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Carryon computing

January 16, 2017 — BarryK
I have an ongoing project to explore options to "travel light", be it by air, road or foot.

Various walking treks have been documented, with experiments carrying light-weight gear, such as these in 2016:
Trek #3:
Trek #4:

This year, 2017, I will be airborne, traveling within Australia and internationally.

The requirement this time is to carry enough computing gear to be able to continue with my Quirky Linux project, apart from normal Internet access.
I will be staying at places that do not have a room safe, so will need to think about security of my gear while away from my room. At times, I might even be in shared rooms.

I own an Asus E200HA baby laptop, and have Quirky Linux installed on it, sharing the internal 32GB solid state drive with Windows 10. Getting Quirky to work reasonably well on this computer has been a saga -- do a search for "E200HA" on my blog.

A Pacsafe Travelsafe 5L security bag is just right, takes my laptop, with room for a few more things, such as camera. I got together everything that I thought I would need, then split them into four categories: laptop+security bag, computer bag, power bag, and miscellaneous bag.
This is what it all looks like:

The all-up weight is 3.3kg. Hmmm, if I want that to be in my carryon bag, which has a limit of 7kg, that leaves 3.7kg including weight of bag.

Looking inside each bag. By the way, those bags are from Kathmandu, Packngo "SX" size. This is what is in the computer bag:
Wi-fi router, USB mouse, bluetooth mouse, bluetooth keyboard, bluetooth speaker, Raspberry Pi3. The striped bag has SD-cards and USB Flash sticks. What got missed out of that photo, but is included, is a 1TB USB3 hard drive. This lot weighs 909gm:

All three bluetooth devices are USB-rechargeable.

Ok, throwing in a photo of the 1TB USB drive. This will work with the laptop and the Pi3, though in the latter case a very beefy power supply is required. Here is the drive:

Powering all of the devices is a problem. Partly because I will be traveling internationally, so will need to plug into various power sockets. Here is a photo of what I put together, weighing 699gm:

There are three different power adaptors in that photo. At the bottom is the charger for my phone, though strictly not required, as the one above has multiple outputs, 1A and 2.1A and international adaptors. On the left is the adaptor for the laptop.

Also included in the bag is a small immersion rod, for boiling up water for cups of tea or coffee, or just to sterilise water when it is a bit dodgy.
There is also a double-adaptor and a couple of extra socket adaptors.

The miscellaneous bag has my camera, torch, and ear-piece. Both the camera and torch are USB-reachargeable. Weight is 280gm:

Not all items listed above are essential, but I do want some leaway to experiment with the gear while traveling. Now thinking beyond, to definitely non-essential, but maybe good-to-have items. My luxury extras bag is 783gm:

It contains a 5V 6A power supply for the Pi3, so as to be able to run the 1TB drive off the Pi3. Also, a USB optical drive, for creating live-CD Quirkies.

For the carryon bag, that extra "luxuries" bag is not going to make it. If I do have some check-in luggage, then yes, it can come.

Anyway, lots of fun getting this gear together!

Tags: light

2016 hike number 4

October 12, 2016 — BarryK
This is a report on another overnighter:

Primarily, the purpose was to play with the AlpineQuest GPS trail app and Canon Powershot G9 X camera.

In this web page, I have experimented with CSS media-queries, to try and get the text to be readable on desktop as well as phone in both landscape and portrait orientation.

The CSS is embedded in the web page, so you can use the browser's view-source feature, if it has that, to see how I implemented the queries.

Tags: light

Offline GPS tracking with phone

October 05, 2016 — BarryK
I will be taking off soon on another hike. On the last walk, I lost the track a couple of times, so I need GPS tracking for hiking further afield.

These days, a dedicated GPS device is not needed, a smartphone will do. Or so I am lead to believe -- I am a complete newby in this area.

I read reports in some bush walking forums, and came up with a short list of GPS apps for Android.

Then I narrowed it down to one, AlpineQuest. Firstly, I tried the free Lite version, really loved it, so paid US$9.99 for the Full version.
Note, I first uninstalled the Lite version, then installed the Full version.

I got it from the Google Play Store:

My main interest is the Bibbulmun Track, and lots of maps are available. Apparently, these are automatically cached locally, for off-line use. I will soon be testing that, as the walk that I intend taking very soon will be mostly where there is no mobile signal.

Here is the website for AlpineQuest:

I have just done a quick test print. Showing the Bibbulmun Track running East from Mundaring Weir:

The green square on the right is the Perth Hills Discovery Centre.

There are many different maps that can be chosen, and they can be overlaid, with variable opacity. In the photo, I have chosen highlighted hills overlay. Another choice would be contours.

Of course, once I am there, my location will be shown as well.

Tags: light

Considering Canon PowerShot G9 X camera

September 29, 2016 — BarryK
For years I have been taking less-than-adequate photos. I take photos on my hiking excursions and various equipment setups.

Next year I will be traveling internationally and to the Eastern States of Australia, and I plan to write a travelogue, with lots of photos.

I have owned a couple of digital cameras, very cheap ones. The main complaint that I had with them was poor indoor shots, in particular hunting during auto-focus -- those cameras did not offer the alternative of manual focus.

I gave away my last camera, and for the last couple of years have been using my phone. Which is very mediocre for indoor shots.

So, what is out there, that ticks all the boxes? I want highly portable (pocketable), very large CMOS sensor, optional manual focus, USB-recharging. Still shots, not so concerned about video performance.

The problem is, I have found "just the right" camera, but it is not cheap. It is the Canon PowerShot G9 X, and costs between AU$500 -- AU$700.

What I really like is the touchscreen. Having become familiar with using the camera on my phone, I love being able to just touch somewhere on the screen to set focus at that point -- which the Canon G9X also supports.


For such a tiny camera, it has a very large CMOS sensor, 1 inch, which is 15.85x13.2mm. Information on sensor sizes:

Don't know if I will actually buy it though, currently just "window shopping".


Bluetooth keyboard and mouse

September 04, 2016 — BarryK
The saga continues. I have a collection of bluetooth keyboards and mice.

I have an interest in using them with my phone, see this post in May 2015:

Now for the 2016 attempt! The Logitech T630 touch mouse is OK, but there is no operating system, apart from Windows, that can use its special touch features, such as pinching.

What I really want is a "normal" mouse, with roll-wheel, USB-rechargeable Bluetooth. This is what I have just bought:

One of my cheap Bluetooth keyboards just died, without hardly any use. The one I like best, and still working, is the HB-2000, see link at top, however, construction is sub-professional.

So, having another go. I have just bought this, USB-rechargeable folding keyboard, made by Audiosonic:

It looks really well made, and comes with a neat little stand to hold your phone at an angle -- too small for tablets probably.

I haven't actually used these yet. This is the latest to be tested in my on-going "traveling light" series.

Tags: light

Andromium Superbook

August 04, 2016 — BarryK
I am a sucker for an innovative new project!

I have pledged US$99 (actually US$134 including postage to Australia) for the Andromium Superbook. Kickstarter project here:

I reported on Andromium back in May 2015:

Very interesting, perhaps the Superbook can be used for other projects, such as Maruos and Ubuntu Touch. Well, quite likely it can.

Of course one does have to contrast this with the cost of a basic laptop, that I can buy locally for AU$250 - AU$300, onto which I could install Linux.


Field Test 3

July 31, 2016 — BarryK
Every now and again, I go on a hike, because I enjoy it, also to test my gear.

I recently acquired ultra-light tent and backpack, and I have been itching to test them in the field. So, Friday 22nd July, I set off for an overnighter on the Bibbulmun Track.

I introduced my tent, a Nemo Hornet 2P here:

And my Zpacks Arc Blast backpack here:

I made some notes on packing of my backpack here:

On this occasion, I neglected to weigh the backpack when packed, but I guess it would have been about 6 - 6.5kg.
This is a great backpack, all the weight got carried comfortably on my hips, and jumping ahead, I have to report that it stayed in-place on my hips, not once did I have to pull it up -- in contrast to my field test of my GG Pilgrim backpack:

My walk this time was a loop. I caught a bus to the town centre of Mundaring, then walked south along the Munda Biddi trail to Mundaring Weir. Once again, had lunch at the hotel.

This time, instead of walking east along the Bibbulmun Track, I walked west, heading toward the norther terminus of the track at Kalamunda.

This took me on the west side of the weir. Here I am approaching the weir:

This is down-stream of the weir, and I had to walk right down, then up the other side. At the bottom is the original pumping station, for pumping water by pipeline to Kalgoorlie. This was steam-powered and is now a museum:

looking at the weir, you might be able to see two young fools walking across the face of it. There are small horizontal grooves in the wall, just wide enough for a foot:

Here is part of the above photo:

On the other side of the weir, I walked westward, and came to a lookout:

Delightful scenery, and a lovely sunny but cool day. The lookout provides beautiful views of the weir and below.
It was just past here that I misplaced the track. No more wauguls, so I knew that I had missed a turn. Just then, a ranger drove up, and showed where I had gone wrong.

Late afternoon, I arrived at Hewitt's Hill shelter:

Mighty pleased with my backpack so far, now my tent got its turn to be evaluated:

I really don't have much to say about the tent, as it "just worked". Like the backpack. Both are so light, contributed to a very comfortable trek -- the next day, I had hard yakka down and up many valleys, clambering over rocks, and my feet felt fine -- very good sign, the feet not complaining too much.

The Hornet 2P erects very fast, and I put all of my gear inside, including my backpack. Shoes stayed in the vestibule.
I used four stakes, the minimum, OK in non-windy conditions.

There was plenty of room for one person. I would not recommend for two, unless you are on your honeymoon.

I did find myself thinking that this tent would be nicer if it was a proper two-pole crossover dome tent, rather than the 3-segment design. This design is to save weight, but does result in the sides caving in.
A traditional full two-pole-crosser design, as in my Big Sky Soul tent, would not increase the weight by much. But then, the Hornet 2P is an exercise in achieving lowest possible weight -- even so, I would prefer the full-poles configuration, just to keep those side out a bit more, and also it would be truly free-standing as is the Soul.

Regarding the Soul 1P, there were other things about it that I did not like, such as the narrow-end barely-existing vestibule, and the fact that it is 1P. I wrote about it here:

I had a pleasant overnight, then next day walked to Kalamunda, then bus to home, via Perth city. That walk was only about 10km, however, it was up and down, and in places very rough and rocky.
It took me almost 4 hours. Closer I got to Kalamunda, more people walking the Track, day-trippers.

Great backpack, great tent. Though note my musings on the tent, I still don't think it is the "perfect" hiking tent. But, I have spent enough money for awhile, like for the next year.


Electric kit on-the-go

July 21, 2016 — BarryK
I have rationalized my electrical and electronic kit down to a very small number of items, and very light.

I have need of telephone, Internet access, GPS, read ebooks, and take photos, all provided by my mobile phone. I also wish to listen to music and news, either streamed from the Internet or by FM radio, and my mobile phone does both -- the latter requires ear pieces as the cable acts as the FM antenna.

I have need of light, for which I have two options, either my mobile phone, or a tiny rechargeable torch that I bought from
Note, I sewed a ribbon onto the torch, so it becomes an extremely light-weight head-lamp.

Optionally, depending on where I go, or in an emergency, I need some means of sterilizing water. I could boil it, but currently I am trying a Steripen, the Freedom model, with rechargeable battery.

So, phone, torch and Steripen, each with rechargeable battery, via micro-USB socket.
If I have mains access, I have a small power-adaptor. If not, I have a solar panel. Also, a short USB cable.

Here it all is:

This configuration is so flexible, and so light. Actually, the phone in the picture is not the one I normally use, as I took the photo with that. My everyday phone is a bit bigger, with 5.5 inch screen. Here are the weights:

My 5.5 inch phone: 171g
Torch, with ribbon: 18g
Ear pieces: 14g
Power-adaptor, plus USB cable: 43g
Steripen, with soft case: 98g
Solar panel: 92g

That is a total of 436g. Without the Steripen, it is only 338g.

The solar panel is not intended to be used on the outside of the backpack while walking, instead only used when stationary. I have explained why, and reviewed the panel here:

I have reservations about the Steripen, as it does not sterilize above the water-line. So water droplets on the inside and outside of the container will not be sterilized -- seems to me that you are gambling each time you use it. Though, if you are careful, the odds are pretty much in your favour.

Here is the manufacturer's page on the Freedom model:

I bought my Steripen from Travel Universe here in Australia, as it was far cheaper than any other Australian retailer (AU$139):

This is the USB-rechargeable torch that I purchased from Deal Extreme:

If you are curious about what phone I use, it is a Mlais M52:

...not the latest out there, but I love it. It has a 5.5 inch screen, but probably the next phone I buy will have a bigger screen, perhaps up to 6 inches. The bigger screen real-estate is good for browsing the Internet, reading ebooks, and, well, for everything.

Tags: light