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Old 03-14-05, 11:00 AM   #1
David in PA
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Tech Question: Electronic Journals

Hello,

I'm leaving for my TransAm Tour in mid-May and want to keep a very detailed electronic journal. Hey, I might write a book about it. It's worth a shot. Anyway, I'd like to learn the best way of keeping the journal.

I definitely do not want to take a laptop, and am challenged technologically when it comes to the newer, tiny stuff like Palm Pilots, Blackberries, and such.

Here's what I'm looking for:

* Foldable keyboard. It may be small but not tiny, as I need touch-typing capability.
* Screen/device large enough for roughly 40-80 characters across.
* Operates on a rechargeable battery and electrical outlet.
* Decent amount of memory in which I can store a few hundred pages, or has the capability of downloading/saving the text to a PC/modem.
* Of course, has a text editor or word processor.
* Phone capability is not important.

Suggestions, recommendations, etc.? Thanks!

Wolfy
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Old 03-14-05, 11:15 AM   #2
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Humm I guess paper and pencil is too retro? At leat with a laptop you can back up to floppy so that if something goes wrong you stll have a copy.

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Old 03-14-05, 11:28 AM   #3
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You said you weren't looking for a laptop, but there are microlaptops that you might be interested in. One such beauty is the tiny Panasonic R3, which weighs only 2.2 pounds and gives up to 8.5 hours of battery life per charge (if you don't use heavy graphically intensive programs). There is no internal cd-drive, which further reduces size, battery life, and weight. As you can see in the picture in the website below, it's significantly smaller than a typical laptop. At least it would give you some typing space. EDIT: they are pricey though, but you can get one without the works that is still a wonderful machine for @$2000, maybe even less these days.

http://www.gizmodo.com/archives/pana...iew-018793.php

I will be getting one of these in June, along with a recharger and a 'floppy' solar panel (see below), which can be draped over the back of your bike to charge the batteries while you ride through the sun.

http://www.solarenergyalliance.com/f...ar_modules.htm
http://www.kooters.com/solar.html

Last edited by Alekhine; 03-14-05 at 11:44 AM.
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Old 03-14-05, 12:03 PM   #4
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Perhaps a PocketMail handheld unit will do. www.pocketmail.com
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Old 03-14-05, 12:08 PM   #5
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I know you said you'd prefer not to use Palm. What you describe though pretty well matches my Palm Tungsten E. With the use of inexpensive "Smart Cards" memory is nearly unlimited. You could get cards with maps, language translators and many others. Document swapping is easy and editing is a snap in several programs including Excel.
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Old 03-14-05, 01:14 PM   #6
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I know you said you'd prefer not to use Palm. What you describe though pretty well matches my Palm Tungsten E. With the use of inexpensive "Smart Cards" memory is nearly unlimited. You could get cards with maps, language translators and many others. Document swapping is easy and editing is a snap in several programs including Excel.
Thanks. Actually, I would definitely consider a Palm. When I wrote, "I am challenged technologically when it comes to the newer, tiny stuff like Palm Pilots, Blackberries, and such," I really meant that I don't know about them--not that I wouldn't try them. Sorry for the error.

What you describe about your Palm sounds really good. Is a larger plug-in keyboard available? Does the software come with it, like MS Word or Excel?

Thanks,
Wolfy
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Old 03-14-05, 01:40 PM   #7
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More on the Palm: I've had three and the rechargeble batteries failed on all three. I'm now looking for one that takes batteries.

I like the foldable key pad and the fact I can save maps, tourist web sites etc on the flash cards. My digital camera uses the same card so I can view pictures on a larger screen too.
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Old 03-14-05, 03:06 PM   #8
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A large folding keyboard is available. When I bought mine, a program called "Documents to Go" was on the CD. This allows PDF viewing, and MS Word, PowerPoint and Excel editing.
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Old 03-14-05, 07:08 PM   #9
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Create an account at www.blogger.com and then stop at public libraries every couple of days during your trip and enter your journal summaries in real time online. It's free, weighs nothing, and nearly every little podunk town (in the US) has a library or an internet cafe with computers. It also is a nice way to meet people you ordinarily wouldn't meet. Digital pics you can upload at internet cafes as well.

I never understood why tourers take laptops. Is it so they have something to type on 24-7 during a trip? The best journals don't contain all the little minutae --- rather they contain the essential moments and feelings and experiences, told in succinct and moving fashion. A journal is a series of short stories. For a good journal intended for public consumption, brevity is key, IMO.
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Old 03-14-05, 07:22 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sat_cycle
Create an account at www.blogger.com and then stop at public libraries every couple of days during your trip and enter your journal summaries in real time online. It's free, weighs nothing, and nearly every little podunk town (in the US) has a library or an internet cafe with computers. It also is a nice way to meet people you ordinarily wouldn't meet. Digital pics you can upload at internet cafes as well.
Yep. No need to lug around all that electronic gear. One BF member a couple of years ago used Bikeforums itself. He simply stopped in at cafes and libraries as suggested. You can read about his trip in this thread. Unfortunately, I think he hosted the pictures on a website that wasn't so permanent so they're lost from his posts.
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Old 03-14-05, 07:40 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by sat_cycle
Create an account at www.blogger.com and then stop at public libraries every couple of days during your trip and enter your journal summaries in real time online. It's free, weighs nothing, and nearly every little podunk town (in the US) has a library or an internet cafe with computers. It also is a nice way to meet people you ordinarily wouldn't meet. Digital pics you can upload at internet cafes as well.

I never understood why tourers take laptops. Is it so they have something to type on 24-7 during a trip? The best journals don't contain all the little minutae --- rather they contain the essential moments and feelings and experiences, told in succinct and moving fashion. A journal is a series of short stories. For a good journal intended for public consumption, brevity is key, IMO.
I agree with your description of an enjoyable journal to write and read, but unless you are a superior typist, the library method is not practical. I updated my crazyguy journal nearly daily using the Pocketmail device, which worked great, but if I had to rely on public libraries, I could never have kept-up. Most libraries limit you to 30 minutes and if you need to check email or other things, there is not enough time to keep a journal up-to-date.

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/journal/?handle=loa2004


There are several journals on the crazy guy site that describe in detail their electronic choices, check them out. Greg
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Old 03-14-05, 09:50 PM   #12
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I think a Walkman with record function and voice activated switch, would be useful because you can enter your thoughts and impressions as you are riding. Leave the typing till the tour is over. The Toshiba e830 has a bigger screen with better resolution than the Palm, and it can be used sideways when using the folding keyboard. However the Palm has an easier interface for moving documents to your desktop computer.
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Old 03-14-05, 11:31 PM   #13
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hey check out www.centralasiabikeride.com these guys kept the most up to date techno gadgetry on their trip from Turkey to Hong Kong including dynamo hubs that charged the whole lot.
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Old 03-15-05, 07:00 AM   #14
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agree with the 'anythng-but-a-laptop-or-electronic-device' idea. Murphy's Law rules with them. Something will happen and you will be out big money. Paper-pen-pencil and the library idea are best.
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Old 03-15-05, 09:06 AM   #15
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Use a microcassette recorder and leave the typing for after the trip. Uploading ongoing commentary is a burden that will dilute your enjoyment en route. Disconnect. Detach yourself as much as possible. Just hang the recorder by a neckstrap and speak--don't write--your real-time feelings. Don't wait for them to evaporate, buried by those that follow.

Ongoing writing is fun for the reader to follow, but I've found that going through the journals on crazyguy is just as pleasurable. Don't attach much importance to getting the news out quickly. You will write more and better once you're home, once the entirety of the experience has metabolized. The poet Miller Williams advises "Write, drunk; revise, sober." Make your "drunk writing" the words spoken into your recorder. Your voice--laughing, serious, choking back tears--will count for a thousand words at the utterance of each new awakening.

Lew
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Old 03-15-05, 09:17 AM   #16
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I kept a paper/pen journal every night in the tent - if I don't write that day, I won't do it - but the coolest trick I found was that my digital camera has a microphone, you can record 30 seconds of sound attached to each picture, or more in a non-attached file. So i would take a picture and talk about it.

It's a Pentax Optio S, last year's model - but I bet most cameras have this feature.

Cheers,
Anna
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Old 03-15-05, 10:41 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sat_cycle
I never understood why tourers take laptops. Is it so they have something to type on 24-7 during a trip? The best journals don't contain all the little minutae --- rather they contain the essential moments and feelings and experiences, told in succinct and moving fashion. A journal is a series of short stories. For a good journal intended for public consumption, brevity is key, IMO.
I'll try and answer this, but it's only me personally. First, I'm not some "purist for purist-sake" camper, who only brings what he needs just for the sake of being romantic, minimalist, or primitivist. If the John Burroughs approach works for you, go for it! I respect that ideal greatly. But for me...

I happen to like toys and gadgets and I love to play with them in environments that aren't stale, like living rooms and offices are (or, for that matter, public family parks). In any case, I'm all for taking any sort of diversionary item you feel like if it makes the trip more fun for you--this includes violins, cameras, books, chess sets, minilaptops, iPod, collapsible easel and oils, etcetera. I'm not sure if this explains the question very well though. I tried.

In my particular case, there are actually three utilitarian reasons for getting the setup I wrote about above:

1. I'm going to need a laptop, since I'm one of the lucky few who will be combining my everyday work with my passion of cyclotouring. That is, I'm going to be working via satellite connection and making my living remotely as part of my job, and my employers are thrilled about it, but not nearly as much as I am.

2. As an amateur naturalist, it will help me to work on my cataloguing and researching of the various geological features, fauna, and wildlife in any particular location I am in. That kind of access to the information available on the web will prove very useful to me in the field; plus, I can upload pictures and keep my photocard perpetually ready to shoot more. My digital camera has excellent video also, and I wouldn't have to be intimidated by filesize where I might never use it in the field.

3. I can type faster than I can think, and a daily journal is definitely necessary to me on the road. I'll still take my sketchpad to write in too, of course, but the editing ability of a computer is the best, and I don't get pencil cramp or runaway thoughts.

As for these things breaking, that's the breaks, and that's what warranties are for. And what good is a laptop if you're not going to be mobile with it? Ken Kifer said that in all his history of cyclotouring he only fell 7 times, and none of them damaged any of his laptops, which he packed smartly. I have so far been about as lucky, and I am a safe rider and a smart camper. I'll take my chances, like I always do.

EDIT: Also, I hear some talk of "lugging around" this stuff. Hehe, the laptop/solar system I linked to weighs about 3.5 pounds between both units, maybe 4 with any additional stuff. I think I can hack it, but it will be tough going, I tell ya.

Last edited by Alekhine; 03-15-05 at 05:58 PM.
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Old 03-15-05, 10:57 AM   #18
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The Psion/Teklogix Netbook Pro is a good one for typing stuff in on the move.
It weighs 1.1kg/2.5lbs and has a 2xAA battery backup as well as the rechargeable.
http://www.psionteklogix.com/public....com&p=Products
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Old 03-18-05, 06:35 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by meanderthal
The poet Miller Williams advises "Write, drunk; revise, sober." Make your "drunk writing" the words spoken into your recorder. Your voice--laughing, serious, choking back tears--will count for a thousand words at the utterance of each new awakening.

Lew
That's a great quote, and it rings true for me. Thanks your for your microcassette suggestion. I've considered it before, but you've put me over the edge so it will be my passenger. And I'm considering a Palm or similar device for when I really feel like writing. Thanks!
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Old 03-18-05, 06:41 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alekhine
I'll try and answer this, but it's only me personally. First, I'm not some "purist for purist-sake" camper, who only brings what he needs just for the sake of being romantic, minimalist, or primitivist. If the John Burroughs approach works for you, go for it! I respect that ideal greatly. But for me...

I happen to like toys and gadgets and I love to play with them in environments that aren't stale, like living rooms and offices are (or, for that matter, public family parks). In any case, I'm all for taking any sort of diversionary item you feel like if it makes the trip more fun for you--this includes violins, cameras, books, chess sets, minilaptops, iPod, collapsible easel and oils, etcetera. I'm not sure if this explains the question very well though. I tried.

In my particular case, there are actually three utilitarian reasons for getting the setup I wrote about above:

1. I'm going to need a laptop, since I'm one of the lucky few who will be combining my everyday work with my passion of cyclotouring. That is, I'm going to be working via satellite connection and making my living remotely as part of my job, and my employers are thrilled about it, but not nearly as much as I am.

2. As an amateur naturalist, it will help me to work on my cataloguing and researching of the various geological features, fauna, and wildlife in any particular location I am in. That kind of access to the information available on the web will prove very useful to me in the field; plus, I can upload pictures and keep my photocard perpetually ready to shoot more. My digital camera has excellent video also, and I wouldn't have to be intimidated by filesize where I might never use it in the field.

3. I can type faster than I can think, and a daily journal is definitely necessary to me on the road. I'll still take my sketchpad to write in too, of course, but the editing ability of a computer is the best, and I don't get pencil cramp or runaway thoughts.

As for these things breaking, that's the breaks, and that's what warranties are for. And what good is a laptop if you're not going to be mobile with it? Ken Kifer said that in all his history of cyclotouring he only fell 7 times, and none of them damaged any of his laptops, which he packed smartly. I have so far been about as lucky, and I am a safe rider and a smart camper. I'll take my chances, like I always do.

EDIT: Also, I hear some talk of "lugging around" this stuff. Hehe, the laptop/solar system I linked to weighs about 3.5 pounds between both units, maybe 4 with any additional stuff. I think I can hack it, but it will be tough going, I tell ya.
Thanks for your interesting response to my question. I too type faster than I think, so I need fast editing capabilities. As I said previously, I will also bring a microcassette recorder for use when I don't feel like writing/typing but want to keep my thoughts and ideas on track.
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Old 03-19-05, 11:23 PM   #21
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What about a PDA with Windows Pocket PC? Anyone have toured with one of those?
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Old 03-21-05, 05:41 PM   #22
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This is cool, cause this is an aswer to my questions as well. I was looking to tour with my laptop, for no other reason but being able to write on it and use a WIFI cafe, down load my pics form digital camera, include friends and family in on the trip and keep a running account for the folks I meet on the road that will be interested in seeing where I've been and how I am doing. Letters are great but they take a while to arrive.
I am in the romantic part of this idea as well, it is this idea of sitting in a cafe on a rainy day transcribing my scribble in a journal to the Net.
I have traveled with a Palm and the folding keyboard, and broke a Palm as well. It will still need a connection to download and save to a PC or phone. I never did get it to work over the phone line/cell.
It's cool to be able to haul your job with you. I suppose all of us tourers also dream of being another Cassidy or Kerouac, Maughaum, and starting on out journey in a new career. I'm thinking along those lines. When I read a post that says one of the books brought on tour was a book on touring, well, that sparks interest and hope. The reality is the Barnes and Nobles Travel section, while there isn't a lot of books on bicycle touring, maybe it isn't because they aren't being written it could be that there isn't a market for them.
I am still interested in writing and online journal or a blog, it will be part of the trip. they are also hosted here.
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Old 03-21-05, 07:10 PM   #23
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I have traveled with a Palm and the folding keyboard, and broke a Palm as well. It will still need a connection to download and save to a PC or phone. I never did get it to work over the phone line/cell.
When you and others say they broke a Palm, what broke? The screen? Some other part of it? They seem to be such a compact little package with a certain degree of toughness. In fact, the folding keyboard looked at 18 months ago seemed much more fragile an affair.

I am thinking Palm with keyboard for some touring I am planning to do soon. But I've also got to watch the money situation as well.
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Old 03-21-05, 07:17 PM   #24
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My screen broke. I was going downhill with an open pocket it slipped out and fractured the display. Since I have a case that should protect my replacement. I haven't tested it out yet.
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Old 03-22-05, 04:06 PM   #25
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I took my Palm (Handspring Visor actually) on my last tour and also commute daily with it. This is an old model now, but to be honest I wouldn't necessarily recommend a much newer model. The grayscale screen, normal batteries and cheapness are all features not drawbacks. It runs about a month on a set of AAA's which easily lasted my two week last year. With a set of high milliamp re-chargeable it would last even longer and would be re-chargeable by whatever (solar, modified dynohub, etc). The grayscale screen is fine for text and minimizes battery use. Finally it is so cheap that had I broken it, I could have easily replaced it. I used this to keep a log but still used pen and paper for a journal. I may have foregone the journal if I had a foldable keyboard. Additionally I kept a number of eBooks on it which were a nice supplement to the real books I brought.
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