chrisvenus: (Default)
[personal profile] chrisvenus
On my grand summer travels I'm considering taking various bits of tech with me and I thought I'd solicit opinions and ideas from people on the subject... Things I am considering taking are roughly as follows:

MP3 player

This shouldn't be too much of a problem. Thanks to [ profile] ext2366 I have an mp3 player that is pretty damned nifty. Main problem is it charges by plugging into a USB socket on a computer so if I don't have a computer charging it might be tricky... On the other hand I'm sure a cheap as chips mp3 player for keeping me amused on buses and things should be relatively cheap...

Mobile Phone

I wasn't initially intending to bother but [ profile] mi_guida suggested it last weekend and seemed surprised I wasn't going to. As time goes on and I read various things on the web the more it seems like a good idea. There are suggestions along the lines of taking unlocked phones so you can use local sims and stuff like that to avoid roaming charges. My main problem being that I currently have a shiny G1 that I probably won't want to take (over-featured, expensive and would be upset if I lost it). My old phones were all retired for things like having 20 hours of battery life on a good day and such like.

So I guess under this section my big question is what is the best way to go roaming and where can I get a cheap functional phone from for as little as possible (anybody out there got old phones they don't want?).

One thing I do intend to set up is the ability to check my normal mobile's voicemail from anywhere in the world which will potentially solve half the problem if I can find a phone to dial my mobile on to access its voicemail...


I'm figuring that there is going to be a hell of a lot of stuff I want to write down on my travels to share with you lot and for the benefit of my own memory. I can take time and stop at internet cafes and such like to write things up but this of course eats into time I could spend doing *more* exciting things. So I was considering taking a cheap little netbook with me.

This Netbook costs 120 quid and looks like it would do what I want. do people think this is sensible? Do they think I'm crazy to do this? I figure it would be a good way to allow me to maximise the time I'm spending on trains/plains and automobiles by using it to write up my exciting stuff instead of just sleeping or looking bored the whole way...


A camera is a must really. I do have one that I bought about five or six years ago (I forget how long ago but its pretty damned aged). I'm considering getting a new one because that is quite old (4 MP, 3x optical zoom, smaller memory cards, doesn't take great pictures). I'm wondering if people have any recommendations... Photos are likely to be mainly web only (so megapixels aren't likely to be a constraining factor) and numerous (I'd rather have too many than too few). Of course cheap is good since I am assuming that everything I take with me has a fair chance of being broken or stolen. Any suggestions?

Also what other gadgets might I want to take with me? I think I've covered everything above but if you can think of more suggestions on things I should take I am more than happy to listen...

Also I might be asking questions about whether you think I should set up a different blog for travel adventures or just do it here... mainly I might want a wider audience (eg work people too), etc. I guess I could use my dreamwidth (is that the right name? I'm sure you all know the one) account for that. I've not used it for anything else yet (and I believe that crossposts easily too)...

Its all getting very exciting.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-19 05:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I believe I have somewhere a completely unused newish phone that you can have if you want.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-19 05:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I have a preference for stuff being posted here, but if you do decide to post elsewhere I'll set up a syndicated account here anyway (the real only difference being fewer comments).

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-19 05:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
With regards digital cameras, I recommend one that fits easily into a pocket rather than a bulky SLR type. If it's small and light enough, you'll carry it everywhere, and so you'll always have it with you.

Also, get into the habit of taking photographs of maps, hotel phone numbers, passport details, street signs of places you might need directions too and so on. Most modern cameras (or memory cards to be more specific) have plenty of capacity, so it's no problem to basically use a digital camera as a backup of visual data.


Date: 2009-05-19 06:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
For compact cameras, the Canon IXUS range is really good, hard wearing, good picture quality, really compact, optical zoom etc.
However, here's what I tell everyone: good stats is one thing but you must feel comfortable using it. Go to a place with a large selection (Jessops, Currys etc.), have them show you various models and see if you like how the menus work, if the buttons are in the right places (and big enough) for your fingers and all that. The feel of a camera is almost as important as the picture quality.
These days £150-200 will buy you a very decent allrounder. 8MP is more than adequate, you only need a higher MP count than 6 if you want to regularly make prints larger than A4. "Pixel density" is much more important.
Very important is that the zoom is optical (x3 is standard, x5 is nice, any higher and you're getting into the pseudo SLR range which will be pricier, like a Canon G9 which is an awesome compact, especially in low light, with a fully manual setting, too).

Have a look on for comparative reviews of current cameras.

One tip: Be sure you get one that has an optical viewfinder in addition to a display. In bright sunlight even the best LCD will be no good and you can't see what you're trying to take a picture of.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-19 06:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, Vodafone are apparently abandoning roaming charges, so a potential solution could be to get a Vodafone sim-card to go in the phone so as not to put up with faff on foreign sims and the possibility of leaving money on pay-as-you-go cards that you won't use again.

And getting a new sim-card in another country could potentially take a little while and doing the thing several times for up to an hour each... could get quite annoying. On the other side of the coin, that could easily be considered no-hassle.

On Netbooks. The problem with Netbooks is that as a category they are cheap, but within the category, cheap netbooks are /cheap/ and really not necessarily very good. Be this a few months ago, I had a sturdy Eee PC 701 going (which by now I could have been selling for 100 quid or so)... sadly it is gone. If you're going to get a new one, my advice would be to get a second-generation one - any serious problems have largely been ironed out, but with newer versions coming out, the prices continue to slide down with some speed.

Having played around with a few (and extensively with the Asus Eees), I do maintain that the best choice generally lies with Asus. For traveling, you also probably want to get one with a Solid State Hard Drive, which is lighter and can't really get damaged. With that, it means that physically you actually have to snap the thing to cause any kind of real damage.

The best way to choose it is to play around with it - pop into a shop that does them and poke around on it. The variation on keyboards, screens, touchpads and what have you is significant, so you need to get something you can put up with.

I should imagine it to be quite possible to grab a second-hand Eee PC 901 (which is what I have currently) for around £150 and Ebay suggests it can be done. So...

Yeah. Hope that helps!

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-19 07:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think they're only abandoning them within Europe, and then only for a limited period.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-20 08:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Mostly correct.

Information here.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-19 06:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm not so hot on electronic knowledge but we do travel (on the bike) and have found combinations that work for us.

On our next trip we will be taking our Assus Eee, my Sony reader and a phone each. The phones have cameras in them. Now, those cameras will not satisfy the photography geek in anyone, but they do take perfectly adequate holiday snaps and, last year, we decided that one extra piece of expensive, un-waterproof electronic equipment was something we could do without.

The only problem I have with the Eee is the keyboard. I'm a fast touch typist. I can't use the Eee board.

My phone is a vastly outdated Sony Ericsson (K750i)with a 3.2 megapixel camera. His is a more up to date model (C905) with more megapixels in its camera. It depends what you want to do. Both phones also play MP3s and mine has a few on it though I never use it. I don't plug myself into music and it's the last thing I would want to do on holiday (I actually love the 'going along' bit of travel so I don't want music to distract me). You might want to consider combining phone/MP3/camera options, but that does depend on budget, carrying space and how waterproof you need to be.

We have a specific travel blog. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly I'm happy to share it with mothers, work colleagues and other people I don't particularly want sharing my LJ space - it's just so much easier than emailing family to reassure them we are safe. Secondly it's really easy to upload pictures from the phones. One thing we have found really, really useful is a usb stick. When we bought the Eee they tried to sell us a card (sticks out less, uses one less usb port). But the stick is good. You can take it to an internet cafe when you are in a place where you can't get a wireless connection. For whatever reason. A big stick is, we found, very useful indeed.

Our travel blog is linked from my LJ. It's a good service and we have got interesting comments from random people from time to time. It's very travel orientated so you can use it to pick up 'traveller' hints and tips for wherever you happen to be.

I have three old mobiles I'm meaning to take to Oxfam. But they're ancient. My own phone is ancient (but I like it). You don't want them.

Muji, by the way, do the cutest tiny mice. I can't use one of those touch pad things, so I need it.
Edited Date: 2009-05-19 06:38 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-19 06:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
A slightly general note - the weight of everything adds up quickly so it is worth keeping an eye on that when choosing the gadgets. The chargers can be particularly bad for adding slightly unexpected weight and bulk to everything.

Also since your route includes some pretty wet places I recommend one of these - (that's just the first link I got btw rather than a rec for a place to buy)

And yay travelling :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-19 09:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Already made him buy one of those at the weekend (I have two)!

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-19 10:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
They are so very useful.
The other thing I found as useful was my wrap - it turned things smart or covered up and took up no packing space.
Not so good as a recommendation for [ profile] chrisvenus I thought :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-19 10:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Wrap as is a pashmina type thing? I've got one of those on the list :)

I sent the same list round to everyone coming on any part of the trip (it's changed quite a bit!) and kindly highlighted bras and pashmina in purple so they knew I wasn't trying to tell the men they should get them ;)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-19 11:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
yep, one of those. my favorites are the thin but warm ones - they double as a blanket for the airplane/train. but they also sell cheap ones everywhere.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-20 02:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Pashminas also good but I was thinking more of a sarong, good for turning shorts modest where required (visiting churches, countries which care, that kind of thing) and mine was quite smart so it helped dress up, well a little bit anyway :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-21 12:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
*looks round room* yeah, I've got about 5 of those. Shouldn't be a problem *grin*

(There are advantages to having lived in HK and been on family holidays from there to Australia and Bali!)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-19 08:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My parents have the Maplin version of that netbook, and I have to say it feels a bit on the cheap side, compared to my Asus Eee 701. Also, their PSU blew up within a couple of days of buying it. :-)
It *is* I think the cheapest option, but you might be better off spending a bit more on something like the Eee, or getting a used one.
Camera-wise, [ profile] karohemd has good points. I'd only add that you might want to consider Olympus' water resistant/shockproof offerings, if you're going to give it a hard time. I took several photos in torrential rain with my (few years old) waterproof Olympus. The range used to be called 'Mju', dunno if it still is.
And for the phone, I bought a Motorola F3 from Play for about 7 quid. It's cheap, and *very* basic, but it is durable, being designed for the third world markets. :-) Also, the Orange-branded one is cheaper and is, in fact, not SIM-locked.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-19 10:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ooh, two more things. First, you might find this compact camera shootout handy - posted just today. And also that a useful feature you might want in a camera if you are travelling is the ability to use AA batteries. I have a Casio compact that does this and, while the battery life is not quite up to a dedicated LiIon battery, it does mean you can find spares wherever you might be.

Also, cover your shiny new electronic gizmos in crappy gaffer/parcel tape, make them look less exciting to thieves. :-)

FWIW, the Eee PC's PSU is multi-voltage, and indeed has US-style pins under a removable UK plug, so that might be helpful in some countries.
Edited Date: 2009-05-19 11:06 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-19 10:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I found twitter best for blogging when on holiday. Since I didn't have time for long entries, and sending a text was easier than finding a PC in europe. I seriously had trouble finding the net for quiet a bit of that trip. And when not on twitter put it here or atleast cross post.

As for the camera, I see some people giving lots of suggestions, one thing I would say is expect it to get stolen, so get one with a usb lead to upload photos when you can, and don't spend much. The really cheap cameras these days take pretty good photos (especially in good light), and I don't have you down as a perfectionist.

Finally if you want a laptop, netbook is great for small and light, but where are you going to get 230V outside Europe? If you plan to rent a car I have a device for get 230V and USB power from the cigar lighter if you want it, but again that caused us problems in Switerland where it's 120V on devices without a suitable adaptor (oh and no one knew what their mains voltage was in any country we visited so it was done to my general knowledge).Oh and try a netbook before you buy, I can't type on them, I would recommend a diary and pencil!

Finally the phone must be triband to work outside europe rather than dual band if you didn't know. Go google it ;) but cheap old nokias generally are reliable enough for the travelling job, I have a a few I use. However non of mine work in the US.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-19 10:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Two finallies, sorry !

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-19 10:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh and the car thing wasn't suddenly 120V in Swisterland, the mains was, the car kept working fine! Sorry the beer festival is effecting me.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-19 11:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Pretty sure Switzerland's 220V/Shuko plug. Are you sure you weren't trying to use the shaver socket? :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-20 10:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You're right, now looking up it's 220V, but we didn't know at the time, and the plugs are different from the rest some places.

The issue was probably more they insisted that uk stuff didn't work there, but had no idea on voltages.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-19 11:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
a couple things...

for netbooks, I like my eee. I don't use it a lot these days because I haven't been traveling, but it's certainly handy. I love how little it weighs also, ebooks for down time. I'd still bring an extra mp3 player, since solid state netbooks feel very slow compared to even my 3-year old laptop.

I've got a couple old unlocked phones, but the p&p might be a little much. ;-) last summer before the olympics the chinese government was going after unregistered sim cards, and I don't know if that's still the case. I bought one on ebay before I went, but barely used it. if you have internet access to talk to home, I don't think you need to bring a phone. plus it feels like more of a vacation if you're not carrying a mobile the whole time.

the other "gadget" is a good power converter to charge your gadgets. not a cheap one - it really sucks when they break and your batteries are all dead. your itinerary has several different plugs/standards, so you probably want one of those flexible ones.

I don't have an opinion on where your travel blog goes, but please let us know before you leave.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-21 12:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My point with the phone was that we're going to be meeting up in HK (I'm travelling from the UK to HK by train through Russia and China) and also meeting friends in Australia, hopefully, so ideally I'd rather have a way of getting in touch - I have no intention of taking any kind of laptop or computer, and internet access on trains isn't going to happen! [ profile] chrisvenus was originally of your opinion (don't need one) but it was me being concerned about how to make contact...

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-20 10:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
One thing about netbooks - I love my Acer Aspire One (v light but wide enough that I can touch type this) but the battery life would probably drive me mad if I wasn't using it here in a place with so many opportunities to charge it. A larger capacity battery, or just a second one might well be a worthwhile plan.

There are some cool solar panel solutions (gorilla pod IIRC had a good one for laptops) but I reckon they are probably too heavy to be a practical plan.

We bought a GPS logger a while ago, as part of planning for the delayed Amazon trip. It's a lot of fun, and dead handy for geolocating photos automagically. The plotting of routes in things like Google Earth are also great fun. The one we got (phototrackr ) has a neat feature to turn itself off when you aren't moving. I found scripts to allow it to play nicely with the linux on my netbook.

Oh, and regarding photos and other data - work out how you're going to store and back up things. Posting home memory cards (and keeping another copy until they are safely back and read), or bulk uploading when you get somewhere connected, or writing to CD, or...

Losing kit is allowed for in the plan/budget, losing data is much worse...

photos, internet and data

Date: 2009-05-20 11:03 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Just got back from a week in hostels in Iceland where I met up with my friend who'd just spent 3 months backpacking around (our super-cheap first night's washing machine elicited great excitement...) and we both commented on the lack of internet access if you don't carry a device around with you... we ended up going to a 'games cafe' full of icelandic kids swearing fock at their games but now there are free or cheap wifi spots all over the place, quite a change since we went on big trips and she'd decided that next time she went anywhere she would take a 'device of some kind'. I would say that regardless of what camera you take you will end up taking a lot of photos (more than you can imagine you would take...) so having a way of getting them off the memory card is pretty essential - either you bring a 'device of some kind' to put them on or pay to burn them to cds every so often with the added hassle of finding somewhere. In China and Hawaii we had tfm's laptop so could get them off that way but also backed them up to our mp3 player. The big problem however with taking a 'device of some kind', presumably a netbook or whatever, is that it is another expensive thing to worry about and if you are a paranoid person that translates as another thing to lug around, depending on what sort of places you are staying in - dorms aren't exactly somewhere to leave expensive kit so then you will end up carrying all your electronics around all day (get a small comfy rucksack!).

Definitely bring a mobile, even if you leave it switched off most of the time.

I think someone else already suggested plastic bags - do not underestimate the power of a tropical rainstorm and the need for emergency plastic bags secreted all over the place - the plastic bag from the elephant's bananas saved our camera in Sri Lanka!

Have a great time!!


(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-21 08:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Also, don't most netbooks have only 8G of space, so not very good place for dumping your millions of photos. It could be used to duplicate photos onto several memory cards, one to keep and one to post back or something though.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-21 08:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As for charging the USB mp3 player, you can get pretty good travel power supplies that have a usb socket as the output. For a top google hit example:

You can also charge your phone from one of these (and if you take a different phone, you can quite often get adaptors to charge them from USB and so there's only one adaptor you need)


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