Author Topic: Battery-charging: Best computer for touring & buffer battery for dynohub  (Read 12408 times)

Danneaux

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Hi All,

As a direct offshoot of my thread on dynohub-powered chargers ( http://www.thorncycles.co.uk/forums/index.php?topic=3802.0 ), I am now wondering about your choices for...

1) the best computer by type and brand to take on-tour
...and...
2) the best dynohub-charged buffer battery.

Computer
At the end of a 17-hour day on rough roads, my hands are just toast and as a result, my handwriting is so bad even I can't read it.  The solution for journal-keeping, GPS waypoint- and photo-transfer and Skyping home using public wi-fi is a small computer.  Tablets seem to be coming on strong, and those who use them like them primarily for content consumption -- browsing the 'Net, eBooks, watching DVDs ripped to the hard drive, and minimal text input.  When it comes to content creation and typing, something like a netbook with keyboard looks better. Solid-state drives lack the capacity of a conventional hard drive, but seem to have the edge in battery life and survivability.  

As for specifics, I'd prefer something with a 10" screen to balance size and convenience and a larger small keyboard. I'm comfortable with a variety of Linux distros and those seem a better fit with a netbook's limited speed and memory, and have lower security concerns.

Buffer Battery
A good way to charge high-demand/high-drain devices (smartphones, GPS, computers) is to use a dynohub to either...

a) Charge the high-drain device while it is in the "off" state,
...or...
b) Trickle-charge a "buffer battery", a high-capacity rechargeable battery that is then used to recharge individual devices or power them directly.

Powertraveller's PowerMonkey Extreme ( https://powertraveller.com/iwantsome/primatepower/powermonkeyextreme/ ) looks like a great choice for a buffer battery, but the FAQ indicates it is not appropriate for the higher power requirements of a netbook ( https://powertraveller.com/faq/detail.php?id=000020 ).  Instead, Powertraveller recommend a Minigorilla ( https://powertraveller.com/iwantsome/primatepower/minigorilla/ ).

So, fellow Thornites, what computer do you use on tour, and which buffer battery do you use to power it?

Thanks in advance!

Related links:
http://travellingtwo.com/resources/laptop-review
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=1851027
http://forum.notebookreview.com/what-notebook-should-i-buy/362163-help-choosing-netbook-bicycle-touring.html
http://www.google.com/#sclient=psy-ab&hl=en&safe=off&site=&source=hp&q=best+netbook+for+bike+tourin&psj=1&oq=best+netbook+for+bike+tourin&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&gs_sm=e&gs_upl=1682l13785l0l14815l28l27l0l16l7l0l294l2602l0.3.8l11l0&fp=1&biw=1296&bih=628&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&cad=b

Best,

Dan.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2012, 07:49:36 PM by Danneaux »

il padrone

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Re: Battery charging: Best computer for touring & buffer battery for dynohub
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2012, 02:32:46 AM »
Computer - after sticking with basic wired computers for 30 years I have now gone wireless. Cateye Adventure, great for touring. No faffing about with heart-rate or cadence, but it does have two distance settngs, temperature, altitude and calculates your gradient %.

Charger - I have an e-werk, and have only just received a Powermonkey Extreme. Future touring I plan to take an iPad so it shall give sufficient power. If I did carry a netbook (as I did to central Australia) most of the time I would rely on caravan park power supples. My daughter and her friend, on our recent tour of Tasmania, showed how resourceful you can be in finding power sources. They were the travelling power thieves to keep their essential smartphones running.

Danneaux

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Re: Battery charging: Best computer for touring & buffer battery for dynohub
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2012, 04:42:46 AM »
Pete,

Have you found the iPad okay for typing?  Do you use a plug-in keyboard, or one that appears on-screen? 

Please let us know how the Powermonkey Extreme works on-tour; I'm really interested to hear how it works for you.

All the best,

Dan.

il padrone

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Re: Battery charging: Best computer for touring & buffer battery for dynohub
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2012, 05:18:06 AM »
Hi

I've only just got the iPad back in late December. It's a work iPad, so I'll be carrying it to and fro a bit in the panniers , together with the laptop  :-\. I didn't use it a great deal on my tour of Tassie as I was kept busy, being the organiser and there with the family too; and there were not too many places where I could get on to wireless networks (it does not have a modem for broadband use). On quieter tours I may use it more.

I just used the on-screen keyboard so far and generally find it good to use....... except for the muck around to get numbers and symbols.

ianshearin

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Re: Battery-charging: Best computer for touring & buffer battery for dynohub
« Reply #4 on: February 29, 2012, 04:43:24 PM »
Hi,
Hope you dont mind me jumping in here,

I am I suppose what they call a gadget geek, I like to think of myself as a 'early adopter of technology' but others disagree.  :-*

I cant give a review of the ipad on tour but I have been using one from the day they were available, I use it extensively for work and pleasure.

The Powermonkey Extreme claims to be able to charge the iphone about 6 times and the ipad twice, I think that is quite amazing and as a result will be taking the ipad with me on tour.
However I have tried to read from the ipad and to be honest it's just a bit too heavy, especially if you are lying down and dont have a convenient partners head to rest it on...
As a result I am going to get a Kindle just for reading.

As far as typing goes it does the job ok but I have found that often I miss a letter or miss out a space because I move away too quickly from the keypad to the next letter and therefore don't register the touch.
The lack of a delete key is a bit of a pain as well having to use the backspace key instead to correct errors.
There is a facility to turn on/off clicking when you type which is irritating to others so I have it turned off, that may be why I miss keys occasionally.
It takes a bit of getting used to but when space and weight is tight it does a good job as a typing machine.

I dont have the 3G version which can connect to the internet through a sim card but I have a iphone 4s which very easily tethers to the ipad so i can use it as a internet tool, note this only works with the iphone 4s and not previous versions of iphone.

Taking the ipad with me is going to one of the pleasures of touring for me, I play scrabble with my Mum and a few other family members, we kinda keep in touch that way and I wil continue to play scrabble with mum from the darkest depths of Africa which she cant seem to get her head round just yet  :D

With a dyna hub, a solar panel system, a little wind generator and a powermonkey along with the iphone to tether it to I see no reason that comms wont be any different out there...

In fact if I dont tell amyone they may not notice Im gone........
In the end, it's not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away.
'shing xiong'

jags

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Re: Battery-charging: Best computer for touring & buffer battery for dynohub
« Reply #5 on: February 29, 2012, 06:26:02 PM »
wow this is fantastic but way way beyond me ;D ;D taking a computer on tour never i find it hard enough to start this one up.
nah a wee bit of musis on my dab radio does it for me lads but each to there own  ;D

Andre Jute

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Re: Battery-charging: Best computer for touring & buffer battery for dynohub
« Reply #6 on: February 29, 2012, 06:50:27 PM »
It's a pity the Kindle 3G has such a wretched keyboard, because that would otherwise be the ideal touring device, capable of receiving mail and maps and using the internet in general, pleasingly light and very economical of power (if permitted to sleep when not in use), and with an excellent screen for use in natural light.

Andre Jute

ianshearin

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Re: Battery-charging: Best computer for touring & buffer battery for dynohub
« Reply #7 on: February 29, 2012, 07:28:12 PM »
Its interesting Andre that the new Kindle is keyboardless, it has less funcionality it terms of internet access but does have wifi to download books etc.
At 89 it is also much cheaper and at that price is well worth putting in every tourers pannier.

I will be looking around to see if there are any language translation programs for it which will be useful for the traveller, I wonder if it will be able to download and display maps?

Ian
In the end, it's not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away.
'shing xiong'

Danneaux

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Re: Battery-charging: Best computer for touring & buffer battery for dynohub
« Reply #8 on: February 29, 2012, 09:17:54 PM »
Hi All,

As OP for this thread, I am still following it with avid interest -- especially as I am on the cusp of spending for some sort of netbook or tablet to take on-tour.

While looking in an electronics store yesterday, I came across an intriguing option that may be the best of all worlds...depending on whether I can get it to multi-boot into a Linux distro (dunno yet, I'm just starting to look at it)...

That is the ASUS EeePad Transformer or Tranformer Prime series: http://www.asustablets.us/

They appear to be a tablet when one wishes...or a netbook of sorts with a dockable keyboard. The combined package looks to be about the same as a netbook in form-factor and overall volume and weight, with remarkably good reported battery life. For consuming content, the tablet is a pip -- just lean back and swipe and tap on the screen. For content generation -- daily journaling, modest photo editing, website updating via uploads, the keyboard looks ideal.

I do need to look further into this option, and it does appear promising. Now, if only the colored e-ink in development could make it to market for 25+ hour battery life, I'd be set.

Thanks, Ian, for keeping us in the loop for your plans. Your approach sounds logistically reasonable and I'm on pins and needles, waiting to hear how it all works out. Are you planning some dry runs at your present location so you can uncover any bugs or drawbacks before heading off for Africa?

Best,

Dan.

ianshearin

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Re: Battery-charging: Best computer for touring & buffer battery for dynohub
« Reply #9 on: February 29, 2012, 10:28:09 PM »
Looks nice that ee pad Dan, bit cheeky calling it an eepad  ;)
I gave up netbooks/notebooks when I got the iPad, it hasnt the same functionality as a netbook but if your willing to change the way you interact with a PC then its nice to just have a tablet in your bag.
I think that eepad looks like a good alternative though, and that claimed battery life is very good.

At the moment Dan, my plans are entirely dependant on a work contract I am negotiating at the minute, if negotiations work out then I will work hard until end Aug and be able to purchase all the gear I need (I estimate 5k for the bike and gear, I have absolutely nothing yet) so there will be no dry runs, I will test out the camping gear in the garden but thats about it, i am going to cycle/train through France and Spain so that will be my running in period.
Once I get the ferry to Morroco then its game on.....

I will know in the next few days if the contract materialises, so its a tenterhooks few days for me at the minute.

Ian
In the end, it's not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away.
'shing xiong'

Danneaux

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Re: Battery-charging: Best computer for touring & buffer battery for dynohub
« Reply #10 on: February 29, 2012, 11:37:54 PM »
Boy, that's an uncertain place to be right now, Ian. I've been in similar spots and a person just wished it could be confirmed one way or another.

In any case, all support your way. Once off, I know it will be a grand adventure. Just stay safe and keep yourself well. It has been enjoyable taking your "pre-journey" with you; thanks for sharing your views and thoughts. As a "gadget guy" myself, the things you're considering are right up my alley, and I'm pretty sure I could continue the discussion indefinitely.  :D

Oh! Just returned from the BestBuy electronics chain, where they had ASUS Transformer and Transformer Prime tablet-netbooks on display. Boy, are they sweet. Pricey for now. I must investigate further. See: http://www.trustedreviews.com/asus-eee-pad-transformer_Laptop_review Oh. It's Android based.  I was kinda hoping for some flavor of Win7 so I could dual-boot into a Linux distro or virtualize it with Wondershare Time-Freeze to avoid problems in Internet cafes....

All the best,

Dan.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2012, 04:04:41 AM by Danneaux »

Andre Jute

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I will be looking around to see if there are any language translation programs for it which will be useful for the traveller, I wonder if it will be able to download and display maps?

I have the Kindle 3G with the keyboard but on 3G, which you need for the maps, it's a current-hog. Also, the free 3G is tied to only one IP provider per country. In Europe it would be no problem, nor in most of the States, but in Africa? Forget it.

I tried the Kindle as a map generator around here (West Cork, familiar lanes) and the problem was the poor controls for moving around the map so you can orient yourself, and some of the Google Maps not being designed for bright sunshine conditions, and washing out in the sunlight. I think in any demanding situation (Africa) it would end up on a scale from frustrating to dangerous to lethally useless. I wouldn't even like to trust it as a backup to something sturdier and more competent. To see what I mean, take a Kindle out into your back yard and try to find out where you are.

I have an Android smartphone, a Samsung Galaxy Europa that I bought specifically as an emergency phone to keep on the bike. (Until I recently had heart surgery I didn't carry a mobile; I don't encourage people to call me and break my train of thought.) It's like the Asus tablet Dan is going on about but much, much smaller. But it is in fact a full service computer with the Android operating system. Because of its small size the thing is a bit frustrating until you get the hang of typing with your thumbs, but I managed to send a few messages from the hospital. But it has good maps and you can sling them around with wild abandon, and because of the colour they're more readable in bright sunlight than the greyscale maps on the Kindle, which theoretically should read much better in sunlight. However, the Europa has bluetooth which works well (I use it with my desktop Mac to transfer files), wi-fi ditto, and can set itself up as a wi-fi hotspot for other devices (tried it, works). As with all these devices, you'll need whatever chargers you have on the bike. My Europa goes on the charger every second day when the wifi/net is on, and the manufacturer's claims of hundreds of hours of standby is ponycar BS. But with a charger and adequate waterproofing, the Europa could be a back-up/emergency GPS/phone/email unit. The reason I mention it is that I paid only fifty Euro for mine, and they were available down to forty Euro, cheap enough to make it throwaway item. It's not an Apple iPhone but where you're going you can be murdered for an iPhone.

For those who insist on a good keyboard for whatever reason, the cheap Europa offers Bluetooth, as does the excellent, small, light latest model of Apple keyboard, the one set into a scroll of aluminium. I haven't tried the two together, but I imagine they could work and if I have to go back to hospital I'll take that setup. I in fact like the Europa for reading books on, so I see no reason its little screen shouldn't be good for working on if you have a good keyboard. This twists matters around, in that the keyboard will be the heavier and larger item, but so what, if your hands demand it. The keyboard is a bit pricey, but again so what. Or you can get a cheaper bluetooth keyboard. See the good one from Apple here: http://store.apple.com/ie/product/MC184LB/B?fnode=MTc0MjU4OTY

You can get the Samsung Galaxy Europa Manual here if you want to see what it will do: http://www.samsung.com/uk/support/model/GT-I5500YKAXEU

***

By the way, I had an iPad 2 on order for the bike but just cancelled the order. Apple is bringing out an iPad 3 in a week or so, and if these things follow the usual pattern, it will soon be cheaper as well as more capable than the iPad 2, and there is some talk of Apple keeping the iPad 2 as well at a much reduced price.

Might be smart to wait it out, Dan. In a couple of weeks the Asus (which I've heard is the best of the non-Apple lot, especially for cyclists) might not look such a bargain.

Danneaux

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Quote
Might be smart to wait it out, Dan. In a couple of weeks the Asus (which I've heard is the best of the non-Apple lot, especially for cyclists) might not look such a bargain.
Absolutely right, Andre. It-it-it...felt so gooood in my hands, and I was doing the whiplash-doubletake thing in the store aisle, chanting "Waaaaannnnnnnt...Waaaaannnnnnnt..." in my mind, but I'm alright now.

I've had fun investigating alternatives, too. See:
http://lifehacker.com/5889158/turn-a-99-nook-into-a-fully-fledged-android-tablet-in-four-easy-steps
...and...
http://gizmodo.com/5867143/how-to-jailbreak-your-kindle-touch-with-an-mp3-file

That layered-color e-ink thing is just over the horizon. With it will come the battery life of my dreams.

Best,

Dan.

ianshearin

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Just looking at the iPad 3, there is no tech specs out yet but the rumour mill gives some idea of what to expect.
From what I can see most of the enhancements will be down to processing power and speeding up software as well as some camera and security upgrades.

To be frank, unless there are changes to the size, weight and battery of the iPad 3 I dont see that it will make a better touring device, it will become a much enhanced leisure and business device but not necessarily any better to take on tour. If I have the money I will still get it though, I have a neice thats allready eyeing up my current iPad.. :-[

The Kindle doesnt seem to do maps very well from what I can deduct, so I will take it purely as a reading device and maybe a language dictionary.

That Spot technology as you point out Dan looks a bit overkill for me not to mention overpriced, I am going to go with an iPhone and the trackmytour app suggested by bgp4 in another thread.

Im still looking at what GPS system to take, Garmin seem to have the market sown up and they have maps for most of Africa albeit at an additional cost, I really dont know which Garmin to get, there are loads of them and vary drastically in price from under 100 to over 350...
I just want a simple GPS to keep me on track and make sure I dont get lost or end up going the completely opposite direction for 25 miles and have to turn back  ;)

Ian
In the end, it's not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away.
'shing xiong'

StuntPilot

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Computer and cache battery thoughts ...

If I could afford it I would say a MacBook Air 11" (small light powerful). Seems from reports to bear up well on rough terrain with the SSD drives and no moving parts. In fact I am going to start saving now! I have an ageing MacBook Pro but the new MacBook Air models are very powerful so that could be my upgrade path. Would serve well with an external high capacity hard drive for photos/video and for storing GPS maps and tracks if recording a route on a long trip. Power for such a scenario (charging camera batteries, gadgets, MacBook Air) would require a descent solar panel and substantial battery ... this one is waterproof, durable and rollable. 28 watt one looks good.

http://www.powerfilmsolar.com/rollable-solar-chargers.php

The two PowerTraveller batteries you mention Dan require mains adapter to charge, or have I missed something? For a computer I don't think that the dynamo and The Plug 2 would provide enough power for the required cache battery for a laptop. The Impel 2 battery would ...

http://store.bruntonoutdoor.com/portable-power/portable-power-packs/

Coupled with the 12V input from the PowerFilm panel, the Impel 2 provides USB, 12V, 16V and 19V output to suit the MacBook Air and most laptops. It is also rugged and built for expedition use. Another solution would be a 12V dynamo instead of the solar panel?? Must look into that!

For smaller devices only (GPS (ianshearin - I have the Garmin eTrex 30 and find it fantastic), USB razor (saw one somewhere!!), iPod, charging standard AA and AAA rechargeable batteries - all USB powered items) I think the HyperJuice Mini looks good. It supports pass-through charging so you can have it connected to The Plug 2 and plug in your GPS or other gadget at the same time.

http://www.hypershop.com/HyperJuice-Mini-7200mAh-Battery-for-iPhone-iPad-iPod-USB-s/165.htm

Hyper Shop also produce higher capacity batteries for laptop charging which look interesting.

I will probably go with the solar panel/MacBook Air option. Lot more expensive but solid, reliable and rugged set up with the Impel 2 battery. The Plug 2 would be used for other gadgets.

I am a keen photographer so would need a solution that provides good computer and battery charging ability.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2012, 03:32:25 PM by StuntPilot »