Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Technology

When I first went travelling "technology" meant a film camera and a watch! The
rest of my bag, apart from clothes, was filled with a diary, letter pad and envelopes, books, travel guides and maps. All essential to a trip then and now. The difference now is the format these all take (including the clothes!). The list of technology this time reads something like the contents of your local electronics shop:

  • Camera (digital of course), additional lens and accessories.
  • Tripod (and I took one of these on my original trip too).
  • Laptop
  • Extra drives for the laptop
  • USB keys
  • Tablet
  • eBook reader
  • Smartphone
  • Portable emergency charger
  • Various cables and power plugs to support the above
  • And a watch!
And Vicki carries a similar assortment too ...

All of these allow us to to do the same as the original non-digital variety: record what we see and do, communicate to those at home, find out about where we are and where to go, and to be entertained. In total these are slightly heavier than the non-digital variety, hugely more expensive and less reliable, but provide more options in this connected world we live in.

For me the key uses of all this hardware is to record what I see and pursue my hobby of photography in a stimulating environment; to keep in touch with family and friends; and to have access to all sorts of information. This list might be a bit excessive for most. Actually, it is a bit excessive for me too!

Won't we just spend our time guarding the bags and never venturing out? Is it just going to be a burden: after all, de-cluttering our lives was one of the aims of taking off. Any technologist will always want to justify her/himself, and in our case we'll claim that by spending most of our time based at fixed accommodation we can just leave our possessions in the relative security of where we will live.

What's the point of all this stuff then? Well, the camera equipment is obvious, but a laptop? There are internet cafes after all. For us it is about processing the images we take (that's our hobby!), having a copy of our images and videos to show people (if they are at all interested), and having our own devices when online. Gotta keep this blog up to date somehow! Remember, we are mostly living at other people's places. The tablet is just a smaller version if we are out and about. I wouldn't have bought one specially but I happened to have one already. It might get ditched along the way. And the eBook reader beats books hands-down when travelling. Batteries last forever, hundreds of books can be carried easily. Perhaps the watch is both the most convenient and redundant device at once. Everything else has a clock on it these days ... How well will all this turn out? That will unfold over the next 6 months or so.


A bit more about the technology we chose ...

Mostly we are just taking what we already owned but we did buy a few things specifically for travelling.

The Cameras

We both owned large digital SLRs and lenses and tripods and accessories. They would have taken up a large portion of our weight allowance by themselves! And as we've found, unless you're specifically going out on a photography trip they tend to stay at home. So we traded them in for mirrorless cameras: they take almost as good an image as an SLR, have all the advanced functionality required, and are the size of a compact camera. We happened to choose the Olympus OM-D E-M5 for its performance and the range of lenses available. But there are plenty of other similar options.

The Laptops

While Vicki has a perfectly serviceable laptop to take, albeit a bit heavy, I had the opportunity to choose my perfect machine as hauling my desktop around wasn't an option. So out it goes and in comes an ultrabook - basically the size of a netbook without any of the compromises. Small, light (only 1.3kg) and powerful. There are plenty that would be suitable bur I happened to choose an ASUS Zenbook UX31a because it was fast (i7 CPU, 256GB SSD) and has a brilliant 1920 HD matte screen, i.e. the definition found on an HD telly squeezed into a 13.3" screen. Why do these things take priority? For me low weight means I can chuck it (very gently) into a daypack when heading out for a walk that might involve finding a wi-fi spot. Top performance specs means that it will be fun to use for many years - a slower one will need updating much sooner so is false economy (in my humble opinion!). And that screen for photography ... glorious. We are taking plenty of portable hard drives with us to keep multiple backups of our data just in case. And we use various online services just in case it all disappears one day. But more about the software side in another post ...

Smartphones

Not so fussy here, just three requirements. One with dual-SIM capablity so we can have our new "permanent" UK number and a local SIM for wherever we happen to be living, e.g. Italy. GPS and maps is likely to be very useful too. And one of us (not me) apparently needs Angry Birds ... We happen to use Android phones as we are both tied into the Google cosmos.

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