Saturday, January 24, 2009

Road Warrior

I've been meaning to post the various gadgets that The Stumbling Engineer takes with him on travel as a Road Warrior.

From left to right, let me introduce each item and briefly discuss the merits and demerits of each.

First you will see my USA cell phone. It is a Samsung Katalyst slider phone, used with T-Mobile service. This phone is a little bit special because besides being a usual GSM cell phone, it also can operate over a Wi-Fi internet connection, using a new service called UMA that T-Mobile introduced last year. In theory, when everything is working correctly, when I am in Seoul I can use this phone over a Wi-Fi connection just as if I were in the USA, with no extra overseas charges. In practice, the service is still new and having growing pains, and is not 100% reliable. But when it works, it is amazing.

Next is my Korean cell phone. It is also a Samsung model, a flip phone. It has a few interesting features not found on normal USA cell phones. First of all, it is a TV receiver for the satellite DMB broadcasts so common in Korea. I can watch TV from my cell phone. One other very helpful feature is the built-in dictionary, Korean to English and English to Korean. Many Korean phones have this feature. On the downside, I think this phone has caught some type of virus - I can't download photos from it anymore. I've been too lazy to take it to the service center to be fixed. It also has a few cracks, and the external display is damaged.

I should point out that the cell phones in Korea are largely incompatible with those in the USA. It is possible with a few phones these days to roam in the other country. However, it is not quite possible to have just one phone, and pop in a SIM card depending on which country/account you are using. But I think this will be available within a year or two.

Next in the photo you will see my digital camera. This model, a Canon SD-550 was recommended a few years ago by our freelancer graphic designer. I've been pleased with it. It is simple to use, and the 7.1 megapixels seems to be good for the kinds of pictures I take. Usually I need it for documenting work-related things, such as photos of circuit boards, electronics assemblies, etc. Or else taking photos of things I see in and around Seoul.

The next item is my iRiver MP3 player. I've had this about 4 years now. It ws originally a 20MB model, but about a year ago I ran out of disk space. So, I did a little surgery on it and replaced the disk drive with a 75GB one! It holds my entire music collection, both Korean and Western music (and a few podcasts - I like to listen to Car Talk). It can also store photos and music videos, but they have to be converted. It has a radio and built-in voice recorder as well. It can also be used as a simple external USB disk drive. And it has great sound!

Finally you can see my PDA. This is an HP iPaq hx4705. It is a full featured general purpose PDA, although I have not been very happy with it over the few years I've had it. It frequently just dies completely, and I have to re-install all the software all over again. In fact, I just did this last week before this trip. And as I type this post, I tried to turn it on, and it was dead again! Sometimes, I can guess what happens - I noticed on the airplane that the memory card had accidentally popped out of the socket, which causes the unit to turn on, which in turn runs down the batteries. When it works, it synchronizes with my PC and stores all my contact information. I have a Korean <-> English dictionary for it, and also subway map software for Seoul (you can calculate the best route and time of travel). I can also watch Slingbox TV on it! If I could just keep it alive, it would be a pretty good device.

Will there ever be one device that can handle all these functions? In my lifetime?


Mama Stumbler said...

There already are!

My tREO from ATT is able, with no SIM card change, to talk from the US to Korea, from Korea, from Korea to Korea, and from US to US. On device can now do it all.

The Treo also acts as an MP3 player. The size is dependent on the size of the SD card you put in it. For instance I usually keep about 10 audio books on mine at any one time, along with music.One device, three functions.

And it's a camera. Not as good a camera as a stand alone camera, but as good or better than any other cell phone.

And it's a PDA. For instance you can take your Word documents around with you and work on them. The dictionary you have on your Korean cell phone is great, but there is a Korean dictionary available for the TREO.

Have I covered everything? And I just got an iPHone. I haven't tried each of these function on it, but it's supposed to do everything that the TREO will do.

Unfortunately neither of these will use the wi-fi to connect. That's the only draw back.

Chris said...

Regarding the cell phones, Mama Stumbler, your AT&T solution is not quite suitable. While an AT&T phone can roam in Korea, and indeed my Korean phone can roam in the USA, it would be crazy expensive to use either phone extensively that way. We are getting close (with the 3G phones) to a situation where I can have one 3G phone and have two SIM cards, one for my Korean service provider, and another for my USA service provider. I'm guessing 6 months to a year before it's available.

As for Treo or iPhone being my MP3 player, I do need a large capacity drive, say 40GB+, which would be impossible I think with an SD card.

One device - getting close for me, already there for other folks.

Anonymous said...

One device that could "do it all" would not have made such a great geeky travel photo, however.

Stumbling Wife