TO THE INTERNET:
We found an Internet Service Provider (ISP) called dnai.com that has an agreement with a company called iPass that provides international access phone numbers and dial-up software. Then, in each location that has a phone number, we will need access to a phone line. After that, we just need to make sure we have the proper phone line adapters and a good connection. So far, we've found access from some of the most remote places with ease. We also have an acoustic coupler which allows us to access via any phone handset without connection cables. This, however, is only a last resort, as it does not work very well.
In terms of cost, this is how it works; first we pay dnai our monthly ISP access fee. Then we pay a monthly fee to them for the use of iPass. After that, every time we log on and use iPass, we get charged a fee by the hour (anywhere from $4-$12 an hour), divided by minutes, depending on the location. We also get charged for making a local phone call from wherever we call, usually a hotel room. It adds up, needless to say.
Another option is to use internet cafes, which charge for access either by the minute or the hour. With them you can log on to a web based e mail such as hotmail or yahoo and send and receive e mail. We did this when we found ourselves without access to a phone. What you can't do, however, in these places, is work easily on a web page, unless you have your own computer.
The web page is created using Netscape Navigator Gold. I don't know any HTML code and it's easy. Simple as using any word processing program. When we go home, we will probably change the style of the page, using a more complex program. But while on the road, simple is better.
THE DIGITAL CAMERA
We debated long and hard whether or not to carry a digital camera or a regular film camera. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. The advantage to the digital camera is that it takes no film and there are no developing costs. However, initial cost is more, but it pays for itself quickly. If you want to print the pictures you can on special photographic paper. Another advantage is that you can instantly see the photo on a 2 inch LED screen on the camera and erase it if you don't like it. The camera is also very small and lightweight which is much better than a large and heavy SLR with many extra lenses. Disadvantage is quality and resolution of the photo. The photo looks really good on a computer screen, but is a bit grainy when printed. Also the zoom feature is limited. We will see as we go if we feel that we will need a "regular" camera. For example, if we go to Africa on safari we will probably want a different camera.
The digital camera we are using is called a Ricoh 300Z. It has 640x480 resolution, three different resolution settings, economy, normal, and fine, that change the amount of memory a picture takes and therefore the quality of the picture. With the photo program that comes with the camera, we can download the pictures directly onto the computer and then place them onto the web page.
The camera has 3X zoom that is equivalent to 28 mm to 110 mm on a regular camera. It can also take pictures in black and white, with a self timer, and has many different flash and exposure compensation settings. The software allows us to stitch photos together to make a panorama, brighten dark photos, and to easily crop and enlarge the pictures.
The Ricoh comes with a 2 MB Smart Media card that will hold 49, 24, or 12 photos depending on the resolution setting. We later purchased another 8 MB card that will hold 200, 99, or 49 photos. We now leave the 8 MB card in all the time and download photos as needed. We only take photos on the fine resolution setting.
For the most part we have been happy with the abilities of the digital camera. We very much like being able to stitch photos together, to have instantaneous pictures with our text, not having to buy film, etc. In fact, we have only had to buy AA batteries for the camera since we left. Had we considered it more, we might have bought rechargeable batteries instead. The only disappointment has been with the resolution of the pictures. When enlarged, the photos become very pixelated. Also, the subject cannot be moving or the photo becomes very blurry. This leads to less candid photos of people. If we were buying the camera now, I would buy one with the highest resolution available.
This can be complicated and we have lots of accessories to combat the problem of "which plug?", "which cord?", "which adapter?"
First, there is the problem of voltage. In the US, our outlet plugs are at 110 volts and all of our appliances are wired as such. The much of rest of the world, however, is at 220 volts. They also have different plug/prong configurations than we do. For this we have a very small voltage converter with built in adapter plugs for almost every plug we have encountered. With the exception of Taiwan, every country outside of the US has been 220 volts.
Now, if that's not enough, we were given a gift of the "Tele-TravelKit International", made by a company called Road Warrior International . This kit includes all of the possible adapter plugs and telephone adapter jacks, line tester, acoustic coupler, extra phone line, and many other goodies. All it takes is a little time to figure out the right one.
If there are any technical questions we have not answered, please write and let us know...