Posts filed under 'Technology'

My old iPhone – keep or recycle?

Over the years we have accumulated several old iPhones and iPods in our household. Today I was collecting those to sell and recycle them at Gazelle, a great service I had once used in the past. One of the old iPhones is my trusted iPhone 3G which I brought with me on the Panamerican Peaks journey.

As I opened the tight protective plastic cover to clean the phone I noticed some dust falling out. It may have just been some dirt from Bolivia or elsewhere in South-America. All of a sudden I have decidedly mixed feelings about parting with this old phone. I think back to all the times I had been using it.

iPhone 3G that had accompanied me along the entire Panamerican Peaks journey

All the places this phone has seen. More than 20.000 km on the bike, a multiple of that distance by bus and airplane. All the mountains it has been on, all the places it has stayed overnight. To me, it has quite a unique and personal story to tell.

Hundreds of phone calls to friends and loved ones, although I had also often used the little Dell Netbook with built-in camera to Skype (iPhone 3G didn’t have a front-facing camera for FaceTime yet).

Thousands of times used the web browser and other apps to look up important information. One example where all of the iPhone capabilities came in particularly handy was after arriving in Santa Cruz, where I needed to find a hotel room and a bike store near to one another, call the bike store for office hours, and use the built-in GPS and map app to guide me there.

Hundreds of hours of listening to music while cycling. I even listened to the songs I had played most often on this device while writing my book to get myself in the same mood as when cycling across thousands of km of Pampa in Argentina.

Hundreds of daily notes typed sitting in my tent after long, eventful days. Most of the peaks and rides pages on this blog contain those daily notes more or less in their original form. And those notes have been invaluable while writing the book to reconstruct the sequence of events and remind me of specific details.

Hundreds of photos taken with it. Of course my main photo camera was the waterproof Olympus and later Panasonic Lumix. But it was good to have a backup or just take a quick fun shot and email it to friends without having to transfer it to the laptop first. I still remember taking photos from the summit of Mt. Logan, just in case I would somehow lose the photos of the other camera. My wife received so many emails with food photos that she could tell how under-nourished I was from the frequency of food photos. (Of course, when you’re always hungry then a full dinner plate becomes one of the highlights of your day.)

One other particularly memorable evening was in British Columbia where I stayed at a family’s home near MacKenzie Junction North of Prince George. As we were sitting outside their gas-station / convenience store in the evening, I showed off the iPhone to their three kids. They took turns listening to songs, taking pictures and playing games on the smartphone they had never touched before. Before I went to sleep that night I purchased a particular song I had in my head courtesy to the family’s WiFi connection. I fell asleep happy after hearing that newly bought song a few times.

So now I find myself thinking twice about whether to part with this device. On the one hand, all the songs, photos, notes, apps, etc. are saved and available on my newer iPhone 4 and elsewhere. But on the other hand, there is something nostalgic about this particular device which makes me wonder whether I should send it back to recycle for a few dollars.

What would you do? Do you have any gadget or item which is essentially useless but you can’t part with because of all the things it reminds you of?

2 comments August 18th, 2012

eBook for the iPad

I had contemplated in which form to publish my book about the Panamerican Peaks adventure. As an avid Kindle reader I was naturally drawn to the notion of an electronic book: Much easier to (self-)publish, no risky first edition print volumes, ability to update the book without creating out-of-date hardcopies, more seamless linking to online content on my Blog, Picasa albums and YouTube playlists, to name just a few.

One hope I had was that it would be possible to publish in a format suitable for the iPad. With the many color photos and videos it felt like the most natural way to see the adventure and retrace the journey. After all, I had done some presentations from both a laptop and also just the iPad, both in private settings as well as a few public audiences:

Presenting at REI store in Seattle, August-2011

The iPad works particularly well to share this kind of story, as you can quickly show it to someone at a coffee shop or connect it via HDMI to a flatscreen TV, which conveys not just the visual but also the audio. It just makes for a much more immersive experience.

Flatscreen HD presentation from iPad

Just a few months ago Apple announced its free eBook publishing software called iBooks Author. This tool comes at the perfect time for me, as I’m writing and editing my book and materials on my MacBook anyway. The software allows me to mix and match text, photos, animations, video, and keynote materials all into one eBook. Here are some preview screen-shots:

Chapter 'WIND' Header Page of eBook

One additional benefit of this eBook format is that one can include links to online content, which can more easily be kept up-to-date and provide additional information and materials (such as more photos). Here is an example of how the eBook could link to the companion website (this Blog):

Navigation page to all rides and climbs by country flag

While this eBook format is proprietary to Apple and reduces the reading devices to iPads only, I feel that it gives the best viewing experience possible. I just can’t see anywhere near the same impact on the original black-&-white Kindle readers…

I’d be curious to hear your thoughts as to what you think would be the right price for such an eBook?

3 comments May 7th, 2012

View of Journey from Space

Here is a wonderful time lapse movie made from Hi-Def images aboard the International Space Station. During the 1 min video the space station flew at night along the Pacific Coast of North America and Central America, then across the Pacific to the Coasts of Ecuador and Peru and on over the altiplano of Peru and Bolivia into the sunrise.

One can observe the many coastal cities from their lights, as well as the big cities in Central Mexico. (Select HD if your bandwidth supports it!) I found it amazing that the route paralleled so much of the Panamerican Highway and went right over so much familiar territory such as the Baja California and later the atiplano with Lake Titicaca and the Salar de Uyuni very clearly visible (at ~55 sec).

Cycling and Climbing this 10,000+ mile journey took a bit more than 1 year. The Space-Station flies it in under 1 hour (orbital speed 17,500 mph). This time-lapse shows it in 1 minute.

Add comment September 28th, 2011

New Year – New Gadgets – New Experiences

On my adventure trip I had brought many gadgets with me on the road and on the mountains – see also my pre-departure post ‘Got Gadgets?‘. My goal was to remain fairly well connected (email, skype, phone, etc.) throughout my trip and also to enrich my experience during and after the trip (via music, photos, GPS tracker etc.). This has resulted in a much richer and more instant documentation of the trip than would have been possible say 20 years ago.

I was rarely more than a few hours away from the nearest Internet connection, and using my iPhone for taking daily notes as well as my little Netbook for email and updating my Blog had become second nature for me. The technology worked well, as I expected. One less expected aspect was my capacity and interest to engage, which was often muted. I had thought I would use my Spanish learning apps, my games and puzzle apps, or listen to audiobooks along the way or when spending time in the tent such as on the mountains. However, when you exercise a lot all day, often experiencing physical discomfort (heat, hunger, fatigue, cold, etc.), then spend additional physical energy on basic necessities such as food and shelter, you simply don’t have much mental energy left at the end of the day. What I had left was often consumed by organizing the upcoming transport or expedition logistics or dealing with unexpected issues such as bike repairs.

After coming home from my big adventure I had the time over the last couple of months to immerse myself in education and entertainment. A bit of context here: My wife and I have a lot of electronic gadgets at home. We have a half dozen digital cameras, mostly small and versatile waterproof point-&-click’s for the road (Panasonic, Olympus), as well as our semi-professional Nikon D300S. 2 Flip Mino HD video-recorders and one somewhat older Sony Camcorder. Several TV monitors, including 2 more modern flat-screen models (Samsung, Sony). After buying an early Toshiba HD DVD player we needed to switch to a Samsung Blu-Ray player. We have each one of the 3 generations of Amazon Kindle book readers. There are several Bose entertainment systems, noise cancellation headphones as well as iPod docking units throughout our home and offices. Last I counted we had a total of 5 Apple iPhones and 4 iPods. I’m not counting the replaced RIM BlackBerries anymore. In September 2010 we bought our first Apple iPad, soon to be followed by another one – just waiting for the second generation model. We also tend to buy some more of these as gifts for our extended family, thus contributing our share to the economic recovery in the US. A few companies do get a lot of repeat business from us, certainly including Apple and Bose.
We enjoy watching a NetFlix movie every now and then, both streaming as well as traditional DVDs which come in the mail. This holiday season saw the addition of a Nintendo Wii game system, and we likely will upgrade my son’s Dell Windows PC shortly. To keep up with bandwidth performance, we recently upgraded to a new Motorola cable modem and Cisco wireless router. As you can see, no shortage of gadgets on the home entertainment front.

The inexorable digitization of content – ebooks, photos, movies, news, audiobooks, ecourses, podcasts – has a lot of promise. But it also requires new approaches to managing your own libraries. For example, my wife spent years building a fairly large personal audio-collection including more than 600 purchased CDs, importing and rating more than 7000 songs in iTunes. She likes to manage our NetFlix queue with the iPad app. We mutually share our ebook library of ~100 titles and manage it using the myKindle website. I accumulated a growing collection of several dozen audiobooks on iTunes, mostly during the time I commuted to work and discovered the in-car iPod delivery of audiobook content as very useful. We manage our tens of thousands of digital photos on the Apple iMac, using first iPhoto, then Aperture as powerful editing and management software. It now takes longer to import and tag the photos than to shoot them in the first place! We share many of those photos using Apple’s Mobile Me gallery as well as Google‘s Picasa. Oh, and let’s not forget the backup using Apple’s Time machine…

The convergence and on-demand availability of content enables new experiences. One recent purchase brought this to a new level: We bought the little Apple TV device. The little box was installed and connected to our TV in minutes. The small remote control is very simple to use and the online menus are very intuitive. It sure is nice to be able to search and instantly view movies from various sources now (iTunes, NetFlix, YouTube). Or stream one of the hundreds of music channels. But the real kicker is the seamless integration with our own libraries of music (iTunes) and photos (iPhoto/Aperture/MobileMe). Since we have so much content on those libraries already, it works great for us. We could do similar things before, by attaching an iPod or a camcorder to our TV. Now, thanks to the fast wireless network connectivity (802.11 n), we have access to all our personal music and photos at our (remote control’s) fingertips, from the comfort of our couch, without having to deal with computer keyboards or additional cables. When you see that slide-show of your last vacation, with your favorite playlist in the background, in between a short news podcast and that new NetFlix movie all from your little remote control, it really is a new experience of home entertainment!

Now this is certainly not the last word in convergence for home entertainment, and at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (which starts today) we’ll likely see a lot of new offerings towards Smart TVs. And while the proprietary Apple system is not for everyone, the low incremental price point ($99) made Apple TV a no-brainer for us. It will be a while before we can bring that kind of entertainment with us on the road…

Add comment January 5th, 2011

Game on with SPOT

SPOT Tracking DeviceI decided to bring one more piece of electronic equipment: The SPOT Satellite Personal Tracker. Like other GPS systems it receives location information. Unlike conventional GPS, however, it also sends that information or distress calls to satellites, thus actively broadcasting its location even beyond cell-phone coverage.

You buy the device and then purchase an annual locator / tracking service. This can be used as emergency locator service and hence potentially safe lives. That said, the more regular use-case is to track progress automatically: When in tracking mode, the system will attempt to send out its location every 10 minutes and the backend service will update a map with received signals. In the meantime family and friends can follow along in a web browser.

More details can be found on the SPOT website at

I tested this on my ride yesterday and it allowed my wife to know where I am several times during the ride. It didn’t work perfectly, the signals aren’t received in exactly the same time intervals, sometimes there are gaps. But it can be expected to give a few dozen points of progress each day on the trip.

Sample screen shot of shared SPOT tracker website

Sample screen shot of shared SPOT tracker website

My current public tracking page for training rides is here. (For information how to customize, see the Help bar on the left side.) I’ll set up a dedicated tracking site for the Panamerican Peaks project prior to leaving on May 7.

Add comment April 14th, 2009

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