Saturday, April 10, 2010

Travelling Stuff

To say I travel a lot, is an understatement! I am well over the implied romance of flying and I particularly zone out through the airport ordeal. With security now beefed up it is time to slim down the stuff inside my camera bag, which I always hand carry on flights. I haven’t got enough trust established to let anything breakable go into checked in baggage. I also always hand carry my laptop computer. None of this seems to come under special scrutiny from the Security X-ray team.
So what to I like to carry?  As little as possible. Extra memory cards, SD cards are getting cheaper and are the best way to give yourself extra capacity. Don’t be afraid to buy extra cards along the way (but they will be overpriced in those duty free shops). Next I have a simple USB memory card reader. I have an SD card reader built into my laptop, but not many cyber cafes do. I can also easily transfer stuff to clients computers via this card reader. This has saved my bacon many times. Next I have my phone and a cable to connect it to my computer, and still use it occasionally as a GPRS modem (this is painfully slow but works reliably). I also have a Next-G modem (not shown, because it lives with my laptop) with which I have a love/hate relationship (its broadband and fast but annoyingly flaky).
The gem in this collection is the USB key. It is loaded with camera friendly Portable Apps, an open source open platform that allows programs to be run from a USB key, without requiring anything in the registry or to be installed on the host computer. Here are a collection of utilities I like to travel with and have used a lot.
  • Autostitch (*), my favorite panorama stitching program.
  • Cornice Portable, is an image viewer has thumbnail previews, full screen modes, rotation, slideshow modes and EXIF support.
  • Exif Reader (*), is a small freeware utility that extracts image information from EXIF/JPG files.
  • JpegView Portable, is still an unsupported test version, is a small and fast on the fly viewer/editor.
  • GIMP Portable, is the popular open source image editor packaged. Has lots of features but comes with a longer learning curve. It has a massive fan base and good on-line Tutorials & Forums.
  • Mosaic Creator (*), this is a wonderful collection of photo mosaic tools. I use this for my photo impressions.
  • Noiseware (*), is a really good digital/heat noise remover.
  • Photormin, a really simple image editor for fast resizing, basic retouching, and cropping. Probably I will replace this with JpegView before long, but still like its speed.
  • Picturenaut (*), if you don't have version 3.0 download it now, this a very easy to use HDRi tool and does a beautiful job without lots of tweaking. 
  • XnViewPortable, to be honest I’d rather used picasa, but in a pinch this is a very competent photo simple editor/ photo  manager/ viewer/ converter that can even be used in a cyber cafes. There is a decent community of  XnView fans out there and the on-line forum is a great place to get assistance.
(*) These are not a specific Portable Apps versions just the freeware/ shareware /demo versions that runs perfectly from the USB key. To install them on the USB Key simple copy the installed software directory into the PortableApps directory on the USB key.

A new acquisition to the kit bagIMGP2825 is a Sony Walkman Series B USB MP3 player. It is the size of a normal USB key but it is primarily an MP3 audio player, but unlike my IPod nano it receives FM radio and it is a one button to press Voice recorder. My Olympus software bundled with my older CX4000 incorporated support for sound commentary on each photo and at the time I though what a waste of space. Now I’m changing my mind, I have found having an easy to use dictaphone that can hang around your neck is very useful when your hands are full of camera. Music & Podcasts sound pretty good on it as well. I also now have all my camera manuals stored on it.  Something indespensiable when you are out the back of nowhere. It is labbelled 2GB but I have found there is only about 1.7GB of usable space left for other things. Still that is plenty of space for all sorts of stuff not only music, and I prefer to keep it only half full incase I have a lot to say. One downside is that Photo Kiosks don’t seem to be able to read it. So I don’t recomend it as your only transfer key or for the PortableApps.
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