Thursday, February 03, 2005

Internet Access In China/Electronics A Go Go

I was starting to stress a little about being able to get my laptop on the Internet while I was in China. Turns out my employer's dial-up provider doesn't have any local access numbers in China.

But it seems that I needed have worried. It looks like Beijing and Guangzhou are infested with Starbucks, which if I can believe this site, China Pulse WiFi Search, all have WiFi access, as do a number of hotels (although not our hotel in Beijing as far as I can tell). So not to worry.

I'd worried because I've set up my laptop to be a portable digital video editing station and I want to be able to post here conveniently [we can post from any Internet-connected PC or mobile phone but it's always nicer to use your own computer].

In preparation for the trip I gathered up all the electronics that we will need to bring. It's an astonishgly large collection of stuff, taking about 1/2 a cubic foot when organized as a dense pile. The inventory, not including the laptop itself, includes:

  • Video camera, plus:

    • Compact case for video camera (holds up to 4 spare tape cartidges and/or spare battery

    • Power supply for video camera

    • Video-camera-to-computer cable

    • Spare battery

    • 10 video tapes (mini-DV)

    • English-language portion of video camera manual

  • External 200GB hard drive (for backup video storage), plus:

    • Power supply for hard drive

    • Drive-to-laptop cable

  • Julie's digital camera (in compact belt-clip case), plus:

    • Power supply/docking station for camera

    • Digital card reader and cable for camera (also used with Eliot's personal MP3 player and digital card in video camera) for transfering photos to laptop.

  • Eliot's digital camera (in compact belt-clip case), plus:

    • Battery charger for camera

    • Digital card reader and cable for camera (different card type than for Julie's camera)

    • Extra memory cards

  • Additional laptop items (beyond laptop, extra battery, CD-ROM drive, and power supply, which are standard travel items):

    • PC-Card FireWire adapter for connecting video camera and external hard drive to laptop

    • Extra USB cable (just in case)

    • Supply of blank writeable CDs

  • Spare mobile phone (non-Nokia brand), plus:

    • Charger for mobile phone

  • Charger for Nokia mobile phones

  • 220-to-100 voltage adapter

  • Handfull of Chinese-to-American plug adapters

  • Cheap webcam for laptop (just for grins). Enables real-time video chatting through NetMeeting or some AIM clients.

On the laptop itself I have installed the Pinnacle Studio 9 video capture and editing software, which we can use to offload video from tape to disk and do any video editing we want to do on site.

It will probably be impractical to back up the video to a remote server for the simple reason that raw video takes about 1 gigabyte for every minute of video.

It's actually pretty amazing how much you can do with a mid-priced video camera and a 100 dollar piece of software. It's not quite professional quality, of course, but it's pretty darn close and incredibly easy to do. I had no idea.

Now I just need to find a way to serve the resulting video with the ease we can share photos on Ofoto....


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