Two Amazing Gadgets for Traveling

I carry a lot of electronics with me. I figure that if you include all my electronics and electronics related stuff (cables, wires, chargers, etc), I have more electronics with me than I do everything else combined.  I’m not complaining, I like electronics. I like running the website, taking photos, etc. I have by necessity sort of becoming an expert on traveling with technology. I have recently purchased two items which have really made my life easier and I’m so giddy about them I just have to share.

iPod Touch

I missed out on all the hoopla with the iPhone. I didn’t actually get to even see a real one until several months after they launched when I visited the Apple Store in Honolulu. Given my circumstances, an iPhone was out of the question. Constant moving between countries makes it very difficult to have any sort of phone, let alone something like an iPhone which is tied down to a provider.

I figured that Apple would milk the technology in the iPhone for all it was worth and come out with an iPod. I was right.

I saw it for the first time in the Ginza store in Tokyo. I had to go there anyhow to get my power cord for my laptop replaced and got to play with it for the first time. I broke down and purchased the 16gb model.

For starters, I have been traveling without an MP3 player up until that point. I do have an old 40gb iPod with me, but the battery is shot so I can only use it when its plugged into the laptop. It is pretty much just a storage device at this point. Having a lightweight, slim MP3 player has been great. I’ve dramatically increased the number of podcasts I listen to. I find it to be a much better use of my time than just listening to the same music over and over. Podcasts I now subscribe to include: Indie Travel Podcast, History of Rome, Filmspotting, The Economist, Stratfor, National Geographic World Talk, NPR Foreign Dispatch, Binge Thinking, TED Talks, This Week in Media, This Week in Tech, Rocketboom, and a few I can’t think of off the top of my head.  I also have one set of the Feynman Lectures.  (Even better than the Feynman Lectures are the Walter Lewin lectures from MIT. I want to get those on my iPod too. I watched the entire Physics I  course before my trip. I just read an article about him in the NYT where he prepares 25 hours for each 1-hour lecture. It shows.)

Now when I’m eating, or on a subway, I catch up on things. I tend of have lots of time to do that, so more often than not, I have no podcasts to listen to. Video podcasts work especially well on the iPod Touch.  On its own merits as a music and video player, the iPod Touch is great.

But wait, there’s more…..

It also serves as a photo album. I have about 100 of my best photos from Flickr on my iPod Touch. It is very handy to whip it out and show people my route (i took a screen shot of my route in Google Earth), and the places I’ve been. It makes it a bit more real. I’m going to put some of my videos on it as well.  You move through photos my just wiping your finger across the screen. I had one girl in Roppongi entranced for like an hour looking at photos and asking me questions. How many pieces of technology can do that???  It is far and away the best pocket photo book I’ve ever seen. It is much better than using prints.

But wait, there’s more….

I can also use it as a web browser. On several occasions now I have used it to check email from the street or in a restaurant where I found an open wifi connection. In Hong Kong, I purchased a 30-day wifi account with the local phone company for about US$20 that works on both my iPod and my laptop. It also lets me see if there is a wireless signal in the area, so if I want to use my laptop, I don’t have to bring it out to check. I can use the iPod as my wifi sniffer, which I’ve done several times.

When shopping for a camera in Hong Kong, I pulled up the Google page with all the prices for the model I wanted. When I went into bargain, I showed them how unreasonable their prices were and justification for what I thought was reasonable. It really took the wind out of their sails (or should I say sales??).

Once they open up the API and let 3rd parties write programs, it is only going to get better. It lacks some simple things like a text editor, but I’m sure that will come.  They should come out with a model that lacks voice and just has data with a cell company. The more I see people use cell phones in Asia, the more I realize that data, not voice, is the killer app.

The Sanyo HD1000

When I started my trip, my intent was to do a lot of video podcasting. As you can see, there hasn’t been much of it. Honestly, it is much easier to shoot photos than it is to do video. Moreover, my cames uses miniDV tapes which are a real pain to work with when you are on the road. You shoot an hour of video, you have to let it play for an hour to capture it on your computer. Then it is all one big file and you have to chop it up to get what you want.  What I wanted was a small, lightweight camera that didn’t use tape and shot in HD. When I left back in March, there really wasn’t anything on the market which captured my attention. I got a camera, and its a nice camera, but it wasn’t really right for the sort of work I’m doing.

When I read about the new Sanyo line of cameras, I got really excited.  The HD100 and the HD700 are small cameras with a pistol grip design. The best part is they don’t use tape. They don’t even use a hard drive. They write directly to flash memory. Moreover, they store each clip as a separate file, so you can instantly get which one you want. I have an 8gb memory card in my camera and I also purchased a wide angle lens. Today I took some test video at the 10,000 Buddhas Temple in Hong Kong. As I’m writing this, I’m FTPing all of it to Kris. I got my Palau video to him that way and the whole process went very fast. Sending a tape via international mail can take weeks and it might never get there at all. (there is a package I sent from Taiwan to my parents that never made it there).  Is really the perfect camera for what I want to do. No tape, No moving parts, Full HD. (Actually, iMovie and QuickTime doesn’t work with the clips shot in full 1080i mode. Sanyo blames Apple and Apple blames Sanyo. There are some work arounds, but until then I will probably just shoot in 720p)

Oh, I also found out today that it will function as an HD web cam when I hook it up to my computer. I wonder if Skype will work in HD?

I’m going to stop using YouTube for displaying videos. There is no point in shooting High Definition video then put it up on YouTube where it will look like crap. I don’t know what service I”ll use, but I’m more than open to suggestions.

I hope to have some sort of video to show from Macau and then progressively better ones as I figure out what the hell I’m doing.  Once I get to that point, I’ll probably put up the videos on iTunes.

7 thoughts on “Two Amazing Gadgets for Traveling”

  1. I have an old Xacti C4 and I still use to take pictures and film the kids. Now you made me want to have a Sanyo HD1000.

  2. Nice gadgets, Gary. I alsmost bought the iTouch but will wait for prices to come down and features to become a bit more open — 3rd party app accessible etc. And a voice recorder.

    For your podcasting pleasure, I highly recommend This American Life. They recently aired a repeat called Middle of Nowhere where Nauru was featured prominently (in “Act I”). You’d appreciate it. The Sound of Young America is also surprisingly good. (Full disclosure — both are distributed by PRI, my employer).

    Have a great Xmas…whereever you’ll be!

  3. It’s a bit late to tell you now, but for a lot less dinero, you coulda got an Archos 605 with 160gb of storage, all the iPod’s features, plus a load more codecs and a 4.3″ screen!

    Still, I know exactly what you mean – I can’t travel now without a decent MP3 player.

  4. I don’t use a lot of video services, but I’ve seen people use Vimeo. I’ve never tried it, but you do/did, let me (us) know your opinion :-)

  5. Gary,
    For years I carried the Sanyo Xacti C4 and I loved it, I used it for my wired kayaker podcasts until the camera died (4 years of constant travel and daily use plus hours of video will do that). I am interested in the Sanyo HD and when I saw the wide angle lens I was also intrigued. How do you like it? I absolutely loved my C4 and have yet to figure out which of the new Sanyo’s I want, probably the E1 because it is waterproof so I can continue to make “on the water” podcasts.

    Also I see that you said you have a lot of wires with you. I have been using an iGo Juice for over 6 years now and it has powered all my computers (at least 4 different laptops from different makers) and peripherals (I’ve lost count) in that time. I love it and it is much easier to travel with than a bunch of wires. Just and FYI.

    Also, excellent blog I am subscribed via RSS and glad that I have done so.

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