My DNC Blogging Gear

I started off this whole crazy DNC thing with a photo of my kit. Here are some notes on the tech behind the blog, and how it performed.

As detailed here, my mostly-trusty 12 inch iBook suffered a hard disk failure just over 7 hours before I was due to fly to Boston. Fortunately, brother Johnny’s 15 inch iBook was waiting and ready back in Charlottetown, and that’s what I took with me. It worked like a charm: I’ve used a lotta laptops, and this might be the best one yet. The screen is really big and bright, the battery gets 4-5 hours of life per charge, the keyboard has a nice feel, and the WiFi works great (I was often able to pick up distant WiFi networks that my PC-based blogmates couldn’t even see). There was some problem in the Fleet Centre with the special blogger WiFi and the Mac that meant that the Mac couldn’t get an IP address from the wireless access point via DHCP; this was quickly solved by entering a manual IP address (in the proper range) and hoping that you didn’t conflict with someone else.

WiFi, by the way, really is everywhere. As I type this, I’m sitting in Terminal C at Logan Airport, paying $7.95 for 24 hours of access. The hotel restaurant and lobby at the Sheraton Braintree has WiFi too, with 30 minutes for free and $10.95/day after that (with the same fee covering in-room wireline access). The Westin Copley Place, where credentials needed to be picked up every day, had several WiFi networks in evidence, some of them for-pay or protected, others free. Even walking along the shore from the Moakley Courthouse to the Fleet Center yesterday I was able to stop at a park bench and see 5 WiFi access points.

Because I knew that I would be far from the stage, and remembering my experiences trying to shoot photos from far back in the crowd back in January during the New Hampshire Primary, on the way through Moncton on Sunday I picked up a new Canon S1 IS. This turned out to be a dreamy wonder of a camera: the 10x optical zoom came in handy many times (especially with the “image stabilization” features that helps decrease the effects of shaking hands when zoomed in all the way). The ability to shoot video came in handy a couple of times as well, when a still photo wouldn’t tell the whole story. I bought a set of NiMH batteries at the same time (the camera only comes with alkaline non-rechargeables), and didn’t ever bump up against the need to charge them in three days of shooting. I’m really looking forward to taking more pictures with this camera. You can see all the photos I’m taken so far right here.

My Nokia 3285 cell phone performed well, with a signal almost everywhere other than the subway. Even inside the Fleet Center, where presumably everyone and their brother was on the phone at the same time. The only drawbacks of the phone were its size (it’s really too big to fit comfortably in pants pocket) and that because it doesn’t sync with my Mac’s address book (and because my own iBook died), I didn’t have access to the names and numbers I needed. My next phone will be smaller. And it will have to sync.

The one thing I felt lacking was some way of recording audio. The camera records audio when it’s recording video, but it’s hard to pass the camera back and forth like a microphone, and the video files can get huge. The iBook can record audio, but it’s not portable enough to record on-the-fly interviews or background. The two radio reporters I was interviewed by both at Sony mini-disc recorders, items I’ve also seen used by our local CBC reporters. I’ve always held off on investing in one of these because they record in a proprietary format and can dump the digital audio directly into a Mac; I may have to bit the bullet and get one if I want to do more audio work.


oliver's picture
oliver on July 29, 2004 - 19:05 Permalink

Based on your recommendation and samples, Peter, I went right out and bought the Canon S1IS. Sorry you don’t get a commission.