Travel Home Entertainment System

Since I’ll be travelling for the next 6 months I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at how I can reduce my key content to be able to bring it with me on the road. I’ve had quite a bit of success and here’s how you can do it too.

The solution has turned out to be a combination of the 13″ Macbook Pro with a 1 terabyte drive, along with the ipad. The 1 terabyte drive finally gives me enough storage to keep everything on one small laptop, and the ipad works as a display device.

I’m finding so far that I’m extremely comfortable whereever I go — I always have my information with me (books) and TV to watch if I want to. It is starting to feel like “home” can almost be anywhere.

Anyways, here’s how it works: There’s 4 key types of content I want to be able to travel with..

1. TV

Since quite a while now I’ve made all my content digital; downloaded from the web from a variety of sources. I’ll assume you know how to do this part already. Today’s breakthrough was when I realised I could run an Ipad application: Air Video, and display TV on my ipad. This means if I’m in a hotel room the computer sits on my desk and the TV is displayed on my ipad from bed, streamed wirelessly. It works very smoothly.

2. Books

Readers of my blog will know I have about 800 books which cost approx $25,000 over 10 years to buy. I’m getting closer and closer to the point where I no longer accept physical books in my life and only do reading on my ipad. This would mean I only buy books on the kindle, or read PDFs via goodreader. For books which I simply have to have but are not available, I am looking into a PDF scanning service where I send the book to them and they send me a PDF. Its simply too awesome to have all my books with me electronically wherever I go. I have no problems reading on my ipad unless I’m in bright sunlight.

3. Music

For now I’m just using Itunes for music with MP3s played on my laptop when I don’t have internet, and pandora when I do have internet. It works pretty well.

4. Photos

Storage has been a big issue for photography since I shoot very high resolution. Now with the bigger drive this isn’t a problem. These are displayed on the web via my smugmug site: I also display them on my screensaver on my computer, pulled down via an RSS feed.

I’ll continue to update on this topic, but so far this is looking very promising. Here are the components:

13″ macbook pro:

1 terabyte drive for 13″ macbook pro:


good reader:

kindle app:


Why the ipad will change the book industry

Right now I’m in Nassau, the Bahamas, learning to scuba drive.  I have my laptop and ipad with me.  Scuba is pretty fun, and I was very intriuged when I learned about underwater photography.  I had an interesting conversation today with a guy on the boat who told me about Cathy Church, who runs one of  the top underwater photography schools in the Cayman Islands.  A trip to the Caymans in the future to learn underwater photography was sounding pretty interesting.

I wanted to learn more.  Yes, I can browse the web, but I wanted a basic beginners summary for a decent photographer on how to do underwater photography.  But I’m currently in the Bahamas and have no clue where a bookstore is, nor transportation to get to one.  So I got on my computer and looked around for some books online.  I was able to find a PDF book by doing some ninja searches. I put it on my ipad using Goodreader.  And suddenly I was reading a book about underwater photography on my ipad.

I was reading for a while in my hotel room, but I was hungry so I went out to eat.  Along came my ipad and I continued reading during dinner.

And my conclusion?  Underwater photography is not for me.  Its too complex and the price doesn’t make sense to me for the ability to shoot shots underwater.  There are technical issues with salt getting into your camera, different color adjustments underwater and needing to use lots of flashes because its dark in the ocean.  I’ve never been interested in shooting flowers or bees and most underwater photography is focused around shooting things close to you.

A quote from the "Dear Leader" of North Korea, taken in North Korea

So the ipad made it very easy for me to get a book while on the road, read it and learn what I needed to know in order to realise I don’t want to learn underwater photography.  This has saved me a massive amount of time of asking people about it on my trip and thinking about it as a future hobby to get involved with.  I was almost going to take a multiday class on it.  So this saved me a lot of time.

Yes, I can read books on my computer or iphone, but its not the same since its not a book sized screen.

Additionally to my ipad, I’m in the process of moving.  I have about 800 books, which cost me about $25,000 to buy over 8 years.  Its my braintrust.  But so many books is such a hassle to move.  I’m seriously considering switching everything over to digital because I just don’t want bookshelves anymore.  I’m really happy with the kindle app on the ipad, and a good PDF reader.

So book distributors, watch out.  Your future doesn’t look good.

How I Almost Crashed Our Helicopter In Haiti

This is probably a post I’ll regret making, but its just such an interesting story I thought I’d share.
A friend offered for me to spend some time in Haiti.  Since it was only a 90 minute helicopter ride away from Santo Domingo, I accepted.  I also wanted to see my friend who lives in Port Au Prince and learn more about what was going on. My friend’s team had 3 helicopters over in Port Au Prince and they were delivering aid across the city.  At night they were sleeping in an orphanage.

me in front of the presidential palace in port au prince

I was offered to help the guys deliver supplies via helicopter.  “sure”, I said, not really knowing what that meant.  Our pilot was a very nice guy named Ryan who had spent 4 years flying helicopters in the middle east for the US military.  He really knew what he was doing.

So we load up into the chopper, per this shot.

See the big box on my lap in the chopper?

The back of the chopper was full and I had the big box on my lap.  That big box was going to be a problem later.  🙂

So then we fly out to a basically empty field which looked like this:

empty field (for right now)

What happens when a helicopter shows up and delivers free stuff out of the sky?  That empty field within 90 seconds looks like this:

chopper dropping supplies

I am not kidding.  The formerly barren field is suddenly filled with people who just show up out of absolutely nowhere.  We still have no idea where they all come from.  Its more than a little scary – these are people in a very desperate situation

Anyways, Ryan told me we have to get to another empty field, put the chopper down, get out and then drop off all the supplies before the haitians can run over to the chopper and try to get in and/or steal from us.  So we find an empty field and start to land.  This is immediately what I saw:

people running towards the helicopter

I got (ahem) a little nervous.  So I frantically tried to get the big box out of the chopper.  Unfortunately the box got wedged on the steering column which controls the entire helicopter.  I was pretty nervous about the guys running towards us, so I did get the box out, but almost rolled the chopper in the process.  Ryan fortunately was able to keep control of it.  He said later on a scale of 1-10 where 10 is extremely dangerous that my little maneuver with the box rated a “9”.

We were able to drop the supplies off, this is people picking them up:

people picking up supplies after we drop them off

and here’s a zoom of one of their faces as they’re looking up at us:

expression on a guys face as we're dropping off supplies

And this photo is of the moment exactly as I almost rolled the helicopter:

the exact moment i almost rolled the chopper

You can see in the above photo how close everyone got to us (and remember, this was a previously empty field).

Apparently we probably would not have been killed, but it would not have been much fun. So Ryan, thanks for keeping things under control!

I’m not sure there’s anything to be learned here other than be careful if you visit a disaster zone, and have a lot of respect for the people who are out there risking their lives.

UPDATE: One of the pilots (Ty Corbridge) dug up a video as we were doing one of the dropoffs. You can watch it here: