Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Technology Platform for the trip

I really don't want to bring a laptop with us. A Sony Vaio is about as much weight as I'd be prepared to carry around with me, but besides being outside the budget, it's also not covered by the travel insurance (max item value 500 Euros). But I do want some computing power (well, connectivity power really) for a number of reasons.

  1. To update this blog
  2. To stay in touch with folks back home without paying a king's ransom (*)
  3. To chronicle (offline) thoughts and experiences during the trip
The solution has finally begun to form in my mind: a combination of Nokia's newest Internet Tablet (N800) and a foldable keyboard (there's no way we're going to use anything buy a 'real' keyboard to type in the thousands of words that 8 months travel will inspire). Thanks to Conor for his back channel advice on the N770 versus the N800.

I've already picked up the very smart Freedom Universal Keyboard, which is a lovely piece of kit and fits a proper keyboard into a space about 1.3 time the size of my wallet. Payday is Friday - I feel the arrival of the N800 may follow shortly afterwards.

(*) As far as normal comms are concerned, when there isn't a wifi network within a Llama's spit, I'm studying movements on Roam4Free.

I'm very tempted to follow up the next month with this, but I think I may exceed my wife's Ryanair-like geek baggage allowance.


David said...

Can it burn CDs or backup camera memory cards ?
Can it do x, can it do y ? is it a laptop ?

Sean Lightholder said...

Since the mid-1990s I've been using a combination of PDA/folding keyboard to write.

Currently my Palm TX and accompanying keyboard does the trick. Charge with heavy usage lasts about a week. Bluetooth, wi-fi, infrared, SD card slot . . . what's not to like?

Admittedly, it doesn't play videos very well (at least using the freeware apps I've found), but the memory is non-volatile and it fits the bill for an internet-oriented writer type.


Sean Lightholder said...

just remembered - here's a blog entry I did with it (including photo of me using it):




Brendan Lawlor said...

David. The picture plan is to spend a few quid on SDs, and upload photos to my Google account (I think I'll need to pay for that extra space). Straight from the camera to the N800.

X and Y? Uhmmmmm. I can resolve that equation to true for some values of X and Y.

Brendan Lawlor said...

Thanks for that - you're clearly ahead of your time :-). I haven't quite made my mind up on the N800 but it's the leader of the pack right now. Skype is the killer app. Does Palm TX support Skype?

Sean said...


Palm OS does support Skype:


I've no idea how well this actually works - seems to me the wifi bandwidth of your portable device would put a serious crimp in VOIP calls. Then there's the matter of audio accessories . . .

If my focus was photography & you want to be doing things like Skype, I'd bring a laptop - that way you can use Photoshop and do everything you could do at home.

My palm/keyboard combo works very well for writing and limited web browsing, but keep in mind that the web always sucks on mobile devices (excepting the iPhone/iPod Touch, which are the only mobile devices that run a full web browser - and brilliantly, I might add).


Sean said...


Forgive the excessive commenting - this is a topic near and dear to my heart!

I need to retract the statement about the iPhone & web browsing - your N800 runs Opera, which is also a full browser (though I've no personal experience with it, so I can't say how well).

Downside to that N800 is the 4 hour battery life (when web browsing). Other than that, it would seem to fit the bill of a portable web browser with SD card slot.

Personally, I'd be worried about backing things up, but if your content is online then hey - no worries! Stay near wi-fi hotspots and you're flying!


Brendan Lawlor said...

Hiya Sean (Sean C, right?)
No such thing as excessive commenting!

Thanks for the useful info. I knew of the opera browser, and I believe there's even a hack for getting Firefox up there. The platform itself is a flavour of Linux so lots of possibilities.

As far as I've understood it, the real bottleneck for VoIP is going to be the processor, assuming reasonable WiFi pipes. In any case, it's in the post so I guess I'll find out soon. I'll certainly keep you posted.

Dave Mulligan said...

The Nokia 770 I bought on ebay finally arrived this week. I paid ~140e and am very happy with it. I'd love to have gotten the N800, but I couldn't justify the extra 260 euro. The N770 is really great for browsing the web and reading RSS feeds from the sitting room couch and the LCD screen really needs to be seen to be appreciated. I just wish I had it back when I was traveling. I'm playing around with WiFi WEP cracking (my own router of course!) at the moment. But the N770/800 doesn't support packet injection, which slows the process down. But when successfull, it can get you online in a tight spot!

While traveling, I used three 2GB SD cards with build in USB plug (amazon.co.uk ASIN: B000PA6WTS ~12GBP). They were ideal as they allowed me to stop off at any internet cafe, connect each SD card directly to a computer and backup all the photos to my iPod. Allowing me to take 6GBs of photos (and video) before I had to repeat the process.

A better solutions would be to connect your camera directly to your iPod (using the iPod camera adapter), but this failed to work for me as my camera (IXUS 60) wasn't supported!

I don't believe backing up your photos online would be a viable solution, I took 20+ GBs of photos while traveling and it would take quite some time to backup that amount of data online, especially if you don't have a lot of access to the internet!

Brendan Lawlor said...

Blimey Dave - WEP cracking!? There's something I hadn't thought of.

I've got the n800 now, and used up one of my remaining 2000 or so weekends (assuming I last to around 78) installing what I needed to get the universal freedom keyboard to work.

It's a lovely device and I'll do a fuller blog entry about it later.

As far as memory is concerned, in the end a lot of cheap flash memory might be the way to go. As the camera takes Memorystick ProDuo and the n800 uses SD cards, I've had to buy a few microSD cards with adaptors for both SD and MS ProDuo so I can shuttle images from camera to n800. The alternative was getting the n800 to operate in USB host mode and I couldn't see any safe way of doing that.

You're probably right about the uploading. I think I'll just keep buying microSDs and upload/blog some as we go along from the n800. Though I do expect to have regular highspeed connection to the net.