The Technology of our Trip

How did it come to pass that we are able to post these pictures from all the way around the world?  There was a lot of planning involved.

First, we'd need a camera.  Second, we need to be able to log onto the net from Australia.

Do we use an Internet Cafe?  Do we bring a laptop?  Should we buy one or use the company one?  Whose camera do we borrow, or do we buy something?  And if we're going to buy stuff, how much to spend, how heavy will it be, will it even work in Australia?  Does the phone system work the same?  Will any of our ISPs have access numbers down there?

Eventually we decided to buy a laptop and a digital camera.  Since weight was important, the IBM Thinkpad 570E is discontinued but still excellent for our needs.  500 Mhz, 12Gb drive and only 4 pounds.  Thanks Matt for hooking us up with for the best price.

Here's a shot of our setup:

A Kodak DC4800 camera, USB cable, the Thinkpad, and an australian power plug adapter for the laptop.

We download the pictures, and convert them to 200x200 thumbnails, which we use to speed up the web site and cut down on disk space.  The originals are all stored on the laptop for our return to USA.

AT&T is Alex's Dial ISP and they have local #s in all the cities we're going to.  48000 bps is pretty good from a hotel.  Didn't even need the telephone adapter to convert from an RJ11 - the phone here has that plug already.

Haven't gotten Mom or Gretchen's AOL to connect successfully but I converted it to use a real ISP connection.

That's what we're doing - not too hard.


Further notes on May 13-

Now that we've settled into our third hotel I figured I should give an update on some of the interesting things we've found out down here.

Although Australia is a 220V 50Hz place, each hotel has had the same plug in the bathroom and the same telephone next to the bed.  This has made it easy for us Americans to come here and use our electronic gear.  See the plug:

It's a very clever design, I think.  If you've got 220/240 Euro applicances with the angled or round English connectors, plug it in the top.  If you have an American 110 device with a straight or round plug, plug it in the bottom.  The "Shavers only" relates to their desire to not put high-current devices in it.  I've used it for charging the laptop or digital camera, both of which are low current uses.  It's worked fine.

Every outlet in Australia has a switch that goes with it.  Some strange fire code, I guess, but even the ones in the common hallways that the cleaning people plug the vacuums into have them, and they all look like the one above.

The plug below is what you'll find in this country.  I think it looks sad, don't you?

I've come to the conclusion that GE must have sold 75 million combination clock radio/telephone units to the Australian Ministry of Tourism, who gave them out to hotels for free.  Each hotel has had this, or an extremely similar model in the room:

The great thing about this phone is that it's a one-piece model- the phone cord comes out of the wall and right into the phone handset.  So I know it's nothing special (digital, PBX, etc).  Just dial 0, or 4, or 7 (never a 9 so far) for an outside line and we're there.

What is sitting in front of the radio is an adapter I was very worried about buying but never did, and it turns out I never needed.  It's an RJ11 to Australian telephone adapter, and this one I pulled out from behind the bed where the phone plugged in in Melbourne.  It's the first one I've seen in OZ, and each hotel has presented an RJ11 to the user (if you don't mind unplugging the phone wire) so it was never needed.

Overall, I'm of the opinion that Australia is an E-traveler friendly place.  If you're going to your mate's 40 year old house you may need a 220/110 converter or a telephone plug adapter, but if you're going to any sort of a generally reputable hotel, leave the adapters at home- you won't need them.

One thing you will probably need to do - the Aussie phone system has a different dial tone, and getting an outside line sometimes gives a yet different pulsing dial tone, which an American modem generally doesn't like.

You will need to put the X1 command in your modem command setup string to tell it to "blind dial", or dial without waiting for a dial tone.  Usually listed as ATX1, if you already have the AT command present just insert it.  Under Win98 I just put ATX1 in the "extra settings" under modem under control panel.

One other blast from the past - In one hotel I had to use PULSE DIALING.  Remember that?  No matter what I did with the phone with tones it would just ignore them - going to pulse did the trick.

Hope this helps you with any plans to go overseas - I'm sure these instructions can apply to most other European-type countries as well.