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The CD I would have burninated

This is post for any and all of you headed for mission trips this summer. No matter how much homework you do, emailing individuals who’ve been there and done that, read the web pages at hotels, hostels and cities of commerce websites, no matter how well laid your plans … will often go awry.

Tonight is an excellent example. The brochureware for the hotel we’re visiting lead me to believe they have a full-fledged business center. Technically, it is a business center, but it’s better suited for meetings than networking.

Here I sit hacking away on an NT-based Pentium III with a monitor that has seen better days. This is accompanied with a 56kb modem that’s hooking into a phone line that’s 32kb at best. That’s when the connection doesn’t drop (no matter how much we futz w/the options).

So I’m unable to download my copious pictures from my day’s journey. Fortunately, we have with us a college student with a very nice DELL laptop who’s agreed to allow me to offload my images onto him machine until we can transfer them at an Internet Cafe.

So if I had it to do over again, a laptop or perhaps a plug-n-play USB CD Burner. I’m leaning towards the later. This is because we’ve been able to find computers, but we haven’t been able to FTP at will. We’ve also run into other members of the team who grossly under estimated how many memory cartridges they’d need for their digital camera if they weren’t going to FTP. A small USB burninator would have done the trick. Hmmm … wonder what’s stopping me from getting one here? Probably the fact that a burninator requires burnination software.

Hey, why hasn’t anyone firmwared a simple embedded Linux-based portable picture cache/burninator. We could call it the Trogdor 2004.

I think I would have also burninated a CD with the ‘GNU utilities for Win32.’ These tools would have given me instant access to wget to suck down content, tar and gzip to compress and package images. A few other tools as well, but mostly tar, gzip and wget. This, inspired by the fact that it took almost an hour to ftp 500 images yesterday.

If nothing else, we need to find some blank CDs so we can buninate our photos off our friend’s laptop. Maybe at that time, I’ll see what I can do to get some of them cool command line utils on a CD so I can keep’on blogging from Jordan.

Going on a mission trip? Add the above to your packing list. Gone on a mission trip? Let me know what else you might suggest.


  1. Ya know, I am heading for a missions trip this summer. To Guadalajara, Mexico. The guy we’re staying supposedly has a dial up connection. I never gave this much thought, but my grandiose plans of “reports from the field” complete with pictures may be difficult if I get there and the dial up connection turns out to be someone’s old 8086 with a 2400 baud modem.

  2. Yes, doing reports from the field has proved challenging for me. I was in two different places, both had DSL, but my biggest obstacle was finding time to write the reports. Building a CMS system for my trips also took some doing, but taught me a great deal.

  3. Our church owns one of those Sony Mavica CD digital cameras. The camera stores pictures on a mini-CD. Each mini-CD holds around 600 pictures at a nice quality. We always carry extra CDs but we have never started a new one.

    We do report from the field. Many times we stay on college campuses so many times there is a wireless signal or ethernet connections within the dorm rooms. We use MT and Gallery to upload pics and give reports. The parents of the youth love it and get a little snippy when we don’t report on the website when we are too busy or too tired.

  4. I always bring the laptop. And an inverter, so I can recharge the laptop and the 17 other rechargable gizmos while on the road.

  5. I just returned from a trip to Culiacan, Mexico. My role was of a different sort – I was actually commissioned to film a documentary, as well as shoot stills. A couple things to remember:

    * Power is your friend. The previous poster’s suggestion of an inverter is a good one
    * Spare batteries, and always have them charged, even if you don’t think you’ll need them
    * Whenever you leave a location, even if you intend on returning, pack up your gear in case you never come back
    * bring more than enough tape/film/hard drive space/WHY, and always have space in the device you’re using for when that never-to-be-repeated moment happens

    In general, be more prepared than you think you’ll need to be (because you’ll need more than what you prepare for) but pack as small and light as possible. Find someone who’s experienced in travelling with gear and get their advice on what to bring and how to pack it. We (myself and a camera op) packed $20,000 worth of field gear into a backpack, two cases and a side-saddle camera bag – one person could carry it all. We used every piece of equipment we brought, and brought back some powerful images for our church.

    My opinion on still cameras: either take a camera you can fit in your pocket (a small 4MP digital with a good lens, like the Canon S-series) or take an SLR.

    Why the SLR? If you’re already going to take a camera that needs a seperate case, you want a camera that will get you a) the best image quality, and b) get you the picture RIGHT NOW. The middle-road digitals like the Sony F-series still suffer from shutter release lag and startup time… (though the image quality is quite nice in the right conditions).

    On this trip, I had a Canon S80, a Sony F717, and a Canon Elan II film SLR with a couple of lenses. The S80 stayed in my pocket, the Elan II in my side-saddle with all my notes for the film shooting (along with bug spray and a powerbar), and the F717 stayed back at the camp (despite the fact that it’s a great camera).


  6. MicroSolutions (at http://www.micro-solutions.com) has a really cool device called a Roadstor that includes a 6-in-1 flash memory card reader and a built-in CD burner. For about $250, you get a device that will easily offload your digital memory and, if you want, will even burn a CD of the pictures.

    eDigitalPhoto reviewed it in the March 2004 issue and had good things to say. See http://www.edigitalphoto.com/edigitalgear/0403edp_digigear06 for their review.

    This sounds like exactly what you’re looking for, and would be lots easier to haul around than a laptop and CD burner.

  7. We actually bring an old dell laptop with a 20 Gb drive. You can buy little cflash adapters that go into the PCMIA slot. Everyone just sticks their cards in their and we dump them to a folder on the HD. Easy and cheap. I would advise the power inverter as well. Also, don’t take a laptop you care to lose. We usually bring a junker. I mean you don’t need a P4 to copy pictures!

  8. We actually bring an old dell laptop with a 20 Gb drive. You can buy little cflash adapters that go into the PCMIA slot. Everyone just sticks their cards in their and we dump them to a folder on the HD. Easy and cheap. I would advise the power inverter as well. Also, don’t take a laptop you care to lose. We usually bring a junker. I mean you don’t need a P4 to copy pictures!

  9. Many (most?) missionaries I know have some sort of very functional computer/online setup. It’s worth a few e-mails to find out if and when you can access it.

    For researching good tech tools for the field, I recommend checking out http://www.brigada.org . Though Brigada covers many issues, they consistently include related to the unique computer challenges on the field.