Generally Speaking

Technical gadgets and gizmos on the trip

I do have some technical experience to share if anyone is contemplating a trip of the kind described in these posts of the last four weeks. And the usual disclaimers apply that I am not an expert and this may all be second nature to many readers. However, here goes:

All my posts have been made using the WordPress app on my Android smartphone – a Nexus 5 bought some three years ago direct from Google (except this one – I am finishing this off on my PC back at home) .

All my photos have been taken with a Panasonic Lumix DCM-TZ70 – a modern integrated compact with 30X zoom and more functions than any normal person can get their head round.

Although the absolute image quality is not as good as my previous Digital SLR this is hugely outweighed by the convenience of simply keeping the thing in your pocket and not having to carry around and change different lenses, or fiddle with lens caps.

I did bring an extra battery and charger but hardly ever needed it, even in a long day with hundreds of photos.

I leave the camera set on Intelligent Auto most of the time but have also used the Custom 1 selection on the dial set so that when I switch to that the focus area is small and central and the operating mode is Sport – hopefully to catch moving wildlife better without the camera focusing on surrounding objects like branches of trees.

It really is worth spending quite a lot of time in advance familiarising yourself with these different settings. And don’t forget the golden rule: If all else fails, read the instructions.

The other feature of this camera that I have used all the time is the WiFi link to the smartphone. This is another thing absolutely worth making the effort to work out how to use.

You need to download and install the Panasonic Image app. Screenshot_20160601-205237-2

Then you start initiating the link by turning the camera on and pressing the WiFi button. After that you launch the app on the phone and follow the instructions. Once connected (and this WiFi is entirely self contained, you can use it on a mountaintop – and we did)  you can either control the camera from your phone, or (which I used much more often – at least once a day) transfer a selection of photos to the memory of the phone. From there those pictures are not only backed up to the cloud whenever you next have WiFi access, but the great thing is that you can then import them directly into the blog.

You can add a caption and designate one of them as ‘featured image’ to appear at the head of that post. I only discovered what this meant half way through the holiday but was able to go back and edit all the earlier posts to add a picture to use as each ones thematic image and make the index look much more attractive.

And as for the smartphone – we lost count of the ways it proved invaluable. To start with, it is a phone, and with Vodafone WorldTraveller enabled you can receive data up to your normal home limit for a flat charge of £5.00 for each day you used it. So we switched it off on days we had WiFi and on when we needed it – mainly the days when we used the sat-nav.  The total cost for the four weeks has come in at £135 (I am finishing this post off after we’ve been home a few days)

The phone’s sat-nav was absolutely brilliant. Mounted in a holder we bought in Heathrow and charging from the rental car’s cigarette lighter socket, the Google Maps app gave us superbly reliable route finding, including live traffic information, and told us which lanes to be in for what would otherwise have been nightmarish tangles of multi-lane roads around major cities.

Route finding with Google Maps on my Nexus 5

I simply can’t imagine a visitor doing it any other way. When we did once find ourselves committed to an exit lane coming out of Las Vegas the system calmly rerouted us round a few suburban roads and back onto the correct freeway with no trouble at all.

And then of course the phone gives us WiFi, nowadays available, free, in every hotel, albeit with different degrees of speed and reliability. Apart from news items and messages to and from home, we got things like automatic confirmations of upcoming accommodation bookings from We were able to check our flight status and check in for the return trip (only allowed within 24 hours of departure) from the phone, not to mention following Andy Murray’s progress at the French Open.

And, using our normal subscription to a music streaming service, we could have our own choice of soothing music, and even use an app to make it play us to sleep for a chosen length of time and then shut down.

So I would say that anyone contemplating a trip of this kind who is not familiar with a smartphone should get one now and start learning to use it absolutely straight away.

The WordPress app itself worked well and was fairly intuitive. It sometime s got into a tangle when I deleted or tried to reposition pictures or sections of text, but if I deleted the garbled part and did it again it was always possible to  get it right in the end. Once, for no apparent reason, most of the pictures in a post emerged in duplicate, and of course that was the time I didn’t check the success of the upload before going to sleep for the night. But I was able to put it right in the morning. The upload certainly needed a good WiFi connection, especially as I had no facility for reducing the size of the image files, and when the connection was poor or intermittent the upload would fail repeatedly. But one way or another I got there in the end.






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