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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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  #1  
Old 28 Oct 2007
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PDA vs Laptop

My wife and I are planning the second leg of our RTW ride, this this time North and South America. We plan to take 10-12 months. I need a device as compact as possible to write dairy /book, connect to internet through wireless, download and store lonely planet(and other) PDF guides, download and save photos etc. My first choice would be a small (10-12") laptop, but if there is a smaller divice on the market that can do the same stuff, I would rather invest in that. I would prefer a screen size of about 6".

Any ideas?

JC
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Old 28 Oct 2007
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I'm currently using a Mio 550 PDA for some of the functions you mention. It runs sat nav on the bike (in a protective box) plays mp3's and movies and does wireless internet connection / e mail.
It will also do (simple) games and runs a cut down version of word via an on screen keyboard that you poke with a stylus.
The downsides are it most definately needs protection from the elements / vibration if you are using it handlebar mounted, a 7cm x 5.5cm screen makes web surfing a scrolling chore and the storage comes from (up to) 2GB sd cards so photo storage is not really a runner.

The 15" laptop I'm writing this on does all of what you want (except sat nav on the bike!) but is much larger and even more fragile. Not a problem in a car but I would have thought the odds were against it surviving 12 months on a bike (although no doubt someone will have done it.)
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  #3  
Old 28 Oct 2007
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Originally Posted by jc View Post
write dairy /book, connect to internet through wireless, download and store lonely planet(and other) PDF guides,
A PDA can do that .. not as nice as a large screen on the inernet. You can get a compact keyboard that will interface to a PDA and give you reasonable typing input. It has (well some of tehm at least) cut down versions of Word, Excel, Outlook ...

A PDA (well all the ones I've come across) do not have USB control capability .. so they will not take photos over a USB port and store them (on their flash card) .

If you need to burn a CD/DVD then you are going to have to get a laptop.
If you want to run Mapsource or another windows program (eg Oziexplorer full version to calibrate maps) then you need a laptop. Eitehr that or rely on internet cafes to do it.
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Old 16 Nov 2007
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you could take a look at the new "asus Eee" it's a laptop but has now moving parts, the only downside is the amount of storage on it, but it has a memory card's bay and plenty of usb-connections.
well it's all i need when i'm on the move.. and a 500GB usb-harddrive...
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Old 17 Nov 2007
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If you're doing south and central america, i really wouldn't bother lugging a laptop around with you. There are pleny of internet cafes in most places you go and you can get photo cd's burnt in pretty much any town.

If you go to North America however, its mostly 'wi-fi' that you'll find and having a laptop will be advantageous as they have very few internet cafes.

So if you're going south to north, wait till you get to north america till you buy a laptop/pda doodah.
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Old 17 Nov 2007
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Well I took a laptop and it's still waiting to be repaired, it got shook to death on my Little Dakar.

It was to be used for bike diagnostics and website updating, gut the GPS died and then so did the laptop still never mind. When they were both working correctly all was fine and great, even watched a few films with people on hte road.
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Old 15 Jan 2008
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Originally Posted by MikeS View Post
If you're doing south and central america, i really wouldn't bother lugging a laptop around with you. There are pleny of internet cafes in most places you go and you can get photo cd's burnt in pretty much any town.

If you go to North America however, its mostly 'wi-fi' that you'll find and having a laptop will be advantageous as they have very few internet cafes.

So if you're going south to north, wait till you get to north america till you buy a laptop/pda doodah.

North America has no need for the cafes. Just about every town has a library. And just about every library has free access to the internet via their computer.
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Old 16 Jan 2008
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North America has no need for the cafes. Just about every town has a library. And just about every library has free access to the internet via their computer.
The same could be said in Australia and Britian. Like any 'free' service it can be slow, have a waiting list and/or using faulty equipment. Some times it is good.. sometimes not.
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  #9  
Old 16 Jan 2008
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Laptop is best just now

I'm lugging a laptop from Texas to South America & at 2kg it's significant but it's cushioned in my clothes in the top box & so far all is well at 5,800 miles mostly on rough roads, & a little off road.

Sony have some very nice Vaios which are compact, light & fully functional - but heavyweight price.
PDAs use cut down versions of operating system & software so dont have all the features you may want.


Personally I think the laptop is easier to use, more functionality (ripped & watched some films en route), and so more likely to be used than summat that you might struggle to do anything reasonable on.

And when you find free wireless it's a bonus

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Old 16 Jan 2008
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I have 3 options, and I'd never bring the laptop because of 1) the bulk, 2) the drive would fail. The PDA/Handheld (iPaq 2210) has seen better days, but it has WiFi, pocket word, excel, etc, which is handy, and i can transfer the SD card from my camera to it (but can't view the photos cos there isn't enough memory). I also installed Linux on it (on an SD card), so that it doesn't lose the installed stuff when (not "if") the battery runs out (which is a pain on Windows Mobile). I also have a Nokia N800, which is cool, and it has Wifi, 2 SD slots, but it doesn't have Word/Excel. There may be some equivalent software on the website (all the software is open source, and based on standard Linux software repackaged for the smaller screen size), so the list of available apps is improving all the time. The N800 has no hardware keyboard, so its a) use the stylus, or b) get a bluetooth keyboard. The N810 (sister device to the N800) has a pull out hardware keyboard, plus a GPS chip built in, but has less storage space (1 SD card only, as opposed to 2 on the N800).

Good luck figuring out what you really want, out of allt he options available to you!
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Old 16 Jan 2008
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Yep, I used the libraries in North America but often found you got kicked off by someone who had booked the pc earlier. They were OK now and then and useful when there was nothing else around but wouldn't want to rely on the libraries for internet access. Also the opening hours aren't always suitable when you're travelling all day.

My vote is still with the internet cafes (though some we found in North America cost up to $12/hour!), mainly because of the extra weight of a laptop and because its just another valuable thing that you will worry about when you leave your tent and go exploring.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Colorado Ron View Post
North America has no need for the cafes. Just about every town has a library. And just about every library has free access to the internet via their computer.
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Old 17 Jan 2008
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You need an ASUS EEE pc.

7 inch screen, 920 gram, 400$.... need I say more?

I love it still, after a month on the road.


Gl choosing
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  #13  
Old 17 Jan 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peter-denmark View Post
You need an ASUS EEE pc.

7 inch screen, 920 gram, 400$.... need I say more?

I love it still, after a month on the road.


Gl choosing
Hi All, I have to agree with Peter, the Eeepc is brill had mine for two weeks and can't fault it, It does every thing it was designed to do, what more could you want from a mini laptop whilst on the move...work, travel or pleasure?TDMalcolm
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Old 26 Jan 2008
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Post

Thanks for all the replies and advice.

I looked at two lap top options, both from Sony Vaio, the new small 4.5" UX series and the 11.1" TZ series.
I think I'll go for the 11" Vaio, as it has everything in a compact (sort of) package with DVD burner, wireless, 11hr battery life etc etc.
The 4.5" is very cute, but the screen a bit small for a $2000 piece of equipment, it also lacks a DVD drive, so you will have to carry with it an external drive and at the end of the day the complete package is the same as the 11", in size and price.

I will be spending 4-5 months in USA, Canada and Mexico, and heard from various people that internet access without your own device is a hassle. I will also set up the Microsoft Outlook on my laptop to send and recieve e-mails in a matter of minutes rather than spending hours at a internet cafe. On the long run, I will save a little bit of money this way too.
It is not that I need it, it is that I would like to have it, especially to manage my photos and movie-clips. I also did budget for it, so I might as well go all the way. Hopefully it will last the entire journey and beyond. I have home made Ally paniers on the GS and will slide the slimm Vaio in the side pannier inside the Sony poach.

I will be buying it here in Dubai, where I am currently staying untill May this year.

Mike S, I enjoyed your trip report and photos, thanks for sharing them on the web.

I will keep you informed. I will also looking at getting a battery charger for it from my 12V socket on the GS, instead of the supplied 220V. I know USA uses 110V, what does the rest of North and South America use?

Johan

See our first leg (Africa) of our RTW default . . . . . . . Soon on the road again for leg nr 2!

Last edited by jc; 26 Jan 2008 at 07:24.
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  #15  
Old 27 Jan 2008
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I use PDA which was supplied by mobile phone network, o2. They market it as the o2 Xda IIi but I believe it's made by a company called HTC and available under other brand names. It does the usual stuff like Word, Excel, camera, wireless, etc and runs TomTom Navigator on it with a separate GPS receiver. It takes up to 2GB SD cards.

http://www.morpethmobiles.co.uk/prod...aiimflarge.gif

I used to have a o2 Mini S, also made by HTC which was a smaller version of the above but takes Mini SD cards. As well as the touchscreen, it had a slide out qwerty keyboard, ideal for what you want.

http://www.pdatoday.com/images/uploads/02xda.jpg

You'll need a way of charging either on the bike if you use it for GPS.
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