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Communications Connecting - internet cafes, laptops, Palm devices, cell phones - how to connect, use, which one, and Bike to Bike and passenger intercoms.
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Old 10 Aug 2004
DaveSmith's Avatar
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Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Rustaq, Oman
Posts: 411
AA operated laptop (almost) Long geeky post

I'm not taking a laptop because my bike won't put out enough power (1962? Ducati 250cc).

I was pointed by another geek named Tom (riding Africa & Middle East on a bicycle) to a PDA that's basically a mini-laptop. It's got a keyboard that will let me download email, and has a web browser (Opera) so I can save RSS feeds. This way I can go to an internet cafe, download email and neat sites (like horizonsunlimited & news sites), and answer email when I'm not being charged by the hour. It uses a CF Type 1 card (same as my Canon A70 camera).

It's a pretty rugged PDA and I thought someone else might be interested. It's a Psion 5mx. They go on eBay for between $200-300 USD. From what I've found out, you want the 5mx, not the 5mx pro. Batteries last 30 hours or so. There's a heavy duty case for these, that I've seen on ebay (plastic, lots of foam & waterproof).

I'm getting mine that's been refurbished here: http://www.psionflexi.fsbusiness.co.uk/home.htm

Paul & his wife are motorcyclists and Paul's giving me a discount. If you buy one, please tell him you heard of it from me, Dave Smith.

Paul also sells parts to a guy in Australia who fixes them up too: http://www.jme.com.au/

If you're even more of a geek than I am, there's a linux version at:

There's also a newsgroup about them: comp.sys.psion.misc

Tom's site: http://www.popadd.com/tomthepom

Here's part of the message Tom sent me. Change slashdot to horizonsunlimited and we're good to go.

My advice, just take more digital film and a couple of USB adapters for them, and a win98 driver and Photoshop or whatever thumbnail software you use on a CD, backed up to a second CD. You will find cyber cafes in the most unlikely places, with usually one or two with USB. If you have a techie background that helps to get in with the guys that run the places, and I've always found them willing to help me load up drivers etc. when I explain my problem. If you don't find a cybercaf then even in the most underdeveloped areas you'll find NGO's, Peace Corps, embassies, foreign businesses etc. with computers. In western Africa it's been at most a few weeks between being able to upload text and a few pictures and perhaps a month or two between major cities with decent speed internet, CD burners and a DHL office. And that's on a pushbike. In your case look at your route, find the longest distance between capital cities, estimate how many pictures you'll take in that time and how many flash cards you'll need, triple that number and you'll be fine.

A couple of other bits of unasked for advice.
Stick to one kind of flash storage, and prefer CF to the others - they're cheaper per MB, you can get them in huge capacities, more robust, and (important for us Slashdotters) no DRM. My digital video, PDA and mp3 player all use CF and I haven't had a card fail on me yet.

Stick to electronics - PDA's, cameras, music, GPS, torches etc. that use AA batteries. Avoid anything with lithium batteries, proprietry battery types, or anything that has to be recharghed directly. Take a fistful of high capacity NiMH AA's and a good quality multi voltage charger. The 2200 maH batteries I use last longer than Duracells, and in an emergency you can find standard AA's anywhere on the planet. I also carry a solar charger for the AA's but have never really had the need for it - it takes days to charge a pair of batteries and I've never been away from civilization long enough to exhaust them all - I can last about 2 weeks before a recharge, and that's about as long as you'll want to be without a shower anyway. The only exception to this rule is the video (no choice, and Sony are a bitch with their funny power connectors), and the GPS which uses AAA's but that also fit in the charger.

Get a PDA with a good quality keyboard that takes flash storage and that can edit plain text files. The best is the old Psion 5mx, not made any more but you can still get hold of them if you look hard enough. In areas where internet access is slow and expensive (and that's a lot of the world) it's a godsend.

The procedure is as follows:

Go to cybercafe, plug in the CF with the adapter.

Cut and paste all incoming emails into a text file on the CF

(Optionally) save any interesting looking topics on Slashdot onto CF
Leave cybercafe.

Then, in idle moments; sitting in hostels, camping in the desert, waiting for trains etc, reply to your email into another text file, update your website journal, peruse Slashdot.

Next time you're in a cybercafe, just cut and past the email replies and update your website directly off the CF, and download any new emails, Slashdot discussions etc - no thinking time involved, and with a half decent connection can all be done in half an hour.

Once every six months I'll load Mozilla onto someone's PC and download all the emails I've sent and received in that time (my ISP lets me POP3 from anywhere) - this gets burned to CD with my pictures. This clears out the account (important if there are storage limits) and since Mozilla stores emails as plaintext you have a nice portable archive of all your trip emails.that you can peruse on your PDA.

- Saves a lot of money at cybercafes
- You can take your time and write some decent emails, rather 'Hi, I'm here, I'm fine'
- Your journal will be higher quality too. I don't know about you but I just can't use pen and paper to write down and organize my thoughts, and I type much faster than I write and I can't read my handriting anymore anyway.
- You don't have to struggle to write a personal email to a friend while worrying about the $6 an hour rate, on a slow connection that could cut off any second, on a strange foreign keyboard while some kid's playing some world war three game on full volume at the next terminal
- There's nothing quite like being able to write to someone that's stuck in cubicle hell, 'I'm right at this moment lying in a hammock wathching the sun go down on the Indian ocean, sipping a chilled pineapple juice just off the tree. So what are you doing?' If you're feeling cruel that is.
- When you're in some isolated part of the world a hundred miles from anywhere, reading and replying to emails, and reading slashdot (hey, once a geek..), helps keep you sane.
- As a bonus, most PDA's will have some kind of spreadsheet (for calculating mileages, budgets etc., contacts organizer (for all the new friends you'll make), games to while away the time etc. These are pretty much optional.
- As another minor bonus, if your PDA and camera use the same type flash you can use the PDA to organize your photos and perhaps view them (the Psion only has a monochrome screen; great for battery life, not so great for pictures)
- As a minus, some PDA's have programming capabilities - the Psion has it's own language and a Perl interpreter available, and I hear some idiots are even trying to port Linux to it. Avoid. Geekitude is something I'm trying to get away from. Hey, hold on a minute, You think it might be possible to come up with a perl scrip to thumbnail jpegs? Damn, damn damn. Like I said, once a geek....

[This message has been edited by chimpo13 (edited 10 August 2004).]
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Old 16 Oct 2004
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Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Scotland
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Well here's my tuppence worth. I'm a biker and a geek. Some 47 bikes and 35 years later and over 10 since I started on the net...well...my mate who has been RTWing for the last 4 1/2 years..we set him up with a Psion5 but the reality is that cafes have proved best for him.

For me, although I have a small Sony laptop I'd simply take my Smartphone with Win Mobile 2003 now. It has a 256min SD card if I need to take it out to plug it in to a machine. I can text edit a webpage and upload via FTP direct from the phone so that means wee videos and pics too via GSM or GPRS or pass thro to a USB cable to a PC. I also have a USB watch that cost 15 quid which has a CF card built in and has essential software on it.

My smartphone can take a small folding keyboard too for those days when predictive text is a pain.

For power I'd use one of these adapted


The keyboard is here


The phone here


A quick demo of what can be done with a tiny smartphone.

I used this guy's site to give you a demo of uploading a pic and text straight from a phone using email to FTP


Just an idea....All you need is a smart phone ....weighing 100g plus a charging solution from the bike. If not wanting to do via GSM or GPRS it can all wait till you get access to a PC for cheapness.

There are obviosuly variations to the theme using server side content management to make stuff look pretty on your own webserver. Personally I just want simple content i.e pics and text.

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