So many apps

If you know me at all, you know that I tend to geek out on things. Well, this trip is no different so for anyone who might be interested, this post is going to cover a bit of the tech I’ve been obsessing over for the trip (at great length). Generally speaking my geekery falls into three categories, Photography, Navigation, and Blogging/Social Media.

For a couple of reasons, first on my mind all along has been photography. That’s natural since I’m a photographer by nature as well as by trade. I feel it’s important to consider photography because ten years from now what we’ll have left from this trip will be memories, a few souvenirs and our photos (which aid the memories). My concerns regarding photography are twofold, the camera itself and protecting the photos. On two occasions over the last few years I’ve had a camera either lost or stolen. In both cases what bugged me most was not losing the camera but rather the photos which were on the memory card it held.

Sony a6000The camera I chose for this trip turned out to be the Sony a6000. Considering the features I was looking for in a travel camera the a6000 hit on almost all points missing on a couple. Important to me in choosing a camera were these features and characteristics.

  • It HAS to save RAW format files
  • Small and lightweight
  • Wi-Fi/NFC wireless capabilities
  • GPS image tagging
  • Minimum 16 megapixels image captures
  • Variety of lens options
  • Articulated viewing screen
  • Eye level viewfinder
  • Advanced and auto camera modes

Hitting on virtually all my must-have features the a6000 looks great but falls short noticeably with the lack of GPS image tagging capability. However I know I can tackle that requirement by other means with my smartphone always at hand. If you’re curious why I was looking for those particular features hit me up with a comment and we can discuss.

Protecting my photos from loss or theft meant another search for solutions. After previous experiences I’m particularly paranoid about this and intend to cover the bases on this very thoroughly. I considered the cloud but with the volume and size of image files I anticipate generating coupled together with our travels commonly putting us in places where accessing the cloud will be difficult if not impossible, it just isn’t a reliable solution. With that ruled out I moved on to physical media solutions.

My Passport 1TB WirelessTo protect my image files I’ve settled on a pair of My Passport Wireless 1TB portable hard drives. There were two features in these drives that caught my eye. First, they have an SD memory card slot. When a memory card’s inserted they’ll automatically copy all files from the SD card onto the drive. Second, being wireless (they create their own local Wi-Fi network) I’ll be able to wirelessly transfer image files to and from my smartphone and tablet(s). With two of these in hand the plan will be a nightly backup of all image files from my camera memory cards on each of the two drives. With each drive then stored in different locations that gives me redundant backup.

Now, how about navigation? First there’s the old school standby, actual maps. I’ve been to my local AAA office and have picked up maps for every state we’ll visit along the way. But it’s natural we’ll also want to use GPS navigation. With the trip we’ve planned there are two special special factors to consider. Many points in our trip will be outside any network reach so we don’t want any GPS dependant on the internet or cellular networks. Traveling with an RV over twelve feet in height and weighing in at roughly eight tons requires special route planning.

There are stand-alone GPS navigation units designed specifically for driving big rigs, some targeting recreational drivers and others for professionals. The main problem I have with these is cost, often coming in at around $400-$500. The consumer level, less expensive, GPS units generally don’t bring the ability to craft your route to avoid trouble spots for large/heavy rigs. What I found is essentially a blend between the expensive stand-alone units and smartphone navigation.

CoPilot USAEnter the Google Nexus 7 and an Android app! I found that for less than half the cost of the appropriate GPS units I was able to purchase a brand new Nexus 7 (thank you Groupon) and the $30 CoPilot USA navigation app. The Nexus 7 comes with a GPS receiver out of the box and the CoPilot app is programmed to customize routes for large/heavy rigs! CoPilot also stores the entire USA road map locally on the device so no network connection of any kind is needed! Perfect! Even after buying a car mount I’m still less than half what the others would have cost. Love that!

If you’ve read this far you must be either very bored today or as true a geek as me. So last but not least I’m geeking out on blogging and social media too, just a bit. The main purpose here is to share news and photos with family extended across the country. Friends and others will be able to follow along too, if they’re interested.

I decided to use a blog as the main hub of sharing. From there I want to distribute information with as little fuss as possible. Not as easy as it might sound (if you’re picky about it). I started my efforts with a Tumblr blog. Very easy to get up and running and quite capable but I quickly ran into some stumbling blocks I couldn’t live with. After some time trying to work past some hurdles I changed courses and moved to a WordPress blog which is what you’re looking at now.

Even from the WordPress platform I found some aspects of social media distribution I’m not happy with. I’ll be sharing to Facebook of course as well as Twitter. Instagram is another outlet I intend to push images to. The WordPress tools/plugins/workarounds available to push information out to all these resources still don’t quite cut it in my book. They’re inconsistent, unpredictable and a bit cumbersome.

IFWelcome IF! This is the glue that holds everything together, beautifully. IF, shortened from IFTTT (If This then That), is an online tool which connects virtually all your online resources. It does this in a way that’s elegant and simple which also makes it a pleasure. Using IF one post to this WordPress blog triggers a healthy handful of reactions in my social media channels. What a blessing. One email with attachments can trigger social media posts, attachment backups to Dropbox and Google Drive and more. It’s very powerful and provides the “special sauce” (McDonald’s reference there, sorry) that expertly pulls all of this together AND simplifies my life on the road in a BIG way.

Speaking of the road, back to it…

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