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The Story of Stuff – You MUST See This!

A really great overview video condensed into a quick presentation. You really MUST watch this video and pass it along. You can learn more and pass it around by going to The Story of Stuff website.



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!



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!



GPS systems for digital cameras

dawn technology di-gps mini unit

ok, so now that i’ve got this google maps integration going i’ve been researching options for attaching GPS units to my nikon d200. it’s already a bit of a pain to have to go out and get geo coding info every time i upload a new image to the gallery. it’s hard to even remember where the hell i took the picture most of the time, let alone the exact location. ok, ok, i know most of you are thinking, does it really matter? well, yes and no, depends on your specific qualities, or maybe hang-ups? anyway, after some short researching it seems there is no killer option available yet. the one i’m most attracted to at this point is pictured above and more info can be found at the dawn technology website. i like it because there is only one single short cable that plugs into the remote interface on the camera and then just a tiny little unit that can mount to the hot shoe or on the camera strap, nice and compact. the down side is they use a different connection out of the unit for connecting a remote, kind of a pain since i’m getting nikon’s remote already that has their connection type.

serial to bluetooth adapter

the other option i like is getting the standard nikon mc-35 GPS cable adapter and using a little serial to bluetooth adapter, shown above. the advantage to this seems to be that you can use many different GPS units on the market, and it’s wireless. you do have a bit more cables and things hanging around now though.

the trouble with most of these units seems to be that they have these “boot up” and “TTFF – Time To First Fix” issues. the first option i mentioned seems like it works pretty quickly once it boots, but you must then leave the camera on for it to aquire your postion quickly. the d200 already eats batteries pretty quickly, so leaving my camera on all the time kinda worries me. will i have to buy three or four more batteries now? ha ha.

gps bluetooth solution

the cost seems to fall somewhere around the $200-$500 mark. kinda getting pricey. i love how streamlined the first option is, one cable and small unit, but i only get to use it for my camera. i’d love to be able to get something compact and sleek that i could also use for car trips, travel, or marine. that’s where the bluetooth option seems to shine.

i still have some research to do it seems. if anyone out there has done this already please let me know! once i get a unit up and running i will finish off the software so that it will suck the latitude and longitude info out of the EXIF and then i won’t have to think about this anymore, which will be a delight!



new shoes & dinner

new shoes

ok, so getting a pair of shoes is a major deal for me these days. i mean, who really wants to spend like $100 on shoes anyway? i had this pair of black montrails for a long, long time… maybe like 4 years?? anyway, pretty good shoes but the back part where your heel goes wore out after like a year. “wore out” means it got a big hole… slowly it became a pot hole, then all the stuffing was hanging out, then it fell out, then i had these shoes that kinda hurt. ok, so i know most of you out there are thinking, “yo dude get a new pair of shoes”. but as i read more and more i can’t help feel bad about a few things… first off, paying $100 bucks seems harder and harder, not to mention that i’m expecting the thing to fall apart (by design i wonder???) in about a year. second is the way the shoes are made. i mean i’ve seen way too many videos now about factories in some far off country with little kids making like two cents per hour and people not being able to pee and other really messed up stuff… which makes the $100 price tag seem even more hard to swallow. i know business is about profit, but ummm… not sure if i can go along with those ethics any longer. third would be the materials they use to make these things. what’s it doing to me, is it going to last 1000 years and choke a sea lion when i’m done wearing it?

ugh… so many things to consider. i have a heavy conscience about this stuff, not to mention not being able to afford it. so now you know why i haven’t bought a pair in four years… but, i finally broke down, meaning nancy did a bunch of research and ordered some for me online… 🙂 i got a pair of trail running shoes because i like to run, hike, go through water, etc… seems like good all purpose outdoor sports shoes for me. this company makes it’s shoes in china, but here is what they have to say on their website:

inov-8 shoes website ethics page

at least they have a page like this. most companies don’t. it’s still hard to make buying decisions based on more than look and style. but if more people out there demand information on working conditions, recycling, etc., you bet things will change in a hurry. it’s up to you!

david in new shoes

so here is a picture of me sporting my new shoes. notice my perfect posture and savvy style… grrr… rare and wonderful, huh? so this is where the dinner part ties in. i’m also coming out of one of my favorite pacific grove restaurants, takara sushi. i rarely eat sushi there being that i’m a vegetarian who only occasionally eat fish. but they make the best udon in town i think, and for some reason they’re about the only place in town that makes it! monterey is a tough place to find good asian style noodles. but takara makes a vege style udon meal that is pretty darn good.

takara sushi

threw this picture in because all the little eating places in pacific grove are like cottages. you kinda feel like you are trapped in this lala doll land or something. sometimes it seems too perfect, i’m always waiting for somebody to start pointing at me and screeching like invasion of the body snatchers or something. hahaha.