Travel notes: My Toys
I like gadgets; two of them have been quite useful on this trip. The first is the baby laptop I am writing this on, an Asus eee 900 by the name of Eeep. It weighs two pounds, measures about 9”x7”, runs Linux (one can also get it with Windows XP) and does pretty nearly everything one would expect of a computer. The one significant exception so far is running World of Warcraft; I gather people have gotten it to run on a Linux eee, but my attempts so far have been unsuccessful. Even if I succeeded I don't expect Eeep would run WoW very well, given the machine's constraints.
No doubt my MacBook, deliberately left at home, would do everything somewhat better. But it also weights more than twice as much and is considerably less convenient to carry around or use in the cramped space of an airline tray. Eeep has only 20 gigabytes of flash memory to substitute for a hard drive (how long has it been since “only 20 gigabytes” would have sounded like a joke?). But to supplement that I have an 8 gigabyte Secure Digital card and a tiny 120 gig USB hard drive, for anything I want with me that actually takes up enough space to be a problem. It's also true that the keyboard takes some getting used to—I find myself hitting caps lock instead of shift from time to time—but I expect that problem to get less serious with practice.
My other gadget is my current camera, a Panasonic Lumic DMC-TZ5. Like my previous, and even smaller, Lumix, it is a well designed and well constructed pocket camera.
I got it because it had more megapixels than its predecessor and, more important, a much longer zoom (10x) and a widescreen video mode. The zoom has indeed proved useful, but the camera's real talent is one I hadn't even considered. One of its settings is designed for taking notes—recording information on the camera's built-in memory. I use it to photograph a map of a city. When viewing the photo on the camera's screen I can zoom in and scroll around, making the map very nearly as useful as—in some ways perhaps even more useful than—the paper original. Since I am a tourist I always have my camera with me, which means I always have my map with me.
As long as I remember to keep the camera's battery charged.