Capn's Blog

Saturday, January 19, 2008


One way of lightening the weight of baggage when travelling is to take something which can do two (or more) jobs. For example, it's really no fun to have a bottle of something that needs opening, but you have no bottle opener. So it's a good idea to carry one. But for only a small increase in weight, you can take a multi-purpose tool that opens bottles, but does so much more. This picture shows one like I'm taking.

Electronic things are another good chance to double up on functions, and it applies not just to baggage, but everyday use. There are two areas I'm hoping to do this with:


Here are the things I will be using my phone for. (I already use it for most of these functions):
  • Camera (it's 2MP and good enough for everyday shots, as my Wilson's Promontory blog article shows).
  • File storage (2Gb card, which I can take out and put in someone's PC to copy files). I also use it for my spreadsheets of financial information, website passwords, photos of passport, credit cards, account details, ticket photos, etc, in case I lose them. It's all encrypted of course, so if I lose my phone, that information is not revealed to people.
  • Chinese character learning tool. I wrote my own program to help me learn and practice Chinese characters.
  • MP3 player, video player (I don't use these at the moment, but it may be useful for my course later).
  • Alarm clock, address book, countdown timer, calendar, and TO-DO list.
I think the biggest weight saving is in renot taking a separate camera, if I'm willing to put up with a drop in image quality, and poor low-light performance.


As well as doing the boring stuff such as email, chat and websurfing, I want a computer with Chinese input to work on assignments, and to use as a dictionary. The latter two don't need an internet connection. It would be really useful to take the computer with me to class, to a study room, downtown, etc. But one problem is that like most average laptops, the size of my laptop is just too large to carry conveniently. So I have been thinking about getting a smaller laptop for my trip.

The one I'm looking at is the ASUS Eee PC. I went to look at one in the shop today. It's seriously small! There are several good things about it:
  • Really small, this is something that can be easily thrown into a schoolbag.
  • Quite cheap as far as laptops go, about US$500 for the top model.
  • Has Chinese input.
  • Has English/Chinese dictionaries built in.
  • Uses Linux, which I'm very familiar with.
The biggest negative things are:
  • The size of the screen, only 7" from corner to corner.
  • The size of the keyboard. Those keys really are tiny! It's only just possible to touch-type on it, and when I tried it out today, I found that when I wanted to press the right Shift key, I always hit the up arrow instead. Still, people say they get used to it after a while.
Here are some pictures. I've tried to choose the pictures to really give an idea of how small it is.

An over-all view. The thing's about as wide as two hands next to each other.

Here's the Eee put on top of a regular laptop.

Here's someone's hand near the keys. That's not some giant freak of nature holding it, that's a regular person's hand. Fitting both hands onto the keyboard is a real squeeze.

Having said that,I really want one. Not sure whether to get it here, in Hong Kong, or in Beijing...

Continuing on with the theme of multi-purpose gadgets, I think the Eee, with an external keyboard and hard disk, might be able to do all the things I want a computer to do, plus I can take it with me to school, on the bus, etc, and if I get stuck with something, I can use it as a dictionary.

I'm almost certain I'll get one.



  • I forgot to mention some additional uses for these gadgets. The first is using my phone: When I turn off the lights at night, I use my phone as a torch to guide me to the bedroom.

    Second, the Eee has a camera. I'm hoping to use Skype to keep in touch with my family back home. The inbuilt camera will let me do that with nothing extra to take!

    By Blogger mjd, at 9:59 am  

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