Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Topeak Bikamper

Thursday, July 14th, 2005

If you’re biking across the country or something, you may need to camp out. You could carry a full tent, but the Topeak Bikamper cuts down on weight and bulk by using your bike as a support. I love dual-use like this – making the most use out of what you have. Gizmodo is apparently wrong on the price though – they said $300, but the Topeak.com website indicates a suggested retail of $219. Still darn expensive, but a good idea.

Via Gizmodo.

LED light goes for a year on one battery

Friday, July 8th, 2005

The Pak-Lite is a LED light that simply clips on to the top of a 9V battery. They claim that in low power mode, it lasted for a year continuously on a lithium 9V battery. Pretty impressive. 9V batteries may be less convenient than the more standard AA size, but in addition to being able to give your tongue a good jolt, they are conveniently shaped to form a flashlight handle. They suggest using your old smoke detector batteries, which probably have some juice left in them.

Now I’m waiting for a good LED light for my home that charges via solar during the day, and gives off light like a candle at night. Nothing to plug in, no cables, no chargers…cool.

RVs & Walmart

Friday, July 8th, 2005

MSNBC talks about RVers using Walmart parking lots instead of RV parks in order to save a few bucks. (Well, they claim it isn’t a money issue, but come on – why else would you go without electricity and water to save $25?) The article mentions the film This is Nowhere, which might get added to my movie list. The question is, is RVing minimalist or not? On the one hand, these things are gas guzzling, road-hogging monsters. On the other, living in one certainly forces you to pare down belongings. Thoughts?

Internet phone (VOIP) service review

Friday, July 1st, 2005

Slate has a decent review of various VOIP services. They like AT&T CallVantage, but it sounds like you may want to wait a bit yet based on this opinion of VOIP as a whole:

Reliability also is not always up to land-line snuff. Sometimes there’s no dial tone, your outgoing calls don’t go through, or the other party can’t hear you. I also have a nagging suspicion that I am missing important calls, a fear stoked by scattered complaints like, “Your Internet phone sucks” and, “Why does your damned phone never pick up?”

Sounds like our cellphone now, so we’ll just stick with that.

Handhelds/PDAs replacing laptops? I think not.

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

Brighthand recently ran an editorial titled Handhelds vs. Laptops — How to Lighten Your Load in One Easy Lesson. Well, that’s an appealing premise – I’d love to lighten my load, but I still take my Thinkpad with me when I need something more than my cellphone. It isn’t because handhelds and PDAs aren’t amazingly capable. It is because I don’t want to spend the time and effort learning the foibles of another operating system, figure out how to get my data back and forth, and have another thingee to charge, maintain, etc. Blech. Laptops are getting very small and light. I think they are going to win for any real work situation.

And yes, I’ve tried the fold-up keyboards, pocket versions of Word and Excel, and the whole 9 yards, so no comments about how I just need to try it out.

IMAP is better email

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

IMAP lets you have the best parts of a corporate email server for your personal life. Jennifer Berger at MacWorld recently saw the light – you should take a look. As she says:

IMAP lets me keep all my e-mail on my company’s e-mail server, along with any custom folders, and my Sent items. I can now find my way though any e-mail thread, no matter which machine I’m using. The downside of this situation, of course, and one that might make a lot of people nervous, is that everything is stored on a server unless you move items to your computer.

Well, if you use a client like Thunderbird, you can cache all the email locally and back it up to CD, avoiding the problem of having email only on the server. Once you have it all set up, it really is simpler than trying to fake everything through POP3 access. I’ve even moved my mom over to IMAP through Fastmail.

The anti-minimalist zippo lighter case

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

The very un-minimalist Uncrate (“Uncrate is a web magazine for guys who love stuff. Our team finds the best gadgets, clothes, cars and more so you can blow your rent money easier.”) has a pointer to the Zippo Cargo Case, which allows you to stow your indispensible Zippo lighter in your checked luggage. Hmmm. Now that’s a pretty darn specific need to fill.

That said, Otterbox has pretty cool cases for protecting your gear.

Via Gizmodo.

Retractable cables rock, but I can’t find…

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2005

I hate cables and adapters both at home and while traveling. Problem number one is the huge number of incompatible chargers. This WaPo article says it best:

“If you switch [cell phone] brands, it won’t work,” Kammerer said of his many chargers. “I wish they were standardized. My briefcase gets heavy.”

Manufacturers argue that providing their own chargers ensures the quality of the service, said Jeff Joseph, a spokesman for the Consumer Electronics Association. Also, at $30 to $50 for a charger, “it’s an important revenue source.”

Yeah, whatever. I’d buy more electronics if I didn’t have to ditch all my accessories and adapters, and that would also be an important revenue source. -10 points for Jeff Joseph. I don’t know how to solve the charger problem yet. There are some products that try to be an all-in-one charging solution, but I’ve never found any that seem really good.

For other cable issues, retractable cables can at least help while you’re on the road. Zip-linq is the most famous, but now there are tons of knock-offs. This kit combines a whole bunch of retractable cables in one case, so you at least get a bulk discount, I guess. But it is still quite a bit of stuff to drag around. This kit is a much better solution. It has a single retractable cable, with adapters to turn it into a variety of different connectors. But it still is too many little parts to keep track of. I haven’t been able to find the best of all worlds. I like the Roadwired style of retractable cable. It is a solid hunk of rectangular plastic you can throw in your bag without worrying about anything snagging or breaking. I want one of these with slots to store a bunch of adapters to reconfigure the cable for phone, ethernet, USB, etc. That would be the best of all worlds. Anyone know of such a thing?

Amtrak goes beyond pretzels…for a cost

Friday, June 10th, 2005

The NYT describes the millions of dollars Amtrak loses on their food service:

Expenses for labor and food run about $83 million more than the food service brings in, according to the railroad’s inspector general. That sum, twice Amtrak’s food and beverage revenues, is without the cost of maintaining the dining cars on long-distance trains and the cafe cars used on short-haul routes like the Northeast Corridor; if those expenses are included, the losses come to about $130 million.

Woah. And that food ain’t so great. I like Amtrak, but it really is a mess, especially with huge airline subsidies making flights cheaper than many train runs. I think last time I took Amtrak, they had vending machines for sandwiches and things. Wouldn’t that be enormously cheaper? Like flying, I really want Amtrak to get me there safely and efficiently. That said, I love the observation car for watching the world slide by, but I’m happy to bring my own food along.

Tiny bags of pretzels gone missing

Thursday, June 9th, 2005

With airlines hemmoraging cash, even the pretzels are now going, saving them about $2 million. I’m looking forward to Greyhound getting into the airline business – they know a thing or two about cutting costs to the bone, especially in the cleaning and customer service departments. Seriously, I’m OK with this. It isn’t like the minimal calories from my 18 “braided pretzel sticks” is really going to assuage my hunger. And is it really worth bagging and distributing just 18 tiny little tidbits of pretzel? Please just fly me there safely – the cost cutting that gets the attention of the FAA safety folks is the cutting that makes me grip my armrests tighter.