Holiday Gadgets

Every year I seem to have more or newer and cooler gadgets to take with me on holiday. This weekend was no exception.

Every year I seem to have more or newer and cooler gadgets to take with me on holiday. This weekend was no exception. Although only going away for the 2-3 days managed to put a number of cool tools through their paces.

On the outbound journey it was a mad dash to the catch the flight so I can't comment on the comfort/wifi of Heathrow terminal 1 as it went past in a blur.

In flight: I was travelling with LOT who fortunately allow you to use electronic gadgets during the flight. I pulled out my laptop and watched a movie with my wife. This is where the Dell m1210's dual headphone sockets really come in handy. Each of us could have our own headphones and not disturb (or be disturbed by) other passengers. While in Poland I picked up Creative's noise limiting headphones (EP – 630). They work by completely sealing the ear creating a vacuum. As soon as you put them in surrounding noise seems muffled – I can only compare it to being underwater. Then when you play music you hear nothing but the song. This has many benefits – You can drown out outside noise without cranking up the volume and deafening yourself. Playing at a reduced volume also means you also can save battery life and everyone else doesn't have to listen-in to you blaring out the latest Arctic Monkey's album. They also have superb bass. It is rare to find headphones or even speakers that can handle the bass on Ashanti's 'Only You' without distorting. I cranked up that song as loud as I could bear and the bass remained smooth and deep. This is also testament to the sound quality of the Sony Network Walkman. Despite it's many flaws sound quality is fantastic – as is battery life – I used it most of the holiday and battery is still full.

For the inevitable shopping trips it was impractical to lug around the laptop – although pitched as an ultra compact it does weigh over 2kg and when you include the bag and extras it's quite a millstone to have around your neck. This is where the PSP came in handy. Not only extremely portable but designed to be stop/start friendly. One minute I can be running along a wall over a pit of spikes and net second I can be giving my opinion on a pair of shoes the wife is modelling (not that my opinion will sway the decision in anyway).

While on this trip we were checking out wedding dresses on behalf of my sister for her fast approaching wedding day. Before I knew it my wife is wearing it! As I didn't have the laptop with me I couldn't make use of the built-in swivel cam. However, I did have my old faithful XDA Exec phone/PDA with me. I took a few 2MP photos and a short video clip to send to my sister. In hindsight I should have video called her as she now has the Nokia N95 which supports 3G features like my XDA. In this case I stored the images and video on the 2GB SD memory card on the XDA and later plugged this in to the built-in memory slot on my laptop.

This brings me on to wifi. A great feature of the m1210 is the wifi catcher. Even while the laptop is off you can pull on the wifi catcher slider and it search for a wifi signal and indicate if there is any in range. This was really handy when trying to find a spot to get online as I didn't have to pull it out, start it up and then put it back to sleep/shutdown just to check coverage.

These are the services I found in Warsaw. Era blue connect. Era is one of the main mobile phone networks in Poland and they offer wifi hotspots in most of the major hotels and restaurants. They have teamed up with T-Mobile so if you have a hotspot account with them you can use Era hotspots. They also allow signup over their free to access wifi page. Paying by credit card works out to roughly £2/hour. A bit steep for my liking but if you just need to logon for a short time it's not too bad. For more extended periods there are better value subscription packages.

Orange. Orange hotspots can of course be used by Orange hotspot subscribers from other countries. They also offer a prepay service which you charge up by SMS/text message. Unfortunately, the SMS service does not work with roaming phones – you have to have a polish mobile. They offered no way to pay by credit card so this was not an option for me. I only noticed these hotspots at the airport so I don't know how practical they would be to subscribe to for use within the city.

Plus. Plus is another major mobile network in Poland. This is the wifi service I actually signed up for. It worked out to 15PLN (less than £3) for 900mins. I connected at the Warsaw airport (Chopin terminal). The signal was fairly strong and the coverage great. In fact where I sat I was in between 2 Plus hotspots so could pick up either signals. You can pay by credit/debit card, SMS top-up or a subscription. They didn't seem to have partnered with any UK/international networks. Connection speed with 3 bars signal was equivalent to about a 2mb connection ( I got download speeds of about 80-90kb/s).

On the flight back I took advantage of the m1210's 256mb Nvidia 7400 Go graphics card and played some games. There is something strangely liberating about playing Halo with an xbox360 controller at 10,000ft. I must be turning into a Microsoft fan-boy as I really loved having Microsoft's Vista, xbox360 controller, and now the notebook presenter mouse 8000. Yes it finally arrived when I got back - full review to follow.

Not long into the game the in-flight food arrived. After a few glasses of South American wine I was more chilled out and ready to do some work. I wanted to see if I could actually do some webdesign work while on the go. I was concerned about buying the laptop I chose as it has just a 12.1inch screen. However, with a resolution of 1280x800 I found that I could readily work without too much difficulty. I tried to estimate how much time it would take me normally to put a page together to compare my progress and although it took me a but longer than usual on the laptop this was mainly due to the lack of a mouse rather than system performance or smaller screen. In fact the 2.13ghz Core2Duo processor and 2GB DDR Ram in this system make it more powerful than the system I use at work. Now I have a shiny new Bluetooth mouse I expect times to be very similar. With a 5hour battery life for coding or 3-4hrs if editing photos or video it makes the prospect of working on the move or even in the park a reality. The only thing I miss is dual monitors. While in the office my desktop or laptop both support dual monitors which reduces the amount of alt-tabing I have to do.