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Photo Forum Everything on Travel Photography, from what kind of equipment to how to light a subject, moderated by Stuart (Reggie) Martindale, a pro English photographer
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Old 10 Nov 2002
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Location: Melbourne, Australia
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Laptops, camera and other techno gear

Hello - a few questions about technology.

I'd be interested to know what you all use to record photos and text while on the road.

What do you think about the following set-up based on your own experiences? I plan on a long-range overland trip, which will of course include a fair time in the Saharan region. I want to maintain and update my website as I travel since I may be on the road for up to 2 years.

I have a laptop, digital camera, SLR camera, various attachments to download pics from digital camera to laptop etc.

I plan to have sufficient power source (most likely to include solar panels) to run the gear when on the road, such as when I recharge the camera batteries, use the laptop etc. The plan is to work on my web pages while on the road then upload them all to the web when I reach a net cafe, which I expect will only be in capital cities.

Does anyone out there have experience with portable hard drives for storing digital pics?

How do net cafes react when you plug your own laptop into their system, rather than using their hardware?

Any advice or experiences is most welcome.

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Old 10 Nov 2002
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Have a chat with Martin at www.africa-overland.net as he creates websites for people travelling through africa as a hobbie and so will know what most people end up doing.

From what I can tell some cafes will let you plug in your laptop, but most won't. It's something you can't count on etc

Find out what a weblog is as this is an easy way of sending an email that automatically adds itself to a page on your website. Very useful when the connection is bad etc.

I wouldn't worry about the external hard drives too much (Something like the www.miglia.com MediaBank is good though if you need them). They are fragile things and prone to crashing taking your photos with them.
Best to try and get a cd writer, or even better a dvd writer (quite cheap now) preferabbly via firewire, but USB is fine also. Then just burn two copies or each set of photos. Send one home for safe keeping, and then keep one yourself etc

Thats my two cents worth! :-)
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Old 10 Nov 2002
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oh, and get something good to protect this all with. Otter boxes or pelican cases.
eg: www.ruggedpeak.com or www.pelican.com etc
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Old 11 Nov 2002
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Do I get this a bit right?

I wonna take Ibook, camera and something to play music with me to Russia in fall next year.

For the Ibook and the music (discman or maybe Ipod by then) I get myself one of those pelicanboxes (wich one would be the right one?).
Question: would it be possible to place a powerplug connection to the box so that the ibook can be charged while I am riding and the box is closed? And / or charge the double A batteries and so on...?
And also to be able to listen to music with the player in the back.

For the camera I get a piece of foam and do a home-job on the tankbag for the camera.
Is any kind of foam ok or are there specs to take into considirations?

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Old 11 Nov 2002
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Yes, I went and checked out CD burners and they seem to be the solution for me. The cost is good and the point about sending the pics home on disc and keeping on to hand is exactly the solution I wanted.

Pricewise..I can get one for about $350 AU so just over 100 quid. Is this reasonable? Is there a similar set up for saving to mini disc????

On another questions.....how sensitive are memory cards when out in the rough? I envisage filling a few up over a few days, maybe while out walking around in the deserts etc, then downloading/burning once every week or so. They'd be kept in the camera case that I carry around on me. Are there any cautions here, re possibly losing pics when stored on the card? I know CDs can warp if not stored properly but we will have a fridge. Is that a good place to keep spare cds when in the desert?

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Old 11 Nov 2002
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Never traveled with a notebook but I used to repair them and would expect following problems:
- A harddisk is a very sensitve mechanical part not designed to survive constant vibrations
- The whole notebook is a assembly of different parts sometimes only puted together w/o screws, again not designed for constant vibrations
- Electrical equipment is always very vibration sensitive
- They again are not designed for rough conditions (temperature, humidity, dirt, etc)

You will not be able to secure sensitive parts in a notebook as it is sometimes done with eg GPS's (done by fixing vibration sensitive parts with silicone), that would change thermal conditions which are shortly calculated and the notbeook would overheat when running. Apart from that you loose factory warranty by opening the case.

Maybe you should think about a organizer or a sub-notebook. They are a lot smaller and lightweight therefore less vibration sensitive (but they still are).

Nevertheless I'm thinking of a solution to take one with me on the next trip for the same reasons as you and to be able to do some work if needed on the road. Some of my ideas:
- Build a special case, waterproof and devibrated, fixed in the panniers or any other "droping the bike" save place
- Always remove the harddisk when riding and keep it at a vibration absorbing place, eg in a towel
- Take a spare HD with you
- Always remove all removable parts (especialy the battery) to reduce overall weight of the unit when riding
- Take a CDRW or DVD writer (and use it regularly!)
- Take a system-Ghost with you (thats a copy of the full system on a CD/DVD) to restore the system in case of a harddisk failure
- Build a custom battery charger to be able to charge it when riding, saves bikes battery. Ensure bikes electrical system stands the extra power consumtion (10-30W)
- Choose a make with a world wide support network. Eg HP has support partners in nearly any country. But be prepared to wait long time to fix your problem.

Another idea is to buy a satelite phone. The Iridium phones are about the same size as GSM phones are and you are able to connect to the net. You pay aprox US$ 1.30/Min for voice calls and US$ 1.50 for data calls. By 2003 there will be a new system (can't remeber its name), the plan was to build phones about the same price/size as GSM phones and the calls less than 1 US$ per minute. But I don't know the state of it, maybe a net research would help.

Mel D: Memory cards shouldn't be a problem as long you keep them dry and clean. There are no mechanical parts in them, only a few SMD chips with nearly no weight so they are not (very) vibration sensitve. For the CD's in the fridge: I would say it will be better to store them in a dry case, always hidden from the sun. Think the humidity in the fridge is more of a problem than the temperature as long not exceeding 35 to 45 degrees. Keep'em away from the exhaust pipe ;-)

Hope that helps. Travel light!
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