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The Ideal Electronic Travel Journal

© 2003 Max Lent

Flying to the other side of the world with a notebook computer presents some problems.  First, the notebook computer will run out of power about three hours into your 17 hour flight.  Second, after the notebook computer runs out of power it is just dead weight.  Some airlines offer power for notebook computers, but I haven't seen that feature on any airplanes I've flown on.  When I have asked about power for my computer the flight attendants suggested that I fly business class next time.  Since I travel cheap, the dollar for watt cost is prohibitive for me.

The ideal travel word processing device for me is a personal digital assistant (PDA).  I purposely use a Palm III, Palm VII, or Palm 100 for the reason that they are powered by disposable AAA batteries.  I can purchase AAA batteries almost anywhere in the world and the Palm III is good for at least a couple of weeks of heavy duty daily text entry.

On a trip to India I was an involuntary sales representative for Palm.  Everywhere I went, people who saw me typing away with my portable keyboards came up to me and asked for a demonstration.  After the demonstration they wrote down the brand, model, and keyboard information said that they were going to buy one immediately.  One person, the daughter of a travel agency owner traveling the world doing travel research saw me using a Palm III at tiger preserve.  She was so impressed that she had a PDA shipped to her in India so that she could use it on the remainder of her trip.

Sending Printed Postcards from Katmandu, Nepal

In Katmandu, Nepal, I bought lots of postcards, about 70 in all, with the intent of using my DEC notebook computer and my Canon portable color printer to create personalized mail-merged postcards for all of our friends.  Quality postcards were extremely inexpensive in India and Nepal.  At our hotel, the Royal Singhi, I experimented with this setup for hours.  Names and addresses were stored in a Microsoft Access database.  Microsoft Word collects those names and addresses and adds them to boiler plate text through a process called mail merge.  The result is a personalized letter or postcard.  It should have been easy, but Microsoft Word didnít want to let me set up a page preference for a 4X6Ē piece of paper.  After hours of experimenting, I was able to fool Word and the printer into printing postcards correctly.  It was a slow laborious process that took much longer than it should have.  It was still faster than writing out 70 postcards by hand.  Once I got it to work it worked fairly well.  Most of our computer savvy friends quickly figured out that they had been sent a computer generated card, but were impressed that I had created a computer-generated card from Nepal.

One of the first problems I encountered when I started setting up the notebook computer and the printer was that I could only plug one of them at a time into the power converter that plugged into the wall socket.  By using the notebook in battery mode I plugged the printer into the power converter.  The notebook connected to the printer via a parallel printer cable.  When everything was set up I had cords and cables strung all over our small table and dresser.  It was an interesting experiment.  If I send mail-merged postcards from a foreign country again, I will work out the problems of printing the cards and maintaining margins before I leave.  I will probably not use a Canon printer, because of their inability to handle odd paper sizes and heavy weight stock well.  No Canon printer or Fax I have owned has worked much better.  Microsoft supposedly has information on printing postcards with Word somewhere on their Web site, but I have never been able to find it.  I may have to resort to purchasing an accessory program to print the cards on future trips.


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