James O'Neill's Blog

April 15, 2007

USB and travel

Filed under: Mobility,Photography — jamesone111 @ 9:50 am





Who says Bluetooth is safer. I walked away unhurt, the car was written off

My "universal" USB power adapter

In a couple of hours I fly off for week working in Athens. I’ve been talking to prospective evangelists this week and I’ve been saying we have a better work/home-life balance than some other parts of Microsoft. .I’ve already spent 20 nights away from my family for work already this year but I’ll spend 20 away scuba diving too. This trip should be worth while (I had the option to say “No” so if it turns out otherwise, I only have myself to blame), but ‘planes and hotel rooms and the packing and unpacking of bags hold no attraction for me.


I’ve mentioned before, that packing up all the gadgets can be a chore. Hopefully my new Orange SPV E650 will arrive soon after I get back. With it’s slide out Keyboard, my Freedom keyboard becomes redundant – I never got in the habit of carrying it which is shame.
Steve picked up on a post of Jason’s about internet connection sharing, I’ve been doing this the hard way since I first had GPRS in 2002 (configure phone as an Bluetooth modem, and tell the PC to dial *99#) and it did make wonder if I should wait for a 3G version but I haven’t felt the need for 3G so far. Orange’s page for the E650 says it IS 3G – I have the details on that page to be right, but Jason has confirmed that it doesn’t have UMTS and I’ll need to buy a new memory card for it. I’ll probably treat the memory card a permanent fixture as I do with my diving camera. It still annoys me that the 4 windows Mobile devices I’ve owned all use different memory.
I’ve mentioned previously that my current C500 phone doesn’t charge from a standard USB charger – it needs the normally unused pin 5 on the mini USB connector shorted to the neighbouring Pin 4, and I soldered my own adapter together. It also needs a 2.5mm-3.5mm adapter to plug my headphones in. The C500 is an HTC design and game of “guess what connectors they’ll slap on this one.” has been going on since they did the first iPaq for Compaq. The E650 (a.k.a HTC S710) delivers audio from a proprietary USB connector needs a Y cable to output to headphones and charge from a standard cable.


I’ve more-or-less ruled out Bluetooth headphones as a solution to the connector problem. I don’t know if can listen to music on my laptop and then take a call from the mobile. They don’t seem that great for travel, The C500 turns Bluetooth off in flight mode; even if the E650 turns WiFi, GSM and Bluetooth on or off separately, using Bluetooth in flight is a bit of a no-no. Using one in car doesn’t seem very smart either. I dumped my Bluetooth earpiece after a road accident, a call didn’t come through when I pressed the button, I looked down at the phone to figure out what had happened, and looked up to see the back of another car closing at about 50 Miles per hour. I’ve recently gone back but my current Bluetooth setup is more dangerous than holding the phone. The earpiece won’t turn off any more, and it beeps it’s incoming call beep when the phone finds “NO SERVICE”. So old, wired, headphones and a new earpiece looks like the way to go. Hopefully any new earpiece will charge from USB – or failing that at 5 Volts- I put a USB connector onto the “tail” from an old universal transformer to power various 5 Volt devices (primarily my GPS Puck).


I’ve been carrying a USB A-Male to A-Female extension cable -I can plug a memory stick or my Hauppauge TV-Stick in for flexibility or use A-Male to B-Male, Mini-B Male or Camera adapters to avoid carrying 3 different leads. (Incidentally for any Pentax users, K10D connector that the I-USB17 cable plugs into is known as a Sanyo connector at Direct USB). Then I have my home made power adapters for the C500, and universal 5V supply. Unfortunately the USB B and Mini-B adapters both came apart. The Dell D820 had a tighter grip on the A end of the mini B adapter than the body did, and the two parted company. My WD external drive pulled the outer sleeve off the B adapter. I decided I’d get a travel kit with a retracting cable and direct replacements for the broken connectors. I found one from Lindy which had the bonus of connectors to turn a USB cable into a phone or Network (RJ11 or RJ45) lead. I can pop my headphones and extra connectors in a pack which takes the same space as the LAN cable I had in my bag. It comes with 10 year warranty, which is just as well because the first time I plugged in the phone connector it pulled apart. Lindy were very good about replacing it, but there do seem to be a lot of badly made connectors out there.


Broken USB connectors.

 


I’m taking the SLR camera on this trip. It’s battery charger can share a mains cable with the Laptop’s power brick, but I’ll just take the spare battery – I’m getting about 750 shots to a battery and I won’t shoot that many this week. Camera, lenses, laptop, cables all fit into one carry on bag with 5 days clothes and toiletries . Who says I can’t travel light ?


Update: I had to leave the SLR behind – for the stupidest reason – no body cap. It only fits in my carry on luggage if I take the lens off the body and the body cap is off leading a life of its own. So I took the “diving” camera ad its charger. The Lindy USB kit has proved its worth – there have been huge problems with the wireless network here, but plenty of wired ports – providing you have a cable. I do – for once.


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

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