Thursday, February 24, 2011

A few Tech tips (kindle, portable power,etc)

As many of you know that travel a lot you sacrifice a lot to save weight and make compromises based on what you can do with intermittent access to power and other infrastructure we commonly take for granted at home. We also are not accustomed to thinking about what works globally verses at home.


Lets begin with something we don't think much about and take for granted. Clean water!!! even if you see the local people drinking the water this does not mean that your body will handle it well. It is hard to do a lot of witnessing and kingdom work while sitting on the toilet. If you do not filter or boil your water you will either be doing just that (living glued to a toilet) or spending a lot of money on bottled water. I highly recommend the filter on the left it is made by MSR you can get it on amazon or a lot of camping stores. also Katadyn makes some very good ones for larger groups. Make sure it will filter bacteria and spores. Most cheap filters like the ones you have at home are only to remove chlorine taste and light sediment. This is an area I recommend you spend a few dollars on. boiling is not always an easy option and dysentery is no joke get the best filter you can afford and you may even be able to be a blessing to others with the clean water you can provide.

We have a few concerns here. first is that not every place has the same size wall plug or voltage. many laptops and cell phone chargers have small transformers that can handle American and European voltage and frequency.
    In the USA we have 105-135 volts AC at 60 hz in Europe most places are around 220 volts at 50hz. Before you head out check the transformer on your laptop or cellphone charger for what it can handle. Transformers will be stamped into the plastic or on a little sticker glued on it. If possible when buying devices check the transformers 1st to make sure they can handle 100-230 volts and 50-60 hz.
    The next problem is the physical size of the plug. there are a multitude of plugs out there, but most of Europe is one type of plug. the UK is another, and then there is American. you could get adapters for each country, or get a multi adapter like the one in the picture. these are cheap and can be found on amazon for under $4.
USB Port and plug

I do not recommend toting around gadgets that require 120v or 220v only as voltage converters tend to get heavy especially anything that requires much power like hair driers, coffee pots, etc. the best bet is to go as light as possible and try to keep everything running on either rechargeable batteries either internal (like a kindle) or replaceable (like in a digital camera) and charge them from USB. you can also charge your AA batteries from USB with a little charger that doubles as a USB port. I have This one  and recommended it highly as it puts out good voltage to charge even the most hungry Iphone or android. Lastly if you can not get the device you need to run or charge on 5v USB there is always 12v with a car charger and a small wall voltage to 12v adapter make sure you get one that handles both 110 and 220 voltage and you can use it in any country. the combination of a car celphone charger, and a wall voltage to 12v adapter is close to the size of a single wall wart style charger but gives you more options, and if you have multiple things to charge you only need one wall to 12v adapter and can use it with all you chargers so if you have more than 2 devices you need to carry the net result is lighter and smaller.With a USB charge cord for your phone, kindle and a 12v car lighter to USB adapter and your laptop you should have all the power you need. the laptop can get a plug adapter when your near regular power and be used to charge everything else off it's USB plugs, and when your not you can use the 12v plug on either a car (most all cars and trucks are 12v dc everywhere in the world) or off a small flexible solar panel .

    It is hard to read your Bible without a light and often even when there is a light in a room it is not in a convenient place. Also with just a little light, a white board, and a tarp to keep the rain off your students it is possible to do a lot of teaching. I  recommended having a few different sources of light around for reading and such that run on battery or USB. the little flexible gooseneck lights that run of the USB port of your computer when plugged into the battery powered USB port/charger make a good desk lamp and reading light that requires no country specific power, pack very small and are cheap. Another thing to consider is area lighting for your workstation, and this also can be handled to some extent via USB power via cheap LED christmas lights.
Phone ;
      The next thing to consider is communications and that usually means you need a phone. I now use a Nokia e72 with a nice shockproof otterbox case. In the US most places Verison has the best signal, but unfortunatly verison phones are next to useless for international travel. what you need it a UNLOCKED quad band GSM phone. there are 2 main frequencies for USA and 2 for europe and most of the rest of the world a quad band will get you signal almost anywhere.
Verizon uses CDMA type of phones and most everyone else uses GSM, and lastly you need it unlocked so you can put in the SIM card of any provider world wide and not need special permission or have to go through a lot of aggravation with your service provider. Many androids can do all this (but not the verison one) as well as other phones.    
The next feature that is a big plus is if the phone can be tethered to your laptop. this means that you can either connect the phone to your laptop via bluetooth or USB cable and use it as a modem to get on the net when there is no other WIFI. This is usually not cheap as you are charged by the megabyte, but if you need to get a plane ticket, or check your bank account before charging something to your card it a good to have. there are several standards for this such as GPRS,EDGE, 3g, etc mostly this is a matter of how fast, but as this should not be your primary method of getting Internet, speed it not your largest concern. Compatibility to your computer operating system (windows, Mac, Linux, etc) is.

The next feature would be WIFI. if your phone can do 802.11 b, g, or n  WIFI and runs a popular phone operating system (Symbian, android,Iphone, etc)  you can use it to surf the web directly with some limitations, and to run Skype. Skype is almost a must for international calling, and I use it a lot on my computer to make calls. If your phone can run it and has wifi then you can keep the laptop in it's bag and save some battery life. Also if the phone runs Skype it is a lot easier and convenient to use. the only limitation is it is easier to do conference calling on the PC version of Skype than the cellphone version.

 Printed books, magazines, and tech manuals.
    The next thing I highly recommended is a kindle. My laptop is advertised as having a 6 hour battery, but in reality gets an honest 4. A kindle get 2-4 weeks of use on a single charge. can do a little light web surfing as well as check e-mail, but most of all is like reading off of paper and as you will not be packing a printer around you will find this indispensable in a hurry. Most of the things you would normally rely on your laptop for you can start to off load onto the kindle.
A good example of this is a service called Instapaper you start a free account and place the little shortcut button on the favorites on your web browser on your laptop and when you come to a page you want to read later you click the button. at the end of the day it will come to the kindle with all the other pages you saved as one e-book you can read at your leisure off the nicer screen on a device that fits in a coat pocket and runs 2-4 weeks on a charge. When you get the kindle you will get a e-mail address so you can send things to your kindle it will be something like if you have the 3g version and you are not on wifi at the time you will incur charges for the data transfered. it is not very expensive but you can avoid charges all together by setting up your Instapaper account and sending all documents to this will hold all documents until you come in range of free wifi and keep you from running up a charge on your 3g.
   The next trick is PDF documents. In short the way the kindle displays PDFs is less than stellar (same goes for the Nook, and the Sony reader) to overcome this amazon has provided a conversion service. simply send the file to your kindle e-mail account with convert in the subject and 1st line and then attach the PDF. it will come to you in e-book form and your device can even read it out loud to you if you wish. Lastly if you follow rss enabled blogs those can go to your kindle as well for offline reading via Kindle feeder.
Often you will have intermittent internet and have to use WIFI hotspots at cafes and places where it is loud and hard to work. I suggest either getting a free Gmail account, or paying to upgrade your Yahoo or Hotmail account so that you can use IMAP. with IMAP you can setup your phone and your laptop to download all your email to your computer so you can read it and respond to it when you do not have internet. This means you can take your phone or laptop to a place with internet, download all your mail quickly, then later when you are somewhere you can take the time and have a nice place to work read and reply to all your mails. When you next go to the WIFI hotspot you can quickly send all the e-mails waiting in the outbox of your mail program and get any new mail waiting. This is an option you will grow to love as many of the Internet cafes have loud irritating techno music playing with kids playing video games making it hard to concentrate. much easier to go there for less than 5 minutes at a time to toss email back and forth to your laptop and leave, or use the time in public for witnessing.
While we all have our favorite print version. I recommended getting the bible on every gadget you can. A bible on kindle is a great tool as it is easy to read off from, and if you get a good case for it you will also have a book light. the kindle can give you large print with better readability than a printed bible of any reasonable size, and it is a lot lighter to carry and fits in a coat pocket. HOWEVER navigation or finding verses in a hurry is not the best. I like it when I am just reading the bible a book at a time rather than preparing a sermon or trying to witness. For preaching, witnessing or sermon prep there are a few other options I like better than the kindle. My 1st choice is e-sword or bible time on a laptop both have multiple bible translations in multiple languages with concordances, greek and hebrew lexicons, commentaries, study guides, maps, and other supplemental works like foxe's book of marters and Luther's 95 thesis and many others. All keyed to the verses you are viewing and easy to navigate or search.
   However if your in motion like at a pulpit without power, out on the street, or waiting for a plane/bus/train etc it is easier to use your phone. I have used the Jolon Go Bible a lot. it comes in many languages, is easy to navigate, and like e-sword and bible time it is free. In addition to having it installed on your phone it is good to keep a copy of the installer stored on your phone as well. Tracts are cheap, but sending someone a bible via bluetooth is free. if you send one person a bible and they in turn send it to a few of their friends and so on you could make a massive impact for Christ in a very short period of time for almost no money in an area open to the gospel but lacking the materials.
   Last but not least a paper bible is handy. when all the other tech is out of batteries or your trying to communicate to people over 40. Often older folks are put off by to much tech and rather than press your culture upon them it is easier to pull out a GIANT PRINT king jimmy and avoid friction over generational or cultural differences. However I would note that most of the time you are limited as to how much stuff you have in carry-on or you can jam in your pockets for a trip out and about town. considering your gonna need things like passport, visas, cell phone, maps, and perhaps a phrase book. smaller is better and the kindle and the phone can hold the bible, the phrase book, and the maps. leaving your hands empty and you looking less like a tourist and a potential victim.
You will find that many of the places you go will not have clothing driers. It seems clothes driers are only very popular in the USA. most other places I have been in east and western Europe as well as western and central Asia they don't use them. They hang everything to dry. This is not a big deal if your stationary but if your trying to be mobile you will find yourself doing a lot of ironing, or traveling with wet clothes. consider your clothing choices carefully before you head out. In cold places it is better to have a lot of thin layers both because of the trapped air between them, but also because they dry faster over the radiator in your room, hanging on the bathroom shower rod, or near the camp fire. You may find yourself with no real laundry facilities and have to hand wash in a sink. consider how heavy that pair of jeans or sweat shirt will be when wet and how long it will take to dry before you toss in in your luggage and head out. Often fashion has more than one cost.
     You must also consider where you are going and the local culture. Many cultures find our way of dressing offensive so before you go to the mid-east wearing a tube top and mini skirt, or wearing a T shirt emblazoned with a picture of Mohamed being kicked in the but by a cartoon Uncle Sam consider the possible blow back.
   People will forgive your lack of polish attempting to speak their language much faster than mistakes in local etiquette. Often small mistakes can get you killed. A good example of this is in many places in the middle east you sit on the floor to eat. If the bottoms of your feet are pointed to someone else at the table it is considered an insult. If you plan to go visit and witness to Islamic extremist groups, or other folks that may lack a sense of humor these are the kind of things it is good to know in advance.....

Go Ye .......
    When God tells you to go, do not let lack of preparation or resources stop or slow you. God will always provide for any mission he sends you on. Remember if it's God's will its God's bill and he always pays his. Do as much as you can to prepare without dragging your feet. Equip and train yourself as best you can without using any lack as an excuse to delay or prevent going. I have given a few tips that may help you in your travels, but know that even if we do everything wrong and opposite of common sense and logic if God tells you to do something don't let logic or man's reasoning prevent you. Walking around a walled city and playing some trumpets and shouting does not seem like a sound military strategy but it worked and they did not even have a decent electronic sound system or overhead projector.
As it says in the book of  1 Corinthians....

1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
1:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
1:28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
1:29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

May God bless you in your mission where ever that may take you.
Yours in Christ,
Donald C Phinney II