Christmas List for the Traveling Geek

Well, it's time for the annual geek Christmas list again. This time around I'm writing the gift guide column sitting in an internet cafe in the city of Manado in northern Sulawesi. That's an island in Indonesia. Southeast Asia is ground zero for gadgets. We forget sometimes in Canada, under the influence of 24/7 media from south of the border, that North America isn't the centre of the world. Not even the centre of the tech world. The PC may have been invented in the USA, but it was built in Southeast Asia along with everything else.

This is very evident right from the moment of landing in Hong Kong. Electronics stores are as prolific as shoe stores are in North American malls. Everything from laptops to cameras to portable ionizers you name it. Of course just because it is plentiful that doesn't mean it's cheap. Hong Kong airport is no place to buy electronics. But window shopping is fun.

This year's column, thanks to the timeliness of the travel bug biting me, is going to centre on travel related geekdom. Now the classic image of the computer geek is one of traveling via the internet, but in fact most of my geek friends are prolific travelers. So this column is for all of you.

First on the list this year is a solar charger. Sundance Solar makes an AA battery charger from recycled garden solar lights. It's light, small and cheap. $25

Next on the list is the Kindle. I may have mentioned this before but now is the time to get an eBook reader. The Kindle is small, light and holds thousands of books. If you've ever been trapped in the Maldives at a dive site where they get almost exclusively German travelers and you've just finished your last English book, you'll appreciate this. Finding good reading while traveling is a bit of an art form and not always easy. Other cool thing about the Kindle: you can read it at night. $250

This next gadget isn't for 4 star travelers, but if you're inclined to spend a bunch of time off the beaten path it can literally save your life. In Canada we take clean water for granted. A boil water advisory is a real annoyance. But 1 billion people on the planet don't have safe water and if you travel much you may not either. This UV pen is dead easy to use. Put it in a glass of water and turn it on and it kills everything. The SteriPEN Adventurer handheld water purifier costs $80 and is solar rechargeable.

Any column about geek travel tools that didn't include a plug converter would be incomplete. The APC Universal Plug Adapter is nice and flat for packing and has every plug you're ever going to need.

Need an actual computer to go traveling with? Try the Asus Eee PC 1005HA. It costs about $350 and weighs less than 1.5Kg. It has a beautiful screen, can be typed on even with big fingers and has six hours of battery life. All the usual network connectivity and what not is built in. See my previous net book column for other ideas and what to look for.

Having a USB drive that holds all your data about your trip can be very useful. I use Keepass standalone on my USB drive. It runs off the drive so you don’t need to install anything. Plug it in, run Keepass, type in your password and you have all your passwords, passport numbers, traveler cheques, etc. I like this USB wrist band from Imation. It looks like one of those Lance Armstrong rubber bracelets and isn’t likely to get lost, be left in luggage or be stolen.

With the economy being the way it is this year, it's a good time to think about shopping local, even if you're planning a trip abroad. I'm not in Fernie right now so I can't check if any of these gadgets are available there, but it's always good to give local retailers a chance to fill your needs first.

Have a great holiday season and a great trip if you're planning one.

Happy Computing.