Traveling - Last Comments and Wrap-Up

I have completed the trip in Florida now. Here are a few more interesting "discoveries" and comments from the last couple of days, and a wrap-up of the whole thing.
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor

I have completed the trip in Florida now. Here are a few more interesting "discoveries" and comments from the last couple of days, and a wrap-up of the whole thing.

I tried the Swisscom Unlimited Data Card (cellular data card) everywhere that I went, and a few times between places, and I never got anything better than an EDGE connection. Since Andy Abramson said that he has gotten HSDPA in the U.S., I assume this just means that HSDPA (and UMTS) is dependent on the region you are in and the provider you are using.

I got a relatively pleasant surprise the last time that I used the Unlimited Data Card, with an EDGE connection. I found that I was able to use Gizmo (audio only), although the delay was very noticeable, it worked well enough that I could carry on a conversation with my brothers over it.

I continued to be pleased with Gizmo Out calls. I put $10 credit on my account (and got $3 bonus because of a promotion), and I used it for basically all of the telephone calls that I needed to make - to both fixed-line and mobile numbers, in both the U.S. and Switzerland. The call quality was consistently good, and I had no connection problems. Not only is the price WAY lower than using my Swiss cell phone (and thus paying roaming fees and the like), it was also often much less expensive than paying the hotel local call fee of 50 cents or a dollar per call. After traveling for 10 days and using Gizmo Out numerous times, I still have $12.03 credit!

I continue to be disgusted with Skype. My brother tried to call me on my Swiss cell phone using SkypeOut, and we never got a decent connection. In several tries, we either got no audio at all from his side, or I could just barely hear him. But that didn't stop them from charging his account - it appeared that he was paying about 40 cents a minute to call me! We finally gave up and I tried Gizmo over an EDGE connection, expecting that it wouldn't work, and it did - so obviously there was no problem on his computer. Of course, we could have tried to contact Skype's so-called "Customer Support", but by the time they answered, in a minimum of FOUR DAYS, the trip would have been over and we would both be back home again.

I picked up an iGo universal charging unit at Radio Shack. The model I got will run from wall socket power (110v/220v) or auto/air power (12v), and it puts out power suitable for Laptops, cell phones, and lots of other portable devices. The "tips" on both the input and output cords can be changed, so the original U.S. wall plug that came with it can be changed for a Swiss, European or whatever wall plug, and it comes with an array of output tips that fit most common laptops and a variety of other portable devices. Additional tips for other devices are also available. I tested it with both of my laptops, in the hotel and in the car, and it worked just fine. This one adapter will replace at least three other adapters that I had to carry until now.

Last, but certainly not least, this new laptop is absolutely spectacular! Everything I have loaded worked, except Skype (and that was not a surprise). The built-in camera and microphone continue to impress me. The only "problem" so far has been that because the camera is built-in, so it is always there, you can't just look over and see right away if a camera is plugged in or not, and it doesn't give any indication when it is on, unlike the Logitech cameras with their activity led, it can lead to some amount of paranoia about whether the camera is on or not, especially when I am using audio-only chat with either Gizmo or SightSpeed.

Oh, and as I had already started to realize with the previous Lifebook, having the built-in flash memory slot for SD/MS cards is really nice when you are traveling and want to quickly dump the pictures from a camera to the laptop. Not only easier and faster than using a USB cable to connect the camera to the computer, it also saves a lot of camera battery power.

jw 29/12/2007

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