August 25, 2009

preparing for the journey: part i

It's already been over a month since I got the invitation, and it feels like I've done nothing to get ready. Partially because it's actually true. I still don't know what kind of luggage I'm going to use, I haven't drafted a packing list yet, and I've been spending a lot of time at the beach. What you're looking at right now is the first fruit of my labor to prepare for this trip. A blog. I don't exactly have my priorities in order at the moment. Regardless of my situation right now, I know things will work out. Procrastination runs deep in my immediate family, but we also have a knack for pulling things together quickly when the pressure's on. Mostly out of necessity because of the procrastination.

I've started looking into luggage and rainwear first and foremost, as I sense these will be decisions that have a major impact on my comfort overseas. Although given the recommendation for luggage with some kind of shoulder straps because of the awful roads in Tanzania, I don't anticipate carrying 80 lbs on my back to be comfortable in any situation. I'm also researching solar chargers, hoping to find something under $100 that's powerful enough to trickle charge the little netbook I'm typing this post on.

Entering <geek mode>: (if you don't understand the next paragraph at all, don't feel bad)

On that note, I've been finding ways to reduce the power consumption of my laptop to squeeze every bit of battery life out of it that I can. The model I have, the EeePC 1005HA, is advertised to get 10.5 hours of battery life (ridiculous), which means they turn off all functionality (wifi, bluetooth, webcam, etc.) and leave it idle until the battery dies. So far, I think the most I've gotten on a single charge of normal use is a little over 6 hours, and that was with the screen backlight almost all the way on, playing videos, browsing the web and such. The other day I found a nice little utility that lets me monitor the wattage of the machine on battery power, and it gives suggestions to help save battery life. It's called powertop, and it runs in a command line. Yesterday I managed to get the average power consumption down to about 8 to 10 watts, which should serve me pretty well. When I'm using it outdoors, I can turn the backlight completely off, which is pretty cool, and that should save me some power. I can also turn the wifi off when I'm not in a hot spot (which will be often in Tanzania), which will save even more. I think if I can get it down to about 6 or 7 watts, the battery life should get pretty close to 9 hours. Not too shabby for running KDE4 Arch Linux on a netbook!

</geek mode>

In terms of getting to staging, which is in Philadelphia (20 minutes from my hometown), I've pretty much decided to drive instead of fly. I think it will be easier than scheduling a flight with SATO Travel. If I flew, I'd have to go through security and all that jazz one more time, and then figure out a way to get to the hotel, whereas driving eliminates all of that. Driving also allows opportunities to see friends before I leave, in Maryland and in Delaware. We're planning to catch a MD football game on the way up at the moment.

A little something about the blog before I finish this first entry. If you're wondering about the stripe pattern in the background, those are the colors of the Tanzanian flag. I've seen two or three variations of the green and blue colors of the flag, and I'm interested to see how they really look when I finally get there. As for the "Photostream" at the top right, it's a link to my Flickr account. Right now, I don't have many pictures uploaded to it (I just cleaned out a bunch of old stuff I didn't need anymore), but I plan to upload pictures there while I'm overseas, and they should show up automatically in the Photostream for your viewing pleasure. Finally, the Followers list. I'm not quite sure how this works, but I think this is the Blogger way to subscribe to a blog. I don't know if you need to have an account with Google in order to subscribe, so let me know how it works out for you guys. If it turns out you do need a Google account, I'll try to find another way for everyone to get updates, whether I set up an RSS feed or just send emails informing you of updates (I'll be sure to post updates on my Facebook profile).

That's pretty much it. I've got 27 days until staging! Once I make a decision on luggage, a packing list is soon to follow. Thanks for reading, hopefully these blog updates will get more interesting over time.