Borders of Computing: The gear
News.com's Ina Fried had more gadgets than outfits on her trip to Colombia and Brazil.
While pen and paper is still the most important gear for any reporting effort, I did use a bunch of other technology in making this series possible.
1. Panoramic lens from 0-360.com
This was the piece of gear I was most excited about. Basically, it allows an immersive panoramic movie to be created from a single still photo. (The folks at 0-360.com were kind enough to lend a review unit for CNET to use on this trip.)
It's a custom lens that fit on top of my Canon Digital Rebel XT. To achieve the effect, the lens has a mirror on the end. Instead of pointing at a subject, the camera is aimed straight up in the air and takes a picture of what's seen in the mirror.
It takes a little practice to learn how to use the lens and get things in decent focus, but I felt like it really did help give a sense of what it was like to be there.
My biggest issue is that the lens, when placed in its clear cylindrical container doesn't look like the sort of object one wants to take with them through airport security. Only once, though, did security really seem all that interested in it.
2. T-Mobile Dash
I didn't fall in love with Windows Mobile, but my T-Mobile Dash did allow me access to work e-mail and the Internet in many--but not all--places in Colombia and Brazil.
As I did with my Treo, I wrote the occasional short post on the device and also used it to jot down ideas. Microsoft's ActiveSync technology sufficed, but I was still quite happy to be reunited with my Palm OS-based Treo and its GoodLink software upon my return.
3. Flip Video camera
I wanted something to easily take video, knowing that I would be juggling multiple responsibilities. The Flip performed well, although the audio quality at times leaves something to be desired. Also, I had with me the first-generation model, which lacks the tripod mount that would have come in handy.
I used some of the video as it was shot, but also used the Flip footage as b-roll (background matter) in the piece I did with CNET TV's Kara Tsuboi.
4. IBM ThinkPad T42
With the exception of one hiccup in Colombia, my years-old IBM ThinkPad proved trusty and reliable, adapting to whatever form of Internet access that I managed to wrangle.
I did miss the Sprint card that I usually take on domestic reporting trips, but found plentiful if pricey Wi-Fi at the hotels in Brazil and Colombia.