Digital tools for Productive Nomads

Whilst travelling I blogged from internet cafes and carried a hard drive around to back up photos from my Camera's SD card. Technology moves on so fast, that there are now a wealth of options for ‘digital tools’ that help you to process your documenting and communicate to the world. There are thousands of apps for just about every possibility from navigation to finding accommodation to medicine available.

If you are am going on a long bike tour and intend to blog about it, take photos then you need to have an equipment set up to allow this. Do you take a tablet pc or netbook and try to use wifi rather than internet cafes? What software should you use for organising and backing up photos, blogging, and editing for podcasts and videos, protecting against viruses and prevention against theft of your device? Googling offers plenty of idea but here are some thoughts from my own experience.

Blogging

I'm a big fan of Wordpress for blogging. It is a little work to set up, but afterwards is highly customisable and controllable. trackmytour.com is an option I was recommended which allows updates (with optional photo) posted to a map for your friends and family to follow along.

What things to consider especially for travel blogs?

  • the backend (where you create your content and config your blog) should be accessible from mobile devices; if it's no fun / not easy, you'll probably don't post so much
  • if a problem occurs, you should be able to handle/fix it on tour (or contact someone who can do it for you)
  • backups should be done automatically (e.g. send a database dump daily to a separate mail account)
  • if you use internet cafés and/or untrusted networks, your password could be stolen; don't use an admin account to post/edit content; but have admin login available for emergencies (e.g. to delete compromised user accounts)

Self-hosting vs. 3rd party service

Self-hosting
advantages
  • you get exactly what you want
  • it's your content, you have full control, you can backup it (some services allow this, too, but not all)
  • no policies, no censorship, no rules, no service terms
  • you can fix any problems yourself (and don't have to wait for the provider to do it)
  • you can create/use accounts with lesser privileges (security)
disadvantages
  • costs more time
  • costs money (hosting)
  • need to know that stuff (resp. dig into it)
  • you have to update the software yourself (security)
  • you need to fix any problems yourself
3rd party service
advantages
  • no setup, no configuration, no updates
  • (usually) no costs
disadvantages
  • might not offer exactly what you need; customization possibilites are limited
  • you don't "own" your content; (often) no backup possibility
  • you have to respect their service terms
  • (often) ads
  • you can't do anything if it goes down
  • (often) you have only one account; if your password is stolen, your account is lost
  • risk of being deleted (for no reason), risk that the service might shut down forever

Photography

When I was travelling I took a thousands of photos and many hours of audio and video along with numerous written journals. The digital medium is great but managing all the photos and videos becomes a time-consuming task. The aim is to get good images and video, edited and released into the necessary channels whether that is photos for blog posts or articles, a film or a podcast. I opted for Adobe Lightroom to organise and edit photos.

Audio

Audacity is popular open source audio editing software. Audacity can be used for post-processing of all types of audio, including podcasts by adding effects such as normalization, trimming, and fading in and out

Security

Prey is good, it is open source 'spy on your own device' software. The opens source is a major plus for any spy software, as you can at least confirm that it only spies on the device when I command it to! (Jacco's tip). There are many portable apps which can run off a USB stick which allows you to have your commonly used software together on one USB key. Running Chrome from a USB you can keep addons and browsing data saved. You might want also want to go this route for security purposes. Check out the Tails OS and Tor Browser for extra security.

Storage

Storing video requires a lot of storage space. I recommend getting the most space you can afford for this. I now have a Synology DS716+ server with dual 4tb disks for this purpose. In the past I used 'syncback' for backup onto a portable external disk but the server is a more sustainable solution especially if you will be returning to a base. If not there are products available that are designed to be taken travelling such as the Western Digital MyPassport SE hard drives and the OWC ‘On the Go Pro’.

Open Source

I use open source software where possible. There are many open source alternative versions to popular software like 'Gimp' as an alternative to Photoshop. Open source software also allows you to get involved in the development of the software if you are a developer.

Other Apps Recommendations

TripDoc

TripDoc helps you organize your trip with options to keep notes, mark your current location and share places or maps with friends via email. It also allows you to list places and show everything on a map.

HopStop

HopStop provides you with detailed public transit, taxi, biking and even walking directions in dozens of cities throughout the US, Canada and Europe. [Free]

AMetro

With aMetro, you can find the routes between stations and estimate travel time as it shows you the maps of transit systems all over the world including subways, metro, buses, trains and many other.

AroundMe

Need to find out what’s around you? AroundMe allows you to quickly find out information about your surroundings.

Where To Go?

Where To Go is a fun-to-use app with the ‘Shake-To-Suggest’ feature, helping you to explore and find the closest bars, grocery stores, pharmacy, taxi firms or historical point-of-interest.

Swim Guide

Swim Guide lets you know if a beach is open for swimming and when the water quality is poor from within the app. Areas are marked with colors for water-quality reference. It also tells you the beaches closest to you, lets you do searches or browse maps.

Airbnb

A growing and trusted community, Airbnb is a marketplace that connects you with people who have space for rent, worldwide. Find a room of any distinctive space: from a private apartment to a private island!

Instagram

Quickly snap a picture with Instagram, choose a gorgeous filter to transform its look and feel, then share it to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Photosynth

Also a panorama creation app, Photosynth makes it easy and fun to capture and share interactive panoramas of the places, people, and events around you.

Camera Awesome

Camera Awesome takes your photos to the next level by making your memories come alive with photo filters of stunning professional effects.

EveryTrail

With EveryTrail, you can plot your trip, photos and videos right on the map in the mobile app and upload it to EveryTrail.com, Facebook or Twitter.

Currency

Currency provides up-to-date exchange rate information for over 100 currencies and countries.

Trip Journal

Trip Journal is the ultimate travel app as it lets you track, record, and documents your travel in a beautiful app, then share it with friends and family.

Google Translate

Travelling to a place where you don’t speak the local language? You’ve got nothing to worry about with Google Translate. Supports up to 60 languages.

IMedjet

An abbreviated version of Medjet’s medical consultation benefit and mobile medical information that you can carry wherever you go.

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