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2007 April

22

Apr

BGAN: Broadband Global Area Network


inmarsat I4 satellite
the inmarsat I4 satellite sits in a geosynchronous orbit (meaning they stay in one place relative to the earth). each satellite can provide coverage for roughly 1/3 of the earth. the high altitude of the orbit, roughly 22,200 miles, causes high latency, around 1 second.
yesertday my dad sent me information on another possibility for mobile wireless: BGAN. It’s basically satellite access to both phone and data at the same time. You can get transfer rates up to around 500Kbps so it’s pretty feasible for most uses i’d require. the beauty is that you can use it worldwide (except the north and south pole, but i won’t be going there anytime soon, at least not yet ;-)). the downsides seem to be latency, up to 1 second or more, and most of all, price. One online retailer, SDS (Satellite Discount Store) offers a basic plus plan for $65/mo which includes 10MB/Month of data bandwidth. If you don’t use the full amount each month it can be rolled and piled up for a maximum of a year (no more than 120MB/yr). Not too bad, BUT (a big but!) is that each megabyte over will cost you $6.50. That can add up VERY quickly. Voice only calls are around $.85/minute, not too bad. They also have streaming video options for video conferencing, etc. with guaranteed bandwidth from around 128Kbps to 256Kbps, that will cost you around $10-18/minute! that better be an important conference call. i see why they mainly target military, oil and gas and other high profile corporate manager types for this service.
BGAN rental terminal
a rental package shown with a Hughes terminal and mac ibook along with some sort of phone system.
the same company also offers rentals of this setup as well, starting at around $99 (plus bandwidth time!). i can see this becoming a real option for things like everest base camp trips, something like that. the basic setup consists of a terminal that is about the size of a laptop which is basically a compact satellite dish of sorts. the nice thing about this system is that it doesn’t require exact positioning to make a connection, however your bandwidth will probably increase dramatically the better your alignment. the other component of the package is software that does the magic. it must aquire the satellite and make the connections, etc. and according to their online information, that’s about all you need to do and you’re in!

the more you spend on the terminal the more bells and whistles you get of course. You can get faster “guaranteed” bandwidth, up to 256Kbps for video conferencing type streaming needs. Built in RJ-11 phone jacks enabling direct phone connection as well as bluetooth phone headset options so you can go wireless for phone (or data for that matter). most seem to support standard network connections enabling you to connect a router or switch, etc. i thought this would be a nice option to even use for home use if the price were a little cheaper. the only limitation would be if one of us travel seperately the other is without a connection.

inmarsat I4 launch
the launch of the last inmarsat I4 satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
inmarsat is supposed to be launching the third satellite for this system sometime this year, it may already be up there but i’m not sure. the third satellite will cover the remaining 1/3 of the earth not covered by the other two satellites already in orbit. i’ve heard no talk of coverage for the poles, but we’ll see.

in conclusion, i think this seems like the best option yet, but pricing will still be the barrier. this brings me back to the emerging technology problems i spoke of before. besides price, it’s pretty unclear how well the technology actually works. i’m sure it works for field reporters to upload the latest video piece to the main office in a pinch from the middle of nowhere, but i’m looking for practical day-to-day robustness. if i don’t find any better options, i will probably use this one on a rental basis for remote trips in places like nepal and bhutan. however, unless prices drop considerably, or a company like this wants to sponser my reviews of their products (offers welcome!), i don’t think i’ll be using this as a practical all around solution anytime soon. it’s looking more and more like i’m going to have to get a land based hard wired broadband solution once we get to korea, or if i’m lucky they will have some kind of korea based EVDO solution. but i fear that whatever i get there will only work there so i’d have to reinvest in hardware if i went somewhere else. finding information in english about korean broadband is a tough task, i think i may have to wait until we arrive. i just hope they have a solution at all, especially if we live on an island!

18

Apr

technical solutions for travel


i’m researching technology options for travel. it’s proving to be a difficult task, mostly because i’m picky. i’m trying to figure out the most streamlined, robust and versatile combination of devices. areas of interest include:

1) photography / video / audio – best methods to transport gear and best methods for safe and secure storage of data.
2) laptop – want to have mobile broadband connection if possible, GPS capable with mobile realtime mapping cababilities. safe and secure data backup solutions.
3) cell phone / PDA / blackberry type device

that covers the basics i guess. it’s complicated figuring this out, there is such a broad range of uses, it can quickly lead to multiple pelican cases loaded with gear… which is what i’m trying to avoid here. i’m really trying to distill down the amount of gadgets and maximize their usage, which means bleeding edge i guess. which causes problems because the technology is usually still emerging and not very stable.

i’m very happy with the mac platform and so my decision is made there. i’ll be travelling with a macbook pro and shipping over my two g5 macs and 23″ monitors. i’m set using the D200 camera and the lenses that i already have. i would like to get another battery and some studio strobes. i’m looking at getting alien bees once we get to korea. i’d like to pick up an 8GB compact flash card at some point as well.

as for video, i’m going to take the VX-2000 but at some point i’d like to upgrade to HD. i shot the HDR-FX1 and the Z1U some and i really love the quality, but even though lighter, it’s still bigger than the VX-2000. i’d like to find something smaller, but for now, the VX will work just fine, especially since i have all the accessories, etc.

in the audio category i’m going to take the 4GB ipod which i’m very happy with except for the stock headphones, which suck. i’ve been living with the built in speakers on the macbookpro while travelling. they suck!!! once we get there i will have to either ship over the surround sound system i have here or just spring for a new one. it will be essential, being the movie and music junkie that i am.

fortuna clip on gps
this looks like a great compact GPS solution that will work with a variety of devices, but i still have more research to do!
so the things listed above are pretty much dealt with, besides small details. what i’m having trouble with are the remaining items, GPS systems, mapping/naigation, broadband & cell phones (called hand-a-pones once we reach korea ;-)). after more researching i’m leaning towards getting a bluetooth GPS device, that way it can be traded between laptop use, camera use, and maybe a hand phone or something else. the array of options seems to be endless, and nebulous. i found this review to be somewhat valuable and i like this device so far fortuna clip-on gps. if you read my previous entry on camera gps systems you know i’m interested in geocoding my photos using my nikon d200. if i get the nikon mc-35 cable and a serial-to-bluetooth adapter (mc-35 modified to provide power), then i could use this device for my camera. i could use it with my laptop for navigating when travelling since the laptop has built-in bluetooth. the big question here is what software to use??? i haven’t really researched it yet. so far most of what i find is geared for the US or european market. well, i’m not going to be there much, so i have to find something good for the places i’m going. my fear is that there isn’t anything, we’ll see.
apple’s iphone
the iphone is great, but it won’t work in korea, at least not yet. 🙁
now this leads me to another issue, hand-a-pones. the array is dizzying. if possible, i’d like to get something that will also work with the bluetooth gps as well. but that leads us back to mapping software on mobile phones. another area for research. most cell phones seem designed for specific things… it’s a map phone… or an mp3 phone… or a this or a that… i want it all baby… the iphone is the closest i’ve seen to what i’m looking for, but it’s not going to work in korea, at least not until sometime next year. which brings me to the crux of the cell phone issues. i’m just now learning about the competing technologies b/c i haven’t had a cell phone in many years. it’s all very confusing and annoying. and the problem only gets worse when you start talking about international issues.

researching the cell phone brought me to other possibilities regarding the last issue, broadband. i found information on EVDO (Evolution-Data Optomised). it’s basically getting broadband-like speed internet connections using cellular technology. that means i could surf the internet on a train, in a car, anywhere i can get cell phone coverage basically. that would be a very good thing.

merlin xv620 EVDO card
picuted above is novatel’s merlin xv620 EVDO card that will fit the macbook pro’s card slot.
i got excited, for a bit. then i started doing some Q&A with cell phone companies. even their representatives, though nice and responsive, seemed confused. i was trying to get sprint or verizon, the two compaines offering the service in the US, to talk to me about an international plan that might cover me in korea and here as well. what i really want is a global plan, so no matter where i’m at, i’d have a connection. that’s the goal. but it seems nobody can offer that at the moment. so i’m still researching.

if anyone out there has any insight on the cell phone or broad band issues, please let me know!

17

Apr

fishing at lake lanier

fishing on lake lanier

today inbo and i went fishing at lake lanier on his friend david’s boat. the weather was very nice but i did get a little burnt. i haven’t been fishing in a LONG time and it was a fun day. the wind would pick up from time to time but it was refreshing for me after so much time in front of a computer.

inbo on lake lanier

we got completely skunked, except for one fish that david got on his line but later lost because it swam under the boat and got off the hook. i didn’t really mind, i was content just casting and watching the bobber. after no luck in the main area of the lake, we headed up a smaller creek. the wind was cut from tree coverage and it was getting warm in the afternoon sun… nice.

16

Apr

night

in bed writing this

time, the night and moody music get your mind wandering. i’ve been listening to blond redhead almost obsessively lately. i’m not really sure why either. it’s not that they are the greatest thing since sliced bread or anything, but they came at the right time. things happen that way usually, you’re given what you need, even if you don’t know it. i came upon them by chance, or so it seems. i was looking around at giant robot and found a review on them. i got some of their music and it just hit me, it was just how i was feeling at the moment. they sound a bit like other bands i used to listen to: my bloody valentine, cocteau twins, the cure. but they have their own little moody thing going on.

things are good right now for me. moving has been a great experience, and just what i needed. but just like i mentioned in a previous post, everything has an opposite, balancing force. and there is a part of my mind and heart that has been partly set adrift in this move. it’s the acknowledgement of time and life, the reality that everything is always in flux, changing, beautiful and dying, in an instant. when you are in one place, in a routine of work and a “regular” life, things move by quickly, like a long blur. there is a comfort in that, safety. but when you break out of that circular path, so many strange new things flood into your mind, things you couldn’t see before, because you were content to ignore them for the warm comforts of repetition. but it can come on fast and hard as well, a rushing rapid, and take you by surprise. it’s not that i’m so surprised by the possibilities anymore, it’s something different now, a deeper vibration. it’s a realization that we are all part of the same thing, and a knowing that we can really do anything we want. but in that also comes a quiet sadness, my eyes take in all the silent thoughts from others. i can see so many things in eyes, things i’d rather forget. of course it’s not all bad, but i feel like i meet far to many people in desperate pain. these days i meditate, not sitting in a yoga pose and humming, but just quietly as i move through my day, sending out the most grounded and loving vibrations that i can create in my mind. now i know many of you out there are thinking, ok he’s going to talk about crystals next. nope, quantum physics. the observer can change reality. so what is everyone manifesting for themselves? please think about what you really want tonight. let go of all your fears, your problems, and just for a moment float in your mind and think about what you really love.

16

Apr

atlanta workspace

atlanta workspace

i started this blog off by documenting my workspace in monterey california. i thought it would be fun to document each workspace as i start to move around from place to place. we have one more week in atlanta, so i figured i’d snap a shot before it’s too late. packing and preparations begin today. i love the belly dancing video caught in the picture above. nancy has been learning belly dance using these videos almost daily. i’m not complaining. 🙂

“working” in atlanta

i arranged another tea ceremony for tomorrow night. jiyeon will be going along as well. hopefully i can get some better video this time. i’m a bit worried about shooting at night though with only indoor lighting. i’ll just have to do my best. yeonji leaves on wednesday for NY for a week and then will be off to korea the week after. i’m hoping we can meet up with her after we arrive in the fall. i’d love to see her sisters fancy tea house in Gyeongju.

15

Apr

korea: here we come!

jeju do, south korea

it’s been decided for a while now, but for those of you who don’t know, nancy and i will be moving to korea in the fall for at least a year! we are very excited about our future travels and adventure. here’s the plan: we will visit family up north in both philadelphia and pittsburgh starting at the end of this month. then we will head south to my brother’s house in annapolis maryland. we will stay there and commute to the heart of washington dc for a one month intensive english teaching school. we will both get TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certifications. we’ll be finished in mid july. after that we’ll be heading out to korea in late summer or early fall for at least one year.

jeju-do diving

i’ve been researching different locations in korea for a few weeks. criteria include excellent diving, small city/town living (but not too rural), good places to photograph, and easy travel to other parts of asia. after talking to a lot of jiyeon’s friends and reading a lot of web info, it seems that jeju-do is on top of the list, at least for now anyway. the picture up above marks jeju with a green marker. it’s the farthest point south in korea and the largest island in the country. taiwan and china lie to the south and west and japan is a stone throw to the east. the picture above and the others below are images i scraped off the web quickly. it’s looks beautiful and i’ve spotted many teaching jobs there already. but there is much research left to be done!

jeju temple
view of east jeju

after our time in korea we are planning on travelling asia a bit. we’re going to start out in bhutan and make our way over to nepal. we’re planning on doing everest base camp. that’s why i’ve been running and trying to get in shape. it’s going to kick my ass. 🙂

15

Apr

old norcross

old norcross downtown street

yesterday we took a little field trip and went out to a coffee shop for a bit. we found a place that had organic, fair trade coffee online. the shop was in old norcross and a quick 5-10min drive from inbo’s house. i snapped the above picture of one of the streets in old norcross. it’s a quaint little town that has some historic charm left. surrounded by miles of suburban homes in all directions, the town and the surrounding homes seem to have kept a bit of a country charm.

freight train in old norcross

the old railway station was converted into a restaurant. the railway is still there and now speeding trains loaded with cargo containers zoom by frequently. i’ve been hearing the low deep sound of train whistles at night when going to sleep. i really love it. it’s so comforting somehow, the long drone of the whistle deepened and mysterious with distance and time. somehow it feels dreamy and luscious, along with the muted click-clack of wheels on rails. the repetition and the fading sound of the whistle bring about a notion of travel in my mind and i slip away to sleep dreaming of adventure.

seeing the trains about 50 feet away is a different experience altogether. there is a violence in the speed at which these massive objects are propelled forward toward their destinations. the whistle is now an ominous warning, the click-clack of the wheels more like a continual pounding and the shrills from the train connections sound like arthritic shrieks. it’s interesting how proximity can change your impressions of things so drastically. it makes me think deeper, and about the balance of all things. most things have a dual nature, and i think that’s what makes them more interesting. day to day i find myself trying to raise my awareness, to be able to see the connections and relationships of things on a higher level. to let go of my judgements and preconceptions and see the greater dance. it’s not always easy though, and the feeling of expanded awareness swells and shrinks, by the minute it seems!

13

Apr

atlanta dogwood festival

dogwood tree in bloom - spring is here!

today we went to the dogwood festival at piedmont park in downtown atlanta. it’s atlanta’s large central-style park and the walkways were lined with art booths for the festival. the weather was beautiful, sunny with a cool breeze in the shade. it did get a bit hot for me at midday though, i guess i’m still used to the coastal weather. i found an abstract painter that i really liked and invited her via email to show on the inflow site, we’ll see what happens.

view of downtown atlanta from piedmont park

atlanta is a very clean city and the buildings seem very new and modern. it has a nice feel but i must say i’m not very fond of cities anymore. too many cars, too many people, just too much of everything. i consider myself lucky when the trees outnumber people these days. when i’m in a nature type setting i notice that my heart rate drops considerably and i start to think good thoughts again. 🙂 i love cities for denizen diversity and cultural interests like art galleries and such, but i find i need these types of stimulation less these days. i’d rather be doing my own thing, making art or taking pictures, preferably outside somewhere.

nancy and kyle on the slide

we all went to a little playground while at the festival. i really loved the style of the slides and swings, etc. they were really stylish with a modern art feel and bold colors. the first time nancy went down the slide with kyle she went so fast she landed on her knees and had to struggle to not fall all the way over and squash him like a pancake.

12

Apr

cute pomeranian

mako aka: grandfather

inbo’s friend had to go to vegas for a week, so we all became dog sitters. the cute little pomeranian named mako is 12 years old, so about 80 for us humans. we all called him “grandfather” in korean, 할아버지. since his owner is korean, my english commands had little affect on him, he would just sit and tilt his head to the side attentively with his ears perked up, as if to say “what you talkin’ about willis?”. all i got down pat was how to say “pee” in korean, 오줌, and that usually did the trick, except one time he just started peeing right after i said the word, not so good for the carpet. so i usually refrained until he was outside or near the door.

mako aka: 할아버지

he just had a hair cut, so his fur was really short. most pomeranians look like little puff balls, he looked a bit strange, sorta like and overweight dwarf fox. he was on an agressive diet to help him with the weight problem, but he was still pudgy and bow-legged. my other nicknames for him were “sausage link” or “bratwurst boy”. at any rate, i loved my week with the little fat fox and just adore him. i had to snap some pics and post so i wouldn’t forget his kind face.

11

Apr

running fool

ok, i’ve been running again. not everyday, but usually every other day. i’ve been using this nice treadmill at inbo’s house. it let’s you combine different elevations and speeds. i started out doing around 2.5 miles combined with steep elevations. recently i’ve gotten up to around 4-5 miles with elevation. my last jog was 6 miles with no elevation. it’s been feeling really good. usually the first mile or two hurt and i start to wonder if i should continue but then i fall into a groove and it seems like very little effort to complete another few miles. i love that. 🙂 i’m trying to build up and get in really good shape. we’re planning on doing everest base camp within this year or the next. when i think about that kind of elevation, and a pack on my back to boot, it makes me feel like a real looser complaining about running a couple of miles! hahaha. so i’ll just have to suck it up.