Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Gadget bag for the travelling genealogist - the verdict

Prior to setting out for Rootstech and a seven week trip around the US I wrote about the contents of my gadget bag.

I took my laptop because it had the Powerpoint software installed that I could use to make any last minute changes to my Conference presentations. Although I have used the laptop almost daily during my trip I will leave it at home next time. It is just too heavy and bulky to carry around. My netbook  which copes with my TMG software admirably (or a new one) will accompany me on my next trip. If I am giving any presentations I will use an online tool such as the Google Docs presentation tool to prepare them.

The portable hard drive on which I have all my photos saved will continue to have a place in my gadget bag. Being able to download documents into my genealogy folders on this drive suits me. I love being able to download, edit and tag  my photos in Picasa on this drive each night.

As much as I love my Android tablet, if I had to make a choice between taking it or the netbook travelling the netbook would win. It was frustrating using a tablet that does not allow multitasking in the Family History Library. When sitting at the microfilm reader I had to constantly switch between the library catalogue, my task list and my genealogy database. This is much easier on a netbook that allows for multitasking.

As I did not have a 3G connection (like I have at home in Australia) to gave me a constant  connection to the internet one of the benefits of my tablet was negated. My driver, Mr Geniaus, missed the facility of asking me a question and getting an immediate answer. He will have to wait until this evening to find out just who 'Sam Houston' is and what is his claim to fame.

One benefit of travelling with the tablet is that it is easy to prepare blog posts for later posting while travelling along and typing with one finger (as I am now). I  am also able to record diary and calendar notes plus write emails on the road.

It'a a hard call but if I could only take one computing device on the road it would be my netbook. If I stick to a 7" tablet or get a new large Android phone I might be able to squeeze that in too.
I like having two cameras  but if forced to choose I would take my bulkier and newer 4/3 Panasonic G series. The quality of the images it takes of documents and original photos in varying conditions beats my good quality point and shoot.

I left my Flip-Pal mobile scanner at home and would do so again - my digital cameras were adequate for making copies of documents in libraries.

Our cheapie US prepaid mobile phone was a godsend. It is a tiny basic phone that enabled us to make cheap calls in the US and reasonably priced calls back to Australia. Being able to make local calls economically made our travels easier and reduced stress levels.

8 comments:

Sharon said...

Does your new camera record GPS coordinates?

Linda Ottery said...

Hi Jill,

As I am about to head off for 6 weeks in the US, your post is very timely for me. I have a netbook (USB and portable hard drive), an iPad, camera and my "smart" phone, plus a kindle - it all seems too much especially with the chargers and cords thrown in; with power board and adapter needed as well

I was thinking of getting a SIM for my 3G phone on a monthly plan (easy to cancel after 30 days - I hope), then hook that up to the netbook for Internet access.

I'd love to know which phone and carrier you used as last time I was in the US, the phone I bought turned out to be very expensive - paying for calls received as well as those made.

As for the camera, maybe I will leave that at home and use the iPad.... (great camera)

Too many choices and combinations to decide upon!

Judy Webster said...

Did you have a TravelSim card or one just for use in the USA? I've seen the TravelSim advertised on Qantas planes and at Australian post offices, and I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has used one.

Banai Lynn Feldstein said...

I agree that the laptop and netbook were probably overkill. I considered a netbook for traveling purposes to leave the laptop at home, but I ended up with three Androids instead. I don't think I do anything traveling where I would require the laptop, so I'm planning just to take the Androids. They can do a lot.

Was there no way to get an international or US plan for a month for your tablet? Or like others said, just to get a US SIM card? Another option is to get a mobile hotspot. Some are a little pricey new, but used or refurbished, or there might be rental options that I don't know about. (I read about such a thing for Europe.)

I bought such a hotspot and can activate it for a week or a month for a fixed rate and limited bandwidth (30 days for $30 for 2GB, as one example). That would at least give you connectivity when you need it. I got one for my trip to DC. You can connect five devices, so your netbook and Android, and if Mr. Geniaus used anything, would all work at the same time. Just be cautious of programs like SugarSync or even Dropbox, which could suck up all your bandwidth quickly. (SugarSync wiped me out fast; I had to delete it to make it stop. Dropbox obeyed when I told it to stop syncing.)

The cheap cell phone was a great idea. I actually have one like that, and I live in the US. My phone was only $20 or $30 new.

Linda, there are month-to-month plans that should be easy to cancel. Or you can use pay as you go, which costs more per minute, but if you think you won't use it much, it should be fine. I refill only a couple times a year at most, usually for less than the monthly fee would be. There are also USB sticks you can put on these plans for your netbook. Or go the way of a hotspot like I did.

Bev Jay said...

I'm in the US. Check out tractfone,the phone is $19.95 with 60 minutes of air time and renewable by phone or online. I have been pleased with the coverage. There is free shipping but I bought mine at the local Wal-Mart.

Bev Jay said...

I'm in the US. Check out tractfone,the phone is $19.95 with 60 minutes of air time and renewable by phone or online. I have been pleased with the coverage. There is free shipping but I bought mine at the local Wal-Mart.

Jill Ball said...

Lots of answers needed.
1. Sharon. My new camera doesn't do GPS but the one I got 6 months ago does. A great battery chewer and not 100% accurate.
2. Linda. Think a montlhy plan a good option. We used AT&T - prices were reasonable and only lost coverage once.
3. Judy. Just one for use in USA - the Travel SIMs appear expensive but I might try for our October trip.
4. Banai. Thanks for comments - I will investigate more fully before next trip.
5. My $2 Gophone from AT&T worked well for us. We put $100 credit on it, made lots of local calls and a few back to Australia - still had credit left after 7 weeks.

Linda Ottery said...

Thanks heaps Jill!

Most informative, and makes my decisions about keeping connected while in the US so much easier.

And thanks for taking the time to answer all our queries, when you must still be recovering from jet lag, while tying to organise your next trip to Adelaide - I wish I had your energy as well - I am already feeling tired, just planning our trip!

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