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  1. #1
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    computer on board- how to?

    We are doing a 4 month trip through the himalayas and as it is a big environmental project needing major blog and website updates nearly daily ( need to keep sponsors happy). Am looking around for a good way to take and power a small computer that can do the email, blog update thing, and hopefully edit movies. Any suggestions on kit and ways of doing it or stories from past experiences greatly appreciated.
    Cheers
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    www.cycle-for-change.com

  2. #2
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    For what it's worth, I'd skip on bringing a computer. Many blogs can be updated via email, so all you'd need is a cell phone for most of your entries. The rest can be handled at Internet cafes.

    If you absolutely must bring a computer, netbooks (e.g. Asus Eee PC) are light and cheap.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Speedo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gavsaway View Post
    Maybe I'm still annoyed by the thought of Al Gore burning up gallons and gallons of fuel so he could look out the window of a helicopter at the frozen wastes of the antarctic. Why is it that people who are out to save the environment insist of using lots of resources to get to exotic places just so they can have a dramatic backdrop for their pictures?

    How about instead of of helping the climate by consuming a boat load of fossil fuels to get yourself and your equipment to the Himalayas, why don't you do something actually useful and stay home and do a bike tour in Japan that doesn't involve getting on a plane. Show you can have a really cool adventure without burning up a lot of fuel. Really, we'd love to hear about it.

    Speedo

  4. #4
    succumbs to errata jaypee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedo View Post
    Maybe I'm still annoyed by the thought of Al Gore burning up gallons and gallons of fuel so he could look out the window of a helicopter at the frozen wastes of the antarctic. Why is it that people who are out to save the environment insist of using lots of resources to get to exotic places just so they can have a dramatic backdrop for their pictures?

    How about instead of of helping the climate by consuming a boat load of fossil fuels to get yourself and your equipment to the Himalayas, why don't you do something actually useful and stay home and do a bike tour in Japan that doesn't involve getting on a plane. Show you can have a really cool adventure without burning up a lot of fuel. Really, we'd love to hear about it.

    Speedo
    While I may agree, was it really necessary to threadjack?

    /offtopic

    Lots of CMS systems for website have plugins that'll allow you to update via e-mail, I'd check into that then you could use an internet-enabled cell phone to post updates. Otherwise, look into a netbook with a solid-state drive.

    [edit]

    Whoops.. yeah, what Bacciagalupe said.

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    I think your starting place should be to find out what kind of connectivity might be available - cell phone coverage, wifi, landline internet connections... then you can figure out what sorts of technology you need to get.

    I did a 2 month tour this summer with a small laptop, but it was in the US/Canada, so power and connections were a non-issue - wifi and outlets everywhere.

    I've had poor luck with solar power in the past, but it was a very small older panel system, so you could check if solar is a possibility. I would suggest looking into what the himalayan climbers do for connectivity and power - lots of big expeditions are hooked up to the internet - but I guess you won't have sherpas to carry a huge solar panel or a generator, so it might not be relevant.

    Hope this helps at all, I'm envious of your trip!
    ...

  6. #6
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    We are carrying a small Acer and it's working out fine. We've been able to do our videoediting and everything on this thing - it weighs about 1.5 pounds.
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

  7. #7
    Senior Member wheel's Avatar
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    I found a black berry is amazing with searching google maps.

    GPS
    It has wifi
    of course email.

    You probably can buy the card for phone for the area I am sure.

  8. #8
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    The internet cafe idea sounds good only to someone that hasn't tried it. In 2007 I toured the Loire River Valley in France and found internet cafes to be mostly non-existant in all but the biggest cities; which meant riding around the city looking for an internet cafe. And, to make matters worse, the French use a different keyboard so nothing was where I expected to find it. I had to hunt and peck for every character. It was very frustrating after a hard day's ride.

    You don't say where your point of origin is but someone else seems to think you're starting from Japan. However, if this is not the case and you will be traveling through US airports, you run the risk of having Homeland Security seize your computer for threat analysis. If you take a computer make sure it has a DVD writer and make certain to write off your important stuff daily. Even at this, don't expect to be able to find writable DVDs at the corner shop. In France I had to ride kilometers out of the way to find DVDs and then, the price was 4 times the price I pay in Switzerland.

    Also, keep in mind that one moderate fall can destroy a laptop; especially the LCD panel. Even a cell phone or Blackberry can have an LCD failure. I've had two different devices that quit working because the LCD failed, including my cell phone (though not while touring).

    For any telecomm gear be sure you have a multiband phone that is capable of connecting to different systems and be sure you have international dialing activated on your device account. You might want to consider a BlueTooth device that will let your computer talk to your phone.

    If money is not an issue, you might want to search for a laptop specifically designed for rugged / field work. It seems to me the phone idea is the best way to go but can you count on there being connection in remote areas?

    Just my two cents
    Charlie
    Last edited by clupica; 01-07-09 at 03:31 AM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Speedo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jaypee View Post
    While I may agree, was it really necessary to threadjack?
    No. Sorry.

    Speedo

  10. #10
    SNARKY MEMBER CardiacKid's Avatar
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    Considering all the dangerous chemicals in a computer and the poor job of recycling the industry is doing, especially in China, I would suggest you write your journal on hemp paper with a pencil.

  11. #11
    Acetone Man
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    Gonna have to side with the threadjacker here. I am completely fine with wealthy guilt ridden liberals paying for your vacation. But when the money is in your bank account, please stop polluting the language with insincere humanitarianism, maudlin awareness-mongering, and inarticulate calls to action.

    These self indulgent climate change awareness adventures are the shameless second coming of The White Man's Burden, and I'll bet all the money in my pockets against all the money in your sponsor's pockets that that's how the Nepalis are going to see you.

  12. #12
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    Thanks to those who offered advice, food for thought and a great help. to those that slagged off the trip - Not really the forum is it? Have already done some amazing trips in Japan and if we can make even ten people change their behaviour and get involved, our two flights for the year and what ever the carbon footprint will be more than balanced out. Disagree with what we are doing all you, like but here is not the place to do it. Your cynicism belongs elsewhere.

  13. #13
    Senior Member neilfein's Avatar
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    I can see this thread going the way of some others I won't mention, descending into bickering and hair-splitting...

    I'd go with the ruggedized laptop, if you have the money and can handle the weight. (Probably heavier than a regular laptop.) Have you thought about how you're going to keep it charged?

    There's something to be said for a handheld you can feed with AAs.
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  14. #14
    Young at heart timobkc's Avatar
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    I have used the Tom Bihn Brain Cell to hold an ASUS EEE PC and the Brain Cell did a great job of keeping the laptop safe. I can't address the access issues but that combo is lightweight, very effective in terms of protection for the PC, and the ASUS doesn't have a hard disk to crash - it's all flash-disk based and runs a standard Windows XP os.
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by timobkc View Post
    I have used the Tom Bihn Brain Cell to hold an ASUS EEE PC and the Brain Cell did a great job of keeping the laptop safe. I can't address the access issues but that combo is lightweight, very effective in terms of protection for the PC, and the ASUS doesn't have a hard disk to crash - it's all flash-disk based and runs a standard Windows XP os.
    Those look nice. I made one of these: http://isoglossia.com/2006/07/20/how-to/ and put the computer in a ziplock, then into the case, then another ziplock. Sometimes it was in my HB bag, sometimes in a rear pannier.

    I used a Fujitsu Lifebook P1610, which has a regular (not solid state) hard drive. I wouldn't recommend this model if you wanted to do video, though - it's pathetically slow.

    For a 4-month trip with dirt roads and a real computer requirement (not just nice-to-have), I would look for a solid state hard drive, and a 'rugged' model. I would have gotten a toughbook but I couldn't afford it.
    ...

  16. #16
    mev
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    Quote Originally Posted by gavsaway View Post
    We are doing a 4 month trip through the himalayas and as it is a big environmental project needing major blog and website updates nearly daily ( need to keep sponsors happy). Am looking around for a good way to take and power a small computer that can do the email, blog update thing, and hopefully edit movies. Any suggestions on kit and ways of doing it or stories from past experiences greatly appreciated.
    www.cycle-for-change.com
    What I've evolved to is a hybrid approach using both a small laptop and keeping vital data on a separate USB/solid state disk. I also currently have a small netbook and would recommend one of them with solid state disk. Here is some of that evolution on some of my largest trips:

    ~1992: Crossed the USA with a Sharp 286 laptop. Did the dialup thing with acoustic coupler modem from motel rooms. Uploads predominantly of text-based emails. Protected the laptop with extra foam and a large waterproof bag. Laptop was fine during the trip. Eventually some time after trip the display cracked.
    ~1997: Crossed Canada with a HP Omnibook 800 laptop running Windows 95. Did the modem thing including acoustic coupler modem but more phone jacks. Protected the laptop with foam and waterproof bag. Laptop was fine during trip and still ok.
    ~2001: Circled Australia and crossed USA and more for one year cycle trip. Used Sony Vaio and also auxiliary Pocketmail device. Primary frequent updates were via Pocketmail phone connection. Less frequent updates were from mini-Zip disks that I mailed home. Father maintained web site from daily emails plus every 2-3 week web page updates that had been mailed home. Laptop disk died part way through Australia. Replaced disk and did a system recovery.
    ~2007: Crossed EurAsia including crossing Russia. Also followup trip 4000km across China. Used small Sony that was essentially a $$ predecessor to netbook generation. Protected laptop with foam and waterproof bag. Laptop survived fine though after trip the display cracked. Did not actually connect the laptop to any wireless network in Russia. Instead, did local editing and then transferred main content to more than one U3 thumb drive with secondary storage. When we got to a major city (every ~week or two weeks) took the USB drives with me to an internet cafe and uploaded content to web sites. For the most remote parts of Siberia (but where every 1-3 days we might cross a town along the trans-Siberian railroad with cell phone service), also provided very short updates via cell phone SMS message -> twitter -> web site with short GPS coordinates and oneliner type messages. One of my USB drives failed and had to be reformatted.

    Last week I cycled 575 miles through Texas from Brownsville to Dallas. For my more local US touring, I'm using a small netbook and relying on wireless uploads.

    If I were to leave today on my next third-world tour, I'd likely:
    (1) Use a small netbook type laptop with solid state disk. In addition, as a bit of a tech geek, I'd be able to boot Linux from SD card and carry two backup copies of the operating system on an SD card and/or be able to restore my solid state disk with OS from SD cards/USB. I'd keep some extra copies of my main data e.g. photos and videos on separate and redundant USB drives.
    (2) I'd separate the OS platform + tools from my data. Keep redundant copies of both, e.g. restore disks for OS and/or booting from SD cards; keep my data on at least two copies on separate USB flash drives.
    (3) I'd look at how frequently I really need to upload info. If not real frequently, I'd probably avoid using my laptop be the communications device I used for uploading and instead rely on internet cafes and other things and not connect the laptop to networks. (Uploading lots of large files like video and/or trying to do frequent uploads might add a fair amount to your trip costs as opposed to waiting until you are back to upload some of the largest pieces of info and instead using web pages + photos initially). If there is cell phone service, I'd get local SIM card and be able to send short SMS including GPS coordinates and short update.
    (4) I wouldn't go as far down the "rugged" laptop area as some suggest here but instead go more down lines of redundancy of OS even to point of having second netbook back at "base camp" if that made sense. I would keep my data on more than one removable USB drive and be able to use redundant communications including relying on local internet cafes for some (all?) uploads.
    (5) I'd find someone on the home front if possible to help receive some incoming posts/blogs and help admin that if necessary as well.

  17. #17
    Cycled on all continents JohnyW's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by timobkc View Post
    I have used the Tom Bihn Brain Cell to hold an ASUS EEE PC and the Brain Cell did a great job of keeping the laptop safe. I can't address the access issues but that combo is lightweight, very effective in terms of protection for the PC, and the ASUS doesn't have a hard disk to crash - it's all flash-disk based and runs a standard Windows XP os.
    Hi

    my friend had the ASUS EEE PC with in Japan. We both decided that the EEE PC is not suitable for both of us. Why? Because the keyboard is too narrow. This answer I wrote in 60 sec. On the EEE PC it will take 5 Min. to correct all the mistyping errors.

    Thomas
    My Travelogues: http://thomasontour.de (currently only in German)

  18. #18
    Got an old Peugeot kipibenkipod's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    Those look nice. I made one of these: http://isoglossia.com/2006/07/20/how-to/ and put the computer in a ziplock, then into the case, then another ziplock. Sometimes it was in my HB bag, sometimes in a rear pannier.

    I used a Fujitsu Lifebook P1610, which has a regular (not solid state) hard drive. I wouldn't recommend this model if you wanted to do video, though - it's pathetically slow.

    For a 4-month trip with dirt roads and a real computer requirement (not just nice-to-have), I would look for a solid state hard drive, and a 'rugged' model. I would have gotten a toughbook but I couldn't afford it.
    Just to keep it simple, you don't need to buy a computer with flash hard drive to have one.
    Just buy an IDE or SATA (depends on your hard disk interface) flash drive, and you're done.
    Look on the image I attached to see a flash drive.

    Good luck,
    Kfir
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  19. #19
    Got an old Peugeot kipibenkipod's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mev View Post
    What I've evolved to is a hybrid approach using both a small laptop and keeping vital data on a separate USB/solid state disk. I also currently have a small netbook and would recommend one of them with solid state disk. Here is some of that evolution on some of my largest trips:

    ~1992: Crossed the USA with a Sharp 286 laptop. Did the dialup thing with acoustic coupler modem from motel rooms. Uploads predominantly of text-based emails. Protected the laptop with extra foam and a large waterproof bag. Laptop was fine during the trip. Eventually some time after trip the display cracked.
    ~1997: Crossed Canada with a HP Omnibook 800 laptop running Windows 95. Did the modem thing including acoustic coupler modem but more phone jacks. Protected the laptop with foam and waterproof bag. Laptop was fine during trip and still ok.
    ~2001: Circled Australia and crossed USA and more for one year cycle trip. Used Sony Vaio and also auxiliary Pocketmail device. Primary frequent updates were via Pocketmail phone connection. Less frequent updates were from mini-Zip disks that I mailed home. Father maintained web site from daily emails plus every 2-3 week web page updates that had been mailed home. Laptop disk died part way through Australia. Replaced disk and did a system recovery.
    ~2007: Crossed EurAsia including crossing Russia. Also followup trip 4000km across China. Used small Sony that was essentially a $$ predecessor to netbook generation. Protected laptop with foam and waterproof bag. Laptop survived fine though after trip the display cracked. Did not actually connect the laptop to any wireless network in Russia. Instead, did local editing and then transferred main content to more than one U3 thumb drive with secondary storage. When we got to a major city (every ~week or two weeks) took the USB drives with me to an internet cafe and uploaded content to web sites. For the most remote parts of Siberia (but where every 1-3 days we might cross a town along the trans-Siberian railroad with cell phone service), also provided very short updates via cell phone SMS message -> twitter -> web site with short GPS coordinates and oneliner type messages. One of my USB drives failed and had to be reformatted.

    Last week I cycled 575 miles through Texas from Brownsville to Dallas. For my more local US touring, I'm using a small netbook and relying on wireless uploads.

    If I were to leave today on my next third-world tour, I'd likely:
    (1) Use a small netbook type laptop with solid state disk. In addition, as a bit of a tech geek, I'd be able to boot Linux from SD card and carry two backup copies of the operating system on an SD card and/or be able to restore my solid state disk with OS from SD cards/USB. I'd keep some extra copies of my main data e.g. photos and videos on separate and redundant USB drives.
    (2) I'd separate the OS platform + tools from my data. Keep redundant copies of both, e.g. restore disks for OS and/or booting from SD cards; keep my data on at least two copies on separate USB flash drives.
    (3) I'd look at how frequently I really need to upload info. If not real frequently, I'd probably avoid using my laptop be the communications device I used for uploading and instead rely on internet cafes and other things and not connect the laptop to networks. (Uploading lots of large files like video and/or trying to do frequent uploads might add a fair amount to your trip costs as opposed to waiting until you are back to upload some of the largest pieces of info and instead using web pages + photos initially). If there is cell phone service, I'd get local SIM card and be able to send short SMS including GPS coordinates and short update.
    (4) I wouldn't go as far down the "rugged" laptop area as some suggest here but instead go more down lines of redundancy of OS even to point of having second netbook back at "base camp" if that made sense. I would keep my data on more than one removable USB drive and be able to use redundant communications including relying on local internet cafes for some (all?) uploads.
    (5) I'd find someone on the home front if possible to help receive some incoming posts/blogs and help admin that if necessary as well.
    +1 Debian Linux
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  20. #20
    mev
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    Quote Originally Posted by kipibenkipod View Post
    Just to keep it simple, you don't need to buy a computer with flash hard drive to have one.
    Just buy an IDE or SATA (depends on your hard disk interface) flash drive, and you're done.
    Look on the image I attached to see a flash drive.
    Another possibility for EEE PC netbooks and likely others is a SDHC card or USB stick. See these instructions: http://wiki.debian.org/DebianEeePC/HowTo/Install and then follow those for how to install to a SDHC card or USB stick. This lets you keep the original OS that the netbook came with and also for not too many grams more have extra backup copies of a (debian) operating system to boot from if something happens to the original OS boot disk. Even if Windows is your primary OS, having rescue and repair tools on the bootable SDHC card from Linux could be a help e.g. see utilities such as these:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_LiveDistros

    For the technically inclined, there are also instructions out there for creating bootable Windows on a USB, e.g.: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/...cket,1113.html
    I have experience doing the Linux side, but not with Windows so don't know how well Windows works.

    Once you have more than one copy of a bootable OS drive...also keep your data with redundant copies on other drives (e.g. USB drive or SDHC cards).

  21. #21
    Tinkerer since 1980 TheBrick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mev View Post
    ... don't know how well Windows works.
    Terribly.

    It's an interesting concept though, Windows working I mean.
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  22. #22
    Senior Member eric von zipper's Avatar
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    Because this thread went the way of talking about solid state computers (asus eee), I will just ask this here and not start a new thread. I'm really interested in these but just don't get it b/c I'm not a tech type of person.
    Can someone explain how solid state works in layman's terms? Or is it that the solid state runs off of something like a memory card for a camera?
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by mev View Post
    What I've evolved ...
    Great post, thanks for putting so much time into this mev
    ...

  24. #24
    succumbs to errata jaypee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eric von zipper View Post
    Because this thread went the way of talking about solid state computers (asus eee), I will just ask this here and not start a new thread. I'm really interested in these but just don't get it b/c I'm not a tech type of person.
    Can someone explain how solid state works in layman's terms? Or is it that the solid state runs off of something like a memory card for a camera?
    That's pretty much it. It acts like a hard drive, but uses memory chips instead of moving parts.

  25. #25
    Senior Member eric von zipper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jaypee View Post
    That's pretty much it. It acts like a hard drive, but uses memory chips instead of moving parts.
    One more. Is the memory already installed or do you buy it? Like, I can buy an 8 gig card for my camera use it up and buy another, you do the same with a solid state computer? Thanks, btw.
    Surly Cross Check, Thorn Sherpa

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