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Old 09-01-12, 10:14 AM   #1
kiltedcelt
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On the road blogging equipment question

Say I'm out on a multi-day trip and I want to blog about it while I'm on the road. Assuming I can overcome issues with internet access via free wi-fi or connecting through a cell phone, what piece of equipment would work best? One major caveat, is that I like to use a real camera - ie. DSLR, not a point-and-shoot, and certainly not a camera that would be built into something like a tablet. So, the computer or computer-like device should have the ability to read the CF cards (via USB port) that my Nikon D200 uses, as well as the CF cards used by my hi-def video cameras. I don't want to have to lug around my full-size laptop as that seems a bit overkill. My first thought is a Netbook but most of them seem almost as large as my laptop, what with 10" screens and such. Do tablets exist that have USB ports on them? What would you folks use for blogging on the road and needing the ability to upload photos at the same time?
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Old 09-01-12, 10:23 AM   #2
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I am not a SLR guy anymore. However I have seen some SD cards that have a wireless gizmo built into them, possibly that could be used to download pictures to a tablet or even an smart phone. Several of the Android tablets, and possibly the iPads have adapters that will plug into the main port that will allow you to adapt to a USB or even a card reader. I have no clue how or even how well they work I just know they are out there. If you are only doing an update on a basic blog I would just use the smart phone camera for the quick shots, upload and update the blog from the phone. Then if you are wanting to post high resolution stuff wait until you get to a computer.

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Old 09-01-12, 10:25 AM   #3
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I use my Netbook. It works great for that, has the built-in card reader and about 6 hours of battery life. It's much smaller and lighter than my laptop, but still about 3 pounds. If those are too big and/or heavy for you maybe a tablet would suit you better. Here's a discussion that might help you with the tablet/USB question.
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Old 09-01-12, 10:33 AM   #4
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One possibility is to use an internet cafe where a typical desktop computer with internet access would be available. These are surprisingly popular in cities and towns.

Another possibility is a tablet computer with usb and/or a SD or micro SD slot. (You'll need a CF to SC adaptor to use a SD card in your camera. The SD to microSD adaptors are pretty common.

Currently, the Nexus 7 has very good specifications to act as a content creation and compiler for your blogs. It has a micro USB port so you can connect a USB drive or microSD via a USB adaptor.

Good luck.
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Old 09-01-12, 10:50 AM   #5
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There are tablets with USB ports and also mini-SD ports. You can also purchase USB adapters for reading various memory cards. Personally that's the route I'd choose over a netbook.
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Old 09-01-12, 12:52 PM   #6
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iPad+ Camera Connection
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Old 09-01-12, 01:29 PM   #7
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I like the idea of a netbook and I don't think the weight would be that much of an issue. I can't see a tablet being terribly easy to use for actually entering text for a blog along with photos. Most of what I've read, including the link added by simplygib, seems to indicate tablets are mainly designed for browsing and not so much what I'd be intending to use it for. Of course with the usb and micro usb ports on some of the tablets you could add an external keyboard, but then wouldn't you end up being back up to the weight of a basic netbook? I'd gotten the impression that netbooks were not terribly common anymore because of tablet PCs becoming so much more common.
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Old 09-01-12, 01:49 PM   #8
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We're using a pair of HP Pavilion dm1 computers that are a cross between netbooks and laptops -- they measure 11" on the screen. They have a hard drive, expandable RAM, a nice keyboard, three USB's, a universal card reader and WiFi.

Machka is using a Nikon S3100 camera that is producing very good results and she is downloading, editing, cropping, adjusting and generally processing the pictures before uploading whenever we get internet access at campgrounds or hotels or pensions here in Europe.

We started out using a Vodaphone dongle in the UK. It wasn't quite useless, but it fell far short of our expectations for the price per byte in data transfer. When we got to mainland Europe, we found issues with getting hold of a similar arrangement in Germany, so we just went with getting free or purchased internet access at accommodation. I know that Europe is probably irrelevant for you, but even on our trip to Canada last year, most motels we stayed at had internet available. I suspect a lot of campgrounds might as well.

The ability to process pictures is, I think, important. When we looked at the HPs, we consulted an IT colleague of Machka's at work, and he said the tablets generally don't have the processing horsepower to do much more than download and upload.

The HPs also were on special when we bought. Undoubtedly, they have been superseded, simply because we like them and what they do.

Plus, when we were hunting around for something like them, the 10" netbooks seemed to be becoming scarcer and scarcer. That's a symptom of what Apple is doing to the marketplace, and we all seem to be powerless to do anything about it.
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Old 09-01-12, 01:52 PM   #9
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You can get blue tooth keyboards that don't require a usb. We have a roll up silicone keyboard from Brookstone that someone gave me. I wasn't sure if I would like it or not, but it is sort of growing on me. I have had a couple of netbooks in the past and prefer the tablet format or a full sized laptop. Currently my smallest laptop is a Dell D430 which is a 12" and weighs in right at 3#. We have two tablets in the house at the moment, a iPad3 which weighs 1.4# and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 which weighs about .75#. I guess it boils down to what will work and what weight penalty you are willing to accept.

FWIW I am using my laptop primarily for heavy word processing, spread sheets and creating power point presentations. I use the tablet for everything else.

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Old 09-01-12, 05:33 PM   #10
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I like the idea of a netbook and I don't think the weight would be that much of an issue. I can't see a tablet being terribly easy to use for actually entering text for a blog along with photos. Most of what I've read, including the link added by simplygib, seems to indicate tablets are mainly designed for browsing and not so much what I'd be intending to use it for. Of course with the usb and micro usb ports on some of the tablets you could add an external keyboard, but then wouldn't you end up being back up to the weight of a basic netbook? I'd gotten the impression that netbooks were not terribly common anymore because of tablet PCs becoming so much more common.
I like the Netbook for all the reasons you stated. I do a lot of typing and like a real keyboard, even if it is a little smaller than standard. I've blogged a tour just using my phone before, but don't really care for thumbing text and being limited to cell phone photos. Of course I'm paying a price (weight) by carrying the Netbook and a DSLR, but I don't care about that, UL touring is not my thing. As far as how scarce they're getting, I don't know, there's still lots of them being sold. Despite the increasing popularity of smaller devices, Netbooks will probably still be around for awhile.
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Old 09-01-12, 05:44 PM   #11
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We've used both Acer and Toshiba netbooks. Presently it is the Toshiba (3 USB ports an SD card reader built in), and we are really satisfied with it. It has traveled close to 5000 miles in my wife's rear pannier without a problem.

We originally got the Acer because of the solid state hard drive which was supposed to me more sturdy, However, we found it to be really slow, with limited capacity (16Gb).

In addition to the usual internet things, we do a lot of photo work and it is nice to have Photoshop,and some of the GPS mapping programs loaded into the computer. We also have the manuals for our cameras downloaded. We also back up our photos regularly. We had over 9000 pictures from a tour last summer, and most of them were backed up in route.
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Old 09-01-12, 06:15 PM   #12
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I know the OP requires a DSLR, but for those that are ok with a phone camera, the simple solution is a smartphone and a blogging ap. I find the iPhone and WordPress work really well, but I'm sure there are other combos.
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Old 09-01-12, 07:00 PM   #13
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Looks like a netbook will be the way to go. Now to decide which one.
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Old 09-01-12, 07:42 PM   #14
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Just to muddy the waters, there's also the possibility of using a notebook. The kind with paper, that you write in with a pen or pencil. You can scroll through the day's pictures on the camera, and write up notes around the pictures (if that's the way you write), then post everything when you get home.

Or, in my case, within N months of getting home...
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Old 09-01-12, 11:10 PM   #15
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One possibility is to use an internet cafe where a typical desktop computer with internet access would be available.
Public libraries. The (free!) alternative to internet cafes.
As a disclaimer, I have not yet tried blogging from library PCs so I'm not sure how feasible it is in practice, but I'm giving it a go on my upcoming tour. I'm sure some of them might have restrictions like you can't upload photos or you can't go to certain websites, but I'd be interested to hear from somebody who's actually tried it.
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Old 09-02-12, 12:13 AM   #16
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Just a quick comment about tablets. I have an Asus Eee Pad Transformer (TF101 16GB) which has a docking keyboard that adds both netbook functionality AND a second battery. But since discovering SwiftKey 3 Tablet, an alternative virtual keyboard, I find that I am not using the docking keyboard nearly as much.
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Old 09-02-12, 05:56 AM   #17
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Looks like a netbook will be the way to go. Now to decide which one.
Pay attention to the processor type and speed. That has been the single biggest complaint I have heard about netbooks. I have an older Dell Mini 10 that used the Atom Z520@1.33 it was slow. The newer HP Pavilion dm1 that Rowan mentioned seems to have a better processor in it.

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Old 09-02-12, 06:42 AM   #18
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This is actually sort of a tough one, either way you go there isn't much of a price difference, I'm like you personally, I like having a keyboard to type on (typing on a phone, or any touch screen, gets to be near impossible after a while.). The only truly ultralight netbook I've seen is the macbook air, but it doesn't seem to he anything special performance wise and the asking price is 1,000. There are those new Chrome books which use cloud technology to store data and whatnot but then you need an internet connection just to save your data (I think it comes with a 16gb SSD but you want to keep usage of the read write cycles on those to a minimum.). Really unless you can find some secret to tablets that makes blogging on them a lot easier. You may as well accept the extra weight and go with a standard netbook. Just make sure you do a lot if research before buying, the last thing you need is to have it just give up on you mid tour.
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Old 09-02-12, 08:16 PM   #19
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This is actually sort of a tough one, either way you go there isn't much of a price difference, I'm like you personally, I like having a keyboard to type on (typing on a phone, or any touch screen, gets to be near impossible after a while.). The only truly ultralight netbook I've seen is the macbook air, but it doesn't seem to he anything special performance wise and the asking price is 1,000. There are those new Chrome books which use cloud technology to store data and whatnot but then you need an internet connection just to save your data (I think it comes with a 16gb SSD but you want to keep usage of the read write cycles on those to a minimum.). Really unless you can find some secret to tablets that makes blogging on them a lot easier. You may as well accept the extra weight and go with a standard netbook. Just make sure you do a lot if research before buying, the last thing you need is to have it just give up on you mid tour.
Thanks for the food for thought. I have decided that I will be looking at netbooks. The weight penalty is not that big of a deal since I'm never likely to be an ultra-light tourer. It's kind of a bummer that Dell doesn't seem to do netbooks anymore, because it looks like they used to make a Latitude netbook, which would've been pretty darn tough I think.
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Old 09-03-12, 03:43 AM   #20
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One thing you do have to factor in with the weight is the cord and/or charger pack. That adds about half the weight of one of our computers, but then we only have the one charger and share it between computers. We also use the computers when on charge to keep the still and video cameras charged.

And I agree about it being a bummer that Dell don't do netbooks anymore. Having said that, though, the one I did buy (10") brought up the dreaded blue screen about three months before we were due to leave, and while I was able to recover the data through Machka's work colleague, I didn't feel confident enough that spending the dollars to replace the hard drive would work. Then I found out that these Dells were gaining a reputation for doing this.

And from my casual research, there is absolutely no way that I would cloud store any of my material.
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Old 09-03-12, 10:00 AM   #21
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I'm getting ready to ride the Pacific Coast and have decided to do what blogging I do using just my phone and a Bluetooth keyboard for it. The phone is an LG Rumor Touch, not considered to be a "smart phone" as far as I know, but it will read pictures off a microSD card and then upload them to the web. I'll be using a Pentax Optio WG-2 which takes SD cards but the microSD cards work fine with an adapter. My first thought was to take my Asus netbook but it scales at 3.7 pounds with the power brick and mouse and bag - that's too big a piece of my self imposed 25 pound limit. Since I was planning to take the phone and camera anyway the rollup keyboard is the only extra weight I'm taking - a few ounces I think - my luggage scale reads to 0.1 pounds and the keyboard's weight won't budge it off zero. And everything but the camera charges off a USB port so the camera charger and one USB power adapter and 2 USB cords will do all the charging I need. The camera charger and 2 extra batteries comes in at about .6 pounds. As someone said over at topicwise bicycle life - "if my smartypants phone can't do all the computing I need to do on a bike trip I need to seriously rethink my life" or words to that effect. As far as doing "real photography" I prefer to do that when I travel by RV or motorcycle - but even the motorcycle doesn't have room for my 4x5...
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Old 09-03-12, 11:58 PM   #22
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My iPad with AT&T service has been great. Lightweight, easy on, long battery life and you can get the card reader attachment for it and a Bluetooth keyboard as well. Although I've found that using the iPad in portrait mode with the split keyboard my typing is fairly fast and accurate. Supposedly an iPad mini at 7.85 inches is due out next month.
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Old 09-04-12, 11:29 AM   #23
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I love my netbook, and I agree with Rowan that the moment the Apple tablets came out, these things got real scarce. Why sell a netbook for 150-225, when people will spend 3 times more for a tablet.

Anyone tried a 7 inch mini netbook running android?

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Old 09-08-12, 06:54 PM   #24
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Another option is to leave the computer behind and find a public library. Almost all will have a computer with internet access that you can use to upload images from you CF to the interweb.
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Old 09-11-12, 09:15 AM   #25
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Depending on where you travel, libraries can be few and far between, many have a limited number of computers and the hours might not be convenient. If it works for you, that's great, but it does have serious limitations.
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