Swiss Army Knife of Travel Gadgets: iPod Touch 2.0

Hands down, without question, the handiest travel gadget I have is my iPod Touch. It isn’t just a music player. It is a host of useful things which fit into my pocket. Along with my wallet, it is the only thing which is on my person 24/7 whenever I’m not in the shower. I often make mental checks throughout the day on my wallet and my iPod.

I purchased my iPod Touch at the Ginza Apple Store in Tokyo. It was something I was a bit ambivalent about at first, but since then I haven’t regretted it once. It is basically an iPhone without the phone (or camera). For the most part, it runs the same software can do the same things, only you can’t call other people. Given all the border crossing I do, and the extreme lack of people who call me, an iPhone really doesn’t make sense, but the iPod Touch works well.

This weekend, my big adventure was getting the new 2.0 version of the software which came out with the new iPhone launch. Getting it was a bit of a pain, but I eventually was able to download it when most of North America was asleep.

What do I use it for?

  • An alarm clock. There is built in alarm clock software and the external speaker, while not good enough for music, is good enough for waking you up.
  • A watch. I don’t even wear a watch anymore. I just pull out my iPod and check the time. You can also keep a list of times around the world in the built-in clock application. That is handy when in bizarre half-hour time zones like Central Australia.
  • A wifi finder. When I started my trip, I had a tiny key fob thing which would tell me if there was a strong wireless internet signal around. The iPod is 100x better. Instead of a tiny green light, it will give me the names, signal strengths and tell me if a signal is open or closed. It is a lot easier to pull out an iPod than it is to pull out a laptop. It is also a lot safer as well.
  • Web browser. Several times on my trip (none in Australia however, but that is another post) I’ve been able to check email or do other important things right from my iPod. In Busan, South Korea, I was able to contact the owner of a hostel via an open wifi connection I found on a sidewalk. He was able to pick me up at the train station. It isn’t as good as a laptop, but it more than gets the job done considering its size.
  • A flashlight. There is an application written for the 2.0 software which will do nothing but make the screen display one solid color of light. Have you ever used your cell phone as a flashlight? The iPod has a bigger screen and can put out more light. It even has a strobe effect.
  • Remote control. The new 2.0 software has a remote control application which lets you control iTunes from your iPod? Why would you want to do this? I can lay on my bed and watch podcasts or TV shows on my laptop as if it were a TV, without getting up. Three cheers for laziness!
  • Calculator. The new 2.0 calculator software will now become a scientific calculator when you turn it horizontal. How is freaking cool that? Wait a few months for some new calculator apps and no one will ever purchase a dedicated graphing calculator again.
  • A notebook. I use the note application all the time. I am never at a loss for paper and pen now. I kept the mileage and gas usage during my entire drive from Darwin to Perth. I got 16gb of memory, so I never need to worry about running out.
  • A photo album. I keep about 100 photos I’ve taken on my trip on my iPod. (I really need to update them. I don’t think I have included any photos since Borneo.) If I meet someone, i can show them a map of my journey and photos I’ve taken instantly. They can “get” what I’m up to immediately. Girls especially like to browse the photos and swipe their finger across the screen :)

Oh yeah. I can also listen to music and watch video on it.

I have to believe they will come out with a new version of the iPod Touch before Christmas. Here is my wish list for how they could upgrade it:

  • Bigger battery. The iPod Touch is slightly thinner than the iPhone. I’d make it the same size, and increase the battery. Without having to power the 3G stuff, it should increase battery life significantly. The added size and weight would be trivial.
  • Put in the camera. Other than the phone, the biggest hardware difference between the iPod and the iPhone is the camera. From what I’ve been told, the iPhone camera isn’t so hot. Use the next version of the iPod Touch to upgrade the camera.
  • GPS GPS would kick ass. With the larger battery, you could use it as a real GPS and not has quite as many worries as you might with the iPhone. There are more than enough memory in the iPod to store maps locally. Even with no maps, I could still get good use from the GPS if I had it log my position and use that to geotag my photos.
  • Infrared Port. This isn’t on the iPhone, but given the power of the iTunes remote application, it shouldn’t be hard to put an IR port on it and put every programmable remote control manufacturer out of business. This 80s technology, so it shouldn’t be too hard to add or raise the cost too much.

If they put in half of my suggestions, I’d but the upgrade in a heartbeat. With the flood of new applications expected, the number of uses for my iPod will probably only increase.

I’ve had some people tell me “16gb isn’t enough storage”. Well, yes it is. You really don’t need to carry around every single bit of music you own. 16gb is a LOT of music. in fact, I haven’t come close to filling it. Your primary storage should be on a computer anyhow. Even if you think you need to carry around every song ever written, the added utility you’ll get from an iPod Touch will dwarf the benefits of carrying around music you never listen to.

If you are thinking of traveling (or not) and are looking a new gadget, put this on the top of your list.

Episode 4 – I Dream of Fiji

I shot a lot of video when I was in the Pacific. This is the first of what will be occasional episodes where I share some of the footage I took. This was taken on Waya Lailai island in the Yawasawa Islands in Fiji.

27 New World Heritage Sites Added

I don’t usually focus on news on this website. I try to keep things oriented about my trip. Occasionally, however, if there is something in the news that in some way related to what I’m doing, I have no problem chiming in on it.

Yesterday, UNESCO released the names of 27 locations to be added to the list of what is now 878 World Heritage sites. I’ve been using the list as an informal way tracking where I’ve been and what I’ve seen. Over the last 15 months, I’ve been able to lean a lot about the process of listing World Heritage sites by talking to the people at the places I visit.

27 new sites seems like a lot for one year. There is a lot of pressure from member countries to get sites listed becasue it brings them prestigue and tourism. If your country is rich and developed (and usually European) you are more likely to have locations listed than if you are poor or non-European.

Here are the 27 locations picked this year:

  • Preah Vihear Temple (Cambodia)
  • Fujian Tulou (China)
  • Stari Grad Plain (Croatia)
  • Historic Centre of Camagüey (Cuba)
  • Fortifications of Vauban (France)
  • Berlin Modernism Housing Estates (Germany)
  • Armenian Monastic Ensembles in Iran (Iran)
  • Baha’i Holy Places in Haifa and Western Galilee (Israel)
  • Mantua and Sabbioneta (Italy)
  • The Mijikenda Kaya Forests (Kenya)
  • Melaka and George Town, historic cities of the Straits of Malacca (Malaysia)
  • Protective town of San Miguel and the Sanctuary of Jesús de Nazareno de Atotonilco (Mexico)
  • Le Morne Cultural Landscape (Mauritius)
  • Kuk Early Agricultural Site (Papua New Guinea)
  • San Marino Historic Centre and Mount Titano (San Marino)
  • Archaeological Site of Al-Hijr (Madâin Sâlih) (Saudi Arabia)
  • The Wooden Churches of the Slovak part of Carpathian Mountain Area (Slovakia)
  • Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Cultural Landscape (Switzerland and Italy)
  • Chief Roi Mata’s Domain (Vanuatu)
  • Joggins Fossil Cliffs (Canada)
  • Mount Sanqingshan National Park (China)
  • Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems (France)
  • Surtsey (Iceland)
  • Saryarka – Steppe and Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan (Kazakhstan)
  • Monarch Butterfly biosphere Reserve (Mexico)
  • Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona (Switzerland)
  • Socotra Archipelago (Yemen)

A couple of things jump out at me:

  • Berlin Modernism Housing Estates Huh? Is this really a world treasure in need of preservation? Note: Frank Lloyd Wright buildings are NOT on the World Heritage list.
  • Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve This makes sense. The monarch valley is someplace I’d really like to visit one day when all the butterflies are there. I’ve seen photos and it looks incredible.
  • Lagoons of New Caledonia I’ve been to New Caledonia, and never really heard that much about their reefs being more special than anywhere else. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least 5 places in the Pacific which probably deserve recgonition before this. I think this is more a reflection of France’s power in the organization, than a reflection of reality. Palau isn’t on the list, and that is probably the greatest reef treasure in the Pacific.
  • Chief Roi Mata’s Domain When I was in Vanuatu, I heard nothing about this. In all my reading I came across nothing, nor did I see anything in Port Vila promoting this as a tourist attraction. I’ve never heard of it and know nothing about it.
  • Kuk Early Agricultural Site This the first location for Papua New Guinea, which is more a reflection of how hard it is for a poor country to mount a successful campaign for a site, than it is a reflection of PNG. I’m curious to see if/how this site is developed and protected. Papua New Guinea agriculture one one of the, I think five, places on Earth which independently developed agriculture.
  • Archaeological Site of Al-Hijr I have been told that Saudia Arabia is a great place to visit as a tourist. Like 99% of all the tourism to Saudi Arabia is religious tourism, mostly to Mecca. If you go elsewhere in the country, they are glad to have you and will bend over backward for you.
  • Melaka and George Town, historic cities of the Straits of Malacca I’ll probably be here in a few weeks. Expect a podcast on the Straights of Malacca. I remember running debate arguments about conflicts breaking out over the Straight of Malacca. Next to the Panama Canal, it might be the most vital small stretch of water in the world.
  • Surtsey I’m amazed that Iceland didn’t have any sites on the list before. Iceland is a really beautiful place. I was there back in 2000.
  • San Marino Historic Centre and Mount Titano I wonder how much of the country this would take up? San Marino isn’t very big to begin with. I think that technically all of Vatican City is a World Heritage site.
  • Fujian Tulou Never heard of this until today, but it looks really interesting.

Adelaide

I’m currently in Adelaide, South Australia. The last state in my (long) tour of Australia.

The weather the last few days has been overcast, cold and rainy. Nonetheless, I like the city of Adelaide. The area of town I’m staying is near Chinatown and it is loaded with tons of restaurants of all sorts.

I wish the weather was better so I could better experience the city. I’d say that it is my favorite city in Australia so far, save for Melbourne. The city is laid out in a grid, so you don’t see any roundabouts (which is fine by me). The city of Adelaide proper looks as if it is a big square surrounded by parks when you look at it on a map.

In addition to the resaturants, there seems to be a very vibrant arts scene here. Lots of theater and music.

I’ll be renting a car to visit some places outside of town, then making the trek up to Uluru. I might do another Margaret River type excursion as well.

I ate dinner last night as a Brazilian steak house, which is the first time I’ve ever done that. It wasn’t a really fancy place, but it was some of the best beef I’ve had since I was in Buenos Aires several years ago. I’ve been eating much better in Adelaide if for no other reason than the food in the neighborhood is so much better.

Episode 3 – Stromatolites

In this episode, I look at some of the most boring creatures on Earth….Stromatolites.

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Bye Bye Perth

What the hell have I’ve been up to the last week you might be asking? There has been steady stream of photos but nothing in the form of text, or details of my adventures.

I got back from Margaret River and spent the last several days working on editing some of the video I took. Hopefully, you should see the results of it very soon. I’m very excited.

Tomorrow I fly from Perth to Adelaide, where I visit my final Australian state: South Australia. My plan for Adelaide is to drive to to Naracote, a World Heritage site about 200 miles out of Adelaide and the Barossa wine region. I’ll then hop up to visit Uluru to close out my Australian adventure.

I’ve also just been suffering from good old writers block. As I’ve stated before, I’m suffering from Australia fatigue and am looking forward to a change of venue. Got to keep moving….