Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tip: Stay Plugged In While Traveling

Here's the first question: what gear should you bring? Furthermore, how do you keep it powered up and safe from harm and/or theft?

For full details on what you need to make sure all your gadgets have plenty (and the right kind) of electricity, check out our Stay Plugged In While Traveling guide. Once you have your power adapters in order, it's worth asking which devices you should bring and which ones you can get by without.

The laptop is tempting, and in many cases a must-have, especially if your destination is a conference or meet-up. But if you're just traveling for pleasure, a good internet cafe is all you need. Going "topless" also spares you the added weight and hassle of lugging a computer around.

If you do have to bring your beloved portable, PACK A CABLE LOCK. This gives quite a piece of mind if you want to leave your hotel room for a dinner without having to worry that your hardware is gonna be missing when you get back.

The availability of internet cafes abroad varies, but generally speaking, they are not hard to come by unless you get well off the beaten tourist path. Do some searching and see what those who have already been to where you are going have found.

Tip: Mac users take note, you will almost always find Windows PCs in internet cafes.

Tip: A number of internet cafes have started banning USB sticks, which ruins your ability to Carry Your Desktop Anywhere with Portable Apps. The practice isn't widespread enough to preclude carrying a USB stick, but you may encounter a few spots where your thumb drive is frowned upon. On the plus side, more and more have Firefox installed.

Tip: Bring a USB stick that is cheap, waterproof and encrypted. Remember that no self-respecting geek would ever get stuck behind a restrictive firewall so be sure to set up your home computer to allow encrypted proxying.

If you do bring a laptop, consider using public Wi-fi networks. Wififreespot maintains a directory of free Wi-fi networks around the world. Partners in Free Wi-Fi also has some good listings.

If you venture off the beaten path at all, don't expect wireless networks to be waiting -- There's no nerd Nirvana in central Laos just yet.
Digital Cameras

Naturally, you want to document the fact that you've made it abroad and let you friends and family back home keep up with what you're doing.

A digital camera is a must. So are spare memory cards and spare batteries, particularly if your camera uses an expensive and hard-to-find lithium variety.

Tip: Pick up some CD-Rs for backing up your images. If you don't have a laptop with you, make your backups at an internet cafe. Not only do CD backups let you clear out your memory card, they also aren't affected by x-rays at the airport. X-ray machines around the world are often much stronger than those in U.S. terminals. Memory card don't get scrambled often, but it does happen, and optical media has definite advantage.

Tip: If you don't have one already, get a Flickr account. You can easily upload your photos from most internet cafes or your own laptop via Wi-fi.

Tip: Spare yourself the bother of carrying around a card reader and make sure to bring the USB cable for the camera. This lets you get rid of an additional piece of equipment and still lets you dump the pics off the camera when you make those back-ups to optical media or dumps to the laptop.

Generally speaking, most modern tri-band GSM phones will work just about anywhere in the world. In fact, you may find data service to be light years ahead of what you're used to in the States (The same goes for internet speed, particularly in Asia).

However, your home service provider will likely charge pretty outrageous rates while you're abroad. A much cheaper way to go about it is unlock your phone and buy local SIM cards in your destination country. The availability of SIM cards varies greatly by country, but disposable SIM cards are the norm outside the U.S. SIM cards are often available at kiosks in the airport.

And even calling home may be cheaper on a local SIM card than paying the roaming rates your home carrier will charge. For more info on how to use and navigate the cell phone networks of the world, have a look at this informative guide.

In the same vein of carrying the USB cable to transfer your pics off the digi-cam, chances are your phone will use the same cable to charge. Now you can just plug everything into your laptop to charge instead of carrying spare power inverters and such.

Tip: If you store your contacts and other data on your SIM card's memory, you'll lose that information when you pop in the new SIM. Read through your phone's manual before you leave and figure out how to store your contact data on the phone memory, rather than the SIM card.

Obviously, iPhone users are out of luck here -- the iPhone is tied down to AT&T, and you can't just pop in another SIM card without some hacking. If you don't want to hack on your phone you have two choices: buy a different phone for travel, or pay AT&T's roaming rates while you're abroad. If neither of those appeal to you, you can still bring your iPhone and leave it in airplane mode. Features like the calculator for currency converter and other useful apps will still work.

The latest iPhone software updates will let you turn data roaming on and off so you can rely entirely on Wi-FI transfers. Look under Settings > General > Network > Data Roaming.

You can also disable the setting which automatically checks for new e-mail, the source of many a phone-bill-induced headache. Go to Settings > Mail >Auto-Check and select "manual."

AT&T has more information for wandering iPhone users at its site.

If AT&T's prices don't bother you, Apple has a list of travel-specific web apps to use. Also, expect to see a number of native travel apps once the iPhone 2.0 update arrives. from:howto.wired.com

No comments: