL. Now known for the gnome commercials.

Orbitz – developed by airlines in response to Expedia and Travelocity.

ITA – uses the search system that powers Orbitz, but allows far more complex trips.

Priceline – offers standard purchases or allows you to name your own price for flights, hotels, and car rentals. Pitchman is now William Shatner.

Expedia – started by Microsoft, bought by Ticketmaster, now independent.

Hotwire – owned by Expedia. Unique in that you purchase hotels based on location and star rating. You only find out the name of your hotel after the purchase.

Kayak – travel search aggregator. Kayak does not directly sell tickets, but links to all the sites that do and makes a small amount of money on click throughs.

Bing Travel– recently renamed from, now owned by Microsoft. This site has flight price trends and predictions to help you decide if you should buy or wait for a better fare. It’s not perfect has helped me on a couple of occasions with suggestions to wait for a better price.

Special Airlines

JetBlue and Southwest airlines are not part of the above travel reservation sites. You can only book with them directly.

Other Resources

The Savvy Traveler Blog – deals and news by Rudy Maxa who often discusses travel on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show on NPR in DC.

Flyertalk – forum for frequent flyers to discuss deals and reward programs. This is where serious deal seekers go to discuss optimizing their points and airline status.

Liftopia – discount ski lift tickets and ski hotel deals.

TripBuzz – find local activities.

Have other travel resource recommendations? Email me to let me know.

6/12/16 UPDATES: Updated ITA Link and added TripBuzz, thanks to Phoebe.

Windows 7 Fresh Install from Upgrade Disk

Upgrade Conundrum

Microsoft offers Full and Upgrade versions for each of its Windows 7 versions: Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate. To qualify for an upgrade, you need to have a copy of Windows 2000, XP, or Vista. Unfortunately, anyone running Windows XP or 2000 can not do an in-place upgrade to 64-bit Windows 7. A migration to Windows 7 is needed. This can be done with an upgrade disk, which moves all your existing files to a windows.old directory. See the this Upgrade/Migration Table to see what is possible for your scenario.

Upgrade from 32-bit Windows XP of Vista to 64-bit Windows 7

If you back up your files yourself, wipe your hard drive completely, then try to install using the Upgrade disk, it doesn’t work because the Upgrade disk doesn’t see the qualifying product that you are upgrading from.

There are many other reasons to want to do a clean install. It is smart to do a clean install on such a major upgrade. Many people used the beta of Windows 7 after wiping their legal copy of Windows. Those people need a clean install but are legally entitled to use the Upgrade Disk.

Hack Time

Thankfully Paul Thurrott’s Supersite for Windows explains how to get around this technical problem that Microsoft created. Method 1 is to just try the Upgrade activation key to see if it works. If that does not work, Method 2 explains the “hack”:

  1. Install Windows 7 Upgrade DVD and do no put in your upgrade key. Just leave the key blank and do not activate yet.
  2. Open RegEdit by going to the Start Menu search and typing regedit.exe and hit enter.
  3. Navigate on the left menu to: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/Software/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Setup/OOBE/
  4. Double-click on MediaBootInstall and change it from “1” to “0”. Close RegEdit.
  5. Type cmd in Start Menu search to display a shortcut to the Command Line utility. Right-click this shortcut and choose “Run as administrator.” Accept the UAC prompt.
  6. Type in the command line: slmgr /rearm
  7. Hit enter and wait for the completion notice.
  8. Reboot.
  9. Activate Windows with your Upgrade Key

Microsoft Upset

Microsoft is upset that this “hack” could be used to illegally install the Upgrade on computers that do not qualify for it. See Paul Thurrott’s response to this: Enough, Microsoft. No One Is Endorsing Piracy. Obviously.

Also consider that Microsoft doesn’t have to act this way. Apple realizes that activation keys do more to frustrate legitimate users than to thwart thieves. That’s one of the reasons that Apple’s operating systems have never had an activation system. Upgrades and full installs just work. Apple trusts that most of its users will do the right thing.

Windows 7 OEM Version

For technically savvy users looking for a better deal on Windows 7, this isn’t even needed. One can purchase a cheaper OEM version of Windows 7 from Newegg for building a new computer. This comes without support from Microsoft, but is a great deal for people who do not rely on Microsoft support.

Online Resources for H1N1 Flu

Here are some resources to inform/panic you about the H1N1 Swine Flu that was just declared a national emergency.

Washington D.C. area residents should visit:

The CDC’s H1N1 Resource Page is the one stop for all H1N1 information and latest news. It has recommendations on how to prevent getting the flu.

The CDC’s list of high risk groups include:

  • Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
  • Adults 65 years of age and older
  • Pregnant women
  • People who have:
    • Cancer
    • Blood disorders (including sickle cell disease)
    • Chronic lung disease [such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease  (COPD)]
    • Diabetes
    • Heart disease
    • Kidney disorders
    • Liver disorders
    • Neurological disorders (such as epilepsy, cerebral palsy, brain or spinal cord injuries,  moderate to profound intellectual disability [mental retardation] or developmental delay)
    • Neuromuscular disorders (such as muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis)
    • Weakened immune systems (such as people with HIV or AIDS or who are on medications that weaken the immune system )

The ECDC’s (for Europe) site covers the Swine Flu in Europe and worldwide.

Google Flu Trends is an innovative project to track flu activity based on their user’s search queries. It now also has a Worldwide Map.  See how it works in this video:

Adding Music to iTunes from a USB drive

If you copy music into your iTunes library, there is a setting in iTunes that will make it easier to deal with your library.

Consolidate Library

Let’s take an example. By default, when you take MP3s on a USB drive and drag them into iTunes, the music will show up in iTunes. However, iTunes is still using the files that are located on your USB drive.  As soon as you remove the USB drive, those songs in the iTunes library will have an exclamation point next to them and not be playable.

The problem has to due with the “Consolidate Library” feature. Consolidating the library moves all your music that is in the iTunes library to the iTunes folder. This keeps everything together. Oddly, this feature is not on by default.


If you want to avoid this problem and keep iTunes organized automatically, go to:

For iTunes Windows: iTunes > Edit > Preferences > Advanced tab
For iTunes Mac: iTunes > Preferences > Advanced tab

Make sure “Keep iTunes Music folder organized” is checked
Make sure “Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library” is checked

iTunes Consolidate Library